Press Pass: Cockerill on Ulster
Get the latest from Head Coach Richard Cockerill as he spoke with press ahead of Saturday's Guinness PRO14 Semi-Final against Ulster at BT Murrayfield.
Is the team where you thought it would be heading into your fourth season at the club?
“When I started I had no idea. Like every season you just prepare as well as you can and work as hard as you can.
“It’s tiny margins, it’s difficult to be hard and fast to say year one looks like this, year two looks like that. Things change all the time, there’s a lot of hard work and a little luck which goes along with that as well.
“Our first year we qualified for the first time to be in the play-offs. The second year we dropped off in the league but beat Toulon and Montpellier and qualified for a home quarter-final and had an opportunity to beat Munster.
"This is year three and we are in a semi-final, I don’t think many clubs could complain that we haven’t played well enough this season to be in the mix to be competing with the four teams which are left.
“We are the least favoured team, but we back ourselves to see how far we can go in this competition.
“I’m not sure if we’re behind or ahead. With the money that’s in the other teams and their budgets, we are doing pretty well for ourselves and are probably batting above our average."
Is Saturday the biggest test so far for your Edinburgh side?
“We have to perform and we have to get it right. Semi-finals and finals are all about the result.
“You have to get the performance to get the result. Edinburgh have never won a trophy so clearly we haven’t dealt with it particularly well in the past.
“I’m hoping those experiences of the last three seasons will come to fruition on Saturday night.
“It’s about knowing how to play knock-out rugby and not playing an exhibition.
“At the pressure moments we need to deliver. Those tiny moments make the difference and not worry too much about history."
How pleased are you with your side's attack at the moment?
"Our mentality is that if we get the ball back the first thought is to attack. So attack first, kick second, and make good decisions around that. So score lots of tries, we’ve got lots of threats and we’ve got a very good back three.
"We’ve got a very good threat in our midfield with Mark Bennett, Chris Dean and George Taylor, who may not be household names but they are very good players. We’re a team that can cause problems.
"We’ve got a very good ball-carrying forward pack, and a pretty balanced side that can play all types of rugby. If we need to kick it then we’ll kick it, if we need to run then we’ve got enough threats to be able to score from long distance."
Will you be looking to change your squad this weekend and bring back in proven internationalists?
"We’ve got to pick our best players, and Ben Toolis is fit to play. Gilchrist is fit to play. Jamie Ritchie trained today and is available for selection. We’re hoping Henry Pyrgos will be fit, and he’ll be important to us if he’s available.
"There’s a little bit of risk and reward there, but everyone’s pretty much in the same boat, no-one’s played enough minutes. There is the odd player – Jamie Ritchie and Ben Toolis for example – who haven’t played a minute at this stage, but needs must in the second row for example. Benny being involved and potentially coming off the bench to help us will be valuable."
How important is it for both you and the club that Edinburgh win some silverware?
"I hate losing, I always want to win. But we have to get into perspective how realistic it is for a club which has been around for 145 years and hasn’t ever won a trophy to win something.
"It’s not a must that we have to win silverware but we certainly want to be in a final because we’ve never been there before so that’s new territory for us. We’re capable if we get things right to do that, to get to a final and see how good we can be.
"Hopefully if we get through that’ll be Munster and then we can bring them to BT Murrayfield for a final. But we just want to go as far as we can and test ourselves to see how good we are. If we’re good enough we’ll win and if we’re not we’ll get exactly what we deserve on Saturday night on how we perform."