Press Pass: June update with Richard Cockerill
Hear from Head Coach Richard Cockerill as met with media last week via video conference to discuss the players' return to voluntary fitness sessions, the club's recruitment so far and how he thinks the Edinburgh Rugby squad is shaping up for the upcoming season.
Richard - with the players returning to voluntary fitness, how will these session look over the coming weeks?
"At this point we’re doing everything at social distance like we’ve spoken about. We’re one week into a four week block, where we just continue doing the same so the players are apart the whole time; they’re in bays doing their weights or they’re in lanes doing their running in 15-metre lanes so there’s plenty of distance in the open air.
"So that’ll continue for four weeks, no ball, no skills, nobody encroaching within a two metre distance. At four weeks on government guidance we’ll see where we get to with training and doing skills, whether that’s training in small groups or larger groups, mitigating the risk of infection from one person to a group of 10 or 20, we just have to see that analysed when we get to that time period.
Are your surprised how quickly you've been able to get to this point of voluntary fitness sessions with the players?
"Everyone’s worked very hard to lower the infection rates and hopefully that will continue. We’ve got to make it work, the world’s got to start getting back to some sort of normality around work and income and creating revenue for whatever business you’re in.
"The key point from a players’ point of view is there will be some contact in training as time goes on, but when you’re away from this environment as players, as coaches and as staff we still make sure we reduce the risk of getting infection away from here so that we can come back and play and keep the game going. Because there will be some hiccups along the way because we’ve seen from other sports that there have been people who have been less than cautious and put themselves at risk."
How happy are you with your squad for next season?
"Yes, pretty happy. We like to do our business early. It is always an evolving thing around budgets and all those other things. We still work on a smaller budget than Glasgow so we have to be smart around our recruitment.
"There are going to be some interesting weekends coming if the test windows are expanded and we play more internationals because of circumstances. We are losing a lot more players. At the moment we have a squad of about 43 and we will have some partnership players from Super6 and the Academy guys from stage three training with us full-time because that is the system we have put together. Those guys will get opportunities to step up. We could be losing 20 players and not seeing them for two big periods in autumn and the six nations.
"There will be lots of opportunities and it will be interesting to see how these guys come through and deal with it."
Has Nathan Chamberlain's development now been accelerated because of circumstance?
"Definitely. We have Jaco with us and Nathan’s in with at this moment and just moved up, so if you do the maths, we have two 10s, one will be playing and one will be on the bench. So he’s going to get his opportunity playing quicker than if we had another player there.
"Budgets may ease with time and circumstance and we may be able to go back into what will be a very different marketplace because there will be players looking for work. But at this point, Nathan has done a very good job in the 20s, especially that last game against Wales, he gets his opportunity to come to a pro team and he will get his opportunity because of circumstance, but that’s the game sometimes. The chance is there for him to grasp and take on."
Will you look for further cover at the stand-off position?
"We've got Cammy Scott, who sat on the bench for the 20s, so we have both of the age group 10s. They are both here training with us and contracted to us. We will look into the Super6 as well to see what is there.
"It's not the perfect scenario. With Jaco, Hickey or Jonno Lance you get experience and time to blend those young players in so they are not straight into the hot seat. Nathan has not played a huge amount of first-class rugby, or any at this point, but one niggle for Jaco and he could be starting at BT Murrayfield against Glasgow on the 22 August - that's great, but you are working with the unknown.
"Sometimes young players come through that and show you that they just need the opportunity, as Adam Hastings has done Glasgow since he came from Bath. He had a little bit more experience than Nathan, but Nathan will get his opportunities. As a coach you would like a little more experience in that position, of course you would, but we are at where we are at so we have to prepare all our tens as well as we can and they will get their opportunities.
"Young men given opportunities can surprise you. We've had a lot of those guys come through the system so far in the last three years and hopefully there will be one of two more this year."
How did the signing of Andrew Davidson come about?
"We have been looking for second rows to bolster our strength in depth and for succession planning. It's the same with Marshall Sykes. We needed to replace Callum Hunter-Hill. We had a couple of guys on loan last year who filled the gap and did a good job for us.
"Andrew hadn't had a huge amount of game time at Glasgow. I enquired about him because we were looking for a lock and SQ is obviously a lot better than a foreign player. He's got a lot of ability and there is a lot of potential growth in his game. He is very aggressive, a good lineout forward and a big man.
"We think he will develop in our programme. He was just a good fit for us. For whatever reason, he didn't get much love at Glasgow so it was an opportunity. I had a good discussion with him, told him where I saw him in my plans moving forward, and it was his choice whether he wanted to come or not.
"Thankfully, he decided to come. He saw the natural gap in our squad. We have two test locks who will go away a lot, while Fraser McKenzie is getting towards the end of his career at his age. He will create good competition with Lewis Carmichael, Fraser McKenzie, Marshall Sykes and Jamie Hodgson. We are going to need that strength in depth.
"It is a good opportunity for him. He is keen to come and to improve and get on. I think we can offer him that."
You must have confidence in the quality of Super6 for the upcoming season?
"I've seen a bit of criticism of Super6 over the last week or so - I think that's a bit unfair. It's a new competition and it's one that will grow and get stronger and better. We're six months into it. It could be stronger but that will develop over time and the only way to see if there's players there is to go and find them and bring them out and give them the opportunity.
"Jamie Hodgson has come through that system and played for us in the past couple of seasons; Darge and Boyle have played a lot of Super6 rugby and they're doing well.
"Is it perfect? No, but it's a competition that's pretty strong and will get stronger. If we constantly just snipe and moan at it, that's what you'll get, but if you work with it and see the strengths, there are some good players and it'll get better the more we support it. I've got good relationships with the three clubs I deal with and I want to try and use those as an extended part of our squad."