Press Pass: On the road to Scarlets
Hear from Head Coach Richard Cockerill as he spoke with the press ahead of Saturday's Guinness PRO14 match against Scarlets at Parc y Scarlets.
We return to action for the first time in a month this Saturday. Have the squad enjoyed some time away from rugby?
"We gave the boys two
weeks off. We said before the 13 weeks of games that we were having that two-week block as holiday. Just refresh mentally as well as physically - obviously it doesn’t apply to the Test boys.
“It was new territory for me, guaranteeing them two weeks before we’d played the games. Because if we’d been really crap, we might not have been having the two weeks’ holiday!"
How have preparations been for this vital block of Conference B fixtures?
"We’ve been back in training for two weeks preparing for Scarlets, Connacht and Cardiff. So it’s a big few weeks. These three games are pivotal for us. We’ve got a few guys back from Scotland camp, because it’s the fallow week, then we host Connacht and the guys will be away, then a fallow week for Cardiff. We did well during the World Cup, so we’ll just revert to that.
“We’ll work as hard as we can with the players we have, and think about all the good things we can do rather than complaining about all the people we haven’t got. It’s just normal for us.
“They’ll be missing a lot of guys as well, which is a shame for the competition. We’ve just got to play what’s in front of us. We’re equally hamstrung with players missing - Connacht and Cardiff not so much for them, but that’s life.”
Which international players will be back for this weekend's match in Llanelli?
“We’ve got WP Nel, Grant Gilchrist, Nick Haining, Matt Scott, Henry Pyrgos and Luke Crosbie back for this fixture.
"We'll have no Stuart McInally, Simon Berghan, Rory Sutherland, Ben Toolis, Blair Kinghorn, Darcy Graham or the three back-rowers - Hamish Watson, Magnus Bradbury or Jamie Ritchie."
How disruptive is it as a coach, not knowing who you'll have to work with?
“I think as coaches you always work on the worst-case scenario. The gold standard for us would be getting Stuart McInally and Ben Toolis, because they haven’t played a huge amount, but I get that Scotland have got a fallow week and want to get some hard work done.
"So they’ll keep the majority of that squad to get through some work, and guys who need a bit of game time will come back and get some.”
Do you think the international guys who haven't been selected are coming back with a point to prove?
“Guys like Gilko will want to play, because he hasn’t played for four or five weeks. Guys like Nick Haining - he’s had a whirlwind start to his Edinburgh career then into the national team. We just keep them grounded. Luke Crosbie’s back with us as well.
“To be honest, we don’t really talk about the Scotland environment. That’s a separate thing. I don’t want to discuss it - they’ve just got to come back and fit into what we do. I don’t treat them any differently - in fact I probably treat them worse than the boys who have been here.
“I know them as individuals and we sit and have a cup of tea and a chat - ‘How’s it going? How did it go? What did you like, what didn’t you like?’ All those things. It’s not a new thing for me, because we’ve done it loads of times.
“I want them to feel a bit more comfortable, and a bit happier. And the pressure is not quite the same coaching here as it is for Gregor, for obvious reasons.”