Edinburgh Rugby: Substance over style will do for coach Cockerill against Cardiff

Richard Cockerill has seen his side remain top of the Pro14 Conference B, despite key players being on Scotland duty (Credit: Edinburgh Rugby Twitter)

A win for Edinburgh Rugby this evening will ensure they stay top of the Pro14’s Conference B table.

Welsh team Cardiff Blues travel to BT Murrayfield for Edinburgh’s third game in three weekends, and head coach Richard Cockerill has stated that he is not too concerned about flare in the encounter.

“I’m not fussy about our style,” Cockerill said. “Substance, physicality and mentality should be ten out of ten for us, and we should go out with confidence to make sure we get our performance right.”

Both sides come into the game on the back of a win, with each side scoring five tries last weekend – Edinburgh against Connacht and Cardiff Blues against Benetton.

“They’re a half-decent side – they’ve got good players. They’re missing a few players but crikey, so are we,” Cockerill explained. “We should be well motivated since we’re on a good run, so we need to make sure we get all the basic things right.

“It’s the same as the last two weeks; the weather will be a little bit better, but we need to be really functional and practical in how we play. We just need to go and win the game; do whatever it takes to win.”

Edinburgh fly-half Simon Hickey says that the team’s defence coach, Callum McCrae, has ensured his side know what they are up against: “They are an expansive team and have the ability to shift it, get it to the edges and cause trouble that way. They’ve got some good set-piece strikes and also some good individual players.”

Hickey’s teammate, back-row Nick Haining, expressed how impressive an achievement it would be were Edinburgh to take five points from the current run of three games during the international window of the Guinness Six Nations.

“I think it’s a testament to everyone in the squad and the depth that we have to have got those results so far. It wasn’t an easy game at Scarlets, but we ground out the win, then we had a good performance against Connacht at the weekend.”

“We’re confident going into Cardiff, and we think we can really take maximum points from that and not give them anything. They’ll be a good side, but we’re in good form at the moment and we’re confident.”

Scrum-half Charlie Shiel will be handed his first Murrayfield start tonight, partnering George Taylor and James Johnstone in a new-look centre for Edinburgh.

They also welcome back Grant Gilchrist and Jamie Bhatti after Scotland duty, as part of five changes to the team from last weekend’s bonus point win against Connacht.

Edinburgh Rugby face crunch time as Six Nations approaches

Edinburgh Rugby are currently in the midst of a short, hard-earned break in their 2019/20 season. Here, Erin McRitchie takes some time to look at what is coming up in the remainder of the season for Richard Cockerill’s squad.

(Credit: EN4 News)

The loss of internationalists

With the Guinness Six Nations fast approaching, Richard Cockerill has had to wave goodbye to 16 of his Edinburgh players as they head off on international duty with Scotland, and one – Pietro Ceccarelli – with Italy.

Of all those called upon, 13 are forwards and four are from the backline, so the impact of the internationals will be felt the hardest in the forward pack.

Cockerill will really have to put a lot of faith in the depth of his squad in the scrum in the next month or so.

However, this could produce many positives, as it is in times like the Six Nations period that young players can step up and utilise all of the opportunities afforded to them throughout the competition’s run.

The Pro14

Edinburgh have three crucial games during the Six Nations, as they face Scarlets away before back-to-back fixtures at BT Murrayfield, against Connacht and Cardiff Blues.

In terms of the Conference B table, Edinburgh head into the break in pole position on 34 points, whilst their first competitors after the break – Scarlets at Parc y Scarlets – are just three points behind them in second place.

Scarlets will most likely have a clear purpose in mind when Cockerill’s men arrive in Llanelli and will be boosted by the re-signing of back Steff Evans, as well as the fact they have won all but one of their home fixtures this season.

Following that tussle between first and second place, the Scottish club will welcome Irish outfit Connacht to BT Murrayfield, who reside in fourth position, before Welshmen Cardiff Blues, currently sitting fifth, arrive in the Scottish capital just a week later.

Connacht will arrive in Edinburgh with their attention solely on pushing ahead in their Pro14 campaign having missed out on the quarter-finals of the Champions Cup through a narrow 35-29 defeat to Montpellier at the weekend.

And finally, Cardiff Blues make a trip to Edinburgh having fallen 19-11 at home to Cockerill’s team in October.

The Challenge Cup

By defeating Agen 36-0 at BT Murrayfield last weekend, Edinburgh earned their place in the quarter-finals of the Challenge Cup.

Going into the play-off stage in sixth place means that Edinburgh will face fellow pool 3 team, Bordeaux, for their chance to advance to the semi-finals of the European competition.

Thankfully for Cockerill and his team, they will not face this challenge until after the culmination of the Six Nations, as the quarter-finals take place on the weekend of April 3.

Edinburgh rotate starting team for Agen ahead of final Challenge Cup pool match

Saturday marks the final pool stage match of Edinburgh’s 2019/20 Challenge Cup campaign as they face Agen at BT Murrayfield, with a win putting them through to the competition’s quarter final stage.

Edinburgh head coach Richard Cockerill has named a side full of changes to face Agen at BT Murrayfield in the final pool stage of the Challenge Cup this Saturday.

The side, in total, includes seven forward changes – with only Hamish Watson reclaiming the position he fielded against Bordeaux last weekend – and just one back change as George Taylor comes in for the internationally selected Matt Scott.

Charlie Shiel and James Johnstone fall out of the squad as Henry Pyrgos and Chris Dean take their places respectively – with the latter making his first appearance of the regular season having torn his pectoral in a pre-season friendly against Ospreys.

The all change scrum line-up sees Pierre Schoeman return to the starting line-up to pair WP Nel as the props, with Dave Cherry holding the hooker position between them.

An all Scotland second row of Ben Toolis and Grant Gilchrist is preferred to Sam Thomson and Lewis Carmichael, who started against Bordeaux, but both drop out of the squad this week.

Hamish Watson remains on the openside flank, with Luke Crosbie coming in to the blindside and Nick Haining – one of six uncapped players selected by Scotland’s Gregor Townsend – takes the number eight jersey from Bill Mata.

It’s a relatively unchanged back-line as Darcy Graham and Duhan Van Der Merwe once more occupy the wings, Mark Bennett gets a change in centre partner as George Taylor comes in at 12, Damien Hoyland replaces Blair Kinghorn at fullback and Jaco Van Der Walt once more rules the half-back spot with Nic Groom.

Rory Sutherland and Mike Willemse drop to the bench to join Pietro Ceccarelli. Fraser McKenzie returns from a slightly troublesome neck injury picked up earlier in the season whilst John Barclay once more boosts the bench. And Pyrgos, Hickey and Dean round out the replacements as the backline cover.

Edinburgh must beat Agen to qualify for the next round of the European Challenge Cup (Credit: EN4 News)

Despite a losing performance to Bordeaux Begles away in France last weekend, which left Richard Cockerill’s squad with marginal errors to correct, Edinburgh are this weekend looking to put themselves through to the quarter finals of the Challenge Cup with a win at home.

“We’re going for the bonus point, to qualify and see where that takes us,” Cockerill explained to the media earlier this week. “A win will get us through, and we’ll just see. We’re going to be away from home [in the quarter finals], which is fine. We’ll see where that takes us – wherever we go, we’ll give it our best shot.”

Edinburgh were bested by French Top 14 league leaders in France last weekend, as Bordeaux’s Semi Radradra, Santiago Cordero and Yann Lesgourgues all ran in tries for the frightfully dominant French outfit.

Duhan Van Der Merwe and Mark Bennett aided Edinburgh’s chances on the scoreboard, but Cockerill knows that his side will need to be more clinical in their fixture against Agen – a side which hasn’t taken a single point in the third pool of the European competition.

“We’re starting to mature as a team, and I think we’re mature enough to be able to say that it’s a game that we should win, and it’s a game we should win with four tries and five points. And we’ve got to go out there and lay it on the field and just do it, rather than make it a struggle.”

“So, that’s the challenge for us,” Cockerill elaborated. “It’s a different sort of challenge, and almost in some ways a harder challenge than people thinking you’re going to lose and you surprise people. Well, we should win, I expect us to win, and I expect us to put a proper professional performance out on the field and get the job done.”

The side Cockerill named to travel to Bordeaux saw eight changes from the squad which ran out against Southern Kings in the first match of the new year at BT Murrayfield a week previously.

And the head coach expects to ring some more personnel changes this weekend, “Yeah, there’ll be changes to the team. There’ll be the odd test player we’ll look after, but we’ll be 90% full go.”

Edinburgh will have to become accustomed to having less test players in their ranks as Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend named his Guinness Six Nations wider squad on Wednesday this week, and of the 38 men included, a total 16 – 12 forwards and four backs – were from Cockerill’s Edinburgh ranks.

A further 13 were taken from Glasgow Warriors, meaning only nine of the players called up to international duty play their rugby outside of Scotland with eight based in England and only one – Finn Russell – overseas in France.

Despite international call-ups, Edinburgh boosted their ranks once again this week when they announced that scintillating South African winger Duhan Van Der Merwe had re-signed with the club.

Van Der Merwe, who is still only 24, already has 53 caps and 28 tries on his Edinburgh record – making him the club’s fifth all time try scorer. Thus it was a re-signing that Cockerill is delighted to have completed.

“There are the games where his footwork and his power, plus his pace, have scored tries from nothing. So, having that type of player in your squad is important because sometimes in a game, that’s the difference, you know? Someone that’ll get something from nothing, and suddenly the game sparks into life, or it turns the game in your favour.”

Edinburgh will certainly be hoping Van Der Merwe adds to his try tally to seal the win, and preferably the bonus point, for them against Agen this weekend as they kick off at 3pm on Saturday at BT Murrayfield.

Edinburgh Prepare to Face Conference Leaders Scarlets

Credit – Erin McRitchie

Following a week’s break, Richard Cockerill’s Edinburgh men will be back in Pro14 action against Scarlets at BT Murrayfield this Saturday. The Welshmen travel to the capital as Conference B leaders, whilst Edinburgh hold up fourth place in the table.

Edinburgh Rugby return to Pro14 league action this weekend as they take on conference leaders Scarlets at BT Murrayfield on Saturday, for a 7:35pm kick off.

Scarlets come in to the fixture on the back of a 54-10 win over Zebre in Llanelli, whilst Edinburgh will be looking to produce a stronger performance than they managed in their last outing against Leinster, which ended 40-14 in the Irishmen’s favour.

Edinburgh’s head coach Richard Cockerill spoke on Tuesday about the challenge Scarlets will pose. “They’re a good side, they’ve got good players and they’ve had as many missing as ourselves,” he said. “They’re unbeaten, they’ve got a new coach who has a very expansive way of playing.”

“They’re pretty much like ourselves: they’re pretty functional, they look to get the ball wide, very hard off the line in defence – we’ve had a couple of games already where teams do that.”

Credit – Erin McRitchie

Speaking about his side’s performance against the Irish juggernauts Leinster, Cockerill admitted: “We need to bounce back from a pretty average performance in parts. There were some good parts at Leinster too, so we’ve got to put that together.”

 

 

 

 

In order to put themselves in good standing for a possible play-off spot later in the season, Edinburgh will be looking to claim victories, or at the very least come within a losing bonus point, of the majority of  their conference rivals.

 

As for now, Edinburgh will remain playing without the bulk of their internationalists who, despite being knocked out of the World Cup with Scotland, will require a well-earned break before returning to featuring for their professional clubs.

The players who have remained in the capital in their absence are confident that Edinburgh’s game plan this season stands them in good stead to continue developing in a positive direction.

Credit – Erin McRitchie

Winger Duhan Van Der Merwe believes that Edinburgh’s will benefit from a more expansive game. “Our new system and game plan have been working well I think, we have a great backline and we have to give those boys some time on the ball to show what they are about.”

 

 

 

 

 

Meanwhile, back-rower Nick Haining, who signed for the club at the beginning of the summer, believes that the game against Scarlets will be a good test for the style of play Edinburgh have adopted.

“This will be a good marker for us,” the forward said. “We’re quite happy with how things are going, we’ve had some good results – maybe not the Leinster one – but we took some good learnings out of that and so this will be a good test for us.”

Check out our footage of Edinburgh’s training session ahead of Saturday’s showdown below:

 

 

 

Edinburgh’s Mata pens one-year-contract extension ahead of Pro14 clash

 

Edinburgh Rugby’s star flanker, Viliame Mata, has committed himself to the Scottish side until 2021 after signing a one-year contract extension.

The Fijian, known around BT Murrayfield as ‘Big Bill’, signed for Edinburgh in 2016 and has played a huge part in the transformation of Edinburgh Rugby into a top, competitive side.

Before coming to Edinburgh, Mata was an international sevens player for Fiji and won a Gold medal at the 2016 Olympic games in Brazil.

Head Coach Richard Cockerill was full of praise for his influential play-maker. He said: “We’ve got to keep our best players.

 

“Bill is very happy here. he came [to us] as a world-class sevens player and with the environment that he’s in, he’s now a world-class 15’s player.

“We are delighted to have him for the next two and a half years.”

Edinburgh travel to Italy this weekend to face off against Benetton for a crucial Pro14 tie. Mata could prove pivotal to the side’s success on Saturday.

Speaking about his decision to stay in the Scottish capital, Mata said: “Edinburgh is growing into a great team right now. I am excited to be part of it for the next two seasons.”

“My family is settling well and we are loving the environment around Edinburgh.

“It is a beautiful city, but [perhaps] not the weather.”

Cockerill: Tough match against Benetton a must win

 

Edinburgh Rugby head coach, Richard Cockerill has labelled Saturday’s Guinness Pro14 match against Benetton as a must win.

Cockerill’s squad travel to Italy where they face second placed Benetton in Conference B with Edinburgh hot on their heels, four points behind in fourth.

A win at the weekend for the Scottish side would bring them one step closer to the Pro14 play-offs.

Cockerill spoke about how important a positive result would be over the weekend. He said: “It’s huge for us in the context of the conference. We have had a couple of defeats in the last three games.

“It’s going to be a very tough day but we need to go there and win. The reality is we need to win and we can’t hide away from that.”

The last time the two sides met was in September last year where Edinburgh scraped a narrow 31-30 victory. Benetton are currently the third best form team in the tournament behind only Leinster and Munster.

However, Cockerill believes that there is the opportunity for another high-scoring game. He added: “They are a good side but teams create opportunities against them.”

Centre Mark Bennett, knows that the days of disregarding Italian opposition are long in the past. He said: “We can’t take them for granted. They are a top, top side.

“We need to go into this one rearing to go. We all know how big a game this is for the club.”

Edinburgh are coming off the back of a disappointing 17-19 home loss against Cardiff Blues. This was the first defeat at BT Murrayfield for Edinburgh since April 2018 but Bennett insists that team morale is still high.

He added: “We have won eight out of our last 10 games. We’re in great form.

“We’re full of confidence. We have a great team and we have to just go for it.”

New Stadium could give Edinburgh a Fortress to Defend

 

A new stadium planned to be built next to the Scottish national Stadium, Murrayfield, has been given the go-ahead by Edinburgh council.

It is hoped that the new build will be completed next year in time for Edinburgh Rugby to make it their new home.

With just under 8,000 seats it is hoped that sell-out crowds will gather to watch a revitalised capital side. With significantly less seats to fill than Murrayfield’s 67,000.

Less seats mean a more intense atmosphere can be achieved making Edinburgh a more daunting opponent, allowing them to build a club identity and creating a closer connection with fans.

Edinburgh forward, Rory Sutherland said:

“We would like somewhere we can call a home.

“It’s going to be important for creating an atmosphere, getting the support in … it can make a big difference.”

Head Coach Richard Cockerel added:

“It’s great to have your own home. we had over 7,000 here at the weekend and with the new stadium holding 7,800, we can start to get sell-out crowds like they have at Scotstoun.

“It then becomes our own atmosphere, our own pitch, our own stadium, our own branding, all those things. We can build our own identity and move forward.

“Edinburgh will have a permanent home that we can build a team and a club around.”

 

Cockerill calls for ‘ruthless’ Edinburgh side ahead of Montpellier clash

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Cockerill ready for tough encounter (Photo Credit: Ross Cowper-Fraser)

Edinburgh Rugby head coach, Richard Cockerill believes it’ll be a tough fight for his side to get a result against Montpellier this weekend.

The two meet in the Champions Cup on Saturday and despite coming off the back of two consecutive home wins, the 47-year-old was realistic about their chances against the French side.

The Scottish capital side are back in the competition for the first time in five years and will be facing off against a former Edinburgh Rugby coach, Vern Cotter. Cockerill welcomed a challenge from a familiar face.

He said: “Our paths have crossed over the years, and he is a great coach, one who knows what he wants from his team. I can’t imagine Vern not having a motivated team this weekend and I don’t think he will want to be beaten by an Edinburgh side at home.”

Cockerill is on record previously stating that the Champions Cup is a competition that his team are not equipped to go on and win. But when asked what he thought Edinburgh’s chances of getting out the group, he remained as realistic as ever.

He said: “Getting out of this group a big ask. If we are going to win in the next 2 weeks we’re going to have to play a lot better than we have in the last 15 months, and if we get four or five opportunities to win the game against Montpellier we need to take them. I think in the past that we have let teams back into games, take the Cheetahs game for example, but on Saturday we can’t let that happen. We need to be ruthless.”

Murrayfield_Stadium_edit credit to vclaw

Edinburgh will face Toulon at Murrayfield in 2 weeks (Photo Credit: Vclaw)

However, when asked if Edinburgh were to come away from Saturday’s clash with a win, Cockerill made note that his emotions would be on show.

He said: “Montpellier are a phenomenal club, it’s the European equivalent of playing a team like Saracens. If we come away with a win I will be more than delighted.”

Cockerill, in rare spell of optimism, said that his side were going to Montpellier not just to keep the score down to a minimum, but to go and play their own style of rugby and try to win.

Edinburgh have been known to perform at their best when nothing is expected of them and they are considered underdogs against the team currently sitting in 4th place in the Top 14 League. The Edinburgh manager hinted that the lack of expectation about the Montpellier game could suit them.

“I think in the past that we have let teams back into games, take the Cheetahs game for example, but on Saturday we can’t let that happen. We need to be ruthless.”

He went onto describe the Champions Cup as a great opportunity for himself and his players to gain experience at the very highest level. And his mood was only boosted by having a virtually fully fit squad from the game against Cheetahs. Admitting that winger, Van Der Merwe had a slight hamstring tweak from Friday night and would be touch and go right up until the weekend.

After losing three out of four of their first matches in the Guinness Pro14 this season, Edinburgh now have three wins under their belt to add a bit of confidence heading into the weekend. Edinburgh rugby fans will be looking forward to seeing their team tested against one of the best sides in Europe that Cockerill himself said could easily win the Champions Cup.

Edinburgh Rugby seeking to build new stadium

Edinburgh Rugby is exploring the possibility of building a new stadium next to BT Murrayfield stadium.

It is understood the club are looking to construct a 7,000 seat “mini-Murrayfield” on the training pitches next to the home of Scottish rugby.

The capital side have been in search for a permanent home for some time. Temporary stadiums used by the club have included Murrayfield, Meadowbank and their current location Myreside.

Scottish Rugby has seen interest rise in the past year with the national side fortunes improving on the pitch. Myreside stadium holds a max-capacity of 5,500 with temporary stands being used for Edinburgh Rugby games.  Any increase in match attendances would force the SRU to invest in improving facilities at Myreside to accommodate fans.

Fans have been calling for the team to move to a permanent stadium to build a strong base and would likely appeal to rugby fans living in the east of Scotland. Editor of Scrum Magazine, Stuart MacLennan believes the proposal would be a good step:

“I think it would be of great benefit to the club and the surrounding area. Every sporting club wants their own home and this could help build a culture.  I don’t think it’s ideal that they play at Myreside and it’s much better alternative.”

Many issues stand in the way of the proposals that could prevent the move going ahead. Miller Developments owns part of the SRU’s land and would likely need to be consulted before constructions plans could take place.  The Murrayfield ice rink and Murrayfield Wanderers’ Clubhouse is also on the site.

It is understood that any objections to the move could put a timespan of up to five years before proposals can be approved. Plans are believed to be at an early stage with no application for planning yet been made.

No precise details have been revealed about costs but it is understood a new stadium would cost in excess of £10 million. Stuart MacLennan suggests costs could be an issue for the club:

“I do not know how it would be financed. If they can utilise for things other than rugby then that might help.  They would have to install a 3G pitch so other organisations could use it all year-round.”

A similar concept exists in Cardiff where the 13,000-capacity BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park is situated next to the Principality Stadium – the home of Welsh rugby.

Edinburgh Rugby officials refused to comment on the speculation.

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