SCRUM Web Columnist ‘The Embra Express’ reacts to Edinburgh Rugby’s appointment of a new Head Coach this week:
I was all set to use this week’s column to bemoan the Gunners’ mental fragility in their shellacking by Leinster last weekend, express the hope that the currently injured leaders in the squad return soon, and moan a bit more about the continued absence of a decision on the head coach position.
That all changed on Monday morning. There was great excitement at the announcement that Richard ‘Cockers’ Cockerill, longtime Leicester Tigers player and coach and currently consulting on forward play with the galacticos at Toulon, will don the coveted sheepskin jacket at Edinburgh Rugby from next season.
It’s certainly a high profile appointment.
As someone who believes that the most important player on the park is your tighthead that’s one aspect of the Cockerillian world view that I entirely share and applaud.
A club’s culture is increasingly seen as a key contributor to long-term success. That’s been one of Leicester’s many strengths over the years. The man himself appears to have not only strong views about effort and application, but also to be a man of considerable integrity. That is something I really like and think is important.
I don’t think there’s any doubt that Cockers will address the mental side of Edinburgh’s game.
The imponderable for me is the impact on the Gunners’ style of play. What I don’t want to see is our attacking game move away from the welcome, if faltering, attempts to move the ball recently and back to highly structured, 10 man rugby based on forward domination.
When Scottish rugby has been successful, it has been when playing a fast, high skills game. That’s partly because quick ball genuinely is key to unlocking defences.
But it’s also because Scotland tends to produce players that suit that approach. It’s no accident that, behind the scenes, that is the approach that the SRU is advocating the Scottish rugby community adopt.
When one thinks of the greats of Scottish rugby, there are precious few dreadnoughts in there. Instead, it’s mobile forwards, notably in the breakaways, combative scrum-halves and creative backs.
Cockers’ appointment is reminiscent of that of Andy Robinson, perhaps Edinburgh’s most consistently successful coach of the professional era.
There is no reason why under his leadership the Gunners cannot do as well as, if not better, than under Robbo. However, what Scottish rugby needs from the Embramen is not only a winning provincial club, but also one that plays a style of rugby that is consistent with – or, at least, not too divergent from – that national philosophy.
Continuing on the wider theme, what I do want to see is some indication that this appointment is going to contribute to a long term plan for world domination. What happens after two years, particularly if Mr Cockerill departs for pastures new? If it is another period of retrenchment, what is that intended to achieve and what will come after?
By contrast, if we’ve just grabbed a name because he happens to be available, I’m not sure that’s a great idea.
So, while the jury may be out, as is proper, Cockers deserves a very warm welcome to Mon Repos. I have a great deal of faith in the judgement of the SRU top brass. Let’s see how he goes over the next two seasons.
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