Edinburgh’s derby dominance is a reflection of Richard Cockerill’s competitive nature
As much as he likes to play the underdog card, Edinburgh coach Richard Cockerill is proving himself to be the derby master.
A victory over Glasgow Warriors at Scotstoun on Friday night would secure the 1872 Cup for the capital side for the fourth season in a row and make it a clean sweep for the former England hooker who took over in summer 2017.
Speaking ahead of last weekend’s first leg, Cockerill was keen to air some grievances, claiming Glasgow were better funded, had a deeper squad and were favourites at Murrayfield. Edinburgh, of course, went on to win 10-7.
“Yeah, we’ve been doing all right, haven’t we?” he said yesterday with a big grin.
“I like derbies, I like the competition, and hopefully it brings the best out of our competitive nature.
“I’m relatively new to this place, everybody tells me that this derby is important, and as the coach I always want to treat derbies with the respect they’re due.”
While delighted with the win, Cockerill described the first leg as “turgid” and will look to speed things up on Scotstoun’s plastic pitch. To that end, Nic Groom comes in at scrum-half in place of Henry Pyrgos in one of seven changes.
“We just want a bit more continuity and speed of ball,” explained Cockerill. “I felt Henry didn’t give us that last week, so we’ve got good depth in our squad and Nic comes in and gives us that.
“They’re slightly different nines and I want a nine who is quick to the ball and I want us playing on top of teams when we get the opportunity.
“I thought we left some opportunities out there at the weekend. We don’t try to play a turgid game. We actually try to play, we score tries, we are an expensive team as and when we have the opportunity.”
Changes to the breakdown law have helped limit such opportunities, leading to an increase in kicking and a dip in entertainment. Last week’s Murrayfield match was no classic and many of the internationals played over the autumn came in for heavy criticism.
“What people need to understand is that with the new interpretations it is actually easier to play without the ball than with it,” said Cockerill.
“That’s why teams across the world kick the ball so much - because you have more chance of losing the ball when you have possession of it in your own half then keeping it.
“The way the game is played is changing into a less positive way because the defensive team gets the majority of the advantage these days.”
Other personnel changes see Jack Blain and Eroni Sau picked on the wing in place of Duhan van der Merwe, who has a dead leg, and Darcy Graham, who misses out for personal reasons.
Edinburgh rotate their props again, with Rory Sutherland and Simon Berghan starting, and Pierre Schoeman and WP Nel dropping to the bench.
There are changes in the second row too, with a return for co-captain Grant Gilchrist. The Scotland lock, who missed the autumn Tests with a groin injury, is joined by Andrew Davidson, who has recovered from an ankle problem. Their inclusion sees Jamie Hodgson move to the bench, while Ben Toolis misses out with an ankle injury.
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