Having fans at the Six Nations key to Edinburgh hanging on to their best players

Richard Cockerill has stressed the importance of Edinburgh keeping their best players but admits it may depend on how many supporters are allowed into Six Nations matches.

Edinburgh's Duhan van der Merwe has been linked with Worcester Warriors. Picture: Ross Parker / SNS
Edinburgh's Duhan van der Merwe has been linked with Worcester Warriors. Picture: Ross Parker / SNS

Like all professional sports, rugby’s finances are in a precarious position due to the continuing uncertainty caused by the global pandemic.

Reduced budgets are a reality for Cockerill who has begun contract talks with a number of players.

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The Edinburgh coach has seen rivals Glasgow announce the departure of Adam Hastings, and speculation linking Worcester Warriors with capital winger Duhan van der Merwe is not welcome.

Edinburgh head coach Richard Cockerill wants to keep his best players at the club. Picture: Ross Parker / SNS

“Like all our players who are out of contract and we want to keep, we are having discussions and we don’t really comment on speculation,” said Cockerill, who will be particularly keen to hold on to last season’s Pro14 player of the year.

“There is going to be lots of guys interested in certain players because they are very good players, so at this point there is nothing to report other than we want to keep our best players and we’re doing everything we can to achieve that.

“I think all clubs are in the same boat, aren’t they? Everyone has got to manage their finances, and, obviously, as a governing body, we are trying to make sure we look after the game as a whole and not just as a professional game.”

Starved of gate money since March, the announcement last week that Scottish rugby would receive £20 million from the emergency sports funding package was a timely boost. The SRU has also lobbied the Scottish Government in a bid to have 25,000 fans at each of the three home matches in the 2021 Six Nations. Additional funds could come in the form of an enhanced TV deal should South Africa’s four Super Rugby teams join the Pro14 next year, as is expected.

Cockerill is unsure how much of the money will come Edinburgh’s way, which makes contract negotiations tricky.

“We’re working with the Union and that narrative changes on a weekly basis around [the return of] potential crowds,” said the coach. “Can we get half-crowds into the Six Nations, potentially? We don’t know yet.

“There have been some changes in government funding and grants in the last week or so. So then you have to trust the Union to see where that money is best spent for the game.

“It’s a bit of a moveable feast, so you’ve got to be a little bit flexible and a little bit patient.”

Cockerill stressed that players can still fulfil their rugby ambitions at the club.

“We want to be competitive as an Edinburgh team. Guys want to play for their country and this is a good place to be to play for Scotland. We’re all here to compete but there is only one team that can win a trophy each year in the Pro14 so there are always going to be 13 who will be disappointed.

“We’re not going to be a team who buys 30 superstars and wins the trophy in 12 months’ time. We’ve got to build our squad and keep it together. That may be difficult at times because all teams - unless you’re the likes of Toulon - are vulnerable to others trying to recruit your players. That’s the nature of the business.”

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