Richard Cockerill: Edinburgh coach targets home-grown talent
Richard Cockerill wants to instil direction, leadership and steel into his Edinburgh side when he takes over as head coach from next season.
The bullish former Leicester Tigers director of rugby has signed a two-year deal with Scottish Rugby.
Cockerill is savouring the opportunity to shape and propel a side languishing in the Pro12's lower reaches.
"Edinburgh's had less attention than Glasgow, and it's probably lost its way a little bit," he told BBC Scotland.
Cockerill added: "They want a little bit more direction and I think I can give that. I'm a pretty strong character and leader.
|Edinburgh & Glasgow in Pro12 - last five years|
"I want to come and make a difference. I want Edinburgh to be successful. That's not going to happen overnight, but I've got a very strong work ethic, the players will have to work very hard, want to improve and want to win.
"I'm a person that wants to win. However, the reality is that's going to take some time.
"From the inception of the Pro12, Edinburgh have not finished above eighth, so there's clearly got to be a little bit of sorting out to do. There's no way of sugar-coating it, we have to improve."
'There are going to be a lot of robust conversations'
Cockerill, the former England hooker who spent almost his entire playing and coaching career at Leicester, guided the Tigers to three Aviva Premiership titles before being sacked in January.
Moving from an independently run, wealthy giant of English rugby to work under the aegis of the Scottish Rugby Union, and its director of rugby Scott Johnson, will present a new set of challenges.
"I've had good conversations with Scott and Mark Dodson [Scottish Rugby's chief executive], and I know exactly how that's going to work with the union and the national side," Cockerill said.
"I think I have a good relationship with both of them. I think there are going to be a lot of robust conversations around how things need to be done moving forward and I think that's a healthy thing.
|Former Leicester Tigers and England flanker Lewis Moody, speaking to BBC Scotland|
|The relationship between Richard and Scott Johnson will be all-important. Richard is a very forthright coach, he speaks his mind, he's good at listening to players.|
|I'm absolutely fascinated to see how it goes. He has a very clear way of doing things. He has changed and adapted over the years, but he's a simple coach in the most positive sense.|
|He will certainly be a hard taskmaster and ruffle a few feathers. I think the guys need to be prepared for doing a little bit more contact than they've ever done in their lives!|
|He will relish the opportunity to develop some young talent, and instilling some proper bite and rawness - that's what Edinburgh fans can look forward to.|
"The player base they've got, the budget and dynamics are different to what I'm used to, but that's good for me. I'm a pretty strong character and I know what I want."
Home-grown talent the priority
In Edinburgh, Cockerill will be bound by greater financial constraints, a less illustrious playing roster than Leicester or Toulon - where is currently a consultant - and tasked with the aim of producing players of sufficient quality to represent Scotland.
He can't yet say where the squad needs augmented, but emphasises that his priority, where possible, will be to field Scottish talent.
"You have to understand where you sit, what you can and can't buy, and what you can't buy you have to create," Cockerill continued.
"There are lots of players I signed at Leicester that nobody had ever heard of that ended up being exceptionally good - that's going to have to be the case at Edinburgh.
"I signed Ed Slater from Australia - an Englishman who'd played for Nottingham, now he's a mainstay of the Leicester team and toured with England.
"Geoff Parling was on the bench for Newcastle when I signed him - within 12 months he was an international.
"If you have the choice, you will always have local-grown, Edinburgh, Scottish boys playing for your team because that means more to them than anything else. There's nothing better or stronger as a bond than trying to get those types of players into your team.
"There's a lot of young quality in that side that needs to be nurtured and brought through. I don't want Edinburgh to be a holding ground waiting for the Test matches to arrive; I want Edinburgh to be a successful team and I want players that want to play for Edinburgh first and foremost."
Edinburgh's overarching game-plan has long been in a state of oscillation.
Michael Bradley's reign yielded glittering running rugby, but calamitous defence. Alan Solomons, his successor, brought rigidity and grunt, but little else besides. Interim boss Duncan Hodge, in charge since September, is trying to restore a little attacking freedom, but has only won three of 11 Pro12 matches.
"I think Duncan's done a very good job in making the team more expansive and that will continue," Cockerill said. "But clearly we have to develop our players and make sure we're resilient, tough, competitive and robust - all the things the game is built on.
"Clearly, things are going to have to be done a little bit differently, because for whatever reason it's not worked as successfully as people would've liked.
"You have to start somewhere and somewhere is normally a good set-piece, physically committed players, and making sure you're always in the battle. That's something as a player I was always very good at, and most of the time, the sides I've coached have always been very difficult to beat, and I think that's important.
"You have to have a really good balance in your game, and I think Edinburgh have got the players and personnel to do that. I don't think there is one way of playing the game.
"The All Blacks are the best team in the world - they kick the ball more than anyone else. It's how, why and when you kick the ball.
"I know people will think I will want to be just combative - yeah, I want to be combative and have a strong set-piece, but I want to have a side that can play with ball in hand as well, because that will win you games, and win you big games."