Cockerill Doesn’t Want His Players to Buy In to ‘Plucky Losers’ Role

Edinburgh Rugby Head Coach Richard Cockerill, speaking after his team’s Champions Cup defeat to Montpellier, made his feelings for the long-accepted role of ‘plucky losers’ abundantly clear – and he doesn’t plan to allow his players to adopt it any longer.

Richard Cockerill speaks to the press on Monday (Photo credit: Edinburgh Rugby twitter)

Cockerill lays down the law

The straight-talking former hooker did not mince his words at all in the aftermath of Edinburgh’s 21-15 loss to Montpellier. Cockerill’s intentions were clear: “If it kills me, I am going to get rid of this Scottish trait of, ‘we’re always going to be second best and we’re going to be plucky losers’, because it does my head in.

“I’m an arrogant Englishman and I expect to win, that is just my nature, love it or not.”

He continued: “Our lads have got to get that streak in us and we have to get it quickly. Now we know the level and know what it takes to play against big teams. We have played away against Montpellier, and they were good but we should have won that game. We did enough to win that game, we almost deserved to win that game. We have go to knock those fragilities.”

Breaking down the Montpellier game

Despite putting up a valiant second-half fight, Cockerill’s men were pipped to the post by Montpellier – though they did manage to secure the losing bonus point. Of his team’s performance, he admitted: “We were a bit shell-shocked for 25 to 30 minutes by the physicality and what it takes to both attack and defend.

“You assume that defending is this things that takes all the energy out of you, and it does when you are playing against bigger men, but what is just as hard is running into people who are big too. That takes a lot of energy out of you. We found that.

“Once we got that second wind and scored that first try, we went ‘actually, they are not as good as we think they are’. I said that to the players this morning. It is not that they are not as good as we thought – Montpellier are very good – but we are very good too.”

Going back to the brutal physical nature of the game, Cockerill believes that his players need to learn from such an encounter, saying: “If we can do that last week – can we back it up? It is going to be a big ask, but we’re going to go and try to back it up.

“We are talking about playing against Montpellier and Toulon and expecting to have a performance that reflects what we are trying to do, and will put us in a position where we are capable of winning these games.”

This will be no mean feat for his Edinburgh players though, and Cockerill fully accepts that fact, as he said: “That is a big step for Edinburgh Rugby, but we have got to put pressure on ourselves to do that. We know what it looked like, what it feels like. We know Montpellier are a good team and can compete with them, now we have to do that again.”

Focus moves on to Toulon

Edinburgh’s next challenge is Toulon at home this Saturday, and despite the French side seemingly playing out of sorts this season – they lost to Newcastle just last weekend – Cockerill fully expects them to come to Murrayfield with a purpose.

Having been an interim head coach there just before heading to Scotland for his current position, Cockerill feels he can predict the reaction of Toulon owner Mourad Boudjellal to the team’s recent run.

Cockerill said: “Mourad pays his money and he wants to win. He is very clear about that. I have a lot of respect for what he has done and what Toulon is about, but they have not played as they should have this year.

“You look at their squad. They still have some outstanding players across the whole team. I expect them to come here and try and put down a few markers. Europe is not finished for them. They have some ground to make up, haven’t they?”

Discussing what his thoughts are on what the main catalyst of Toulon’s recent issues, Cockerill said: “They clearly have not played with particular confidence this season.”

Many will view this weekend as a chance for Edinburgh to once again prove their worth in Europe, but this time they will be doing it on home soil. Cockerill enforced his team’s need for a good performance, saying: “You need to win your home games to give yourselves an opportunity to qualify.

“We have to win if we have any ambitions to get out of the group. So, we just have to go and do our best to try and win, as we did Saturday.”

He continued: “They are the team with all the rock stars. We are the team that pride ourselves on the unity of our team and how we play and what we do as a collective.

“When you have as many high-class players as they have got, they have got some individual brilliance that can turn the game on its head. They will be very motivated and I am sure they will be very good at the weekend. We just have to be better.”

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