Cockerill and McKenzie Discuss Edinburgh Internationalists and Injuries

Whilst meeting with press earlier this week, both Edinburgh Head Coach Richard Cockerill and player Fraser McKenzie discussed Edinburgh players currently involved in Scotland’s Six Nations campaign and the injuries that are somewhat hindering the capital side.

Cockerill has been impressed by the work his Edinburgh players have been doing for Scotland. (Photo: Edinburgh Rugby twitter)

Edinburgh boys with Scotland

The impressive development Edinburgh as a whole has undergone with Richard Cockerill at the helm has resulted in a greater number of capital club players being named in Gregor Townsend’s Scotland squad as of late.

Younger players – the likes of fullback Blair Kinghorn and flanker Jamie Ritchie – seem to be utilising every opportunity that the recent international experience has provided to them.

When asked for his view of his player’s recent form for the blue jersey of Scotland, head coach Cockerill confirmed: “So far so good. Obviously, Blair has a great start in the first game and I thought he did pretty well when he came on at the weekend. Jamie has grown into that role really well and those tight five guys are doing what they do.

“I am pleased for them, they are performing pretty well and it was small margins in that game.”

Kinghorn’s responsibility

With the recent injury to first-choice fullback Stuart Hogg, it is safe to assume that the Scotland management will be looking to the younger Kinghorn to step up to fill the position to the best of his ability.

Asked whether he thought this would benefit Kinghorn in the long run, Cockerill responded: “All exposure is good for the guys, especially the younger guys. Jamie Ritchie is growing into his role and there’s more responsibility on Blair. If Stuart Hogg is not fit then he is in his favourite position at fullback – he’ll take more responsibility. Every time you play you learn a bit more about yourself so it can only be good for the medium to long-term.”

Due to the presence of Hogg, it is more often than not that Kinghorn starts on the wing for Scotland, and the versatility he possesses has served to aid him in his Scotland ventures.

Cockerill gave his view on the situation of Hogg and Kinghorn being in the same 15, saying: “For us he’s a very good attacker and Scotland are blessed to have two very good full-backs. Blair gives good cover on the wing so you can understand why he’s in the 23 and you can understand Hogg starting at full-back and Blair being on the wing.

“When everybody is fit there is clearly strength in depth but at the moment Scotland are stretched a bit and their depth is being tested.”

Hamish Watson update

Unfortunately – for Scotland and Edinburgh alike – one of those depth testing injuries was a hand injury to flanker Hamish Watson. The capital club forward suffered a hand fracture during his side’s Champions Cup victory over Montpellier at BT Murrayfield.

Addressing the possibility of Watson returning for the tail-end of the Six Nations championship, Cockerill was unsure: “He will certainly miss France, which is in two weeks time. They may get him in for the last two, we will see. We might get him to play for us in the last two. The back-row injuries are starting to mount up for Scotland, aren’t they?”

The Edinburgh pack has been hit by a couple of injuries. (Photo: Edinburgh Rugby twitter)

Carmichael bad luck with injury

Though not a back-row issue, another untimely injury which struck the Edinburgh pack was the loss of lock Lewis Carmichael. The 24-year-old Scotland capped forward was returning from a concussion issue when he was injured in a training session.

Cockerill explained: “Lewis got back to playing then slipped, had an accident at training, and tore his ACL so he is out for the season. Happened three or four weeks ago. He has had surgery. That is his season finished.”

Fellow forward Fraser McKenzie is a player well-versed in the issue of untimely injuries, and so was more than able to relate to the position his teammate has found himself in. McKenzie retained a positive outlook on the situation, praising the young Carmichael in the process.

McKenzie said: “Lewy is a fantastic player and he has a really tough time with injuries, but look he will come back stronger. Young guys can go away and work on things physically and he will come back a specimen. Look at Magnus Bradbury, he has come back some size of a guy and I am expecting Lewy to do the same.

“So, that is areas of his game that he can productively work on and I am backing him to come through this bad luck.”

He also added that his teammates will be sure to assist Carmichael through the process of recovery, saying: “We are all there to support him, we are a tight knit group and we look out for each other.

“Even Lewy being on crutches at the minute he has a great group of friends around him like Magnus Bradbury, Blair Kinghorn, Murray McCallum and Cammy Fenton and they will be there for him as will the senior boys.”

Young players proving themselves

The absence of internationally selected players on Scotland duty, as well as injury setbacks to the likes of Carmichael, has allowed a door to be opened for developing younger talent within the Edinburgh team – especially in the forward pack.

McKenzie himself acknowledged the recent form of up-and-coming players Callum Hunter-Hill, Callum Atkinson and Jamie Hodgson, noting: “Callum Hunter-Hill has come on a lot and is developing and is learning all the time. He has all the ability.

“Callum Atkinson is even bigger and his arms and legs seem to go on forever, but look there are not many guys that size in world rugby so if he ca develop other parts of his game which will come with maturity then who knows.

“Jamie Hodgson has come out of the Academy from Watsonians and he has shown real heart. He is a fantastic young player with a great attitude in training and he is great to have about the place.

“I hope to have these guys in the squad for a long time.”

Later asked if he felt a sense of duty – as one of the experienced players in the pack – to nurture and guide such younger players, McKenzie gave a sure response: “Definitely, that is one of my main roles, along with other experienced guys like Henry [Pyrgos] and Fordy [Ross Ford] who has all those caps.

“It falls on us to make good decisions and carry the team through, there is a lot of talent in the squad, but sometimes direction is key and we need to play in the right areas.”

The team will be hoping that such experience and guidance will fare Edinburgh well in their match against Dragons at BT Murrayfield this evening. The PRO14 action gets underway in Edinburgh at 7:35pm.

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