RICHARD COCKERILL says he has recruited a ‘senior’ scrum-half to join Edinburgh next season but is not yet able to reveal the identity of that player.
The head coach was speaking to STV after the club confirmed the name of seven players who will be moving on at the end of the season, with Sean Kennedy and Nathan Fowles on that list of departing men, leaving Henry Pyrgos and youngster Charlie Shiel as the only scrum-halves from the current squad being kept on.
“We’ve already signed a senior nine to come in who can make it three competing for the spot,” Cockerill told STV. “He brings experience and when we are in the right spot to announce who that is we will.”
Ross Ford was the most high-profile of the seven players confirmed as leaving. While the veteran hooker was not available to the media yesterday, Cockerill indicated that the 34-year-old is still weighing up what to do next.
“He is looking at his options around whether that means playing on and what options there are there, or what other possibilities there are outside of playing,” said the coach. “He has been in the game a long time, he has a lot to offer both on and off the field, so hopefully he will get something that suits his ambitions and family life. We wish him well.
“He won’t be with Edinburgh,” the coach added, when it was suggested that he might be offered a role by Scottish Rugby in a similar way to other recently retired stalwarts such as Chris Paterson and Al Kellock. “He is the most capped Scotsman of all time – 110 caps should be respected – but it depends on what Fordy wants to do. People have different things in their life. It does not have to be around their rugby. He is a good man. He works very hard. There is a lot to like about Ross, and hopefully he will assimilate into whatever he does next, whether that is playing, or whether he has to come out of the bubble of professional rugby. Hopefully he will find something that suits him.”
Despite his imminent departure, Cockerill added that Ford still has an important role to play as Edinburgh push for Champions Cup and Guinness PRO14 play-off qualification during the final few weeks of the season – especially with David Cherry and Cammy Fenton injured, meaning that Ford and first-choice Stuart McInally are the only fit hookers currently on the books.
“It’s a nice place to be at when a guy with Fordy’s experience can be in your squad and he’s played well to be fair,” said Cockerill. “But there comes a natural time when we’ve got to evolve the squad and look to the future.”
Hamilton turned down deal
Another notable leaver is international back-row Luke Hamilton, who has been linked with a possible move to Glasgow where the back-row options do not run as deep.“Luke was offered a contract, but he declined it because we could not agree terms,” said Cockerill. “I have no idea what he has planned. You would have to ask him that.It is one of those things.
Hamilton missed a large chunk of this season due to injury and although he is fit again now he has not been able to push his way into the match-day squad in recent weeks due to a highly competitive back-row which includes Scotland stars Hamish Watson, John Barclay, Jamie Ritchie and Magnus Bradbury, as well as Fijian star Viliame Mata.
“He hasn’t played since Christmas because of concussion, and obviously it tends to that you’ve got no back-rower, or you’ve got all of them fit,” concluded Cockerill. “There’s some stiff competition there and at the moment he hasn’t played since the Glasgow game at Christmas. Where does he get in that back row, that’s the quandary?”
Cockerill added that while he is not actively recruiting any more players, there could be some new faces brought in on short-term deals for the start of next season – especially up front – depending on how many Edinburgh players are involved in Scotland World Cup campaign, which kicks off in late September and will run through until the end of October.
“We’ll see how many of our forward pack go to the World Cup, if they all go we might need some reinforcements because we’ll be short in some positions,” he said. “It’s always an ongoing conversation around what that looks like because we want to be competitive for the first five to seven games of the season when guys are away plus there’s rest periods post World Cup. There’s a lot of things that are variables at the moment.
“I understand the 7s players will assimilate into the pro teams to give coverage in certain positions. But the Junior World Cup happens at the same time as pre-season, so not only do you lose your front-liners, but all your juniors are away as well – it’s not quite as simple as it may seem. If we need to bring guys in from outside then we will. We’re not a development team, we need to be winning in the early part of the season when you’ve probably got double figures of your squad missing. That first chunk is a third of the season, so we need to be competitive in that period.”
It was confirmed earlier this week that Edinburgh will not be able to move into their new ‘mini-Murrayfield’ stadium before the start of next season due to a hold up in the issuing a of a building warrant. Cockerill acknowledged that it is a frustration that things have moved so slowly but says he won’t allow himself to get too worked up about something which is out-with the club’s control.
“We’ve got quite a good stadium!” he quipped, referring to the team’s current home patch on the international pitch at Murrayfield. “It’s not ideal, we want to have our own stadium, our own identity and separation from the union, for obvious reasons. But we can only work as fast as the authorities will let us so once we get the green light we’ll go ahead. We want to be in our own stadium and sell out 8,000 seats, have an atmosphere, and build the fan experience for the club. It is what it is. Bureaucracy is bureaucracy and we have to wait our turn.”