Richard Cockerill doesn’t think he’s made much of a difference to Edinburgh in 14 months, so wonders how much Dan McFarland can do in two weeks with Ulster.
The former Scotland forwards coach, now finally in charge at Ulster after the SRU and IRFU came to a financial agreement to allow him to start the new Guinness PRO14 season may know more about the Edinburgh players than he does the Ulster ones, agreed Cockerill.
“Two weeks? I’ve been here 14 months and not made much of a difference!” joked Cockerill, whose influence at the club was measured by the disappointment that they didn’t get more than a losing bonus from their trip to Ospreys, where the club hadn’t won since 2009.
“Dan’s a good coach it’ll take time for him to bed in, he’s got some good players and experience but they’ve lost some good players over the summer as well,” said Cockerill, with more seriousness.
“To a large degree there’s pressure on them as the home team to perform and win. I watched their game against Scarlets, it wasn’t a great spectacle like ours was. They’ll be passionate, physical and direct, and we have to match that.
“We want pressure on us to perform as well as we can. If we’d done that we would have won on Friday, the fact that we didn’t, some of that was down to ospreys, some of it was done to our poor play.
“It’s one game. We were in the battle and competing at the death with a chance to win on the final play, which was the most pleasing thing.”
Less pleasing was a turnover count Cockerill thought they had solved, he added.
“We went from turning the ball over 21 times against Bath, to less than 10 against Newcastle, to 21 times again against Ospreys,” he said. “It’s frustrating but we know we can be better than that.
“ Some of those things are easily fixed but we still have to do it. We know if we were 10% better we could have won the game, even playing some poorly at some parts.
“But it wouldn’t have changed anything, you’d be happy with the points but even if we had won we would still have the same issues we have to deal with.”
Cockerill had fielded a number of new players – three of the four half-back/midfield unit were newcomers – but he didn’t think this was a factor.
“We’ve got some new players and we have to make sure they all gel, but I don’t think that Friday was about combinations , it was about poor decision making and poor skills,” he added. “You can’t get stripped of the ball, drop it and make poor decisions if you want to win, especially away from home.”
Cockerill is also aware that Ulster are one of the conference teams that Edinburgh need to stela a march on.
“You need to beat the sides around you,” he said. “Ulster away is not a gimme, is it?
“We have a long way to go and international periods, injuries and everything else have to be negotiated. But it would be nice to get as many points and deny them as many points as we can.”
The coach will have some rotation/selection changes, with WP Nel available this week. Magnus Bradbury will however get some minutes in club rugby before he returns to the team.