Richard Cockerill has been forthright since he arrived in the Scottish capital that he was well aware of the size of the task facing him and, so far, the Edinburgh job is not disappointing on that score.
Following a solid start with back-to-back wins over Cardiff and the Dragons, the wheels came off with that home loss to Benetton and another, less surprising loss, duly followed at the weekend when his men went down 28-8 at champions Scarlets.
There is no respite as Edinburgh prepare for another daunting away trip as they are set to head to Dublin to face a Leinster side smarting from their defeat by the Cheetahs in South Africa. Cockerill was still angry about the refereeing injustice he felt his troops were subjected to by Irish official John Lacey in Llanelli and, as he faced the media, revealed he was due to have a conversation with Pro14 referees’ chief Greg Garner.
The coach felt the first Scarlets try came after blatant crossing and the fourth included a forward pass and foot in touch. Lacey’s refusal to to use the TMO for either and a perceived dismissive attitude towards his players are the main bones of contention.
Cockerill was, however, keen to look forward to the next match and insisted he was “not as downbeat as you imagine” after a testing couple of weeks.
“We have to improve and stay in the fight against good sides,” he admitted. “The reality is we are not going to turn up against Scarlets and Leinster and have people expect us to win. If we had been a bit smarter we would have taken a point out of the game.
“If it had been refereed a bit differently it may have been a different, I won’t say result, but scoreline, and we get a point out of the game and you are a little bit happier. If we tidy our game up round our skill execution a little bit then there is every opportunity we can push these teams harder.”
Cockerill did see progress from the previous week and added: “We have got men who work hard but against Treviso we were not good enough. Against the champs away from home in difficult circumstances the group knitted a bit tighter and that is something we can build on. When the boys are working to the maximum and things do not go as you would like there is no point beating them over the head with a stick. We have some young players learning things on the hoof. There are things we can do better.
“Am I 100 per cent happy? No. But if we are trying to help the players be better we have to be a bit more positive around that as well. It was not for lack of effort. There were a few British Lions in that [Scarlets] team. When they need another full-back it is another expensive Lion [Leigh Halfpenny] they get in from Toulon. You have to compare apples with apples which is why I am not as downbeat as you imagine.”
Cockerill had no complaints about the red card shown to on-loan loosehead prop Michele Rizzo and is expecting to lose him to suspension at tomorrow’s disciplinary hearing. The coach is keen for Leicester to extend the arrangement, however, with Al Dickinson out until the New Year and Allan Dell, who is expected back next week, likely to be in the Scotland autumn Test squad. Wing Dougie Fife has recovered from his ankle injury and will be in the squad on Friday.