Edinburgh Rugby coach poised to name young player as captain

Edinburgh's Mark Bennett, third from left, joined Cory Hill (Newport Gwent Dragons), Dean Budd (Benetton Treviso), Ken Owens (Scarlets), Isa Nacewa (Leinster), CJ Velleman (Southern Kings) and Iain Henderson (Ulster) at the PRO14 season launch. Pic: INPHO/Billy Stickland
Edinburgh's Mark Bennett, third from left, joined Cory Hill (Newport Gwent Dragons), Dean Budd (Benetton Treviso), Ken Owens (Scarlets), Isa Nacewa (Leinster), CJ Velleman (Southern Kings) and Iain Henderson (Ulster) at the PRO14 season launch. Pic: INPHO/Billy Stickland
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Edinburgh coach Richard Cockerill is poised to hand the club captaincy to a young, up-and-coming player in a bid to underline the message that this is a fresh start for the under-performing Capital side.

Glasgow have gone with relative experience, appointing 28-year-old, 30-times capped Ryan Wilson as their skipper for the new season. But Cockerill said he would be looking to give youth a chance.

Edinburgh head coach Richard Cockerill

Edinburgh head coach Richard Cockerill

“With respect to some of the senior guys, they’ve been captains and it’s not worked,” was the Englishman’s blunt assessment at the Guinness PRO14 launch in Dublin. “So I’m 
going to look to try and bring one of those younger players through.”

Internationalists Grant Gilchrist and Stuart McInally initially shared the captaincy last season but, with both struggling with injury and form, it was Scotland’s most-capped player Ross Ford who latterly took on the mantle as yet another disappointing season unfolded.

“We’ll announce [the captain] next week,” said Cockerill. “I will look to use one of those younger guys to come through and captain the side. We’ve got some good young players and we’ve got to build this squad for the future.

“They will have to develop as a captain and a player and hopefully in the next two to three years we’ll be building into a team that has been together for a few seasons and can compete and hopefully do what Glasgow, Connacht and Scarlets have done in recent years.”

Former England hooker Cockerill spent the bulk of his playing and coaching career at Leicester, where the home fortress of Welford Road was held proudly as a badge of honour and deeply ingrained in the culture of the club.

It couldn’t be more different than Edinburgh, who have spent years playing at a sparsely-attended Murrayfield, easily the least hostile venue in the competition. The decision to move to a more compact, atmospheric home at Myreside didn’t bring immediate improvement in results last season but they will continue there this season.

Cockerill is wary about making any rash “Fortress Myreside” statements, though.

“We don’t want to lose at home but there’s no point saying that then you play your first game at home, lose and that’s all shattered,” said the 46-year-old. “We’ve got to be realistic. Every time we play, I want us to be in the battle the whole time. We’re not looking to keep the score down and have respectable losses. Whoever we play, especially the bigger teams, I expect us to be in the game.

“Then when we play the sides around us it shouldn’t be expecting to turn up and win. They got caught out a couple of times on that last season. We just need to make sure we are credible and gain respect from the competition.

“When we’re good enough to sell Myreside out every time and have that buzz then that may come. But the reality is we won six games in the league last year.

“If we’re going to be unbeaten at home then that means we are going to have to win at least 11. You’ve got to be really careful about where you start pitching stuff. We’ve over-promised and under-delivered too much. I’m going to under-promise and hopefully over-deliver.”

Scotland centre Mark Bennett represented his new club at the event in Dublin yesterday and is hoping he could be able to turn out for his new club around the turn of the year following his summer transfer from Glasgow. Bennett, who had cruciate ligament surgery after being injured in this year’s Calcutta Cup clash at Twickenham, said: “I’m feeling good and the knee is coming on well. It’s looking like around about the turn of the year [to get back playing]. That’s the minimum time they said for this kind of injury so it’s just a waiting game now.

“It’s too early [to think about the Six Nations]. I just need to get back playing and that’s the main thing. It could be turn of the year but it could be longer, it just depends on how things react. First things first is to get back playing.”