Neil Cochrane hell-bent on repaying Edinburgh’s faith

Top, Neil Cochrane in action for Boroughmuir two weekends ago; 'bottom, the hooker (centre) is congratulated by his Heriot's team-mates on Saturday

Top, Neil Cochrane in action for Boroughmuir two weekends ago; 'bottom, the hooker (centre) is congratulated by his Heriot's team-mates on Saturday

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Three matches into the new BT rugby premiership and already Edinburgh hooker Neil Cochrane has turned out under the draft system for BOTH Boroughmuir and Heriot’s.

So, when the teams clash in a fortnight, is it fair to suppose this former Scotland under-21 captain might be the most suitable referee?

In fact, there is a serious issue here, with Cochrane relieved that flexibility in the draft has allowed him to gain valuable match practice with a view to increasing claims for an Edinburgh debut – perhaps even in Sunday’s Guinness Pro 12 trip to Ospreys.

Explained Cochrane: “I was originally allocated to my old [amateur] club Boroughmuir, but while they had three players released last weekend and opponents Melrose had none, the difference in pro involvement is capped at two.

“In those circumstances other clubs are allowed to stake a claim for a pro and I am just so grateful to all concerned as I work my way back from nine months out injured with a view to getting on the Edinburgh team-sheet.”

It was in his first season with London Wasps that Cochrane damaged a knee cartilage.

“Normally it is a 6-8 week recovery but in my case complications arose,” he said. “I started running and re-tore the cartilage and there was also a lot of bone bruising.

“It was a bit of a struggle and there were some dark times. Any time I ran my knee would swell up.”

So, was it a leap of faith on the part of Edinburgh to bring the former Boroughmuir High student home?

“Definitely, and I am determined to repay them,” he said. “At the same time, though, the London surgeon who operated twice on my knee was able to give assurances that I would get back to 100 per cent. So, between Edinburgh’s faith and the draft I have a lot of people to thank.

“The draft situation might seem odd, but it is invaluable for giving the pros game time and hopefully between myself, Ben Toolis, Adam Ashe and Ali Price – who turned out in the Heriot’s-Stirling match – we were able to show the standards that have to be met in the pro ranks and they can compare.

Initially Cochrane joined Rotherham as a flanker and on moving to Doncaster was offered the chance to switch to hooker.

“I played three games towards the end of the season at hooker, but decided against the switch,” he said. “Then, in my final year, Doncaster said ‘we want you to join but would you consider hooker’?”

“I owe a lot to Bedford because in a very competitive English Championship they stuck with me when my throwing was maybe not as good as it is today.

“Eventually I got picked up by Wasps and now Edinburgh, who I can’t wait to represent.”

With Stuart McInally and George Turner injured and Aleki Lutui moved on, the position is currently covered exclusively by Ross Ford and James Hilterbrand.

So the route may be highly irregular, but there is still every chance that 60 minutes for Boroughmuir at Edinburgh Accies, followed by 40 minutes for Heriot’s against Stirling, will add up to a debut off the bench at Ospreys – in a classic example of all aspects of Scottish rugby working together.