Edinburgh and Scottish rugby have received a boost with the news that coach Richard Cockerill has committed himself to the capital pro team until 2021.
The former England hooker has led the club to their best season for a decade and, after joining on a two-year deal last summer, has added another 12 months to his contract.
After years of underperforming, Edinburgh are within touching distance of the Guinness Pro14 play-offs and reached the quarter-finals of the European Challenge Cup. After winning just six league games last term, Cockerill’s side already have 14 Pro14 victories with one regular season game to go against Glasgow next Saturday.
A former Leicester and Toulon coach, Cockerill said: “I saw this as a fresh challenge and have really enjoyed getting stuck in at Edinburgh.
“We are building a better squad and a better culture, bit by bit, with the aim of improving results and making us more competitive and consistent.
“The support I’ve received from Scottish Rugby since I arrived has been first-class and I’m excited about what the future will hold for Edinburgh Rugby if we continue to apply ourselves in the right way.”
Cockerill has driven up standards while at the same time dealing with a couple of high-profile off-field issues earlier in the season.
He stripped Magnus Bradbury of the captaincy just weeks after handing the youngster the job after the back-rower injured himself while drunk on a night out.
In November, Scotland flanker John Hardie was suspended for three months for gross misconduct, which was widely reported to be in regards to cocaine use. The player has since returned to the squad.
SRU chief executive Mark Dodson was pleased to extend Cockerill’s stay in Scotland and added: “I have been delighted by the impact Richard has had since his arrival and so it was the right decision to retain his services through to 2021.
“We have worked hard to secure a world-class coaching group in Scotland and Richard has put down strong foundations which is both improving our players and underpinning the work being done off the pitch to take the club forward.
“I know Richard sees Edinburgh Rugby as a long-term project and while there has been a positive start we all expect the progress to continue in the coming seasons.”
Cockerill will now aim to lead his side into the play-offs and, with it, a return to the elite European Champions Cup. With clear progress on the pitch, the next challenge for the club is to build a new home, with options currently being reviewed following the premature end of the Myreside experiment earlier this year.
Edinburgh managing director, Jonny Petrie, said: “The impact Richard has had can’t be overstated in terms of giving the players and coaches a clear view of what is required to be more competitive and generally raising standards throughout the club.
Ulster must earn bonus-point wins in their remaining games against Glasgow today and Munster to keep alive any hopes of qualifying for the PRO14 play-offs.
Even if Ulster do achieve two bonus-point wins, Edinburgh will still only need a point from their final home game against Glasgow to deny the Irish province a play-offs spot.
Ulster face Glasgow at home today and Warriors head coach Dave Rennie has told his players to use the trip to build momentum ahead of the Guinness PRO14 Final Series.
The Warriors have already secured top spot in Conference A and the home semi-final which comes with it.
Rennie said: “Ulster still have a chance to qualify for the Final Series and Europe so (they) have plenty to play for.
“They lead the competition in line-breaks so keeping players like Jacob Stockdale and Charles Piutau quiet will be crucial.”