Edinburgh coach Richard Cockerill accepted responsibility for his side’s depressing home collapse to Benetton Treviso last Friday night, which took the momentum out of what had been an encouraging start to the Guinness Pro14 season.
The new boss chose to appear himself at yesterday’s BT Murrayfield press conference rather than delegate to one of his assistants and was forthright in his appraisal of the 20-17 defeat at Myreside.
“When the team don’t play well that’s my responsibility,” said the 46-year-old Englishman.
“It was very disappointing. It was a poor performance. We showed a lot of the traits that have done us over the past few years so it was very disappointing. Very much points lost.”
Cockerill said there had been a “robust” meeting with the playing squad as they now enter a daunting couple of weeks on the road, facing champions Scarlets in Llanelli on Saturday before heading to Dublin to play four-time winners Leinster.
“We talked about the inaccuracy in looking after the ball,” said Cockerill. “We were a bit unlucky. Jason Harries thought he scored but, the ref thought he knocked it on. That’s life. You can’t defend that poorly and softly and let easy points in. We were too easy to play against. It was not good enough by a long way.”
Cockerill said that, alongside bringing the obvious improvement that he has been primarily tasked with, his job also includes “managing expectations” around a club that have been in a rut for too many years. “At this point we’re still a bottom-four team and we have to work our way out of it,” he said. “We’ve had two good performances in pre-season, one good performance against Cardiff when we were on it, a so-so performance against Newport [Dragons] when we managed to get ourselves out of it, and we got royally bitten on the backside at the weekend.
“That level of performance isn’t acceptable. And if guys want to play like that, then they won’t. They can’t stay in the team.
“Unfortunately, I don’t have a complete set of players to change everybody, so some guys will get another opportunity against Scarlets.”
If one positive could be taken from Friday’s let-down, it was that Cockerill was able to gain more insight into his players’ mentality. “I learned some valuable lessons on how I have to deal with this group,” said the coach. “At the moment, they need to be driven hard every day because, if they’re not, they switch off and that’s just the nature of the beast.
“Not everybody switches off and not everybody’s sloppy, but we’ve got to make sure the weaker minded of the group play and work as hard as the others and we’ll keep chipping away at that. It doesn’t happen overnight.”
Cockerill has spoken of his desire to build off the field as much as on it as he becomes the latest man charged with trying to replicate the success story of Glasgow Warriors in a city which, in theory, should be more fertile ground for a thriving professional rugby club.
A word often used when assessing the story of Edinburgh over best part of a decade is “malaise”. Cockerill remains confident that he can tap into the rugby potential of the Scottish capital and spark some life into a dormant entity but is under no illusions about the task in hand. “Firstly we’ve got a good group of players who care about what they do. We’re working hard on creating an environment but it’s going to take longer than three or four months,” said the head coach yesterday. “There’s a lot of history to this club we need to dig into a dig out.
“It’s got a lot of history of exceptionally good players who’ve played for Scotland the Lions and we need to revisit that history. But we’ve got to keep working hard.
“We weren’t the best team in the competition when we beat Cardiff, and we’re not the worst team now we’ve lost to Treviso.
“We fell flat on our faces on Friday. I don’t want to blame the referee or anyone else, it’s purely our responsibility that it happened and we have to be better than that. If we’re realistic and honest with each other then that’s the starting point of improvement.
“I’d have liked to have been three from three going to Scarlets and given it full noise and gone there with some confidence. But the weekend we let ourselves down and we’ve got to go to two very difficult away games and we’ve got to have a reaction, front up and make sure we perform.”