Richard Cockerill tackles referees’ chief

Richard Cockerill
Richard Cockerill
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Edinburgh coach Richard Cockerill has spoken with the Guinness Pro14’s referees’ chief to highlight his concerns about the standard of officiating in the competition.

The Englishman was scathing on Friday night about the performance of Welshman Ian Davis in his team’s dour 17-10 victory over Irish side Connacht at BT Murrayfield.

That followed outspoken comments he had made the previous weekend about the standard of refereeing during the 30-29 defeat by Ulster in Belfast last weekend.

Cockerill faced the media for his weekly briefing yesterday ahead of a phone conversation with Pro14 elite referees’ manager Greg Garner. The coach was fuming after Friday night’s match, accusing referee 
Davies of letting Connacht away with “cheating” and saying that what he views as a poor level of officiating threatens to undermine the integrity of the tournament.

“Yes. I sent some footage for him [Garner] to have a look at and I’m having a discussion with him this afternoon,” said Cockerill. “I spoke to him on Saturday morning about a few things. Over the last two weeks there was a lot of agreement about some of the decisions. All the coaches get sent a video on Thursdays about what the referees have been told to look out for, and what I saw on Friday night was completely different to what I had seen on Thursday.”

Cockerill was hoping that the chat with former Test referee Garner who, like Cockerill, hails from Coventry, would be a productive one.

“The biggest thing for me is that Greg is the head of the Pro14 referees, but he reports to managers who then report to their referees,” continued Cockerill. “It’s very difficult and very complex, whereas France and England have one boss who deals with all the referees directly.

“Ultimately, the referees aren’t employed by the Pro14 they’re employed by the Unions, so it makes it a bit complicated.

“But there has to be consistency across the refereeing group in this competition. It has to be correct. I want it to be better because if we all just ignore it then that’s where we’ll always be.”

Asked if he felt it was an issue of consistency or competence, Cockerill replied: “A bit of both. We had John Lacey [of Ireland], who refereed very differently to Stuart Berry, for example.

“The breakdown is very different from referee to referee. I get it that there will be slight differences between Irishmen, Welshmen and South Africans, but they are poles apart. It has to be better because there are errors happening that are costing points on the league table.”

Cockerill watched his players in pick up their first winning points last weekend but knows that they face a big step up this weekend when they face Pro14 winners and European champions Leinster in Dublin on Saturday evening.

“It’s going to be a good challenge for us isn’t it? We’ve got to play them some time and we’ve got to go there and throw everything at them and see where we get to,” said Cockerill, who led his side to a 21-13 loss in the corresponding fixture last season before toppling Leinster 29-14 at Myreside during the Six Nations window.

“It’s something for nothing in some regards for us, because nobody will expect us to win,” added the coach.

“We pushed them close there last year and were probably a little bit unlucky not to get anything out of the game. But they’re a good side, they had a great win at the weekend [52-10 at home to Dragons], so it’s going to be a tough evening for us, but it’s one we’ll look forward to.

“We’re playing good teams in Europe and Leinster are the best squad in Europe and we’ve got to go there and give it a bash.”