Richard Cockerill: Wins will shift Edinburgh focus back to the pitch

On-loan prop Michele Rizzo is back on the bench after suspension
On-loan prop Michele Rizzo is back on the bench after suspension
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Edinburgh coach Richard Cockerill is confident his players can “portray a positive environment” as they move on from a turbulent couple of weeks with a trip to face Benetton in Italy this afternoon.

Magnus Bradbury was stripped of the captaincy last week following an internal inquiry into a drunken night out which left him injured and unavailable for selection, while fellow international back-rower John Hardie remains suspended pending a separate disciplinary investigation.

“The lads are under the spotlight a bit after the last couple of weeks and those things,” said Cockerill before flying out to Treviso.

“They’re working hard and we can only deal with what we’re doing on the field and if we can get positive results, that portrays a positive environment. The boys have just to get on with their jobs as they do, we’ve just got to move on. We dealt with Magnus and in due course the situation with John will be sorted out and we’ll get on with it.”

Edinburgh go into the game against opposition who derailed their winning start to the season at Myreside in mid-September, off the back off three straight wins – including two against European opposition. Cockerill has made eight changes to the side that thumped Krasny Yar, including the return of Hamish Watson, who is in pole position to take the Scotland No.7 jersey in the absence of Hardie, after a three-week injury lay-off.

“We’ve prepared as well as we can and we’ve picked the best side that’s available,” said the coach. “We’ve got to go and make sure we play with the same intent and the same accuracy we’ve managed to do for the last couple of weeks.

“We obviously take confidence from that but physically we’ll need to be very good which we were last week. We were very good away from home in Russia and we have to make sure we go to Treviso and do the same.

“They’ve had a couple of very good performances if not the results they’d have liked; last week they were very unlucky not to beat a very good Toulon side. We have it all to do there.”

With Duncan Weir not expected to return until the South African double header at the end of next month, Jason Tovey continues at stand-off despite being stretchered off in Russia.

“The medical staff have done a very good job,” said Cockerill. “Jason hyper-extended his knee and he thought it was serious at the time, but he’s made a miraculous recovery.

“He has pushed through the pain barrier and seems to have come through very well. We’re very fortunate that he’s fit to play and it’s good to get Phil Burleigh back in the midfield which gives him some extra experience. I’m delighted to have both of those guys, especially Jason because we’re a little short on 10s.”

Loosehead prop Michele Rizzo returns to the bench from suspension and Cockerill revealed the initial six-week loan deal has become a more open-ended arrangement with Leicester.

“We’re hoping to keep Micky for the foreseeable future,” said Cockerill. “With [Allan] Dell being injured, Al Dickinson out and Rory Sutherland coming back – he’s playing club rugby again this weekend – we need that cover.

“And it looks as if Darryl Marfo may well be away with the national team as well. Three looseheads missing plus another coming back so Mickey Rizzo is going to be important for us if we can manage to keep that loan deal going as long as Leicester don’t need him.”

Cockerill paid tribute to loosehead Marfo, who is one of eight players in today’s starting XV who were named in the Scotland autumn Tests squad.

“He’s worked very hard and he’s playing at the very top end of his abilities,” said Cockerill. “He scrums very well, he’s very committed and circumstances are he’ll potentially get an opportunity at Test level.

“I’m delighted for him in that regard. He’s a very good set-piece player and he won’t let anyone down. If he gets his opportunity it’ll be very interesting to see how he copes at that level.

“Historically he’s a squad player in the [English Aviva] Premiership, he’s come here and taken an opportunity.”