Edinburgh Rugby loosehead prop Rory Sutherland believes Richard Cockerill’s tough stance when it comes to selection is helping the wider squad to hit new heights this season.
Sutherland, the man who has three Scotland caps to his name, has found game time so far this term quite hard to come by with the capital outfit under the decisive head coach.
The 26-year-old flew out to Parma with the rest of the squad yesterday for tomorrow night’s Guinness PRO14 clash with Zebre and is set to be involved in this one.
And rather than being frustrated that Pierre Schoeman – the South African who returns from suspension this week – and Allan Dell have played the majority of minutes in the number one jersey in recent months, Sutherland sees it as a challenge.
“It is difficult to get into the side just now, but I think that’s the kind of culture that Cockers is creating in the squad,” the man who has also played this term in the Tennent’s Premiership draft for Edinburgh Accies stated.
“Once you’re in the team you have to be ‘on it’ every week to stay in the team. If you have a bad game you’ll be out and there will be someone there waiting to take your spot. I think it’s a good thing that he’s creating.
“Last season I started seven games in a row and then had a bad game against Stade Francais and I was completely out of the squad after that.
“Rather than get you down in the dumps that makes you hungry to get back in again.
“It makes you hungry to learn from what you did wrong and it makes you want to get better and do the things the coaching team are asking you to do. I like that. Obviously, it’s not nice when you’re not in the team, but I like the way that Richard does things, there is a real honesty about it.
“In the past, when I first started [professional rugby], it was probably the case [that you knew how the rotation policy was working]. If you had been starting you wouldn’t be starting the following week because you were resting, but you knew your chance would come again.
“Now, it’s all about consistency and making sure that you are ‘on it’ 100 per cent the whole time – training, playing, anything you do on and off the field. It’s different.
“With any coach, you don’t have to like them, you just have to do what they say.”
Sutherland was catapulted into the pro ranks in 2014 and has had some rise since then, earning his Scotland caps in 2016.
Between late 2016 and late 2017 he suffered a terrible 12 months out with a groin injury.
He recounted: “After the operation I was bed bound for a good month. I then got a really bad infection around the injured area so I had to go back down to London for another check-up.
“The medics repaired that, but I was in bed for another couple of months.
“I did nothing and it was a tough time and then it just took me ages to get back fully fit.”
He came back into things in the second half of last season and now, with the likes of Dell set to be on Scotland duty in the coming weeks, he wants to take this chance.
“It is really nice to be back and I’m pleased to be back in the Edinburgh team,” he said.
“It’s disappointing not to be in the Scotland squad, but my main focus is to play well for Edinburgh and stay consistent here and make sure I’m in the team.
“International stuff takes care of itself. If you’re playing well for your club you might get selected. Right now, I don’t think I’ve played enough rugby consistently of late to play at international level.
“I need to make sure I’m playing well for Edinburgh first.”