How Mike Blair will compare to Richard Cockerill as new Edinburgh head coach plans 'a little bit of change'
Mike Blair plans to encourage a more expansive game-plan at Edinburgh as part of a generally more collaborative coaching regime compared to the Richard Cockerill era.
But he also insisted yesterday that he won’t allow the team to slip back towards where they were before the combative Englishman’s arrival in the Scottish capital four years ago, when they were generally regarded as a talented group with a soft underbelly.
“Cockers certainly had an immediate positive impact on that side of things, from a culture point of view,” said the 40-year-old, speaking for the first time since his appointment as head coach at Edinburgh last month. “It’s actually something that I’ve been really impressed with since I came in, that attention to detail and those things that some might think are not important such as being well turned out, getting to meetings on time, being really attentive in meetings, and asking questions. That’s something I’ll bring through as well.
“We aren’t similar individuals in terms of the way that we’ll do things, but I still have high standards, I still don’t accept mediocrity. And with the type of people that we’ve got in the squad, and the standing that they’ve already got in that side of things, I don’t see things slipping. I don’t know whether I have that Cockers side of me that keeps things going from that point of view, but I think we’ll be able to create a really good balance.
“It makes sense to play a bit more because we’ve got a fast track,” he continued. “But as I’ve said to the players already, the club has built some really good foundations over the last three or four years through that pressure game [championed by Cockerill], and that’s not going to be thrown out the window now, because this has arguably been Edinburgh’s most consistent performing period over the last 20 years or so.
“Yes, there will be a little bit of change, but we can’t forget about what has worked well in the past as well. We need balance to our game.”
“I think we’ve got a group here who have a great rugby IQ, who understand the game, who understand what we need. So, they’ll definitely have a big say in what we do leading into games but also in the games themselves.”
The departure of long-serving attack coach Duncan Hodge earlier this month means that Blair is now down to two assistants, with Calum MacRae overseeing defence and Stevie Lawrie in charge of the forwards. That is not enough, according to the new man in charge, so he is actively looking to bring in fresh blood on the management side.
“Stevie and Kitty [MacRae] have done a really good job – they’ve had a really busy summer working with the guys and they’ve put together a really good pre-season – but you can’t do it with three people at this level in this day and age,” Blair explained. “With the amount of detail and feedback we want to give the players, we’d be up for 24 hours a day.
“So, there will be one, possibly two, coaches coming in. But as you can imagine, at this time of the year it takes a little bit of doing because it’s about who’s available. And the dynamic – what type of personality we bring in – is important. Kitty, myself and Stevie are different, and we need that because different players react to different stimulus, so we need to make sure we’re touching all the different bases with our different coaching personnel.”