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'Cockers was overtly pleasant... it can only go downhill'

By Liam Heagney

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Last week was the first time an England squad assembled with Eddie Jones’ latest array of new assistant coaches – including the combative Richard Cockerill – involved and Sale boss Alex Sanderson had admitted seeking out his Sharks players with a flurry of questions to find out how it all panned out. 

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The Manchester club had four players chosen in the 45-strong England squad that assembled in London last Sunday through to Tuesday for a first gathering with the likes of new forwards coach Cockerill and attack coach Martin Gleeson following Jones’ latest overhaul of his assistants. 

While the appointment of Gleeson, a rugby league convert who has spent just two years coaching in union with Wasps, isn’t a headline-maker, how the relationship between Jones and Cockerill develops will be watched with great intrigue given they are both combustible and hard-nosed characters who are forthright and used to being in charge.

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Before camp got started, Cockerill was asked at his first media briefing how comfortable he was at taking orders. His colourful reply was very much tongue-in-cheek. “I’m very good. I spend a lot of time at home so I get lots of orders there from my wife!”

How the 50-year-old fared once the camp got going, though, was something that Sale boss Sanderson touched on at his club’s weekly media briefing when asked if he had been talking to his four Sharks – Tom Curry, Manu Tuilagi, Raffi Quirke and Bevan Rodd – about the new England set-up since they returned to club training.

“Yeah, definitely. I was chatting to them all. Raffi did bits and pieces but the other guys trained and they said it’s a really good feel around the place. There is a renewed attacking mindset and philosophy that they talked about with some of the young players that they have got in and you see that. They have come in buoyed up. Apparently, Richard Cockerill was overtly pleasant so read from that what you will. It can only go downhill, I don’t know. 

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“I love Cockers, don’t get me wrong. He is mad as a barking dog, I love him but there is no but in it. I was just getting some feedback as to how the environment was because I spent a bit of time with Eddie. As you know, he came up to see me so I really enjoyed that conversation and I am always interested in how new coaching teams fit together because I am still in that process myself.”

Sale’s four-strong representation in the 45-man England mini-training camp squad was the joint third-highest behind Harlequins’ seven and Leicester’s five. The next England squad announcement is scheduled for October 18 and a week’s preparation camp for the autumn internationals is planned for Jersey from October 25. 

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'Cockers was overtly pleasant... it can only go downhill'

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