Edinburgh head coach Richard Cockerill still has his heart set on finishing the Guinness PRO14 season despite the Scottish Government’s gloomy forecast for sports fans and the complications around the cross-border competition. Cockerill’s side sit top of Conference B and were well on course for the end-of-season play-offs before the coronavirus pandemic stopped sporting events.

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PRO14 chief executive Martin Anayi last week claimed he was “really confident” about finding a solution to complete the campaign, which has eight rounds of regular fixtures to go. But Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon warned sports fans on Monday not to expect action to resume any time soon – and even cast doubt on the feasibility of playing matches behind closed doors.

Cockerill, whose side also have a European Challenge Cup quarter-final at Bordeaux outstanding, said: “We have all got families and kids and parents and grandparents so the most important thing is to make sure everybody is healthy and safe and then if we can make sure that is guaranteed we can get back to going about our daily lives.

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Munster prop James Cronin has received a doping ban

“But I don’t think Nicola Sturgeon or Boris Johnson even know what the actual case is, it’s the same for everybody across the world at the minute. It’s more complicated in the PRO14 than it is in England and France. It’s going to be hard in the very short term because you look at South Africa and Italy, there are going to be issues coming and going from there.

“Even in the UK, it’s going to be difficult to go and visit teams in other countries. I’m sure the PRO14 are looking at every way to try and get some sort of conclusion to the season. We all hope that in some way shape or form we can have a conclusion to the season because a lot of hard work has gone in from everyone. But we are guessing whether we are going to be allowed to have public gatherings or even play behind closed doors.”

Cockerill recently agreed to a pay cut as the Scottish Rugby Union looks to mitigate the financial impact of the health crisis by reducing the wages of high-earners. But Edinburgh are in a relatively strong position for next season after doing their recruitment and re-signings early.

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Cockerill, who confirmed that ex-Scotland captain John Barclay would be leaving in the summer, said: “We are probably 95 per cent done recruitment wise and probably even a bit more than that. If we don’t recruit another player now before the start of next season we’ll be more than happy with what we have got. We have a small bit of budget left but financially it’s not the right thing to be doing.”

High-earning players have also been asked to take wage cuts and Cockerill warned smaller pay packets might be the new norm across the rugby world. The ex-England international said: “We don’t have a product and aren’t bringing in any income. In the real world, people have to make sacrifices and take less money or be made redundant.

“When things start again, the financial model will be slightly different and coaches’ and players’ salaries will be significantly less, I would have thought.”

– Press Association 

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