Hamish Watson says it is time Edinburgh shrugged off their underdogs tag and accepted their new billing under Richard Cockerill as Scotland’s dominant force. Having spent much of the last decade in Glasgow’s shadow, Cockerill’s team are now setting their sights on eclipsing Warriors’ trophy-winning feat of 2015.
Murrayfield is the setting for two back-to-back 1872 Cup derbies – the first on Saturday – with Edinburgh needing just a point to secure a place in the Guinness PRO14 semi-finals. The bookmakers are putting their faith in Cockerill’s team after pricing them firmly odds-on to emerge victorious and reach the last four for the first time.
But Watson knows those expectation levels might not sit so comfortably with a team written off time and time again down the years. The Scotland flanker said: “Yeah (we’re favourites) – and we have got to get used to being called the favourites.
“That’s not a bad thing. We have been the underdogs before and underdogs also have a chance of winning games. It can still be dangerous and Glasgow will be really dangerous too. They have new coaches and fantastic players so it’ll be a really tough game.
“But we have to get used to going into games as the favourites and relish that. Sometimes those games are tougher when you’re favourites as you have more expectations on your shoulders. We need to get used to that now and not just think we always want to be the underdogs.”
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— Edinburgh Rugby (@EdinburghRugby) August 19, 2020
For so long the top dogs, Glasgow are now getting used to the new order in Scottish rugby. Off the pace in Conference A, new Warriors coach Danny Wilson needs a miracle to rescue their play-offs hopes. But Watson warned: “That creates its own problems. We know what we were like when we only had the 1872 Cup to play for and that’s the be all and end all, so Glasgow will be dangerous in a different way.
“Normally they are dangerous in that they are near the top of their conference and playing for the play-off spots, whereas that is us this year and they are sort of at the other end. They have got a lot to prove and still want to be the strongest team in Scotland. We know how dangerous that is.”
Glasgow became the first Scottish side to claim major silverware with their league triumph five years ago. At that point, Edinburgh’s prospects of making a similar trophy tilt looked distinctly remote. But Cockerill’s 2017 arrival transformed a club seemingly content to dish out the odd upset in their local skirmishes with Warriors into a team capable of conquering all.
As well as their PRO14 ambitions, Edinburgh are also eyeing up a European Challenge Cup quarter-final against Bordeaux-Begles next month, so it’s little surprise that the Scottish Rugby Union is keen to tie down Cockerill on a new deal before his current agreement expires at the end of the campaign.
“If Cockers signs, that will be the longest a coach has been at Edinburgh for a long time,” Watson added about coach Cockerill, who carved out his no-nonsense reputation at Leicester. “We needed that continuity. It’s good to have a figurehead like Cockers stay around for a long time. You see that in any successful team, you need a coach to be there for a long period.
“You can see the environment he is bringing to the club and where we have come from in the last three years, so it’s massive for the club. We’ll see how long he signs for and hopefully we can build from this season and finish it on a high.”
“They are maybe in the academy, maybe at stage 3, but just falling through the system because they can’t afford to live off the academy wage at 23."@EdinburghRugby tyro @Darcy_Graham fears for the Scottish heartland that produced him, writes @JLyall93 ???https://t.co/SAHcL8qvkK
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) August 16, 2020
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