RICHARD COCKERILL believes that a full programme of Guinness PRO14 play-offs would be a fairer way to end the current season if possible, even though his own Edinburgh team would be one of the beneficiaries if the league went straight to a final. 

As Conference B leaders, Edinburgh would almost certainly play Leinster in Dublin if the PRO14 organisers decided they were only able to wrap up this season with a one-off showpiece final. 

Leinster have won all of their games this season and are top of Conference A, and PRO14 have already said that the team with the best record would be hosts in the event of a one-off final. 

Cockerill, who also revealed that former Scotland captain John Barclay will not be an Edinburgh player next season, accepted that there was still complete uncertainty about when rugby would resume.

But he insisted that, if there were time to complete this season in some fashion before embarking on the next campaign, other contenders for the title would rightly feel they should be involved in the shake-up. 

“We’re fortunate that we sit in the position we do, but there are still eight rounds of rugby to go with some very good teams, like Munster and Scarlets in our conference and Ulster in the other one,” the Edinburgh head coach said. “They would feel pretty aggrieved. 

“Whatever the outcome, the process of getting a resolution to the season is not going to be ideal. Personally, if you were going to go down that route, it would probably be better to have quarters, semis and finals with the top three from each conference. 

“But we’re all guessing when we’ll be allowed to have public gatherings or play behind closed doors or anything else. I’m sure there will be, if possible, the fittest and best way to get this up and running.” 

If the season were called now and a play-off programme put into place, Glasgow Warriors would be in the mix along with Edinburgh. Dave Rennie’s side are currently third in Conference A, behind Ulster as well as Leinster. 

PRO14 have yet to announce a deadline for a resumption of this season, and the fact that teams from Italy and South Africa are also involved would complicate any attempt to fulfill the whole fixture card.

While remaining hopeful of bringing season 2019-20 to some sort of conclusion, Cockerill acknowledged that public health had to be the overriding consideration. 

“It’s going to be hard in the very short term,” he said of a potential resumption. “You look at South Africa and Italy and there will be issues coming and going there. Even in the UK it’s going to be difficult to go and visit teams in other countries. 

“It does add a complication, but I’m sure the PRO14 are looking at every which way to get some sort of conclusion to this season. We all want that to happen: everyone is desperately missing sport and everyone wants to go back to work to keep their jobs safe. 

“I think we’ve all got a pretty open mind. We’re hoping 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 everybody. 

“The health of everybody is far more important and we’ll go with the government guidelines around all of that, for obvious reasons. But if we can, if it means we’re playing in July and August, or August, or later on, and then we just roll into next season, because that’s how this makes the financial model of the game work, and we can all get the thing up and running and we can all make it efficient again and we can all pay the bills, then I think personally, I’d be accepting of that. 

“I’m hoping that we get to play some rugby, but not to the detriment of everything else that’s going on, which is clearly far more important. But at some point, the world has got to get back on its feet and start earning again, which obviously at the moment it’s not.” 

Next week Edinburgh are due to publish a list of arrivals and departures for season 2020-21. Simon Hickey and Matt Scott were among the players whose future with the team was uncertain when all rugby was suspended, and yesterday Cockerill said he was unable to give an update on either the stand-off or the centre. 

He did, however, explain that, as expected, the 33-year-old Barclay would be leaving - although the back row forward is expected to carry on playing elsewhere. 

“John will not be with us next season. Unless we play before 1 July I would assume that he has played his last game, unfortunately. He has a lot of experience and he has played well for us, but we do have a fantastic stable of young Scottish back-rowers who are coming through. I think John has every intention of playing on, as far as I know.”