RICHARD Cockerill hopes to agree a new contract with Edinburgh Rugby in the next few weeks and believes there is ample scope for the squad to keep improving over the coming seasons.

The former England international has transformed Edinburgh into a far tougher, more competitive team since becoming head coach three years ago, and with two games against Glasgow Warriors to go in the regular season they are now all but assured of a place in the

PRO14 semi-finals. Cockerill has one more year of his current deal to run, and, with negotiations on an extension having begun with Scottish Rugby chief executive Mark Dodson, the coach insisted he had no intention of walking away from an unfinished job.

“We’re having these conversations now,” Cockerill said yesterday. “They are pretty positive ones with the union. Nothing is decided at this point obviously - with Covid-19 everything is difficult to get answers on from both ends. They have every intention to want me to stay here, I have every intention to stay, so it looks pretty positive. Hopefully in the next few weeks we can sort something to make that work and start looking at building our squad through to the next World Cup and beyond.

“I've invested a lot of time and effort, physical and emotional, into this project. I will be four years in when my contract runs out. At this point, the age demographic of our squad and where we are at the moment means that if we are going to get to the end of it and see some success then I want to be here to see that.

“All of us here have worked very hard to build this team over the last three years. All contracts run out at the end of 2021. I want to see it come to fruition. I'll be buggered if I'm letting someone else take over and ride on the back of what we've built.

“It's a good place to be. We are getting better. I’m happy here and the challenge is still for us to do better and be more successful. That's a good reason to want to stay for me.

“The union have shown loyalty to myself and I've repaid that with what I've done. It's not always about thinking about what you're going to do next. I've got to get this job right first and when it's time for me to move on that will be a natural time for that to happen. I'm not sure it's quite yet for me. I won't decide that; someone else will.”

When Edinburgh and Glasgow meet at Murrayfield on Saturday then again the following Friday, both squads will be a couple of players short of the complement they had hoped for - a result of the recruitment freeze applied by the union in response to the financial challenges caused by the pandemic. Discussions about his playing budget will form part of Cockerill’s negotiations, but he appears willing to take a pragmatic approach to the tougher economic circumstances.

“We know there’s going to be changes in the next 24 months around what the financials look like,” he continued. “You just want to know what exactly it is you’re going into. That doesn’t mean if it’s not as rosy a picture as I would like I wouldn’t want to stay; that’s just to know what your job looks like over the next 36 months.

“Part of being a head coach and a leader of a team is knowing you can’t always have it your own way. You have to bring the team together and if things get tighter financially we have to find a way to get through that, and we will. That’s part of my job as well. It’s all very positive and I’d like to think there’s every chance I’ll be boring you for a little bit longer.”

Lock forward Ben Toolis will miss the Glasgow double-header after having shoulder surgery earlier in the summer, but is expected to be available for the play-offs. “He should be fit for the semi-final if we get that far,” Cockerill added. “He just had a little bit of bone removed that was floating about in his shoulder. Nothing too serious. He had to delay that for several weeks because of the Covid situation.”