Edinburgh head coach Richard Cockerill had no complaints about the outcome of Friday night’s 1872 Cup defeat to Glasgow Warriors, and congratulated both sides for producing a decent game of rugby in difficult circumstances – but he wasn’t quite so magnanimous when it came to discussing his views on the law variations which are being trialled during this Rainbow Cup campaign. 

Three new rules are being tried out: a ‘Captain’s Challenge’ for try-scoring and foul play incidents during the first 75 minutes of the match or to challenge any refereeing decision in the last five minutes has been introduced; the red-card sanction has been changed so that the offending player leaves the field for the remainder of the match but his team can now send on a replacement after 20 minutes; and the defending team now takes a drop-out from anywhere on the goal-line if an attacking player is held up over the line, or there is a knock-on in the in goal area, or a defending player grounds the ball in the in goal area following a kick through. 

If this all sounds very complicated, then that’s because it is. Unnecessarily so according to Cockerill, who is worried that the initiatives do not achieve the purpose of making the game safer and fairer, but create confusion and cause matches to become disjointed instead. 

Two players were sent-off through the ‘captain’s challenge’ rule on Friday night. Edinburgh centre Mark Bennett saw red after his shoulder with Ali Price’s chin in a tackle, while Glasgow prop Oli Kebble swung an elbow and caught Henry Pyrgos on the side of the head in an action which was reckless but not particularly malicious. 

There was also a hold up when Edinburgh unsuccessfully challenged Glasgow Warriors’ third try – scored by Fraser brown – just before half-time. 

Add in two lengthy hold-ups after Scott Cummings of Glasgow and Grant Gilchrist of Edinburgh suffered head injuries on the pitch, and a game which was supposed to last 80 minutes didn’t finish until two hours and 10 minutes after kick-off.

“I don’t know who brought these changes in – we’ll trial them and I don’t know who decides if they stay,” sighed Cockerill. “Will we be consulted? I’ve no idea. But, for me, there’s enough meddling with the laws of the game – we just need to have some consistency and get the game flowing as well as we can. 

“Obviously, there were a couple of injuries that elongated it but challenging the referee’s calls and all that … for me, the officials should be seeing those things anyway,” he added.  “It made for a long evening, didn’t it?  

“Certainly, the Oli Kebble red-card is a pretty obvious one and the TMO is there to look at foul play. I didn’t see the Mark Bennett one in real time, but I’d say it’s a fair enough call. You’d like to think the officials – and certainly the television officials – can see those things happen. 

“Did it [the law variation] make the game better? That’s the question to ask. Not really. When Stu McInally breaks from the back of a lineout and gets held up and it’s now a drop out – does that make the game better?” 

The defeat means that Edinburgh lose possession of the 1872 Cup for the first time in four seasons, but in an empty stadium towards the end of a campaign which has never had a chance to flow due to a combination of Covid related issued and some insane fixture scheduling, you got the feeling that Cockerill’s focus had already moved on to preparing for next season. 

“We’re disappointed because we always want to win,” he said. “I thought we gave some soft points away in the first half which came back to hurt us a little bit, but happy with the effort and mentality to stay in the game.  

“If we had scored with five or six minutes to go then maybe we could have come back from a grandstand finish, but it wasn’t to be.” 

The two teams meet again next Saturday. It is a Groundhog Day scenario and with only Rainbow Cup points at stake it is likely that both sides will try to freshen things up by giving fringe and emerging players a hit-out. 

“It will be the sixth time we’ve played them in nine months,” sighed Cockerill. “Look, it’s just the nature of it this season. We’ll review this on Monday to see where we can improve and use it for those young guys who are learning their trade on the job.  

“It was small margins on Friday night, and we’ll need to tidy up on those for next week. We’ll have a couple of days of reflection and look to improve before going again.”