Edinburgh’s head coach Richard Cockerill believes his team has been handed an “unfair advantage” by the scheduling of the last round of league fixtures in this season’s Pro14.

The Englishman, who has coached both in the Premiership south of the border and in the French Top 14, has previously been critical of the way the domestic competition in which he now plies his trade is run and he again recognised the flaws in the system, even though his side is benefitting this time around.

On the final day of league competition, with several teams likely to be affected by the results of Conference rivals, the Scottish derby will be the last of the matches played, just as was the case last year when Edinburgh seized their chance to get into the knockout stages.

This time around both teams will know exactly what they have to do as Glasgow look to close out top spot in Conference A and Edinburgh aim either a to get into the knockout stages, or claim the fourth-placed finish that would at least get them into a play-off for a place in next season’s Champions Cup.

“100 per cent... we had an unfair advantage last year, we knew what was happening before we played Glasgow this time last year,” said Cockerill.


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“Every other competition I have been involved in, you play the last games at the same time so that there is none of this.

“We will know exactly what Benetton have done and haven’t done and we’ll know exactly what Scarlets and Dragons have done.

“It does give us an unfair advantage because we’ll know exactly what we need to do. Whether that adds to the pressure that we can or can’t cope with, we’ll see! It would have been better if we had been playing Zebre instead of Glasgow, but that just how life is, isn’t it?”

That final tongue in cheek reference was to the fact that Benetton Treviso, who look likely to edge Edinburgh out of the play-offs, will be playing their extra derby match against perennial strugglers Zebre, whereas Edinburgh’s derbies are against a team that have reached the play-offs in all bar two seasons.

However, he knows that his men have blundered against some of the competition’s weaker teams, losing to Zebre, as well as the Southern Kings and the Dragons, while his more serious point was that question over whether they will be able to deal with the situation that confronts them, having thrown away the chance to keep their fate in their own hands by losing heavily to Ulster in their last match.


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That match came at the end of a four-week spell in which he had sent out what was essentially the same team into a series of high intensity encounters in Pro14 matches they they needed to win to stay in play-off contention either side of their Champions Cup quarter-final meeting with Munster.

Far from expressing regret after what has been a tired-looking performance, the coach indicated that those are the types of scheduling challenges that leading players should relish and that his men must learn from that.

“The only way to learn how to back up big games is to do it,” he said.

“I have been a player and I have coached lots of good players and you have to back it up. You have to get yourself in that space.

‘You’ve just got to get used to it. If you go to a World Cup and try to go as far as you can, then you have to be able to back it up and back it up.

‘That’s what proper teams do. Those lads who are playing for England and also playing for Saracens, they’re going straight back in and performing.

‘We’ve got to keep working on that psyche. The players who I work with here, they are international players and we need to learn to keep backing up our performances.”