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Friend refuses to get into war of words with Cockerill over 'cheat' claims

The Connacht coach said his team are concentrating on not giving referees easy decisions with their discipline.

Friend speaking in Galway yesterday.
Friend speaking in Galway yesterday.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

CONNACHT COACH ANDY Friend has refused to get involved in a war of words with Richard Cockerill after the Edinburgh boss accused the province of cheating in last Friday’s Guinness Pro14 clash at Murrayfield.

Cockerill, who made similar cheating claims on several occasions when he was in charge of Leicester Tigers, was heavily critical of Welsh referee Ian Davies following the game which Edinburgh won 17-10.

“Fifteen penalties to four, just one yellow card, if you’re going to let teams cheat like that, then that’s what you get,” said Cockerill.

“It threatens the credibility of the competition 100 per cent.”

Connacht may be privately seething at the accusation made by the Edinburgh coach but Friend is not adding fuel to the fire.

“He’s entitled to that view,” said the Australian yesterday. “What we have looked at is our own discipline and making sure that we are not giving the referee easy decisions.

“We need to be smarter in what we do. There are simple offsides, there are simple hands in the ruck, the simple kicking the ball out of rucks, the obvious stuff that you just can’t do and I think we’re probably guilty of being a little bit naive with some of that and we need to be better at.

“We just focus on how we can develop as a team and making sure we are working with the referees and not against them. It is something as a team we are developing, our ability to manage that on the field, to get in sync with the referees, what he’s allowing and what he is not allowing.”

Friend looks set to be boosted in his selection options this week with loosehead prop Denis Buckley, centre Tom Farrell and hooker Tom McCartney all available for selection while new signing Robin Copeland could be poised to make his competitive debut when they host Scarlets on Saturday [KO 5.15pm, TG4] at the Sportsground.

Copeland, who made his debut in the pre-season game away to Bristol, has shaken off a quad injury and featured for the Connacht Eagles at the weekend.

His fellow Gorey and Wexford native Paul Boyle has grabbed the limelight in his absence but the experienced Copeland could now be in a position to make his competitive bow in the back row.

“It was good to see Robin play that Eagles game,” Friend added.

“He has been really impressive in the pre-season, on the field and off the field, his energy, his maturity he’s brought to the group, he puts smiles on people’s faces, I think we have all been frustrated for him that he has had these niggles which have stopped him training and playing.

“It was great to see him get 40 minutes the other day. He will certainly be putting his hand up for selection this week.”

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John Fallon

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