Edinburgh 50-20 London Irish: Cockerill backs Stuart McInally for Scotland role
Richard Cockerill says in-form Stuart McInally deserves to be recognised as Scotland's first-choice hooker.
After superb showings in the autumn Test series, McInally scored in Edinburgh's 50-20 hammering of London Irish in the European Challenge Cup.
"He's had a great season, he's worked hard and he deserves to be starting hooker," Cockerill told BBC Scotland.
"He captained the side tonight, drove the team well and performed like he was playing for Scotland."
Following injuries to frontline hookers Ross Ford and Fraser Brown, McInally took his chance in emphatic style with standout performances in each of Scotland's November internationals.
The back row-turned-hooker scored a brace of tries against Samoa and helped an inexperienced front row take the fight to the All Blacks in a narrow defeat by the world champions, before crossing the whitewash again in the Scots' record victory over Australia.
Despite the energy spent delivering those memorable performances, Cockerill said McInally was keen to get back involved and do the business against London Irish.
"He performed as a Test player and that's credit to him," head coach Cockerill added.
"It's hard to do after the workload he's had in the last few weeks. He's just getting better and better and he's a pleasure to work with."
Edinburgh ran in eight tries against Irish to put themselves firmly in control of Pool 4, and Cockerill was pleased with what he saw.
"I'm very happy, it was a good performance," he said. "Some great tries, some great attitude around how we wanted to play the game and we're starting to back that up.
"We're pleased with the performance, but still lots to work on. You have to put into context the [quality of] opposition but we can't do a lot about that.
"It's pleasing building into the Christmas period where it'll be a real test for us against a very good Glasgow team. It'll be a really good test for us of where we are at this point.
"We're winning more games than we're losing, we're playing some good rugby and we're growing our game which is really important for this club and this team. The Edinburgh team are slowly showing that they've got a bit about them."
Darcy Graham, the winger described as "the next Stuart Hogg in the making" by Scotland Sevens coach John Dalziel, marked his competitive Edinburgh debut with a try.
"I said before the game he was brave and he certainly proved that," Cockerill said of Graham's acrobatic finish. "Going for the score he put his body on the line and managed to get it.
"He's still got a lot to learn and he's very raw, but he works hard, he loves the club and he's got a great attitude. I love his attitude, he's my sort of player in the way he approaches the game."