John Hardie will need to work hard to “earn the respect” of everyone at Edinburgh when he returns from suspension, says Richard Cockerill.
The 29-year-old Scotland flanker will be available for selection in mid-January once he serves a over alleged cocaine use.
“If he deserves his place in the squad, he will get it back,” head coach Cockerill told BBC Scotland.
“It’s as simple as that, but a few guys have got a head start on him.”
Hamish Watson and Jamie Ritchie have been operating in Hardie’s preferred openside position in recent weeks, with Watson also impressing in the number seven jersey for Scotland in the autumn internationals.
“John has been disciplined and will come back in the New Year,” added Cockerill.
“He is a good player and we have a responsibility to help him and bring him back into the squad and get his life back on an even keel. He needs to earn the respect of everyone again and I’m sure he will do that.”
New Zealand-born Hardie is under contract until the summer and Cockerill admits it is no foregone conclusion that his services will be retained.
“He needs prove that he is good enough to get back into the squad and all those decisions will happen in the New Year,” he added.
Cockerill’s first season with Edinburgh has been hampered with off-field distractions, with Magnus Bradbury after picking up a head injury on a night out.
And the former Leicester coach said players who stray from the high standards he imposes will have no future at Edinburgh.
“I want guys who want who be part of it, be professional and be part of the team,” he said.
“Nobody is indispensable, including myself. That’s just the way it is. You have to work hard and do your job and if you don’t want to be part of it that’s fine.
“Go and do want you want to do somewhere else, but it won’t be at Edinburgh.”