Edinburgh coach Richard Cockerill’s appraisal of this morning’s meeting with Krasny Yar in Moscow is pretty clear – if his side are on their game they should have no problems but if they aren’t they could come a cropper.
Cockerill has rapidly learned since taking on the job that is difficult to predict what kind of performance Edinburgh are likely to produce from one match to the next.
At their best, they are more than capable of beating sides with far greater pedigree than the Russian minnows they face today, knocking off the likes of Ulster, Harlequins, Stade Francais and Glasgow Warriors in the past year.
All too often, though, even against the few sides that they would be “expected” to beat, there can be lacklustre efforts that are punished by embarrassing results.
Even taking into account Krasny Yar’s stunning win over a weakened Stade Francais side last week on their European Challenge Cup debut, a loss in the Russian capital today would go down as one of their worst.
“If we play how we can and control the game as we’d like to and physically we front up, I think we’ll win. If we’re sloppy and don’t get it right physically we might have problems,” said Cockerill. “Obviously last week they played at home [in Siberia], their first game in Europe against the champions of the competition.
“I think they were very much up for the contest and the battle. It was like a cup final. They played some decent stuff. They are very combative. But they actually played some good rugby as well. When they had penalties they kicked to the corner, took advantage and scored tries from those plays.”
Cockerill has made nine changes for the Pool 4 clash, including the return of full-back Blair Kinghorn from injury.
The 20-year-old sustained a nasty gash to the knee in the last Guinness Pro14 game against Zebre and missed last week’s trip to London Irish, which saw Edinburgh get off to a winning start in Pool 4.
In the midfield, Junior Rasolea retains his spot at inside-centre following his impressive brace of tries last weekend. The Australian is joined by Scotland Sevens star James Johnstone, who was concussed against Zebre and also missed the game at Irish. Chris Dean drops to the bench.
Hooker Neil Cochrane will captain the side in the absence of Magnus Bradbury, who is currently excluded from the squad as he recovers from a head knock sustained during an incident in Edinburgh city centre almost two weeks ago, which is subject to an ongoing internal inquiry.
In the back-row, No 8 Cornell du Preez is joined by the young duo of Lewis Carmichael and Luke Crosbie, who makes his first start in the black and red following his try-scoring cameo off the bench last weekend.
Today’s match takes place at Fili Stadium in Moscow due to winter closing in hard further east and Cockerill admits that should benefit his team.
“I think it’s helpful for obvious reasons. We’re away from their home ground,” said the coach.
“They’ve had to travel too. I don’t think there will be much of a crowd. I don’t think there is any travelling support and I wouldn’t expect many to be making the five-hour flight from Krasny Yar to Moscow.
“So it will be down to us to make our own atmosphere. How much of an advantage we’ll see.”