The capital side have never progressed beyond the semi-finals of Europe’s elite club competition but have made a decent start to this season’s tournament. With six points from their first two group stage games Edinburgh are handily placed at the halfway point in Pool A. A top-eight finish would secure a place in the round of 16 and they can go a long way to achieving that if they can overcome Castres in the Occitanie region of southern France on Sunday afternoon, ahead of their final group game at home to Saracens next weekend.
“We’ve had the vision since the start of the season to go as far as we can in these competitions, especially as Edinburgh has been a big club in European rugby in recent years,” said Shiel who will partner Charlie Savala at half-back at Stade Pierre Fabre. “To be up there at the top in the Champions Cup and the URC was our aim from the beginning so it’s exciting stuff. We’ve played a lot of French teams away in the past and Toulon was a big one for us, getting the win over there. Going over to France is tough but it’s never off the cards with the team that we’ve got and we’ll take it right to them.”
Edinburgh came from behind to beat Toulon at Stade Mayol in January 2019 in a match best remembered for Bill Mata’s marauding run and offload to James Johnstone who sprinted half the length of the pitch for a stunning try. The win helped secure a place in the quarter-finals and Shiel came off the bench in the last-eight tie against Munster but the Irish team were too strong on the day, winning 17-13. It’s the closest the scrum-half has been to reaching the final, his role as a spectator in 2017 notwithstanding.
“I remember coming along to Murrayfield to watch Saracens v Clermont and Saracens won. And I’ve been lucky enough to play in the Champions Cup in the past and we made it to the quarter-finals against Munster at Murrayfield and that was a big one for me getting on from the bench. It didn’t quite go according to play on the day but just getting that exposure and experience as a young player was brilliant.”
Scrum-half is a highly competitive position at Edinburgh and Shiel has often found himself behind Ben Vellacott and Henry Pyrgos in the pecking order, but the capital club have won all three matches the Melrose man has started this season. Shiel played - and scored - in last week’s narrow win over Zebre and his reward is retaining the No 9 jersey for the Castres match. “It’s good, not just for myself but for any player getting back to back starts,” he said. “It helps get a bit of rhythm into your game and it builds every week. Throughout the season, with the rotation that we have, it has made for a lot of competition so I’m just pushing every week to try to get that starting spot. I’m really excited for it.”