Edinburgh Rugby in Europe: Potential knockout foe, why progress is vital and how switch to BT Murrayfield is tempting

It’s more than a month since Edinburgh Rugby played a home game but they will return to the DAM Health Stadium on Friday to take on Pau in the first of what could be a run of half a dozen fixtures at their own ground.

Edinburgh have not played at home since the win over Connacht on March 4. Henry Immelman is pictured. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)
Edinburgh have not played at home since the win over Connacht on March 4. Henry Immelman is pictured. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)

A place in the last 16 of the European Challenge Cup has already been secured but if Edinburgh can beat their French visitors they will be rewarded with a home tie.

Bath would be their likely opponents and another win would keep the capital club at home for the quarter-finals too.

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Stevie Lawrie, Edinburgh’s forwards coach, was reluctant to look beyond Friday but knows how important it is for the club to be involved in the latter stages. They have struggled in recent years to win knockout ties and have had to cast an envious eye westwards at Glasgow Warriors.

Edinburgh forwards coach Stevie Lawrie has urged the squad to seize the opportunity of securing a home tie in the last 16 of the Challenge Cup. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)

Edinburgh are well placed this season to make progress in both the Challenge Cup and the United Rugby Championship and, given they are unbeaten in competitive games at the DAM Health Stadium, the importance of securing home ties cannot be overstated.

“We want to be bringing play-off rugby to the DAM, that’s really important,” said Lawrie.

“We’ve done it in fits and starts. Previous to last year, we had a home quarter-final against Munster [in 2019]. I was at that game as a spectator, it was fantastic. You think about Toulouse in that Heineken Cup run when we eventually went to the semi-final [in 2012]. If that can become more regular …

“That’s what Glasgow did. They were consistently in semis, then in finals and then won the final [of the Guinness Pro12 in 2015]. You have to be competing at that level consistently to have a realistic expectation of getting over the line.”

More than 37,000 were at Murrayfield to see Edinburgh beat Toulouse in the Heineken Cup quarter-finals in 2012. Matt Scott celebrates the victory. Picture: Craig Watson/SNS

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Success brings its own issues of course, and were Edinburgh to progress to the latter stages in Europe there might be a temptation to move home ties to Murrayfield. The DAM Health’s capacity is a modest 7,800 and history suggests that the demand to see Edinburgh in a European quarter or semi-final would far outstrip that figure. Over 37,000 watched the last eight tie against Toulouse in 2012 and there were 36,000 at Murrrayfield for the Munster match seven years later.

“You’ve obviously got to make revenue for the club,” noted Lawrie. “If we reflect on it, and look back on those Toulouse and Munster fixtures, they were fantastic days.

“I love playing at the DAM but I think if we packed enough people into BT Murrayfield the atmosphere would be magic.”

First things first, though, and Lawrie expects a tough test from Pau who still have an outside chance to making the last 16 and enjoyed a solid away victory over Biarritz on Saturday.

“Pau are going really well in the Top 14 and they have had good wins of late against the likes of Bordeaux and Biarritz. They have loads of threats.

“We know Jordan Joseph well because he was involved in the massacre at Racing last year and got man of the match. They have a good centre in [Tamua] Manu and they play an excellent brand of rugby. We know how tough it is going to be but we’re looking forward to getting our teeth into them.”

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