Edinburgh head coach Richard Cockerill accepts that a European Challenge Cup quarter-final place will be all but assured with a bonus-point win over Russians Krasny Yar tonight but is determined to secure a home tie in the last eight.
Tonight’s fourth match in Pool 4 in a so far perfect campaign has been switched to BT Murrayfield from Myreside due to the weather conditions – as was last Saturday’s 50-20 thumping of London Irish.
Edinburgh will then return to the national stadium for the first 1872 Cup clash on 23 December but Cockerill still views Myreside as key to energising professional rugby in the capital and sees a big, capacity European night as a magnificent opportunity to help build the kind of club identity he wants to see.
He said: “You would think a bonus-point win would get you there into the quarter-finals. I am not sure it would get us a home quarter final.
“We would like to get maximum points to be on 20 points, then we have two games to earn the right to be at home.”
Those two games would be against tournament holders Stade Francais, who have looked fairly uninterested in putting up much of a defence of their trophy. After opening with a shock loss to Krasny Yar in Siberia they only beat them 39-24 at home in Paris last week. In contrast, Edinburgh thumped the Russians 73-14 in Moscow.
With Stade at home first in January a home quarter looks to be there for the taking.
“Yeah, it would make a huge difference. We are trying to build something here, we are trying to encourage the crowds to come,” added Cockerill.
“If we get a quarter-final at home, then it will be a big day for the club. A quarter-final at Myreside and trying to sell that out would be a good starting point for us.
“I would like to get us a home quarter final, I would like to play it at Myreside and I would like for us to sell it out and start to build that fanbase.”
That, of course, is all dependent on Edinburgh doing a professional job against Krasny Yar tonight and, as expected, Cockerill has made changes throughout the side.
Scrum-half Sean Kennedy gets his first start of the season after coming back from injury to make the battle for the No 9 jersey a three-way fight again. Sam Hidalgo-Clyne seems to have nudged ahead in that contest in recent weeks and is rested, with a start against Glasgow the following weekend a decent bet.
“Kennedy has not had a start yet so he gets the start,” said Cockerill. “Nathan Fowles was on the bench last week so it is the natural progression . I will pick what I think is the best team next week to play Glasgow. That may include [Hidalgo-Clyne], it may not.”
Darcy Graham switches to full-back following his try-scoring debut against London Irish and it is a position he has played often for Hawick and Scotland Under-20s.
“I think he’ll predominantly be a winger, but we’ll see,” said Cockerill. “It’s always good that a player can play two positions, and it’s good sometimes for a younger player who predominantly plays on the wing to play at full-back so he gets to understand the role of the full-back, so when he’s in the back three he understands what the full-back needs from his wingers. It’s good for his development.”
The apparent apathy of Stade Francais makes it difficult for Cockerill to gauge what to take from the Russians’ performance last week but is more concerned with his own side getting things right and offering the underdogs no sniff of a potential upset.
“Well they played [at their own ground] in Siberia, the [first] Stade game, and they were very motivated against a Stade team who weren’t particularly,” said Cockerill.
“But, even last week in Paris, Krasny Yar took the lead at various parts of the game before they fell away. So they clearly have the physical potential, and they can be a little bit random in how they approach their game.
“We need to make sure that we start the game very strongly, which we tended to do at the start of the season, but then continue that.
“We can’t be sloppy with the physical parts of the game, our set piece and our defence in particular, and make sure we control the ball.
“ We’ve scored lots of tries in the last few weeks, we’re playing a good brand of rugby, but we need now to make sure we can do that against sides that will be slightly more unconventional than some of the others we play.”