Home tie in last 16 would be huge for Edinburgh’s Champions Cup hopes - but it's complicated

Mike Blair believes Edinburgh have confounded expectations by qualifying for the last 16 of the Heineken Champions Cup but the coach knows securing a home tie could make a huge difference to their prospects of progressing further.

Edinburgh's Bill Mata takes the game to Castres during the 34-21 win for the away side in France.  (Photo by VALENTINE CHAPUIS/AFP via Getty Images)
Edinburgh's Bill Mata takes the game to Castres during the 34-21 win for the away side in France. (Photo by VALENTINE CHAPUIS/AFP via Getty Images)

The 34-21 win over Castres in France at the weekend secured the capital club’s place in the knockout stage with a game to spare. Their final Pool A match takes place this Sunday when Saracens visit the DAM Health Stadium and the match against the three-time European champions is heading for a sell-out.

“We were really pleased to have qualified,” said Blair. “We were one of the lower URC seeds, and with that comes a pretty tough draw, so we were playing against Saracens and Castres, who were both in the final of their domestic competitions. So we were pretty aware of how tough an ask it was going to be, and to get something out of each of the first three games gave us a huge amount of confidence. We could have won at Saracens, we won with a bonus point at home to Castres when we weren’t at our best, and then we won away in France too.”

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Edinburgh are currently fifth in Pool A but need a top-four finish to guarantee a home tie in the round of 16 (and potentially the quarter-final should they progress). A win over Saracens should be enough to achieve this but the scenario is complicated by potential bonus points and results elsewhere. Blair is not getting bogged down in the minutiae yet but admitted he would keep a close eye on the Twitter feed of rugby statistician Kevin Millar whose Top of the Moon account is the go-to site for such matters.

“We’ll look at it nearer the time,” said Blair. “I’ll maybe have Top of the Moon next to me. I think we’ll need four clear points from Saracens.

“We’ve had a little tick in the box that we’ve got to the knockout stages, which is the first thing, but the big thing is can we get that home tie because that makes a big difference. There’s some pretty tough opposition in this competition when it gets to the last 16, a huge amount of quality, so it will be great to get that home game.”

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