For Sean Cox, atonement doesn’t get much better.
The Edinburgh second row’s Heineken Cup campaign started with a citing after he came off the bench during the opening group game at London Irish and traded blows with an opponent whose dangerously high tackle had taken out colleague Dave Denton.
A one-match ban followed but for Cox, 27, there was a pledge to “make amends in other pool games”. And he stuck to his word. Wins over Cardiff, London Irish (again) and Racing Metro have featured strong performances from the ex-Sale Shark, who also learned the feeling of what it is like to miss out – something he doesn’t intend experiencing again for the duration of this blue-riband competition.
“I learned my lesson the hard way as the game I missed (the dramatic 48-47 win against Racing Metro) was potentially the game of the century,” said Cox. “I was disappointed to miss that game but obviously wanted to make amends in other pool games. My first season with Edinburgh has certainly been a bit of a rollercoaster.
“I had an injury early on and then everything that happened in the first round of the Heineken Cup with the citing. There have been a lot of highs and lows but what is done is done. I’ve drawn a line and moved on.”
However, Cox retains huge admiration for the colleague he went to “war” over and is driven by a desire to take Edinburgh’s involvement all the way.
“Dave Denton has been absolutely phenomenal, as have the whole back row,” says Cox. “There have been some really tough selection decisions for the coaches I wouldn’t have liked to make.”
With tomorrow’s clash with the four-times European champions in mind, Cox is adopting an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach.
“We have to do the things that have got us through the group stage, not lose sight of what has got us this far,” he continues.
“That means concentrating on our tempo, our counter attack and those sort of things.”
Drawing on insight from two previous meetings with the red-and-blacks during his time at Sale, Cox adds: “When playing Toulouse you have to do simple things very well. We know they are very strong in the set-piece and their pack have dominated at times especially away from home.
“Our forwards will have to muscle up but if we get ourselves in the right position and do our jobs well we have the backs to score tries.
“When the draw was made we looked at it and went in with no fear. That’s proved right. Nobody outside the club probably gave us a chance to qualify let alone get a home quarter-final.
“This is the seventh game in the tournament where we are going in as underdogs and that title seems to suit us quite well.
“Anything can happen now. It’s 80 minutes and that is all you have got to put your stamp on the tournament.
“We’ll go in like every other game believing we can win it. We’ll put our shots, they’ll put in theirs – and we’ll see who comes out on top.
“Everyone has been looking to this game but as players it has been a little bit different. We have had to concentrate on the league and it was nice to get off the field on Friday night with points in the bag against Scarlets.
“We came off relatively injury free and started concentrating on the Toulouse game.
“We have done our analysis on Toulouse which has been going on behind the scenes for a few weeks now. we have identified some areas we can attack and I’m sure they will have done the same to us.
“It will be interesting in the first few minutes. whoever gets the better start is going to be in a much stronger position.
“A few teams won’t have expected us to play the way we have. Racing Metro came here and went 20 points up with 20 minutes to go.
“They would probably have expected us to fold but that is not what we are about. We play with tempo and speed through 80 minutes and that’s what we will be looking to do this weekend. If, with 20 minutes to go, we are in contention we will back ourselves against anybody, especially at Murrayfield with at least 32,000 people screaming us on.”
This knock-out campaign differs from Edinburgh’s previous one when they were required to visit Toulouse and, naturally, a Capital quarter-final is the icing on the cake for a team who had to wait until the closing moments of their concluding match against London Irish for the all-important fourth try and a bonus point.
“When the final whistle went against London Irish we were just delighted we had a quarter final to look forward to. Five minutes later in the changing room, some of the boys who had been watching a telly in the tunnel told us the Cardiff game had finished and we were top of the group and would be playing Toulouse.
“It was another couple of weeks, to be honest, before it sank in amid the elation of actually qualifying.
“Then you think ‘it doesnt get any easier’ and in fact. it gets 10 times harder. But to be playing the four-times champions, well, it doesn’t get any better.
“Patricio Albacete will probably be playing in the second row for them. He is one of the best second rows in world rugby, strong at set pieces and a good ball carrier as well. I’m looking forward to that challenge.
“This is why you play rugby – for the enjoyment of being in tournaments like the Heineken Cup.” Cox knows what it was like to be on the sidelines while the tournament continued in thrilling fashion, albeit he got back to share in further successes.
He doesn’t want the same fate to befall his team with just two rounds to go after tomorrow.