Edinburgh RUGBY are competing in a pool with two other sides who qualified for the knock-out stages in 2011-12 – Saracens and Munster.
Additionally, there is Racing Metro who, according to Capital coach Michael Bradley this week, “probably have a bigger budget than the other three put together.”
Dig deeper though and one finds that Edinburgh not only beat Racing home and away last year but stood apart from Sarries and Munster in progressing past the quarter-finals. As if that were not sufficient to inspire some confidence, consider this: Edinburgh averaged the most carries per match as a team last season, taking the ball into contact 126.8 times per 80 minutes.
Individually, too, Edinburgh players ranked with the best as Netani Talei (2nd) and Ross Ford (5th) were among the top-ranked ball carriers, while in terms of metres gained, Tim Visser (476 metres) and Netani Talei (448) were placed seventh and eighth overall, respectively.
Rounding off a decidedly upbeat assessment, Ross Ford was fifth-best tournament tackler with 81 completed and only three missed.
So, what further evidence is required that Edinburgh now dine at Europe’s top table? They certainly have no need to feel inferior despite, being quoted at 7-1 fourth favourities to progress and 33-1 outsiders for the tournament in general.
Edinburgh, though, do need to tighten a defence that has leaked 14 RaboDirect tries so far, but those odds can act as a spur to make a winning start tomorrow and go on and eventually spike Leinster’s hopes of becoming the first team in the tournament’s 18-year history to claim a “hat-trick” of titles. That is, of course, if Leinster can see off Clermont Auvergne, who are shaping up as a major force and my favourites to succeed.
Only once in 18 Euro matches have Leinster been beaten and that was by Clermont Auvergne, along with whom they have been paired in a pool with Exeter and Scarlets.