Bonus-point win over Russians Krasny Yar is Edinburgh target
Tonight's fourth Pool 4 match in a thus 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 be back at the national stadium for the first 1872 Cup clash on December 23 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.
“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,” said the coach. “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 holders Stade Francais, who have looked pretty disinterested 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,” said 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 fan base there.”
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 is granted 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 also 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 he takes from the Russians’ performance last week, but he 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 that 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, like you say, 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.”
Edinburgh team: Darcy Graham; Damien Hoyland, James Johnstone, Chris Dean, Duhan van der Merwe; Jaco van der Walt, Sean Kennedy; Rory Sutherland, Neil Cochrane, Murray McCallum, Fraser McKenzie (c), Lewis Carmichael, Magnus Bradbury, Jamie Ritchie, Cornell du Preez. Subs: Cameron Fenton, Kevin Bryce, Matt Shields, Viliame Mata, Luke Crosbie, Nathan Fowles, Blair Kinghorn, Junior Rasoela.