Bullish Richard Cockerill says Edinburgh can beat Racing 92’s galacticos
The clubs have been drawn together in the last 16 of the Heineken Champions Cup, with the tie scheduled to be played at La Défense Arena at some point over the Easter weekend of April 2-3-4.
The French side boast a formidable array of talent, particularly in the backline, and will be overwhelming favourites to progress to the quarter-finals where an away tie against either Bordeaux-Begles or Bristol Bears awaits the winners.
But Edinburgh have a decent record against French teams and Cockerill will summon the spirit of the collective in a bid to defeat individual brilliance.
“We’re the poor relations from a financial point of view but the sum of our parts is what we’ve always based ourselves on and we’re a side who have pushed Bordeaux hard, we’ve beaten Montpellier, beaten Toulon,” he said. “We played La Rochelle this season when they were top or second in the Pro14 and just lost in a game that could have gone the other way.
“It’s a tough draw, but if you’re in that company you’re always going to get a tough draw. They’ve got a fantastic galactico of a squad, and we look forward to having a fit and available squad and going there and giving it our best shot.
“It’s exciting - a one-off where if we get it right we can certainly beat them. It’s something to get our teeth into.”
Racing reached the final last season where they were unlucky to lose to Exeter Chiefs in a thrilling game at Ashton Gate. Our own Finn Russell is their orchestrator-in-chief but they boast a formidable array of talent, particularly in the backline where Virimi Vakatawa, Juan Imhoff, Simon Zebo and Teddy Thomas all offer a potent threat.
An intriguing sub-plot involves the coaches, with Cockerill looking forward to renewing acquaintances with Racing’s Laurent Travers. The pair faced each other as rival hookers in the 1997 Heineken Cup final in Cardiff when Travers’ Brive side came out on top against Cockerill’s Leicester Tigers.
“I know Laurent Travers very well, he’s a good coach and they’re well organised,” the Edinburgh coach said. “Look, they’ve got some great players but we’ve got a lot of international players too.
“They’re well funded and they’ve got a pretty impressive stadium which probably outshines ours a little bit.
“We know that when we’ve got all our players available and have a bit of preparation time we are more than capable of competing at this level. Now that we’ve got the opportunity, we’ve got to go and do it.”
The draw paired Exeter with Lyon, with the prospect of a potential heavyweight quarter-final clash against either Leinster or Toulon at Sandy Park. Leinster and Toulon have seven Champions Cup titles between them.
Two-time winners Wasps will host Clermont Auvergne, with the winners playing Munster or Toulouse at home in the last eight.
Gloucester welcome La Rochelle to Kingsholm in the round of 16 and victory will secure a home tie against either Scarlets or Sale.