Edinburgh’s Magnus Bradbury welcomes physical challenge of Montpellier

Magnus Bradbury trains ahead of Saturday's Champions Cup opener
Magnus Bradbury trains ahead of Saturday's Champions Cup opener
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Edinburgh are reluctant to let go of an underdogs’ tag they hope can be an advantage on their return to the elite Heineken Champions Cup, but beneath the surface there is a belief they can make an impact on the competition.

Coach Richard Cockerill has been keen to play down his side’s chances, which isn’t unwise given the toughness of the Pool 5 they have been drawn in alongside French giants Montpellier and Toulon, and English Premiership outfit Newcastle Falcons.

The Englishman has pitched this campaign as a chance for his improving team to test themselves against the best but that prospect can’t help but bring out the competitive instincts all successful professional athletes must have.

Back-row forward Magnus Bradbury is well aware of the size of the task facing Edinburgh on Saturday when they open their campaign away to Vern Cotter’s Montpellier in the south of France.

However, Bradbury, pictured, stressed that they would travel to last season’s Top 14 runners-up looking to win.

“It’s all about what is in the team isn’t it? It doesn’t matter what other people say. It’s about how we prepare and how we perform,” said the 23-year-old.

“We are a rugby team. We are a good rugby team. We have shown that in the past. I believe if we get it right we can beat them on Saturday.”

Bradbury now has four Scotland caps to his name but accepts that this is the biggest challenge he has faced at club level.

“It’s a big achievement [to get back in the Champions Cup] and it is as big a test as we’ll get outside of Test rugby.

“To be involved against Montpellier is a big task but it is about preparing as well as I can and playing as well as I can.

“It would be an achievement to beat them on Saturday. It will be a great occasion, they are a big team and it is a difficult place to go, but it is an exciting proposition. I’m really looking forward to it.”

Montpellier’s South African stand-off Johan Goosen is out of the game after twisting his ankle against Toulon at the weekend, which is just the latest setback for former Scotland boss Cotter, who gave Bradbury his first cap against Argentina in the 2016 autumn Test series.

Former All Blacks playmaker Aaron Cruden is also out with a calf injury and Frans Steyn has a bicep injury. Wingers Timoci Nagusa and Nemani Nadolo are also on the wounded list.

Montpellier will draw on their squad depth, and one superstar who Bradbury is likely to see a lot of on Saturday is skipper and France No.8 Louis 
Picamoles.

“I have watched him play for France and Montpellier. He will be a good challenge,” said Bradbury. “Hopefully [Edinburgh No.8] Bill [Mata] will have more dealings with him than I will but I am excited about it.”

Saturday’s trip will be followed by the visit of three-time European champions Toulon and while Bradbury accepts that is a devilishly difficult prospect, he is emphatic that it is exactly the kind of stage Edinburgh want to be on.

“The Champions Cup is where we want to be, but the next step is to beat these teams and take another step forward,” he said. “Nothing changes for us in our training week – it is about consistency of effort and consistency of what we put out on the field.

“Montpellier do present a physical challenge but we can be a physical team when we want to be. It is about fronting up for 80 minutes rather than having a ten-minute lapse in concentration that lets other teams back into the game.

“We will front up and see where it takes us. As we are playing one of the biggest teams in Europe we know how they can punish us if we switch off.

“It is a great chance for us to measure ourselves against them and see where it takes us.”