Edinburgh Rugby head coach Richard Cockerill believes that if his side can win tonight against Munster and end the Six Nations period with four wins from four then it will set them up nicely for a busy run-in.
Munster are second in Conference A of the Guinness PRO14 with Edinburgh third in Conference B ahead of a long month and a half of matches that also includes European Rugby Challenge Cup knock-out action.
Edinburgh have now moved back from Myreside to BT Murrayfield on a permanent basis and a number of new signings and departures have already been announced for 2018/19 – but Cockerill only wants his players to focus on tonight’s clash against a difficult opponent.
Edinburgh have not played since they won away to the Dragons on February 23 and the head coach said: “We’re doing all right despite not having had a game for a while. In some ways the snow [that saw this fixture postponed a fortnight ago] is what it is, but we had three big games before that and we’ve got a few guys with bumps and bruises so a little break probably didn’t hurt us too much.
“We’ve got a hell of a run now until the end of the season to try to do something with the year: Munster, Connacht away, then into Europe, then a run-in of Ulster, Scarlets, Glasgow. It’s tough isn’t it?
“We’ve got some big games to try to win and we want to try to be in the play-offs.
“We’ve given ourselves an opportunity, whether we’re good enough to stay there we’ve yet to see, but it will be nice to get the whole group of Scotland boys back in soon and that’ll really strengthen us around the front-row.
“We’ve got everything to play for, so we’re looking forward to it.”
Scotland are playing in Italy tomorrow, and Cockerill’s wish to have experienced men back has already partially been granted with second-row Ben Toolis and tighthead prop Simon Berghan released from the Test squad.
Toolis starts in this Munster meeting with Berghan primed to come off the bench in the second half. Mark Bennett also returns having missed the trip to the Dragons and skipper Fraser McKenzie plays his 99th game for the club, built-up across two spells.
John Hardie is in the back-row with Magnus Bradbury and Bill Mata despite the news breaking this week that the Scotland internationalist will be leaving in the summer.
Meanwhile, tighthead prop Murray McCallum turns 22 today and wants a good personal showing given that Berghan and the fit-again internationalist WP Nel will soon be breathing down his neck for the No.3 jersey. “As a tighthead, it has been good to test myself against some really high class looseheads like Gordy Reid of late [at Scotland training] – and it is great to see how other people operate and get used to different situations,” the recently capped international said.
“I’ve not got the buffer I had last season of having just been chucked in from the [BT Sport] Academy. I’ve had my year of testing the water and just needing to do the basics to get through games.
“Now it’s absolutely expected of me to step up and take on responsibility.
“I’m not a child anymore, so I am absolutely expected to compete as hard as the guys in their 30s at the other end of their career.
“The aim this week is to get another good result and make a statement that us players involved are not here to fill just in when the more experienced internationalists are away.”
Edinburgh: 15. Dougie Fife, 14. Jason Harries, 13. Mark Bennett, 12. Chris Dean, 11. Duhan van der Merwe, 10. Jaco van der Walt, 9. Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 1. Jordan Lay, 2. Neil Cochrane, 3. Murray McCallum, 4. Fraser McKenzie (c), 5. Ben Toolis, 6. Magnus Bradbury, 7. John Hardie, 8. Bill Mata. Replacements: 16. Cameron Fenton, 17. Rory Sutherland, 18. Simon Berghan, 19. Lewis Carmichael, 20. Cornell du Preez, 21. Nathan Fowles, 22. Duncan Weir, 23. Junior Rasolea.