Edinburgh Rugby’s Argentinian back-row Tomas Leonardi is relishing the club’s foray into the new-look European Rugby Challenge Cup.
But knows that tomorrow night they will have to be at their best to compete with one of the in-form teams on the continent.
The Capital side’s players and coaches left BT Murrayfield early this morning for the trip to the south-west of France and they are bracing themselves for a tough test in the Stade André Moga against Bordeaux-Bègles.
The Challenge Cup is of course the secondary competition in Europe behind the Champions Cup, but it does not mean there are any easy matches and Bordeaux-Bègles are flying in the French Top 14 at the moment.
They have won six of their first nine league matches this term and sit in third place behind giants Clermont Auvergne and Toulon.
Over the last fortnight they have scored 110 points and that included a 51-21 thumping of Clermont on October 4 when they ran in six tries. So the Pool 4 opener promises to be a tough one for Edinburgh, but they will take heart from their 24-10 win over Newport Gwent Dragons in the Guinness Pro12 last Saturday.
Leonardi, 27, said: “I am really looking forward to the game. We have had a good week of training and we are focusing on the match on Friday now.
“Last season we played against Perpignan and we know that all of the French sides are really strong and have really good skills. I have been watching the highlights of Bordeaux’s matches from this season so far and I think they are playing some good rugby, so we expect to face a tough team.”
With Cornell Du Preez having suffered a bad leg injury at the weekend that looks likely to keep him out for a long spell, the strain on Edinburgh’s fit back-row men has increased even more.
David Denton is not quite ready for action yet, but has been taking a fuller part in training while Fraser McKenzie, who could cover on the blindside if needed, is injured.
Head coach Alan Solomons does not want to push his young back-rowers – Jamie Ritchie, Magnus Bradbury and Ally Miller – into top-team action too soon, which leaves Leonardi, captain Mike Coman, Hamish Watson and Roddy Grant as the available quartet.
Leonardi is not feeling the pressure though.
He said: “No, I am not feeling the pressure, I am just enjoying getting opportunities to play. For me it is really nice to be involved in a run of matches and I just have to keep doing my best for the team.
“All rugby players train all week to play a match at the end of it and I always want to be involved in the squad when I can be. I have played mainly flanker here, but I have also played No.8 a lot back in my own country and for Argentina and I am happy to play in any of the three positions.”
Meanwhile, Leonardi – who firstly joined Edinburgh on a short-term deal last season, but is now with the club at least until the summer – has played for his country a number of times before and is excited about the Pumas taking on Scotland at BT Murrayfield on November 8.
He said: “I am always in touch with the head coach and his staff from Argentina. I was not involved in the recent competition [the Rugby Championship] as I spoke to the coach and he said that he wanted to try out some new guys to improve the base of Argentinian rugby, so I understood that.
“I am always working hard and trying to do my best and hopefully I may get another opportunity to play for my country again [next month].
“On my first tour with Argentina back in 2009 I was playing against Scotland at Murrayfield when we won [9-6] and that was a good experience, so maybe soon I will get the chance to do the same again.”
In the other European Rugby Challenge Cup Pool 4 match this weekend, Lyon take on London Welsh on Saturday afternoon.