Stuart McInally insists Edinburgh Rugby can win the double
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The hooker made the startling claim as he discussed Friday night’s Challenge Cup Pool C tie with Pau, a match that could open the door to a home tie in the last 16 for the capital club, provided they win.
The format of the competition means that if Edinburgh were to triumph in the first knockout round - Bath are their likely opponents - then they would also be at home in the quarter-finals.
McInally has been around long enough to know that it doesn’t pay to look too much beyond the next game but he has a good feeling about this group who, under Mike Blair, remain unbeaten in competitive games at the DAM Health Stadium.
Edinburgh struggled to win knockout matches under Richard Cockerill, Blair’s predecessor, but McInally thinks the squad has benefited from those experiences, which included narrow home losses to Munster in the Champions Cup quarter-finals in 2019 and Ulster in the Pro14 semi-final a year later.
“I firmly believe we’re capable of winning these big games, for sure,” McInally said. “Those experiences in the past are going to stand us in good stead. And maybe we’ll see a team go from not winning anything to suddenly winning a tournament in a year.
“I believe all the experiences that we’ve had in the recent couple of years, that Munster match, the game against Ulster at home in the semi-final, these are all experiences that leave us better. And I firmly believe that you learn from those lessons.
“A big number of players here were involved in those games. The feeling of losing is never nice. When you get into that position and miss out it’s pretty tough to take. Someone like me who’s a bit older has been through a lot of that.
“But I firmly believe we’re capable of winning this tournament and winning the league. That’s what we’re trying to instil in everyone. And the work that we’ve done this year has put us in a good position to do it. And now it’s about putting the foot down and trying to take control of the last few months of the season.”
Asked outright if he genuinely believed Edinburgh could win a Challenge Cup and United Rugby Championship double, McInally said: “I believe we’re capable. It will be very tough and we’re taking it one game at a time. Our focus is on this week but we believe, especially at home, that we can beat any team.”
Edinburgh are fifth in the United Rugby Championship but their remaining three games in the regular season are all at home and if they can secure a top-four finish, they will have a home tie in the play-off quarter-finals.
McInally thinks the greater emphasis placed on attacking rugby under Blair’s leadership has helped the club to prosper this season.
“We have upped our attacking style and spend a lot more time in training on our attack and that's reflected in some big point wins.
“We have scored a lot more tries this year and we are getting more bonus point wins, but without going away from what made as good as well. That is Mike coming in and putting his brand on it which has been excellent.”