PREVIEW | Opportunity knocks for Edinburgh

BT Murrayfield will play host to reigning European Challenge Cup Champions, Stade Francais, on Friday night (12 January, kick-off 7.35pm) and Edinburgh Head Coach Richard Cockerill is relishing the opportunity for his squad to test themselves against the Parisian powerhouse.

Sitting atop Pool 4 with maximum points and a staggering 238 points scored in the competition so far, Edinburgh have enjoyed their European excursions so-far this season. But Cockerill is taking nothing for granted - especially with a home quarter-final on the line.

It’s a case of ‘win and you’re in’ for the capital side; a goal that Cockerill and his squad know all too well leading into Friday night’s crucial fixture.

“We’ve got an opportunity to secure a home quarter-final,” said the three-time English Premiership winning coach, “so that will be our objective going into the game to make sure we get the job done.

“I don’t think we’re a team that can prioritise anything at the moment, we’ve just got to keep playing as well as we can and go as far as we can in any competition we’re in.”

Sitting second in Pool 4 on 12 points, Friday night’s visitors haven’t enjoyed the strongest of starts to the season both in Europe and domestically. Having won only five games in this year’s Top 14 campaign, Greg Cooper’s side will no doubt have an eye on their upcoming league fixtures on home soil, but Cockerill insists that the Parisians are still as dangerous ever.

“Stade have had a mixed season domestically. Looking at the Top 14 they’re fourth from bottom and the two sides below them, Agen and Brive, won at the weekend, so it only takes one win for them and a loss for Stade and they’ll go into the bottom two, so clearly that’ll be a priority for them.

“But, they’re a good squad and the reality is that whoever they pick are a good enough team to come and beat us if they put their minds to it. Although, we fancy ourselves that if we get it right we’ll be able to compete, which we have done with Glasgow who are a good side as well, so we know we can compete with those big teams.

We just have to get our mentality and our attitude right; play how we’ve been playing with ball in hand, and put them under pressure. If we do that we’ll have opportunities to win the game.

“It’s important that we play these big sides and we test ourselves. Stade were good enough to win the Challenge Cup last year - they’re a good enough side to do it again. If you watched them against Montpellier at the weekend they were very competitive and combative.

“They’re good enough to beat anybody. I think they’ve won once away from home in the league this season. So look, it’s an opportunity to take a big scalp because they’re a big club and also to get to where we’d like to in Europe.”

With 10 wins in the last 12 matches, Edinburgh have begun to pick up momentum as the Guinness PRO14 and European Challenge Cup enter their latter stages. Form that Cockerill insists his side need to keep up if they are to have a sniff at silverware come the season’s finale.

“Apart from the home loss to Benetton, we’ve played well and we’re starting to play some decent rugby. At the weekend, even in atrocious conditions I thought we played well ball in hand and to get five tries out of it was pleasing.

“So, we’re starting to get to a point where we’re confident, we know how we want to play, we’re difficult to play against both with ball in hand and without the ball.

"Our defence has been strong, but Duncan Hodge has done a really good job with the attack and the players have bought into how we want to play. I think we’re seeing that in the way we’re creating opportunities and we’re getting positive results out of that.”

Edinburgh host European Challenge Cup holders Stade Francais on Friday night at BT Murrayfield (kick-off 7.35pm). Click here to secure your ticket!