PREVIEW | Cockerill: "It's going to be a big day for us."

Ahead of this weekend’s Guinness PRO14 Semi-Final Qualifier against Irish powerhouse Munster – a game which sees Edinburgh compete in the Final Series for the first time in the club’s history – Head Coach Richard Cockerill believes the pressure is off his side and has called on the team to ‘go there with confidence, and give it their best shot.’

Despite already recording a victory over an understrength Munster outfit at BT Murrayfield in March, the Limerick side will welcome back a plethora of Irish stars for this weekend’s clash, but, with eight wins on the road already this season, Cockerill insists his side have nothing to fear.

“It’s our first ever Final Series appearance; It’s a big team away from home and they are a big force in European Rugby.

“It’s going to be a big day for us and we have earnt the right to be there and the league table doesn’t lie. We have been working really hard; we are going to go there with confidence and give it our best shot.

“The real exciting part is, both teams need to win. There will be no resting players; it will most likely be a sell-out crowd at Thomond Park. It will probably be the first time we have faced a full-strength Munster side for quite a few years.

“We know if we play at our best, we will give ourselves opportunities to beat Munster. The chances are that they should win. They are at home and just dropped out of Europe, so there is a little bit of pressure on them.”

Cockerill faced Munster a decade-ago whilst at Leicester – a game in which he handed the Irish outfit their first ever European defeat. And the Head Coach is relishing the opportunity to once again face-off against the three-time league champions.

“I was the forwards coach when Leicester beat Munster in the Heineken Cup in 2007. That was their first ever loss in Europe and at the old Thomond Park. I have won there as a Head Coach at the new Thomond Park, so I have good memories as well as some heavy defeats.

“They are a great side and there is a lot to like about Munster. They are good people, with a good team. They have great history, with true rugby people.

We are going to go there and enjoy that contest. We are not going there to make up the numbers - we are going there to try and win. They know that and how realistic that is we will have to see on Saturday afternoon.

“We are looking forward to it and these are the challenges we want. We can beat them if we get it right. We played a Munster second team in March, but we’ll face a different side. They have world class players and are a different force at home in Thomond Park.

“We will know exactly where this team is come Saturday evening. We will know the standard and intensity that we’ll need in order to perform in the Champions Cup next season.

“We are going to know what it feels like to play against these big teams, who are very motivated. We want to try and compete with these teams on a consistent basis.”

And the Head Coach is confident that he’ll have two of Edinburgh’s most consistent performers this season back in the fold for the do-or-die encounter.

“Chris Dean will be fit. Blair Kinghorn trained today and is over his illness, so those two are ready for selection. The others are all fit and ready.

With 15 Guinness PRO14 games won during the 17/18 campaign – joint with Glasgow Warriors for the most in the league – Edinburgh have had success against some of the competition’s top teams.

Richard Cockerill’s side have beaten five out the six teams who’ve qualified for the Final Series, and the Head Coach believes Edinburgh can take great belief out of those results.

“It’s shown that we can compete with these sides. Glasgow have consistently been the best side in the PRO14 throughout the whole season and we have beaten them twice - we are the only team to have beaten them twice, so that gives us confidence.

“If we can beat Glasgow, then why can’t we beat Munster and Leinster? The reality is three wins and we are champions. That may seem very unrealistic, and it may very well be, but we shouldn’t think like that, as on any given day we can beat Munster. It’s going to be a big shift but why not?

“We have worked really hard. We have played 21 games and trained for 7 months to get to this point. I want to take the opportunity at Thomond Park; enjoy the experience and learn from the experience - whether that is good or bad.

“Our season isn’t over - so whatever happens on Saturday, it’s been a good year for us. However, I don’t want to give it away too easily. It will be a fairy tale if we beat Munster.”