ASSUMING Edinburgh get the result they need against Agen in their final European Challenge Cup outing at Murrayfield this Saturday, they will end up with an away quarter-final draw against either Bordeaux [again], Toulon, Castres, Bristol Bears or head coach Richard Cockerill’s old club Leicester Tigers.
All those options present big challenges but Cockerill says his team will have nothing to fear. “Wherever we go in the quarter-final it is going to be tough, and while you would prefer to avoid a Toulon or a Bordeaux, if we have to go to those places we will go with our best team and see where we get to,” said the indefatigable coach.
“The thing we’re very good at is if we’re underdogs and we’re up against a big team, we’re very good at motivating ourselves and getting up for the game.”
Cockerill doesn’t say it, but you can’t help suspecting that a return to his old Welford Road stomping ground would be the preferred option – not just because it would appeal to his innate sense of mischief, but also because the East Midlands side are a shadow of the former selves, with the worst record in the Gallagher Premiership this season (although they have managed a draw and two wins in they last three outings).
Before that, however, there is the small matter of beating Agen this weekend. Having hammered the Frenchmen 10-31 at Stade Armandie in round one of the competition, Edinburgh will be firm favourites on home soil against a team with nothing to play for except pride, and Cockerill says he won’t accept any excuses if his charges produce anything other than a thoroughly professional performance.
“We’re starting to mature as a team, and I think we are mature enough to be able to say: ‘This is a game we should win, it is a game we should be getting four tries in, and we are going to go out there and do it’,” he said.
“It is a different sort of challenge for us, and in some ways a harder challenge than having people thinking we are going to lose and then being surprised.
“Well, we should win, I expect us to win, and I expect us to put a proper performance out on the field and get the job done.”
“There will be changes to the team. There will be the odd Test player that we will look after. But 90 percent we’ll be full strength,” he added, after being asked if he will be tempted to rest any of his big hitter.