PREVIEW | Cockerill: "I expect us to perform."

Head Coach Richard Cockerill has stressed the importance of this Sunday’s Guinness PRO14 encounter against Dragons (kick-off 5.30pm - live on Premier Sports 1) as his side eye an assault on Conference B’s play-off positions. 

With Conference rivals Ulster and Scarlets playing each other on Friday evening, a win would leapfrog Edinburgh into the top-three, but Cockerill believes his side will have to be at their best to come away from Rodney Parade with an all-important win.

“We had a few days off after the win over Scarlets, but Dragons this weekend is a really big game for us,” said Cockerill.

“There’s a lot of noise that it’s a really important game for them, but it’s a really important game for us too. With Scarlets playing Ulster, they’ll knock each other off, so If we can get the right result at Dragons then it puts us right in the mix for the playoffs. It’s an important part of the year for us.”

In similar fashion to the victory over Scarlets earlier this month, Edinburgh will be without several key players due to injury and international call-ups. However, with young stars out to impress, coupled with the timely return of a number of internationalists, Cockerill insists his squad is in good shape heading into Sunday’s match in Newport.

“We’ll lose a number players to Scotland and they’ll lose about the same to Wales – so we’ll see what happens with regards to players being released.

“But if we can perform like we did against Scarlets with the players we had available, minus Bill Mata – who is a loss for any team – then there’s every chance we can go there and win. I’ve got no qualms about that.

“We’ll know later this week which Scotland players will get released back. You’d expect to get back Murray McCallum. Matt Scott is still struggling with HIA at the moment, but we’ve just to make sure we win to keep ourselves in the chase. We just need to go about business as usual and perform with the players we’ve got.

“Lewis Carmichael will come back in at some point, whilst Fraser McKenzie is obviously still missing. These are important guys for the team, but younger players have been getting vital experience.

“Callum Hunter-Hill, Jamie Hodgson and Ally Miller have been doing really well and these are positives to take in the long run.”

Although Edinburgh have yet to win away from home this season, there have been several positive performances on the road – including a bonus-point earning loss away to Montpellier - giving the capital side plenty of hope heading into Sunday’s clash.

“I expect us to perform well and I expect us to win on Sunday. We’ve got a good group of guys who showed against a vastly experienced Scarlets team that we can stand up and play. We need to keep up those levels of intensity and physicality when we travel to Newport this Sunday.

“We’ve not won away from home yet this season and last year we were very good at that. The season is still in its infancy in many ways, but we need to get better.

“Scarlets or Ulster will take points off each other and if we win we will jump into the play-off picture. We can then go to Munster and give it a real go before heading into Europe where were still right in the mix.

“We’re not leading the charge, but were certainly going to put a lot of pressure on that top-three - that’s for sure.”