PREVIEW | Cockerill: "We still have an opportunity to qualify."

Head Coach Richard Cockerill believes this weekend’s Heineken Champions Cup match against Newcastle Falcons is do-or-die in his side’s attempts to qualify from Pool 5.

Friday’s visitors to BT Murrayfield currently sit atop the group following impressive wins against French outfits Montpellier and RC Toulon, however with Edinburgh breathing down their neck in second place, this weekend’s match is set-up to be an enthralling encounter.

“We need to win,” said Cockerill. “If you’re going to qualify out of the group, then you’re going to need to win three of the last four games – at least – to give yourself an opportunity.

“Newcastle at home has to be a game that we target to win – and probably the away game as well. I’m sure they’ll be thinking the same.

“So, if we can win the next two games and move on to 14 points heading into the last two games, you’ll probably need four or five points from there to be second in your group potentially. So, we still have an opportunity to qualify.

“The season for me is not even halfway through and there is a lot to play for. We’re still in Europe – that may change in the next fortnight, but we’ll see.

“The league is very much alive. We’ve had a tough start and not been as good as we should have been, but we will be battling for 21 rounds and looking to get into the play-offs and back into the Champions Cup, because that’s where we want to be.”

Edinburgh will welcome back a plethora of international stars this weekend following the conclusion of the Autumn Tests, and the sight of a busy training paddock is music to the Head Coach’s ears.

“It’s Christmas come early!,” joked Cockerill. “No, it’s good to get everybody back in, for obvious reasons. They’re all fit and healthy, which is good.

“For the last six weeks we’ve not had them. It’s nice to have a full complement that you can pick from, and you can prepare properly and have a proper training week and have everybody here.”

“The lads who have been playing for Scotland should be confident,” he continued. “Confidence isn’t a problem. We haven’t been together for six weeks, that’s the hard part for us.”

And with so many international stars returning to the matchday squad it creates selection for problems for Cockerill, who believes his full-strength side have the ability to compete with anyone on European rugby’s biggest stage.

“When we’ve got our combinations right we’re as good as any team, and I believe we can compete with any team in Europe on our day if we get it right.

“The challenge is to do it consistently. It will be a real test for us having so many guys away with Scotland, getting back in and assimilating back into club rugby. They’ve had a lot asked of them in the past few weeks by the Test team, and rightly so.

“The challenge is can they be professional enough and motivated enough to come back in seamlessly and play in these big matches? That’s a challenge we haven’t had before.”

With only 108 miles separating the two cities, this Friday’s clash is about as close to a ‘local derby’ as you’ll find in the Heineken Champions Cup.

However, Cockerill insists that his side won’t need patriotic-inspired motivation to compete against the Kingston Park outft.

“You’ve got to get past the emotional part and just play good rugby. It’s not about beating the English. It’s not about being English and Scottish – it’s about being a good team.

“So, if we’ve got to motivate our boys by saying ‘hate the English’ it’s not what we’re about. We’re about being a good team and being good pros and making sure we get a good performance.

“I don’t care who we play against and what nationality they are, I’m not fussed. I hate anyone not playing for Edinburgh, it makes no difference to me whatever nationality they are. We’ll concentrate on being as good as we can be.”