Ricard Cockerill believes you can never have enough good players, and he’s taking full advantage of it by making more changes than even last week for the European Challenge Cup visit of Bordeaux-Begles.
The Edinburgh head coach made 12 changes to arrive at last week’s team that won in Agen, and he’s made 13 this week to face the team that currently lie second in France’s Top 14.
Some reward for a team that won with a bonus point away in France, but Cockerill is conscious he has to use his entire squad if Edinburgh are to succeed in two campaigns, in the Guinness PRO14 and in Europe.
“We are trying to get a run going in both competitions,” he said. “I doubt I will prioritise one or the other. We will pick the right side, hopefully, to get the best out of the squad and win the games.
“We made a choice last week to give guys opportunities and they played well, put their hands up and stepped forward into the selection mix on a more regular basis.
“Now we have a fresh squad for this game and we need them to do exactly what the guys did last week and turn up, perform well against a very good team. It bodes well for us.”
Cockerill is also conscious of Edinburgh’s run coming up – the French this week, Munster away in the PRO14 next week, home and away games against Wasps and then into the 1872 festive doubleheader with Glasgow.
“This is obviously a very strong team I have picked, barring one or two who may come into the mix in the next couple of weeks,” he said, referring to WP Nel, Stuart McInally and Hamish Watson, who will all return during this tough schedule. “We just need to keep preparing as well as we can and try to keep performing as well as we can and keep winning. That’s key for us.”
Bill Mata returns to the back row and Cockerill believes he will get more freedom playing for Edinburgh than he did for Fiji in the World Cup.
“Bill is a big game player and the way we use him I think he gets into the game more with us than he does with Fiji. He had a quiet World Cup because he is not their main ball carrier but that is what Bill does very well for us.
“He gets space as French teams as games go on traditionally get a big looser. That suits Bill and his skills set.”
Bordeaux “look a lot more organised” than the coach remembers from his time in France.
“They have had a change of coach, they have a pretty settled squad, with some key players. Santiago Cordero was fantastic for Exeter and Semi Radradra is probably one of the world’s best backs.
“Seta Tamanivalu is an All Black and he is on the bench this weekend. Scott Higginbotham is a very experienced Australian international. They have a lot of quality across-the-board and I am expecting a very good team that will challenge us more than Montpellier and Toulon did last year.”
Only one of the 13 changes is enforced this week, with Jamie Ritchie rested after taking a shoulder knock in Agen.
Edinburgh team: Blair Kinghorn; Eroni Sau, Mark Bennett, Matt Scott, Duhan van der Merwe; Jaco van der Walt, Henry Pyrgos; Pierre Schoeman, Mike Willemse, Pietro Ceccarelli; Ben Toolis, Grant Gilchrist; Magnus Bradbury, Luke Crosbie, Bill Mata.
Replacements: Cameron Fenton, Jamie Bhatti, Simon Berghan, Murray Douglas, John Barclay, Charlie Shiel, Simon Hickey, George Taylor.