Edinburgh should embrace being favourites to beat Benetton Treviso in the Guinness PRO14 tonight as a mark of becoming a quality side, believes head coach Richard Cockerill.
The capital side are going for three wins in the row to start the season against their Italian visitors who tend to struggle on Scottish soil.
“We have to live with that pressure, it’s a good pressure to have,” said Cockerill. “To be fair, the majority of games we are going to go in as underdogs, I suppose.
“We have to turn up and perform. The lads have to make sure they don’t just wait to see how good Treviso are before we decide how we’re going to play.
“Complacency has been discussed in every meeting we’ve had this week after last week’s performance where large parts were very good but other parts were not at the level we expect.
“If we play as well as we can, we should win, but that’s not always the case in sport. We need to be right on it tomorrow.”
It is however an opportunity for Cockerill to use his depth, rotating and resting some players and avoiding the temptation of over-taxing players in outstanding form like Jamie Ritchie, who is out of the 23 tonight despite his performances in the first two weeks.
“Jamie’s played in all four games so far, pre-season then the last two weeks,” said the coach of the young Dundee-born flanker, who turned 21 just last month.
“We want to look after his body, he’s still developing physically and he’s got a few bumps and bruises.
“He is fit to play but I chose not to pick him, because I want to look after him physically going into the next two and three weeks. It’s just rotation and using the squad, really.”
Similarly Grant Gilchrist gets a break after playing all four games so far and the only enforced change is one Cockerill admitted he’d have probably made anyway, Stuart McInally’s ear cut meaning Ross Ford takes over at hooker.
“Ross is a very good professional, very durable, he’s played a lot of rugby and he’s going to be important to us, what he does and the way he behaves,” continued the coach.
“He’s a very good role model for guys coming through and a very good player. He’s probably not quite match sharp yet because he wasn’t able to play pre-season after the international stuff in the summer. But he’s going to be important to us through the year.”
Anton Bresler replaces Gilchrist while John Hardie and Cornell du Preez are formidable replacements for Ritchie and Hamish Watson in the back row. The only change to the backline is Nathan Fowles coming in for Sam Hidalgo-Clyne.
“I’ve got a rough idea of what I think my best 15 is, but that’s still a little bit fluid at the moment because I’m getting to know my players in live action,” continued Cockerill.
“There’s lots of guys putting their hands up. We can’t play the same 15 guys every week, we need to rotate and build combinations. Hopefully more guys will put their hands up to be picked and we’ll get more competition for places.”
A handful of Edinburgh players could be potentially affected by the visa issue which forced two Leinster players to be turned back from South Africa on arrival there this week.
Edinburgh officials are ensuring all papers are in order ahead of the club’s doubleheader trip against the two South African teams in the last week in November.
Edinburgh (vs Benetton Treviso, Guinness PRO14, tonight, Myreside, ko 7.35pm) Blair Kinghorn; Damien Hoyland, Chris Dean, Robbie Fruean, Jason Harries; Duncan Weir, Nathan Fowles; Michele Rizzo, Ross Ford, Simon Berghan; Anton Bresler, Ben Toolis; Magnus Bradbury (capt), John Hardie, Cornell du Preez. Replacements: Neil Cochrane, Darryl Marfo, WP Nel, Fraser McKenzie, Hamish Watson, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, Jason Tovey, Junior Rasolea.