The international windows should be an opportunity for Edinburgh rather than an example that they don’t have the strength in depth of other sides in the Guinness PRO14, believes coach Richard Cockerill.
Ospreys have just two wins from seven games so far with many of their Welsh test stars taking rest spells after a busy summer, and their team has been devastated again for tonight’s trip to Myreside, with Warren Gatland not allowing many of their leading players away from international training camp.
Edinburgh are missing a whole front row, Ben Toolis and Hamish Watson, but it’s still a pretty strong pack and nearly a full strength back division Cockerill has been able to field.
“Ospreys are missing a considerable number of their most influential players, and although we’re missing some players which does affect us a little bit, this is a chance for us to take advantage,” said Cockerill.
“We’re at home and we’re against an Ospreys side which if they were fully loaded and had all their players available that would clearly make them stronger than ourselves.
“So we’ve got to play what’s in front of us and take the opportunities when they arise – and this is one because they are certainly more affected by international call-ups than ourselves.”
Simon Berghan, Grant Gilchrist, Jamie Ritchie and Cornell du Preez are key men back in the team, but there is no Ross Ford who has suffered a pectoral muscle injury while with Scotland and is being assessed.
Cockerill welcomes back two players on the bench in very different circumstances, Rory Sutherland returning after a year-long battle with injury while Magnus Bradbury is back after his suspension for a night out that went wrong.
“Rory’s had two run-outs at club rugby [with Hawick] and he’s got through that very well,” continued the coach. “He’s been rehabbing the last two months getting ready to play, he hasn’t played for Edinburgh for a year or so. He’s good to play, it’s just about match fitness now.
“We’ve dealt with Magnus’ disciplinary stuff and we move forward. He’s always applied himself in training and he’s on the bench because he’s working his way back.
“He hasn’t played for almost five weeks and also Luke Crosbie has played very well. Jamie Ritchie and Cornell du Preez have played well too so it’s difficult for him to push his way straight back into the team.”
Cockerill’s team have won four in a row, two in the league, and they want to keep the hammer down if they can.
“We’re now four points above Treviso, but the reality is that we’re probably not going to be as consistent as the three sides above us,” he said.
“We want to put some space between ourselves in fourth and everyone below us because as a bare minimum that gives us the opportunity to qualify for Europe next season. That’s an important objective.
“But so is putting pressure on the sides above us – we still have them all to play and we’d like to be in the mix so that we’ve got a chance of challenging for the top three. This isn’t a season-defining match by any means, but it would put distance between the guys below us and put pressure on the teams above us.”
Edinburgh (vs Ospreys, Guinness PRO14, Myreside tonight ko 5.30 pm, live on Sky Sports) Blair Kinghorn; Dougie Fife, James Johnstone, Phil Burleigh, Tom Brown; Jason Tovey, Nathan Fowles; Michele Rizzo, Neil Cochrane, Simon Berghan; Fraser McKenzie, Grant Gilchrist; Luke Crosbie, Jamie Ritchie, Cornell du Preez. Replacements: Cameron Fenton, Rory Sutherland, Murray McCallum, Magnus Bradbury, Lewis Carmichael, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, Glenn Bryce, Chris Dean.