After a week of relative discomfort, Edinburgh head coach Richard Cockerill is back in his preferred position as an underdog leading Edinburgh into Toulon’s Stade Felix Mayol, but deep down he agrees with the analytical assessments of tonight’s game.
The number-crunchers – at least two of them – have “done the math” and make Edinburgh two point favourites to beat the three-times European champions – only ever beaten twice at home in the competition – in their own backyard.
Cockerill certainly believes such a result is possible, but he doesn’t think that Edinburgh are anything like favoured.
“We’ll still be the underdogs, because on paper they should win at the Stade Mayol,” he said. “Certainly in the context of where they are need to deliver a big performance, and they still have an outside chance of qualifying depending on other results.
“But we’ve come here to give it everything we’ve got. We’re in a great position to qualify, we want to try and do that or at least get three-quarters of the way there.
“We don’t fear anybody. When we played in Montpellier that game showed that we can compete against these teams. From Newcastle and Glasgow we know we can play away from home and win.
“So we’re not coming here with fear. We’re coming here with excitement and with respect for the opposition, but we’re not turning up expecting to lose; we’re turning up expecting to be equals, and we’re going to go full out to get a result.”
Toulon haven’t quite picked the “galatico” side Cockerill was expecting – “we’ll have to do some homework on the full-back, because I’ve never heard of him before” – but it’s still pretty formidable.
“They’ll always be a different beast at home, as all French teams, but there’s real quality around,”! he continued. “Rhys Webb, Anthony Belleau, Savea, Trinh-Duc, Bastareaud, Pietersen – they’re fantastic players, world-class players.
“There’s clearly something not quite right, with the personnel they’ve got, there’s something not quite clicking at the moment for them for whatever reason. But clearly they’ve got enough quality so if it does click on the day they’re good enough to beat anybody.”
But Edinburgh have their own growing reputation, and Cockerill will put his pack up against anyone.
“For me, we’re man for man as good as they are in the forwards,” he said. “Rambo (Stuart McInally) is the equal of Guirado and that will be a hell of a battle.
“Facundo Isa against (Hamish) Watson is a great battle too, Vili Mata has been outstanding for us and Jamie Ritchie has been growing into his international role very well.
“Our front five, we like to think we’re pretty tough and resilient and will go towards anybody. We’re looking forward to the challenge.”
Unsurprisingly, Cockerill has restored all of his frontline players to the starting team after resting many for the game against the Kings last week, and it’s the same starters who performed so well in the second game against Glasgow at Scotstoun.
The one alteration is that club captain Fraser McKenzie is on the bench for Callum Hunter-Hill, but seven Scotland players, stand-off Jaco van der Walt, centres Jimmy Johnstone and Chris Dean and prop Pierre Schoeman are all back in the side.
Edinburgh: Blair Kinghorn; Darcy Graham, James Johnstone, Chris Dean, Duhan van der Merwe; Jaco van der Walt, Henry Pyrgos; Pierre Schoeman, Stuart McInally (capt), WP Nel; Grant Gilchrist, Ben Toolis; Jamie Ritchie, Hamish Watson, Vili Mata. Replacements: Dave Cherry, Allan Dell, Simon Berghan, Fraser McKenzie, Luke Crosbie, Nathan Fowles, Simon Hickey, Juan Pablo Socino.