Edinburgh have “dusted themselves off” the disappointment of their Heineken Cup quarter-final loss and are ready to back it up in the final three Guinness PRO14 games to reach Europe again, says head coach Richard Cockerill.
The first leg of the three is the Scarlets in Llanelli today, followed by Ulster at home and the third 1872 Cup game against Glasgow at Scotstoun – coincidentally, the last time Cockerill’s team won away in the domestic league.
There are mitigating circumstances, as Edinburgh have played so many games without leading players required by the Scotland team – much the same has happened to the Scarlets – but the head coach believes his side shouldn’t be in the situation of having to win all three games to be sure of a play-off place.
“We are the victims of our own success to a degree,” said Cockerill. “We have done well and the environment is strong and a lot of guys have been picked for the national team, which is great.
“But the consequence is that we are having to take guys on loan and have Academy guys coming in to full spots in the 23 when we are in international windows.”
However, he quickly added, Edinburgh should still have done better.
“It is not helpful from a depth point of view, but we can’t lose at Kings when we have an eight point lead with six or seven minutes to go, we can’t be 17-0 up against Cardiff and get beaten 17-19.
“It won’t be this week that gets us out of the top three, it will be what has happened before. If we are going to have so many Test players away on a regular basis we are going to have to try to build a deeper squad.”
Edinburgh have lost one of their most consistent players of that contingent left behind on international weekends, centre James Johnstone. The former sevens player suffered a calf strain and will only play again if the club reach the play-offs.
That means that Mark Bennett gets a chance to impress having had another campaign disrupted by injury, but determined to impress in what few opportunities remain to try to reach his second World Cup.
The disappointment of last Saturday has to be disregarded immediately, added Cockerill, with so little room for manoeuvre if Edinburgh want to get back in the main European competition next year.
“It is really just a case of freshening our bodies and our minds up,” said the coach. “We had a big week last week, both mentally and physically and we have to back that up again.
“We have to play at the same level and at the same intensity and same commitment, enthusiasm and motivation that we had last week.
“We have not been great on the road, there’s been some big wins in Europe on the road but we have only beaten Glasgow away from home in the league.
“We are going to have to be very, very good this week; if you look at that Scarlets team, the have had an average season by their standards but this is probably the first time they have picked what is probably a full-strength side for them.”
Edinburgh team: Darcy Graham; Damien Hoyland, Mark Bennett, Chris Dean, Duhan van der Merwe; Jaco van der Walt, Henry Pyrgos; Pierre Schoeman, Stuart McInally, WP Nel; Ben Toolis, Grant Gilchrist; John Barclay, Hamish Watson, Viliame Mata.
Replacements: Ross Ford, Rory Sutherland, Simon Berghan, Callum Hunter-Hill, Magnus Bradbury, Charlie Shiel, Simon Hickey, Matt Scott.