STEADILY, surely, everything about Edinburgh Rugby is improving under Richard Cockerill. A driven and experienced head coach has not only got the team playing at a higher level than many of the players may have thought possible, but has also created a feelgood atmosphere in the support too – as was witnessed in Toulon, when a set of fans often mocked for being too quiet managed to outshout the home crowd for much of the match. And the more vociferous the supporters get, the more confident the players become.
It’s a virtuous circle that everyone connected with the team hopes will continue turning for some time to come, beginning on Friday when Edinburgh take on Montpellier with a place in the Champions Cup quarter-finals at stake. “Definitely the club’s going in a great direction and I think we’re creating more of a community feel with our fans,” is how Blair Kinghorn assessed the mood about Murrayfield.
“We had a lot of travelling support away in Toulon, which was brilliant. You could hear them all around the stadium. So I think we’re all really excited about that, but we just need to keep focused on the job in hand.
“I think we’re expanding as a team, getting better week on week. Our form’s getting better away from home. Little details we’re starting to see every time we review games, little habits, are getting better, and that’s paying off when it comes to game time. We’ve just got to keep training those little habits and improve week on week.
“We know as a squad what we’re capable of and I think we’re showing that in games. Our recent form has been really good, we’re working really hard on the back pitches here and it’s paying off in the games, so we’ll do the same this week again hopefully.”
Kinghorn expects Friday’s match to bear a lot of similarities to the game in France last weekend. Montpellier’s pack, like Toulon’s, will take some stopping, but the fact that in the end Edinburgh got on top has to give them a lot of confidence
“Montpellier have a lot of world-class individuals, but they’re fairly similar to Toulon in terms of their forward pack is big and powerful,” Kinghorn continued. “So we’ve looked at them and we’ll look at them more in detail, but it is quite helpful having played another big French team the week beforehand as well as having played them in the first game of the pool.”
Edinburgh lost that first game back in October, of course, but after taking some time to find their feet, they picked up a bonus point for a narrow defeat. The 21-15 loss was almost a moral victory given how well Cockerill’s team fought back, and the fact they finished stronger and fitter could be an indicator of how Friday’s game will go: as long as they withstand the onslaught and do not fall too far behind at any time, the home team should be able to impose themselves late in the game and end up on top.
Montpellier coach Vern Cotter knows a lot of the Edinburgh squad well from his time in charge of Scotland, but Kinghorn, who was not capped until the New Zealander had moved on, does not believe that will have an impact on his team’s planning.
“I don’t think it does. We’ll stick to our game plan and if we can execute everything to our ability, what we know we can do, we can have a really good game on Friday.”
An Edinburgh victory would put both them and Glasgow into the last eight, which the full-back believes would be a huge boost for the game here – even if his only concern will be to ensure his own side get the result which could give them a home quarter-final.
“I think it would be massive. Scottish rugby’s going up and up, performances from both teams are getting more consistent. A lot of people saw Edinburgh as the underdogs and Glasgow as the ones out in front, but I feel that with our form and the way that we’re playing, at the moment we’re getting back up there. It would be good to see both Scottish teams in the quarter-final, but we need to do a job on Friday for ourselves.”