I love the Champions Cup, love the mad rush that happens leading up to the quarter-finals. This is a tournament that is drawn-out and disjointed as teams have had the Six Nations break. Players come back either on a high or a low and usually need a week off, so there is no momentum going into these quarter-finals.
It’s knockout rugby, a one-off game. If you look at history and the stats gone by for the quarter-finals, it’s really difficult to go away from home and win. But the rugby has opened up massively this season in terms of the way teams are playing, in terms of some of the performances of the players, and in terms of the some of the decisions that are being made.
This is one the best quarter-final set-ups I have ever seen across the board. All the games are really difficult to call, apart from one of the four. It’s going to be a brilliant weekend.
EDINBURGH v MUNSTER – Saturday, 12.45pm (Murrayfield)
I was shocked when I heard Richard Cockerill had joined Edinburgh. That is no slight on the Scots. It’s just more how well I rated Cockerill is in world rugby. The way it ended for him at Leicester was a real shame, but Tigers have got their own issues across the board which are well documented.
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I am sure after Cockerill went on to Toulon and did a fantastic job with them that all these different offers then came along for him, but he picked the one right outside the box. Knowing Cockerill from my Leicester days, he always said Scottish rugby is a sleeping giant and real work can be done there.
He probably saw an opportunity at Edinburgh in the same way Warren Gatland did in Wales, a real opportunity to make a difference and put his full repertoire of skills and personality on a team that desperately needed something.
Edinburgh has more than a 50/50 chance at home in their Champions Cup quarterfinal. ?
He came in and was quite outspoken about the players not being good enough, about them being spoon-fed. When players talked about Edinburgh, they said what a lovely city it was. No one talked one about how good it was to play for the rugby team.
Cockerill has been very hard-nosed with the players. I know that first-hand from speaking to them. The coach came in and changed the culture in such a short space of time that people now know what it takes to play for Edinburgh.
You need to be hard-nosed, need to be hard working, need to be a forward-orientated player with the old school values that Cockerill instils. You have got to be willing to give 100 per cent or you’re not going to be kept on and you won’t feature in that team.
He has brought something that Edinburgh had never seen before in a coaching way and he also brought in a culture and a work ethic that the players he has brought into the squad desperately want to follow and adhere to.
? "It's the best club competition in the world."
The stars of the Heineken #ChampionsCup explain why this trophy is the one to win ?
Which 4?? teams will make it through this weekend? pic.twitter.com/D5qJOCpU1f
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) March 25, 2019
Edinburgh are suddenly popular because of the brand of rugby they are playing. Edinburgh is a big rugby city. A lot of people say Edinburgh isn’t a rugby city, but you have your traditional teams like your Hawick, Melrose, Watsonians who have a big, big following.
Throughout the professional era, Edinburgh fell off the cliff really in terms of their profile, in terms of identity. That had so many different changes in location, but they are now back at Murrayfield again and they have regained that lost identity.
Cockerill taking the reins brought a little bit of profile, but he has also made some excellent signings like Big Bill Mata. He has been an absolutely sensation with his ability to carry and off-load.
Edinburgh have also got young local lads coming through the system and that has all added to their success on the pitch. To twice beat a team of galácticos like Toulon was a real statement of intent and it feeds the theory surrounding the outcome of this quarter-final.
The leading points scorer in the #ChampionsCup and still only 23 years old ?@Munsterrugby's @JoeyCarbery has errupted this season thanks to moments like this, will we see more of the same this weekend? ?
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) March 25, 2019
Edinburgh’s PRO14 form hasn’t been great but that can’t take from the fact of how well they have done in the Champions Cup. They had such a tough pool against big spending Toulon and Montpellier and to get a home quarter-final was a phenomenal achievement.
You can’t look past Munster with their history and their credentials in this tournament. They are steeped in history, but they haven’t won it in a long time and you have to worry if they will suffer an Ireland hang-over.
There isn’t many Ireland players in their team, but Murrayfield is a tough stadium to play at. It can be quite an empty space when matches are played there in the PRO14, but Edinburgh are looking at up to 40,000 people watching on Saturday.
It’s the biggest game in their short professional history and they have gathered momentum with some important players signing contract extensions and John Barclay making his debut last weekend.
?? "We have a lot of respect for Munster in the way they play and are coached, but we're coming here to win on Saturday."
Read Richard Cockerill's full match preview: https://t.co/y7bXJ0OELW
— Edinburgh Rugby (@EdinburghRugby) March 27, 2019
I genuinely think this is going to be the game of the weekend in terms of Edinburgh being able to rise to the occasion against one of the biggest clubs in the Heineken Cup’s history.
VERDICT – I think Edinburgh are going to beat Munster, I genuinely do. This is going to be a proper cup game and Edinburgh are going to win.
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