THERE is an unmistakably eerie atmosphere about any empty stadium, but the mood around Murrayfield was never going to set the tone of Todd Blackadder's conversation when he selected one of its 67,500 vacant seats and sat down to talk on Thursday afternoon.

Even as he looked out at the arena's emerald pitch and ahead to the game that could be the defining contest of his necessarily brief spell as Edinburgh coach, Blackadder's eschewal of glib responses in favour of straightforward and plain-spoken honesty was as obvious as it has been since his move to the capital four years ago.

For while even his strongest admirers might struggle to place Blackadder in the front rank of New Zealand players on the strength of the 12 caps he won - 10 as captain - in an All Blacks side who were hardly the most formidable in that country's rugby history, he comfortably fits the bill as the archetype of the kind of loose forward New Zealand has been turning out for years.

To the marrow, he epitomises toil and uncomplaining endeavour, while his distaste for shirkers and buck-passers has an intensity that approaches visceral contempt.

Small wonder that Blackadder has a status close to folk hero in the South Island city of Christchurch. Even now, in the earliest stages of his coaching career, there are many there who believe Blackadder's move to the newly amalgamated NelsonMarlborough province at the end of this season is simply the first step on the journey that will eventually take him back to an influential role with their side again.

Ifthat represents a rapid elevation, then at least Blackadder will have some experience of the process, for on the day he sends his Edinburgh side out to face Wasps, the English giants who won the Heineken Cup two seasons ago, he can look back on a career as a head coach that is still less than a month old.

Granted, he can also reflect on that longer period when he probably had effective charge of Edinburgh but was inhibited by Home Office interest in the terms of his work permit from actually saying so, but he is still painfully new to a game that is now a high-stakes affair.

Yet the highs and lows and the occasional sense of powerlessness that make up the coaching rollercoaster are all now familiar territory to the 34-year-old, and the no-frills approach he adopted when playing the game has already become the hallmark of the Blackadder style in his new role.

"I always tried to keep a cool head, even as a player, " he smiled, when asked how he approached games of the significance of today's. "I don't think I was ever any kind of hothead. I believed in myself and tried to give my best, but it's different as a coach because you're trying to put your time and energy into other people.

"Yes, you do get a bit nervous and there are different pressures as a coach, but once the players are on the pitch a lot is out of your hands. Preparation is what it's all about. There's a lot more accountability and responsibility when you're a coach, but if you want to do the job then you just have to get used to it and live with the pressure, because it's all about results now."

Edinburgh have been placed in a Heineken Cup pool where results will be fiendishly difficult to achieve.

As well as Wasps, Edinburgh must also face Toulouse, the most successful side in the history of the tournament, and Llanelli, who are not short of a Heineken Cup pedigree of their own. Blackadder, however, is so reluctant to build pedestals for those opponents that even the modest suggestion that European rugby is a higher tier than the Celtic League provoked a noticeably prickly response.

"Is it?" he snapped. "The English game is very up-front, very staunch, and they tend not to play with as much width as the Celtic League sides tend to do. Their Premiership is one of the best competitions in the world and the English sides will always front up and play to their strengths. They do what they do bloody well. But everyone's beatable. We look at Wasps and any other team that way.

You can analyse teams and see their weaknesses and figure out how to beat them, although you still have to implement your plans. We're not going into this game overawed, absolutely not. We're going in with the mindset that we're going to win it."

Reluctant as he is to shower praise on opponents, Blackadder can recognise quality when he sees it and it was significant that his clear respect for Wasps figurehead Lawrence Dallaglio was qualified only slightly, and not wholly convincingly, by an insistence that the former England loose forward would not be the focus of Edinburgh's attentions.

"The thing you take from a player like Lawrence is that he has always fronted up to the setbacks and he has led by example. He's not a particular concern to us, but he brings a toughness to his team. I guess you could say he's been one of the best referees around for the last 10 years as well.

"In my book it doesn't matter what you say, it's what you do. What people admire about Lawrence is the performances he delivers on the pitch. What impresses me is that he's always given his very best when he's pulled the jersey on."

Having had such a galvanising influence on Edinburgh as a player, it will be fascinating to watch, in the months ahead, what direction Blackadder now tries to take them in his new role.

And what of his style? It is easier to imagine Blackadder barking at his troops before a game than to picture Hadden in the same role. "If it doesn't hurt you then you're in the wrong game, " was Blackadder's terse assessment of Edinburgh's defeat by the Borders two weeks ago, so will he be stoking up the motivation of his players with more appeals to their inner pride before they take to the field against Wasps?

Strangely, he has no intention of chilling their spines in the build-up: "What you do in the 15 minutes in the changing room is insignificant compared to the preparation work that is done throughout the week, " he explained. "The 15 minutes before the game is up to the players.

"This is not about me, it's about these players. I'm not going to get emotional watching games, because I already am emotional when they run out. That's my team out there, where they go I go, and it's a reflection of me as a coach. It's my job to keep us getting better and better and to win games like these."