Outside observers may be tempted to conclude that the changes Dean Richards has made to his died for tonight’s trip to Edinburgh suggest he is willing to sacrifice his team’s chances of winning this match in favour of the bigger picture, but old chum Richard Cockerill has known the Newcastle Falcons boss too long to buy into that theory.

Edinburgh’s head coach has full respect for the former Leicester Tigers and England team-mate with whom he won umpteen trophies, while he was given his first coaching job by Falcons defence coach John Wells, another former Leicester captain and coach. While, then, the 13 changes made by each of tonight’s combatants to the teams they fielded last weekend seem to reflect very different approaches to the encounter, Cockerill is extremely wary.

“Look, Dean’s an experienced coach and he’s got a good rugby brain and he’s a wily old fox isn’t he. Just because they’ve picked what some people would say is a less threatening team, we’ve got to make sure that we’re right,” he said.

“We have to play at our best and not just hope that the opposition are worse than we are... make sure we’re really good and if they’re going to beat us, they’re going to have to be outstanding. This pool is wide open and for us to qualify we’re going to need to get need to win three games, as simple as that.”

At first glance the idea of Newcastle giving anything less than full effort and attention to this match would seem to make no sense, given the unexpected success in their first two European ties that has taken them to the top of the pool and which means that back-to-back victories against Edinburgh would take them within touching distance of qualification for the quarter-finals. However, with one away win already secured, there is a compelling case to be made that the Newcastle management may have concluded that this is their best opportunity to rest leading players, feeling they could still produce an upset, but that they must prioritise the return match with Edinburgh and, in trying to claw their way off the base of that table, winnable English Premiership matches later in the month.

That would be the exact opposite of the approach Edinburgh took when sending a sub-strength side to Munster last weekend which Cockerill put down to the very different nature of the respective domestic competitions in expressing understanding of Newcastle’s difficulties.

“Clearly they have injury issues. The Premiership is very unforgiving. They have won their last two games and are still bottom of the table,” he observed.“

They have been in good form in the last couple of weeks, were on good form in the English Cup, but they sent a very mixed side to Toulon and won so I am not reading too much into it.

“Dean and John are good coaches and will be very combative and make us work hard and we know if we don’t get it right they are a good enough side to beat us even although they, if all fit, could pick a stronger team but the Pro14 does not have to worry about relegation. The Premiership is very tight and there is no point Newcastle having a great run in Europe and get relegated you know so Dean has to manage that on both fronts which is very hard.”

Those injury issues are such that Richards indicated yesterday that Newcastle could be struggling to fulfil their obligations under the rules because they have so many props injured they may not have the requisite bench cover.

By contrast, Edinburgh’s changes all look to be strengthening the team with the length of time they have been apart in the interim the only issue facing Cockerill as, with powerful winger Duhan van der Merwe having missed the meeting with Toulon through injury, he lists what looks an even stronger team than defeated the three-time champions.

“We have the luxury of knowing most of that forward pack has been playing together for Scotland when they have not been with us,” he noted, however.

“It is a new experience for us having so many guys away then coming back into what is a very important period for us. Last year we had the Challenge Cup which was a bit easier to manage and we had less players away.

“It will be interesting to see how we react but that is a good side with experienced players. They have all been rested apart from two who played last week so I expect them to be full of energy and very motivated.

Edinburgh: B Kinghorn; D Graham, J Johnstone, C Dean, D van der Merwe; J van der Walt, H Pyrgos; P Schoeman, S McInally (capt), WP Nel, B Toolis, G Gilchrist, J Ritchie, H Watson, V Mata. Replacements – D Cherry, A Dell, S Berghan, C Hunter Hill, L Hamilton, N Fowles, S Hickey, J Pablo Socino

Newcastle: A Tait; T Arscott, C Harris, P Bettencourt, A Radwan; B Connon, S Takulua; A Brocklebank, G McGuigan, D Wilson, T Cavubati, G Young, R Burrows (capt), G Graham, C Chick. Replacements – S Socino, T Davison, S Mavinga, C Green, S Uzokwe, S Stuart, T Flood, J Williams