EDINBURGH RUGBY head coach Richard Cockerill welcomes back eight internationalists to his starting fifteen who will face Bordeaux-Begles in the European Challenge Cup at Murrayfield on Friday evening, and there are thirteen changes to the side that defeated Agen in round of one the campaign last weekend.

Scotland internationalists Blair Kinghorn, Mark Bennett, Matt Scott, Henry Pyrgos, Ben Toolis and Magnus Bradbury all return to the starting line-up and Cockerill admits that he is somewhat spoiled for choice when it comes to team selection at the moment.

“You can never have enough good players, that’s for sure. We made a choice last week to give guys opportunities and they played well, put their hands up and stepped forward into the selection mix on a more regular basis,” the Englishman said.

“There are 13 changes this week so we have a fresh squad and we need them to do exactly what the guys did last week and turn up, perform well against a very good team. It is a big European night for us and they are a big European team.”

As Edinburgh look to maintain their 100 percent home record this current campaign, the team selection also sees Fijian international Viliame Mata make his first start of the season, while Duhan van der Merwe, Jaco van der Walt, Pierre Schoeman, Mike Willemse, Pietro Ceccarelli and Luke Crosbie are all named to face the French.

Cockerill and his backroom staff have previously suggested that the Pro14 is their priority this season, with the Challenge Cup of secondary importance. But their bonus point victory over Agen last week seems to have helped shift their thinking somewhat when it comes to focusing on one competition over another.

“We are trying to get a run going in both competitions. I doubt I will prioritise one or the other. We will pick the right side, hopefully, to get the best out of the squad and win the games,” he said.

“This is obviously a very strong team I have picked, barring one or two who may come into the mix in the next couple of weeks. It bodes well for us. We just need to keep preparing as well as we can and try to keep performing as well as we can and keep winning. That’s key for us.

“Even though this is the second tier of Europe, there are some good sides in the competition. For us, our ambition would be to get to the knockout stages and take it from there. In both competitions in the past couple of years we have not managed to get past the quarter-finals.”

Mata will make his first start for the capital club this evening following World Cup campaign with Fiji and with the forward having raised his game for Europe in past seasons, Cockerill is looking forward to another good performance agaibst Bordeaux.

“He has had a couple of weeks of getting himself sharp,” he said of Mata.

“Bill is a big player for us. We know what Bill can do and I like the look of that back row with Crosbie and Bradbury. That is a strong tight five. Bill is going to have a big night as he is a point of difference for us.

“Bill is a big game player. The way we use him I think he gets into the game more with us than he does with Fiji. I think he had a quiet World Cup personally because he is not their main ball carrier and that is what Bill does very well for us.

“He will get space as French teams, as games go on, traditionally get a bit looser. That’s suits Bill and his skill set. He does really well with the way we use him.”

Bordeaux are likely to pose a stiffer test to Cockerill’s men than Agen did last week, with tonight’s opponents currently sitting in second place in their domestic league.

And with Semi Radradra and Seta Tamanivalu on their books, Bordeaux have no shortage of star power in their ranks.

“They have had a change of coach, so they look a lot more organised than when I was there a couple of years ago. They have a pretty settled squad,” said Cockerill.

“There are some key members in that side. Cordero was fantastic for Exeter and Radradra is probably one of the world’s best backs. Any side would be a better side for having them in it.

Tamanivalu who has played 12 for them is an All Black and he is on the bench this weekend. Higginbotham is a very experienced Australian international. They have a lot of quality across-the-board and they are a very well coached side.

“The rest of the squad are not household names, but they are very good players. I am expecting a very good team that will challenge us more than Montpellier and Toulon did last year.”

Cockerill gave a word of support to former British Lion, Tom Smith, who yesterday revealed he was suffering from stage 4 cancer.

“It’s obviously very sad to hear,” he said.

“He was a wonderful rugby player who has obviously been living and coaching in France for the past few years. It’s very sad to hear the news and we wish him all the best. Let’s hope it works out okay.

“We would have played against each other a few times. Obviously, he was an outstanding player, a British Lion with 60+ caps for Scotland. We are both of a similar age so I have a huge amount of empathy for him and his family.”