EDINBURGH RUGBY lock Grant Gilchrist believes that his side are ready this season to make a real impact in the Pro14.

The capital club reached the play-offs two years ago but last season, were in disappointing league form, finishing only fifth in their conference.

However, Richard Cockerill’s men have been in excellent form so far this season and currently sit third in their conference after six league games.

What has been missing from Edinburgh, believes Gilchrist, is consistency but the 29-year-old is confident there is the strength-in-depth in the squad this season to ensure there are far fewer blips in form this year.

“I see this as our statement season. We’ve had a couple of years where we have shown a bit of growth, and now we need to deliver this year,” he said.

“We’ve had a couple of years under Cockers developing how we play, and I think this year we have evolved a little bit. We look a way more balanced side in terms of what we have up front and across the back-line.

“We were disappointed with the league last year. We have to be a club which consistently reaches the play-offs if we want to talk about winning the tournament. Every tournament we are in it to win it, because we believe that in every game we play we can win, but if you look at teams that have gone on to win silverware they haven’t just got there overnight, they have one good season, a slightly better season and are on that upward path.

“So, I would love to win it this year, but, really, we are looking at this stage to be consistently in the play-offs and getting used to playing in and winning big matches.”

Edinburgh face Munster at Independence Park tomorrow evening and Gilchrist has admitted that it will be vital if his side are to achieve their goal of qualifying for the play-offs of this season’s Pro14.

Munster are currently top of Edinburgh’s conference, with the Scots in third place after six games and while Gilchrist knows defeating the Irish is no easy task, he is well aware of the significance to his side’s season if they could grab a victory. And with the Irish defeating Edinburgh in the Pro14 play-offs two seasons ago and again last year in the Champions Cup quarter finals, a win on Friday would be extra sweet for Gilchrist and his teammates.

“This was always going to be a huge game. We knew it was coming up in the calendar. We are under no illusions as to its importance for our section of the league – it is a chance for us to close the gap on first place,” he said.

“We want to be in the play-offs at the end of the season and Munster are ahead of us, so this a great opportunity for us to go out there and put ourselves in a great position in the league.

“It’s a double-pointer. Munster are top dogs in our pool at the moment so if we can go out there and get a result then we are making a serious statement that we are contenders for the play-offs.

“When we played Munster away in the league play-off, I felt we were the better side but came out on the wrong end of the result, and then Munster again here was a game which could have gone either way, so hopefully we have taken the right learnings from those experiences about what it takes to win big games.”

Gilchrist has only been back in the club fold for a few weeks after being on international duty with Scotland at the World Cup in Japan. Although that disappointment has not been expunged completely from his mind, he insists he and his fellow internationalists are fully focussed on club duty now.

“It still annoys we that we didn’t perform the way we wanted to – both individually and collectively,” he said.

“So I want to use that as a driver for my own personal form.”

And with Scotland and Edinburgh captain Stuart McInally coming back into the fold this week for the first time since his return from Japan, Gilchrist is optimistic he can give Edinburgh that extra little boost they may need in Cork.

“Stuart is Scotland captain for a reason, our captain for a reason, he is one of our best players so it will, be great to have him back,” he said.

“I’ve been really impressed with the hookers who have played for Edinburgh so far this season have done really well. Mikey Willemse has done really well, Cammy Fenton did really well last weekend, so it is good for the squad that they have had those chances, but we all know how good a player Stuart is so he’ll make a big difference this weekend.”