THIS afternoon’s clash with Wasps at the Ricoh Arena will be something of a homecoming for Edinburgh Rugby head coach Richard Cockerill. The Englishman describes himself as “half Coventronian” with his mum born and bred in the city and he also plied his trade with Coventry RFC for four years in the late 80s, early 90s.

However, there will be little sentimentality this afternoon when Edinburgh face Wasps for the second time in two weeks in the European Challenge Cup, having beaten the English Premiership side 31-20 at Murrayfield last weekend.

Cockerill has made nine changes to his side, with the most notable inclusion that of WP Nel, who will make his first appearance of the season for the capital club following an injury lay-off.

And Cockerill is delighted to see the Scotland internationalist back in Edinburgh colours, particularly with a double-header against Glasgow Warriors on the horizon.

“He has been training well for the last couple of weeks and it is a long time since we have seen him play for us,” he said of Nel.

“It’s good to have him back and out on the field and it will be interesting to see how long he lasts from a fitness point of view. It is pleasing to get a player of his quality back with the Christmas games coming up.”

Also coming in is Rory Sutherland, hooker Michael Willemse, and locks Sam Thomson and Lewis Carmichael while Fijian number eight Viliame Mata is also back in the starting fifteen.

Damien Hoyland, Jamie Farndale and Nic Groom, who will captain the side complete the changes made by Cockerill.

The head coach has spoken in the past about the Pro14 being his priority this season but he bats away any suggestion that he has named a weak side to face Wasps as he is extremely keen to reach the quarter-finals of the competition.

“You have to give guys opportunity,” said Cockerill.

“Every game we try and win. You have to take a little bit of risk with selection sometimes.

“We could have certainly put a stronger side out but it all comes down to the attitude of the guys on the field. I expect us to go with a positive mentality to win the game. If we win the game we put ourselves in a very good position to qualify for the quarter-finals.”

Wasps are having something of a nightmare of a season, sitting in tenth position in the English Premiership with only a single win to their name, while they have won only one Challenge Cup game this season to date too.

However, Cockerill is anticipating a strong challenge from the English side despite their disappointing form of late.

“The way the dynamic works in the Premiership you don’t care about the competition you just need to keep winning,” he said.

“They’ll want to get momentum back and I expect them to pick a strong team and to be fair they’ve got a strong squad. Whoever they pick will be half-decent players and they’re at home. If they win with five points that puts them right back in the mix. We need to make sure we get as much out of the game as we possibly can.”