Richard Cockerill believes that five points from Edinburgh’s remaining two pool games should be enough to take them into the quarter-finals of the Challenge Cup – and does not see topping the group as a priority.

The head coach will bring in some fringe players for Saturday’s match at Pool Three leaders Bordeaux, knowing that defeat will end their chances of winning the pool and claiming a home tie in the last-eight.

But, with what should be a far easier game against Agen at Murrayfield to conclude the group stages, Cockerill is willing to take his chances with an away tie in the last-eight, especially as Edinburgh have lost their last three European quarter-finals at home.

“I want us to be [in the] quarter-finals in the Challenge Cup, but Bordeaux have been the form team in France,” he said. 

“They’ve played 13, won 10, lost two and drawn one.

It’s a pretty impressive record and they have some pretty good players. So my job is to manage my team, go there and get as
many points as we can, and give some guys an opportunity to play in a really big game.

"I think it’s a game you have to win if you want to finish top. I think five points out of these two games will probably qualify us for a quarter-final somewhere.”

Edinburgh are top of PRO14 Conference B after their big win over the Southern Kings at the weekend, so are fighting on two fronts. Cockerill therefore has to husband his resources carefully and, while he would be delighted to beat Bordeaux, is realistic about the place of the game within the wider context of the season.

“I think you’ve just got to pick your fights carefully,” he continued. “There will be changes to the team and there will be guys in this group who get opportunities who wouldn’t potentially, necessarily be your first picks. 

"However, they’ve got an opportunity, and when they’ve had it before they’ve taken it, and they’ve got to stand up and do that this weekend.

“Notwithstanding, we’re going to pick a very strong team, so I still expect us to perform and be good. We’re going there to compete and get as many points as we can.”

Having made that hint that one or two losing bonus points would not be the end of the world, Cockerill admitted that a home tie in the last-eight would be preferable, although he also suggested that a draw at his former club would be ideal for him personally.

“We’ve played three quarterfinals in the last three years at home and we’ve lost all of them – I think it’s probably time to go away,” he joked. 

“I’m hoping we get to a quarter-final and we go to Leicester in an away tie. That would be perfect for me.”

If Edinburgh do reach the quarterfinals, the issue for them will be the same: stepping up a level and proving they can get the better of a close contest. 

Last year they lost their Champions Cup quarterfinal to Munster, while in the two previous seasons they were knocked out of the Challenge Cup at the same stage, by La Rochelle then by Cardiff.

“If we can cope physically we’re good enough to compete skillwise with any side,” Cockerill insisted. 

“Even in the quarterfinal against Munster, we were certainly good enough to win the game. 

"I wouldn’t fear going anywhere in a quarter-final in this competition. If we have everybody fit and available, I think we’ve got a good enough squad to beat anybody.”