EDINBURGH RUGBY have a hugely important three weeks ahead, starting with Scarlets in Llanelli tomorrow, followed by Connacht and Cardiff over the next fortnight.

Head coach Richard Cockerill was always prepared for having a depleted squad for these fixtures, with so many of his players on international duty with Scotland.

But in actual fact, the Englishman has a stronger pool of players to select from than he may have imagined, with WP Nel, Grant Gilchrist, Nick Haining, Luke Crosbie, Henry Pyrgos and Matt Scott all released from Scotland’s Six Nations camp for the vital clash.

Currently, Edinburgh are top of their conference, with Scarlets three points behind in second spot and while Cockerill is still missing Stuart McInally, Simon Berghan, Rory Sutherland, Ben Toolis, Jamie Ritchie, Hamish Watson as well as Magnus Bradbury after being retained in the Scotland camp, Cockerill is in no mood to dwell on the absent players, particularly as Scarlets are also missing a number of players due to international duty.

“We’ll work as hard as we can with the players we have, and think about all the good things we can do rather than complaining about all the people we haven’t got. It’s just normal for us,” he said.

“They’ll be missing a lot of guys as well, which is a shame for the competition. We’ve just got to play what’s in front of us.”

Edinburgh have a particularly strong back-row for their trip to Scarlets, with Gilchrist, Haining and Crosbie all fresh from Scotland duty for the fixture.

Returning to club rugby in the midst of an international camp is not always the easiest situation to handle and Haining and Gilchrist in particular have had a contrasting month but assistant coach Duncan Hodge is confident they have coped with everything that has been thrown at them and will be in good form come tomorrow’s game.

“Grant’s obviously a bit more experienced and knows how to cope with these things, and to be fair to Grant, every time he comes back in he’s a top pro and he gets on with his job and gives us a lot of intellect,” he said.

“He’s a great caller of lineouts. So it’s great to have Grant back and he’ll just get on with his job.

“Nick on the other hand has done really well with Scotland and hopefully he’s gained some extra confidence from that. I’m looking forward to seeing him play as well.”

Haining moves to blindside flanker for today’s game and while that may not be his natural home, Hodge is confident the 29-year-old will adapt well in the back row.

“It’s a bit of (needs must), plus those three guys are our form back row players. Bill’s obviously been playing well, so has Luke, and Nick has come off the back of playing well against Ireland. John Barclay is a bit unlucky to miss out but it’ll be great to have him on the bench. So it’s definitely a good back row.”

Edinburgh thumped Scarlet in their previous meeting this season, with the capital club scoring seven tries on their way to a 46-7 win. But as comfortable as that victory seemed looking at the scoreline, Hodge is well aware of the strength of the Welsh side and insists his players are well aware of the threat they’ll pose.

“They’re a good side, clearly. We beat them in round four but the scoreline probably flattered us a bit, to be honest,” he said.

“They are a good side and they’ve got some quality players. I know they’re not getting some of their top-line Wales guys, but look at guys like Samson Lee and Fonotia and certainly their back row. They’ve got a couple of locks who are big powerful ball-carriers, so even without the Wales guys they’re a strong outfit.

“Cassiem at 8 is a very good player, played very well this year. Kieran Hardy the scrum-half is good. It’s probably a bit like us - they’re missing some guys, but they still manage to put out a strong squad, and they’ll expect to perform, as they always do, well at home.”