MIKE BLAIR famously paid little or no attention to the URC table when his Edinburgh side were top of the standings, but as the business end of the season approaches the head coach is scrutinising it a lot more carefully.

The way the URC works means there are three fights in one in the upper half of the 16-team league, and Edinburgh, like Glasgow, are involved in all three. Seventh at present going into Saturday’s game against Ulster, Blair’s team need to get back into the top four to ensure a home quarter-final. While that is possible, they are also at risk of dropping out of the top eight, something that would mean no play-off place at all. 

And, with the winners of each of the four regional pools being guaranteed a Champions Cup place, Edinburgh need to finish above the Warriors to win that place. Otherwise, they could finish in the top eight but be demoted to the Challenge Cup if, for example, Scarlets won the Welsh pool but were ninth or worse.

It sounds confusing, but Edinburgh can simplify things for themselves if they beat Ulster at home and thus preserve their unbeaten competitive record at the DAM Health Stadium. 

“We’re aware that Ulster are a really good side,” Blair said yesterday. “They beat Toulouse in France and that was a fully loaded Toulouse team. 

“But at the same time we’re comfortable in what we’re trying to do. We know that if we put our best team on the pitch we can beat teams.”

The new ground could be sold out for the first time at the weekend, and Blair believes the biggest reasons for the growing attendances are the quality of the rugby his team have been playing and the atmosphere generated by having the supporters so close to the pitch. “The proximity of the fans to the ground means they can feel all the hits and hear all the communication stuff,” he added. “Hopefully the results on the pitch and the type of rugby we’re trying to play helps keep people coming back too.”

Scotland winger Darcy Graham is on the way back from injury but is unlikely to feature against Ulster, although WP Nel will be available after suspension. However, Edinburgh confirmed yesterday that two other props, Luan de Bruin and Boan Venter, will be out for the rest of the season after needing surgery on the injuries they sustained in the game against Pau.