GRANT Gilchrist is convinced that the current Edinburgh team is one of the best to have worn the jersey - and, having made his debut as far back as 2011, the lock forward is well positioned to make such an assessment.

Over the next few weeks they can go from being one of the best to the best of the professional era if they win either the Challenge Cup or the URC, but Gilchrist believes that to do that they will have to get better week on week. 

A daunting run of matches begins with the penultimate league fixture of the regular season when Ulster visit the DAM Health Stadium on Saturday, then a week later Wasps are the visitors in the quarter-finals of the Challenge Cup. After that there is a possible semi-final against Glasgow or Lyon before the league programme concludes with a game against the Warriors at BT Murrayfield. And then, provided they hold on to their place in the top eight of the URC, Gilchrist and his team-mates will have a one-off quarter-final, with home or away status depending on whether they finish in the top four or in places five to eight.

To date, Edinburgh have fallen short at the highest level and failed to win a major trophy, having been Celtic Cup runners-up as far back as 2003, finished second in the Celtic League in 2009 and then been Challenge Cup runners-up six years after that. Gilchrist is confident that they have greater depth to their squad now than they have done in the past, but knows that depth will be tested to the full over the coming weeks.

“It's right up there - it will become the best team I've ever played in if we perform over the next few games,” the 31-year-old said. “That's the challenge. I've played in great teams that have got to knockout games and won one-off games. Can this group of players be the ones to take this club somewhere special?

“The difference now is that we have a depth of squad that we maybe haven't had in the past. You look at the number of guys who have played over the season, and most of the guys who have had opportunities have played really well. You start to see a consistency of performance regardless of personnel, which is pleasing for the club, because that's the true sign of a proper team that can go and compete for things.

“We’ve put ourselves in a position now. We have two home games in the league and a home quarter-final in Europe. We can control our own destiny, but the sides we’re playing are top-quality sides.”

The consistency of performance was not quite there against bottom club Zebre, who battled all the way last week before going down to a 29-26 defeat. And Gilchrist knows that, while his team got away with it against the Italian side, any repeat over the coming weeks in either competition could well be fatal for his team’s chances. 

“If we’re slightly off, as we found out at the weekend, it can quickly unravel,” he continued. “We’re under no illusions that what we’ve done only gives us the opportunity to strive for better. 

“We’re going to have to be better against Ulster and then better again against Glasgow and better against Wasps. But if we can keep doing that, keep growing as a squad, then we will back ourselves and look forward to it.

“Practically every week now is a knockout game. We know how big playing Ulster is and we know we need to win one of the last two to get into the last eight - and if we want to play at home then we have to win them both. We would love to play a home quarter-final here. That would be a huge statement by the club, but it would also give us the best opportunity to go further in the competition. 

“You look at how tight the league is. There's not much between ninth and second, so we know that these two games are equivalent to knockout games, because they will determine how things will go after that.”