EDINBURGH have enjoyed some memorable matches in the Challenge Cup over the past six months, starting with their opening pool outing against Saracens, a victory which remains one of their high points of the season. A one-point defeat by London Irish was followed by resounding wins over Brive and Pau, and that was enough to take them through to a last-16 tie at home to Bath, which they duly won.

But that result against the English Premiership’s bottom club, the first time for some years that they had won a knockout match, was as good as it got for Edinburgh. Normal, all-too-familiar service was resumed on Saturday, when they lost 34-30 to Wasps in their quarter-final at the DAM Health Stadium. 

Mike Blair’s team now have a week off before preparations begin in earnest for the home game against Glasgow on 21 May, a match which is not only the final URC fixture of the regular season but will also decide whether they play in the Champions Cup or Challenge Cup next season. A simple victory will suffice for them to qualify for the former competition, while the outcome will also determine who plays whom in the URC quarter-finals.

At present, Edinburgh are eighth, and if they stay there they will travel to Leinster for the last-eight tie at the start of next month. If they manage to win and move up a place or two they may have to return to South Africa, where they have already won this season, or possibly visit Ulster, the team that beat them in their last league outing. 

With the Warriors match also being the second and final leg of this season’s 1872 Cup, and as they go into it with a 13-point deficit from March’s first leg at Scotstoun, Edinburgh will certainly have plenty of motivating factors. “Unfortunately, the Challenge Cup is now out of our reach,” hooker Adam McBurney said after the loss to Wasps. 

“So we move onto the URC and with that Glasgow game try and push up the table. We see that as a final in itself and we want to go out on a high at the end of the season. 

“We can learn from the Wasps game. We did a lot of good stuff out there, and we pride ourselves on our work rate and our energy, our physicality. 

“That was all there. But with knockout rugby it doesn't matter what you put out on the pitch, it’s all about getting the win on the pitch and we came up short of that.

“We have another opportunity in another-quarter final now to put that right and we want to be in the semi-final and the final as a group, to win championships.

“We want to get sixth or seventh,” McBurney added. “And obviously Champions Cup rugby is on the line. We have that game then a quarter-final - and we want to be in the semi-final.”

Both Stuart McInally and Dave Cherry could return from injury for the Glasgow game, so McBurney will face a fight to hold on to the No 2 jersey. Winger Darcy Graham is also set to make his comeback, while Hamish Watson should also return after being rested from the Wasps game.

Blair’s reasoning was that Watson, who had played in Edinburgh’s preceding three games, could not be expected to turn out every week. What is more, he insisted that Connor Boyle merited the chance to start at openside.

“I thought Connor did well,” the head coach said. “I was pleased with the energy that Connor brought - I thought he deserved his opportunity. We don’t want a closed shop on selection.” 

Like Glasgow, Edinburgh have a pretty lengthy injury list, while some still-active players are showing signs of fatigue at the end of a demanding campaign. But for all that the enforced week’s rest could benefit his squad, Blair insisted he would far rather have a match this coming weekend. 

“We are a little bit thin injury-wise and hopefully everyone has come through this game, so it does give us a little bit of a breather,” the coach accepted. “But at this time of the season you don’t want to be sitting around doing recovery stuff, you want to be preparing for semi-finals and stuff.”