As he sought to introduce the city of Edinburgh to a winning rugby culture on his arrival at the beginning of last season, Richard Cockerill knew he had his work cut out on more than one front.

Rugby born-and-bred, quite literally since he was born and schooled in the Warwickshire town which gave the sport its name, Cockerill grew up to be a serial trophy winner as player and coach with Leicester Tigers, playing in front of some of the devoted supporters in the sport.

By contrast, while Edinburgh likes to think of itself as a rugby city, its citizens have tended to be event goers who are relatively detached in terms of emotional commitment and in the sport’s professional era, their lack of passion has too often been mirrored in on-field performances.

As different as it was to what he was used to, Cockerill has always seemed to have understood what he was taking on, but after a run of results that has demonstrated how much he has turned things around in the dressing room, he is hopeful that will be rewarded by their public when they take the field against Montpellier at the national stadium tonight.

“We’ve got a team that is worth supporting,” he said. “When I arrived I said I wasn’t surprised that people didn’t come and watch because we weren’t a very good team. Now, we are a good team, we’re doing some good things and I’d really like as many people as possible to come and support their city team because the lads are doing the job. They are a team to be proud of, a team to come and watch, a team to be associated with because of what they’re doing. It’s going to be dark and it’s going to be cold and a bit wet, but I hope the crowd comes out in force to support their city and their team.”

Real supporters are, of course, expected to back their team regardless of results, but in terms of forming a bond between players and community in what remains the relatively new world of professional rugby, Cockerill acknowledged that it has to start somewhere, saying: “Everyone likes to support a winning team. At the moment we are a winning team and we’ve got something to watch and be proud of. Whatever happens in this game, the supporters should be able to walk away feeling proud of their team. It’s a bit of chicken and egg, isn’t it?”

His personal experience has been encouraging, but he knows it will take some time to generate anything approaching the fervour he was previously used to, if it ever can be.

“There has been the odd person who is, and said, ‘well done on Saturday and good luck on Friday’, which is unusual,” he said.

“There is a lot of rugby support in the city. They want to support a winning team and we are getting that. The supporters are just a little bit quieter than others and I’m learning that is different Leicester and Toulon or other places.

“We have to be very good at make sure we get everything right. If we do that then supporters will come and watch and hopefully come back.”

It will help if occasions like tonight’s winner-take-all Pool Five decider, the sort around which Cockerill’s career has revolved, take place regularly at Murrayfield, where Edinburgh are set to have a new home ground on the back pitches later this year.

Since it is intended to have seating for 7800, the prospect of tonight’s match being played in front of a record crowd for a Champions Cup pool match in Scotland can only offer all the more encouragement to both management and a group of players that Cockerill believes is embracing the new environment it is creating for itself.

“They can see that we have improved a lot, that we’ve worked very hard. If you work hard it gives you confidence to be able to perform,” he said. “We probably never thought we’d be in this position at the start of the pool stage, but we’ve worked hard and we’ve got the results and now we want a home quarter-final.

“We’ve earned the right to play for a home quarter-final and the players believe that we’re good enough to go and do it. It was a big ask for us to go and win last week but we did it and we deserved to win. It’s going to be a really tough game against Montpellier and it’s a game we could easily lose, I’m very aware of that, but it’s also a game we could easily win. There are some games you just need to win and this one is a game we just need to win.”

They are up against one of the most expensively assembled teams in Europe, as demonstrated by the fact that their head coach Vern Cotter has been able to include no fewer than nine South Africans in his starting line-up, bringing in three men who have featured in Springbok squads, as well as French international flankers Fulgence Ouedraogo and Yacouba Camara. to strengthen the team that thrashed Newcastle last week

However, most recently against a similarly bank-rolled Toulon side last week, Edinburgh have been regularly demonstrating the benefits of the cohesiveness they now boast, not least in what is still considered the department that can have the greatest influence on the outcome of games.

Montpellier may, then, boast a gargantuan 93 and a half stone front five, but an unchanged Edinburgh team will be spearheaded by a unit that contains four Scottish internationals in captain Stuart McInally, WP Nel, Grant Gilchrist and Ben Toolis, all of whom have made 100 or more appearances for the club, most of them in set-piece harness together. The platform they have set in recent weeks has transformed their team’s immediate and long-term prospects and the challenge to the Edinburgh rugby community is to emulate their team-mates by rallying behind them.