Few teams around Europe could afford to leave a player of John Barclay’s seniority out of their starting line-up for one of the season’s most important fixtures, but Edinburgh’s head coach can credibly claim there has been no discernible loss of quality due to the solitary change made to the XV that started last week’s win at the Scarlets.

Last year’s Scotland captain is replaced at blindside flanker by fellow international Magnus Bradbury, who may not be as experienced, but brings youthful energy as they prepare for a formidable challenge from former Scotland assistant coach Dan McFarland’s Ulster in a potential Pro14 play-off decider.

“We’ve got some very good players,” said Richard Cockerill. “There are slightly different dynamics, although not better or worse. Barclay off the bench with 25 or 30 minutes to go, given his experience and how he plays and what he offers, both leadership and playing-wise might be good for us, too. It’s a great scenario where you can make changes and rotate and look after guys who maybe can’t train early in the week, but where really good quality fresh guys come in and are desperate for their opportunity.”

That he is only making this change to improve his team’s competitive chances was further illustrated when he made it clear that there is no guarantee of Scotland’s most capped player Ross Ford getting what could be a last Murrayfield run out.

“I won’t be putting him on to get his 198th or whatever it is appearance. If I need him on the field because that’s the right thing, he’ll be on,” he said.“Same with Barcs or any of the bench. I don’t pre-empt changes. If I think we need to change because we need a different approach or different energy or guys are looking fatigued, I’ll make the change, but I’ll only do that for the benefit of the team. I’m sure Fordy’s the same. He wants to be on because his team needs him, not because he wants one last cheer from his home crowd.”

Internal competition of the calibre that has even seen Ford struggle to force his way into the match day 23 this season, drives the best sides, among them tonight’s visitors who almost knocked holders Leinster out of the Champions Cup on their own patch a fortnight ago. Ulster were much less impressive in Glasgow last week, however and even with Lions tourist Iain Henderson returning, Cockerill bullishly reckons Edinburgh have the power to beat them.

“They were very good against Leinster in the quarter-final, which shows they can do it at the highest level, but we’ll always attack at set-piece, because we rate ourselves in that department,” he said. “It wouldn’t matter who we were playing, we’re going to have a crack at them set-piece-wise, because they’re the margins in the game where, if you can get a little bit of ascendancy, you’re going to dominate territory and the gain-line. So, we’ll be going at their forward pack and I’m sure they’ll be saying the same.”They’re a good side but I’m not too concerned who they pick because if we play as well as we can and have belief then we’re good enough to beat their best side, never mind one that has players missing.”

Those comments fit with Cockerill’s ‘what-you-see-is-what-you-get’ approach and he was similarly direct when assessing the slightly surprising selection of Ireland winger Jacob Stockdale at full-back, saying:“Obviously, it’s not his preferred position but the aerial parts of his game are very good when he’s on the wing so it will be interesting to see how they manage that with (Robert) Baloucoune and (Rob) Lyttle because they know what’s coming from our exit strategy, so hopefully Stockdale at 15 will be less effective, but he’s a world-class player and if we give loose ball or turn ball over he will punish us,” he observed.