Ulster Head Coach Dan McFarland knows his side face a tough test when they meet Edinburgh in the Guinness PRO14 semi-finals at BT Murrayfield on Saturday.
McFarland worked as Gregor Townsend’s Scotland Forwards Coach from when he took over the national team in 2017 to the beginning of last year, leaving to take over at the Kinsgpan Stadium.
And with Edinburgh able to call upon several Scotland internationalists in their pack, McFarland knows the challenge that awaits his side as they look to become only the second team to ever win a PRO14 semi-final away from home.
“Richard [Cockerill] has built a club there built on some quality international players.
“He’s made a lot of non-Scottish qualified signings who have had a major impact and you only have to look at the league table as it stands to see what a top quality outfit they are.
“The task in front of us is a difficult one – there’s only ever been two away semi-final wins in the history of the PRO14 and both of those were by Scarlets, so I know the difficulty of the task but we want to give it a better shot than we did last year.”
Inside information a factor?
McFarland also dismissed any notion of the Ulstermen having an advantage through the inside knowledge of former Edinburgh captain, Roddy Grant, who is on his coaching staff; as well as Managing Director Jonny Petrie.
“Having Roddy and Petrie, we’ve got a little bit of inside information, but most of it is played out on the pitch.
“As much as we coaches like to think we’re the geniuses behind the manufacturing of performances in semi-finals, it’s not the case. We know what Edinburgh are about and you’ve got to watch videos to do that.
“The inside information maybe helps a little bit, but not much.”
Not just a forward battle
And McFarland knows that, while Cockerill has built a formidable pack in the Capital, they have plenty of ammunition behind the scrum too.
“They’ve recruited and developed some fantastic back three players,” he said.
“They’ve got some very skillful centres – Mark Bennett at 13 – they’re scoring a lot of tries and they can counter attack against you if you kick loosely. The development of their game has been really impressive.”