Edinburgh Rugby head coach Mike Blair has hailed his side’s “brilliant achievement” in qualifying for the knockout stages of the Heineken Champions Cup with a round to spare – but he now wants them to seal a home tie in the Round of 16 as well.
The Scottish team’s 34-21 bonus-point win at Castres Olympique last Sunday booked their place in the last 16 and now they host three-time winners Saracens on Sunday, with the English team three points and two places ahead of them in third spot on 14.
“There is a bigger mission than that one,” Blair said of the qualification. “We are pleased to get to that stage and it is a huge game against Saracens.
“We have done well because we have got two bonus-point wins and a losing bonus point. A win will give us a home Round of 16, but I have to check that.
“It is a good achievement so far, as there are so many teams in there with quality. To get through with a round to spare is excellent, especially when you consider we were in a group with two teams that were in the final of their domestic competitions last year.
“We are pleased we won [against Castres], but we want to stretch ourselves. We want to win at home.”
5️⃣ 𝐩𝐭𝐬 𝐢𝐧 🇫🇷
🎥 Get the alternate angles of an important win at Stade Pierre-Fabre. pic.twitter.com/1VeHGlmAj4
— Edinburgh Rugby (@EdinburghRugby) January 16, 2023
Blair acknowledged that reaching the last 16 from the pool stage isn’t quite the same as qualifying for the quarter-finals from there – as was the case until three years ago – but he stressed: “We should be positive about it.
“If there is something to be positive about, then I think we should take that opportunity. It is different to the previous format, because in the past you went straight to the quarter-finals as opposed to going into a Round of 16, but I still think this is a brilliant achievement for Edinburgh.
“The teams we are playing against are English and French finalists from last season – to get 11 points from those first three games is significant.
“I think it’s really important for Scottish rugby that we are getting into the knockout stages of competitions.”