Cockerill: "These next three games are pivotal."

Cockerill: "These next three games are pivotal."

Head Coach Richard Cockerill insists that the next block of fixtures will be vital in his side’s hunt for a place in the Guinness PRO14 Final Series.

The capital side face Dragons, Cardiff and Benetton over the next month and with so little between the sides at the top of Conference B, every point will be vital in Edinburgh’s search for a top-three position.

Richard Cockerill’s side return to Guinness PRO14 action this Friday night with Welsh side Dragons the visitors to BT Murrayfield.

“We had the opportunity to put a bit of space between us and the other sides out in South Africa, and we didn’t take it,” said Cockerill. “Dragons, Cardiff and Benetton. They are all vital games in the push for a place in the top-three.

“I don’t think we took Southern Kings for granted. We just made a mess of it. I think these next three games are pivotal for us. Everyone is really close at the top of Conference B.

“We can’t really afford to be slipping up. We’ve still got Ulster to play, as well as Scarlets, Leinster and Glasgow. So, there’s still some really tough games to play.

With Scotland call-ups Ben Toolis and David Cherry released to play this weekend, Cockerill is happy with the strength of his squad as Edinburgh return to league action for the first time in three-weeks.

“This weekend, squad wise, we’ll be pretty strong. The Cardiff match – who knows because of circumstance and what Scotland need. And then obviously we go to Italy to play Benetton in the fallow week, but again we’ll have to see who Scotland need. It’s a really important block of fixtures for us, that’s for sure.”

Cockerill also confirmed that Scotland international back-row Magnus Bradbury is fit and available for selection following a four-month stint on the sidelines.

The 23-year-old injured his shoulder in October’s Heineken Champions Cup victory over RC Toulon, but now returns to add serious firepower to Edinburgh’s back-row.

However, Cockerill also conceded that Scotland international, Lewis Carmichael, will miss the rest of the season after the second-row had surgey to repair an ACL injury sustained in training.

“Magnus Bradbury is available for selection. It’s great for him having been out such a considerable time.

“Hamish Watson is still recovering and that’s just a matter of time now. I would imagine he’s till two or three weeks away, whilst Matt Scott is still recovering from a concussion. Lewis Carmichael returned to training but has injured his ACL and will now miss the rest of the season after having surgery.”

“I’d say the squad is in a stronger position than it was during the Autumn Internationals. Mata is obviously available, whilst Bradbury will come back in to the team. They both add real strength for us.

“Luke Crosbie also had a broken jaw during that period from Zebre, which obviously wasn’t helpful.

“The back-five of the scrum has been an issue with so many injuries to experienced guys like Fraser McKenzie, so I think we’re definitely in a stronger position that we were three-months ago.”

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