LESS than a week on from a momentous Heineken Champions Cup result, Edinburgh aim to inflict defeat on the man who brought the club its greatest success in the competition.
A bonus-point victory against three-time European champions Toulon at Murrayfield on Saturday sent Edinburgh’s sizeable contingent of Scotland players into their international training camp in high spirits, while the remaining members of the squad focus their sights on Michael Bradley’s Zebre.
The Irish coach memorably led the capital club to the semi-finals of the northern hemisphere’s showcase club competition in 2011/12, his first season in charge, but the team’s struggles in the PRO12 ultimately led to his resignation less than a year later.
Despite a forgettable end to his time at Murrayfield, the former Ireland scrum-half insisted he holds no hard feelings ahead of tonight’s reunion in Parma.
“I enjoyed myself in Edinburgh as a coaching experience,” Bradley told Herald Sport.
“The first year was fantastic and the second year was more difficult because we had a lot of injuries at the wrong time, but the players are still friends of mine and we still make contact. They are very good memories.
“I worked with some very good people,” he added. “I still have very good friends there and I enjoyed going back last year. Even though we didn’t win the match, it was very close and a good game. The experience in Edinburgh was very positive.”
Current head coach Richard Cockerill has worked wonders since his arrival in the Scottish capital last summer, leading the club to the PRO14 quarter-finals in his debut season and consequently securing Champions Cup rugby for the first time in five years.
The outlook has also improved off the pitch, with plans to build a new stadium on the back pitches of Murrayfield receiving city council permission last week.
However, Zebre threaten to dampen Edinburgh’s air of optimism at the Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi tonight, where they have won three out of four matches this season including a Challenge Cup victory over Bristol Bears last weekend.
Bradley has kept a close eye on his former side’s development under Cockerill and highlighted the forward battle as a key area for the Italians to target as they look to clinch their third PRO14 victory.
“Richard has his own style,” he said. “It’s obviously fairly confrontational up front and then relaxes a little bit with five minutes to go and gives the ball to the backs.
“I think Edinburgh are a very good, dangerous side who are on the way up. They’re very impressive at the moment.
“I think they’ve invested well up front, they’ve got some good ball carriers and physically big players. I think that’s the way Richard likes to play and I can understand that, that’s where they’re putting their mark.
“They’re very good up front and have some very skilful players in the backs so it’s a good combination. The Scottish Rugby Union are backing them, there’s a plan there of some sorts and the two sides in Scotland now are in a very good position in relation to being competitive in the PRO14.”
Source : HeraldScotland