HEAD coach Richard Cockerill has been characteristically blunt in recent weeks about his concerns over his Edinburgh squad not having enough depth of quality to really be competitive on two fronts [the Guinness Pro14 and European Champions Cup], especially when the club has nine individuals regularly away playing for Scotland. And injuries to a raft of key players has compounded the situation during this November Test window.

Tough decisions have had to be made, with Friday night’s grizzly 44-14 mauling in Munster for a novice Edinburgh side containing only a handful of first team regulars was an inevitable consequence.

The big guns, however, will return on Friday when Edinburgh resume their Champions Cup campaign with the first leg of a double-header against English Premiership strugglers Newcastle Falcons. That means, Scotland internationalists Blair Kinghorn, Hamish Watson, Jamie Ritchie, Grant Gilchrist, Ben Toolis, WP Nel, Simon Berghan, Stuart McInally and Allan Dell, as well as Fijian maestro Viliame Mata will line-up for the capital outfit at Murrayfield.

Another player set to come back into the fold is South African loose-head prop Pierre Schoeman, who was also rested against Munster despite having played just three matches since returning from a four-week suspension following a red card issued when his elbow connected with Dan Leavy’s head during the team’s defeat to Leinster back in mid-September.

The fact Cockerill chose to give the rumbustious 24-year-old – who has already firmly established himself as a fan’s favourite since arriving at Edinburgh from South Africa during the summer – this weekend off, gives a pretty clear indication of where the coach’s priorities lie. Edinburgh are well placed in their European pool but must target four wins from their four remaining games in order to qualify for the knock-out stages.

And as frustrated as the player might have been to miss out on game time this weekend, he understands the logic of that selectorial decision.

“Personally, I would play every week – but being a professional rugby player, you also have to be clever about it,” he said. “If you carry a lot or make a lot of tackles, you have to take account of that.”

Schoeman is an engaging and entertaining character, which is incongruous with his recent disciplinary woes. In April, he picked up a six-week suspension whilst playing Super Rugby for the Bulls for biting Melbourne Rebels flanker Richard Hardwick during on off-the-ball scuffle.

If he was bang-to-rites on that one, his more recent suspension was not so clear cut, and is another example of the confusion which surrounds what does and does not constitute dangerous play in rugby.

“I think I have seen maybe 100 plus [similar] incidents since [then] that weren’t even given as an offence,” he said. “If you take last week into consideration [at the Dragons], I got a fist, an elbow and a forearm to the head but I didn’t pass out luckily so there was no attention and that could have been minimum a yellow card.

“Look, it is easy to say rugby has gone soft, I know the concussion protocol and post-concussion syndrome, and there has to be more attention paid to the head and neck injuries – but these incidents happen so frequently, if you just pause and play [the video] you can probably find 50 plus incidents in a match.

“The big confusion is, can you fend when you are sweating and you can’t grip a guy on the neck or the collarbone area and if you slip where must you put your arm? Maybe we should tackle like Owen Farrell without any arms? I mean, where should you put your arm if you are carrying? Must you run like this [gestures holding arm tucked down beside body]?”

All big questions, which won’t be answered this week. But we will find out just how serious Edinburgh’s European aspirations are.