Mindful of history
Miles Harrison says Edinburgh will have to pull out all the stops to reach a first Heineken Cup final.
Last Updated: 27/04/12 12:43pm
Edinburgh take a step into the unknown on Saturday when they tackle Ulster in their first ever Heineken Cup semi-final at the Aviva Stadium.
Michael Bradley's team have already seen off London Irish and Racing Metro on the road - as well as four-time champions Toulouse at home in a dramatic quarter-final victory.
Now Ulster - who have beaten Edinburgh twice in this season's RaboDirect PRO12 - stand in their way.
Sky Sports' Miles Harrison will be in Dublin to commentate on what will already be an historic occasion...
This is one of the biggest games in Edinburgh's history. How big a step-up is it from their win over Toulouse and what was the most impressive aspect of that victory?
MILES REPLIES: OK, do you want some hype? It is, in fact, THE biggest game in Edinburgh's history - indeed, I would go further, it is the biggest game in Scottish club rugby history! But, to be honest, that is not hype, it is more like fact. Edinburgh, having become the first Scottish club through to the semi-final of the Heineken Cup, stand just 80 minutes away from what would be a game and an occasion that would break the mould. But, I would argue that Edinburgh have actually already cracked that mould. Of course, the fact that this is a semi-final and is being played away from Murrayfield is a 'step-up' mentally for the side but, in that performance against Toulouse, Edinburgh showed immense mental resolve and, to answer your question, that was what impressed me most about the Edinburgh display on that day. Toulouse have not been at their best this season in Europe but they still take some beating and, having done that, Edinburgh must believe anything is possible in this semi-final and you can't blame them can you?
But, as you say, the Murrayfield crowd more than played their part in that quarter-final. How much tougher will it be to turn it on at the Aviva Stadium with the majority of the 50,000 sell-out crowd against them?
MILES REPLIES: Both sides have talked about this issue this week and there's no doubt that Ulster feel they have the advantage here and you can't really argue against that. The support Ulster received at Thomond Park was a crucial factor as they dug deep in that gripping second-half. However, let's not forget that game was away from home for Ulster and, if the travelling Edinburgh fans can make themselves heard, then, equally, they could provide an inspirational pocket of support to their team. With these things, it is always hard to assess how it is going to play out until the game gets going - for instance, Edinburgh could make a good start and rather silence the Ulster fans so that the tension is palpable for the Ulster team. But, having witnessed the passion of the Ulster supporters - both at Ravenhill and on their travels this season - I think Ulster do have something that they can potentially use here. Ultimately though, it is about the players playing a game of rugby against each other and, as we saw in the football version of the European Cup this week, Chelsea and Bayern Munich cared little for the raucous home support provided by Barcelona and Real Madrid in their respective semi-finals.
Head coach Michael Bradley won't need to motivate his players - but how do you think he'll to try upset Ulster?
MILES REPLIES: Edinburgh will look to play - we all know that. They have a terrific off-loading game and it is a game that they will not abandon, whatever the match. However, Michael Bradley's tactical nous is not confined to this attacking policy - we saw against Toulouse how he can identify a weakness and exploit it. To be fair, on the evidence of the Munster game, Ulster don't have too many weaknesses but Bradley will have a plan, you can be sure of that.
It's been something of an eventful Heineken Cup ride for Ulster so far and now it looks as though they won't qualify for the Pro12 play-offs. What have you made of their season?
MILES REPLIES: It is all about Europe now for Ulster and perhaps always has been this season. To get to the quarter-final last year after so many years of failing to get out of the Pools, left this squad with unfinished business. Yes, they have lost two games in their Pool but don't read too much into that. After all, Leinster lost two games in their Pool in 2009 and went on to win the tournament. And, those defeats for Ulster were at Leicester and Clermont. They overturned the defeat at Welford Road in some style come the return at Ravenhill and so nearly came through with a win at the Stade Marcel Michelin. They clearly derived great confidence from those performances, so much so, that they were able to do what they did at Thomond Park. Ulster are serious contenders for this title, regardless of what has happened in the Pro 12. Indeed, what has happened in the Pro 12 might just prove how serious Ulster's European challenge is to them!