Having questioned his young full-back’s readiness for the international arena ahead of the autumn Test window Edinburgh’s head coach has now expressed his full confidence in Blair Kinghorn’s capacity to make an impact in the forthcoming Six Nations Championship.

Richard Cockerill had been candid in explaining his reservations about the highly promising 20-year-old’s tendency to make damaging mistakes soon after he took over at the club this season, but he has been highly impressed with the way Kinghorn has responded. 

“Blair has been our most improved player. He has matured very well, played very well and did really well with ball in hand,” said the coach.

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“He is not making that one horrific error every game that’s is costly. If it is costly for us can you imagine what it would be like at test level (but) I think Blair is good enough to play test rugby now because of the way he has matured in the last twelve weeks. If (Stuart) Hogg’s is not fit my opinion is that he is ready to play full back for Scotland for sure. He has the potential to play full back and if not on the wing because he is young, very quick and creates opportunities. He will only get better the more he plays.”

Nor is he the only youngster who has grabbed his chance in that period which has seen Edinburgh win 11 of the last 13 matches they have played, Cockerill suggesting that Scotland’s front-row crisis could provide an unexpected opportunity for 21-year-old Murray McCallum.

“I thought he did well at the weekend… on the tighthead against a very big pack in those conditions, especially after a couple of tough weeks against Glasgow,” said Cockerill. “It was unfortunate for us he may have even thrown his hat in the ring for the Scotland squad which would be royally disappointing.”

That last remark may have been tongue in cheek, but Scotland’s pro teams have already had to dig very deep to find front-row cover this season and, particularly in Edinburgh’s case, have big matches of their own to deal with ahead of the Six Nations so would not necessarily welcome any added pressure to rest players who might come into international contention.

That is arguably an additional reason for hoping they can complete the job for which they have already laid the foundations, four bonus point wins in their previous European Challenge Cup pool matches having brought them to the brink of not only qualifying for the quarter-finals, but earning a home tie by finishing as one of the four best pool winners.

There has been a marginal easing of the pressure on their resources with Rory Sutherland, one of Edinburgh’s seven international front-row forwards who has been missing in recent weeks, now considered fully fit and ready to play as they prepare for the visit of Challenge Cup holders Stade Francais, the first of two back-to-back meetings with the French club.

Cockerill admitted that it is tricky to know what to respect from their opponents who, he pointed out, are treacherously close to the relegation zone in the French Top 14 and will inevitably be distracted by that.

“The threat of relegation for any team, whether in the Premiership or the Top 14 is huge financially . . . so that certainly narrows the mind around other competitions,” he pointed out.

“Stade winning the Challenge Cup and getting relegated would be a disaster, so they’ve got their own issues to deal with and we’ve got our own issues around us developing as a team. It’s important we play these big sides and test ourselves, so they were good enough it win it last year, they’re a good enough side.”

He knows enough to be aware that Stade’s under-performance means they must remain vulnerable.

“Obviously, Stade have had a little bit of uncertainty over the last couple of years around ownership and being in existence and all those things, so clearly that’s been a little bit unsettling, but they’re a better side than they’ve shown this year. If you look at their playing squad, with what they’ve got they have the ability on paper to beat anybody, but sometimes if you don’t get the best out of what you’ve got you put yourself under pressure like they have at the moment I suppose.

“They’re good enough to beat anybody, but as we’ve seen in this competition, they lost by 40 points at home to Irish and lost to Krasny Yar away… and I think they’ve won once away from home in the league this season. So look, it’s an opportunity to one, take a big scalp because they’re a big club and also to get to where we’d like to in Europe.”