He probably did not think so at the time, but Richard Cockerill had one of the best seats in the house on one of European rugby’s greatest days.

Billed as a clash between English power and French flair, the 2001 Heineken Cup final saw his Leicester Tigers – he was on their bench throughout – take on Stade Francais in their own backyard at the Parc des Princes and turn expectations on their head by repeatedly ripping them apart out wide in scoring the tries that edged them to a 34-30 win against opponents who had to rely exclusively on the boot of Diego Dominguez for their points.

It was a joyous occasion and the man who is now coaching Edinburgh against Stade Francais in an important European tie, knows even more about French rugby having moved to France a year after that final to spend a couple of seasons with Montferrand before, more recently, having a spell coaching Toulon earlier this year.

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He has a full and up-to-date understanding of what his men are up against at Murrayfield tonight then, and knows that as much as Stade’s priority will be their relegation battle in their domestic league, they are now in a position where they can afford to have a real crack at these last two pool matches against Edinburgh as they defend the trophy they won last season.

“It’s not quite full strength, but there are some very good players in there,” Cockerill said of the team Stade have selected. “It’s a very big, combative forward pack. They have picked a strong side. I know their team reasonably well. I coached against them last year and obviously played a lot against them historically in Europe. They are one of the powerhouses of European rugby and have been for a long time.

“For whatever reason, they’ve not played as well as they could have this season, but they ran Montpellier very close last weekend. If they win two games they are in the quarter-finals and maybe that’s what they’re looking at. I think they have only won away from home once this season. I don’t think they will turn up and roll over. I think they will be very motivated to play well. We have the opportunity this weekend to qualify and we want to try and take it, but we won’t be taking them lightly. They have picked a good squad and maybe they are looking at this as a chance to kick-start their season.”

In keeping with that experience of 17 years ago, he wants to avoid playing into their hands and knows the best way to do that is to use the full width of an international pitch.

“The French league is a very physical competition and we know we don’t probably want to get into that like an arm wrestle and have a huge forward contest,” he observed.

“We will play exactly how we have the last three months and we will try and impose our style on them. We know if we end up in a ball up the jumper, one off runners, carrying into people we might lose that type of game. We need to play smart and make sure we play with a tempo and pace we want and make life uncomfortable for them.”

These meetings with Stade Francais will meanwhile give players an opportunity to make a case for inclusion in Scotland’s squad for the forthcoming Six Nations Championship, the current front-row crisis throwing up an unlikely one for young Murray McCallum and while he admitted to understandable reservations, Cockerill knows the 21-year-old prop can be counted upon to give his all.

“He is a young player who has to find consistency in his game. Is he ready to go to Cardiff to play tighthead for Scotland? You are asking a lot of him. Would he do it? He would certainly give it a good crack and is a good lad who works really hard,” said the coach.

“If I am being honest is he really ready? Probably not [but] as Darryl Marfo showed in the autumn, if you get the opportunity, he may surprise a few people.

“This will be a good test for him against a big French pack. If he does well there he at least will give the selectors a think about it might be worth having in the training weeks and if they need him he could do a job but it is a bit too soon for him to be an international tighthead.”