EDINBURGH have had mixed fortunes at best in their four outings so far this month, beating Castres but also losing to Munster, Saracens and Glasgow. They therefore go into Friday night’s return match with the Warriors under a certain amount of pressure.

Mike Blair, however, remains convinced that his team are still heading firmly in the right direction. The head coach admitted last night that there were aspects of Edinburgh’s recent performances that he had been unhappy with, but he pointed to the fact that they came away with losing bonus points in two of the three defeats. He also suggested that the URC is a far more competitive league now than it was during last season, and said that disquiet about his team’s current form was an indication of how expectations have increased since he took over in the summer of 2021.

“I’m confident of the direction we’re going in,” Blair said. “We’ve played really difficult teams. This is a really testing period for the club, and I believe that we’re doing the right thing.

“I believe that over the season we’re playing good rugby. We’ve had a few areas where we’ve dropped off a little bit, but we’re playing good teams, some away from home.

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“The URC is a different competition from previous years, when Cheetahs and Kings were playing. They have been replaced by four absolutely top-level South African teams. And on top of that the Irish teams have gone consistently well, the Ospreys are stacked with internationals, Scarlets and Cardiff have got strong squads . . .

“This is a tough competition and we’re going to go through times when things are a little bit tougher. We’re going to keep plugging away. We’re confident in what we’re trying to do and we believe we’re heading in the right direction.”

Although Edinburgh were well beaten by Munster after an undeniably substandard second half, they earned a losing bonus in their Champions Cup tie at Saracens, and did the same at Scotstoun last week, when they were beaten 16-10 by Glasgow in the first leg of this season’s 1872 Cup double-header. “We have been competitive,” Blair continued. “You can’t win every game.

“We felt the Saracens game was one that slipped through the net a bit. It would have given us a lot of momentum for this tough period, but we played really well and we got a bonus point from it. Castres was a bit sticky, but it was a bonus-point win in the Champions Cup.

“The great thing is that the standards are being set higher. Potentially, last season if we had the same kind of results then it would say we were heading in the right direction and it was positive.

“Because of the expectations now of our crowd, and within ourselves, we want to be winning every game. Suddenly, when you don’t, against top-quality opposition, it seems that things are tougher than they are.”

Every team has to deal with injuries, of course, but Edinburgh have been particularly hard hit over the past month or two, with winger Darcy Graham and openside Hamish Watson being just two of the key players to be sidelined for some time by injuries. Hookers Stuart McInally, Adam McBurney and Dave Cherry are also still out, and centre Chris Dean has joined that trio on the injury list after being concussed against Glasgow.

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“In the long term we were looking quite healthy, then in the last three or four weeks we started to pick up a few more,” Blair added. “We’ll definitely have a couple back this week, but probably a couple out as well.”

Lock forward Sam Skinner is one influential player who could return for the game at BT Murrayfield after being sidelined since damaging a foot in Scotland’s game against Australia at the start of November. Backs Blair Kinghorn, Mark Bennett and Wes Goosen should also be available again after missing the first leg at Scotstoun because of injury.

Of those who took part in that match and could come under the walking-wounded category, winger Duhan van der Merwe is apparently fully fit after missing the previous games, at home to Castres, with a light ankle injury. Back-three maestro Emiliano Boffelli, meanwhile, is managing a groin condition.

“Duhan is good,” Blair explained. “He’s had his ankle, which is why he didn’t play against Castres. When you get a little bit tired, the aches and pains feel a little bit more. But he’s fine, and he trained today as well.

“Emiliano’s groin has tightened up a little bit - it’s something we’ve been managing for certainly the last six weeks but probably longer term than that. He has adapted training weeks to enable him to get through it, so he didn’t train today, but we don’t expect there to be any issues for the weekend.”