Edinburgh v Newcastle: Dean Richards' Falcons 'will play to death', says Richard Cockerill

Dean Richards chats to Richard Cockerill when he was Leicester directopr of rugby
Cockerill says he and Richards (left), who he coached against while at Leicester, remain in close touch
European Champions Cup
Venue: Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh Date: Friday, 7 December Kick-off: 19:45 GMT
Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Radio Scotland and text commentary on BBC Sport website and app

Head coach Richard Cockerill has warned Edinburgh to be wary of taking an under-strength Newcastle side lightly.

Cockerill will pit his coaching wits against former Leicester team-mate Dean Richards, the Falcons' director of rugby, in Friday's Champions Cup clash.

Despite Newcastle leading Pool Five, two points ahead of Edinburgh, the visitors have left out powerhouse wings Vereniki Goneva and Sinoti Sinoti.

"Dean is an experienced coach with a good rugby brain," Cockerill said.

"I have known him a long time as a player and coach. He is a wily old fox and his teams are always tough and hard to play against. He doesn't take any slack.

"They will play to the death. They won in the 88th minute [in their second pool match] against Montpellier and in the 86th minute at Northampton last weekend.

"It might seem a less threatening team, and not as strong as they could have picked, but they have got some experience there.

"We are going to have to be at our best to get anything out of the game. If they are going to beat us, we have to make sure they are outstanding. We expect a tough battle."

'Clearly they are a dangerous team, aren't they?'

Edinburgh began their European campaign with a losing bonus point away to Montpellier before thrashing Toulon at home in their second pool match.

But, if they have serious ambitions of reaching the quarter-finals, victory is essential on Friday in the first of back-to-back meetings with the Falcons.

Edinburgh have won their last seven matches at Murrayfield since April and, in their Champions Cup final pool fixtures in January, they travel to Toulon before finishing against Vern Cotter's Montpellier.

"For us to qualify, we have to win at least three games," Cockerill points out.

"We have a good record at home, but I don't think there are any favourites in this group anymore. If Newcastle can go to Toulon and become only the second side to win there in Europe, clearly they are a dangerous team, aren't they? We have to make sure we are right."

With nine Scotland internationals - plus two more on the bench - returning to the fold and formidable Fijian number eight Viliame Mata back in harness, Cockerill has picked "by and large" his best team available.

Only wing Duhan van der Merwe and fly-half Jaco van der Walt remain from the side thumped by Munster in the Pro14 last week, but he is confident his frontline operators are ready to resume where they left off.

"They have all been rested and I expect them to be full of energy and fully motivated," he added.