SCOTLAND forwards Ben Toolis and David Cherry have been released to boost the Edinburgh pack for Friday's Guinness PRO14 clash with the Dragons at Murrayfield - while influential back rower Magnus Bradbury is set to return, writes Chris Kirwan.

Boss Richard Cockerill has stressed the importance of the next block of fixtures in his side's bid to make the play-offs for the second season on the bounce.

Conference B is incredibly tight in between runaway leaders Leinster and the bottom duo of the Dragons and Southern Kings.

Edinburgh are third, a point back on Benetton but just one ahead of both the fourth-placed Scarlets and fifth-placed Ulster.

They cannot afford to slip up against the Dragons on home soil and their cause is helped by the release of lock Toolis and uncapped hooker Cherry from Six Nations duty.

The Champions Cup quarter-finalists also have Scotland back rower Bradbury back in the mix for selection after four months out with a shoulder injury suffered against Toulon.

Edinburgh, who had seven players involved in Scotland's loss to Ireland last weekend, slipped up against the Kings in Port Elizabeth last time out and Cockerill knows they now have little margin for error.

"We had the opportunity to put a bit of space between us and the other sides out in South Africa, and we didn't take it," said the former England hooker. "Dragons, Cardiff and Benetton – they are all vital games in the push for a place in the top-three.

"I don't think we took Southern Kings for granted. We just made a mess of it. I think these next three games are pivotal for us. Everyone is really close at the top of Conference B.

"We can't really afford to be slipping up. We've still got Ulster to play, as well as Scarlets, Leinster and Glasgow. So, there's still some really tough games to play."

Edinburgh are stretched by the Six Nations but Cockerill says this week their squad will be "pretty strong" and the hosts can call on one of Europe's form players in Fijian number eight Bill Mata.

"I'd say the squad is in a stronger position than it was during the autumn Internationals," said Cockerill.

"Mata is obviously available, whilst Bradbury will come back in to the team. They both add real strength for us."