Edinburgh acting head coach Duncan Hodge believes his namesake and stand-off Duncan Weir will relish playing against his former club this afternoon.
The 25-year-old will face his old Glasgow Warriors team-mates for the first time since his pro-team switch in the summer when he lines up for today’s 1872 Cup clash at BT Murrayfield.
Weir, who has 23 caps, has missed the bulk of this season with a fractured jaw and played no part in the autumn Test series but gets a chance today to lay down a marker for Six Nations involvement.
The contest with his opposite number Finn Russell, who is in sparkling form and the undisputed No 1 stand-off in the country, is likely to be pivotal in deciding the outcome of today’s derby clash.
Hodge doesn’t believe there is any extra pressure on Weir to make a point. “You’d have to ask him but for most people he doesn’t have a point to prove,” said the coach.
“He’s not played much rugby this year and just wants to get fit and play, and be part of the team – that’s the most important thing, and I know because I’ve been there myself.
“I don’t think people are out to prove individual things in a game like this.
“Knowing Duncy, he’ll relish it. He’s done stuff at Test level, and he’s a proven player so in a big game like this hopefully that’ll come to the fore. People want to prove things in terms of Six Nations but the team comes first.”
Just as intriguing as the on-field battle between the stand-offs will be the tactical battle between Hodge and his former rival for the Scotland No 10 jersey, Glasgow coach Gregor Townsend. Edinburgh have been looking to move away from the limited, forward-dominated game advocated by former coach Alan Solomons but, it must be said, it was just such a gameplan which saw the capital side upset the odds in the past two seasons and get the better of their more buccaneering rivals from the west in the 1872 Cup.
So is there a temptation to revert to type?
“Tactically against Glasgow we know how they defend and how they play, and that makes certain aspects of the game more difficult as well,” said Hodge. “There are going to be tactical shifts in every game, but I’d be foolish if I were to tell you how we’re going to play.
“At times this year we’ve attacked well, and other times we’ve been strong up front so it’s a question of meshing those two things together.
“If we can get a platform up front I’m sure we can squeeze them there, but we’d like to score points in other areas as well. It’s all about having that kind of balance in our game. Glasgow have obviously improved up front as well, and we’d be naïve if we thought they hadn’t been working on that as well.”
Glasgow may have been forced to rest four Test players – Tommy Seymour, Gordon Reid, Tim Swinson and Ryan Wilson – after they played five consecutive games but given the Warriors’ strength in depth, Hodge doesn’t take too much comfort from that, although he did pinpoint the loss of Seymour as a possible plus point for his side.
“It doesn’t really weaken them because they’ve still got a really strong squad,” he said. “You could argue someone like Tommy being left out is a bit of weakness, with Junior Bulumakau getting his first start, so there’s one position that you’d say they may have lost a little bit, although Junior’s a good player, too.”
Even without Seymour, on paper it looks like Glasgow have a big advantage behind the scrum but Hodge is confident his charges can go toe-to-toe with the Warriors.
“Our backline is pretty young in comparison and certainly in terms of international experience, but our guys are progressing well,” said Hodge. “But it’s a big challenge for us – they’ll be going up against some good players, and it’s both in defence and attack where we have to stand up as a back division.”
Of course, it’s points as well as the prize of the 1872 Cup, which won’t be decided on aggregate until the last weekend of the season with the return at Scotstoun, and Edinburgh are determined to get moving up the league.
Nevertheless, Hodge is not one to go down the “it’s just another game” route.
“Look, it’s not another league game,” said the coach. “In terms of the hype, you can see there’s an extra bit of edge and an extra bit of agitation because people want to do well. It’s about controlling those emotions as well as bringing them out; it’s about getting a balance.
“First and foremost you’ve just got to perform your role within the team, give those around you confidence, and do your job, and the rest will hopefully fall into place.”