Glasgow hold all the cards in 1872 Cup

Edinburgh's Dougie Fife makes his 50th appearance. Picture: Jane Barlow
Edinburgh's Dougie Fife makes his 50th appearance. Picture: Jane Barlow
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IT IS the modern opportunity for the late cartoonist HE Bateman to come back to life and pen a portrait: “The Man Who Backed Edinburgh for the 1872 Cup”.

Scientists recently found a fish that lives five miles under the ocean but, with the first round of the twin inter-city derbies taking place this afternoon, the search to unearth anyone outside of the Edinburgh camp who seriously considers the capital club to be the better of the two Scottish pro-teams goes on.

That may be equally true inside the Edinburgh camp. Head coach Alan Solomons is so fulsome in his praise of today’s opponents that you get the impression that he too may fancy a flutter on the Warriors this afternoon.

“They [Glasgow] have had stability and consistency over a long period of time,” Solomons said last week. “They’ve had Sean [Lineen], who did a splendid job to build the foundation there and now they have Gregor (Townsend), who has done a splendid job in taking it on. So they’ve had that continuity, in terms of playing personnel as well, had the results and generated the confidence.

“They have had very good Pro12 seasons, the last two in particular have been excellent. They reached the semi-final two years ago and the final last year, and they’re at the top of the league this year with the bulk of the Scottish international team. They are a very settled side, doing well in the Guinness Pro12 and that in itself represents a reasonable challenge.”

In fairness to Solomons he goes on to insist that Edinburgh are not writing themselves off. He was just presenting the scale of the challenge facing his players this afternoon and he isn’t exaggerating. Glasgow have held the whip hand and the 1872 Cup since 2009 and Edinburgh haven’t won against their nearest rivals since 2011. Glasgow are second in the Pro12 with eight wins, Edinburgh eighth with four victories and the second worst defensive record (by tries conceded) in the league.

It is difficult to see where Edinburgh might have a competitive advantage. Tom Heathcote’s accuracy may have given them one off the tee but Solomons has persisted with Greig Tonks at ten despite him having an average outing against Treviso last weekend when the stand-off put two kicks from hand straight into touch.

In the forwards Glasgow should have an advantage in the front row. Alasdair Dickinson may be the most improved scrummager in Scotland but he won’t get much change out of Euan Murray, while you fancy Ryan Grant will give John Andress a hurry up. Edinburgh may have shaded the lineouts, where Ross Ford has been more accurate than any Glasgow hooker, but the recall of Warriors skipper Al Kellock strengthens the home team in the engine room.

In the third row of the scrum, Roddy Grant and Mike Coman may boss the breakdown where Gregor Townsend again opts for two specialist blindside flankers in Rob Harley and Ryan Wilson. Set against that, David Denton has played just two 80-minute matches in the last six months although the Zimbabwean eight will be keen to lay down a marker against his opposite number, South African Josh Strauss, who is already earmarked by some as a World Cup starter after he trained with Scotland ahead of the autumn internationals.

Tim Visser’s place on the wing goes to Tom Brown who is brave, committed and skilful but perilously slight; if he could borrow the Dutchman’s physique for an afternoon he’d be unstoppable. On the opposite flank, Dougie Fife makes his 50th appearance for Edinburgh and, after missing the Autumn Series, he has some catching up to do. Jack Cuthbert is solid in defence while his opposite number Stuart Hogg will look to attack whenever possible.

Edinburgh will test the Scotland fullback under the bomb where he can come unstuck and, in Andries Strauss and Matt Scott, they have two eager chasers. Scott makes a welcome return to Edinburgh after missing the Treviso game and he goes head to head with his sometime Scotland colleague Dunbar, both men sporting the No 13 shirt.

That battle looks like a stalemate so Edinburgh’s only significant competitive advantage may rest in the fact that almost everyone has written them off. They are rank outsiders, especially at Scotstoun, where they have not won since Glasgow moved there two and a bit seasons back. But Solomons argues that Edinburgh are slowly catching their rivals.

“I think we are,” replied the Edinburgh coach when asked if his team was narrowing the gap. “Glasgow have done exceptionally well but we’ve got to look at ourselves and not compare ourselves to them. We’ve come a long way… Not only are our young boys playing and playing well, EDP guys and some senior players too, it was really encouraging how much we’ve advanced. The realisation of our vision is starting to come through, the youngsters coming through, the strength in depth is so much better.

“I don’t know what the Toulouse games took out of them (Glasgow) or what their approach to Munster was. But this is a derby game and it’s completely different.”

The Edinburgh boss will hope so because on any rational appraisal of this match, Glasgow finish on top.

HOW THEY LINE UP AT SCOTSTOUN

Scotstoun, today, kick-off 2:40pm

Live on Sky Sports 1; BBC Radio Scotland

GLASGOW WARRIORS

15 Stuart Hogg

14 Sean Lamont

13 Alex Dunbar

12 Peter Horne

11 DTH van der Merwe

10 Duncan Weir

9 Henry Pyrgos

1 Ryan Grant

2 Pat MacArthur

3 Euan Murray

4 Tim Swinson

5 Al Kellock (captain)

6 Ryan Wilson

7 Rob Harley

8 Josh Strauss

Subs

16 Dougie Hall

17 Alex Allan

18 Jon Welsh

19 Leone Nakarawa

20 Tyrone Holmes

21 Niko Matawalu

22 Richie Vernon

23 Sean Maitland

EDINBURGH

15 Jack Cuthbert

14 Dougie Fife

13 Matt Scott

12 Andries Strauss

11 Tom Brown

10 Greig Tonks

9 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne

1 Alasdair Dickinson

2 Ross Ford

3 John Andress

4 Anton Bresler

5 Ben Toolis

6 Mike Coman (captain)

7 Roddy Grant

8 David Denton

Subs

16 Neil Cochrane

17 Rory Sutherland

18 Willem Nel

19 Fraser McKenzie

20 Stuart McInally

21 Grayson Hart

22 Tom Heathcote

23 Phil Burleigh