DOUGIE Hall has admitted he will savour his involvement in this afternoon’s 1872 Cup first leg at Scotstoun as if it will be his last.
The 34-year-old has endured a torrid time with injury this term having returned to the fray in October after a protracted absence only for a torn bicep to return him to the sidelines once again.
The Glasgow veteran is also currently on a one-year contract that may well be his final one at Scotstoun, while Hall’s longevity as a Warrior is amply underlined by the fact he was on the bench as understudy to Gordon Bulloch the last time Edinburgh won in the west of Scotland, thanks to a 25-16 win at Hughenden, on December 27, 2003.
Thus, as he contemplated a fixture he has featured in on 20 occasions already, the hooker admitted that today’s encounter is one he is viewing with oodles of seasonal relish.
“Right now every game is something to savour but these ones are special,” said Hall. “It is brilliant, it makes you appreciate that you have had a brilliant job and eventually it is something you are not going to the able do — certainly not in the same capacity. I just love that feeling on game day of going out onto the field to play, going out with your mates and trying to do something special.
“You are looking at the game, you know it’s special because it’s a derby, you can throw out form and league positions, all the rest, because this matters more to them and more to us. These games come down to desire and we have to make sure we turn up not let it prey on our mind.
“The 1872 Cup does seem to have been built up to more now, it is good that it’s more of an event than it used to be. One of the good things I love about this job is that you are so focused on the next job, the next game is the only one that is important. It does not matter if we won it last year if we don’t win it this year.
“But you could have asked me five years ago if this would be my last 1872 Cup and I would have said ‘yes’. So now I just want to savour it, relish it and hopefully win it again.”
With Ryan Grant and Pat MacArthur replacing Gordon Reid and Fraser Brown at loose-head and hooker respectively, Hall is hoping he will get the opportunity to replace MacArthur off the bench to renew a long club rivalry with old friend Ross Ford, the Edinburgh No 2. Hall said: “I love it. Fordy is a friend of mine, I have known him since 2005, so I have known him for about ten years, having played with and against each other. So you relish the games you play against really good opposition too. But everything about this game is enjoyable as long as you enjoy the challenge and I do.”
While Glasgow won both legs last term, have held the 1872 Cup since campaign 2009/10 and 15 points and six places separate the sides in the Pro12 table, Hall says the form book should never be consulted ahead of club rugby’s oldest game.
“This is where you have to throw form out the window. Last year showed the same, we were flying high and Edinburgh were not doing that well and still ran us close,” said Hall. “They were winning over there until late on and they almost came back to win here. So you have to have a different mind-set, as if you don’t have the correct attitude you will lose. But that’s the way of most derbies, there is a team that’s been winning more often than not and eventually get arrogant and eventually lose track of the fact that it is a really hard fixture and it’s a banana skin and then you slip up.
“Edinburgh are a good side and we were lucky last year in both games that we came away with the wins. They were coming back into it strong in Glasgow, we had a lead and they scored two late tries. If anything that is a lesson in making sure we finish the job,” vowed Hall.
Glasgow head coach Gregor Townsend, who has made a total of ten personnel and positional changes from the side that defeated Munster seven days ago, has admitted that he faced a particularly difficult selection process prior to naming his side.
Townsend revealed that the return of club captain Al Kellock, for his first start since the 30 November defeat of the Dragons, was a result of the 33-year-old’s impressive performances in training. “This is the game every player wants to play in and there has been a real edge to training. As a result it was a really difficult team to select with the second-half performance against Munster and the impact the bench made, in addition to a number of players coming back from injury,” said Townsend.
“Al’s been working really hard and been very consistent with his training. He’s been heavily involved in preparing for this game and his participation in the ‘A’ fixture on Monday was of real benefit to him to prepare for this match.”