Gregor Townsend: Interest growing after 1872 Cup

The 1872 Cup clashes between Edinburgh and Glasgow both attracted healthy crowds. Picture: SNS/SRU
The 1872 Cup clashes between Edinburgh and Glasgow both attracted healthy crowds. Picture: SNS/SRU
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Happy New Year to everyone! Our 2015 didn’t get off to the best of starts, with defeat in the 1872 Cup, but all credit to Edinburgh, who were worthy winners and fought really hard for victory. Their defence was impressive in both games and proved very effective at slowing down our ball.

Obviously we were really disappointed not to win the game and not to produce a performance that the fixture required.

Nobody felt the disappointment more than the players and they have been working very hard this week to put things right.

The most important element of any attack is the ability to create quick ball and we weren’t able to do that enough at BT Murrayfield.

There are a variety of components which add up to creating quick ball – attacking space or hinges in the opposition defence, running at pace or with evasion, winning collisions, ball presentation and having immediate support to clear the contact itself. We must make sure we get all those bits of detail right if we’re going to deliver a winning performance this weekend.

If I can park the disappointment for a minute, one pleasing aspect was the interest which the 1872 Cup generated this year, with the first leg at Scotstoun being sold out weeks in advance of the game, and close to 16,000 turning out at BT Murrayfield.

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It really underlines that there is a growing appetite for professional rugby in Scotland and I believe that this is only the beginning.

Events like the 1872 Cup and the Guinness Pro12 semi-final play-offs at the end of the season really create a buzz amongst supporters.

Rugby League has its Magic Weekend where all the teams play a round of matches at a designated venue over two days, which has been a great success, and this has been staged twice at BT Murrayfield in the past.

It’s been replicated both by the London clubs in the Aviva Premiership and the Welsh professional regions in the Pro12, where games are played back-to-back in the same stadium. Certainly, if this season is a guide, then the Pro12 is getting much more exciting and this looks like being the most competitive season in the tournament’s history.

We are just past the halfway stage of this season and the top five teams are separated by only five points – so that’s just a bonus point win that could take a team from outside the play-off positions into a home semi-final berth.

Just outside the top five are our opponents this week, the Scarlets, who have been in great form recently. They played really well in both games against Pro12 league leaders Ospreys, running out comfortable winners last week, to continue their unbeaten run at home which stretches back to December 2013.

They are a tough team to play against and are developing a very physical brand of rugby under coach Wayne Pivac. They are very aggressive in defence – probably the side that generates the most line speed in the Pro12 – and they have been able to create a lot of turnovers this season, quite a few of them by ex-Glasgow Warrior John Barclay in the No 7 jersey.

Scarlets also have a potent attack, especially from unstructured play. They have made the most line breaks of any team this season in our competition and have scored the most tries from turnover ball. With top quality players such as Liam Williams and Scott Williams in their side, it is no wonder they have scored some cracking tries this season. So we will have to make sure we are very accurate in our attack and switched on in defence for 80 minutes tomorrow night.

Scarlets have already beaten us this season and will no doubt be confident coming up to Glasgow and it is a great challenge for our players to bounce back after the disappointment of last week. I’m sure they will be focused and determined tomorrow night.

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