The desire of the Pro12 to see Irish and Welsh bumper weekends has left Glasgow and Edinburgh in the cold without a second festive derby, writes Duncan Smith
The 1872 Cup may no longer be a double header but at least that famous “rivalry between Scottish and Italian clubs” has been accommodated in the new Guinness Pro12 fixture list.
As PR waffle goes, that one in the press release announcing the league’s new schedule was a cracker. The two nations may have vied for the Six Nations’ wooden spoon a bit more than we’d like over the years but the idea that Glasgow and Edinburgh fans will be slamming the airline websites today eager to snap up flights to attend away games against Zebre and Treviso on New Year’s Eve is a ludicrous one.
Last season’s may have been spoiled by the waterlogging of Scotstoun, which saw the second leg on 2 January moved to BT Murrayfield, where Edinburgh retained the trophy, but over the years the double header has become popular with fans. A record 23,642 attended the first match in Edinburgh on 27 December.
Making the festive period a time for local derbies would seem a logical one but, as of next season, the two games will be played almost five months apart. Edinburgh will host Glasgow at BT Murrayfield on Boxing Day and the SRU will hope to attract another bumper crowd, but the desire to have more ‘Big Weekends’ of Irish and Welsh derbies through the season, in addition to Leinster v Munster at the Aviva Stadium and the Millennium Stadium Judgment Day event which sees the Welsh regions face off in Cardiff, has seen the Scottish pro teams paired off with their Italian counterparts.
The long gap between the games undoubtedly dilutes the 1872 Cup brand which has been built up over the years but, that said, the prospect of Glasgow and Edinburgh facing off in the last round of the regular season does have its own attractions. The way the league is now structured, with play-offs and European qualifications, that weekend has grown in significance.
Last season every game on the final Saturday had something at stake for at least one of the teams involved. Both Scottish teams battling it out for a play-off spot, home semi-final or a place in the European Champions Cup, as well as the 1872 Cup, could make for an entertaining evening on 6 May next year but, on balance, the loss of the back-to-back showdown does some to be an unfortunate development.