THREE days before Glasgow start their pre-season build-up in earnest with the visit to Scotstoun of English Aviva Premiership side Harlequins, James Eddie has admitted that the opportunity to pit his unyielding back-row presence against Chris Robshaw and co will provide the perfect gauge of both his own and his side’s preparations for the looming Guinness Pro12 campaign.
The Scotstoun centurion, who made his 100th appearance for Glasgow on home soil in the Heineken Cup match with Toulon back in January, is the great unsung hero in the Warriors’ pack.
Now 29, Eddie was recently rewarded for his unstinting service and ability to get through oodles of bone-jarring action, largely under the radar on the blind-side, with a new one-year contract that will keep him at Glasgow until 2015.
Having featured in the corresponding build-up fixture with Conor O’Shea’s men last summer, which Glasgow lost narrowly 19-16, Eddie has no doubt about the level of significance that can be attached to this Saturday’s matinee performance in the west end of Glasgow.
The Glasgow back-row also admitted that his recent involvement with the Scotland Sevens side at the Commonwealth Games has sharpened his skills and intensified his appetite for a return to the 15-man fray and the attempt to mount a successful revenge mission on the men from The Stoop.
“From our point of view we hope that it is another strong Harlequins side that runs out at Scotstoun, as you really want to test yourself against the best.
“From a more personal back-row perspective, if selected, I’d love the opportunity to compete against the likes of Robshaw and Easter, as that would provide me, or whoever is up against them for us, with a perfect gauge of where we are two weeks before the new season starts,” said Eddie.
The Glasgow flanker continued: “It is very interesting that with the Rugby World Cup 2015 at the end of the season, Harlequins have taken the decision to make Joe Marler the captain and stood Chris Robshaw down.
“Marler really impressed me in terms of how powerful he is as a big ball-carrying prop.
“In terms of Robshaw, then he is the England captain and a huge figure at Harlequins and that won’t change whether he is captain or not.
“They played a much more experienced side than we did and they had the likes of Nick Easter, Nick Evans and Ugo Monye involved and I guess that reflected how seriously they took the game.”
Last summer’s encounter was sullied by heavy rain and Eddie is hoping that Scotstoun’s sumptuous green swarth will provide the ideal surface for this pre-season appetiser.
“We were disappointed last year. The conditions were tough and it was very wet but we had control of that game going into the final ten minutes and let it slip through our fingers. This time around we want to make the most of home advantage at Scotstoun and really make that count.
“It may only be pre-season but every player who features against Harlequins will be trying to lay down a marker for a starting jersey against Leinster in the Guinness PRO12 opener a fortnight later.
“Even although it is a friendly, we want to use it to build momentum going forward to the new campaign. We have London Scottish the following weekend down in Richmond and if we can take positive results as well as performances from these two game it will be a definite plus.”
Reflecting on his recent heroics at the Commonwealth Games, where he was a key presence in the Scotland Sevens side, Eddie has no doubt that on top of providing him with some unforgettable memories, it has also stoked his competitive fires once again.
He said: “I feel really fit this year and I have no doubt that on a personal level I really benefited from all the training I did for the Commonwealth Games.
“Sevens is a game that forces you to operate at a really high tempo for the duration and it just sharpens you up. My hand-catching and my passing also feel like they have been lifted a level, so looking forward to the Harlequins game, I feel like my game is in a good place.”
Eddie added: “As an experience the Commy Games was unbelievable. Playing at Ibrox in front of 50,000 people all shouting ‘Scotland, Scotland’ is something I will never forget.
“Before our first game we got to the stadium to soak up the atmosphere and the hair on the back of my neck stood up.
“So I really hope that the Commy Games has given Sevens rugby a real platform in Scotland. As an experience the whole thing has really whetted my appetite for the new season.”