Edinburgh will need to play with “ice in the brain and fire in the belly” tomorrow as they seek to get their 1872 Cup defence off to a positive start, according to their coach Alan Solomons.
Guinness Pro12 champions Glasgow will arrive at BT Murrayfield as favourites to regain the trophy they lost their six-year grip on at the national stadium last season.
Solomons considers the inter-city showdown to be one of the biggest derbies in world rugby but is calling for calm heads when his players take to the field in front of a record crowd for the fixture.
“Everybody knows you have to, as the old saying goes, have ice in the brain and fire in the belly. If fire elevates to the brain you are going to have a problem.”
Edinburgh stormed to a shock 20-8 humbling of Gregor Townsend’s men on 2 January, which overturned the ten-point deficit from the first leg at Scotstoun.
South African Solomons, pictured, is under no illusions that repeating last season’s heroics is a tough ask.
“The Glasgow team is very powerful,” he said. “They have got one or two injuries but not as many as we have got. Their cover is pretty good. They have [scrum-halves Henry] Pyrgos and [Mike] Blair out but Grayson [Hart] is a good player who has played at New Zealand under-20 level and Ali Price is a very good young player.
“They have lost [Alex] Dunbar but [Mark] Bennett and [Peter] Horne? It is very difficult to argue with that. They have lost Rob Harley but Ryan Wilson comes in. [Josh] Strauss has been rested but Adam Ashe is a Test player.”
Asked about the general view that Edinburgh have the strongest pack while Glasgow pose more of a threat in the backs, Solomons said: “They’ve certainly got some outstanding backs. They’ve got threats right across the backline. I still think we have a very good pack but guys like Dicko [Al Dickinson] and Gilco [Grant Gilchrist] – starting 15 guys for Scotland – are not there for us.
“Nasi [Manu] is a big player for us and he’s not there. Fraz [Fraser McKenzie] has become an important player and he’s not there either. So our pack has been hard hit by injury.”
Solomons will boast the most experienced head on the field tomorrow in the shape of Scotland hooker Ross Ford, who will be making his 150th appearance for the club.
Solomons paid a glowing tribute to Scotland’s most-capped forward. “He is one of the outstanding guys I’ve had the privilege of coaching,” said the coach.
“He is a world-class hooker. He’s starting to approach the 100 Test mark [on 94 caps] and he has been a stalwart for the club. He is on our leadership group and has captained the team on many occasions.
“His set-piece is outstanding, a great team man and very popular. We’re very lucky to have him.”
With Edinburgh’s resources in the second row particularly stretched at present, another boost is the return to the bench of Scotland lock Ben Toolis after a three-month lay off with an elbow injury.
Toolis, whose two-year contract extension was announced on Christmas Eve, said: “I’m not match fit, but my fitness other than that is good. I definitely need to get back out there even if that means 20 or 30 minutes at a time. I don’t really need any motivation for this game. I played in it last year and you can tell how big the game is with the fans.”
Australia-born Toolis, who was capped in the Six Nations game against Italy earlier in the year, has been frustrated to miss so much of the season but has taken pleasure watching his twin brother Alex flourish in the Edinburgh engine room and take advantage of the second row injury crisis.
“Yes, he has come on well,” said Ben. “It was quite frustrating for him and even for me seeing him not getting a game but he has stepped up well.
“I’ve been helping a lot with lineouts and finding his feet with that, getting in a rhythm and realising how it works. He has done really well with that.
“It is the same for anyone – take your opportunity – and he has done a good job.”