Blood spills as intensity level soars ahead of 1872 Cup clash

THE FESTIVE derbies in Scottish pro rugby between Edinburgh and Glasgow have followed the same pattern for so long that there will be few taking their seats at Murrayfield this afternoon expecting a Glasgow win, but tell that to Sean Lineen's players.

The coach has demanded consistency from his team over the past year and more, and it is beginning to come together with the team currently on a run of five games without defeat in the Magners League. One win and one loss in the Heineken Cup against Gloucester has kept their feet on the ground, but this is a perfect opportunity for the current league leaders to prove they have turned a corner, with their first league double over Edinburgh in this millennium. Do they want it? Well, this is what Max Evans had to say about training this week.

"It's been a bit of a bloodbath to be honest. We may have won last week, but we haven't taken our foot off the gas even in training. For instance, I had to get (13] stitches put in my head after it hit John Barclay's knee during a contact session. Luckily, our doctor Gerry Haggerty was working that day (Wednesday] and was on hand to stitch me up.

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"But, it wasn't just me who was in the wars. After I'd burst my head open at the Palace of Art in Glasgow, Dave McCall ended up breaking his nose. I think that shows there's been no quarter asked or given in training and shows how committed we are going into the game.

"I am okay to play but will have to wear protective headgear which I haven't ever done in my rugby career. I will probably look pretty anonymous in it and I haven't chosen what I will be wearing. Maybe I'll choose some bright headgear to match the Edinburgh away kit they wore at Firhill!"

That last comment was made with a hearty laugh, underlining that there is no doubt about Evans' mental state ahead of the game. The squad know, though, that their win at Firhill was achieved without either team playing much rugby. In fact, it was a very poor spectacle for large spells as defences vastly outshone the attacking qualities. That fact can be lost in the immediate aftermath of a win, but has been rammed home in this week's analysis.

"I thought we were immense defensively, but we did not do one backs move in the whole game. We're hoping that we will have more of an opportunity on the wider pitch at Murrayfield," Evans acknowledged. "We also gave away a few silly penalties, and I take my share of responsibility for that. We have to improve on it at Murrayfield because Edinburgh will always score points through Mossy (Chris Paterson]."

The Edinburgh pack were taken apart in the lineout last week so would have been confident of improving their share of possession, even without Jim Hamilton back. The big lock will need time to regain his match fitness and so may not play the whole game, but this will be a big test for both packs in the set-piece and breakdown.

Edinburgh's half-backs Greig Laidlaw and Phil Godman are also likely to have better games, as they both struggled at Firhill, and the focus will intensify on the battle of the half-backs – Chris Cusiter is hopeful of fully recovering from his head knock to play – and centres to create more line-breaks and try-scoring opportunities this week. Ruaridh Jackson is also back on the Glasgow bench for the first time in nearly four months, having recovered from a dislocated shoulder and is poised for a second half run. The contest at 13, meanwhile, between Evans and Ben Cairns is a classic 'trial' of two players bidding for the Scotland jersey, and right now it is anyone's guess who will start against France. "The focus is really on this game and nothing else for us; we are thinking that this is just a job half done so far. There was actually not much of a buzz after our win at Firhill as we all were pretty focused, knowing we had to win again at Murrayfield as well," Evans explained. "If we can get two wins then, that will be different.

"And what we can't forget is that we have a tough away match to Leinster next up. To challenge for the league you have to get up a head of steam and we want to have some momentum going into that match. It helps going into these matches with a winning mentality."

B Stortoni

DTH van der Merwe

M Evans

G Morrison

T Evans

D Parks

C Cusiter

J Welsh

D Hall

M Low

A Kellock (capt)

R Gray

K Brown

J Barclay

R Vernon

Substitutes: F Thomson, K Tkachuk, D Turner, J Beattie, C Gregor, R Jackson, H O'Hare.