Glasgow v Edinburgh: Inter-city express to Six Nations

THE oldest rivalry outside of the international arena is set to resume tomorrow evening, presuming that the weather gods hold fire on any further snowfall between now and then. The current cold snap may test Firhill's undersoil apparatus but there is usually enough fire and fury in these intercity derbies to ensure the temperature remains somewhere around boiling point, at least on the field if not in the stands.

Glasgow Warriors are current holders of the 1872 Cup after giving Edinburgh a roasting in the forwards over an uncomfortable 160 minutes for the capital side last time round the houses. The West Coast club probably still edge things at the coal face, especially with Edinburgh's impressive Fijian breakaway Netani Talei sidelined with a foot injury.

Sean Lineen's men can put plenty of beef on the pitch with Rob Harley and Richie Gray adding substantially to the Warriors' bulk up front but Edinburgh arguably boast more firepower out wide where Tim Visser tops the Magners try-scoring table at the halfway stage in the league. The Dutchman has claimed half of his side's 19 league tries to date, while Glagsow trail that number by four having played one match fewer.

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So far neither pro-team has really distinguished themselves in the league campaign. Although Edinburgh are sitting in 7th place with a respectable five victories in ten outings, Glasgow are down in 10th after winning just three of their nine matches to date. Two wins over the holiday season would do wonders for either club's standing and kick-start what has so far been a humdrum season.

As ever, the overall result will be decided by a host of miniature battles within the overall war at least some of which will have repercussions at international level.

There is no formal test trial as such so these twin matches starting on Monday are the closest Andy Robinson gets to see his Scotland rivals go head to head and some player (or players) always manage to make themselves heard above the general hullabaloo of an inter-city derby.

John Barclay v Ross Rennie

There was a time when Ross Rennie was seen as a viable alternative to his Glasgow rival with Barclay perhaps filling the number six shirt but, given Scotland's limited attacking options, that is increasingly unlikely so the two flankers are vying for the one shirt and Rennie has some catching up to do. After almost two years on the sidelines, he can be forgiven for being a bit rusty but it's almost as if the injury-prone openside is trying a little too hard.

His opposite number never has a bad game for Glasgow even if there is a suspicion that the flanker reserves his very best for the national team. He is also inclined to concede a couple of daft penalties every game. Rennie may be the more naturally aggressive of the pair but that has never been an issue in the inter-city derby where the whiff of sulphur lurks just under the surface.Moray Low v Allan Jacobsen

Working in tandem, these two faced down the might of the Argentinean scrum over the summer and emerged with reputations enhanced. Since then Allan Jacobsen has gone from strength to strength and was magnificent in the Springboks' test. Scrum guru Massimo Cuttitta had stated that "Chunk" was among the best in the world and, after the autumn, various wise men have nodded their agreement.

In contrast Low has gone backwards since the summer, every which way. On his Argentina form the Glasgow man is a genuine alternative to Euan Murray, not so strong in the set piece but busier about the park. Sadly the amiable tighthead is some way shy of his formidable best, although there were some signs of a resurgence in the first half of the Toulouse encounter. Low will need to continue his upward trend if he is to keep Edinburgh's attack dog marshalled.

Max Evans v Ben Cairns

At one time it looked like Ben Cairns, pictured tackling Evans, above, was the solution to one of Scotland's enduring problems: Who to play at outside centre? Then the slight Edinburgh man bumped into Tom Shanklin and Jamie Roberts in the Magners League and his frailty was exposed. But size isn't an issue when playing against Max Evans and Cairns remains the most natural outside centre in the country.

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While Evans'threat comes from his side-step, he loses forward momentum when using his fancy footwork to find some space. In contrast, Cairns breaks the line by picking the appropriate angle so, when he does get through, he is going at full pelt and the move has a better chance of finishing in a score.

These derbies are rarely try-fests but, if both teams can win some decent ball, then Evans and Cairns will get a chance to prove a point to the watching selectors... one way or another.

Richie Gray v Fraser McKenzie

The impressive figure of Richie Gray has been the talk of the steamie with his rapid rise to prominence and the place in the Scotland squad but Edinburgh's young lock has arguably produced the game of the season to date from a tight five forward, at least at club level. Fraser McKenzie's gave a blistering performance against Northampton at Murrayfield in the Heineken Cup with a show of running and handling not seen from a big man since Al McHarg was in his pomp.He suits Edinburgh's expansive game but McKenzie needs to pull his weight in the set-piece first, scrum, lineout and restarts, before worrying about besting Sonny Bill Williams' handling skills and that has proved to be a problem.

Ross Ford's struggle at the sidelines is affecting Edinburgh's entire lineout and, up against the giant Gray, McKenzie needs to be at his best to ensure Edinburgh's backline get some ball to play with.

Ruaridh Jackson v David Blair

There is not much between the two playmakers except in one crucial element, confidence. Jackson plays with masses of the stuff, or at least he looks like he does, while Blair does not. Kicking the winning penalty for Scotland in only his second test can't have hurt the Glasgow man any in this respect. The "other" Blair brother has surprised many this season with his control and composure without ever showing the ability to carve open a defensive line with the ball in hand. If Jackson plays flat, stops the Edinburgh drift and buys a yard or two of space for his outside backs it's not impossible he could be rewarded with a Six Nations start. If Blair does all these things for Edinburgh, Andy Robinson has a headache.