Points not prizes key for Edinburgh captain in 1872 Cup clash

The Guinness Pro14 has plenty going for it but it still fails the most obvious test of any sporting league – is it a fair and level playing field? When Edinburgh play Glasgow three times instead of once, like every other team in Conference A, the answer is obvious.

Edinburgh captain Stuart McInally. Picture: Craig Foy/SNS

It is done for commercial reasons, of course, although this season the third leg of the intercity derby has been rendered meaningless in terms of the 1872 Cup. Edinburgh’s twin wins in December ensure that Stuart ‘Rambo’ McInally will receive the silverware after tomorrow’s match at Scotstoun regardless of the result, something that sits a little uneasy with the Edinburgh skipper.

“Yes, that’s never fun picking up the 1872 Cup if you’ve lost the game,” he conceded. “It has happened, when it used to be on aggregate. We know we’ve won it, you win two of the three games you win it now and that’s kind of forgotten about.

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“We’ve kind of forgot this is an extra 1872 game, because there’s so much more riding on it than the cup.

Edinburgh's Stuart McInally lifts the 1872 Cup last season. Picture: SNS

“It’s much more than Edinburgh v Glasgow. They’re playing for the top spot in their conference and we’re playing for fourth or third. The bragging rights is a non-issue, we both need the points badly.”

To get a win Edinburgh must first shrug off the disappointment of that crushing defeat by Ulster two weeks back after which the players were given a few days off to lick their wounds and prepare for what is always a bruising encounter.

“The break probably came at a good time, as it allowed us to get a review done and have a bit of time to prepare,” said McInally. “We’ve had two weeks now to get our minds set on this battle with Glasgow, the boys are going into the game fresh, which I think is a good thing.” It promises to a titanic battle, if only because one side will sink without trace. Admittedly Glasgow will be in the play-offs regardless of tomorrow’s result but you suspect that they may need the advantage of playing at Scotstoun if they are to progress to that final at Celtic Park.

Edinburgh will almost certainly need an unlikely bonus point win to extend their season past the weekend.

At least Edinburgh know how to win at Scotstoun, having been the only team in the Pro14 to have managed that feat this season.

“Set piece has to function,” replied the hooker when asked what Edinburgh have to do to get the clean sweep. “We have to defend really well, they’ve got one of the most dangerous attacks in the league, we’ve seen as recently as Ulster and Leinster away they’ve played some brilliant rugby. They’ve beaten these teams not by grinding it out, they blew them away.

“They beat Leinster at the RDS which very, very few teams do. I thought they were excellent then and likewise when they played at home against Ulster.

“They’ve got such a good record at home. We just have to try and shut down their attack, they’re very good at playing when they’ve got quick ball, they run good support lines and we’re going to have to make sure we get numbers on our feet in the defensive line and chop them down.”

There are two ways of stopping a good offence. Either you attack the breakdown and slow their phase ball or you ignore the breakdown and ensure that you have as many bodies as possible manning the defensive line. Edinburgh want the best of both.

“We want to make sure that we can fill the field, so when they look up there’s not loads of space,” added McInally.

“They love playing against teams when there’s loads of space to play and they are one of the best teams in the league at moving the ball to that space and exploiting it. We’ve got a lot of good backrowers who can steal the ball and WP Nel also got a couple in the Scarlets game.”