Returning Jim Thompson relishes high intensity of Firhill

ONLY Simon Webster in the Edinburgh line-up for Monday’s 1872 re-match in Glasgow knows what it feels like to win this fixture in Scotland’s largest city, but players such as Jim Thompson have certainly experienced winning matches when the pressure is on.

Edinburgh have never won at Firhill, their last victory in Glasgow coming at Hughenden in 2003-4, the year they went on to qualify for the Heineken Cup quarter-finals. Thompson is one of 13 players who comes back into the Edinburgh side after wholesale changes made by coach Michael Bradley and he is supportive of the policy, not least because it affords him and many others the opportunity to play in a derby win and push for places in the forthcoming Heineken Cup games.

Thompson is no stranger to big occasions and appeared on stage at last week’s BBC TV Sports Personality of the Year, with his father Derek to support the Helen Rollason outstanding achievement award to friend Bob Champion.

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“I’ll be more comfortable back in the rugby spotlight,” he admitted. “Bob is a family friend and it was great to see him receive the award. This week, it’s back to business and it’s a great opportunity for me after a few weeks out injured. There are a lot of changes but it shows the strength in depth at Edinburgh.

“Simon Webster has a lot of Scotland caps, Phil Godman at ten is great, and the supporters can see a lot of potential in guys like Matt Scott and Stuart McInally, who have done really well this season and are keen to carry their form into this game.

“Firhill is always a tough place to go for any team, never mind the local rivals. There is always such a high intensity and there is so much riding on this match because you are so desperate to beat your local rivals. The fact it was a draw on Boxing Day adds even more spice to it.”

The changes have made little difference to the excitement around derby match-ups, with Stuart Hogg and Matt Scott an intriguing clash of two potential internationalists in the midfield. The back row battle is mouth-watering and the first meeting of Phil Godman, eager to show that his international days are not behind him, and a young player in Duncan Weir who is keen to pull them closer will be key to the outcome.

Brendan Laney was the main figure when Edinburgh won at Hughenden eight years ago, and Thompson believes that Godman could follow suit.

He added: “Phil’s a great organiser, a great passer and is not scared to try things. He’s good at bringing the ball to the line and ripping it across the front. He hasn’t had too many opportunities this season and he’s fit and raring to go.

“We all are. If you play well you have a chance of being considered for the Heineken Cup. But right now it’s just about getting points to get us back up the RaboDirect Pro12 league.”