Rugby: Edinburgh stalwart Mike Blair wants team to honour club legend with Glasgow’s scalp

Mike Blair has called on Edinburgh to mark colleague Chris Paterson’s retiral from international rugby with a win over arch-rivals Glasgow in the Rabo Direct Pro 12 League tonight at Murrayfield.

The teams clash in the first leg of a double-header which will also carry the 1872 cup awarded to the top points-scoring team on aggregate and Blair says: “I don’t think we will see anything different from ‘Mossy’ (Paterson) because the key thing is he goes out and gives it absolutely everything whether training or playing for Edinburgh or Scotland.

“It might be, though, that he’s a bit embarrassed with all the accolades and will maybe just want to get out there and play.”

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If that was a hint that the modest Paterson might offer even more as he shies away from inevitable adulation bestowed on Scotland’s first rugby cap centurion, Blair was adamant: “A win would be nice to help Chris celebrate international retirement.”

In one area at least – try scoring – Edinburgh have a substantial advantage over Glasgow, who took the Cup last year by a single point.

Over the past six games in all competitions Glasgow have mustered seven touchdowns. By contrast Edinburgh have rattled up an astonishing 19 with five of them coming from wing wizard Tim Visser.

In fact, there is a neat symmetry about this derby for, as Paterson prepares to bow out of the Test scene, club-mate Visser is about to enter the year in which he will become eligible to wear the Thistle on grounds of residency, offering fans the chance to glimpse the past . . . and the future. With Paterson out on his own among contemporaries with 22 international tries when his innings closed will it eventually be a case of ‘the King is dead, long live the King’ so far as Scottish rugby try scorers are concerned?

Dutch-born Visser is reluctant to be drawn on his impending Scottish connection, saying: “It began to hit me when I signed a contract extension that took me through to 2013 that this would give me the opportunity of residency status.

“But I’m trying to stay focused on Edinburgh and keep my mind away from all the Scotland stuff because it is not good for me to be thinking of that too much sat this stage.”

However, Visser makes it crystal clear that tries are his currency.

“Deep defence is good but I’m an attacking player and as a winger the real joy comes from scoring tries and winning games.”

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And he insisted: “I’d gladly give up scoring tries if it meant Edinburgh winning all the time because it was victory against Cardiff helped me get over dropping a couple balls last week. In my first season with Edinburgh I topped the Magners League try-scoring and improved on my total with 15 last year.

“Currently I’m on 11 for this season so I must have a chance of going higher but all I really want is a win for the team.

“I’m in a good position but the team are too and that’s what’s important. We like to score tries as a group and I think that is a strength.

“By paying attention to our defence and continuing to do what we do in attack I think we can compete with anybody including in a derby where rivalries are fierce.

“Every now and again in a derby emotions flare up and you get fists flashing but the main focus for us is to play clinical rugby and get points.”

Visser believes, too, that so far as the 1872 Cup is concerned Edinburgh must cash in on home advantage in order to establish an advantage to put in their locker before heading west for the New Year’s day game.

“My memories of Glasgow’s Firhill ground are never good. I don’t like the venue. The pitch is narrow, muddy and there are old changing rooms. It’s a daunting place to go, a hard place to visit and I think that works in Glasgow’s favour.

“They are a good defensive team with a small pitch to play on. An attacking side like us likes to play at Murrayfield, we will probably have to adjust our tactics for the visit to Firhill.”

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Another factor in Edinburgh’s favour might be continuity of selection with only one change compared to Glasgow’s four.

Hear, Blair spots a weakness in Glasgow: “There is continuity from us especially in the midfield, the back three and front row.

“We have mixed and matched and had different stand-offs but in other positions we have pulled guys in for different strengths.

“For example, Roddy Grant has done very, very well but Ross Rennie is a class act at open side flanker.

“There are slight differences in how they play. Ross is maybe slightly higher risk and liable to create more. Roddy is maybe a bit more solid.

“But whoever turns out we are losing nothing and that is a positive for us. Also in the back row Netani Talei was fantastic against Cardiff but Stuart McInally has done well too.

“The crux of the matter is you can change one or two guys depending on what you want to do around them.”

Edinburgh will need to have tactics spot on tonight because Glasgow, coached by Sean Lineen, have suffered only one defeat in their last ten games and will set a new club record for the longest unbeaten stretch in the Rabo Direct Pro 12 (seven matches) should they avoid losing once more.