Edinburgh coach Richard Cockerill has played down the fact that the referee of the pivotal second 1872 Cup clash is a former player of this afternoon’s opponents Glasgow Warriors.
Mike Adamson, now Scotland’s top referee, may be a Stirlingshire boy but the former stand-off attended Glasgow University, played for Glasgow Hawks and had a two-year spell attached to the Warriors while mainly playing sevens and only made one competitive appearance for the pro team.
He takes the whistle for this afternoon’s match in front of a bumper BT Murrayfield crowd as Edinburgh look to level the three-match series following last weekend’s close 20-16 loss to Glasgow at Scotstoun.
That first game was refereed by rookie 31-year-old Ben Blain, who brandished five yellow cards, and Cockerill insisted he was as relaxed about Adamson’s Warriors past as he was about Cumbrian SRU ref Blain being given the job last week despite only having a handful of senior professional games under his belt.
“If you’re an inexperienced referee, it’s a bit like an inexperienced player, you have to have your first game somewhere,” said the Englishman.
“You can debate some of the decisions around the game last week but it’s a tough game to referee. It’s the nature of it. I’ve got no issues with either referee. If our bits were better, you take that bit of influence that the referee has out of it. It’s as simple as that. If we do that, we’re more than capable of winning.”
As for Glasgow counterpart Dave Rennie, the Warriors coach felt that Adamson’s past may have a flipside. “I actually think that works against us,” said the Kiwi. “It’s not easy for a ref when you’ve got an affiliation with one side. That’s why I prefer neutral. But, anyway…”
Edinburgh make three changes and Glasgow four from last weekend, with WP Nel back at tighthead for the home side.
“He’s got huge experience around the setpiece, both lineout and scrum, and he tackles well, he cleans rucks well, he does the nuts and bolts very well,” said Cockerill.
“He’ll be 34 in the summer. Like all older players, and he’s had some injuries in his time and he’s got some games under his belt and some miles on the clock. We always want to manage the player so they can play.
“He’s come back from the World Cup with a calf issue, bizarrely from training away from us, he was just keeping fit and ended up pulling his calf. Last week he probably wasn’t ready to play on an artificial surface. It was going to be a very quick game.” Jamie Ritchie also comes in at blindside flanker and Nic Groom gets the nod ahead of Henry Pyrgos at scrum-half. Fit-again Scotland centre Matt Scott is on the bench.
“If we had been five per cent better [last week] that four points difference maybe falls our way,” added the Edinburgh coach. “That’s the game sometimes. You’re always disappointed with the result, but I wasn’t overly disappointed with the way we played because we did some good things.
“In big games like that we need to make sure those fine margins are ours and the detail has to be a little better.”
For Glasgow, tryscorer from last week Ali Price comes in ahead of George Horne in what Rennie described as a “revolving door” at scrum-half, while Oli Kebble returns at loosehead and it’s all change on the wing as DTH van der Merwe makes his comeback from injury and Ratu Tagive also returns. Tommy Seymour is sidelined with a head knock, though hooker Fraser Brown is fit to play after his head injury assessment at Scotstoun last weekend.
Rennie admitted that the midfield pairing of Sam Johnson and a re-energised Huw Jones had pushed themselves forward as the first-choice centre duo. “You could say that I guess,” he said. “There is not a lot between Nick [Grigg] and Huw because what they give is so different.
“We think Huw is going really well and just getting a few games in combination with Sam has been working well. Huw has been working really hard on his defensive game and I thought he was really strong last weekend. He is starting to bear the fruits of that.”
Asked if Jones, the hero of the 2018 Calcutta Cup who ended up failing to make the World Cup squad, was on the brink of a Scotland recall, Rennie said: “I would definitely think he is in contention.
“I have been really impressed with Huw. To his credit, and similarly with the other guys who missed out [on the World Cup], they love it here and a lot of their mates are here.
“It’s our job to put an arm around them and get them back into things.”