Edinburgh Rugby v Glasgow Warriors: Both sides could end up with trophies with so much at stake in Murrayfield derby

There are so many things riding on the outcome of Saturday night’s match between Edinburgh and Glasgow Warriors that it’s entirely possible that both teams will be presented with a trophy at full-time.

Pierre Schoeman will form part of a muscular Edinburgh front row against Glasgow. (Photo by Paul Devlin / SNS Group)
Pierre Schoeman will form part of a muscular Edinburgh front row against Glasgow. (Photo by Paul Devlin / SNS Group)

It’s a strange scenario and one which has a slight whiff of prizes for all about it, but it is arguably the most likely end result of a contest which will decide the winners of the 1872 Cup, the Scottish-Italian Shield and also determine who each team will face in the United Rugby Championship play-off quarter-finals.

For example, a narrow win for Edinburgh (by fewer than 13 points) would see them lift the Scottish-Italian Shield, thus securing a place in next season’s Heineken Champions Cup. But it would not be enough to overturn Glasgow’s 30-17 first-leg lead in the 1872 Cup and such a result would see the Warriors hold on to the inter-city silverware.

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The complexities of the URC are such that casual supporters might be a little bamboozled by what’s at stake at BT Murrayfield but the bottom line is that it’s a derby match and one of the most eagerly anticipated for some time.

Edinburgh coach Mike Blair. (Photo by Paul Devlin / SNS Group)

As of Friday, over 22,000 tickets had been sold which is almost three times the capacity of the DAM Health Stadium, justifying Edinburgh’s decision to move the match from their compact new home. What they lose in atmosphere they will gain in revenue and both coaches said they were comfortable with the switch to the international stadium.

“We’re happy to play them in either,” said Glasgow’s Danny Wilson. “I’ve watched a fair bit of them playing at the DAM, and we’ve played them before at Murrayfield.

“What I like about the fact that it’s at Murrayfield is hopefully it creates an opportunity to get more and more people in there.”

Darcy Graham, the Edinburgh winger, spoke this week about his preference for playing on the 3G at the DAM Health, a surface that suits his electric pace. Mike Blair contends that Murrayfield’s hybrid pitch is so impressive that you would be hard pressed to tell the difference.

Glasgow coach Danny Wilson takes encouragement from his side's win over Edinburgh at Scotstoun in March. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)

“The guys have felt good this week training on it, and you’ll see that the pitch is in brilliant condition – it is almost like Astroturf, it’s that quick and hard, so that won’t change what we’re trying to do,” said the Edinburgh coach.

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Blair has rightly won plaudits for the style of rugby his side have played this season but the capital club have come unstuck in recent weeks, losing back-to-back home games to Ulster and Wasps, their first competitive defeats at the DAM Health.

The losing bonus point against Ulster was enough to secure a top-eight finish in the URC but the Wasps reverse ended their participation in the European Challenge Cup.

Glasgow Warriors stand-off Ross Thompson practises his kicking ahead of the 1872 Cup match with Edinburgh. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)

Blair is in his first season as head coach but could never be accused of naivety given his background as an assistant with Scotland and a long storied international career as a player.

His team to face Glasgow is peppered with attacking threats, from Blair Kinghorn and Ben Vellacott in the half-backs to Mark Bennett at centre, the returning Graham on the wing and Emiliano Boffelli at full-back. But Edinburgh need to win the ball first and there is plenty of heft in a home pack which has Pierre Schoeman, Dave Cherry and WP Nel in the front row, Jamie Hodgson and Grant Gilchrist at lock and Luke Crosbie, Hamish Watson and Magnus Bradbury in the back row.

“There’s balance to it,” said Blair. “We believe we’ve got good aerial presence there as well. I like the way teams talk about our attacking game and the way we move the ball and shift the ball, because that’s what I want to be part of our DNA. But as we know there’s plenty more to winning a game of rugby than that.”

Glasgow will take confidence from the way they dispatched Edinburgh at Scotstoun in March, and in particular the manner in which they finished the game. Wilson’s side have been guilty of falling away in the final quarter of big games this season but the opposite was true that evening.

“It was 17-17 after 55 minutes, then in the last period of the game we went on to win 30-17. We finished really strongly,” said Wilson.

“There are certain things we can take from that game in terms of tactics we used. Naturally you know that the opposition are going to adjust to certain things. There’s a little bit of planning around that and almost second guessing when you get two teams who know each other so well.

“Both teams are going to look quite different. That last game was at the tail end of the Six Nations. There was a Scotland game the next day.

“Both teams have injuries, but both teams are putting out their full available internationals. So it’s different in terms of personnel.”

Glasgow are lifted by the return of Rufus McLean, their buccaneering winger, after three months out with a groin problem. They also welcome back flanker Thomas Gordon who scored two first-half tries in the home win over Edinburgh. In the continued absence of Rory Darge, Gordon’s availability after a head injury is especially welcome.

“He was outstanding in the last game against Edinburgh,” said Wilson. “Tom and Rory are probably recognised as our two out-and-out sevens. With them both injured, it left us a little bit exposed. So it’s great to have Tom back.”

Wilson hasn’t shied away from the importance of the occasion, and puts qualification for next season’s Champions Cup as the biggest prize on offer.

‘We all recognise what’s at stake. It’s a huge game,” he said. “These are the games we all relish and want to be part of.

“It brings that little bit of pressure on the result, but that’s what we want. We need to step up and enjoy it. That’s been our approach.”


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