Glasgow are hopeful both of their co-captains, Ryan Wilson and Callum Gibbins, will return for Saturday’s derby against Edinburgh to boost the push for victory in Conference A and a home Guinness Pro14 semi-final.
Gibbins, pictured inset, has been out with concussion since the end of March, while fellow back-rower Wilson damaged knee ligaments in the second round of the Six Nations against Ireland.
Glasgow assistant coach Jason O’Halloran reported yesterday: “We are hopeful both these players will be right to play. We just have to tick a few boxes to make sure they are okay from a physical point of view.
“We should have a much clearer picture by end of play on Thursday training but it is looking pretty positive.”
The all-Scottish clash has developed a bit more needle in recent years, with Edinburgh dominating the fixture, and attack coach O’Halloran admitted it was the kind of occasion the combative Wilson would relish.
“I would image Ryan will be very keen to get on the field,” said the Kiwi. “From his and all the other players’ point of view if we get this right there is a three-week gap until the semi-final.
“If you want to be part of the picture selection-wise for the semi you really need to get out there this weekend and play really well.”
O’Halloran admitted the capital side “have the wood over us” having won eight of the last ten inter-city clashes and both 1872 Cup fixtures during the festive period this season.
Edinburgh will know by kick-off exactly what they need to do if they have any chance of overhauling Benetton, who are a point ahead of Richard Cockerill’s side in the all-important third place in Conference B and face Zebre in Parma earlier on Saturday.
Glasgow lead Munster by three points in Conference A but the Irish province kick off against Connacht at 7:35pm, the same time as the Warriors’ clash with Edinburgh.
O’Halloran reckons a different dynamic to the game could come into play if Edinburgh have to chase a four-try bonus point.
“This game doesn’t need any extra edge. It will be interesting to see the tactical approach by Edinburgh,” he added. “To have any chance you would think they have to be focused on four tries. Whether that means they slightly deviate from their game plan it will be interesting to see. We are pretty much expecting the same formula we cop every time from them which is a massive focus on set-piece, a real good kicking game and try to suffocate and frustrate us.”
Cockerill’s pack strangled the life out of Glasgow in the two games this season and O’Halloran recognises that improvement in the scrum will be needed if Glasgow are to shake off their Edinburgh hoodoo.
“We are looking at that area closely, without a doubt,” he confirmed. “That is the avenue into the game for them. They try to get pens through their set piece and kick for line-out and maul lineout and look for field position and box kick brilliantly off [scrum-half] Henry [Pyrgos] so we cannot underestimate how important the scrum is. It will be interesting to see the ref’s [Scotland’s Mike Adamson] interpretation of that to be honest.”
Glasgow have maintained their form through to the end of the season in contrast to 12 months ago when they seemed to go off the boil and then underperformed in the semi-final against Scarlets. They’ve also had to withstand a much stronger challenge from their conference rivals, notably Munster.
“[Head coach] Dave [Rennie] has talked about it a lot,” said O’Halloran. “It is knowing to keep that edge on it, knowing that we have to win. We qualified with a win over Connacht last year with five games to go. We found no real momentum after that. I don’t know if there was a lack of edge there because we had already qualified but we did not front with anything like our best game. Before you know it, it is really hard to re-establish momentum when you lose it.
“A pivotal game [last year] was away to Ulster [a 36-15 loss]. After that we did not seem to have the belief to get back on the horse and Scarlets put us away pretty convincingly in the semis.
“I think we are a far more mature side now. The Leinster game [two weeks ago, a 39-24 win in Dublin] was an important game, although it was not their top team they had some pretty damn good players. It was a good boost for us.”