Glasgow Warriors aim to bounce back from Euro slump

The dynamics at play in this Saturday night's eagerly anticipated 1872 Cup clash at BT Murrayfield are fascinating. Glasgow Warriors have been the dominant force in Scottish professional rugby for several years now, and with ten wins from ten outings in the Guinness Pro14 so far this season, they are entitled to consider themselves top dogs.

Glasgow Warriors coach Kenny Murray during a training session at Scotstoun. Picture: Gary Hutchison/SNS/SRU

Edinburgh, meanwhile, have not managed to finish in the top half of the league since 2009 and currently sit fourth in conference B with a respectable but not particularly impressive record of six wins and four defeats from their ten matches.

On that evidence alone, the Warriors should be favourites to come out on top at the national stadium in three 
days’ time.

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But momentum counts for an awful lot in sport, and the past fortnight of European competition has seen the Warriors slump to two demoralising defeats, while Edinburgh have picked up a couple of gratifying victories.

Of course, there was a huge gap between the quality of the opposition faced – Warriors played back-to-back matches against the best team in France (Montpellier) while Edinburgh were up against the bottom team in the Aviva Premiership (London Irish) and a rabble of Russian minnows (Krasny Yar) – but does that distinction get lost amongst the base emotional impact of winning and losing?

“That will depend on which coach you ask. I’m sure 
[Edinburgh coach] Richard Cockerill will be saying they were able to rest a few players for this game; whereas for us it’s that we played against the best team in the French league, a real physical group of men, so we’re pretty battle-hardened from that game,” said Kenny Murray, the 
Warriors assistant coach.

“We didn’t suffer much injury-wise other than some bumps and bruises, so we’re in a really good place physically from the game at the weekend.

“We’re not going to contrast us losing with them winning because for me it’s apples and pears,” he added. “They’re playing a Russian team and scoring 78 points; we’re playing the best team in the French competition as the results show.

“So, for us, it’s about looking at what Edinburgh do and we’ll spend a lot of time analysing what their strengths are, what their weaknesses are, where the opportunities are and we’ll build a game-plan based around that.

“I probably won’t even look too much at the Russian game in terms of my preview, I’ll look at the games they played before against London Irish and the Ospreys – games where we can take a lot more from it.”

While it would be unfair to read too much into Warriors’ European record this season given the calibre of the opposition they have been up against, there is no escaping the fact that the air of invincibility they had developed with their swashbuckling league form has been cracked by the problems they have encountered against powerful driving play.

The lineout drive used to be a real strength of Edinburgh’s but they have been given license to play a far more 
varied approach since the arrival of Richard Cockerill during the summer, and the players have responded by playing with far more verve than we have seen for several seasons.

Murray recognises that Edinburgh may choose to revert back to their old stick-it-up-the-jumper approach, but suspects that they will continue the approach he has championed so far

“They do play a lot more rugby. I’ve been doing the preview for our defence looking at their attack and they definitely mix it up a bit and try to play with a little bit more width than they’re used to playing, so that’s an area we’ll need to be really good at,” he explained, before highlighting that, just because Edinburgh now like to move the ball, doesn’t mean they have become a soft touch at the pit face.

“Edinburgh were pretty physical under Alan Solomons, they were very direct, and I think they’ve still got that about them with Richard Cockerill – just that mentality having come from that Leicester background of a forward pack that is really dominant.

“I think he’s got that into the team and you look back to the autumn Test series, there were a lot of Edinburgh players involved in that Scotland team, more than previous years, so we’re really clear about the challenge we have this week, particularly up front.”