It must be as hard on the brain as it is on the body. Following a fortnight of European Champions Cup competition the poor players must get their Pro14 heads screwed back on ahead of back-to-back 1872 Cup ties against their inter-city rivals. Will he take, Rob Harley is asked, a different mind set into next Saturday’s Edinburgh game compared to the one that helped see of Lyon last weekend?
“It’s pretty much the same process week to week, trying to review what we’ve done, where we can improve and pick up for the next game,” says the lock/flanker whose versatility has proved a major asset for the Warriors.
“Our form has been pretty good this season, so, hopefully, that carries us through, but Edinburgh’ is always a massive game for us. It is a little bit special and I think we’ll have that mentality this week that it takes a step up and a big performance from us.”
Glasgow boss Dave Rennie, pictured, promised to pick his strongest squad for Saturday’s fixture, having lost the corresponding game last season after dropping star stand-off Finn Russell to the bench and then watching as 14-man Edinburgh (prop Simon Berghan was red-carded) fought back for a famous win. Edinburgh secured the cup for the third time in four years and their performance in that first match suggested that new coach Richard Cockerill had added some steel into the club’s soul.
The two rivals are in rude health. Both have the potential to qualify for the quarter-finals of the Champions Cup for the first time in history. But, while Rennie was able to rest some important players against Lyon, his Edinburgh counterpart had to field his strongest side to ensure Sunday’s win at Kingston Park.
A little extra freshness goes a long way, especially around the halfway point in a long season.
Glasgow have been going better in the league than Edinburgh but form counts for little in the derby and Harley acknowledges that his team only performed in parts against Lyon.
“The way we started the game is exactly what we’d want,” said the flanker. “We played good territory and put pressure on them and, when we got half-breaks, we were converting them, taking our chances. The negative is that, when we got that lead, we didn’t really advance from there.
“Credit to Lyon. They imposed their physicality on the game. They made the set-piece messy, but, for us, it’s probably lacking a bit of the ideas we had in the early stages, playing in the right areas, then using the ball in the right ways. I think we can probably expect the weather to be similar (wet and windy) and the way we play in that and how we need to bring physicality carries over quite well from that.
“We know we’ve got great attacking players in the side and that we can defend for 20 phases. It’s putting that out there, making sure we’re all connecting that and keeping going and getting quick ball and then we can hurt any team.”
As ever, the inter-city derby will throw up any number of intriguing head to heads, not least the clash of the twin South African props WP Nel and Oli Kebble at the set scrum – the first time the two have played against one another with a suspicion that the Edinburgh man has not recovered his World Cup form since that long lay-off with a neck injury.
But, if we see the derby games in terms of personal confrontations, one man at least dissents. “For me. it’s less about individual match-ups and more about the game,” says Harley.
“When I was growing up this was the biggest game as a fan you’d come and watch, the 1872, and I think it’s still that way. It’s the one on the calendar that means the most coming from Glasgow. On a personal level it’s more about the rivalry and trying to make a mark on that.”