1872 Cup: Mike Blair recalls the time John Barclay ‘stood all over him’

There will be no fans but Mike Blair expects plenty of bite in the festive 1872 Cup double header.

Mike Blair in action for Edinburgh against Glasgow Warriors at Firhill in the 1872 Cup in season 2008-09. Picture: Bill Murray/SNS
Mike Blair in action for Edinburgh against Glasgow Warriors at Firhill in the 1872 Cup in season 2008-09. Picture: Bill Murray/SNS

It’s Blair’s first taste of the fixture as a coach but the Edinburgh chief has plenty experience of it as a player - and has the scars to prove it.

In what can often be a feisty encounter, he recalls a memorable run-in with John Barclay who, in his own words, “stood all over him”.

“I remember the exact situation,” said Blair, who played for Edinburgh from 2002 to 2012. “I just looked at him and said: ‘What are you doing?’ And he kind of looked at me and shook his head as if to say: ‘I dunno’.

John Barclay and Mike Blair were Scotland team-mates but Blair recalls a feisty run-in with the forward during a memorable Edinburgh v Glasgow encounter. Picture: Craig Watson/SNS

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“He was in a strange mood that day because my little brother, David, got the same treatment and David was saying: ‘Grow up and get on with the game’.

“John is hardly aiming high in wanting a fight – the two guys least likely to fight back!

“Edinburgh did win that game, though, so I think there was a wink there and a handshake.”

There are few secrets in the claustrophobic world of elite Scottish rugby and it’s sometimes a case of familiarly breeding contempt.

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Glasgow's John Barclay is pursued by Edinburgh's Chris Paterson during an 1872 Cup match in January 2010. Picture: Craig Watson/SNS

“They are always emotional games,” added Blair. “You are playing against friends a lot of the time. You are playing against opponents for Scotland selection. And you are playing for the supporters as well – giving them bragging rights over their rivals – not on Twitter in my day but in the pubs and so on.

“I enjoyed them. I didn’t like the fact it was usually wet because that didn’t particularly suit my game-plan, but it’s a fantastic occasion.”

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The sides will lock horns at Scotstoun on December 27 then reconvene in the capital on January 2, with the 1872 Cup the prize for winners on aggregate. Unfortunately, fans will be absent following the decision by the Scottish Government to limit the number of spectators attending live outdoor events to 500 from Boxing Day for “a period up to three weeks”.

It’s a source of great disappointment for Blair but he is determined it will not deflect him from the job in hand following Edinburgh’s strong start to the season. They sit second in the United Rugby Championship after winning five wins of their first sevens matches and go into the Glasgow games on the back of a superb away win over Saracens in the European Challenge Cup.

“Part of the whole theatrics of the event is the Edinburgh and Glasgow crowds going at each other, trying to see who can make the most noise, and that really creates the experience for the players as well,” said Blair. “So, they will be absolutely gutted, but, over the last 24 months or so, this is something the players have had to deal with.

“I’ve been really impressed with the resilience we have shown in difficult circumstances – with players pulling out of games against tough opposition at the last minute and the team still finding a way to win – so my expectation is that these guys are going to rise to the occasion and show their resilience again to put out a really good performance against Glasgow.”

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