There will be not billboard featuring Dougie Hall in black and blue, arms unfurled, above the immortal line “Welcome To Glasgow!”. There will be no pigs heads thrown onto the pitch. There will be no flares. There will be no drive-bys. What this coastal rivalry shall have, though, is keenly contested rugby.
On Boxing Day we will see the first game in the 1872 Cup.
East versus West. The risk takers versus the pragmatists. Scotland’s first choice front-row versus a few aiming for future Scotland selection. A couple of stand-offs banging down Andy Robinson’s door. These games represent something of a battle for supremacy and it certainly means an awful lot in terms of season 2011/2012.
Last year, for example, the 1872 Cup served as a bit of a distraction for both teams. Neither were doing particularly well in the Heineken Cup by that stage and neither were doing very well in the league. Across the board form was hard to gauge and so Scottish selectors heavily relied on the 1872 Cup for their trial ground. The players could tell themselves form wasn’t important because they were playing their rivals. They were playing their rivals and it stood for something. Sure there was a Cup, but there were international spots at stake too.
It is still the same this year, but the rugby landscape is somewhat different. Glasgow have been playing rugby by the girdle: lacking expansion at times and restricted to kicks and last minute tries. It has, however, proven successful and their blended squad of youth and experienced scrappers have closed out games in both the RaboDirect Pro12 and the Heineken Cup. They are even now trying to remedy their try-scoring issues by signing up runners like David Lemi and Rory Lamont mid way through the season. Sean Lamont is lined up for next term.
For Edinburgh they are doing well in the Heineken Cup but are five places below Glasgow in the Pro12. This being said, no one has scored more tries in the league than Edinburgh who have racked up 22 tries compared to Glasgow, the league’s worst scorers after the Dragons, who only have 11 tries to their name. Tim Visser is the embodiment of Edinburgh’s risky, running rugby with 8 scores for himself. Troy Nathan is Glasgow’s Rabo leader with 2. This tells its own story.
Still, Glasgow will not be disheartened by information like this. That is because their young fly-half Duncan Weir is the top points scorer in the league with 128points to his name already. Who is second? Greig Laidlaw with 105.
In the end a lot may come down to how the Edinburgh offload specialists play against Glasgow’s defence and how disciplined Edinburgh are when Glasgow are pounding into their territory. If the game is played in and around Edinburgh’s half and there is no discipline Weir can kick points all day, regardless of how far away they are. On the other hand, if Glasgow don’t hold out in defence then Laidlaw will happily wait until his side are within 20m of the try-line. When there he has the luxury of letting his flyers fling the ball about because from that range he can slot drop-kicks or hold out for penalties.
This game will be truly fascinating. Glasgow drag teams into a game that suits their style and have the wherewithal to close matches out. They have not played against a team as capable of scoring tries as Edinburgh are, though, except for when they met Leinster in Europe. On that occasion they were obliterated by the Irish side’s rapid attacks.
This first game will be hard to predict. This week will see unrelenting fits of marketing and publicity surrounding the games and talk will turn to how heated exchanges may become. This is publicity preamble. In truth it will be the team that holds their shape and coolly sees out their respective game plan that will take the first game and thus become favourites. If Edinburgh blitz into the lead Glasgow may struggle to garner enough points to retain their 1872 Cup. However, if the Warriors win at Murrayfield on the 26th, I for one wouldn’t be surprised if they squeeze out a series victory at Firhill.