Glasgow Warriors v Edinburgh Rugby
Date: Sat 21st December 2019
Venue: Scotstoun Stadium
Live on Premier Sports
Glasgow go into the first leg of the 1872 Cup festive double-header in pretty bad shape. They lost at home to a poor La Rochelle side meaning their European challenge is now all but over unless they can beat Stuart Hogg’s Exeter, their head coach and attack coach each have a foot out the door and Matt Fagerson, one of their standout players this season, has been banned for three matches.
Even the news of Greig Laidlaw’s international retirement means they will be without both Ali Price and George Horne – now clearly Scotland’s first choice scrum-halves – for most of the Six Nations window, by which point they may be scrapping for every league point going. Backup standoff Brandon Thomson is out with an injury, so cover at 10 will be thin too.
In short, not much to be “rapt” about – unless you are Jamie Dobie – aside from a new deal for Tommy Seymour , who will be available, and a short term loan deal to bring Leone “Uncle BigNaks” Nakarawa home.
Usually it’s Edinburgh in the sticky patch around this point, but they’ve started the season well, look to have built sufficient depth to weather injuries and have started playing some rugby outside of 9/10 with most of their first choices now fit and shedding any World Cup hangovers. Richard Cockerill’s side have gone well in Europe but he’s openly targeting the PRO14 and a return to Champions Cup rugby for this squad next season.
Glasgow will provide the usual “warm” welcome to the men from along the M8 but it is likely that Richard Cockerill will have seen enough chinks in the Warriors armour to think some valuable away points could be gathered. Probably not by way of the new expansive approach that his coaching team have been testing out.
Glasgow have put out probably their strongest team again, barring Matt Fagerson and Oli Kebble (who is on the bench) and a useful looking backline with what should (but doesn’t seem to be) first-choice midfield pairing of Sam Johnson and Huw Jones. Tommy Seymour has reverted to the wing where he’ll be tasked with marking his potential replacement in a Scotland shirt, Duhan van Der Merwe, who will make his 50th appearance for Edinburgh. Ruaridh Jackson starts at fullback but is presumably also covering 10 with Thomson and Pete Horne both injured.
The message Dave Rennie is sending with selection is: Glasgow aren’t going to roll over for anyone at home. Whether the team back it up with their performance remains to be seen.
Jamie Bhatti is the latest of a strong contingent of former Glasgow players in the Edinburgh ranks, but you get the sense the tide of Glasgow offloading surplus is perhaps shifting. Edinburgh, for example, are well blessed in the back row. Even with John Barclay and Luke Crosbie injured there’s no space for the hard-carrying Nick Haining. The Warriors could badly use an injection of fresh blood – what ever happened to Matt Smith?
Edinburgh’s side is strong overall but WP Nel is absent from the pack as is Matt Scott which is a real shame. It’s a great chance for George Taylor to measure up against international players though, having signed a new deal at Edinburgh this week.
This one shouldn’t be close if you read the form book, but I think it will be.
Key head to head: Plenty, as usual. Huw Jones vs Mark Bennett should be tasty with the 13 shirt still wide open for Scotland. These two leapfrogged each other early in their Scotland careers but both have fallen out of favour. Has Toony put in a call to get more game time for Jones? Both he and Benett are more than capable of filling that role for Scotland. Fraser Brown vs Stuart McInally is another fiery battle in prospect at the coal-face.
Most likely Zandbags: it’s always players who aren’t mates from Scotland camp so Pierre Schoeman and Zander himself are a very likely match up! Pretty much any of the South Africans and Ryan Wilson.
For the win: I think Glasgow might upset their recent form and defend their turf on this occasion, by a couple of points. I’ll also be surprised if either side gets 4 tries. The real shame about these games is that although they do give a good inside into head to heads going into the Six Nations in February, they are rarely spectacles of entertaining rugby with all the bragging rights at stake. With league points precious for both teams, that threatens to be the case this winter too. Glasgow by 2.
Glasgow Warriors: 15. Ruaridh Jackson, 14. Tommy Seymour, 13. Huw Jones, 12. Sam Johnson, 11. Kyle Steyn, 10. Adam Hastings, 9. George Horne; 1. Aki Seiuli, 2. Fraser Brown, 3. Zander Fagerson, 4. Scott Cummings, 5. Jonny Gray, 6. Rob Harley, 7. Callum Gibbins (capt), 8. Ryan Wilson.
Replacements: 16. George Turner, 17. Oli Kebble, 18. Adam Nicol, 19. Adam Ashe, 20. Tom Gordon, 21. Ali Price, 22. Nick Grigg, 23. Niko Matawalu.
Edinburgh Rugby: 15. Blair Kinghorn, 14. Darcy Graham, 13. Mark Bennett, 12. George Taylor, 11. Duhan van der Merwe, 10. Simon Hickey, 9. Henry Pyrgos; 1. Pierre Schoeman, 2. Stuart McInally (capt), 3. Pietro Ceccarelli, 4. Ben Toolis, 5. Grant Gilchrist, 6. Magnus Bradbury, 7. Hamish Watson, 8. Viliame Mata.
Replacements: 16. Mike Willemse, 17. Jamie Bhatti, 18 Simon Berghan, 19. Lewis Carmichael, 20. Jamie Ritchie, 21. Nic Groom, 22. Jaco van der Walt, 23. James Johnstone.
Referee: Ben Blain
AR1: Sam Grove-White
AR2: Hollie Davidson
TMO: Andrew Mcmenemy
Glasgow players unavailable: Siua Halanukonuka (calf), D’Arcy Rae (hand), Kiran McDonald (hip), Brandon Thomson (calf), Robbie Nairn (knee) and Pete Horne (head).
Edinburgh players unavailable: Rory Darge, Chris Dean, Damien Hoyland, Rory Sutherland, Roan Frostwick, Luke Crosbie, John Barclay, Cameron Fenton, Matt Scott, Fraser McKenzie
Oh, and Player Watch: Blade Thomson is on the bench for the Scarlets.