Thanks to the return of Covid-related restrictions, fans will again only be able to watch this season’s 1872 Cup and United Rugby Championship fixtures live on Premier Sports, and former Scotland internationals turned Premier Pundits, Chris Paterson and Jim Hamilton, spoke earlier in the week about a fixture they know well.
Scotland’s pro sides claimed a narrow victory apiece roughly in otherwise uninspiring seasons met it’s safe to say that both were in a lull. A rather deep, long lull. Danny Wilson’s squad was unbalanced and he was unable to recruit, while over in the capital rumours of unrest between playing and coaching staff – mainly head coach Richard Cockerill – had begun to surface.
Although we can expect another pair of close encounters, both camps seem to be back on the right track after improved performances in the United Rugby Championship and superb wins in Europe against English powerhouses Saracens and Exeter Chiefs.
“Recruitment and the development of the players have put both teams in a stronger position than they were last year. The players are playing better, they are in form, and you’ve added to that some pretty impressive signings” said Scotland’s top points-scorer Paterson.
“There has been a real focus and clarity on how the teams want to play, and that has helped. Danny has had another year after the disruptions Glasgow encountered last year and you can see what he wants to do taking shape, and Mike (Blair) has been absolutely clear about how Edinburgh want to play.
“So, clarity, player development and signings all add to a game which has always been viewed by some people as a bit of a national trial.
“I think it is more of a national trial this year than ever before because the quality of the two teams and the level they are playing at is closer to international rugby than it has been when the teams have played in the last few years.”
Asked about his favourite derby to play in, the well-travelled Big Jim said: “Genuinely, I’m not just saying this because I’m on the call – I’ve stated it before, this one. The Edinburgh v Glasgow one is so different because of the fact that you’re mates with the players you’re playing against and the fact that it’s a Scottish trial. There is that old-school element to it.”
“In the Premiership it felt like there was a wider picture the way the seasons were structured there. The Edinburgh-Glasgow one, we weren’t that competitive in Europe, so a lot of it came down to the derby game – and the fact that it was Christmas as well, I think that adds to it. The derbies in the Premiership and in France would fall however the fixtures fell.
“We always used to laugh and joke about it: you win that first game and it would make your Christmas and New Year slightly better. But it did consume your Christmas.
“It’s about winning matches, but it’s also about playing for Scotland. You know the Scotland coach is going to be there. Every year I played against Alastair Kellock, it was more than just winning the game: there was always something more. And you only have to look at the two teams coming up against each other in terms of the Six Nations.”
Hamilton had specifically mentioned Rory Darge as a player knocking on the door despite the fact he has a Mish-shaped obstacle in his way to claim that Scotland 7 jersey, and the young pretender will get the chance to go headband-to-headband with the Lion.
Blair Kinghorn is unavailable so there’s no chance we’ll get to see him against Ross Thompson in a potential backup stand-off duel, but Jaco van der Walt will get a chance to show Gregor Townsend what he can do, although the current pecking order would suggest it would require an injury to either Finn Russell or Adam Hastings to make at least the first matchday squad.
Darcy Graham returns on the right wing for Edinburgh but Sione Tuipolotu’s omission means that one of Graham’s wing-spot rivals, Kyle Steyn, moves to outside centre with Argentine Sebastian Cancelliere named on the flank.
At full back we’ll see two of the latest recruits, flying Kiwi Josh McKay for Glasgow and Emiliano Boffelli for Edinburgh, and both had impressed the pundits.
Hamilton said of the pair: “I have played with a couple of Argentine guys before at Leicester, and played against Argentina and played with players like Marcelo Bosch at Saracens. Great human beings.
“Boffelli played against Ireland, then rocks up to Edinburgh, freezing cold, how interested was he going to be? To watch that game, his first touch score against the Dragons, he had been in Edinburgh just for a few days before he had to go to Wales shows the appetite he has got. Edinburgh have a player in his prime in Boffelli and he has the skills set to play across the back three.
“Josh McKay, we were chatting about him in the lead up to the (Exeter) match. Brilliant player, I thought he was Scottish qualified, found out he was English qualified but hopefully he stays around. He comes with unbelievable credentials. Anybody who plays for Canterbury in New Zealand is going to be a good player with the foundations they have got.”
In the packs there is a tasty match-up between former national captain Stuart McInally and George Turner at hooker, but the loosehead “BokJocks”, Pierre Schoeman and Oli Kebble, may not see much of each other with Kebble on the bench behind another looking to force his way back into Toonie’s Tombola, Jamie Bhatti.
Young buck locks Jamie Hodgson and Marshall Sykes will have their work cut out for them in the engine room as they come up against established international Scott Cummings and crafty veteran Richie Gray, but the back-row is where the thunder meets thunder, with only Jamie Ritchie a notable absentee.
Magnus Bradbury has looked back to his best and he starts at no:8 against the signing of the season so far, the brutally ferocious, player of the match-machine, Jack Dempsey.
It was likely to be close regardless, but with no Scotstoun crowd in attendance to spur their boys on it might even level the field more. Who does Paterson think has the edge?
“I really don’t know who’s in the best position going into this game. They’re both in a good position.
“Edinburgh come into it off the back of that European win away from home against Saracens. It was a brilliant performance in terms of physicality and defence and their attitude.
“Speaking to a lot of the players afterwards and they were a wee bit disappointed with the level of performance. They all kind of thought, ‘We didn’t play at our best’, so to get a win away from home against such a big team in Europe, having not played your best, is a good place to be.
“Then on the flipside, you watch Glasgow on Saturday and they were outstanding. It was a statement win, so they go into this game having beaten a massive side in Exeter, and ultimately at Exeter’s game as well. Two or three times in the first half and the early part of the second half Exeter had a position where it looked inevitable that they would score and they didn’t because of the attitude and physicality in defence of Glasgow.
“I really don’t know who’s in the best position going into this game. What position would I rather be in? I think I’d rather have played the week before. Glasgow have come off that win with a huge amount of confidence they didn’t necessarily have before that game.”
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Glasgow Warriors: Josh McKay, Sebastian Cancelliere, Kyle Steyn, Sam Johnson, Cole Forbes, Ross Thompson, Ali Price; Jamie Bhatti, George Turner, Zander Fagerson, Scott Cummings, Richie Gray, Matt Fagerson, Rory Darge, Jack Dempsey
Replacements: Johnny Matthews, Oli Kebble, Murphy Walker, Kiran McDonald, Thomas Gordon, George Horne, Duncan Weir, Stafford McDowall
Edinburgh: Emiliano Boffelli, Darcy Graham, Mark Bennett, Cameron Hutchinson, Ramiro Moyano, Jaco van der Walt, Henry Pyrgos; Pierre Schoeman, Stuart McInally, Lee-Roy Atalifo, Marshall Sykes, Jamie Hodgson, Luke Crosbie, Hamish Watson, Magnus Bradbury
Replacements: Dave Cherry, Harrison Courtney, Angus Williams, Pierce Phillips, Glen Young, Ben Vellacott, Charlie Savala, Chris Dean