SO FAR this season Glasgow have enjoyed nothing close to the amount of praise that has been heaped on Edinburgh.
But Danny Wilson is confident that his team are in a good place, nonetheless, going into tonight’s first 1872 Cup match of the season.
Over the piece the capital club have a better record so far, having lost just one match to the Warriors’ three in the URC. However, a victory at Scotstoun tonight could take Wilson’s team to within just two points of their rivals, and on the evidence of their last outing, the outstanding Champions Cup victory over Exeter, they appear to be finding their best form at a vital stage of the campaign.
Edinburgh’s last result was the equally impressive Challenge Cup win at Saracens, but that was 16 days ago now. That does not necessarily mean that Mike Blair’s team will be drastically undercooked this evening, but Wilson is in no doubt that his own side’s schedule has prepared them well for the derby.
“It will be a tough game, there’s no doubt about that,” he said, after naming a starting line-up with only one change in personnel from the victory against the Chiefs. “It will be a big challenge, but we’re going into the derby with a bit of confidence and form so hopefully it should make for a good game.
“They’re obviously playing some good stuff and have had some good wins, culminating in that Saracens victory. They haven’t played for two weeks so there’s two ways of looking at that – they’ll either be very fresh and ready to go or they might take a bit of time to get into it.
“Either way, we’re coming into it battle-hardened off the back of two very tough physical games, but our advantage is we’ve had a nine-day turnaround and been able to freshen up again. There’s nothing like a derby and hopefully we’ll see that in the physicality.”
The Warriors have long been renowned for more subtle aesthetic virtues, but against Exeter it was their physicality that saw them prevail, and Wilson now appears to have found a pleasing blend between the beautiful and the beastly. He would undoubtedly be happy to witness a few touches of creative genius tonight, but knows that brute force is the prerequisite for achieving domination.
“The first thing is physicality,” he continued. “In these big games you have to win the physical battle, and that’s the gainline battle both sides of the ball.
“In attack we need to go forward, and our breakdown needs to be extremely quick for us to be able to play the way we want to. And likewise in defence: we need to win collisions on the gainline, which I thought we did brilliantly against Exeter. Against a massive team, our work on the breakdown in defence was at a top level – and it will have to be again in the derby.
“Some derbies can be scrappy and messy – the last couple have been really exciting games of rugby, I think, and you’ve seen plenty of tries. The way they’re playing at the moment and the way we’ve always played, really, is a match-up for quite an exciting game of rugby. We’ll see.”
At present the Warriors do not have the same Covid problems as their rivals from the east, and that is reflected in the continuity of selection. Sebastian Cancelliere is the only newcomer to the starting line-up, coming in on the wing as an indirect replacement for centre Sione Tuipulotu. Kyle Steyn moves from No 14 to 13 to accommodate the Argentine international.
There are a couple of alterations on the bench as well: Murphy Walker is the replacement tighthead prop instead of Enrique Pieretto, and, with a 5-3 split this week instead of a 6-2, flanker Rob Harley drops out and centre Stafford McDowall comes in.
Besides Tuipulotu, ten players are listed as unavailable for selection: Simon Berghan, Fraser Brown, Walter Fifita, Pete Horne, Sean Kennedy, Tom Lambert, Nathan McBeth, Rufus McLean, Ewan McQuillin and Ryan Wilson.
Meanwhile, Wilson declined to confirm a newspaper report that Glasgow are interested in signing Tongan centre Malakai Fekitoa from Wasps.“I’ve got nothing on recruitment for you at the moment,” he added. “I’m trying to be on top of the next stage of our recruitment as well as everything else at the moment and a few exciting conversations have been going on – but just conversations at the moment.”
Glasgow Warriors (v Edinburgh at Scotstoun, tonight [Mon] 7pm): J McKay; S Cancelliere, K Steyn, S Johnson, C Forbes; R Thompson, A Price (captain); J Bhatti, G Turner, Z Fagerson, S Cummings, R Gray, M Fagerson, R Darge, J Dempsey. Substitutes: J Matthews, O Kebble, M Walker, K McDonald, T Gordon, G Horne, D Weir, S McDowall.