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Glasgow Warriors and Edinburgh coaches preparing for 1872 Cup in empty stadia

DANNY Wilson and Mike Blair are both confident that their players will be able to rise to the occasion when the 1872 Cup double-header is played out in front of empty stands over the next two weeks.

The head coaches of Glasgow and Edinburgh had expected their teams to meet in front of a capacity attendance of over 7,000 at Scotstoun on Monday 27, then again on 2 January at BT Murrayfield, when a crowd of upwards of 25,000 was expected. That will no longer happen given yesterday’s decision by the Scottish Government to set a crowd limit of 500 on all outdoors sports events for the next three weeks. 

It was not immediately clear after the announcement whether a small number of supporters would still be able to attend – a professional match usually needs a couple of hundred support staff to go ahead, and that would still leave space for some fans. But last night the Warriors said the game would effectively take place without spectators.

“Following the Scottish Government’s latest announcement, Glasgow Warriors’ upcoming fixture against Edinburgh (on Monday 27 December) will be played to all intents and purposes spectator-free,” the club stated on its official Twitter account. “We’re incredibly disappointed to not have the Warrior Nation at Scotstoun Stadium with us. Members and ticket purchasers will be contacted in due course. The club thanks you for your patience at this time.”

The Glasgow squad will be especially disappointed in the wake of the atmosphere generated by a capacity crowd last Saturday, when the team beat Exeter in the Champions Cup. But Wilson is hopeful that their experience of winning some big games in front of empty stands during lockdown will stand them in good stead against their old rivals.

“I’m disappointed we won’t have a packed house for the Edinburgh game here,” he said yesterday. “Massive sympathy for supporters, especially after the big win on the weekend. It’s frustrating for them as it is for us.

“The derby is hugely motivating anyway, to play against your rivals and the head-to-heads for Scottish selection. But we all know that the Scotstoun crowd, the atmosphere we had in that big European game at the weekend, does make a difference. We’ll have to get on with it and deal with what it is. 

“At the end of last season we won some big games here – Leinster for example – with no crowds. We created our own atmosphere and that will be our aim again. 

“And we have the experience. It’s not going to be a shock to the system. And we are at home, and we’ll make an atmosphere here.  

“I suppose we know in this job there’s plenty of ups and downs and the bad days probably outweigh the good days. But you play for the good days like that at the weekend, a great win over quality opposition. We’re still very positive off the back of that. 

“We’ll use that as a positive to keep building, but we know there’s a lot more to come from us. If there’s not a crowd we’ll be disappointed with that, but we’ll focus on our onfield performance, the tightness of our group, and keep on rolling out performances like we did on Saturday.”

Blair’s team have also been in good form, having beaten Saracens in the Challenge Cup the weekend before last in their most recent outing. And the Edinburgh coach, like his Glasgow counterpart, is sure his players will have the strength of character to be able to cope with the lack of a crowd. “They will be absolutely gutted,” he said. “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. 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.

“These games always have something about them. There is always something to play for, there’s always a story leading into them, and Glasgow have been playing some excellent rugby. From what I could see from their game against Exeter, they were really impressive, with some good tempo and energy to their game. 

“We’ve been pleased with the direction that we’ve been heading in, we’ve had some good results, but we also know that we’ve got to be at our very best when we play against anyone in this competition. And the stakes are higher when it’s a derby game against a team who are in our qualification pool for Europe.”

Blair will have winger Darcy Graham and back-row forward Jamie Ritchie back from injury after they both missed the win over Saracens. Warriors winger Rufus McLean and Fraser Brown are also close to a return to action, although they are more likely to come into contention for the return match on 2 January – which could now be switched from BT Murrayfield to the much smaller DAM Health Stadium next door. Glasgow captain Ryan Wilson is still isolating but might also be able to make a comeback in the first match of the New Year. 

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