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Back to ‘lockdown mode’ as both 1872 Cup derbies to be played without fans

Both legs of the 1872 Cup over the festive period have been postponed due to Covid.

Scottish Rugby’s 1872 Cup derbies will revert back to “lockdown mode” and be played as scheduled without any fans.

Scotstoun next Monday (Dec 27) was set to be a 7250 sellout for Glasgow against Edinburgh while in excess of 25,000 tickets had been sold for the main stadium at Murrayfield for January 2. But rugby’s crunched schedule – and TV coverage deals – don’t allow for postponements.

With each club carrying up to 60 personnel of players, coaches and backroom staff for every game, the 500 limit imposed by the Scottish Government means that after TV and media are catered for there were left few spots remaining for supporters.

Quite apart from losing the derby atmosphere, both teams are coming off huge wins in Europe and were looking to enjoy the fans’ acclaim. The Warriors beat former European champions Exeter while Edinburgh won at another former Champions Cup winner, Saracens.

‘The Scotstoun crowd does make a difference’

“The derby is hugely motivating to play in anyway, against your rivals with the head to heads for Scottish selection involved,” said Warriors head coach Danny Wilson. “But we all know that the Scotstoun crowd, most recently in that big game at the weekend, does make a difference.

“We can only revert to where we were the end of last season, when we won some big games here with no crowds.

“We created our own atmosphere and that was noted by many at the time. That’ll be our aim again.”

The team at least became accustomed to building their own atmosphere over an entire season without fans , he pointed out.

“We have the experience, it’s not going to a shock to the system,” he said. “And we are at home, and we’ll make an atmosphere here.

“You’ve got massive sympathy for supporters especially after the big win on the weekend. They’d want to come out here and watch us again in a derby and support the boys to roll out on to another week.

‘You play for the good days like the weekend’

“We know in this job the bad days probably outweigh the good ones. 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’re getting everyone back in the room and together, and after a couple of weeks you see how we can build our performances.

“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. But we’ll focus on our onfield performance, the tightness of our group, and keep on rolling out performances like we did on Saturday.”

Edinburgh may switch leg to DAM Health

Edinburgh could switch their leg on January 2 back to the DAM Health Stadium. But the derbies do miss something without fans being present, said head coach Mike Blair.

““Part of the theatrics of the event is the Edinburgh and Glasgow crowds going at each other, trying to see who can make the most noise,” he said. “That really creates the experience for the players as well.

“The fans and the players will be absolutely gutted. 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. We’ve had players pulling out against tough opposition and the team still finding a way to win.

“My expectation is that these guys are going to rise to the occasion and show their resilience again. They’ll put out a really good performance against Glasgow.”

‘You can’t really pre-plan when these games could be played’

Blair added that rugby’s schedule, with the Six Nations just five weeks away, didn’t allow for rescheduling.

“A rugby season is pretty condensed now. We’ve got the Six Nations, Europe, we’ve got play-offs as well. You can’t really pre-plan when there is going to be scope to get these games played.

“There are so many moving parts now. Ultimately, we’ll do what we’re told to do by the organisers.”

For Glasgow, Rufus McLean should be available after Covid isolation and George Turner seems fit despite a knock sustained against Exeter. Edinburgh will have Darcy Graham and Jamie Ritchie, who missed the win at Saracens, available after a fallow weekend.