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1872 Cup: Covid cuts into Edinburgh’s squad as Glasgow make just one change for first leg

Mike Blair: "It's the way it is at the moment. Some teams are lucky, some are unlucky'

Covid cases have left Edinburgh with a lengthy unavailable list and an inexperienced bench for the first leg of the 1872 Cup against Glasgow at Scotstoun.

Glasgow have made just one change to the team that defeated former European champions Exeter 10 days ago – again likely because of a Covid case – but both clubs are sweating on a final round of PCR tests on Sunday to clear the players named for the Monday night clash.

17 out for capital side

Edinburgh’s unavailable list – even after a two week gap to the win over Saracens – numbers 17 players, including Scotland internationalists Jamie Ritchie, Blair Kinghorn, WP Nel, James Lang and other key players like prop Boan Venter.

Not all have Covid – Scottish Rugby policy is to not to identify those unable for selection because of protocols – but it means six of the eight players on the bench for the Scotstoun have less than 10 appearances for the club.

“Pictures change throughout the week, with teams we have selected and what the team ends up looking like when it’s revealed at noon on Boxing Day,” said head coach Mike Blair. “We’ve had some challenges in and around injuries and what have you, so we just need to adapt.

“The reason I am still confident is that we have had challenges this year – Darcy (Graham) and Jamie pulled out at the last minute before we played against Saracens but we still managed to put in a performance.”

‘I want to back our guys coming in’

Edinburgh have been “rigourous” in their testing regime and even had players train away from the squad in city parks to mitigate the risk of infections, added Blair.

“It’s the way the game is at the moment,” he added. “Some teams get lucky and some teams get unlucky.

“This scenario creates opportunities to be resilient and to deal with the cards you are dealt. It is very easy to say we are missing him, him and him but I want to back our guys coming in.

“We have a quality team that we are able to put out on the pitch. Yes, it is disappointing that we are missing these players but i believe players coming in are going to make a real impact and stick their hands up to play the following week as well.”

Graham does return to the wing, but it’s a reunion of tried and tested half-back duo Jaco van der Walt and Henry Pyrgos, with Ben Vellacott on the bench.

Harrison Courtney, Angus Williams, Pierce Phillips and Glen Young, with just 10 appearances between them, will cover the pack on bench duty.

Cancelliere starts as Tuipulotu drops out

For Glasgow, there are Covid protocols ruling out players from consideration but only Sione Tuipulotu is unavailable from the starting team that beat Exeter. Argentinian wing Sebastien Cancelliere comes in at wing, with Kyle Steyn moving inside.

“I’m not at liberty to say names but let’s say we’ve got a few Covid bits  and pieces, as everyone probably has at the moment,” said head coach Danny Wilson. “Apart from the Italian game on Christmas Eve, we’re the only other URC game on at the moment.

“We will crack on. Fingers crossed we come out of this testing round ok and we can get the game to go ahead.”

Wilson believes Edinburgh has a strong side despite the disruption and had bene impressed with their performances this season.

“They’re obviously playing some good stuff and have had some good wins culminating in the Saracens victory.

‘It’s two sides in form’

“I think it’s two sides in form and a great way to come into a derby. 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.

“Our advantage is we’ve had a nine-day turnaround and been able to freshen up again – hence why we’ve got trust in a lot of those combinations that have played really well for us to go again.

“There’s nothing like a derby and hopefully we’ll see that in the physicality.”

Glasgow Warriors (v Edinburgh at Scotstoun, Monday 27 December, 7pm): Josh McKay; Sebastian Cancelliere, Kyle Steyn, Sam Johnson, Cole Forbes; Ross Thompson, Ali Price (captain); Jamie Bhatti, George Turner, Zander Fagerson; Scott Cummings, Richie Gray; Matt Fagerson, Rory Darge, Jack Dempsey. Replacements: Jonny Matthews, Oli Kebble, Murphy Walker, Kiran McDonald, Tom Gordon, George Horne, Duncan Weir, Stafford McDowall.

Edinburgh: Emiliano Boffelli; Darcy Graham, Mark Bennett, Cameron Hutchison, Ramiro Moyano; Jaco van der Walt, Henry Pyrgos (C); 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.