Glasgow will have a stronger side than many anticipated for the New Year’s version of the 1872 Cup against Edinburgh at Murrayfield, but are still the underdogs, insists Warriors head coach Danny Wilson.
Wilson’s opposite number Richard Cockerill is as belligerent as ever about disclaiming any notion of being favourites for the match. The recent record between the two teams, home advantage and Cockerill being able to call on a virtually full complement of his top players for the game sort of suggest otherwise.
The two pro sides will meet on successive weeks after all. The PRO14 have juggled the schedule to switch next week’s proposed games against Italian sides with the Christmas fixture which was postponed because of Glasgow’s Covid issues. That game will now be played at Scotstoun at 7.35 pm next Friday (January 8).
📰| Next Friday (8 January) Glasgow Warriors will welcome Edinburgh to Scotstoun for the rescheduled home leg of the 1872 Cup
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Wilson’s team for the Murrayfield game looks a little stronger than advertised earlier this week, but the fact remains that there are 14 players out with injury and Covid-19 related issues.
Kebble, Harley and MacDonald join list of abstentees
Scotland prop Oli Kebble, mainstay Rob Harley and Kiran McDonald are added to the considerable list of absentees. Captain Fraser Brown, ruled out earlier in the week, is now confirmed as out for three months including the entire Six Nations with a neck problem.
“We have 14 unavailable to us at the moment and a big chunk of that is your Oli Kebbles, your Fraser Browns, some that would be classed to play in this fixture,” he said.
“There are a few you know about based on Covid and close contact, a few based on injuries but it is still pleasing for me that we can put out in certain positions a very strong team.”
Edinburgh were putting out a side missing only long term absentee Grant Gilchrist, he pointed out.
“They are at home aren’t they?” continued Wilson. “They are pretty much their full hit bar Gilko and come off the back of a big win.
“It makes for an interesting game as we go there as underdogs away from home with an opportunity to go there and cause an upset.”
‘Definitely not favourites’ claims Cockerill
Cockerill, as usual, wasn’t having any of that, citing the (slight) deficit in player finances between Glasgow and his club.
“It’s Edinburgh against Glasgow so we are definitely not favourites,” he insisted. “They still operate on a bigger budget than Edinburgh so they should have a good squad.
“I don’t think Glasgow are poor team in any shape or form. They should pick from strength because they have a deep squad and some very good players.
“As a group we have never thought this is an easy game or an easy win. Like ourselves, they have the odd body missing but that is a very good forward pack. And that backline is pretty sharp.
“It sounded during the week that Danny was getting his excuses in early, didn’t it?”
PRO14 final out of reach for both teams
Cockerill thinks that a place in this year’s restructured PRO14 final is already beyond both teams, but league points are vital for European qualification.
“We are both in critical need of points to make sure we are in touch with the teams in second and third places,” he said.
“We want to be competing in Europe next year so the realistic target is to qualify for Europe next year and get as far in the European competitions as we can this year.”
Jamie Hodgson, a developmental success this season for Cockerill, is in ahead of ex-Glasgow lock Andrew Davidson and Andres Ferreira, but otherwise with an extra week of time off the head coach is able to name as strong as starting Xv as possible with a formidable bench.
Wilson, in contrast, puts out a decent first XV but the bench looks a little callow to stay the least, and the hope is that a couple more of his Covid-affected players will be back in training next week and available for the return.
Gray back, Nakarawa not far away
He is able to recall Richie Gray, who had had limited appearances since his return in the summer due to injury and concussion, and the possibility of a second row pairing with Leone Nakarawa might not be too far away.
“I’d be really excited by that,” said Wilson. “That was the idea of the signings, to have the likes of those two on the field together along with a number of other players.
“Leone’s back training with us now, as opposed to training on his own with a physio, which is a massive step in the right direction.
“I think we’re a matter of weeks away as long as he gets through with no problems. He should be strengthened and ready to get back on the field.
“But our focus now is mixing youth with out senior players. There is an opportunity to give some youngsters ago, and we’re comfortable with the guys we’re putting out there – they’re good players. “But when your internationals are available you want to play them, and there are a few that we can’t.”
Edinburgh: Blair Kinghorn; Darcy Graham, Mark Bennett, Chris Dean, Duhan van der Merwe; Jaco van der Walt, Henry Pyrgos; Pierre Schoeman, Stuart McInally, WP Nel; Ben Toolis, Jamie Hodgson; Jamie Ritchie, Hamish Watson, Viliame Mata.
Replacements: Mike Willemse, Rory Sutherland, Simon Berghan, Andres Ferreira, Magnus Bradbury, Nic Groom, Nathan Cnamberlain, James Johnstone
Glasgow: Huw Jones; Lee Jones, Nick Grigg, Sam Johnson, Ratu Tagive; Brandon Thomson, Ali Price; Aki Seiuli, George Turner, Zander Fagerson; Richie Gray, Scott Cummings; Ryan Wilson, Tom Gordon, Matt Fagerson.
Replacements: Johnny Mathews, George Thornton, Enrique Pieretto, Lewis Bean, TJ Ioane, Jamie Dobbie, Ross Thompson, Glenn Bryce.