Both Edinburgh and Glasgow have big game issues and tonight’s 1872 Cup game with play-off considerations at stake is a test for both and for Scottish rugby, believes Richard Cockerill.
The Edinburgh head coach couldn’t resist one of his customary little digs at the rivals from along the M8, but this time he applied it squarely on his own charges as well.
“Glasgow are a good enough team to win the competition, there’s no doubt about that,” said Cockerill. “But a bit like ourselves on the big occasion they haven’t always performed in the last couple of years.
“In the big games they haven’t always played as well as they can. So we’ve got to test that theory again tomorrow.
“They’re a confident team and last couple of weeks they’ve built confidence against Ulster and Leinster in different circumstances.
“But we went to Scotstoun at Christmastime having beaten them at home and they weren’t able to deliver. They went to Saracens and had a massive game there and again couldn’t deliver, so there are question marks around their psyche as well.
“It will be interesting to have both teams test their psyche around playing these big games you have to win. It’ll be a big test for both pro teams and Scottish rugby as a whole, about players in this country stepping up and performing on the big stage.”
Cockerill has restored big-game player John Barclay to his pack and his other changes are in midfield, bringing back Chris Dean and James Johnstone from injury in place of the duo most thought would be Edinburgh’s first choice pairing, Matt Scott and Mark Bennett.
“Chris Dean and Jimmy Johnstone have been our best centres and they have earned the right to play,” he said. “Matt and Mark have had long periods of being injured and haven’t found their form.
“But it’s credit to the other two who have played very, very well. Chris and Jimmy have played a lot of big games this year and played very, very well.”
Jaco Van der Walt is out with a shoulder problem so Simon Hickey, who perhaps favours the running game a little more on a night Edinburgh may need four tries, slots in.
“Simon understands the game well and is more of a ball player than Jaco, more of a footballer and more thoughtful round certain parts of the game,” continued Cockerill.
“The scoring four tries part, you can do that in lots of ways. Scrum or line-out drives or pick and goes. It is no secret we won’t make the game loose and open as that will suit Glasgow more than it suits us.
“It won’t be from the first minute we will wing it from side to side and have a crack, as that will suit the opposition more than us.
“We will still play our structure and although it may mean we take kicks to corners rather than kick for threes, it will be a great contest.
“They need that home semi. There is as much pressure on Glasgow as ourselves. It will be interesting to see who deals with that pressure best.”
Edinburgh team: Darcy Graham; Damien Hoyland, James Johnstone, Chris Dean, Duhan van der Merwe; Simon Hickey, Henry Pyrgos; Pierrie Schoeman, Stuart McInally (capt), WP Nel; Ben Toolis, Grant Gilchrist; John Barclay, Hamish Watson, Viliame Mata.
Replacements: Ross Ford, Rory Sutherland, Simon Berghan, Callum Hunter-Hill, Magnus Bradbury, Charlie Shiel, Jason Baggott, Mark Bennett.