HAMISH WATSON has revealed that the Edinburgh squad would have preferred to play next month’s 1872 Cup match against Glasgow at the DAM Health Stadium rather than BT Murrayfield.
The match on 21 May, which is also the last regular-season fixture in the URC, is set to attract a crowd of around 25,000, which is almost four times the capacity of Edinburgh’s new ground. But while accepting the economic rationale of the switch to the national stadium, Watson explained that he and his team-mates believed they enjoyed far more of a home advantage at the DAM Health, where they are unbeaten in competitive games this season.
“I remember before and after games you would get people taking pictures of the ground,” the Scotland forward said at a media conference at Edinburgh’s home venue. “It was a bit of an occasion for them to play Edinburgh at Murrayfield in front of 5,000, while coming here it feels like a proper club atmosphere.
“We were all saying it’s a shame we don’t have Glasgow here, to be honest. It’s great for the SRU, because we want to get as many fans in as possible, but we would have loved to have taken the hit and turned it down.
“We all know the record we have here. We have drawn one game and won the other six or seven, not including the European stuff. It’s a very tough place to come to, and when you speak to a few teams they haven’t liked the experience here. We’ve played some great stuff.”
In addition to being undefeated in the league at home, Edinburgh have also beaten Brive, Pau and Bath there in the Challenge Cup. They came perilously close to losing their unbeaten record to Zebre last weekend, however, only winning 29-26 against opponents who have not won in the league all season, and Watson knows his team will have to be a lot sharper against Ulster in Saturday’s penultimate league fixture.
“It was a good wake-up call and shows even when we’re not on it we can grind out five points, which in the past we may not have done,” he said of the Zebre match. “Ulster are a very good team with a good set piece and they’re big physical boys. We will have to put a very good team out on the field and really front up.
“We have to be a lot better than we were at the weekend if we want to keep our top-four hopes alive. There are three or four points between eighth and second, so it’s all pretty close, and then Scarlets are ninth and if they win their two games and somebody slips up they might get in there as well.
“It is really tough, and every game is like a mini-final for us, which is exciting and is what the business end of the tournament is all about. It’s good for the players who haven’t experienced that before and it’s great for us Edinburgh boys that have been here a while. We haven’t been in this position for a long time and it is really exciting stuff for all of us.”