EDINBURGH have defeated Glasgow Warriors in five out of the last six matches between the two sides, including in the final round of the regular season in both 2016-17 and 2017-18. On both those occasions, they were able to cut loose with the pressure off, knowing that they had no chance of making the play-offs on the first occasion and were already guaranteed into the end of season knock-out phase on the second occasion.
That is not likely to be the case this time, unless Benetton pick-up a bonus point win at Zebre and Scarlets fail to get anything from their Judgement Day meeting with the Dragons at the Principality Stadium (both matches are earlier in the day), in which case a fourth place finish will be set in stone, which means no play-off involvement this season but a one-off clash against either Cardiff Blues or the Ospreys to get into the Champions Cup next year.
It is hard to see Scarlets failing to get anything out of their match against a Dragons side who currently sit at the base of Conference B with absolutely nothing to play for except pride, having lost seven and drawn one match in the league since their last victory at the tail-end of 2018. So, the chances are that Edinburgh will need a win, probably with a bonus-point, against a Warriors team who have been on fire in recent weeks and are hunting a win of their own to secure a top-spot finish.
“It’s a massive game, we know what lies on this game,” acknowledged captain Stuart McInally. “The good thing is that we’ll know what we need by the time we go into it. We’ll probably find out at the end of the warm-up. We’ll have plans in place whether we need to win, or whether we need a bonus point. We’ll find out on the day.
“Last year, it was great, because Ulster didn’t get what they needed [in their earlier match] so we could just play with no fear. This game, there’s a lot riding on it for both teams. Glasgow obviously want to get their home semi-final, we want to make sure we’re in Europe next year.”
It is going to be a huge ask, especially as Edinburgh are unlikely to get it all their own way this time in a key area where they dominated back in December.
“I think, with Fraser Brown and Zander Fagerson potentially playing, their scrum will be stronger compared to the one we faced at Christmas,” said McInally. “The scrum was an area we got on top of in the games around that point of the season, but I believe they’ve got a really strong scrum now. We’ve watched a lot of their footage, they won a lot of scrum penalties in their last two games against both Leinster and Ulster, so we’re expecting a really tough battle. But it’s an area we work hard on and when we kick well, it’s on the back of a good lineout or scrum. It’s going to be really key.
“We have to defend really well, they’ve got one of the most dangerous attacks in the league, we’ve seen as recently as Ulster and Leinster away they’ve played some brilliant rugby,” he added. “They’ve beaten these teams … not by grinding it out … but they blew them away.
“They beat Leinster at the RDS which very, very few teams do. I thought they were excellent then and likewise when they played at home against Ulster. They’ve got such a good record at home. We just have to try and shut down their attack, they’re very good at playing when they’ve got quick ball, they run good support lines, and we’re going to have make sure we get numbers on our feet in the defensive line and chop them down.
“We want to make sure that we can fill the field, so when they look up there’s not loads of space. They love playing against teams when there’s loads of space to play and they are one of the best teams in the league at moving the ball to that space and exploiting it. But that doesn’t mean we won’t attack the breakdown because we’ve got a lot of good back-rowers who can steal the ball and WP Nel also got a couple in the Scarlets game.”
In amongst all the permutations, there is the small matter of Edinburgh picking up the 1872 Cup, which is a formality given that they have already beaten Warriors in the first two instalments of this three-match series.
“We know we’ve won it, you win two of the three games now and its yours, so it’s kind of forgotten about,” concluded McInally. “There’s so much more riding on it than the cup. It’s much more than Edinburgh v Glasgow. The bragging rights is a non-issue, we both need the points badly.”