AFTER what amounted to two training exercises in front of empty stands last season, Jamie Dobie is ready to savour the real atmosphere of the 1872 Cup this Friday at a full-to-capacity Scotstoun.
Played behind closed doors because of the pandemic, last season’s games between Glasgow and Edinburgh were arguably as competitive as ever thanks to the individual and collective rivalries that come into play in the derby. But no matter how fierce the physicality, any game without a crowd feels academic to an extent compared to the real thing. And although there may be extra pressure for a player to perform in front of his own supporters, the 20-year-old scrum-half believes it can be a poisitive influence.
“I don’t think it’s so much a pressure – I think it’s more the other way and we’ll use that to our advantage,” Dobie said. “A packed-out Scotstoun is what everyone wants to be playing in front of.
“So to have that crowd behind us on Friday night – and obviously there will be plenty of Edinburgh fans across as well – is good for both teams, I think. It’s not so much the added pressure – it’s more the added enjoyment you get playing in front of a big crowd on a Friday night. I’m looking forward to that aspect.”
Although his hands-on involvement in the match has been limited, Dobie’s experience of the fixture is far greater, thanks to his attendance at matches as a spectator. “As a family it used to be one of the games that we’d go to over the Christmas period,” he recalled. “We’d make it a family event at Christmas – when we got together we’d often go to Murrayfield and watch the big games. We did that for a few years.”
But what team were the Dobie family supporting when they went to those games? “I was quite neutral,” he insisted. “I’m more Glasgow but I’ve got family from Edinburgh, so they were probably cheering on Edinburgh. Edinburgh seemed to win the most – last year was the first time in a few years that we managed to get the trophy back across here, so there’s a big focus on retaining that.
“Even in my last years at school, going to Murrayfield and seeing the crowd and how big these games are for everyone. . . . I always wanted to be involved. I got a chance to play in a couple last season, but without the crowds. So getting in front of a packed-out Scotstoun is one of the main things I’m looking forward to.”
Just as performing in front of a big crowd will be a different experience in this fixture for Dobie, so too will be playing against an Edinburgh side who now have similar strengths to those of his own team. While 1872 Cup clashes of the past at times boiled down to a battle between the Edinburgh pack and Glasgow’s backs, this season Mike Blair has got the capital club playing a far more expansive game in which back-three players such as Emiliano Boffelli, Ramiro Moyano and Henry Immelman – all new signings in the summer – have as much influence as the front three.
“I think it’s clear for everyone to see that Edinburgh are playing some really dangerous attacks and free-flowing rugby this year, which is good to see,” Dobie continued. “And it represents a different challenge to what you might have prepared for in the last few years against Edinburgh.
“But it’s a challenge we’re looking forward to. I think our defence is one that has been robust this year and can adapt to these changes and what Edinburgh are going to throw at us. It is a challenge, and it will be tough, but I think it’s one we’re all looking forward to.”
With Ali Price away on Scotland duty, Dobie has a good chance of holding on to the Warriors No 9 jersey – although that may depend on the needs of the national side. While he only has one full cap so far – against Tonga back in October – he has travelled with Gregor Townsend’s squad as 24th man, most recently to Rome last week.
“I was actually fortunate enough to travel to London and Paris in the last Six Nations. I’ve had a few away trips and a few good wins with the boys. So I’d been on the road with them before, but never to Rome. That’s three out of three [victories] on the away trips – maybe I need to put that into the conversations.”