NOT only have Glasgow Warriors had to endure a disappointing couple of weeks in which they have lost back-to-back games against Montpellier in the Champions Cup, but they have also had to listen to a fair bit of buzz about arch-rivals Edinburgh and the progress they are making under head coach Richard Cockerill since the Englishman’s arrival in the Scottish capital during the summer.
In truth, and as Cockerill acknowledged yesterday, much of the excitement about the men from the east is based on positive results against far inferior opposition in a much lower level competition than the sphere Warriors have been operating in.
After all the excellent work Warriors have done in winning ten from ten in the Guinness PRO14 before coming up just short home and away against the best team in France, it must be mildly irritating that it is their rivals who are suddenly being portrayed as the Scottish team on an upward trajectory after two home wins over the bottom team in the English Premiership in London Irish and a rabble of Russian minnows in Krasny Yar.
You certainly get the impression that Warriors assistant coach Kenny Murray is slightly bemused by the suggestion that momentum is on Edinburgh’s side ahead of the first leg of this year’s 1872 Cup on Saturday evening, and he is clearly looking forward to his team taking steps to quieten down the noisy neighbours from the other end of the M8 motorway.
“We’re not going to contrast us losing with them winning because for me it’s apples and pears. They’re playing a Russian team and scoring 78 points, we’re playing the best team in France as the results show,” he said.
“So, for us it’s about looking at what Edinburgh do and we’ll spend a lot of time analysing what their strengths are, what their weaknesses are, where the opportunities are and we’ll build a game-plan based around that. I probably won’t even look too much at the Russian game in terms of my preview, I’ll look at the games they played before against London Irish and the Ospreys – games where we can take a lot more from it.”
Murray also played down the idea that a couple of easy wins leading into these festive derby matches is better preparation than a couple of titanic battles against one of the top teams in Europe.
“It depends which coach you ask. I’m sure Richard Cockerill will be saying they were able to rest a few players for this game, whereas for us it’s that we played against the best team in the French league, a real physical group of men, so we’re pretty battle-hardened from that game,” he explained.
“We didn’t suffer much injury wise other than some bumps and bruises, so we’re in a really good place physically from the game at the weekend.”
The fact that Edinburgh came out on top the last time the two sides met, winning 18-29 at Scotstoun in the final game of last season, is the other key factor bolstering Edinburgh optimism coming into Saturday’s match – but Murray points out that it is also a driving factor for the Warriors to right a few wrongs.
“It’s the Edinburgh-Glasgow game, it’s more than just a score-line at the end of the day – you always want to beat your rivals, so we were disappointed with our performance in that game last year,” he acknoweldged.
“It was a difficult end to the season for us in terms of not getting where we wanted to be, so we want to make sure, particularly when we come back here in the second game [on 3oth December], that we do well.
“But we’ve played well at Murrayfield and put in some good performances there in the past. A lot of our guys know Murrayfield as well. That’s a bonus for us, a lot of Scotland boys have played on that pitch regularly, so we’ll be ready and prepared for the game on Saturday.”