Venue: Scotstoun Stadium
Date: Saturday, 26 April
Kick-off: 19:05 BST (Live on BBC Alba)
Both Edinburgh and Glasgow welcome back their respective captains for this weekend’s 1872 Cup decider at Scotstoun. Greig Laidlaw returns after a six week break following Scotland’s Six Nations campaign, and Alistair Kellock completes his recovery from injury.
Glasgow go into the match knowing that a home win over their neighbours would move them up to second in the Rabodirect Pro12 and further boost their chances of securing a home semi final. Edinburgh have little to gain from another disappointing season except the opportunity to overturn a four point deficit (16-20) from the first leg defeat at Murrayfield on Boxing Day.
Captain Laidlaw – who will join Premiership side Gloucester in the summer – will, according to Edinburgh coach Alan Solomans bring much needed experience back to a side that has lost their last three matches: “He will add a lot of value to the team with his experience and leadership. Your first game back is always tough [but] he has a good temperament, is a good player, and will give a good account of himself”.
The hosts will line up with the soon-departing Ruaridh Jackson (who is joining London Wasps next season) at outside-half reducing regular starter Duncan Weir to the bench. Chris Cusiter takes the scrum-half role with Fijian superstar Niko Matawlau ready to make an impact as a replacement.
Making another welcome return for the capital side last week, albeit in an embarrassing defeat to bottom side Zebre was the league’s top try scorer of the past four seasons Tim Visser. Though how much of an impact the Flying Dutchman will have is yet to be determined as he faces down the in-form Sean Maitland on the opposite side.
In what may be a battle of the packs on Saturday, much attention will be focussed on the respective back rows. Edinburgh come equipped with the, at times unstoppable force of David Denton, backed up by versatile and try-line magnet Cornell Du Preez and Kiwi Mike Coman. Glasgow have powerful (and bushy) South African Josh Strauss, Rob Harley (who has recently resigned for the hosts) and Chris Fusaro. It will be an intriguing tussle and one thinks whoever wins this, may go on to take the 1872 Cup.
Home coach Gregor Townsend is hoping for continued form ahead of the final stretch: “We were pleased with aspects of the game against Ulster last week, in particular the performance over the last 50 minutes. It’s imperative that we back that up against Edinburgh”
In short, both teams need to win. Glasgow, if they are to stand any chance of playing a semi final at Scotstoun will have to win and on paper they will do comfortably. Edinburgh at the other end of the table, need to salvage pride and respect if they are to avoid a repeat of last year’s loss record. They have shown to pull off big wins, against Ospreys, Leinster and Munster this season and with Visser back in the side, they may just sneak a first 1872 Cup in four years.
Glasgow Warriors: Peter Murchie, Sean Maitland, Mark Bennett, Finn Russell, Tommy Seymour, Ruaridh Jackson, Chris Cusiter, Ryan Grant, Dougie Hall, Jon Welsh, Jonny Gray, Al Kellock (capt), Rob Harley, Chris Fusaro, Josh Strauss.
Replacements: Pat MacArthur, Jerry Yanuyanutawa, Moray Low, Leone Nakarawa, Ryan Wilson, Niko Matawalu, Duncan Weir, Richie Vernon.
Edinburgh: Jack Cuthbert, Tom Brown, Matt Scott, Andries Strauss, Tim Visser, Carl Bezuidenhout, Greig Laidlaw (capt), Alasdair Dickinson, Ross Ford, Willem Nel, Grant Gilchrist, Izak van der Westhuizen, Mike Coman, Cornell Du Preez, David Denton.
Replacements: James Hilterbrand, Wicus Blaauw, Simon Berghan, Ben Toolis, Tomas Leonardi, Grayson Hart, Piers Francis, Sam Beard
Image source: © http://www.zimbio.com