Need to Know: Edinburgh v Glasgow Warriors, PRO14 match preview 2017/18

KO 5.10 at BT Murrayfield Stadium, Saturday 23rd December
Buy tickets here
Live on BBC ALBA

  • Edinburgh have won 4 of the last 5 games in this fixture – after no victories in the previous 7 matches.
  • Glasgow have managed at least one try bonus point on their travels against 10 of the other PRO14 sides. The only ones to escape them so far are the Kings (who they have yet to face in South Africa), Munster and Edinburgh.
  • A combination of departures and injuries mean only 14 out of the 30 players who started the same game last season return this time round.

15 Blair Kinghorn
14 Dougie Fife
13 James Johnstone
12 Phil Burleigh
11 Duhan van der Merwe
10 Jaco van der Walt
9 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne
ADV Edinburgh
ADV Glasgow
ADV Glasgow
ADV Glasgow
ADV Glasgow
ADV Glasgow
ADV Glasgow
15 Ruaridh Jackson
14 Tommy Seymour
13 Huw Jones
12 Alex Dunbar
11 Lee Jones
10 Peter Horne
9 Ali Price

1 Rory Sutherland
2 Stuart McInally
3 Simon Berghan
4 Ben Toolis
5 Grant Gilchrist
6 Viliame Mata
7 Hamish Watson
8 Cornell du Preez
ADV Edinburgh
ADV Glasgow
ADV Edinburgh
ADV Glasgow
ADV Edinburgh
ADV Edinburgh

1 Jamie Bhatti
2 Fraser Brown
3 Zander Fagerson
4 Scott Cummings
5 Jonny Gray (c)
6 Robert Harley
7 Matt Smith
8 Samuela Vunisa

16 Neil Cochrane
17 Murray McCallum
18 Matt Shields
19 Fraser McKenzie
20 Jamie Ritchie
21 Nathan Fowles
22 Chris Dean
23 Darcy Graham
ADV Glasgow
ADV Glasgow
ADV Edinburgh
ADV Edinburgh
ADV Glasgow
ADV Glasgow
ADV Glasgow

16 Pat MacArthur
17 Oli Kebble
18 Siua Halanukonuka
19 Kiran McDonald
20 Chris Fusaro
21 Henry Pyrgos
22 Finn Russell
23 Niko Matawalu

Tale of the Tape:

35   PRO14 tries   86
249   PRO14 appearances   499
20   1872 Cup appearances   35
25.4   Average age   27.6
3   Capped players   7

914kg   Pack weight   930kg
442   PRO14 appearances   333
33   1872 Cup appearances   27
26.5   Average age   24.7
8   Capped players   6

244   PRO14 appearances   450
17   1872 Cup appearances   37
25.3   Average age   27.7
0   Capped players   6

Glasgow Greetings / Edinburgh Introductions:
First 1872 Cup appearances for no less than 6 players (Johnstone, van der Merwe, van der Walt, Shields, Fowles and Graham) on the black and red team and another 7 players (H. Jones, Bhatti, Smith, Vunisa, Kebble, Halanukonuka and McDonald) on the black and blue side.

Once A Warrior / Erstwhile Edinbuggers:
There are 11 players in the clubs’ squads who have featured for both teams:

Edinburgh – Mark Bennett, Glenn Bryce, Kevin Bryce, Callum Hunter-Hill, Sean Kennedy, Fraser McKenzie, Duncan Weir.
Glasgow – Alex Allan, Ryan Grant, Lee Jones, George Turner.

For various reasons only Fraser McKenzie and Lee Jones will be involved this weekend.

Matchday Milestones:
When he comes off the bench Finn Russell will make his 50th appearance in the PRO14. Another sub, Darcy Graham, will be making his tournament debut. He will be the 8th member of the Scotland u20s who finished 5th in the World Rugby Championships over the summer to play in one of the top European leagues this season.

Warriors One to Watch / Edinburgh Ego to Eyeball
This is a match which sometimes appears like it could be a trial for the national side but despite that, and the presence of 26 Scottish capped internationals, it could be argued that Stuart McInally v Fraser Brown is the only direct contest with a chance of pitting the 2 realistic main contenders for a Scotland jersey in direct opposition.

It’s been a stop start season so far for Fraser. After working his way into pole position as Scotland’s number one hooker in the first half of 2017, injuries have hampered his chances of cementing his place. His recent return to the side against Montpellier provided another demonstration that he plays the game like an auxiliary flanker. He will probably be Glasgow’s primary turnover threat at the breakdown against Edinburgh.

On the opposite side Stuart has grabbed the opportunities presented to him for both club and country, not least with excellent performances for Scotland in the Autumn Tests. He averages 28 carries + tackles per 80 minutes in the PRO14 – the most of any player in the Edinburgh squad.

Both players will be heavily involved in the heavy traffic around the contact area and their contribution to the set piece will also be influential on how their respective teams perform. Getting the upper hand could also have an impact on who gets the number 2 jersey for the Six Nations.

The Edinburgh v Glasgow fixture in the PRO12 era

  • 3 wins
  • 1 draw
  • 2 losses
  • No Bonus Points
  • 14 points out of a possible 30 (47%)

Last season’s match-up:

Tries for Edinburgh. This was actually 1 of only 2 games that Glasgow managed to keep their line intact during the 2016/17 season (the other being the peak Warriors’ performance against Leicester at Welford Road). On the other side of the ball Glasgow left the bonus point hanging, coming up 1 try short for the 3rd time in 5 attempts against Edinburgh under head coach Gregor Townsend.

Turnovers conceded by Glasgow – their lowest of the season in the PRO12. The Warriors demonstrated ruthless efficiency at ruck time (99% success rate, only losing one) and efficient handling. The current campaign has seen the Warriors go for an even more expansive game plan with Dave Rennie at the helm and no-one in the league has given up more turnovers in 2017/18. If Glasgow can keep this stat in single figures as they did last year it will likely spell serious trouble for Edinburgh. Conversely if the ball is spilled frequently then opportunity will knock for the capital club.

Combined metres gained by the 2 sides – the lowest of any Glasgow fixture last season outwith the 2 bruising encounters with Munster in the Champions Cup. The games against the Irish province were played at a stifling intensity that meant a battle for every metre. The 1872 Cup game was more a product of players who were massively over familiar with each other negating each other’s strengths.

There is always room for the big lads in the forwards to knock lumps out of each other but with a 20,000+ crowd and prime time TV coverage on the last Saturday before Christmas here’s hoping that all that effort is expended to create space for the talent in the back lines as well and that Scottish rugby’s annual showcase provides an entertaining spectacle.

Home and Away:
Edinburgh last 6 in the PRO12/14 (H) – L W W L W W
Glasgow last 6 in the PRO12/14 (A) – L L W W W W

Referee: Frank Murphy (IRFU, 10th competition game)
AR1: David Wilkinson (IRFU)
AR2: Lloyd Linton (SRU)
TMO: Dennis Hunter (SRU)

Mr. Murphy’s record in Warriors’ fixtures over the previous 4 seasons:

Matches – 1 (118 for all refs)
Average penalty count – 12.0 (19.1 all refs)
Average penalties for Glasgow – 5.0 (9.6 all refs)
Average penalties against Glasgow – 7.0 (9.5 all refs)
Yellow cards – 0 in total (1.0 per game all refs)

Glasgow’s first encounter with Mr. Murphy came in the away game against Ospreys last season. With barely enough players left to make up a 23 the referee was the least of the Warriors’ worries but he was surprisingly hands off for a rookie ref. His penalty counts have been in a more normal range this season – from a low of 16 to a high of 25. (The upper figure came during the former Connacht scrum half’s trip back to the Sportsground a few weeks ago – it’s possible he may just have been feeling a bit more pressure than usual during that one!)

The Irish whistler has been very laid back with the cards this season, issuing just 1 yellow in his 4 games so far – the lowest rate of any ref in the league in the first 10 rounds. The level of niggle has tended to be relatively low in these fixtures since old school types like Al Kellock and Jim Hamilton (and grumpy gits like John Barclay) left the scene but if the players think they can get away with a little more under Mr. Murphy’s gaze they may be tempted to push their luck…

Image courtesy of Adrian Henry at Rugby People. Check out more of Adrian’s excellent pictures here and give him a follow on Twitter – @rugbypeoplenet

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