Head to head: Back row battle could decide 1872 Cup

Paul Eddison
19 December 2019

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The 1872 Cup is one of the landmark fixtures in the catalogue and the intensity will burn as bright as ever when the two sides meet in the first of three encounters at Scotstoun on Saturday.

While Glasgow Warriors enjoyed the better of the meetings in the two-match format from 2007/8 through to 2016/17, the last two seasons have been dominated by Edinburgh.

Under Richard Cockerill, they have won four of six meetings, although the Warriors can claim to have the two biggest margins of victory in those games.

There are intriguing match-ups all over the park, from Adam Hastings’ head-to-head with Jaco van der Walt (or possibly Simon Hickey), to the battle of the Scotland tightheads Zander Fagerson and WP Nel.

However, in Scotland it is hard to look anywhere other than the back row, and the openside match-up has us salivating already.

GIBBINS LEADS FROM THE FRONT

For Glasgow Warriors, perhaps no player is more important than skipper Callum Gibbins, whose work rate is simply phenomenal.

Regularly cracking the 20s in terms of tackles made, Gibbins has an engine which is the envy of many a back row.

It is remarkable to think that it was only two and a half years ago that he was scoring a try against the British & Irish Lions – including now teammate Tommy Seymour.

Since arriving at Scotstoun from the Hurricanes, Gibbins has rapidly established himself as the go-to man in the Warriors back row.

He will be without young teammate Matt Fagerson this weekend after his red card in Europe, leaving Gibbins with even greater responsibility.

And against an Edinburgh team brimming with back-row talent, if the Warriors are to reverse their recent record against the men from the capital, it will involve a big performance from their Kiwi flanker.

ELEMENTARY MY DEAR WATSON

Hamish Watson

One of the most dispiriting moments of the World Cup was seeing Hamish Watson carted off with what looked a serious knee injury in the opener against Ireland.

On a sodden evening, the prospect of losing one of the most exciting back-rowers in the game for a long period was the salt to a gaping Scottish wound.

While Gregor Townsend’s men were not able to turn things around in Japan, the good news was that Watson did not need surgery and is already back up and running.

With Jamie Ritchie and Magnus Bradbury, he is not short of competition on the flank both for Edinburgh and at Test level.

But in terms of pound-to-pound power and explosiveness in the carry, there are few to match Watson.

A throwback to Scotland flankers of old in many ways, ‘Mish’ or ‘Pinball’ as he is nicknamed, is understandably a fan favourite.

And with the otherworldly offloading talents of Bill Mata alongside him in the back row, expect Watson to be on the ball early and often at Scotstoun.

This game will be decided by more than just the battle of the opensides. But if one of Gibbins or Watson decisively dominates their individual match-up, it may have a huge bearing on the overall outcome of the game.

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