The first leg 1872 Cup once again provides a post-Christmas treat for Scottish Rugby fans as Edinburgh Rugby and Glasgow Warriors prepare to do battle at BT Murrayfield, on Boxing Day.
Edinburgh are holders of the Cup after a pair of victories at BT Murrayfield 12 months ago but Glasgow are better off in the current Guinness PRO12 standings as they lie sixth in the table with five wins from ten games.
Warriors are also coming off impressive back-to-back wins over Racing 92 in the European Rugby Champions Cup, while their opponents sit tenth in the PRO12 and lost 26-20 to Stade Francais in Europe last weekend.
What’s at stake?
Crucial Guinness PRO12 points are on offer in addition to taking a lead ahead of the second leg of the 1872 Cup in Round 22, in May.
Despite their wins over Racing 92 in the last fortnight, Glasgow have slipped to three straight league defeats but have not lost four in a row in the Championship since 2011.
Edinburgh are also desperately searching for domestic form with just two victories in the last eight rounds of Guinness PRO12 action – against Benetton Treviso on 7 October and Ulster on 4 November.
Team News (Edinburgh)
Acting head coach Duncan Hodge has made four personnel changes to the side that started the second match of the European double header against Stade Francais, last weekend.
Phil Burleigh returns from suspension to replace Michael Allen in the centres, Duncan Weir is preferred to Jason Tovey at No.10 and will face his former club, while Grant Gilchrist comes into the second row and captains the side.
Magnus Bradbury – who this week signed a new deal with the club until 2020 – starts at blindside flanker, so Cornell Du Preez switches to No.8 and Nasi Manu drops out.
Tom Brown will make his 100th Edinburgh appearance from the wing, while scrum-half Sean Kennedy will bring up 50 caps for the club if he comes off the bench.
Team News (Glasgow)
Following Glasgow’s superlative double over Racing 92, Gregor Townsend has opted to make six alterations to the starting XV for this 1872 Cup clash.
Winger Junior Bulumakau earns his first start of the season in place of Tommy Seymour, while Mark Bennett comes in for Sam Johnson in the midfield.
Co-captain Henry Pyrgos is preferred to Ali Price at scrum-half, while Warriors’ other co-captain Jonny Gray is joined in the second row by Brian Alainu’uese, who replaces Tim Swinson.
The front and back rows show one change apiece with Alex Allan in for Gordon Reid at loosehead prop and flanker Simone Favaro getting the nod ahead of Ryan Wilson.
Edinburgh are current 1872 Cup holders after their 14-11 and 23-11 victories last season but Glasgow head coach Gregor Townsend is relishing the Boxing Day tussle.
“We always look forward to the 1872 Cup matches and Monday’s game will be a special occasion,” said Townsend.
“We’re expecting a really tough match and we have been working hard to improve this week and deliver our best performance of the season at BT Murrayfield.”
Meanwhile, acting Edinburgh coach Duncan Hodge claims his team-talk takes care of itself.
“There is no extra motivation needed for Monday’s game as we take on our oldest rivals, Glasgow, in a derby match,” said Hodge.
“We’re looking forward to getting back to league duties and absorbing the challenge the opposition will pose.
“We know what to expect, and we’ll need to match them in all areas of the game if we’re to come out on top.”
Key Battle: Grant Gilchrist v Jonny Gray
The two towering locks teamed up in the Scotland second row during the recent autumn internationals, but now they will square off at BT Murrayfield on Boxing Day.
Jonny Gray may well be the best tackler in Europe, as demonstrated by his astonishing record of making 43 tackles without a single miss during three games for his country this autumn.
But he is also a threat with ball in hand and strong in the line-out – qualities shared by his opposite number Grant Gilchrist.
Gilchrist has battled injury in recent years but now fully fit again, he is a force, as proven by an impressive display when starting alongside Gray against Argentina last month.
Whichever second-rower comes out on top, couldn’t determine how the match goes
Edinburgh’s only defeat at BT Murrayfield in any competition since Duncan Hodge took over came against Zebre in Round 7, while Warriors have not won at the famous old venue since Boxing Day 2013.
A number of Glasgow Warriors find themselves in Lions contention following recent good form, including fly-half Finn Russell who won back-to-back man-of-the-match awards against Racing 92.
It would be brave to back against 2013 Lion Stuart Hogg going on a second Tour, with the full-back one of the most dangerous runners in world rugby, while tackling machine Jonny Gray has been outstanding at lock.
Strong performances from players such as centres Alex Dunbar and Mark Bennett, and prop Zander Fagerson could also see them earn coach Warren Gatland’s consideration.
For Edinburgh, powerhouse front-rowers Alasdair Dickinson and 2009 Lion Ross Ford will be looking to shine, as will ever-improving lock Grant Gilchrist.
Edinburgh top points scorer – Duncan Weir – 43
Top try scorer – Magnus Bradbury – 4
Glasgow top points scorer – Tommy Seymour – 35
Top try scorer – Tommy Seymour – 7
At BT Murrayfield, 4.05pm.
Live on BBC Alba
Referee: Ian Davies (WRU, 85th competition game)
Assistant Referees: Mike Adamson, Sam Grove-white (both SRU)
Citing Commissioner: Iain Goodall (SRU)
TMO: Jim Yuille (SRU)
Overall Guinness PRO12 head to head record:
Played 26, Edinburgh won 11, Warriors won 14 with 1 game drawn
Guinness PRO12 Final 2017 Ticket Information: Fans can save up to 20% on selected tickets, and prices start at just €30 adults and €5 child, and be booked via www.ticketmaster.ie. For further information visit http://www.pro12rugby.com/final
Glasgow Warriors claimed their first win in four Guinness PRO12 matches and the local bragging rights after downing Edinburgh in the first leg of the 1872 Cup on Boxing Day.
Junior Bulumakau, Josh Strauss and Alex Dunbar all crossed for the Warriors as they won 25-12 at BT Murrayfield – their first win at the venue in exactly three years.
Edinburgh only had 12 points from the boot of Duncan Weir to show for their efforts and they will need to impress at Scotstoun on the last day of the regular season if they are to retain the Cup they won last season.
Following Glasgow’s superlative double over Racing 92, Gregor Townsend opted to make six alterations to the starting XV for this clash.
One of those changes was the inclusion of winger Bulumakau for his first start of the season and he did not have to wait long to have an impact.
Inside the first minute of the game Dunbar’s deep kick drew an error from Edinburgh full-back Blair Kinghorn – who inked a new deal this week – as he spilled the ball on the wet turf allowing Bulumakau to dive on the ball for the simplest of tries.
It was a dream start for the Warriors in their bid to reclaim the Cup but the in-form Russell pulled the conversion wide and the hosts then found their feet.
They exerted plenty of territorial dominance and the Warriors were bleeding penalties at the breakdown – Weir punishing one in the eighth minute to trim the lead to 5-3.
And then after one infringement too many Alex Allan was sent to the bin for the Warriors and Weir kicked the hosts in front for the first time.
However, Townsend’s side marshalled their ten minutes down to 14 impressively and when restored to their full complement hit back in style.
Strauss was the beneficiary at the back of a rolling maul, burrowing over the line for their second try and this time Russell was on target with the extras.
And there was still time for the in-form Scotland fly-half to add a penalty before the interval and the visitors went in 15-6 ahead.
After the break the Warriors were on the front foot for the first ten minutes but Russell tugged a penalty wide while Weir showed him how it was done after a rare Edinburgh second-half foray.
Before the hour mark some quick thinking from Russell – who slotted a drop goal after the ball was blown off the tee right at the end of his allotted 90 seconds for a penalty – restored a nine-point advantage at 18-9.
But Weir soon pegged his old club back again to 18-12 as the game entered the final quarter of an hour.
However, the Warriors then found another gear and after an exhausting passage of play in attack, the tiring Edinburgh defence was eventually punctured for the decisive score.
Phase after phase in the Gunners’ 22 took its toll in the end and it was Dunbar who went over in the left corner, fed by replacement Sean Lamont.
Russell added the extras to make it 25-12 and the rest of the match was spent with the home side trying in vain to claim a consolation score that would trim the points difference to a losing bonus point and give them a better chance of retaining the 1872 Cup at the end of the season.