Glasgow Warriors will look to become only the third team to inflict defeat on Edinburgh Rugby at Murrayfield this season when they travel along the M8 on Boxing Day for the first of the back-to-back RaboDirect PRO12 festive derbies.
With their east coast rivals in free-scoring form, Sean Lineen’s men are well aware that they must deliver a much slicker all-round performance than was the case in the recent Heineken Cup double-header against Montpellier.
The Warriors claimed a win and a draw in their tussles with the 2011 Top 14 finalists to keep them right in the hunt for knock-out European rugby in the New Year, but their head coach today called for “another step up” ahead of the 1872 Cup clashes.
Lineen told www.glasgowwarriors.org: “We’ve been encouraged by the run we’ve put together in the RaboDirect PRO12 and the battling qualities of the team that have been very evident in those games.
“It’s a real sign of the progress we’ve made, and of the expectations the players have for each other, that we were actually a bit disappointed to only draw away to a team who missed out on winning the French championship by a hair’s breadth a few months before.
“That frustration comes from the fact that we know there’s a lot more in this team’s locker, particularly in terms of what we can offer in attack.
“Edinburgh have set the bar high in that regard, scoring lots of tries, so it’s up to us to show both that we can cope with their threat and bring out more of ours.”
Glasgow have claimed the 1872 Cup in three of the past four seasons. The side that will begin the process of defending the coveted silverware (decided on the basis of the aggregate score from the two games) shows four changes from that which ran out at the Stade Yves du Manoir last Saturday.
Three of the personnel switches come in the backline, where David Lemi (ineligible for the Heineken Cup) returns on the wing in place of Federico Aramburu, leading tournament points scorer Duncan Weir replaces Ruaridh Jackson at stand-off after impressing off the bench in southern France, and Graeme Morrison comes in at inside centre. Troy Nathan stays in the team, but will wear the number 13 jersey this time.
Up front, there is just a single change. Rob Harley, who missed the trip to Montpellier with a hand injury, takes up his customary role at blindside flanker, with John Barclay moving to openside. Johnnie Beattie stays at No.8, while Chris Fusaro will be among the substitutes.
The Warriors, who have suffered only one defeat in their last ten games, will set a new club record for the longest unbeaten stretch in the RaboDirect PRO12 (seven matches) should they avoid losing once more.
Lineen commented: “It’s pleasing to know we’ve found a measure of consistency, but stats go out the window the minute the next game kicks off, particularly when it’s a derby.
“We’ve once again picked a team we strongly believe can win us the match. David Lemi is desperate to get back out there after a couple of weeks’ lull, and he served notice in the Ulster game [where the Samoan was named RaboDirect Man of the Match] that he will be a massively productive player for us if he gets the service. The same goes for Rory Lamont, who made a great contribution in Montpellier, taking his try really well.
“As regards the stand-off position, it’s great to have two guys who are each presenting a very strong case for selection. Scott Wight has also done well when given the opportunity, so the strength in depth in that position is developing all the time.
“I’m pleased to have Rob Harley fit again this week, because he’s been terrific all season. The work-rate and aggression he brings are fantastic, and we’re going to need him right at his best again for these games, where the contact area is sure to be fiercely contested.
“Chris Fusaro again is unlucky to be on the bench, and Ryan Wilson is equally unfortunate to not be in the 23.
“It’s a measure of the competition we’ve got at the moment that each week a number of guys can feel justifiably aggrieved, but as a coaching team we’ve shown that players will get their opportunity if they keep working hard, and that’s very much the case here again.
“As ever, the derbies are two huge matches in our season. We all take great pride in representing Glasgow and the west of Scotland against our local rivals, but the overriding priority is claiming more RaboDirect PRO12 points to further our aspirations in the tournament.”
Tickets for the deciding leg of the 1872 Cup derby double header against Edinburgh Rugby at Firhill on New Year's Day (kick-off 5.35pm) are available via www.glasgowwarriors.org, by calling 0844 800 3490, or in person at the Glasgow on Ice box office on George Square and the Gordon Street and Sauchiehall Street branches of Greaves Sports, our official retail partner.
Fans who book before midnight on Hogmanay will save £5 on the adult match-day price of £20. Students/senior citizens £10, under-18s £5.
Supporters can visit www.glasgowwarriors.org for details of a super saver joint ticket covering the Firhill derby and the crucial home Heineken Cup game against reigning champions Leinster on Sunday 15 January, plus a raft of money can't buy incentives for clubs who sell derby tickets through their own websites.
GLASGOW WARRIORS TEAM TO PLAY EDINBURGH RUGBY IN THE RABODIRECT PRO12 AT MURRAYFIELD ON MONDAY 26 DECEMBER (KICK-OFF 5.35PM, LIVE ON BBC ALBA).
15 Stuart Hogg
14 David Lemi
13 Troy Nathan
12 Graeme Morrison
11 Rory Lamont
10 Duncan Weir
9 Chris Cusiter
1 Ryan Grant
2 Pat MacArthur
3 Mike Cusack
4 Richie Gray
5 Al Kellock
6 Rob Harley
7 John Barclay
8 Johnnie Beattie
16 Dougie Hall
17 Jon Welsh
18 Moray Low
19 Tom Ryder
20 Henry Pyrgos
21 Chris Fusaro
22 Colin Shaw
23 Ruaridh Jackson
Not considered for selection due to injury: Federico Aramburu (shoulder), Peter Murchie (ankle), DTH van der Merwe (shoulder).