EDINBURGH star Greig Tonks believes the arrival of a new Scotland rugby coach has added spice to this year’s 1872 Cup encounters with Glasgow.
The second leg takes place at Murrayfield tomorrow with Edinburgh looking to overturn a 23-14 deficit from last Friday’s clash in Glasgow as well as claiming the RaboDirect Pro12 League points that can push them up the table.
Rivalry is always intense but newcomer Tonks, who joined from Northampton over the summer, has been struck by just how committed both sides are and senses stakes are even higher with Scott Johnson succeeding Andy Robinson as national coach for the forthcoming Six Nations Championship.
“A new international coach does give you a spur. Every coach has a different perspective on players and a change at the top spices things a little bit,” said full-back Tonks.
“There are guys who are involved (in the Scotland set-up) who are now maybe not too sure they will still be involved come the Six Nations.
“Likewise there are guys who aren’t involved but potentially could be. There is a bit of a drive to do something good during the next few games.”
Count Tonks, who qualifies for Scotland on the strength of a mother from Ayrshire, among fringe candidates who came close, but not close enough, to convince Andy Robinson he was worthy of a Test debut.
A series of consistent performances over the season, though, means he has been building momentum and that could reach a crescendo tomorrow when going head to head with first choice Scotland full-back Stuart Hogg who has been recalled by Glasgow to start. What’s certain so far as 23-year-old Tonks is concerned is that weekly opportunities from Edinburgh have added sharpness to his game.
“I never actually played in the Northampton-Leicester derby except at second team level. So, it’s good to be involved and having an opportunity to do my best for Edinburgh every week rather than be disrupted.
“There is no substitute for playing every week. When teams swap and change a lot of errors often come in.
“What I learned from last week’s derby is that, although there is a lot of hype around the fixture, once it gets going the physicality takes over.
“It wasn’t the fastest game ever at Scotstoun due to the conditions. It became quite messy and slow; maybe not the best to watch. I’d look for a higher standard of rugby from both teams tomorrow.”
Edinburgh quickly found themselves 17 points adrift last week and although the gap closed to six points early in the second half the damage had been done.
“Our first half was poor and we recognised that there were three easy tries conceded due to structural faults,” Tonks added. “In the second half we decided to keep it simple and play in the right areas of the field.
“By keeping hold of the ball and building phases we played some good rugby. It was just a shame we let things go early on, but tomorrow is a chance to atone. There is a massive rivalry between the teams, but it is still a league game with points requiring to be won.
“As for the international overtones, you just put your head down and hope the good things you do are noted.”
It will be a particular red letter day for Edinburgh winger Dougie Fife, still an academy prospect, who gets the nod with internationalist Lee Jones out injured and with a ringing endorsement from coach Michael Bradley.
“The best compliment that can be paid to Dougie is that we have lots of confidence in him when he is on the pitch,” said Bradley. “He just needs to keep taking chances that come his way.
“Dougie is diligent in terms of how he does his work and when he has played his strike rate in terms of tries is pretty good.”
The cavernous Murrayfield Stadium will certainly be a contrast in surroundings for Fife who scored two tries turning out for Currie against Boroughmuir at Malleny Park six days ago.
As someone keen to upgrade to a full contract, though, any chance is welcome.
“It’s encouraging to know that Matt Scott was an academy player last year who has gone on to get a full contract and Scotland caps,” said Fife. “I just have to keep trying to get my foot in the door.”
Overall, coach Bradley has made six changes, four enforced, with a new front row of Allan Jacobsen, Andy Titterrell and Geoff Cross joining Fife, Netani Talei and Sean Cox in the starting line-up.
Greig Laidlaw remains at scrum-half but according to Bradley will continue to fluctuate between the half-back positions.
“Greig is the current Scottish stand-off so he will play No. 10 in the next couple of weeks as well,” said Bradley.