The coaches of Edinburgh and Glasgow have dismissed any notions that there will be a cosy carve-up in this Saturday’s 1872 Cup decider to ensure both Scottish teams progress to the Guinness Pro14 play-offs.
Glasgow are already safely ensconced in a home semi-final berth after wrapping up top spot in Conference A and Edinburgh are in a strong position to reach the quarter-finals.
The only scenario that would deny Richard Cockerill’s men would be if Ulster can win with a bonus point at Munster earlier on Saturday and then, in the evening, Edinburgh fail to take a solitary point from the inter-city clash.
The Irish province are currently four points behind Edinburgh but need to finish ahead as they have 12 wins to the Scottish team’s 14, which is how any tie would be broken.
There has been cynical social media chirping from across the Irish Sea that, with both Scottish sides owned by the SRU, the right result will be manufactured if needed.
That, of course, ignores the fact that the same could be said about the Munster v Ulster encounter.
“Me and [Glasgow coach] Dave [Rennie] haven’t got a gentleman’s agreement at this point,” said Edinburgh boss Cockerill with a smile yesterday. “I’m not sure we’ll have one by the time we kick off. Maybe the Irish should have a look at Ulster and Munster if that’s the case. No, look it’s not… Glasgow won’t want to lose and I’m sure Munster won’t at home either.
“I don’t think we’re that friendly with Glasgow to start making arrangements.
“Purely from an Edinburgh point of view I was quite pleased that Munster lost [their European semi-final at the weekend] because it means they will be hurting.
“Also, if you were Munster, they get the result and we go there the week after. Do they want to entertain Ulster back-to-back or do they want to bring Edinburgh to Thomond for the quarter-final? Logically speaking, they get it right and they entertain Edinburgh, which should be a rite of passage to the semi-finals. We’ll see.”
Warriors coach Rennie, pictured below, was equally adamant that there would be no funny business.
“I did say [last week] that there will be nothing underhand, and the Ulster fans can feel confident that we’ll be doing everything we can to win well,” said the Kiwi.
“Obviously Edinburgh will have the same thoughts, and there’s a lot at stake this weekend.
“Maybe Ulster won’t beat Munster and Edinburgh will know that heading in. But there’s a lot to play for both sides, and obviously we’ve got a bit to make up for from that performance at the weekend.”
Cockerill was more interested in focusing on the game than conspiracy theories and keen to send a message to referee Nigel Owens regarding what he considers the questionable legality of Glasgow’s approach to the breakdown.
“The breakdown is going to be a real fight,” he said. “They are very good there but also get penalised a lot for tackle assists and taking bodies beyond the ball. Their tactics around the breakdown are bordering on the illegal most of the time. We’ll have an experienced referee. It’s going to be a hell of a game. I want it to be a battle. That’s what it should be. Rivalry against your local teams and your derbies should be a tasty affair.”
Rennie, meanwhile, wants his team to put to bed any fears that Glasgow are losing form heading into the business end of the season rather than gathering momentum.
“We’ve talked a lot about the fact that we don’t want to be taking our foot off the pedal thinking we’ve already achieved the initial goal of a home semi.
“I would hope that at the back of the mind the guys are really focused on performing well. We’ve got lots of competition for places, so that should put pressure on everyone to front.
“So for that reason the [Ulster] game was disappointing at the weekend. But I guess we get a chance to rectify things this weekend.”
Counterpart Cockerill has identified areas Edinburgh can hurt Glasgow this weekend.
“We have a different approach. We’re a bit more pragmatic, they are more free-flowing but make a huge amount of errors at the same time,” said the Englishman.
“We have to put them under pressure to make errors. You saw last week [against Ulster] they played themselves into a hole most of the time. They’ve got more X-factor than us but our collective strength will be key for us.”
The new three-match series format is currently tied 1-1 after 14-man Edinburgh stunned Glasgow 18-17 in the first game before going down 17-0 at Scotstoun a week later.
“Oh yeah. I think we were terribly inaccurate that day,” said Rennie when asked if that loss at Murrayfield was the low point of his first season at the club. “We created so many opportunities. We could have jogged over for a couple.
“I think the following weekend we were far more direct and got a reasonably good result. Yeah, I reckon any time you lose, I’m not too excited by it.”
Official ticket sales for the game were at 18,500 yesterday morning, with a crowd well in excess of 20,000 predicted.