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Few seize chance to knock Johnson for six

WITH a new coach sitting in the stands, yesterday's 1872 Cup match was the chance for every Glasgow or Edinburgh player with Scotland ambitions to make their case to be back at Murrayfield in a Scotland shirt when the RBS Six Nations Championship returns to the national stadium in February.

If you were a Glasgow forward, you almost certainly grabbed the opportunity, but for the rest the jury is out. Scott Johnson, the interim national coach, gained some idea of what he will have to work from his involvement as Andy Robinson's assistant during the summer tour and autumn series, but the Australian has not had a great deal of time to see what has been happening outside those international settings.

For those players hoping to keep their Scotland places, for those on the fringes hoping to win promotion to the national squad, the two derby matches have been vital.

Among the Glasgow forwards, Ryan Grant firmly established himself as the top loosehead prop in the Scottish game while Moray Low, taking advantage of an injury to Mike Cusack to get a run of games, showed that, at his best, he can be a serious rival to Euan Murray at tighthead.

The way they destroyed the Edinburgh scrum was the platform on which Glasgow built their game, and made life easier for those behind them, with Al Kellock taking full advantage to put himself about in the open while showing less experienced rivals in the opposite pack how to run a line-out.

On the down side, Dave Denton in the Edinburgh pack was policed too effectively for him to feel confident or happy. As for the backs, Glasgow's Ruaridh Jackson linked with his threequarter line, defended effectively, and took his interception try well.

It was also his delayed pass that put Sean Maitland in for the first try. Jackson missed the summer tour, so he can feel he improved his chances.

Stuart Hogg had a much less effective afternoon. It was not just that he dropped the ball over the line and so cost his side a bonus point, but he only once managed to find a hole to run through and then could not find the offload.

Since Johnson did not see him at his best in the summer either, Hogg should be worried about his Scotland place. For Edinburgh, Greig Laidlaw had an odd game. In general, he demonstrated why he is still a better scrum-half than fly-half, but he is also captain and leadership mistakes and lack of game control played a huge part in the defeat.

He was livelier at No 9, but the tries came after he switched to his international position and it was his delightful chip to Matt Scott that sparked the fightback.

Scott failed to stop Maitland on his way to the try line but otherwise was the pick of the Edinburgh backs. Since Johnson has already seen the best of him in his tour game against Samoa, he probably does not have to worry about his place.

Overall, there is plenty for Johnson to think about and only he knows how much he learned.

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