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It's make or break time for Glasgow's Jackson in fly-half battle

AFTER a season of dross and failure at every professional level, Scottish rugby will finally have a chance to give its supporters something to cheer on Friday, when the annual derby pits the country's best against each other.

It is a key game for all 46 involved, but one player has even more at stake – for Ruaridh Jackson, it could be the match that makes or breaks his season.

A year ago, he had come back from the World Cup with a torn hamstring but also having established himself as the first-choice fly-half in the national side. Since then, his career has taken a bewildering series of so many twists and turns that it makes you dizzy to think about it.

Most recently, he has been in and out of the Glasgow side as Gregor Townsend, the head coach, juggles his fly-halves, but a solid performance in Castres on Sunday leaves him hoping he can keep his place despite missing the late kick that would have put his side in front with seconds to go.

"If you had told me at the start of the season that I would be involved against the All Blacks one week and then playing for Dundee a couple of weeks later, I would have thought you were joking, but that is just what happened," he says. "It's been strange. I played for Ayr as well, so that makes four different teams [including Glasgow and Scotland]."

In the meantime, his international ambitions have become even tougher than they were only six weeks ago, with the arrival of Tom Heathcote as the latest to put himself in the frame for the Scotland No.10 shirt. With Greig Laidlaw the man in possession, and Duncan Weir providing intense competition at club and national level, Jackson has his work cut out – and the first step is to make himself the regular choice at club level.

"There has been a lot of rotation, but the only way to end that is by one of us playing so well that the coach has no choice about keeping him in the team. I hope I get the chance on Friday and that is what I am aiming to do," he adds. "Everyone is desperate to play, so there are going to be a lot of disappointed guys. At fly-half, it is up to one of us to put in a performance that says 'this jersey is mine and I am going to keep it'. I am looking to do that."

To raise the stakes even higher, there is the prospect of all the players starting with a clean slate when it comes to winning selection for the RBS 6 Nations Championship. The new coach is yet to be appointed, but whoever wins the job is bound to come in with ideas of his own and few preconceived selections. At least Jackson was not one of those whose stock plummeted in the final November game, since he had been left out of the squad humiliated by Tonga.

On the plus side, there are no games for which it is easier for the players to get motivated than the annual derbies, which start at Scotstoun this Friday and end a week later at Murrayfield. With the European campaign over for both teams long before last weekend's action, the two camps have been buzzing with anticipation, with the 1872 Cup, league points, national selection, bragging rights and the weight of history all helping to stoke the fires.

Few are in a better position to understand all that than James Eddie, who came to the matches as a child and has taken part as a player.

"We have to harness that excitement but still be composed in the right areas, Edinburgh have some very good counter-attackers," says Eddie. "The atmosphere in the dressing room will be unbelievable, you would give your back teeth to be involved in this game. You know it is an Edinburgh week, you can cut the atmosphere in the squad with a knife, it is unbelievable."

The Glasgow team will be picked this morning and announced a few hours later.

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