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Near neighbours are some distance apart

TRADITIONAL wisdom rates derbies as unpredictable.

Glasgow Warriors, pictured ganging up on Edinburgh's Bet Atinga in the first leg of the 1872 Cup, are firm favourites for the second leg to be staged at Scotstoun on Saturday. Picture: Kenny Smith/SNS Group/SRU
Glasgow Warriors, pictured ganging up on Edinburgh's Bet Atinga in the first leg of the 1872 Cup, are firm favourites for the second leg to be staged at Scotstoun on Saturday. Picture: Kenny Smith/SNS Group/SRU

In Scottish rugby's professional equivalent, Edinburgh must be desperately hoping so and Glasgow Warriors fearing it might be true, as they prepare for Saturday's 1872 Cup match at opposite ends of the optimism spectrum.

While Glasgow have come through their most testing time of the season with flying colours and morale at a high, Edinburgh are trying to bounce back from successive defeats and, Alan Solomons, their head coach admits, the end of their hopes of Champions Cup rugby next season.

Glasgow have beaten three of the top five in recent weeks and, although they remain in fourth spot, they have this weekend's game in hand. Securing a top-two place is in their own control, although they probably need bonus points as well as wins to overtake both Ulster and Munster.

No such cheer at Murrayfield. "It's gone," said Solomons, of the hope that a run of late-season wins might propel them past the Scarlets and into the final European qualification spot. "We can't make the top six; that's it. Let's get realistic: we are talking about ending the season on a high note and that will be achieved from the way we perform. We have to tough it out in the last three games, which will be hard anyway since we are facing Glasgow, Munster, Leinster in successive matches: all teams in the top four. It is a massive task but we have to do to it."

To compound his team's poor performance - Zebre scored three tries in a 26-13 victory in Parma to secure a first win over a Scottish side - lock Ollie Atkins and flanker Roddy Grant sustained injuries. Alasdair Dickinson, the prop, had pulled up with a calf problem in the pre-match warm-up and is also battling to be fit.

With the shallowness of available personnel exposed, Solomons hopes players ruled out of this match will be fit enough to face Glasgow. "Some of them will," he said. "Grant Gilchrist and Izak van der Westhuizen [the first-choice locks] should be back, but I'm not sure about Grant and Atkins.

"Our injury situation before and during the match made it difficult for us but we have to take it on the chin. We allowed Zebre to generate momentum too easily, we slipped off some first-up tackles, our lineout was never that effective after Atkins went off but, even having said that, we did not play that well in the first half. I changed things at half-time and in the second half I thought we showed a lot of grit."

In Glasgow, meanwhile, where they have beaten the Ospreys, Munster and Ulster in successive weekends, the only slight misgiving is over the lack of try bonus points. "We had confidence; we knew we had to speed up getting to rucks to get quick ball after starting relatively slowly," said Chris Fusaro of the latest of those triumphs. "Ulster made it very difficult for us to get quick ball."

The biggest danger would appear to be complacency. Warriors' remaining matches are against teams in the bottom half of the RaboDirect PRO12 table, with Treviso and Zebre the matches in store over the final two weeks of the regular season, although Zebre's win has reignited the Italian battle for their Champions Cup place.

"We have got to keep these wins coming," said Gregor Townsend, the Warriors head coach. "Next week is not a normal game, it is the 1872 Cup - so it adds more spice to the last games. I would not expect them [the players] to relax; the Edinburgh game is one that gets the players motivated more than any other in the season. We are enjoying pitches being in a better state, we are enjoying playing at this time of year and have something to play for."

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