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Warriors will be fighting on more than one front at Murrayfield

A NUMBER of Glasgow players did their international chances a power of good in last week's first leg of the derby against Edinburgh; this week it is the turn of their colleagues to try to to do the same as rotation raises its head in team selection again.

Ruaridh Jackson has a chance to cement his place in the fly-half role.
Ruaridh Jackson has a chance to cement his place in the fly-half role.

Pride of place goes to Rob Harley's attempt to show that as well as being one of the most robust and hard-working blindside flankers in the game, he also has the capacity to make it as an openside, but there are other subplots as well, notably Stuart Hogg's attempt to make sure he keeps his full-back slot at both club and country, while Ruaridh Jackson has the opportunity to cement his grip on the fly-half berth as he gets his third consecutive start there.

For Hogg, time is running out. "He has had a long injury lay-off and is still to come back to full form," Shade Munro, the club assistant coach admitted. "He is starting to get there now but we have various combinations with different full-backs. He deserves a shot based on what he has done in what is as strong a back line as I can remember in the years I have been here."

The crucial decision, however, was retaining Jackson at stand-off. Over the last few months, Glasgow have been causing problems for themselves by rotating their pivots, denying themselves any sense of consistency in the crucial playmaker role, but after two reasonably solid performances and Duncan Weir's defensive lapses in his last start, Jackson has been handed the chance to make a bid for the Scotland job.

Oddly enough, for a player who has established his reputation mainly on the basis of his attacking play and distribution, it has been his tackling that has kept him in the team – even he admits that the trick of throwing the ball away and regathering it to set up a try, as he did last week, was pure fluke while, overall, the Glasgow attack has yet to click.

"You want to play as much as possible and, as a 10, you want to be in that rhythm that you get from high game time week-in, week-out," Jackson said. "We spoke at the start of the season about development windows that we wanted to work on and defence was one of my targets. I have been working closely with Matt [Taylor, the Glasgow and Scotland defence coach] on that and feel it has been coming on, that I been doing well on that this year.

"It is just a mindset. I never really minded defence but it is having the focus to make that a real attribute of mine. I have been making sure that though I am never going to physically dominate people with my size, I am going in low and chopping people down. No matter who you are, as a 10 you are going to get people running down your channel, it is an area people are aways going to target so I had to make it a strength of mine."

It has certainly worked, and though he is never going to blast people out of the game in the way that Jonny Wilkinson did in his prime in the same role, he has made that first-receiver channel a no-go area for opponents, and reaped the reward.

Elsewhere, Munro said it was really more a case of keeping everybody interested as on-form players were rotated in and out of the side. "If you had a real in-form player you would stick with him but the way we play, the way we train, the competition for places demands that we make these changes. That way we keep everybody on their toes. If you play at the top of your game then you will keep your place but there are lots of players knocking at the door all the time and it is good to keep it fresh," he said.

"It will be a real battle up front, they have as good a pack as they have had for a couple of years – certainly the physicality and aggression levels are right up there, we have noticed a difference there but we still think we have the better forwards.

"To make the play offs is our goal at the end of the season, but we also want a home semi final tie, that has never changed. This game is all about league points, bragging rights, the 1872 Cup all of those things, but ultimately it is the league.

All the rest does not matter as much and the fact that there is a nine-point difference between us and them is irrelevant; if we win the cup by losing by eight points, you won't see me punching the air," he added.

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