ANY game between Edinburgh and Glasgow in August is unusual: the 1872 Cup matches are traditionally held around Christmas and New Year, when both teams would expect to be hitting top form, and in spring, when they are resilient and battle hardened.

But the circumstances in which this month’s double-header is taking place make it especially uncommon – and doubly difficult for both sets of coaches to deal with.

This month is normally the time for a few gentle, tentative run-outs. Friendlies with four quarters, rolling substitutions and relaxed refereeing. The actual results are of secondary importance, if that.

But there will be nothing gentle or tentative about the games at Murrayfield on the 22nd and 28th, and the results will be just about the only thing that matters. No friendlies first, either. Not even a relatively low-key PRO14 match to get going. We are skipping the starter and going straight to the meaty main course.

These are two of the biggest matches of the season, especially for Edinburgh, who will secure a home semi-final on Saturday week if they win and Munster lose to Leinster later the same day. The aim, in theory at least, may be to get players up to speed as quickly as possible, but how possible is that in practice?

You cannot go for broke in your first game back after a four-month lay-off, and you probably do not want to overburden your squad by sticking too many new pages into the playbook.

For the home team, another layer of complications lies in the fact that Glasgow have yet to play under new head coach Danny Wilson, producing an added element of unpredictability. So how will they approach the game?

“It’s a difficult one and we’ve talked briefly about it,” Edinburgh attack coach Duncan Hodge said. “They’ve got the same time constraints as us, so what can you change in a short period of time? Secondly, you’ve got players who have been used to playing a certain way, so how do they adapt to a new game plan? Can they adapt? How much do you change?

“Every head coach has their own ideas and theories about where they want to improve and spend the bulk of their time and make gains. It’s a bit unknown. Normally we know exactly what we’re going to get from Glasgow, but this time there is an element of ‘What’s going to change, what’s not going to change?’ It’s a bit trickier to plan, for sure.

“There are going to be some things you would like to change but potentially don’t have the time, or that you would like to have spent more time on but just weren’t able to. Some of that might fall into the rest of the season.”

After the double-header, the rest of the 2019-20 season for Edinburgh will consist of a Challenge Cup quarter-final in Bordeaux and almost certainly a PRO14 semi, with the possibility of a final to follow. Then, after the briefest of breaks, it will be the 2020-21 season at the start of October.

“It’s a difficult period, because a lot of teams in our league are going to have two games and then another period of pre-season and rest, while we just don’t know what we’re going to have,” Hodge said. “Potentially we’ve got knock-out rugby in the PRO14 and then in Europe as well, and how well we do depends on what fixtures we’ve got, and that’s going to dictate injuries and a whole load of things.

“Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great position to be in: we’re extremely happy that we’re at the top end of our table and that we’re still in Europe. It’s a great thing for us, for the players and the club, but it does create a fair bit of stress.”

Hodge has been a more influential figure this season as head coach Richard Cockerill has tweaked the team’s style of play to allow for more attacking enterprise. That more expansive approach has paid dividends, taking Edinburgh to the top of Conference B, and although there will be inevitable doubts about how quickly the squad can get back to that approach, it appears they have every intention of sticking to it.

“The three weeks before we broke up, there wasn’t much great attacking rugby. The weather was gale-force winds and tipping rain so we had to adapt,” Hodge said. “Before that, we made some strides by changing a few things.

“You never quite know until you play a game. It’s not like we’re going to be playing warm-up games; we’re just going to be straight into it. The unknown is how it’s going to fare against serious opposition, but like everyone we’re trying to do everything we can to cover bases in a much shorter time, and see what happens.”