Glasgow have nothing to lose: Edinburgh have everything to win. That contrast could well determine the nature of today’s third, decisive 1872 Cup match of the season - although whether it also determines the outcome is another matter.

Danny Wilson’s Warriors have no more than an academic hope of reaching the PRO14 semi-finals. Not only do they need to win both this game and next Friday’s return with bonus points to have a chance of finishing the regular season in the top two in Conference A, they also require Ulster to pick up no more than a point from their own last two games. Relieved of the burden of expectation, they can go out and play in the style they like best - open, adventurous and inventive.

Edinburgh’s position, on the other hand, is almost a mirror image. They can lose both of these Murrayfield matches and still go through to the last four provided Scarlets drop a point along the way, but their real aim is to hold on to first place in Conference B and claim a home semi-final, thus avoiding Leinster. With just a two-point advantage over second-placed Munster, Richard Cockerill’s squad have little real room for manoeuvre, which may predispose them towards playing more conservatively.

“I’m sure it’s going to be a little bit scrappy and cagey,” Cockerill said yesterday. “Glasgow have got nothing to lose and I suppose that makes them even more dangerous, because they can come and experiment and chuck the ball around - the consequences for them aren’t much, really. It’s going to be an interesting dynamic.” 

What makes it especially interesting is Wilson’s selection of Huw Jones, normally an outside centre, at full-back. Budgetary restrictions prevented the new Glasgow coach from signing a new 15, leaving him almost as short of options there as Cockerill is at stand-off, where Jaco van der Walt is the only senior player available to him. Jones on his day is an inspired attacker, but the defensive susceptibilities he has shown in the past might be all the more exposed in his new position.

“Needs must,” was Wilson’s explanation of that selection. “Huw has played 15 before at the Stormers, and he’s an outstanding attacking presence. It is an experiment for us, there's no doubt about that, but we’ll see how it goes. This is the type of game where we get the opportunity to do that.” 

If Glasgow are in the ascendancy Jones might well have an enjoyable evening, but he is sure to be subjected to some difficult moments first. “I’d say he’s going to be catching a high ball quite early tomorrow, wouldn’t you?,” Cockerill pointed out with a hint of understated menace. “It’s no secret, is it? 

“And the way they defend, they don’t ask their full-backs to close, so Glasgow full-backs maybe do less tackling in the way they defend than maybe other sides do. So our strategy won’t change around how we get out of our half of the field, and he’ll be under pressure to catch a few high balls, but that’s nothing new. He’s a very talented player and we’re not going to under-estimate him and think that it’s going to be easy, because he could kill it tomorrow at full-back and that could be his new position for the rest of
the season at Glasgow. 

“He’s a world-class 13. We’ll have to see how his positioning is in the back field, but certainly going forward, counter-attacking, if you kick loosely to a player of his quality then he’s going to cause problems. He’s very, very quick, and he’s got a very good eye
for the gap. We’re going to have to be smart in how we play. He’s a very talented footballer and we’ve got to make sure we give him as little opportunity as possible.

“Our defence is going to be key, the competition at the breakdown is going to be key, but that’s the same for both sides. We pride ourselves on making good decisions wherever we are on the field, so if there’s an opportunity to attack, we’ll attack. If there is
no opportunity, we’re more than comfortable to kick it in the air and go and chase it. I think at times Glasgow have found that a little bit irritating and boring, but we’ve got a plan to win the game and hopefully that will come to fruition tomorrow. 

“With the break we’ve had and what’s gone on, who knows where we’re going to end up? Everybody’s a little bit in the dark.”

We are indeed. No-one’s match fitness has been put to the test yet, for example, and no matter how promising players may have looked in training, delivering during a match is another matter.   

What is more, despite the lack of an actual game, both teams have substantial injury lists. Glasgow must also do without Leone Nakarawa, who is still on extended paternity leave back home in Fiji, while Edinburgh are without their twin back-row bludgeons, Jamie Ritchie and Magnus Bradbury. Wilson’s combination in his own back row of Rob Harley, Matt Fagerson and Ryan Wilson is a formidable one, and although Hamish Watson is the best breakdown player in the country, Edinburgh will probably try to steer things away from that department as much as they can.

If Cockerill’s team succeed in keeping it a tight contest, they should prevail. But the looser the game gets, the more it will play into Glasgow’s hands.