Brew­ery deal leaves Scots rugby feel­ing the ef­fects . . .

New op­ti­mism in game is epit­o­mised by bur­geon­ing in­ter­est in 1872 Cup clashes

The Herald - Sport - - RUGBY UNION - LEWIS STU­ART

ALOT has hap­pened since Scot­land got knocked out of the World Cup in that trau­matic one-point de­feat by Aus­tralia, but the feel­good fac­tor is hang­ing on. Cale­do­nian Brew­ery rep­re­sen­ta­tives yes­ter­day cited it as the main rea­son for re­new­ing their part­ner­ship with the Scot­tish Rugby Union and the union are bank­ing on the same op­ti­mism to pro­duce bumper crowds for the two 1872 Cup derby games over Christ­mas and New Year.

For the play­ers, on the other hand, it is a strange time. Mem­o­ries of the World Cup are still there, as is the frus­tra­tion at the way it ended; there are huge, im­por­tant Guin­ness PRO12 and Euro­pean matches to play be­fore Ed­in­burgh host the first of the derby games in a lit­tle more than a month but they know peo­ple are al­ready start­ing to fo­cus on the lo­cal bat­tles ahead.

“It is on the hori­zon but there is still quite a bit of rugby to go,” pointed out Sean La­mont, the Glas­gow War­riors wing. “It was a strange and dis­ap­point­ing couple of weeks with the Paris thing and then just not get­ting off to a good start against Northamp­ton last week­end. That is what we’ve mostly fo­cused on – look­ing to get back to win­ning ways this week. I’m sure as time goes on things will build up.”

The brew­ery deal was an­nounced by Alas­tair Camp­bell, the man­ag­ing di­rec­tor, who pointed out that with the en­cour­ag­ing, though ul­ti­mately frus­trat­ing, World Cup cam­paign hard on the heels of Glas­gow War­riors win­ning the Guin­ness PRO12 ti­tle in May and Ed­in­burgh reach­ing a show­piece Euro­pean fi­nal, there was a pos­i­tive mood around the sport.

To help build that fur­ther, they are sub­si­dis­ing buses to be laid on to help ferry supporters from city to city dur­ing the week­ends af­ter Christ­mas and New Year, with the clubs aim­ing for record crowds, es­pe­cially for the BT Mur­ray­field match.

“There’s some­thing strange about lo­cal ri­val­ries,” said La­mont. “You know the op­po­si­tion play­ers, it’s al­most like a sib­ling ri­valry, play­ing your mates. We trained with th­ese [Ed­in­burgh] guys over the sum­mer. You know their traits, but it of­ten just comes down to some pretty ugly rugby.

“You have planned to do this and that but it of­ten de­scends into a bit of a fist fight; the pretty rugby goes out the win­dow and you brute-force it. It’s a good lit­tle thing, es­pe­cially over Christ­mas and New Year, with the good crowds. That’s the best part: vo­cal crowd and a spe­cial at­mos­phere. The more Glas­gow fans that travel for the first game the bet­ter for us.”

The dan­ger is that in all that hype, the bread-and-but­ter is for­got­ten, but La­mont, who won his 100th Scot­land cap dur­ing the World Cup, is too ex­pe­ri­enced to look that far ahead, and prefers to high­light the im­por­tance of this week­end’s match against Tre­viso for his club af­ter their Euro­pean de­feat to Northamp­ton at the week­end.

“It’s im­por­tant we bounce back, we can’t af­ford to drop more points in the league. We’re sit­ting sixth in the ta­ble and if we want to get that top four slot and chal­lenge for an­other ti­tle we’ve got to be tak­ing ev­ery point we can and drop­ping as few as pos­si­ble. Tre­viso are a good side, they are al­ways very phys­i­cal and if we’re not on form they’ll be a ba­nana peel,” he said.

“We’ve got to be care­ful about not be­ing com­pla­cent and ex­pect­ing an easy ride – that’s when you get stung. We just want to get back on our form af­ter not play­ing well against Northamp­ton and get a bit of our con­fi­dence back. Play our brand of rugby we know how to play and the re­sult will take care of it­self.”

Over at Ed­in­burgh, the Scot­tish el­e­ment is new to John Hardie, the flanker, but he has seen it all be­fore in his na­tive New Zealand and has a fair idea what to ex­pect, though in his case his col­leagues are head­ing into De­cem­ber on the back of some more en­cour­ag­ing Euro­pean per­for­mances restor­ing some con­fi­dence af­ter a couple of wob­bles in the league.

“It was good to get back onto a win­ning note against a couple of Euro­pean sides but it is go­ing to be a step up again this week back in the PRO12 against the Dragons,” he warned. “It is go­ing to be pretty full on; ev­ery game is go­ing to be tough.

“I have heard so much about the [1872] Cup and the ri­valry. I know all about what ri­valry like that is about from back home so it is really ex­cit­ing to, hope­fully, be a part of it and play against some mates, fa­mil­iar faces. It is some­thing I really look for­ward to.”

Pic­ture: SNS

RI­VALS: Ed­in­burgh’s John Hardie (left) joins Glas­gow’s Sean La­mont to pro­mote the 1872 Cup der­bies.

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