WHAT is probably the most important match between Glasgow Warriors and Edinburgh Rugby in years will take place on Saturday at Murrayfield, when Edinburgh attempt to overturn the 13 point deficit from the first leg to win the 1872 Cup.

Why do I say this is the most important match? Simple – there is just so much at stake in this single match, as never before so late on in the professional season. The Cup having been postponed from the usual Christmas and New Year timing, we now have a frankly incredible scenario for the deciding leg in the latest edition of the oldest inter-district match in the world.

It’s the last day of the United Rugby Championship so winning the 1872 Cup is the least of it, for at stake is next season’s European participation – the winner will top the Scottish x Italian Shield and gain automatic qualification for the Champions Cup, and the loser will go into the second tier Challenge Cup. I don’t know what the financial benefits of being in the top tier competition will be,  but they are bound to make it a qualification worth gaining. Forget the money – the sheer prestige of being in the Champions Cup will give Saturday’s winners the bragging rights that will last for many months, and you would be surprised how motivational those rights can be.   

There’s another massive incentive to win the game – both sides having qualified for the URC play-offs, the loser will definitely finish in eighth place in the table and will then have to play the currently all-powerful Leinster in Dublin on the first weekend in June. If ninth-placed Ospreys can beat the Bulls at home on Friday night and not concede a bonus point then Saturday’s Murrayfield winner will finish sixth and perhaps have a slightly easier draw in the quarter-finals, though they will still face a trip to Ireland or South Africa.

The SRU and both clubs have been going all out to maximise the crowd, though I thought the SRU website was over-egging the pudding by stating “supporters from both sides of the derby are encouraged to back their club for the ‘Final Chapter’ in what has been a storied season for both of Scotland’s professional clubs.” Storied? Come on - Warriors finished ninth in their pool in the Champions Cup and neither side made it past the quarter-finals of the Challenge Cup, but hey-ho, at least they both made the play-offs in the URC.

Victory on Saturday will allow Edinburgh or Warriors to claim a bit of history, but consider this outcome: it is perfectly possible that Edinburgh could win the match by less than 13 points and thus they will go into next season’s Champions Cup while Glasgow would lift the 1872 Cup but go into the Challenge Cup.      

The decision to move the match to Murrayfield has been seen as disadvantageous to Edinburgh given their fine record at the DAM Health Stadium, but the fact is that both sides are replete with players who know Murrayfield well, having played there in internationals. The SRU are the winners here, because the attendance will be so much greater – I must also commend them for allowing under-12s in for £1 if they are accompanying an adult. I don’t think it will be a record crowd because many of those who might have gone along will perhaps be distracted by the events at Hampden Park earlier in the afternoon, but there will be a sizeable attendance and hopefully a buzzing atmosphere.  

So who will win? The first leg was exciting, but came down to two mistakes by Edinburgh that allowed Thomas Gordon to score his second try and Josh McKay to gain the clincher after Sebastian Cancelliere pounced on Edinburgh’s loss of the ball. Of course both sides will be entirely different from the line-ups that played back in March, and the extensive Warriors’ injury list will mean that head coach Danny Wilson has limited options, though Glasgow did give the squad and their fans a fillip yesterday with the announcement that Scotland centre Huw Jones is returning to Scotstoun for 2022-23 and beyond after a successful season with Harlequins.

Edinburgh have injury problems, too, but head coach Mike Blair seemed confident that star winger D’Arcy Graham will be back. Blair also tried some psychology by announcing the retention of Mark Bennett on Tuesday after a fine season by the centre.  

As with any derby, form books are often dispensable, but I just feel that Edinburgh will have the edge up front and will get sufficient ball to allow their backs to flourish. If Edinburgh can cut out the mistakes they should win, but I would not be surprised if it is a tight game and they don’t score the 14 points more than the Warriors that they need to prise the 1872 Cup out of Glasgow’s hands.