WHETHER you are talking about the race for a Champions Cup place or the battle for the 1872 Cup, Glasgow go into tonight’s game against Edinburgh with a small but significant edge. Thirteen points ahead after the first leg of the domestic trophy, they are also just above their rivals on points differential in the URC table.

The Warriors can therefore lose narrowly yet hold on to the inter-city trophy, while a draw -  unless Edinburgh score a try bonus point and they fail to do so themselves - will see Danny Wilson’s side hold on to seventh place. That would not only be enough for them to win the Scottish-Italian Shield and thus qualify for next season’s Champions Cup - in the process dooming their rivals to another season in the Challenge Cup - it would also mean they avoid a trip to Leinster in the quarter-finals.

However, any temptation to approach this match in such a defensive frame of mind will be firmly resisted by Wilson. Instead, the head coach appears determined to go on the offensive, and has signalled as much by naming Rufus McLean in his starting line-up.

Scotland winger McLean, who takes over on the left wing from Cole Forbes, has been out of action for three months with a groin injury. He would probably have been passed fit two or three weeks ago if he had been needed, but Wilson decided to hold him back for this game at BT Murrayfield, believing that the 22-year-old has the ‘X factor’ that could decide the match in his side’s favour.

“Rufus has worked really hard through his rehab to get back to fitness, and he’s raring to go,” Wilson said yesterday. “He’s looking forward to it, and likewise so are we.

“The way we’ve done this, we’ve really delayed his return to make sure he’s fully fit and has done as much conditioning as possible. Most groin issues - not that I’m a medic - can be relatively complicated. So you need to make sure you get them exactly right - specially for a racehorse, and that’s what he is. He’s a sprinter, he’s a racehorse.

“I thought Cole Forbes played really well last time. But I think Rufus has got the nod on the fact that there is that X factor that he can bring.”

Of course, X-factor players can only become the decisive influences in games if their less celebrated team-mates do the donkey work well enough first. And the worry for Wilson is that, when it comes to performing the basics well throughout a match, his team have often been found lacking this season.

A second-half slump has been painfully evident in some matches, although curiously, in the March derby at Scotstoun they actually got better the longer the match went on. Wilson will demand the sort of strong finish from his team that gave them a home victory then, but ideally he will also want a more assertive first half too. 

“We need to get both of those things right in what will be a tough, tight derby,” he continued. “The last time we played Edinburgh it was 17-17 after 55 minutes, then in the last period of the game we went on to win 30-17. We finished really strongly.” 

Besides bringing McLean into his back division, Wilson has made two changes to his pack from the line-up that started the Challenge Cup quarter-final loss to Lyon a fortnight ago, selecting George Turner at hooker and Tom Gordon in the back row. Turner takes over from Johnny Matthews, who drops down to the bench, while Gordon replaces the injured Ally Miller.  The man of the match in the first leg, Gordon may be needed to put in a similarly telling performance this evening when he comes face to face with Edinburgh openside Hamish Watson.

However, as Wilson insisted, a lot has changed since then, not least when it comes to the personnel available. His own squad, for example, is currently without the likes of Fraser Brown, Kyle Steyn and Duncan Weir as well as Miller, while other senior players who were unavailable then will take part this time round.

“Both teams are going to look quite different,” he added. “That last game was at the tail-end of the Six Nations - there was a Scotland game the next day. Both teams have injuries, but both teams are putting out their full available internationals, so it’s different in terms of personnel.”

Glasgow Warriors (v Edinburgh at BT Murrayfield, today 6.30pm): O Smith; J McKay, S Tuipulotu, S Johnson, R McLean; R Thompson, A Price; J Bhatti, G Turner, Z Fagerson, R Harley, R Gary, R Wilson (captain), T Gordon, J Dempsey. Substitutes: J Matthews, N McBeth, S Berghan, K McDonald, G Brown, J Dobie, D Miotti, S McDowall.