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Guinness PRO12 Final, BT Murrayfield, Edinburgh, Scotland 28/5/2016 Connacht vs Leinster Connacht captain John Muldoon lifts the PRO12 trophy Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/James Crombie

Connacht captain John Muldoon lifts the PRO12 trophy
©INPHO/James Crombie

Connacht became the seventh team to claim the Guinness PRO12 title with a magnificent display at BT Murrayfield, beating Leinster 20-10 to complete a dream season

In front of a record crowd for a Guinness PRO12 Final of 34,550, Pat Lam’s team scored three tries on the biggest day in their 131-year history.

While they were nervy in the opening exchanges once they got their hands on the ball, Connacht dominated the opening 40 minutes.

Able to open up Leinster with alarming regularity, they scored two fantastic first-half tries, through Tiernan O’Halloran and Niyi Adeolokun to lead 15-0 at the break.

While Jonathan Sexton cut the deficit with a penalty early in the second half, Matt Healy’s try just before the hour stretched the lead out to 17.

That was cut to ten when Sean Cronin went over to set up a huge last ten minutes but there was to be no comeback as Connacht produced one final effort to see it out.

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Mike Blair

Mike Blair

Glasgow Warriors scrumhalf Mike Blair has retired from playing with immediate effect and will take up a new coaching role at the club next season.

The 35-year-old will remain with Scottish Rugby as an assistant coach at the Warriors.

Blair joined Glasgow this season and has made 12 appearances for the club and was voted Player of the Month in October.

The 85-capped former Scotland international has had an illustrious career, representing Edinburgh Rugby, Brive, Newcastle Falcons and the Warriors.

Blair enjoyed 10 years with Edinburgh Rugby, playing his first professional game in 2001. Highlights included being runners up in the Magners League in 2009 and reaching the semifinals of the European Cup in 2012.

Scotland’s most capped scrumhalf captained his country on 14 occasions before retiring from international rugby at the start of 2013, aged 31.

He was named Scotland’s Player of the Year in 2008 and was nominated for the IRB World Player of the Year that same season. He toured South Africa with the British and Irish Lions in 2009.

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BT Murrayfield Stadium

BT Murrayfield

European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) has announced the key dates for the 2016 / 2017 season ahead of the knockout stages of the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup.

Next season’s tournaments will get underway with 2 Rounds in October, followed by Rounds 3 and 4 in December, and as is customary, the pool stages will reach their conclusion with Rounds 5 and 6 in January.

The quarterfinal matches will be staged at the end of March and the beginning of April 2017 with the semifinals played 3 weeks later.

Then European club rugby’s showcase weekend will return to Edinburgh for the 1st time since 2009 when both the Challenge Cup and Champions Cup finals will be held at BT Murrayfield Stadium on 12 and 13 May 2017.

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Cornell du Preez

Cornell du Preez in action against Glasgow Warriors

Edinburgh head coach Alan Solomons insists the fact Cornell du Preez is prepared to play through the pain barrier shows how special a player he is.

The loose forward is in line for his 50th appearance for the Scottish side when he runs out against Benetton Treviso in the Guinness PRO12 tonight (Friday night).

The South African-born forward joined the club ahead of the 2013 / 2014 season and has racked up 37 league appearances since.

He missed most of last season, however, due to an ankle injury but has appeared in all of Edinburgh’s Guinness PRO12 games this campaign, helping the club to 4th in the table.

However, Solomons admitted his player is still overcoming the after effects of that injury.

“Cornell has made a massive contribution to Edinburgh,” he said.

“There are not many people who would have had the ankle injury he has had and come back to play like he has.

“He is going to play in pain for a while. He trains and plays and has a bit of pain there, obviously. It is the kind of injury that will take 18 months to clear up. He is a class rugby player.”

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Glasgow WarriorsRyan Wilson will make his 100th Glasgow Warriors appearance in the second leg of the 1872 Scottish Cup with Edinburgh at a sold-out Scotstoun on Saturday evening.

The backrower keeps his place at blindside flanker, following Edinburgh’s 23 / 11 victory in the first leg at BT Murrayfield last Sunday.

The only change to the back 3 sees Sean Lamont replace Tommy Seymour on the left wing. Stuart Hogg continues at fullback and Taqele Naiyaravoro lines up on the right wing.

Mark Bennett and Peter Horne continue their centre partnership, while Duncan Weir comes in for Finn Russell at flyhalf and Ali Price replaces Grayson Hart at scrumhalf.

In the pack Gordon Reid starts at loosehead prop, with Ryan Grant named on the bench, while Fraser Brown retains his place at hooker and Zander Fagerson comes in for Sila Puafisi at tighthead prop.

After missing last weekend’s defeat captain Jonny Gray returns to the side and partners USA international Greg Peterson in the engine room, with Leone Nakarawa named amongst the replacements.

The only change to the backrow sees Josh Strauss return at No 8 in place of Adam Ashe. Chris Fusaro continues at openside and Wilson wears the No 6 jersey.

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1872 CupEdinburgh hold a 12-point lead on aggregate going into the second leg of the 1872 Cup, after an excellent 23 / 11 home win over rival Glasgow Warriors, in front of a record crowd of 23 642 at BT Murrayfield.

The win not only gives Edinburgh the advantage going into next week’s second-leg encounter at Scotstoun, but also sees them leapfrog the Warriors in the Guinness PRO12 table.

2 Tries from centre Matt Scott and back-row John Hardie, were bolstered by the sterling boot of Sam Hidalgo-Clyne who notched up 16 points from the tee to contribute to Edinburgh’s 26-points tally.

Despite opening the scoring through a Mark Bennett try, Edinburgh snatched Glasgow’s lead in the 12th minute with Hidalgo-Clyne’s conversion to Scott’s try, and retained it for the remaining 68 minutes of the game.

There was one late change to the sides prior to proceedings as Glasgow captain and lock Jonny Gray pulled out through injury. Centre Peter Horne took on skippering duties, with Tim Swinson gaining promotion from the bench and USA Eagles internationalist Greg Peterson being named as a substitute.

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Roddy Grant

Roddy Grant

Experienced Edinburgh flanker Roddy Grant has been forced to retire after failing to recover from a knee injury suffered at the end of last season.

The 28-year-old played 138 times for the club and represented Scotland Sevens between 2006 and 2014, including last year’s Commonwealth Games.

“A difficult time has been made easier as it’s not been a decision,” said Grant.

“You just have to get on with it, accept things and move on.”

Grant joined Edinburgh in 2009 after beginning his Scottish rugby career as an apprentice with Border Reivers.

A recipient of the John Macphail Scholarship in 2008, he broadened his experience playing with Auckland University in New Zealand, having played through Scotland’s age grades, and went on to be part of the Scotland A team that secured a 35 / 0 victory over England Saxons in 2012.

“It’s been a pretty emotional time, having to come to terms with the fact I have to stop playing due to injury but I have no regrets,” added Grant.

“I’m really proud of what I’ve done, what I’ve achieved and what I’ve contributed.”

Head coach Alan Solomons said: “Roddy’s retirement is a sad day for both the club and Scottish rugby.

“I’ve been fortunate, over the years, to coach some terrific young men; Roddy is right up there with the best of the best. His contribution to the club has been immense, both on and off the field. He is a leader of men and the ultimate pro.

“He has the heart of a lion, an unbelievable work-rate and he knew our systems and his role within them to perfection. Roddy never had a bad game. He is certainly one of the most consistent players I have ever coached.

“We will miss him – he is one of a kind.”

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1872 CupThe coaches have named their teams for the opening leg of the 1872 Scottish Cup, at BT Murrayfield on Sunday 27 December (kick-off 15:05 UK time; 17:05 SA Time). As reigning cup holders, Alan Solomons has made 2 changes to the Edinburgh starting XV that beat London Irish last weekend in the European Challenge Cup, while Gregor Townsend has called up former Edinburgh scrumhalf Grayson Hart replacing Mike Blair in the No 9 shirt as the Warriors return to Guinness PRO12 action following their back-to-back European Rugby Champions Cup wins over the Scarlets.

In total there are 20 Scotland capped players in the starting XVs (8 for Edinburgh, 12 for Glasgow) with a further 4 on the bench (1 for Edinburgh, 3 for Glasgow). With the RBS 6 Nations Championship only 6 short weeks away, the players will want to impress head coach Vern Cotter as well as win their team valuable Guinness PRO12 league points.

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1872 CupIt’s the most wonderful time of the year. A feast of rugby awaits fans of the Scottish pro teams as they look forward to December’s derby matches. The 1872 Cup may be a relatively recent creation but it epitomises a rivalry that stretches back over 140 years.

 

1872 to 1953:

The very first Glasgow vs Edinburgh meeting took place on 23 November 1872 at Burnbank, home of Glasgow Accies, and has the very precise historical claim of being the world’s first non-international representative rugby union fixture. The game was 20-a-side (a possible tactical choice for Alan Solomons to even the odds?) and saw Edinburgh emerge victorious by a drop goal to nil (someone may need to explain to the current Warriors squad what a drop goal is). There wasn’t actually a cup up for grabs – it would take more than 100 years before that came along. This may have been due to fears on the East coast that their Weegie counterparts would melt down any trophy and sell it in the 19th century equivalent of Cash for Gold.

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alan solomons

Alan Solomons

Edinburgh head coach Alan Solomons has signed an extension to his contract, keeping him at the club until June 2017.

The capital club started the 2015 / 2016 season strongly in the Guinness Pro12 with 4 consecutive wins and recently recorded back-to-back victories against French opposition in the European Challenge Cup.

Scottish Rugby Chief Executive Mark Dodson said: “Alan is successfully building on the improved performances achieved by Edinburgh Rugby last season, which saw them reach the European Challenge Cup Final and secure the 1872 Cup.

“The club has made a positive start to the new season and we wanted to ensure Alan was able to continue to develop the vision he started in 2013. We are therefore very pleased he has committed to Edinburgh through to 2017.”

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Ash Jones

Ash Jones – Head of Strength and Conditioning at Edinburgh

Ash Jones, Edinburgh’s head of strength and conditioning, has just been named Professional Strength & Conditioning Coach of the Year by the discipline’s world leading membership organisation, the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA).

He said: “It is a worldwide award but the organisation is based in the USA which is why I didn’t really think I had a chance of winning, although I was honoured to receive the nomination.

As the 1st coach from outside the the USA and the 1st rugby S & C coach to win the accolade, Jones admits the honour came out of the blue.

“With the number of S & C coaches across all sports in the United States, someone in America would have a much better chance of winning it but it shows the outward looking focus of the organisation.”

Strength and conditioning is now an integral part of the coaching team and Jones, who joined Edinburgh 12 months ago, has now worked in 3 professional sports (basketball, rugby league and rugby union) across 4 countries (New Zealand, Australia, Japan and Scotland).

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ScotlandWhen he took to the field as Scotland cap number 1 073, Josh Strauss became the 50th player to make his debut for the national side since the last Rugby World Cup in 2011. This is by far the highest number of new players for Scotland in any Rugby World Cup cycle – more, in fact, than the previous 2 combined (48 new caps). It requires going back to the 1950s to find a greater number of 1st caps in a 4 year period.

Despite having the smallest player base of any of the Six Nations, Scotland has had more debutants than any of their rivals:

  • England – 41
  • France – 40
  • Ireland – 37
  • Italy – 31
  • Wales – 37

In fact only 1 side who competed at this year’s Rugby World Cup awarded more new caps in the last 4 years. By a quirk of the global calendar Argentina didn’t have access to many of their 1st (or even 2nd) choice players when the South American Championship takes place and 54 of their 67 new caps (including 24 in the space of 5 days in 2013, the last year they appeared in it!) debuted in the annual iterations of this tournament.

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Edinburgh RugbyAs Edinburgh take to the home turf tomorrow (Friday 13 November) to meet FC Grenoble in the opening Round of this season’s European Challenge Cup (kick-off 19:30 UK Time, 21:30 SA Time), they will be led out by the player endearingly referred to by his team-mates as the ‘squadfather’, prop Alasdair Dickinson, who reaches his 100th cap for the club.

Meanwhile in the pack, at openside, John Hardie will be making his debut in the black and red jersey, after signing for the club last month following his Scotland debut at No 7 in the Rugby World Cup.

Loosehead Dickinson joins hooker Ross Ford and tighthead WP Nel in an unchanged front row, with Anton Bresler and Alex Toolis maintaining their partnership from last week at lock.

Mike Coman captains the team again at blindside with Hardie making his debut at openside and Cornell Du Preez retaining the No 8 jersey.

Meanwhile there is 1 change in the backs with Dougie Fife moving up from the bench to start at fullback. Damien Hoyland and Tom Brown stay on the right and left wings respectively while last week’s try scorer Will Helu and Matt Scott remain at outside and inside centre. The halfback pairing of Greig Tonks at flyhalf and scrumhalf Sam Hidalgo-Clyne is also retained.

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Andy Nicol

Pundit Andy Nicol during his playing days

Former captain Andy Nicol believes it is “inevitable” that some of Scotland’s Rugby World Cup squad will join Dave Denton in moving from the country.

Denton has joined Bath from Edinburgh after the English Premiership club paid a transfer fee for the 25-year-old.

“That’s what happens at a World Cup,” said Nicol, the former scrumhalf who captained Bath. “You perform well and the big cheque books may open for you. That’s what happens to the Georgians and the Japanese.”

Nicol says Scotland’s run to the Rugby World Cup quarterfinals will have alerted clubs to Scottish players.

“You could get somebody here much cheaper than somebody who is established,” he said.

“It’s inevitable that we lose a few players and Dave Denton is the first.”

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David Denton

David Denton

Bath have signed Scotland loose forward David Denton from Edinburgh.

The arrival of Denton helps the Premiership club cover the departure of Sam Burgess, who left to return to rugby league last week.

Denton, 25, has 32 Scotland caps and appeared in 4 Rugby World Cup games earlier this year.

“We’ve been looking to bolster our back row for some time now so we’re very excited that David is joining us,” said Bath head coach Mike Ford.

Born in Zimbabwe, Denton played for Eastern Province in South Africa before moving to Scotland.

“He had an excellent World Cup, especially in the quarterfinal when he managed to outshine one of the best Australian back rows I’ve seen for a long time,” added Ford. “He’s going to fit in very well with the team and the way we play here.”

Denton made 78 appearances for Edinburgh following his arrival in 2010, and can switch between blindside flanker and No 8.

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RBS20A Scots rugby fan spoke of his anger after he was refused the sale of a scarf at the official Rugby World Cup store because he had a Scottish £ 20 note.

Peter Mechan had gone to see the Fiji vs Uruguay match on Tuesday and decided to browse the merchandise store for a souvenir.

He picked out a scarf and tried to pay with a Scottish £ 20 note he’d picked up on a recent visit to Edinburgh, but he said he was left “insulted” and upset when staff said they were not allowed to accept his cash.

Peter, 52, a senior IT project manager who lives in Milton Keynes, later returned to the store to try again and filmed his confrontation with the shop staff.

And after posting the video to Facebook, it was shared more than 4 500 times and scored 156 000 views in just 15 hours.

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ScotlandThe Scotland team and the 2 Scottish PRO12 teams, Edinburgh and Glasgow Warriors, were in action this weekend playing warm-up matches.

Scotland faced Italy for the 2nd weekend in a row in the 3rd of their 4 Rugby World Cup warm-up matches. The game was played at Murrayfield in front of what was said to be a record crowd for a summer Test match. The team that ran out must have been close to Vern Cotter’s 1st choice 15 and they did not disappoint running in 6 tries and only conceding 1 in a very impressive performance.

WP Nel put in a solid performance which saw Italy’s scrum in trouble from the word go. The pressure Nel put on Italy’s loosehead prop earned Scotland a few penalties with the loosehead resorting to scrumming in on various occasions.

The next game of the day also took place in Edinburgh where the hosts took on Ulster in a preseason warm-up match, 1 week ahead of the start of the PRO12 for 2015 / 2016. The game was played at Heriot FC’s ground Goldenacre due to the Test match which was played earlier in the day at Murrayfield.

Head coach Alan Solomons would have been pleased to see his team get their 2nd win in their 2nd preseason friendly match against what was a fairly strong starting Ulster line-up.

The final game of the day, which was billed as the ‘Battle of New Scotland’, saw Canada host Glasgow Warriors in Halifax Nova Scotia.

Josh Strauss played the whole game for the Warriors ahead of possible inclusion in the Scotland World Cup squad. Former Glasgow Warriors winger DTH vd Merwe scored a try for Canada late in the game to ensure victory for them. The game was played in quite high temperatures and there were a few water breaks during the game.

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roddyed

Roddy Grant

A team of 28, captained by flanker Roddy Grant, has been announced for Edinburgh Rugby’s opening pre-season friendly against Romania at the Greenyards tonight (Friday 21 August, kick-off 18:30 UK Time, 19:30 SA Time).

Bolstering the backs for this season, Edinburgh Rugby announce the signing of winger Otulea Katoa on a 1-year deal.

The Tongan international, who arrived in the capital earlier this week with his wife and 1-year-old son Eli, will bulk up the backs with a number of players involved with Scotland throughout the year.

The 24-year-old, who has been capped 7 times by Tonga, most recently represented his country in July’s Pacific Nations Cup and has been signed from New Zealand provincial side, Southland.

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Taqele Naiyaravoro

Taqele Naiyaravoro

The Scottish Rugby Union is set to spend a 6-figure fee to sign powerhouse Fijian-born wing Taqele Naiyaravoro, with the aim of making him eligible to play for Scotland after a 3-year residency period.

Naiyaravoro, who has been compared to All Blacks legend Jonah Lomu, declined to comment on reports he had signed with Edinburgh, but Waratahs CEO Greg Harris said the Fijian-born powerhouse had a contractual obligation to the Scottish team.

This clause in the contract states that if the Australians call him up for international duty, he will remain in the Southern Hemisphere.

According to reports in Australia, New South Wales Waratahs wing Naiyaravoro has been allocated to Edinburgh as part of a 3-year deal worth AUS $ 1 million to the 23-year-old.

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European Rugby Challenge CupEdinburgh welcome fullback Greig Tonks back into their side for tonight’s European Challenge Cup final against Gloucester.

He is 1 of 2 changes made by head coach Alan Solomons, who also brings Cornell Du Preez in at eighthman.

Greig Laidlaw, who was 1 of a number of players rested for Gloucester’s Premiership fixture against Newcastle, returns to face his former club.

Billy Twelvetrees captains the Cherry and Whites, while Richard Hibbard and James Hook also come back in.

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WP Nel

WP Nel

At the end of a trying season of provincial rugby under the sweltering South African sun, Willem Petrus Nel trudged exhausted from the field.

He turned to his coach and mentor, Pierre Ribbens, a distinguished ex-prop for the Bulls in what is now the Super 15 competition, the cream of the Southern Hemisphere game.

“I think I’m done with rugby – I don’t want to play anymore,” he said.

In late 2008, the 22-year-old tight-head had completed his agricultural studies, his certificate signed and stamped. From university some 250 miles to the south, the pull of home, the sheep farm he had been raised tending and the rolling mountains of the Northern Cape was strong.

“Give me a week,” replied Ribbens.

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Sam Hidalgo-Clyne

Edinburgh clinched a place in the European Challenge Cup Final in emphatic style at BT Murrayfield to make history as the 1st Scottish side to reach a European final.

The Scottish capital side stormed to their largest victory in Europe with a rousing 45 / 16 triumph over Newport Gwent Dragons with scrumhalf Sam Hidalgo-Clyne helping himself to another record 25 points. Now they go on to face either Gloucester or Exeter Chiefs at the Twickenham Stoop on Friday 1 May.

Hidalgo-Clyne once again proved their star-turn with a try in his club record 25-point haul that took his tally in Europe this season to 91 points. That makes him the highest scorer in the tournament.

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Edinburgh RugbyEdinburgh Rugby’s players are in open revolt against their managing director, David Davies, after he sacked the long-serving team manager. Lynsey Dingwall was a popular and efficient member of the backroom staff at Edinburgh Rugby yet she was given an hour to clear her desk after working at the club for 14 years.

The players sent an email to the board and the council of the Scottish Rugby Union (SRU) which Scotland on Sunday has seen. In the missive, sent on 23 March, the players offer their full support to Dingwall.

“We feel the dismissal of Lynsey Dingwall was unfair and unjustified,” the e-mail reads. “Lynsey was part of Edinburgh Rugby for 14 years. Over that period she worked tirelessly with and for the players and was hugely respected within the organisation. Numerous past coaches and players have commented that she was the best team manager that they have ever worked with. We feel she has been the victim of a personal attack.”

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Nasi Manu

Nasi Manu

Highlanders co-captain Nasi Manu has signed for Scottish club Edinburgh and will leave at the end of the current Super Rugby season.

Manu has played 53 games for the Highlanders and has been co-captain with Ben Smith for the last 2 seasons.

“Believe me it was a very hard decision to leave the Highlanders, my team mates, my friends and family. This place, this team, it gets under your skin, becomes part of you and I will always treasure my time here” said Manu.

“Obviously I want to go out on a good note and I am keen to finish off my time here really successfully and that’s my focus at the moment.

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ScotlandHugh Blake has become the latest player to join the Kilted Kiwi brigade, joining his fellow countrymen Blair Cowan and Sean Maitland in the Scotland squad. It came as a big surprise to see Blake’s name on the team sheet as the Junior All Black and Highlander, now getting his first call up to a Scotland squad, only joined Edinburgh in December last year.

He played in an ‘A’ team fixture for Edinburgh against Glasgow Warriors on 22 December and had to leave the field injured, suffering from concussion following a knock to his head which knocked him out for a bit. Flanker Blake (1.87m and 102kg) has yet to appear for the senior Edinburgh team and what makes his inclusion even more baffling is that he was introduced as being recruited for a trial period on his arrival in Edinburgh.

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1872 CupThe festive season continues with derby matches in Round 12 of the Guinness PRO12. Some of the matches are the return leg of derbies played around the Boxing Day period. The attention in Scotland will be focussed on BT Murrayfield on Friday night where Edinburgh will host their rivals from the west, Glasgow Warriors, in a PRO12 fixture that doubles up as the second leg of the 1872 Cup.

Glasgow Warriors go into the game with a 10-point advantage following their win over Edinburgh on Boxing Day and will be looking to retain what is said to be the oldest cup in club rugby, yet again. There was only 1 try scored in the first leg of the 1872 Cup last week and with blustery conditions likely for Friday night the game may be a low scoring battle of attrition that could go the way of the team that makes the least errors.

Considering the relative positions of the 2 teams on the PRO12 table and the fact that Glasgow go into the game with that 10- point cushion one should expect at the very least that they maintain their grip on the 1872 Cup.

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Commonwealth Games 2014The rugby year has not pegged out just yet but, even before the first of the thunderous 1872 Cup clashes between Glasgow and Edinburgh, the sport seems to have lapsed into reflective mode.

So, too, your correspondent, croaking towards 2014’s finishing line in a clapped-out but generally contented frame of mind. So when the stockings have been hung, I shall allow myself a few moments of rheumy-eyed and entirely random reflection on what made this twelve-month memorable .

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TrevisoEdinburghSam Hidalgo-Clyne showed his promise in an Edinburgh shirt from minute one as he scored his first Guinness PRO12 try for the club in a thumping 48-0 victory over Treviso.

The 21-year-old, who has featured predominantly off the bench for Edinburgh this season, went over inside a minute, with Mike Coman, WP Nel, Grayson Hart, Roddy Grant and Dave Denton also touching down in the bonus-point win.

Treviso finished the game with 14 men after Romulo Acosta was shown a straight Red Card for punching, while the result means they are still without a win in this season’s competition.

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Greig Tonks

Greig Tonks

As Edinburgh strive for four wins from four in Europe this Sunday, Greig Tonks will be running out for his 50th cap for the club.

There are seven changes to the starting 15 that beat London Welsh in the opening double-header, at BT Murrayfield last Sunday. Jack Cuthbert comes in at fullback with Dougie Fife, a late injury withdrawal last weekend, returning on the right wing.

A changed halfback pairing sees Greig Tonks at flyhalf and Sam Hidalgo-Clyne in the scrumhalf berth.

Meanwhile in the pack, with Ross Ford still out, Neil Cochrane gets a start at hooker, while John Andress and Anton Bresler move up from the bench to start at tighthead and lock respectively.

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EdinburghGlasgow WarriorsEdinburgh head coach Alan Solomons believes that his squad has got through the worst of an injury crisis which threatened to engulf the team just a few short weeks ago.

Edinburgh flew to Milan ­yesterday then took a 75-mile bus ride to Parma, ahead of ­facing Guinness Pro12 strugglers Zebre at the Stadio XXV Aprile tomorrow afternoon.

It may have been an arduous trip but Solomons was in good fettle – despite Edinburgh still being without several leading players, including Grant Gilchrist (broken arm), Hamish Watson (knee) and Cornell du Preez, who is set to miss the rest of the season with a leg injury.

Solomons said that the ­Autumn Tests came at just the right time for other leading players to recover and he is ­excited about his team’s chances of climbing into the top six of the Pro 12 table, which would qualify them for the Champions Cup next season.

Edinburgh returned to action in fine style last Sunday when they defeated Cardiff Blues at home, and they will fancy their chances against a Zebre side which was hammered 43-3 by Connacht on Friday night.

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Omar Mouneimne

Omar Mouneimne

Edinburgh confirmed on Tuesday that due to personal reasons Omar Mouneimne has had to leave the Pro12 outfit to return to South Africa.

“We are sorry that Omar has had to return to South Africa to deal with some personal issues,” Edinburgh coaching boss Alan Solomons said.

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ScotlandPrior to the test match between Scotland and the New Zealand All Blacks we featured a piece which suggested that we would like to see wholesale changes to Scotland’s team to face Tonga this coming Saturday. In short the reasoning was that in picking a team with as many players who ply their trade outside Scotland as the two professional teams under Scottish Rugby Union’s control would be aided in their PRO12 efforts, with Glasgow Warriors being the main benefactor. Remember Glasgow Warriors play against Welsh team Llanelli Scarlets in the Guinness PRO12 on Friday night while Edinburgh host Cardiff Blues on Sunday.

There would also be the benefit of  head coach Vern Cotter and his coaching team being able to work a bit more with exiles and assess their abilities in the heat of battle in the Test match, bearing in mind that the last Test match of Scotland’s summer tour (June Internationals) was played outside the international window, so he didn’t have the chance to play any of the non Scotland based players then.

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EdinburghEdinburgh Rugby secured their second successive victory in the European Rugby Challenge Cup, beating Lyon 25-17 at BT Murrayfield, after numerous injury setbacks and losing five players in the opening quarter.

Coach Alan Solomons afterwards praised the character of his Edinburgh side, who came through adversity to record a morale-boosting victory.

“This actually tops it [last week’s win at Bordeaux]. To lose five players like that – in 37 years, I’ve never seen anything like it – speaks volumes for the strength of character of this side.”

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EdinburghThe hosts Ulster secured a bonus point win at Ravenhill on Friday evening as a lacklustre Edinburgh side failed to score any points.

“In the second half we had nine penalties against us and the two tries that killed us came from when Mike was sent off for a yellow card. I thought that [yellow card] was the turning point of the game.

“The final penalty count ended up 14-4 and when you get a penalty count like that and a card, that’s the difference. Having said that, Ulster deserved the win on the night.”

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Finn Russell

Birthday Boy Finn Russell kicks one over for Glasgow Warriors ‘A’ at the foot of the monument in Stirling

A young Edinburgh ‘A’ side, which included eight EDPs (Elite Development Players), faced the tall task of taking on an experienced Glasgow Warriors squad, in what was deemed an away fixture for the Gunners at Bridgehaugh, home of Stirling County.

The inaugural reserve team game gave many of Edinburgh’s young Scottish players the chance to gain some valuable minutes in the Gunners shirt, with many of them putting their hands up and staking a claim for promotion into the first team squad.

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