Short Term Sacrifice


It is rare that northern rugby fans can stand on the threshold of a Heineken fortnight, tipsy with optimism.

Oft beleaguered in seasons gone by, Edinburgh and Glasgow now head into their penultimate pool matches with the knowledge that they have their destiny in their own hands. What's more both have the equipment to perform on Europe's grandest stage. However, is that really the stage both teams need to be on?

Of course both the Warriors and Edinburgh Rugby fans would like their team to be in the Heineken Cup. It is the only European club competition that is taken seriously in the Southern Hemisphere, it makes for big business and continued participation would be heralded as a signifier of 'progress' by those at the SRU, but maybe it would be just as beneficial for Scotland if one team dropped out of the competition.

Now before you fling your morning coffee at the little avatar of my face on the screen, proclaiming me a dullard as you do so, hear me out.

Consider how the Scottish teams are doing. Both sides are well placed in their respective pools. Fair enough. Both could qualify for the knock-out stages. However look at exactly how they are sitting. Edinburgh have 13 points; Glasgow 10. Edinburgh have 1 bonus point; Glasgow 0. Edinburgh have scored 10 tries; Glasgow 5. Edinburgh are 5 points ahead of their nearest rival in the pool; Glasgow are 4 points away from two other teams in the pool.

On the surface it appears doable for both teams to go through, but their situations differ greatly. Edinburgh heavily outscore Cardiff Blues, the team also on 13 points in Pool 2, by 5 tries and if they were both to finish on the same points it is likely Edinburgh would top the group because of their try scoring exploits. They could well continue to score freely at home against London Irish and Racing Metro could perceivably roll over as they give up on the Heineken Cup to focus on their Top 14 form.

On the other hand Glasgow Warriors are second in their pool, 6 points adrift of Leinster, their opponents this Sunday. It is highly unlikely that they would catch up on the current champions and current leaders in the RaboDirect Pro12. They also have Montpellier and Bath snapping at their heels.

Montpellier may well be in dire need of turning around their league form so may give up in the face of Bath and that would ensure that Glasgow needed a result away to the Aviva Premiership outfit to progress. It would become a close run thing indeed.

If they do miss out and Edinburgh progress it would be very hard on a team fighting hard to stay in the playoff spots in the Pro12. They have shown grit and ambition this season, without playing particularly well.

Yet maybe dropping out of the Heineken Cup would be the best thing for Glasgow. If they do keep things as close as I expect them to against Bath then they should have a sufficient coefficient to see them parachuted into the Amlin Insurance Cup, Europe's second tier competition.

Glasgow have a habit of snatching victories at the death of games and suffocating play. A knock-out competition would suit them, but it would suit them more if they were not playing against one of the strongest teams in the Heineken Cup. They could do well in the Amlin. They could snarl and scratch their way to some more unexpected results and maybe even start on another roll as their young players swell with confidence again. They could also redouble their efforts as they look to make the Pro12 playoffs again. The Warriors are a different team when they are confident and they just don't give up even when they know they are beaten.

It would be fantastic to see two Scottish sides in the next stages of the Heineken Cup. It has never happened before. To get there, though, both teams need two great results. It could be a step too far for Glasgow, but in striving for it they could accidentally end up participating in a different competition and allow the Scottish fans to fully support one team in the Amlin and one team in the Heineken. It would still be progress and the fans would still feel that unfamiliar sense of optimism.