EDINBURGH’S Ben Toolis hopes that his side’s convincing victory over Sale Sharks last weekend in their final game of 2020 in the European Champions Cup may be the starting weapon for a good end to the season.
When rugby resumed in August, losing just three of 12 games at the AJ Bell Stadium, the capital side struggled to retain their pre-ban style, but delivered a determined – if unspectacular – effort to revive their faltering Champions Cup campaign last weekend.
The attention now shifts back to the PRO14, and Toolis’ second row claims that the clash with their major M8 rivals is the perfect chance for Edinburgh to build some momentum.
“We’re all friends off the pitch and get on well with the Glasgow lads when we’re in camp, but at the end of the day it’s a derby game so you always find an extra dose of motivation and determination to try and play your best game and get the win,”
These are vital games. They count in the standings and they are also generally really exciting. For these games, the guys are certainly fired up, and that creates an energy that continues through the week. You thrive on the excitement and try to enjoy the moment. You go out and play for each other.
It wasn’t ideal to have a 12-0 halftime deficit against Sale, but it was a very important win, especially because we fought back the way we had to. In the first half, we probably should have scored a few points, but the fighting spirit we displayed to get back into the game was brilliant and then we kept ticking over the scoreboard.
Our defensive discipline was really strong – we only gave away six penalties – so we can take something positive from that. There are still places where we need to develop, but this win will take morale. Sale is a really good team with world-class players, and it was a huge thing to beat them on their own pitch. We want to move on now. We have some crucial games coming up with Glasgow.
With just two teams, the cohesiveness of Scottish professional rugby means that there is a lot of familiarity between the teams, but Toolis agreed that there will be little festive spirit among opponents this week ahead of the big game.
“We tend to stay out of it,”We tend to stay out of it. “When you’re in the Scottish national team, you start socializing again. You meet up with them every now and then or send them a message on Instagram and have a bit of a chat. But usually before the derby you just keep to yourself, play the game and then you can exchange ideas after the game. You respect each other off the field, and that’s what rugby is all about.”
For Toolis, after a disappointing fall test series in which he was used only once against Georgia before finding himself in the second-row pecking order behind Scott Cummings, Jonny Gray and Sam Skinner, this game is particularly significant.
Of course, he sees the head-to-head against Cummings next weekend as an opportunity to present his case to the national coach.
The second row is probably the deepest we have in Scotland, so you obviously want to try and play better against your rivals, but more importantly, you want to concentrate on winning and hopefully do your best to contribute to the victory,”The second row is probably the deepest we have in Scotland, so obviously you want to try and play better against your rivals, but more importantly you want to focus on winning and hopefully do your best to contribute to the win,”
“The way you win this game is if you play well individually and as a team. So it’s definitely an opportunity for both teams and the individuals involved to go out and play their best.”
After the first leg of the 1872 Cup triple-header was postponed due to a Covid outbreak in the Warriors’ camp, both teams were off this weekend. Toolis claims Richard Cockerill, head coach of Edinburgh, struck the right balance of giving his players some restful time off and getting into a few extra training sessions while their opponents were restricted by Covid safety protocols in their preparation.
“We have a few extra days around Christmas, but Glasgow is an important game for us, so it’s about starting next week with the right mindset,” he said. With the story behind it, we know that it’s going to be a really intense game for fans to watch at home, too.
“These games are usually played back-to-back, but this season we’ve had a few stoppages,