A look at the tables of the PRO14 Conference reveals that so far Edinburgh and Glasgow have had identical seasons. Likewise, horrible seasons, that is, for each team with just two wins each.
But if you use the teams’ last game as a benchmark – a Champions Cup game in both cases – the teams are in very different states. And as they prepare for the first derby of the season at Murrayfield on Saturday, that will undoubtedly affect the thought of their respective coaches.
They will have spent almost three weeks without a match by the time Glasgow returns to the capital, with the Champions Cup match against Lyon and the home game against Edinburgh cancelled or postponed. After their last game, a 42-0 loss in Europe to Exeter Chiefs, this has given them an extraordinary amount of time to lick their wounds.
Teams usually try to move on to the next game as soon as possible after such losses to have a chance to correct the error. The opportunity was denied to the Warriors, although it has to be said that they would have needed the three-week break to cope with the Sandy Park loss.
Losing to the English and European champions is not a shame in itself, but Glasgow coach Danny Wilson must be very worried about the extent of loss. In the Champions Cup pool stage last season, the last under Dave Rennie, the Warriors lost 34-18 at Exeter to the same opponents and drew 31-31 at home. It’s a big decrease to go from those results to 42-0.
And the fact that at no stage did it seem like Glasgow had given up is what makes this outcome even more shameful. The outcome would have been much closer to the nadir of their history as a professional team, the 90-19 loss to Leicester in 1997, had they conceded. Instead, they battled to the end to at least limit the harm, which is encouraging in terms of the team spirit shown, but must ultimately be a concern, especially because after the Autumn Nations Cup, Wilson had his Scotland internationals available again.
Admittedly, when it comes to having his best team on the field for a series of matches, severe injuries continue to throw a spanner in the works of the head coach, and the loss of Richie Gray and Leone Nakarawa is a particular blast. Although the Fijian is likely to be on the sidelines for another two or three weeks after injury, Gray may be able to make his Murrayfield return, but it would be a risk to expect one player alone to turn around a team that not only lost its way this season, but never found it.
Edinburgh seemed to be in a similarly bad condition to Glasgow at the halfway point of the last game this year. They were going nowhere after trailing 12-0 to Sale. But in the second half, they turned the game around to win 16-15, a result that will give them another shot when next month’s Champions Cup pool stage resumes.
Do these two opposing outcomes mean that on Saturday, Edinburgh will definitely defeat their Scottish rivals? No, they don’t, of course. One explanation why type is not a reliable indicator of the outcome is the fact that the two teams know each other too well, as is the fact that some focus on individual battles – a factor that militates against a cohesive team result.
While seeing the Warriors head home down the M8 with a win in the bag will not be a shock, at the moment it seems like they need much more than a win to rekindle the spirit we used to take for granted. Similarly, a loss would not be of earth-shattering importance for Edinburgh – unless it was quite important.
Richard Cockerill’s side are working their way back to the fighting power that has brought them so far under the Englishman over the last three years, halfway into the PRO14 season, which we now know will be shortened. If they are to take something out of this season, Wilson’s side will need to recover the edge quickly.