'I stood all over Mike Blair. He just looked up and was like 'What are you doing?'
As the Guinness Pro14 gears up for its annual round of regional Christmas derbies, two of the biggest names in the Scottish game have shared their memories of a fixture which tends to pack an extra bit of bite. Edinburgh host Glasgow Warriors at BT Murrayfield on January 2nd, a game former Scotland internationals John Barclay and Chris Paterson are no strangers to.
Former Scotland captain Barclay has experience from both sides of the derby, but one game in particular stands out from his days with the Warriors.
“I remember we got our pants pulled down [by Edinburgh] in Murrayfield one year. I’ve never, ever, had a harder training week [afterwards],” Barclay says.
“It was back in the days of ‘We’re just going to do full contact all week, because that’s why you lost’… So we did that.
“The game, I think Jim Hamilton still talks about it, and I never really got involved in too much of that stuff. It was back in the day of just ludicrous stuff going on. I remember going into a ruck when you couldn’t legally stand, and I stood all over Mike Blair. He just looked up and was like ‘What are you doing?’ and I remember thinking ‘I don’t actually know really anymore, I was told to do this so I’m doing it.’
“Afterwards, Mike said ‘You don’t have to do that,’ and I was like, ‘You’re right, I don’t know why I did that…'”
Scotland centurion Paterson started his pro career at Glasgow but made his name at Edinburgh, where he enjoyed two spells either side of a year with English side Gloucester.
“I do remember John holding me back once,” Paterson recalls.
“I was getting pinned down, with John on one side and I think it was Kevin Tkachuk, the Canadian prop on the other side, and they were both holding me. And I was like, ‘Come on lads, let me up!’ And nobody would let me up!
“But John actually let go first, so that was a hand out free and I managed to clip big Kevin Tkachuk a wee bit. So yeah, a wee bit of niggle there.”
With only two pro teams in Scotland, the rivalry between Edinburgh and Glasgow is hard to escape.
“There was a spell, certainly when I was first at Glasgow, where Edinburgh were the dominant team and there was that kind of little brother, big brother [feeling],” Barclay adds.
“It’s kind of yo-yoed back and forth [over the years], and there’s something in that, which seems also counter-intuitive. Some of these guys are best friends, and they’ll never be more physical and more aggressive than in this game, because it is like the back garden with your little brother or big brother, having a scrap.
“There’s a lot of basic elements of it which takes you back to what you always talk about with these games. Physicality, aggression, all the kind of basics of rugby. It tends to lend itself to pretty good games.”
Paterson says sometimes that intended aggression doesn’t always have the desired effect.
“I remember getting stood on quite aggressively by Jim McLaren in an Edinburgh v Glasgow game way, way back. He came thundering in and just burst out laughing as he did it, and I burst out laughing as well.
“Similar to John’s one… ‘What are you doing Jim?’ He says, ‘Oh I’m just standing there.’
“I said ‘Yeah, but you’ve got mouldies on!’ The pitch was half frozen so not only was there was no need for it, it wasn’t even sore because he just had the moulded studs on!
“And I remember there was a dust up at the end of one of the games , Chris Fusaro and Scott MacLeod, and it was literally on the final whistle, as it blew. So we’re trading blows and then on the whistle: peep, shook hands, had a laugh and that was it. So it was stopped immediately, almost mid-swing. Emotions run high I suppose.”
And Paterson believes there is always an extra incentive in the Scottish derby games given the Six Nations is just around the corner.
“I suppose in some ways it can be seen as a national trial with only two teams [in Scotland], for the players fighting head-to-head. Sometimes as a player you would treat it as that, other times you would completely ignore that.
“I think it’s often seen as a real opportunity to go head-to-head with somebody who is effectively seen as competition for the national team, as well as to perform and win vital league points for your club sides.”
John Barclay and Chris Paterson will both be part of the Premier Sports team for coverage of the 1872 Cup clash between Edinburgh and Glasgow on Jan 2.
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