Scotland beat Argentina for first time since I was 11

Argentina 14 – 26 Scotland

What a shocker, eh? Did you see that one coming? Having belatedly caught the game on pay per view through Mediazone – disgustingly the only broadcast provider willing to carry it, good on them though – I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. We could mutter about how Scotland had a chance to protect the 15 point plus lead that would have leap-frogged them over Ireland in the IRB rankings, but let’s face it considering some of the recent performances, a win’s a win. That the victory was achieved by playing pacy, running rugby, and by cutting out (most of) the errors on top of the usual solid defence made it all the sweeter.

Funny how you play World Class Phil at 10 and suddenly the emphasis is not on kicking or up-and-unders – probably a good job, as despite a pretty solid performance he did fluff a few touch kicks. Or maybe they were meant to miss touch and force the counter, you know, like Dan Carter does. He attacked the line constantly, passed flat and in front of his runners, and made one sterling break that could have quite easily made a try for Mossy in the corner but for a better timed pass. Speaking of good passes, yes Parks got on, and yes he set up a try with a sweet pass to Morrison off an interception, but by that point it was “shut up shop” time and he was patently brought on to pin the Argies in their own half with his boot. Cairns also made some great breaks, and for the first time in a Scotland shirt looked the real attacking threat we know he could be. Poor De Luca received a total of no passes that I could see. His time will come.

The forwards put in an awesome display (Barclay and Stroker acting like nightclub bouncers around the ball and generally looking up for the challenge), but despite what the rankings say this wasn’t the Argentina that finished 3rd in the World Cup. They were missing the verve of Hernandez and Corletto, and the likes of Longo and Albacete up front. Even with the backing of a passionate crowd they reverted to type-1 rugby. I also thought they didn’t dive into the ruck nearly as effectively as they did in the World Cup, and their turnover rate on our ball was much lower. Or maybe that’s just because Alain Rolland kept an eye on them after the battering they gave Mikey Blair last week.

Next weekend after the Churchill Cup Final – Scotland A vs England Saxons – Al and I will chip in with our end of season thoughts.

A chance for revenge…sort of

So, 15 points. Can we really beat Argentina by that much? Without scoring any tries? With Dan Parks at 10? Not having seen the previous game yet, I can’t really comment specifically but from the sounds of it on the radio we were solid in the set piece but bullied at the breakdown, which led to slow ball, which led to, well, the usual. It’s good to see Stroker in the press with some fire in his belly about losing games we should win, and hopefully Robinson will key the back row (and Alain Rolland) in a bit to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Much like many of you out there, it seems pretty evident to me that regardless of club form or favouritism, the team don’t fire with Parko at 10 (unless we are playing England and it is raining), so it is of little use constantly shuffling the backline when the ball never gets beyond 10 or 12. Therefore I will refrain from discussing the backs. What’s the point?

Don’t forget you can catch the Scotland A game vs Argentina A in the Churchill Cup from 9.30 tonight to see if the understudies can manage what the full team have singularly failed to do, namely beat the Argies. It was a good showing from the A team to beat a stubborn and fired-up Canada on Saturday, but the lack of familiar faces in the team compared to say the England Saxons team does highlight the lack of depth we have in Scotland once you skim off the Glasgow and Edinburgh first 22s and the current crop of big name exiles. A lot of these guys have not been playing first team professional rugby this season, and although you could argue this tour will give them valuable experience, it does show that to get the results we would all love to see, Scotland needs to find a way to sustain more than just a core of about 30-40 players – once these ranks are depleted through injury or the niceties of the French club season, we are severely short of form and experience. Even the A Team coaches have been spirited away to the main team in an effort to bolster confidence, depriving our up and coming players of what would have been a valuable learning process.

Anyway, all the best. Good luck to both teams and I hope I will be proven wrong. Al and I are off to Cardiff to pay homage at the Millennium Stadium, so we may be unavailable for comment after Saturday’s match. Feel free to leave your build-up and feedback on any of the games in the comments below – don’t forget new look Oz and England are both in action this weekend too, against the Irish and All Blacks respectively.

UPDATE: here’s the team, comments below:

Southwell, Paterson, Cairns, Morrison, Webster, Godman, Blair, Jacobsen, Ford, Murray, Mustchin, MacLeod, Strokosch, Barclay, Hogg.
Replacements: Hall, Dickinson, Kellock, Brown, Lawson, Parks, De Luca.

More Squad and Coaching Roundabout News

Edinburgh prop Geoff Cross has been called up to the Scotland squad to tour Argentina after Craig Smith pulled out of the squad. Smith is also reported to be “considering his future in rugby” after a less than successful season. I suppose after meeting Al and I in St Etienne it was all downhill from there, but I hope he considers sticking around – he has strong potential to become the new Chunk, and his love of beards will only boost his chances of becoming a cult figure. Meanwhile Argentina have named a squad that includes a clutch of Premiership and Magners League players – but perhaps luckily for Scotland several of the big names playing in France (ie Hernandez) are absent.

Marcus Di Rollo has been withdrawn from the A Squad by Toulose, despite the fact they refuse to play him on health grounds, which is a bit mean spirited. And Scott Barrow can no longer play for Scotland through residency as he, um, sold his house.

Alan Tait has announced he is to follow former Borders colleague Steve Bates to become Newcastle Assistant Coach. Should be a good signing for the Falcons, and it will be interesting to see if he extends his remit beyond simply defence coaching – let’s not forget he knows a thing or two about attacking play too, having played cross-code at the highest levels.

And finally, eligible Scotland front-rower Nick Lloyd of Saracens has been selected for England’s experimental XV to face the BaBas on Sunday, putting that issue to bed once and for all. Add him to the list with Ryan Lamb of “what-might-have-been”s. Hadden does have a policy of not chasing players eligible to play for Scotland, but with such a small player pool anyway is he letting too many slip through the nets?

Battle of the Nicknames – Malkovich and Munchkin called up

Simon Webster are the latest additions to the tour party for Argentina, with the fleet-footed winger being declared fit after a hamstring injury and Edinburgh lock (but New Zealand born) Matt Mustchin added to boost the second row numbers. Mustchin’s inclusion will no doubt raise eyebrows in some quarters – he only just qualifies on residency – but if the Kiwis prefer South Sea Islanders, then why not give us the spare Kiwis, many of whom will be sporting Scottish ancestors more likely than not… Sure, it’s not strictly cricket, but then neither is putting the ball into the scrum squint – and that happens, too.

In other news, George Graham has confirmed he will not be staying with the SRU after being largely scapegoated for the poor Six Nations showing – Alan Tait has since been re-positioned and re-hired for Argentina – and is eyeing up positions with Munster and Newcastle among others. Steve Bates, the former Borders head coach, has been installed “permanently” as Director of Rugby and is looking for a forwards coach (and a defence coach too if Tait should grow weary of his role north of the border), so Graham may indeed opt for the rough and tumble of the Premiership. He has expressed a desire to be Scotland coach one day, so best of luck George.

Geech named Lions Coach – Big Cat Metaphors Start Now

Today Wasps Director of Rugby Ian McGeechan is expected to be named as the head coach for the next British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa in 2009. The former Scotland coach has become synonymous with Lions tours both as coach and player, and anyone who has seen his midweek team talks on the 2005 tour DVD – way more impressive than Woodward’s – should be assured he is the man for the job of restoring a bit of pride to Lions rugby.

Sorry, couldn’t resist it.

He also has a successful tour of South Africa under his belt which can’t hurt. Shaun Edwards – having already expressed a desire to go on this tour as his reason for taking the Wales job – is a near cert as defence coach, and Warren Gatland also likely to take a job as forwards coach in the “dream team”. All of which might leave Wasps slightly understrength come next season’s late spurt for the title, but that would be no bad thing, would it?

In other news, poor Moray Low is going to miss the Scotland tour of Argentina and his chance of a first cap due to an ankle injury sustained in the last game of the season, and Max Evans has been promoted to the main squad to join his brother, while we await word on Simon “Malkovich” Webster’s inclusion pending recovery from an injury. In the absence of the Lamont brothers, let’s hope the Evans boys can follow in the footsteps of them and the Hastings brothers and form another dynamic family duo in Scotland’s back line.

Magners League Ends

So another season of Magners League rugby comes to an end, another disappointing year for the Scottish pro-teams. Oh, no, wait. That’s not entirely true, is it?

With wins away at Llanelli and Munster respectively yesterday, Edinburgh and Glasgow secured fourth and fifth places in the table, which I am pretty sure are record highs for them. Munster’s losing bonus point against Glasgow held Edinburgh out of third. Edinburgh put a tired looking Llanelli to the sword, which was worth seeing even if I had to watch it in Welsh. If they had a play-off system – and word is they will soon – Edinburgh would be in them. Would you have said that, this time last year? Glasgow very nearly beat Biarritz twice – once was more than most people hoped for. Both teams have a solid base of young talent (+ Dan Parks) and have boosted their strength with some useful signings for next year (Paterson, McMillan). I am also heartened to see Fa’atau starting to score tries at Glasgow, hopefully he’ll stick around and prove as useful as some of the other southern hemisphere imports have been elsewhere (Munster, Bath, Sale, Worcester).

Final league positions:

Leinster
Cardiff Blues
Munster
Edinburgh Rugby
Glasgow Warriors
Llanelli Scarlets
Ospreys
Dragons
Ulster
Connacht Rugby

You can also vote for your Magners League dream team of the year. Hopefully there will be a few Scottish representatives among them, Moray Low and Nick De Luca would surely merit inclusion, regardless of international performances. Mine would look something like this, with a slight Scottish bias I’ll admit:

Lee Byrne (Ospreys)
Doug Howlett (Munster)
Nick De Luca (Edinburgh)
Lifeirni Mafi (Munster)
Shane Williams (Ospreys)
Felipe Contepomi (Leinster)
Mike Blair (Edinburgh)

Ryan Jones (Ospreys)
Martyn Williams (Cardiff)
Ally Hogg (Edinburgh)
Paul Tito (Cardiff)
Donnacha O’ Callaghan (Munster)
Moray Low (Glasgow)
Fergus Thompson (Glasgow)
Allan Jacobsen (Edinburgh)

They’re not asking for a coach, but Andy Robinson would be my choice!

Hope you’ve enjoyed the Magners season, limited though the viewing of Scottish teams has been for those of us without Setanta. Our thoughts now turn to the summer tour of Argentina – word is Moray Low has picked up an ankle injury that may rule him out, which has us gutted for him, the Churchill Cup, and the announcement next week of the Lions coach for 2009, and South Africa.

Oh, and an official SRBlog trip to Cardiff’s home of rugby, the Millennium Stadium, to see, um… Bruce Springsteen.

Industrial Revolution…

Friday – the weekend is just round the corner, the sun is shining, ladies up and down this fine land are stripping down to their skimpies and you can almost taste the first cold sip of lager! That’s unless you’re like me, stuck in Scottish Rugby Blog HQ waiting for something, anything, exciting to happen on the Scottish rugby front. Sure, we have a squad announced for the up coming tour of Argentina, and with 4 new caps, it’s almost raised me from a slumber. The news that Di ‘OhNo’ Rollo is making a reappearance on the international scene, albeit with the ‘A’ squad, would normally get my blood pressure rising… but today it hardly registered. Nothing, it seemed, was going to stir me from my general malaise and the only thing left to do was plug in the MP3 player and listen to the tunes and hope that they would help pass the long day…

Suddenly, as Al Green faded out, a distant orchestra could be heard through the headphones… I know that tune…damn, what is it?…where have I heard that before…?

Slowly, ever so slowly, it all becomes clearer and I can cast my mind back 6 months….

St Etienne, 28th September 2007

9am– Wake up with the most almighty hangover, not good…damn Le Glasgow for staying open so late, running out of the normal beer and only having the 8% skull-crusher left! Turn around to find Rory sharing the same bed… damn apartment organisers only providing 2 beds for 4 people! Everyone else is still asleep so I decide I’ll creep out the apartment and go and hunt down some food. The locals don’t seem too impressed with the bedraggled Scotsman who stumbles through some rudimentary French in order to get some munch. I apologise for my unkempt appearance and leave with a bag of assorted pastries and head for a park bench. Sun is just starting to break through the early morning clouds… today’s going to be a nice day.

12pm – Creep back into the apartment and people are just starting to come round. My hangover has largely gone and starting to get ready for another day of alcohol excess and, of course, the small matter of the Scotland qualification decider against the Italy. The others still have a hangover but seem to have enough energy to fill in the blanks from the previous night…damn them and damn the Italians that kept buying me beer at 4am. Still, only 9 hours till the big kick-off and no sign of nerves, got to be a good sign!

4pm – Hangover totally gone and a good wee crowd starting to gather in one of St Etienne’s town squares. Kilted, booted and starting to get excited. Only thing missing is a beer. My companions are drinking hot chocolate, water and cola – no sign of alcohol….this is not good.

4.15pm – Success!!!! Convince the folks that the best cure for their hangovers is to start on the lager. The first round in and the days excitement can begin. Get the first butterfly in the stomach, its either nerves or the jambon cru sarnie for lunch was a bad idea.

6pm – Town square is really busy. A good mix of Italians, Scots and plenty of locals. The Italians are in good voice, lots of singing and the wearing of blue colanders upon heads. The Scots are noticeably subdued, there are either all still nursing the effects f le Glasgow’s finest or the nerves are kicking in. The sun has disappeared behind a flurry of big grey clouds and the chance of rain increases – that’ll suit us though….surely!

7.30pm – Big Gavin Hasting hits the stage and mumbles something in French before trying to rouse the Scots in the crowd into action. Still subdued, nerves are now starting to take hold. Rory and I have a panicked conversation about what to do for the next 10 days if Scotland get knocked out of the World Cup! We never considered that possibility and now it is a looming consideration. Anyway, no time for such defeatist talk. Just time to down the beer and join the mass march, led by Big Gav, thats making its way out to the Stadium. Did I just feel some rain?

8pm – Nearing the stadium now, and the damn rain is on. Seems to be getting ever heavier. Good craic on the march out to the stadium and finally some renditions of Flower of Scotland are started up. The locals are hanging out of the tower blocs, waving to the fans, taking photos and one smart cookie has a lion rampant flag hanging from his balcony – good man! Round a corner and there is the Stadium, floodlights on and its looks like a good place for a battle.

8.45pm – find out seats, we are in a corner behind the posts and the stadium us functional but basic. The atmosphere is cracking, the Italians are out singing the Scots and making a heck of a racket. Amazing atmosphere and nerves are only just in control. Good news is that most of the folk around us are also Scottish with a few locals and only a couple of Italians spotted about to make up the numbers.

8.55pm– A tune comes over the stereo, not sure what it is but boy does it get the blood pumping! The rain is thumping down now, puddles are forming round the side of the pitch and its so wet I have to put on my wee red berets has been put on to try keep the rain off! Rory informs me that the music is a guy called Jean Michelle Jarre and the tune is Industrial Revolution (Part III). Need to remember to try get a copy and put on my MP3 player.

9.05pm – Game has kicked off and Scotland start well. Parks has put a couple of spiralling kicks in that have pushed the Italians back and they have coughed up a penalty and gotten a man yellow carded. Maybe this isn’t going to be that close…

9.40pm – Half time and Scotland are struggling. They’ve lost a silly try, given away a penalty and Rory Lamont has been taken to hospital with an awful looking neck injury that came from reckless play by the Italians. Jonathon Kaplan is having a horror show as the referee and misses high tackles, late tackles and even diving from the Italians. Nerves are shot, I really want to go home! Never been so nervous at a sporting event in my life. Still the game is not away from us, we’ve scored penalties and surely we will push on in the second half and grab the win.

10.10pm – Thats better, 8 points in front and we aint going to throw it away now. Heart pressure is almost back to normal and even have a wee laugh with Rory about how we had worried about Scotland losing.

10.11pm – Arse, Italian penalty and gap down to 5. Still, we should get more penalties and don’t look like gifting any more tries.

10.18pm – Christ on a bike, another Italian penalty! Gap now down to 2 and the nerves are back withfull force. Rory looks a little sick. The Italian fans are getting very loud now, they can sense victory is close and that Scotland are crumbling. The Scottish fans are sitting quiet, fingernails are gone and all that is left is to sit, grim faced, in the rain and wait for the inevitablele.

10.23pm – 7 minutes to go….COME ON SCOTLAND!!!! Only 7 minutes to hold out and we are into the Quarter Finals. No silly mistakes….

10.24pm – A bloody silly mistake, an Italian penalty. Its out on the right but its kickable….he bloody kicked an identical kick in the first half. Look at Rory, he’s going even whiter than normal and looks to have aged several years. The Italians are on top of their seats, they know the game is theirs…they’ll play Argentina in the Quarter Finals and Scotland will return home ashamed. Rory and I know our 10 days left in France will be pointless, no team in the tournament no point in being there. Gutted.

10.25pm – The kick is lined up, taken bloody ages so it has. I grab Rory’s arm and hold on for all I’m worth. The Italian runs and gets a clean contact and the ball is on its way. The ball travels about 3 meters and Rory is on his feet “He’s missed!” he screams. No he bloody hasn’t I think to myself. Poor Rory has lost his mind and is seeing things. Sure enough the ball has started wide but its curling towards the near post. Scotland tournament, our holiday all lost on a single kick of a rugby ball…arse. Rory seeing that the ball is bound for the post starts to sit down, but hold….by god the ball has stopped coming in, either the wind has caught it or it didn’t have enough on it but its starting to fade…..everyone is starting to rise….did it go over, did it go wide? A cheer comes up from the far side, is it Scots, is it Italians? The line judge…. all eyes on the line judges….forever they bloody take…empires fall…alien civilisations land, build cities, die out and disappear….bloody line judges take ages. Flags stay down….NO CONVERSTION! Ya dancer! Need a seat now, my heart can’t take this…

10.30pm– Italian pressure, they have the ball looking for space or a last gasp penalty. Scotland ahead by 2…..2 little points…not enough. Rory looks sick again. I feel sick and think my heart is about to pack in. Scotland can’t get the ball, can’t get it into touch, can’t bloody finish the game off. Troncon gets it, Troncon kicks it aimlessly into Scottish possession……Parks, being top tonight so he has, has it, sorts himself and plants the ball far down into the Italian corner, picked up by an Italian but a Scot is on him. The Italian is bundled into touch……relief! Game over, stand of seats to celebrate but get dizzy and need to sit down. Rory hasn’t moved, its been too much for him. He looks like he’s just watched carnage, is so almost was. This stress is too much, the high too high to enjoy – never ever again will I put myself through that….well, until next week and the Quarter Final!

Industrial Revolution is a tune that whenever comes on my MP3 will forever remind me of St Etienne. Sitting in the stadium waiting for the game and the elation, or should that be relief, at the result. It is also a fair description of how Scotland played on the night….industrial, ugly but ultimately effective rugby. I’ve still never seen that game back on the telly, too scared to watch it in case that damn Italian penalty goes over – that single minute of rugby is the reason I have grey hairs!!

I Ain’t Gettin On No Plane

But these guys are, to Canada for the Churchill Cup next month:

Backs: Scott Barrow (Glasgow Warriors), David Blair (Edinburgh), Marcus Di Rollo (Toulouse), Max Evans (Glasgow Warriors), Rob Dewey (Ulster), Colin Gregor (Glasgow Warriors), Steve Jones (Newcastle Falcons), Calum MacRae (Edinburgh), Mark McMillan (Wasps), Sam Pinder (Glasgow Warriors), Roland Reid, Mark Robertson (both Edinburgh), Gordon Ross (Saracens)

Forwards: Geoff Cross (Edinburgh), Jon Dunbar (Leeds Tykes), James Eddie, Ed Kalman (both Glasgow Warriors), Andrew Kelly, Alan MacDonald (both Edinburgh), Andy Miller (Exeter), Scott Newlands (Edinburgh), Fergus Pringle (Edinburgh), Craig Smith (Edinburgh), Stevie Swindall, Fergus Thomson, Dan Turner (all Glasgow Warriors), David Young (Leicester Tigers), plus one more player who will be selected later this month.

A few names I haven’t heard of I have to admit, but most of them are the usual suspects. Injuries to the main squad have I think weakened the A team’s potential player pool, but hopefully it will give the coaching staff (disappointingly not Robinson and Lineen?) a chance to blood some of these younger players in a more competitive international environment. Alan’s old pal Di Rollo sneaking in there is interesting, he could form a good partnership with Dewey in the midfield if either are on any sort of form…

Scotland Squad to Tour Argentina Announced

Backs: Chris Paterson (Gloucester), Hugo Southwell (Edinburgh Rugby), Simon Danielli (Ulster), Thom Evans (Glasgow Warriors), Ben Cairns (Edinburgh Rugby), Graeme Morrison (Glasgow Warriors), Andrew Henderson (Glasgow Warriors), Nick De Luca (Edinburgh Rugby), Dan Parks (Glasgow Warriors), Phil Godman (Edinburgh Rugby), Rory Lawson (Gloucester), Mike Blair (Edinburgh Rugby) (capt), + 2 players tba

Forwards: Allan Jacobsen (Edinburgh Rugby), Alasdair Dickinson (Gloucester), Ross Ford (Edinburgh Rugby), Dougie Hall (Glasgow Warriors), Euan Murray (Northampton Saints), Moray Low (Glasgow Warriors), Scott MacLeod (Llanelli Scarlets), Dave Callam (Edinburgh Rugby), Johnnie Beattie, John Barclay, Kelly Brown (all Glasgow Warriors), Allister Hogg (Edinburgh Rugby), Alasdair Strokosch (Gloucester), + 3 players tba

So it looks like the Mossy debate will rage on, with Paterson seemingly picked amongst the full backs. Thom Evans adds a bit of zip to a back three shorn of both Lamonts and Simon Webster. Cairns will most likely be used as utility cover. Glad to see faith has been retained in De Luca, hoepfully he’ll get a chance to show what he can do – more likely if Godman gets the nod at ten although apparently Parks has been playing a lot flatter (and better) of late. Perhaps Parks’ club coach Lineen will get the best from him where Hadden has thus far had limited success.

Not sure who the additional backs are going to be, but if Rob Dewey stays fit I imagine he will be one of them, and Max Evans has been in good form too, but perhaps he will get a run in the Churchill Cup A Team squad (announced tomorrow). The additional forwards may feature some of the absent French contingent depending on how their various clubs are performing come end of season. Given that there is only one second row selection currently (and Jason White is not available to slot in there either), I would look to see Murray or possibly Hines in the mix for those slots. It just goes to show that Jim Hamilton’s move to Edinburgh may prove a blessing until some younger second rows come through. Good to see former Highland man Moray Low rewarded for his form this season.

Players who may yet get an A Team selection include the likes of Max Evans, Gordon Ross, Nick Lloyd, Mark McMillan – newly signed for Glasgow, David Blair, Alan MacDonald, Roland Reid etc. We’ll give you details on that as and when.

It’s All Good News for Edinburgh

Ospreys 18 – 19 Edinburgh

Edinburgh sneaked victory away to the Ospreys in a last minute nail-biter (this side of the border anyway). Edinburgh were definitely worth the win, with both sides alternating between throwing it about and throwing it away. Nick De Luca was a deserved man of the match – and it looked like he would be man of the match on the losing team, until a 3 or minute spell at the close where Edinburgh refused to let the ball die, and refused to finish without scoring another try. One lucky bounce later and Edinburgh edged it by a point, to resounding boos from the home fans, and the delight of (miracle-worker?) Andy Robinson who had been frustrated by some of the decisions to that point. Answers on a postcard (but not in the comments section please) as to precisely which word it was that caused the ref to give a penalty against De Luca though. Edinburgh currently sit in third in the Magners League, and with immediate neighbours Munster (hopefully preserving their strength for the Heineken Cup final) and Llanelli (in disarray after the sacking of Phil Davies this week) to play each other tomorrow, it is not inconceivable Edinburgh could still finish in the top 4. Who would have thought that at the start of this season?

And so according to BBC Sport Chris Paterson’s European adventure is over, with the Gala man set to return to Edinburgh after only a year away at Gloucester in which he didn’t get picked much, and – shock horror – missed the odd kick. One or two contributed to Gloucester’s exit from the Heineken Cup, so you can see why the Kingsholm faithful didn’t have much patience… Here’s hoping he settles home again and finds some good form under Andy Robinson. I wonder if he’ll join Gregor Townsend’s stand-off class with Al Warnock, Phil Godman and David Blair…?

Scottish Players sign on the dotted line

According to BBC news, Kelly Brown, Dan Turner and Thom Evans have all signed new contracts with Glasgow. In slightly more exciting news, Jim Hamilton has finally left Leicester and signed a 3 year deal to bolster Edinburgh’s second row, in a move that has been rumoured for some time. It’ll do him good to get more game time, and he will no doubt help with Edinburgh’s power up front.

Worryingly, there is no word on Mossy’s future at Gloucester, despite everyone and their grandma signing new contracts at Kingsholm (including Scotland’s other famous Als, Dickinson and Strokosch). With incoming Olly Barkley providing a solid kicking boot – not to mention cover at 10 – next season, will he be seen as surplus to requirements?

MEGA UPDATE: at the exact moment I chose to upgrade the site’s software and kill it, it was announced that Chris Paterson will be returning to Edinburgh next season. Initial thoughts are that this won’t be great news for either Phil Godman or Hugo Southwell, if he is indeed to be used to play at 10 or 15 as has been proposed. More likely they’ll get short of wingers and chuck him out there, just to get his kicking boot on the pitch. Sound familiar? More on this over the weekend, I’m off to watch the Edinburgh game on TV. Apologies for any ongoing technical blips.

The Shape of Things to Come – new ELVs

Starting in August, the ELVs (Experimental Law Variations) for Rugby Union will be given a global trial. Some of them we have seen already in the Super 14, and most of the more controversial ones were slapped down. A total of 13 of the proposed 23 are to be trialled, which will more than likely result in their adoption thereafter. Here they are in all their glory:

ELVs to be trialled worldwide

Assistant Referees

  • Assistant Referees can assist referees in any manner required when appointed by a match organiser. Not sure if this refers to touch judges. Does this mean the time keeper can point out spear tackles?

Posts and flags around the field

  • The corner posts are no longer considered to be in touch in-goal except when a ball is grounded against the post. This may make Shane Williams and Mark Cueto very happy.

Lineout and throw

  • If a team puts the ball back into their own 22 and the ball is subsequently kicked directly into touch there is no gain of ground. This will hopefully encourage counter-attacking and discourage aerial ping-pong. Expect a few wingers to forget about this one and put their fullback under undue pressure.
  • A quick throw may be thrown in straight or towards the throwing team’s own goal line. They are rarely straight anyway. Again this should encourage counter-attacking.
  • There is no restriction on the number of players who can participate in the lineout from either side (minimum of two). Allows you to pile on the pressure to the opponents throw on a tight 5 metre lineout to try and steal attacking ball. Just don’t then maul it (see below). Might bring some interesting tactical choices to be exploited – who do you leave out, will it leave a gap etc?
  • The receiver in a lineout must stand 2 metres back from the lineout. Meh.
  • The player who is in opposition to the player throwing in the ball may stand in the area between the 5 metre line and touch line but must be 2 metres away from the lineout. Might give speedy hookers a chance to rampage down the touchline.
  • Lineout players may pre-grip a jumper before the ball is thrown in. Will this really give anyone an advantage? May lead to an outbreak of bluffing by means of pre-emptive shirt grabbing.
  • The lifting of lineout jumpers is permitted. Wait, what? Isn’t this permitted already? I guess this must be an ELV that is already in trial, as they do it every week. Checking the rule book (as of 2007) turns out no, they are just allowed to support players that have already jumped 8ft in the air.

Maul

  • Players are able to defend a maul by pulling it down. Endless up the jumper rugby should become a thing of the past. Opponents of this law claim it is dangerous, and gives advantage to weaker packs. Should suit Scotland, then. No, wait, we have a bunch of brutes. I am outraged, outraged I say.
  • Remove reference in Law to heads and shoulders not to be lower than hips. Knees and toes, knees and toes. Sorry, I fell asleep there.

Scrum

  • Introduction of an offside line five metres behind the hindmost feet of the scrum. Presumably this is to give players at 10 and 12 more time to fire up their backline with exciting attacking moves, or to ease the likelihood of a Dan Parks chargedown. Master of the blitz defence Shaun Edwards will no doubt find a way around it.
  • Scrum half offside lines (must be in close proximity to the scrum as present Law or must retreat five metres). Not sure what this will change.

They left out making almost everything penalty-wise a free kick – got to give the forwards a chance for a breather – and allowing handling in the ruck, which were two of the more controversial proposals. We will see the free-kick thing trialled in the Northern Hemisphere at some point though.

Disappointed to see that they made not putting the ball into the scrum straight legal. Oh, no, wait…they didn’t.