Player Watch

Who got a game, and who didn’t.

Chris Paterson – came on for 5 minutes in the convincing win against Ulster.
Al Strokosch – played well for most of the Ulster game as part of a Gloucester pack building in confidence.
Rory Lawson played most of the game for Gloucester in an assured performance that allowed his fly-half to control the game completely.

Rob Dewey – went off still nursing the knee injury, in the defeat to Gloucester.

Nathan Hines – Sin-binned, which may not come as a surprise!
Chris Cusiter – came on as a sub for Perpignan at about 75 minutes

Nikki Walker – played the full 80 for the Ospreys in their victory against perennial European lazy boys Bourgouin.

Scott Murray – played for Montauban at the weekend vs Gran Parma.

Scott Macleod – played for Llanelli in the 10-try festival at Clermont Auvergne

Euan Murray – came off the bench on 51 minutes for Northampton in the first division.

Missing in Action: Simon Taylor, Scott Lawson, Rory Lamont (ankle injury), Sean Lamont (knee injury), Simon Danielli, Marcus Di Rollo, Gordon Ross (bench vs Glasgow) Bruce Douglas (bench for Llanelli)

Pro Team Round-Up

Edinburgh 15-19 Toulouse

Edinburgh were unlucky to lose this one – if David Blair had kicked a few more points this game would have been a first major scalp for Edinburgh. However, it’s unfair to lay the blame for what might have been at the foot of the diminutive Edinburgh fly-half, as this was another reasonably assured performance from him, and in general Edinburgh handled well with far fewer knock-ons and dropped balls than we are used to. There were still a few turnovers at the breakdown which they will be worried about, but a refreshing unwillingness to kick showcased a young Edinburgh team unafraid to throw it about a bit: backs and forwards alike offloading in the tackle and moving forward with zest. Nick De Luca scored a great try – going past Jauzion in the process – proving that he is developing as a centre offering a genuine attacking threat born of pace and speed, rather than brute strength.

Saracens 33-31 Glasgow

Parks early penalty gave Glasgow a lead, but from then on it was a case of weathering the first half storm. Thom Evans went off with a head knock, depriving the Warriors of some zip on the wing, and Saracens seemed to have all the luck from that point. Glasgow came out fired up in the second half and clawed back 6 points through Parks, but Farrell seemed to be orchestrating slick attacks all over the park and it wasn’t long before Saracens had stretched the lead again, by seemingly too great a margin for Glasgow to come back from. Glasgow never gave up though with late converted tries from O’Hare and Al Kellock securing a well deserved bonus point and causing jitters amongst the home support. Five more minutes of pressure and Parko might have drop-goaled a sneaky victory, but alas (again) Glasgow are searching for a victory against Saracens.

It is heartening to see the pro-teams still (or in some cases starting to) play with spirit and determination even when facing defeat. Soon though, they will have to start getting results.

Lamont to miss rest of season.

No, not him, the older one. The one you would have worried about if it had been this time last year. Sean “Monty” Lamont has picked up a knee ligament injury at Northampton which will keep him out for the rest of the season. Seems to be cruciate ligament damage from some of the articles online, so maybe they’ll pack him off to Vermont as they did with Jason White and Charlie Hodgson.

Link to Northampton Saints Website Article

This puts him out of Scotland’s plans for the Six Nations, which may give Nikki Walker the run on the wing that he has been craving – and I feel he needs to build some confidence at international level. Of course Hadden may just put Webster/Paterson back out there and move Di Rollo/Webster back into the centre, but might this be an opportunity to build further experience into his expanded squad?

All the best to Monty for a quick recovery, and we hope you come back fitter, and stronger and with some fire in your belly to recapture your form of the 2006 Six Nations (and the bit in between when you scored 4 tries in one game for Saints).

From Behind the Couch – Heineken Cup Preview 2007

So, the rugby World Cup is over and attention once again turns to club rugby, in particular this weekend sees a start to the European competitions, the Challenge Cup and the ever more popular Heineken Cup (H-Cup for beer-averse readers in France). If some of the club sides can slip off the shackles of recent international playing styles then there could be some cracking rugby played, and that’s why we’re all here really isn’t it?

Are the English and French clubs too powerful in every sense of the word? Will a Scottish team win a game, let alone progress to the group stages? Will Steven Berkoff recite some Shakespeare to get Sky viewers pumped up?

Edinburgh Rugby

Once again Edinburgh find themselves in a pool of death. Once again with Toulouse. This year, however, they find themselves without a host of the internationals they fielded last season – moved to pastures new – a beefed up front row with Ross Ford in at hooker and a fledgling back division looking to try and find a cutting edge for Scottish rugby. Even if they pull off three wins at home (the mostly empty Murrayfield) they still face the monumental challenges of winning away at either Toulouse or Leicester’s Welford Road, and the marginally-easier-but-still-a-little-tricky Leinster, who will be looking to make amends for the Irish backs poor showing in the World Cup. Will Andy Robinson have a successful cup run? Instinct says no, but if he’s looking to blood young talent – in Blair junior he may have a standoff who can kick goals and run an attack – it may just prove beneficial to Scotland in the future.
Players to watch: David Blair, Nick De Luca, Simon “Malkovich” Webster.

Glasgow Warriors

Of the two, Glasgow have more of a chance if they can win all their home games and maybe sneak an away win somewhere other than Viadana. Glasgow played Saracens several times last year and came close, but the Glasgow squad is a lot stronger this year with Gibson and Fa’atau as well as a few Borders strays, and Parks seemingly on a run of confidence following some good World Cup performances and kicking Ulster to death last week. They are an outside chance to sneak out of the group if they can beat Saracens (twice?!), but I don’t know how far they can go after that.
Players to watch: Dan “Parko” Parks, Thom Evans, Darryl Gibson

Although the two Scottish pro-sides are unlikely to progress out of the group stage (though we live in hope), there may still be Scottish interest available in the later stages, so we’ll do our best to keep you updated.

This weekend (all TV matches on Sky Sports) you can see:

Thursday 8th

Sale v Montpellier 7.30pm Challenge Cup – can Rory Lamont keep up his recent try scoring run for Sale, not to mention his place in the team? Jason White returns to the team, Lamont may earn a place on the bench after coming back from an ankle knock. No sign of Scott Lawson in the team. Lots of other

Friday 9th

Ulster v Gloucester 8pm Heineken Cup – Paterson, Lawson, Strokosch, Dickinson may feature, though Paterson seems once again resigned to fate as a goal kicker and utility back rather than the stand-off he was rumoured to be signed as. But with the mercurial Ryan Lamb in the 10 shirt he’d have his work cut out to pin that position down anyway. What might have been, Ryan. Rob Dewey and Simon Danielli may feature for Ulster.

Perpignan v Dragons (Sky Interactive) 8pm Heineken Cup – Will Chris Cusiter get a game after his start against Albi last week? Captain and fellow Scot Nathan Hines should also feature, as may World Cup winner Percy Montgomery. You’d fancy USAP to win this one.

Saturday 10th

Leinster v Leicester Tigers 1pm Heineken Cup – Big Jim Hamilton may get a run in this one, but not much Scottish interest, other than giving the bookies some idea of the points differential Edinburgh may face in the later pool stages. Could be a great game though, so watch it anyway.

Edinburgh v Toulouse 3.30pm Heineken Cup – Can Andy Robinson’s black and red army (as the SRU’s marketers like to put it) pull together the victory they have searched for under his control? They get closer to a result with each passing game, but it seems unlikely with such a young back division facing Toulouse’s class and experience. But that may make them fearless, and the best time to play the French is early on at home. Plus they all get to have a pop at Marcus Di Rollo.

Wasps v Munster 5.30pm Heineken Cup – Another potentially mouth-watering clash between two club giants. Wasps have started the premiership a little slowly, but they (almost) always turn up for European matches.

Auch v Bath 7.45pm Challenge Cup

Sunday 11th

Cardiff Blues v Bristol 1pm Heineken Cup – The strongest team so far in the Magners League, Cardiff will be looking to get a result here and they should manage it at home.

Clermont v Llanelli 1pm Heineken Cup – Scott Macleod may continue his run of fine form in a red shirt, which has till now not really been replicated for Scotland. Bruce Douglas also followed him to this region of Wales, still most likely reeling from the recent death of legend Ray Gravell.

Not on the TV but you might find them on the radio online:

Saracens vs Glasgow (Sunday 3pm, Radio Only) Heineken Cup – Glasgow need to start strong (see above). Fingers crossed!

The first post of the new Rugby Season

Hello, you friendly people. Welcome to our Scottish Rugby Blog, where we will hold forth on all matters relating to rugby, especially the areas affecting those of us doomed to watch it in Scotland… Feel free to join in with comments, and let us know if there are any areas you feel we could be addressing.