If the answers to your bleary Monday morning questions are ‘Yes’ then congratulations: you are either a Russian Billionaire, a skilful Serb or a delusional Egyptian. You are most likely not a Scotsman.
In a short period of time you have to play the very best the Northern Hemisphere has to offer in the gruelling arena of test match rugby. Training is physical. Matches are punishing. The coaches’ demands are unrelenting. So perhaps it is strange that, on a day of sightseeing in a windy Stirling, young pretender to Dan Parks’ throne Ruaridh Jackson laughs about the seriousness.
Despite my earlier piece on this weekend’s rugby being of little interest to Scottish fans, the Gods of Rugby have seen fit to water my fire by serving up several good performances, including Glasgow’s first away win of the season and some good play from Edinburgh’s centres for the try in their losing performance against Dan Parks and Cardiff. Most heartening though, was the try count from Scotland’s senior squad backs who obviously felt this a last chance to put a marker down for the Six Nations. Nikki Walker, Simon Danielli and Rory Lamont all crossed for five-pointers but the performance of the weekend was surely Saints’ Man of the Match Joe Ansbro, who scored one try and created another for Northampton as they topped the qualification table for the Heineken Cup. Joe’s runs displayed power, awareness and good hands – all qualities that should see him well placed when the Scotland squad comes together shortly.
The Heineken Cup is not quite over, but if your underpants have a lion rampant on them, then chances are you’ll be watching most of these pool games with mild disinterest. Watching Edinburgh to see if they could get any poorer has its own morbid attraction and tomorrow we have Chris Paterson at 10 against Dan Parks, which would be a novelty if it was on TV. Parks, Nathan Hines, Simon Danielli, Joe Ansbro, Jason White, Rory Lamont, Jack Cuthbert, Simon Taylor and Sean Lamont are to some degree still involved too and so will be playing with full effort.
But you can’t escape it.
Over the hill there, a hubbub of noise, excitement, drama, face-painting and beer is creeping ever closer, bringing the promise of spring. It’s the Six Nations.
Like a Big Fat Gypsy Wedding the 6N is sidling into view, all bright lights and funny accents.
As Andy Robinson prepares to kick off our campaign and puts the squad through its paces I will look at the squads that the opposition teams have picked and assess their strengths, weaknesses and how controversial some of their selections have been…
Robbo has done what most of us hoped he would and named Rob Harley in his training squad for the Six Nations, at the same time calling up Jack Cuthbert and Jon Welsh from the A squad. So congratulations to them. Details of both squads of players can be found after the jump.
By means of a random drawing, the winner of our first competition is reader Gus. His favourite memory of last year was the following:
“Being Proud of our Rugby again Not being patronised by the national press. But Mainly, Hearing that Thom Evans would be OK.”
Which is a sentiment we can all get behind. If you check your email Gus we’ll get your prize out to you as soon as possible. Once again thanks to Vision Sports Publishing (publishers of the IRB World Rugby Yearbook) and Dundee HSFP for donating the prizes.
The latest issue of FHM is upon us, and once again it has a rugby angle allowing me to shamelessly share the goodness with you, the reader du blog. In addition to the chat you’d expect from cover girl Nicole Scherzinger, this month you get a FREE copy of FHM Bionic which is packed full of fitness and lifestyle articles from leading sports people on how to succeed on the pitch, the athletics track or perhaps the UFC Arena, aka the city centre on a Saturday night. Plus we have a link to get you £1 off. Read on…
Under Andy “Build A Score” Robinson Scotland have improved. Split hairs if you want, but things are certainly looking better than they did only three years ago. Even the most pessimistic of supporters (i.e. any Scotsman) has to admit that.
Pressure, then, is steadily mounting for the 6N and the World Cup this summer.