Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Contracting But Not Shrivelling

If you are on social networking sites your timeline will currently be clogged. In fact plugged or dammed are probably more fitting descriptions. Everyone is bleating about the weather. Somehow it has come to everyone’s attention that we are entering Scotland’s lengthy rainy season and we are ready to whinge about it as much as possible.

It seems, though, that those at EH12 have been saving for these rainy days. We’ve been alerted to something else via the social sites. It appears that now the World Cup is over we have entered Contract Renegotiation Season.

It was announced today that Ruaridh Jackson joins Chris Fusaro, Ryan Grant and Duncan Weir from Glasgow and David Denton, Steve Turnbull, Stuart McInally and Greig Laidlaw of Edinburgh in re-signing with the Union. All of them are now tied up until the summer of 2014.

This shows fantastic foresight by those at the SRU. They have highlighted those they think will become big players for the Scottish clubs and have tied them down for the years they will be moving into their prime. I would also not be surprised if the likes of Ryan Wilson and Rob Harley are being offered new deals whilst the likes of Gregor Hunter (or Matt Scott) and Stuart Hogg will get full-time contracts whenever their agents become brass-necked enough to ask.

This will happen, and when you add it to the facts that Lee Jones, James King and Tom Ryder all re-signed with the SRU during the summer it becomes obvious that both Glasgow and Edinburgh are planning for the future. And so they should.

Laidlaw has been tied down to Edinburgh because he is a leader and because sooner, rather than later, he will be the go to number 9 at the Capital club. At this stage in his career it seems unlikely that Mike Blair will make the same mistake he made a few summers ago and knock-back a large contract from a Heineken Cup team outwith Scotland. Everyone must have learned from Ross Ford’s error of judgement last season, and whether or not it has happened in the past is irrelevant: with the current financial climate and the state Scottish Rugby finds itself in, no major sponsor is going to come in and pick up half the tab on a big player’s contract.

There is also no way of knowing how much longer Phil Godman has at Edinburgh. It is already assumed that Ben Cairns and Nick De Luca are made-up on a move down South this coming summer. Perhaps Godman has had his mind made up for him. After all, as was demonstrated with the protracted and messy aftermath of Edinburgh releasing ‘unfit’ youngsters Alex Blair and Fraser Brown the hierarchy have no problem in saying “so long, and thanks for all the physio bills”.

For this reason King and Jones have most likely been earmarked to step into the shadows cast by internationals De Luca and Cairns. They may also be standing by to see which one of the four Elite Development or 7s stand-offs could replace Godman if they do decide to let him slip away.

At Glasgow it must surely be time to let John Barclay and John Beattie go. Both must be thinking that they made a miscalculation in staying as they have stagnated on the West Coast and Richard Vernon showing some ambition to test himself in the Aviva Premiership may have rekindled the back-rowers’ ambitions. Both could easily secure contracts at a Heineken Cup side.

When I interviewed Sean Lineen after the Ulster game he intimated that he was having to work with a new set of players every season. He said it was exciting, but uncertainty often means instability in sport.

By securing the next few years with the best of those youngsters and letting our recognised stars move on to pastures new we could ensure that there is competition for all. This is probably what is best for Scotland. If Graham Lowe is masterminding this then I must say it is a brave and sensible call from a man I was hoping to see more from. They just have to let those big earners move on, now.

There are four years until the next world Cup. Is this the beginning of the fresh start we need?

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5 Responses

  1. A few people have been talking to me about how they would lament the loss of Barclay and Beattie (despite whether they have made their own minds up or not). Sure Glasgow would be weaker without them for a season or two, but the kids would improve. Those 2 were young upstarts once, too!
    If Glasgow and Edinburgh start now with a fresh(ish) team and run with them for four years those kids will improve greatly and the likes of B&B will also be playing at an intense level. Would I be wrong in saying that is better for Scotland? The marketing folk will just have to work that wee bit harder… Oh, wait. We will still hav a contracted and marketable Richie Gray…

    As ever though, we need debate around Scottish rugby and I am always happy when people question me questioning the status quo!

  2. I agree with a lot of what is written above. Tying down Jackson, Wier, Laidlaw, Jones etc is excellent news. Jackson is already in the Scotland 1st XV, and Laidlaw should be too, in my opinion. It would let us play R Lamont at 15 as Laidlaw can take care of the place kicking. Jones and Weir should also be in at least the 6N training squad. Why not give Jones a go on the wing in one of the games? I think we’ve seen enough from Danielli already, and Walker is injured. S Lamont will probably be at 12, so there are a few wing spots open. It would be good to bed Jones in before he’s joined by his partner in crime Visser in summer 2012.

    Anyway, I digress.

    I think the SRU should be busting a gut to keep hold of Barclay, Beattie, Gray and our other ‘star’ players. We need our pro teams to bring in more crowds, more money, and encourage young people to take up the game. To do this, they need to be winning, and to win they need their best players. We proper competition for every place in our pro team squads. This drives up standards, and produces more quality.

    Players should only be let go if there is someone just as good waiting in the wings. For instance, I’d be fine with M Blair or Godman leaving, because Laidlaw, Hunter, Scott and Leonard have the talent to replace them, and have been playing better than them recently. I’d hate to see Barclay go, because Fusaro has done nothing to suggest that he’s going to be good enough at this level. Plus, who will play seven when Barclay goes and Fusaro gets injured? The quality will go way down and Glasgow will suffer for it.

    Our pro teams need stability and evolution, not a drastic change in squad members every season.

    I’d love to hear what people have to say on this subject.

  3. MJW:

    Glasgow announced today that they have re-signed Rob Harley until 2014, as I suspected. When they Get Wilson on a longer-term contract that will be them with Glasgow, as well as Fusaro, until 2014. They obviously feel, like the Welsh teams, that if they consistently play a young back-row that is tied to the region long-term they will become good. Lineen clearly rates usaro, anyway.

    As for Barclay and Beattie it would be good for Glasgow, the team, if they stayed but their minds may already be made up like De Luca and Cairns. Anyway, if Glasgow do convince these high earners to stay it will be for more money than they are paying them now. Some other part of the team needing work will suffer because there is even less money than before to offer new players (or existing ones). The wage bill at both pro sides is fixed and finite.

    If Barclay, Beattie or both go you are right, though. They must do whatever they can to keep Richie Gray.

  4. …and now Ryan Wilson signs on ’til 2014. If I was Matt Scott’s or Stuart Hogg’s agent I would be pestering the SRU constantly about a full time contract.

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Scottish Rugby News and Opinion