Glasgow announced earlier in the week that Sean Lamont is to join his brother Rory at the Warriors from next season, following a successful spell at Welsh region the Scarlets where he has played not only wing, but also centre and fullback. Indeed this year’s Six Nations went on to see Sean collect unexpected international honours in the centre, filling in for Graeme Morrison during the Six Nations where he proved an effective battering ram.
It continues a concerted push by the SRU in recent months to strengthen the Glasgow team in the eyes of not just the public but perhaps their own players, to prevent anyone else around Scotstoun from thinking a move to Manchester is an upgrade.
This means that with the recovery from surgery of DTH Van Der Merwe – who was last year almost pushing for the title of Scotland’s Most Effective Winger With a Dutch Name – the Warriors would next season boast a back division laden with international experience – and dare we whisper it – strength in depth on the bench too. David Lemi was brought in as cover on a short term contract but it might be safe to assume that next season he will be surplus to requirements. Even without the Samoan flyer (who it is hoped will get a chance to show what he can do in the spring), Glasgow could have a back three of both Lamonts and DTHVDM, with Morrison and AN Other in the centre and Jackson, Weir and Wight scuffling over the 10 shirt. Although getting on a bit, Federico Aramburu and Troy Nathan have also been solid performers this season and Tommy Seymour will be hoping he gets a chance on the wing too.
All that is before you take into account the youth who were blooded while the World Cup was on, and who many believe are the real reason for this mini-renaissance. Fullback Stuart Hogg has already shown enough to suggest that while this year may be a little early for international honours, he is going to be fighting Rory Lamont tooth and nail for that Glasgow and possibly Scotland 15 shirt in years to come. Alex Dunbar and Peter Murchie have had pro-team appearances for Glasgow and there are also talents like Peter Horne away gaining Sevens experience but who must be planning to slip back into the 15s game eventually, possibly at his U20 position of fullback.
So how do you fit them all in? After all, the reason there is a buzz around the pro-teams at the moment is that the youngsters (on both coasts) have been learning to win and lose on their own two (or thirty) feet and the seasoned internationals have not just been waltzing back into their slots. This result of this buzz has attracted the Lamonts home, but might the perceived ease with which to claim a starting berth and put themselves under Andy Robinson’s microscope have been an attraction too? Now they get here they find that is no longer the case and Lineen will have to find a delicate balance between keeping his big signings happy and bringing on the new blood – that which we have all called for in order to see the teams progress.
The prime example of this dilemma – other than Hogg v Lamont – is Jackson and Weir, who have resumed the battle for the 10 shirt with no clear front runner since the World Cup. They have drifted in and out of form, and each has managed to look good coming off the bench while not being entirely convincing from the start.
Is it better to have two equally talented players helping their pro-team to victory in rotated shifts, or to have one playing week in week out and primed for the step up to international duty – while the other stagnates? Certainly youngsters with experience, confidence and form are more useful on the bench than those without as has been seen in the past. The extra chances afforded by the World Cup may just be the best thing that happens to this generation of Scottish players.
One option could be to shuffle some of the talent around a bit. It happens often enough in the front row – Ryan Grant has now played for both pro-teams, and the defunct Borders. Rob Dewey has not really settled in since his return from Ulster, and it might be possible that he would consider a return to the stomping grounds at Murrayfield where he made his name. Especially as Edinburgh have plenty of ball-playing centres but no real battering rams as Robinson seems to like. Young Hogg is not yet snapped up to a pro contract at Glasgow despite plaudits for recent performances (at least up until his slightly nervy performance on Saturday, apparently put down to concussion) and might even be a candidate for Edinburgh.
The capital team have 2 solid first choice wings in Visser and Jones but their immediate replacements are not clear, nor have Edinburgh settled on a long term replacement for Chris Paterson who announced his international retirement yesterday. The demand for true competition to fill his international shirt may end up with him eased out at club level too, although you feel someone as level headed and passionate about the game as he is will not be away for long. Edinburgh of course have Tom Brown and Jim Thompson waiting in the wings at fullback, but on the international stage Rory Lamont is probably the best fit even if Hugo Southwell’s current form at Wasps is great.
Which, of course, means Lamont needs game time at Glasgow; full circle. Hogg might be the man, but if Lamont is the man then he needs to play. So how do you find out if Hogg might be the man in future?
All in all though, whether you are Michael Bradley, Sean Lineen or indeed Andy Robinson, it’s not a bad problem to have at last.