When The Tough Get Going, The Going Gets Tough

For every Gap Year student there is someone at home Skyping them the question “have you found yourself yet?”  Risk is admirable but voyages of fortune hunting can caustically come at a cost. There is a rather famous bumper sticker out there that proclaims “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a cash advance.” For rugby playing Scots currently abroad it is a case of mixed fortunes and tough lessons.

At Sale Sharks things are not going as smoothly as they once had.

They won at the weekend against Bath 16-13 and Alasdair Dickinson, Fraser McKenzie and Richie Vernon all started but the result came after five losses out of the last six games. Training has been brutal at Edgeley Park and Director Steve Diamond has ruled over his squad with an iron fist and an acid tongue. No one said it would be easy in the Aviva Premiership.

Elsewhere in the division Newcastle Falcons and their Scots corps are propping up the table. Ally Hogg has been ever present and Euan Murray has helped out when religion and niggles have allowed but the perennial strugglers have only won two league games this season. One promising sign is that 22-year-old Scottish prop Grant Shiells has played for at least half an hour in every Falcons league game this season.

Hugo Southwell (Wasps), Jim Hamilton, Rory Lawson, Scott Lawson, Alasdair Strokosch (all Gloucester), Bruce Douglas, Alex Grove (both Worcester), Jack Cuthbert and Simon Taylor (both Bath) have all played regularly but find themselves in lower table obscurity.  At 4th placed Irish Joe Ansbro and Ross Samson haven’t played every game, but they’ve played, and at 2nd place Saracens the ever-consistent Kelly Brown has been playing in a number of hard fought victories.

Down in the English Championship there is even more fighting going on. Gordon Ross has been playing consistently for London Welsh and the team are currently surprising everyone as they sit 2nd in the league. At the bottom of that table with no wins Esher rugby have been giving game time to former Heriot’s and Stirling County centre Richard Mill.

In between these two sides there are lots of Scotsmen plying their trade. At Cornish Pirates mouthy second row Ian Nimmo has played a lot. At struggling Moseley abrasive young flanker Michael Maltmann has been scrapping away. Borderer Garry Law (Rotherham Titans), hooker Neil Cochrane (Bedford Blues), and prop Stuart Corsar (Doncaster Knights) are all experienced players. Corsar also plays with ex-Currie winger Dougie Flockhart and there are plenty of others learning their way in that league.

Led by back-rower Lewis Calder London Scottish have a number of young Scots qualified players fighting to stay up in their first stint in the Championship. Also at this level is a man described last season as “the best full-back in the league”. Steve McColl signed for Leeds Carnegie in the summer after an impressive run at Doncaster Knights. The former Edinburgh Rugby Academy product quickly made an impression, playing six matches and scoring two tries, but in November he was ruled out for three months due to shoulder surgery. Head coach Diccon Edwards remained optimistic saying “obviously our aim this season is to make sure we are in the play-offs in the New Year and by having the operation now the hope is that Stevie will be back available for the first play-off game”.  It is tight in that league and obviously it can take its toll on players.  

Much farther afield some men have been grafting in the Top 14 of France.

At big-spending Clermont Nathan Hines and Jason White have been fighting to propel the team to 2nd in the league whilst Maxwell Evans (as he is billed on the Castres website. At centre, no less) and Scott Murray are in third with their Castres Olympique side. As promising back Mark Bennett was badly injured just as he arrived at Clermont Auvergne and Rory Lamont fled Toulon for Glasgow there is currently no other Scottish involvement in France’s top division…

Indeed there is very little Scottish involvement in other top divisions anywhere else on the globe. Sean Lamont is in with the furniture at the Scarlets, Nikki Walker is at Ospreys, Simon Danielli is at Ulster and Scott MacLeod is in Japan. These players are either known, or discarded.

Sean Maitland, the Canterbury Crusaders winger, also has Scottish parentage and is famous enough and talented enough to be on Robinson’s radar. There are murmurs that Scotland may be looking to replenish dry spots in our talent pool from foreign sources. Of course it would be a tough one to convince someone like Maitland that giving up on All Black dreams may suit his long term ambitions. On the other hand it is also naive to think that an International Union cannot liaise with companies like the Essentially Group or Aspire Management to allow them an open dialogue with any Southern Hemisphere players considering a move north and a change of allegiances.

However, those mentioned are either players that the Scotland selectors will know about or that have come from outside our own borders. The Scotsman proclaimed last week that the SRU would utilise the likes of “Rob Brierley and Dave Butcher [who have] establishing a good network across England of Scottish-qualified talent”. Such moves would be to track ‘project players’ like Mike Cusack, Tim Visser or players from the Southern Hemisphere.

I just hope that when they plan these ‘projects’ they do not forget about those young Scots who took a risk heading out of Scotland and hardening themselves in harsh leagues, sometimes at great personal cost.

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Dundonian Alan has played rugby all over the world for various teams including Dundee High School, Heriot's and the Scottish Club International. Now writing from London he covers all issues international and unreported.

12 comments on “When The Tough Get Going, The Going Gets Tough

  1. A.D. on

    I must point out that these are the fellas that spring to mind or that are in the top division- so Scott Newlands is at Oyonnax RFC in France. Second row Neale Patrick is at Rotherham, too, but is injured.
    I didn’t name all of the London Scottish boys, but if someone could post a definitive list here, that would be great.
    In fact, if you know any Scots qualified players not listed above post their name, position and club here…:

  2. Dave on

    The only other players based in the Summer Hemisphere I know of that are Scotland qualified are Robbie Robinson (12 and 15 moving to Waikato), Brendan McKibbin (9 at Waratahs) and Callum Bruce (12 in Japan). Alex Tait and Swinson at the Falcons are also Scots qualified. Unfortunately none of them thrown their hat into the ring as yet.

    Think it’s a shame that the SRU haven’t made more effort with McColl and Law given our dearth of decent 12s and 15s.

    A.D, on another note I read that Fraser Brown has been playing really well at 7 for Heriots. What’s the story with him? Is he making a permanent position switch and might he pick up a pro contract again?

  3. A.D. on

    Fraser had neck surgery -which is why Edinburgh felt they could let him go -but spent a summer with Sale Sharks. They sent him back north to recover and take a year before heading back down. At hooker.
    He innevitably got bored so decided to come and play with Heriot’s. We were lacking a 7 and he had played there at Merchiston Castle a few times under our backs coach Mark Appleson. He’s played very well and has stayed there. I’m sure if he does end up signing on with Sale it would be at hooker…but being able to play a bit of back-row helps.

  4. Aligator on

    A very complete list. Only other name I can add is Sean Tomes (son of…) at Bedford. He has been at several English clubs over the years, including Newcastle in his early years.

  5. A.D. on

    Watched most of Newcastle versus Toulon. Must say I’m very impressed with Grant Shiells. Not always dominant, but scrummaged very very well against Carl Hayman. Will be incredibly surprised if Michael Bradley, Stevie Scott and Craig Chalmers do not give him an A cap. Long term replacement for Jacobsen?

  6. MJW on

    Let’s hope so! Long term options after Jacobsen are looking a bit thin. Grant and Welsh at Glasgow would seem to be it. I hope Newcastle stay up this season, but it’s not looking good.

  7. A.D. on

    Have just been informed by a very helpful Howard Kahn (formerly of Leicester Tigers, now of his own company Sports Network and agents/media managers In-Site Athlete management, South Africa) that Prop Dylan Rogers of Connacht is qualified to play for Scotland. He can play loose-head and tight-head.
    See if we can give him and Shiells a run-out for the ‘A’ team together? Wonder if he would be interested?

  8. moody blue on

    Championship Scots XV
    Bedford – Cochrane, Tomes, Price
    Bristol- Watkins, Marsden, Eadie
    Cornish P – Nimmo
    Doncaster – Flockhart, Corsar
    Esher – Cruikshanks, Mill
    Leeds – Young, McColl
    L Scottish – Grove, Heeks, Adamson, Stidson Knott, McKenzie, Brown, Stevenson, Lipp, MacDougall, Calder, Josh Brown, Kent
    L Welsh – Ross
    Moseley – Maltman, MacBurnie, Quigley
    Plymouth- Morton, Tyas
    Rotherham- Patrick, Law, McCall

  9. moody blue on

    Also interesting how many young scots have opted for english universities with good rugby teams – Cambridge – Loudon, Hunt
    Loughborough – Kinloch, Bradford, Weir, Morrison, Allen, HughLeeds es
    Northumbria, Durham, Newcastle – Strachan, Cherry, Wem, Finnie, Fedo, Crosbie
    Leeds – Sinclair
    Bath – MacLeod, Johnstone
    Exeter – Gillies
    Hartpury – Jackson

    And from previous post forgot Nottingham – Baird,Prescott, Streather

  10. A.D. on

    Thanks Moody Blue- sort of definitive list we were after.
    Good to keep track of these lads. In truth only a handful of them would be able to step up into the AP or come back up north, but you never know which ones will be the ones to do so. Plus there are always ‘A’ games to play.
    We will try our best to keep up with these players (particularly the younger ones) and there will be a dedicated ‘Exiles’ section of the new site. COMING SOON!

  11. JP Swain on

    This is a list I compiled for another website at one point:

    [B]Newcastle[/B]: Ally Hogg- #8
    Euan Murray-Prop
    Alex Tait-Centre-
    Michael Tait-Centre
    Grant Shiells- Prop
    Tim Swinson- Lock
    Scott Wilson- Prop

    [B]Gloucester:[/B]
    Scott Lawson- Hooker
    Rory Lawson- Scrum Half
    Al Strokosch- Flanker
    Jim Hamilton- Lock

    Bryan Redpath- Head Coach
    Carl Hogg- Forwards Coach

    [B]Bath:[/B]
    Simon Taylor- #8
    Mark McMillan- Scrum Half
    Jack Cuthbert- Full Back
    James Tyas- Flanker- Academy- on loan at Plymouth Albion
    Ian McGeechan- DOR

    [B]Exeter:[/B]
    Bryan Rennie- Centre

    [B]Leicester[/B]
    Scott Steele- Academy
    Corey Venus- Academy

    [B]Sale[/B]
    Richie Vernon- Flanker
    Fraser McKenzie- Lock
    Al Dickinson- Prop
    Will Bordill- Hooker

    [B]Saracens:[/B]
    Kelly Brown- Flanker

    [B]London Irish[/B]
    Joe Ansbro
    Samson- SH
    Shingler*
    Sisi*

    [B]Worcester[/B]
    Alex Grove- Centre
    Bruce Douglas- prop- but when do you see him
    Blair Cowan- Backrow

    [B]Wasps[/B]
    Hugo Southwell- FB

    [B]Championships players:[/B]
    Ian Grieve- Flanker- Bristol
    George Watkins-wing- Bristol
    Sean Marsden- Full back- Bristol
    Mitch Eadie- Back Row/Lock- Bristol
    Aaron Cruiskshanks- Centre- Esher
    Richard Mill- fly half- Esher
    Gordon Ross- Fly Half- London Welsh
    Jonny Baird- Back Row-Nottingham
    Mitchell Todd- Lock- Nottingham
    Jack Bradford- Nottingham
    Alistair Price- Bedford
    Cameron Mitchell- Centre- Plymouth Albion
    Ian Nimmo- Lock- Cornish Pirates
    Sean Tomes- Lock- Bedford
    Duncan Taylor- Winger- Bedford
    Stuart Corsar- Prop- Doncaster
    Neale Patrick- Lock- Rotheram
    Stephen McColl- Leeds
    Dougie Flockhart- Wing- Doncaster
    Ollie Grove- Centre- LS- Brother of Alex I believe.
    Callum MacBurnie- Centre- Moseley
    Neil Cochrane- Hooker- Beford
    David Morton- Prop- Plymouth Albion
    Michael Maltman- Flanker- Moseley
    Gregor Gillanders- Back row/Lock- Bedford
    Paul Spivey- Lock- Moseley.

    [B]Magners League Ex Scotland[/B]
    Dan Parks- Fly Half- Cardiff
    Sean Lamont- Wing- Llanelli
    Nikki Walker- Wing- Ospreys
    Simon Danielli- Wing- Ulster
    George Biagi- Lock- Aironi

    [B]France[/B]
    Jason White- Blind Side Flanker- Clermont
    Scott Murray- Lock- Castres
    Scott Newlands- Oyonnax
    Max Evans- Castres
    Mark Bennett- Clermont
    Nathan Hines- Clermont
    Alexandre Wukovits- Begles Bordeaux- Academy.
    James Murray- fly half- Begles Bordeaux Academy

    Italy Super 10
    Colin White- Back Row- Venezia Mestre
    Callum Macrae- full back- Venzia Mestre
    Ross Mccan- Parma
    Jon Dunbar- #8 Parma
    Steve Jones- full back-Parma
    Robbie Kydd- Calvisano
    Stephen Nicol- Lock- Calvisano

    [B]Rest of the World[/B]
    Clark Laidlaw- Coach- New Zealand
    David Gray- Strength and conditioning coach- Wellington
    Richard Dixon- Coach- Gerogia
    Tommaso Allan- Western Province

    [B]Rugby League[/B]
    Joe Wardle- Centre- Huddersfield
    Dale Ferguson- Back Row- Huddersfield
    Danny Brough- Scrum Half- Huddersfield
    Oliver Wilkes- Prop- Wakefield
    Kevin Henderson- Centre- Wakefield
    Ben Fisher- Hooker- Hull KR
    David Scott- Hull KR- recent academy signing I think
    Chad McGlame- half back- Hull FC- Same as above
    Alex Stevens- Harlequins
    Lee Gilmour- Huddersfield
    Jon Molloy- Huddersfield
    Josh Griffin- Castleford
    Paul Jackson- Castleford
    Ian Henderson- Catalan
    Richard Horne- Hull
    Rhys Lovegrove- Hull KR
    Graeme Horne- Hull KR
    Michael Robertson- London Broncos

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