Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Changes at Edinburgh, Chops at Glasgow

Duncan Weir - Photo © Alastair Ross
Duncan Weir - Photo © Alastair Ross

If you look at analysis of Scotland’s 6 Nations run there was a glaring problem that even passing fans could spot instantly. After scoring any points, Scotland took restarts with all the conviction of a haemophiliac on Total Wipeout.

Then on the summer tour down under Scotland took the defensive mentality which has seen them compete with so many sides with depth, and translated it. Common sense dictates that if you have expended energy and then hop to a point of weakness it is better to absorb. Scotland just swallowed kick-offs.

They were still not perfect, but in a rain-hammered Newcastle it was a must, and structure and patience saw off Fiji and Samoa.

Now the RaboDirect Pro12 is back in full swing and there have been some other changes. At Edinburgh, at least.

Having fought hard against Munster, Edinburgh displayed a steeliness that was missing for so many passages of the 2011/12 season. They were wasteful at times in Cardiff, but with a gun-slinging attack this is bound to happen. Even on an off day Tim Visser will score.

What they did do was pump up Nick De Luca in defence with more confidence than was seen in the Rabo last term, and they have redoubled their scrum efforts. For a long time the set play has haunted the capital side, but with Allan Jacobsen, Geoff Cross, WP Nel, and John Yapp there is more competition there.

How much of this is down to the terrier-like Neil Back powering on the message of Massimo Cuttita is hard to ascertain. However, the fact that Edinburgh can focus more energy into selling themselves at set piece shows that they have confidence in the likes of De Luca and Ben Atiga to manage defensively, before the back-row fly round. For that reason Ross Rennie can be rested and they do not need the get-out-of-jail carrying of Netani Talei until the game has broken up.

They still need corralled, of course. Greig Laidlaw has a job on every day, trying to keep the team knitted together. They would not be Edinburgh if they did not retain some of their risk factor. It just seems to be a little bit more fun this season, though.

At Glasgow, however, the changes have not been significant enough, yet.

They have a nice new home which fans have declared a potential wonder. Yet, however nice the pitch and park are, sloppiness and lack of direction will ruin any fans experience.

Perhaps it is a case of familiarity breeding contempt, but last season the pack nipped away while the team defence clattered opposition into panic and Duncan Weir kicked points. They also scored few tries.

Against Ulster Glasgow were manfully opposed to conceding, and scrapped and spat till the end. They scored one good try and kicked some penalty points. Against an efficient, if uninspiring Scarlets team, they scrapped and spat till the end and scored one consolation try.

The ‘ticker’– as defensive coaches like to call it – is still there. They may take time to learn new defensive calls, but heart will never be an issue. Lateral attack and lazy passing will be, though. The pack are taking on a workload at source and Chris Cusiter and Weir will always do what they do best. It is the newly coached backline that must become more penetrative. Glasgow should have the wherewithal and personnel to evolve.

Today it was announced that Glasgow Warriors have signed South African No.8 Josh Strauss to replace Viliami Ma’afu who has left the club for personal reasons, bolstering their back row credentials further. The 25-year-old has captained Super XV side the Lions for the last two seasons, and also skippered the Golden Lions to win the Currie Cup in 2011.

The Warriors have the Champions elect Ospreys away this Friday. They must offer an extra dimension in their attack or it will be a familiar story. Meanwhile, as Zebre visit Murrayfield, Edinburgh may have to be told to express themselves a little bit less.

4 Responses

  1. What really surprised me during the Glasgow game was the Warrior’s poor fringe defence. Last year the team was absolutely brutal around the rucks, the linespeed was fantastic. Versus the Scarlets they conceded one try from simple round the corner drives.

    Glasgow have quality on the wings and at fullback. What they need is a good centre partnership. I don’t think Morrison is the answer anymore. I’d like to see Dunbar at 12 and DTH VDM at 13. Good combination of power and pace there.

  2. It really was an area that needed strengthening, you’re right, but the cost of two international back-rows and a big new Barclay contract meant that it was financially impossible.
    The pressure is on, because a relatively successful coaching team has been replaced. New defensive coach needs to get back to a high standard; new head coach needs to show improvement in attack, not just the same as last year.

  3. Agree the backs need to show more creativity and attacking prowess. I would have weir, Dunbar, Horne, Dth, Seymour and at 15 I would give Thomson a run out, if he can make the step up and offers in attack what he does consistently for his club we could be on to a winner. Also he is sound defensively and under the high ball. If this was successful then Hogg on return to fitness could revert to his natural position of 13 giving creativity in attack throughout.

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Scottish Rugby News and Opinion