Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


The Great Divide

Rugby Union - Edinburgh Training Session - Murrayfield - pic SRU/PA

You can get from Scotstoun to Murrayfield in less than an hour (on the M9 rather than M8!) but the distance between Scotland’s two professional teams could not be more obvious than the events of this week.

Glasgow go to Zebre with 24 players from their squad (and academy) unavailable for selection, and come back with a 5 try bonus point win; Edinburgh go to Munster with 10 non-Scots in the starting XV, suffer a try-less defeat, and then announce the non-renewal of their coach’s contract.

Why are the fortunes of the two teams in such contrast?

Glasgow has an identity, a passion, a team ethos, that players and fans buy into collectively, that seems to empower & embolden everyone in their squad. Whatever the reasons for his removal from the team, Sean Lineen deserves a lot of credit for that, and Gregor Townsend has enhanced it further this year. There is a Glasgow core to the team – led by Al Kellock, but with boys for whom it means a lot to play for the jersey surrounding him – Gordon Reid, Pat McArthur, Jon Welsh, Rob Harley and perhaps most symbolically of all, James Eddie.

Eddie, you remember was without a contract 18 months ago. He was rescued from the scrapheap with a 12 month 7’s deal, and showed such desire in that environment, that he won back his Glasgow contract and his enthusiasm this year in 17 appearances for the team (11 as sub) is evident to all. Besides that Glasgow core, Lineen did a good job scouting potential in England – Peter Murchie (London Welsh), Ryan Wilson (Moseley) and Henry Pyrgos (Loughborough) all came North without much of a reputation but with raw potential that has been polished patiently and this season has matured into near-international class.

Glasgow’s imports have been limited but classy – DTH Van Der Merwe has scored tries for fun since he first arrived, and would grace any professional team; Josh Strauss, Niko Matawalu and Sean Maitland have brought exceptional skill and leadership to the cause, as well as something different.

On the home front, Sunday’s team that beat Zebre featured Rory Lamont, Byron McGuigan, Scott Wight, Jon Welsh, Fraser Thomson, Finn Russell, Sean Kennedy, Ed Kalman, Fraser Brown, and Nick Campbell. All of whom have played regularly for clubs in Premier 1 or B&I cup action in recent weeks, and all of whom were battle ready when their chance came at the weekend. Maybe the fact that Gregor Townsend regularly turns up at club games to watch his squad members perform in front of 3 men and a dog helps them to know he values them & motivates them to see it’s not far from Bridgehaugh or Millbrae on sleety Saturday afternoon to Pro 12 action on the TV.

In contrast it’s hard to see what Edinburgh are about this season.

Of their Summer signings, Tonks & Nel appear to have been a success, but the value of the others is questionable: Atiga, Penn, Francis, Rees, Yapp, Titterell, Westhuizen, Parker and Basilia – none of them have set the heather on fire the way Niko or Josh have at Glasgow.

Of their young players, Dougie Fife, Grant Gilchrist and Robin Hislop may have enhanced their reputations, but many of them appear to have lost confidence or failed to kick on this year: Brown, Jones, Leonard, Hunter, Black, Walker, McInally.

What are Edinburgh trying to do?

If it’s developing players for the Scotland XV, then it’s a poor return. Visser, Laidlaw and Scott were the only 3 playing on Saturday who have graduated from Murrayfield since Andy Robinson left for the national team. If it’s success in Europe or the RaboDirect Pro12, then there are big question marks over the motivation and ability of their signings – something has gone wrong with their scouting.

So what now for Edinburgh? Michael Bradley leaving at the end of the season means changes are coming in the coaching department. They need to bring in people who will create a similar passion & energy in playing for Edinburgh, that has developed in the culture created in the West. Craig Chalmers has read the signals and headed south for professional experience. Peter Wright would bring passion, but he appears to have been ruled out by the hierarchy as well.

In all honesty I doubt they will risk any club coach from the Scottish game, although a case could be made for either Ally Donaldson or George Graham. Personally, I would like to see Simon Cross involved in the coaching group. He was around the Edinburgh squad for years as a committed player and club captain, he has built a team at Edinburgh Accies of young players who want to play for the club, and he strides around a park like an army general with clear authority, confidence and vision. There’s little chance he would be given the head coach job, and it would probably be too much, too soon for him in any case. But what if they appointed Simon Cross and Chris Paterson to the coaching team, with an Andy Robinson type-figure above them to manage it? An experienced coach-manager developing coaches for whom playing for Edinburgh means something? It’s unlikely Robinson would come back, but Dean Ryan might just have got a taste for Murrayfield on Saturday.

Or why not return to the grand old man of Scottish Premier 1, Ian Rankin, and ask him to oversee the developing of exciting young Scottish coaching talent in a professional environment? At least then we could see some purpose to Edinburgh, rather than just a collection of waifs and strays from many different nations, all in need of a job and ending up in Edinburgh because no one else wanted them.

37 Responses

  1. It’s a pretty sad state of affairs, both on and off the pitch. I’d be surprisd if Robinson pitched up in Edinburgh again and didn’t Dean Ryan categorically rule himself out of a coaching job after his twelve-week stint for the national team? What about Bryan Redpath?

  2. So if we need coaches who have coached a Professional club before and everyone wants a Scot and if Sean Lineens new role continues to be successful ruling him out…Bryan Redpath as Head Coach, George Graham as Forwards coach and Simon Cross on Defence.

    Good mix of experience there and the forwards might earn a bit of respect

  3. If the SRU were to offer Dean Ryan the job, they would have to go to him with a big and deal-winning offer. Maybe this was part of Ryan’s strategy… Either way, any offer accepted by him will likely be high and eat into Edinburgh’s budget.

    I think the SRU should take this as an opportunity to develop coaches as well as players. The risk is minimal while the team is where it is in the league. Having a crop of people from EDP to head coach all wanting to prove themselves can only be a good thing. Chalmers would be p!ssed though.

    Having said all that, I think Embra will make one big name coaching signing and maybe another 2-3 big name player signings. The rest will come from current set up, EDP and RBS prem leagues.

    I wish Embra all the best.

  4. To be fair to Mike Penn, by all accounts he has played very well for the Nails all season and is very committed at training, maybe has not really had a chance at Edinburgh, (I am not at Heriots).

  5. Good god! Why are people suggesting Redpath? Just look at where Sale are in their league. He left Glaws in the shit and has carried this on to Sale. Please stop churning out the usual suspects. There are plenty of good scottish coaches who never get a look in because of their supposed “lack of experience” at professional clubs. How is anyone supposed to get that experience until someone takes a chance. Whoever gets the job needs to cull the Edinburgh squad of the non scots deadwood. Two or three overseas players who are top drawer and the rest a mix of established scots internationals and young, hungry scottish lads. Investment in the Academy is also key to the future.

    1. Sounds as if you have bought into Craig Chalmers “Not giving Scottish coahces a chance” propaganda.

      If the next step for a good club coach is coaching a professional club, and there are only two professional clubs in Scotland, one of which has had a Scottish head coach for the last 5 years, where exactly are these mystical vacancies that Chalmers is not being given a chance with???

  6. I’d have to say that Bradley leaving is good news. Such a collapse in form right across the team isn’t something that can be blamed on one person but the majority of it should be placed on a coaching team that have failed to get the players doing what is needed to win games.

    It might be too early to assess the ability of the new signings given the poor form of the team in general but many of them appear to be journeymen who were picked up because they were cheap/had a reputation. There needs to be a much more cohesive strategy to recruitment focussing on nurturing talent round some seasoned internationalists and quality imports.

    As for generating the feeling of belonging that people are looking for, moving to a more appropriate stadium would be a start. Also, playing a few games at Netherdale/ Perth/ Dundee? Make this less of an Edinburgh team and more of a ‘Eastern Nation!’

    1. Agree with the new home comment. It can’t be good playing in an empty stadium each and every home game. Playing at other grounds in the east will be a good idea for the pre-season games but not for regular season as the players need to be able to feel at home.

      A 10K-15K stadium would be the best bet for them. Actually, a smaller one would be just as good as games can be moved to Murrayfiled if expected to sell out. A smaller stadium would be cheaper overall and less expensive if you were to, say…put in a retractable roof?

    2. Maybe a retractable roof is running before we are walking!

      I’d advocate heading to Tynecastle. God knows we (hearts) need the cash.

      Destroying the pitch wouldn’t be an issue either if you we’re alternating your ground a few times a season.

      To be clear, a nomadic state isn’t good but having a couple of homes would work. They do it in Super Rugby.

  7. What is the situation with Sean Lineen? Is he likely to be part of the mix. When you talk about experienced Scottish coaches he would have to be near the top of the list after the success of Glasgow in his last year and the fact it has flowed on this year

    Being on the other side of the world I have no idea why he got the boot from Glasgow but I was surprised not to see him mentioned in the article

    I can only surmise Peter Wright has put a nose or two out of joint as a couple of years ago I thought he was someone on the fast track to higher things and all I have heard are good things about him from a coaching point of view

    Hoping someone can shed some light on what happened to derail the top level coaching careers of these two

    With regards to home games I don’t see anything wrong with taking some games out to the regions. In the ITM Cup and Super rugby in NZ they often play games at different stadiums within their catchment area

    In the days of the Caledonian Reds was it not the case that they were starting to gather a following and decent crowds for their games in Perth?

    I think for the players they would get a buzz from going to a new ground and playing in front of new fans. If anything I think the visiting side would potentially suffer more from going to an unknown city and stadium for them

    Taking a game or two to the North and Midlands or the Borders would be a great thing and could only be good for the game in Scotland

  8. Me again :) I find it interesting that Toony was heavily criticised when he was with Scotland for the lack of creativity and penetration in attack yet with Glasgow that has all changed

    Who hasn’t changed their opinion of his ability as a coach?

    Similar situation with Scott Johnson – he came in as attack coach for the Southern Hemisphere tour last year then was there for the Autumn Internationals. During those games I saw no indication of his influence and any real change to our attacking structure or philosophy

    However in his first 2 games in overall charge we have seen the Scottish attack transformed

    Interesting how this has happened when they have been allowed to do what they want to do while their influence was next to invisible prior. Just saying..

    1. Angus, I haven’t updated my thinking on Toonie’s ability as a coach – after all, let’s not forget that this is man who thought that penalty kicks were a sufficient form of attack for Scotland! Toonie inherited a fine team from Lineen, that was then enhanced with some very astute recruitment (contrast that with the journeymen brought in at Edinburgh), and thus far, Toonie has achieved nothing yet – 2nd in the league is good, but there’s a tough run-in to come, and Glasgow have been in play-offs anyway two out of the last three league campaigns, and the Heino run (last game against Saints aside) was as dismal as ever. So the jury is very definitely still out for me. It is absolutely true that the Warriors have altered to a more attacking game plan and that’s been great to see – let’s see how we finish out the season tho before proclaiming Toonie a saviour!

    2. After watching the game v Dragons (we don’t get them very often down under) I was astounded to see the shape and organisation of the Glasgow team. Someone is doing a tremendous job there

    3. Can’t disagree with that, altho the Dragons were woeful. The timing of a handful of injury returnees has also been a factor, I think, as other leading clubs (Ulster, for example) seem to be heading into an injury nightmare, such as the one that so affected Glasgow’s Heino campaign

  9. I’d like to see a complete change in ethos. I want the managers of Edinburgh rugby clubs from prem1 down to the bottom choose one of their own to be Edinburgh Manager on secondment, as well as the rest of the coaching team. 1 year grace period then they can be changed. The SRU structure is like a turgid fat cell. Unhealthy.

  10. Edinburgh home ground. Yes that is a significant let down for fans.
    The proteam should be a composite team, drawn in its’s entirety from the rosters of the Edinburgh teams, almost in the same vein as selection for the national team. All Edinburgh teams whose grounds meet the celtic league specifications could act as a “homeground”.
    If all the teams had a “stake” in the proteam and thus all the fans(of the various Edinburgh teams) would have giod reason to be involved.

    1. So, what you are saying is return to a “semi-pro” Edinburgh set up and let the big earners go to France/England wherever??

      I assume you realise that Endinburgh would then be bombed out of the Heineken Cup and would be (even more extensively) torn apart in the Rabo every week if they even managed to retain a place in that league.

      Or are you suggesting this Edinburgh team should just play in the B&I Cup??

    2. ANDY K eeh?? Is it implausible that those rosters include these big earners?? Or has that escaped you? At present, if the “big earner” isn’t in the first team they play for a second team. Doofus.

    3. I’m taking Doofus back, it’s unfair.
      Contrary to what you say, the underlying corporate/management/logistic structure of the proteam does not delineate or dictate it’s sphere/level of play(this area is going to get messy anyway as the recent spat between the rfu/hc/sky/BT vision proves).
      Therefore, in a “local union” (for want of a better descriptor) a cooperative approach to provisioning each of the necessary functional elements required in a “proteam” gives a breadth&depth far in excess of any other current model.

  11. I think the biggest problem with the Edinburgh team is it’s cliques. I follow members of Glasgow and Edinburgh on twitter and from there I can see that while the majority of Glasgow players interact with each other regardless of age or position the Edinburgh players rarely speak to those outside their group of friends within the team. The Glasgow team appear very close knit and this probably has an effect on how they perform on the pitch. Another of the problems with the Edinburgh team is the fact that they could field the majority of an XV made up solely of foreign players who are actually worse than their Scottish counterparts, when one of the troubles besetting the national team is finding a world class number 10 why sign a player with no ties to Scotland who is blocking the development of young Scottish fly halves?

    1. Totally agree with that, I follow all the Glasgow guys on Twitter and quite a few of the Edinburgh guys and there is just so much more banter and interaction between the Glasgow guys. There doesn’t seem to be any wee groups and EDP’s like Adam Ashe joke around with guys like Al Kellock and Chris Cusiter which doesn’t seem to happen as much with the Edinburgh guys. Also I’ve been to Scotstoun during a training session and the banter between the whole squad is brilliant, you just got a sense that everyone is comfortable with each other and there’s no one on the outside. They just seem more commited to doing it for each other and not letting anyone down. Ryan Grant basically said that last season (maybe the season before?) when Glasgow scored the last minute try to draw the game 16-16 with Dragons. He said (not a direct quote because I don’t have the article) something along the lines of that wouldn’t have happened at Edinburgh; they wouldn’t have pushed as hard for each other and he just found more of a team spirit at Glasgow.
      Also think you’re right about the foreign players having an impact, I don’t have a problem with foreign players but a Scottish team should be made up of mostly Scottish players with a handful of non Scottish. I read somewhere that Edinburgh’s team last week v Munster only had 5 Scottish players in the starting lineup?! That’s just crazy! There just doesn’t seem to be the same commitment (not saying that about all foreign players) but none of the foreign players grew up with the dream of playing for Edinburgh so surely they are lacking a bit of desire.
      Of course I could be totally wrong about the team spirit & stuff at Edinburgh but that’s just the impression I get from Twitter & comments like Grant’s.

    2. Fraser & Glasgow Girl, Would completely endorse what you guys are reporting to have seen on Twatter. Also the point about non-Scots qualified players is an interesting one – it strikes me that the two clubs have gone about signing NSQ players in two totally different ways – Glasgow have tried to find the best NSQ players they could (Strauss, DTH, Niko, Cusack, etc.), whereas Edinburgh seem to have gone in a different direction, recruiting journeymen largely (Nel apart) rather than thoroughbreds (Parker, Penn, Atiga, etc.)

    3. Am going to wade in and say I also agree. Especially about the team spirit & bonding etc. Must be really hard for a NSQ player to come to Scotland and play in a team that has no bond. Language barriers would be irrelevant if no one was interacting with the players.

      I have absolutely NO problem with NSQ players joining the team (providing they are not shit). They bring something new to the game that will force Scottish players to play outside their comfort zone i.e Learn and adapt. This is a good thing. Niko has helped make the game experience for fans an absolute delight. At the same time he is forcing the Glasgow contingent to be on their toes at ALL TIMES, as it is said that most of the time even Niko does not know what he is doing…lol. This has a knock on effect to the rest of the team. NSQ players should also provide competition for places. Having two mediocre Scottish players fighting for a position wont yield much. Having those two and a world class NSQ fighting for the position WILL have a good impact. The two Scottish will have to up their game to a new level. I am not saying that the Scots players are thus, just pointing out that there are ways and reasons for signing NSQ. Glasgow seem to have got it right.

      As far as I am concerned, the only issue is balance. Need to get the right balance between NSQ and Scottish players. I was thinking a 3-1 ratio. That also goes from a positional perspective. No point having 3 Scots and two NSQ fighting for the same shirt.

      NSQ’s can also have the benefit of increasing sponsorship and advertising revenues as well as increased air time. All of which we NEED. Players like Strauss, Matawalu and DTH do that. I have suggested that we gun for Richie McCaw for Glasgow seeing that we have a lot of players out of contract at the end of the season and Barkley is rumoured to be heading for France 

      Now That would get people’s attention.

  12. Good idea to be fair, but bringing in world class players to our teams doesn’t seem all that practically feasible. I’m not sure I can see many ‘world beaters’ swapping Canterbury for Glasgow/Edinburgh even if they are at the end of their careers. Afterall if you thought you only had a couple of years left in you I’d imagine you’d rather play in front of your home crowd.

    1. Maitland is Scottish qualified though. A player like McCaw would go to France or Japan and earn 5x what the SRU could afford to pay him. He earns so much money from sponsorship deals that he probably has no need to leave Canterbury. Maitland had been dropped from the Crusaders Super 15 squad to be replaced by Johnny McNicholl that is why he decided to move. They probably would like him back now that Guildford has withdrawn because of his off the field issues.

  13. Is George Graham in the mix to be Edinburgh Head Coach, with a wealth of head coaching experience and a knack of developing young talent?

  14. Head Coach- Ian Rankin
    Forwards- George Graham
    Defence- Simon Cross
    Attack- Beg Chalmers back to scotland or Kenny Murray

    Start completely fresh next season and edinburgh XV for first Rabo game should look like so:

    1) Robin Hislop
    2) Ross Ford
    3) Geoff Cross
    4) Grant Gilchrist
    5) Rob Mcalpine
    6) Stuart Mcinally
    7) Hamish Watson
    8) Dave Denton
    9) Greig Laidlaw
    10) Harry Leonard
    11) Tim Visser
    12) Matt Scott
    13) Dougie Fife
    14) Jamie Farndale
    15) Tom Brown

    16) George Turner
    17) Alex Allan
    18) Lewis Niven
    19) Andy Redmayne
    20) Roddy Grant
    21) Sean Kennedy – is actually contracted to edinburgh despite making pro appearances for Glasgow
    22) Gregor Hunter
    23) Greig Tonks

    Obviously to some this is a controversial selection and the absence of Ross Rennie is obviously a big talking point but I believe that if Watson can justify selection in the first couple of games then him and Rennie should wrestle for the 7 shirt. It’s absolutely essential that the squad is filled with Scottish players and looking through the squad there is an obvious gap at 13 and I just wonder if Mark Bennett is to return to Scotland may he be better suited at Edinburgh where he could potentially get more game time, although the other side of the coin is that he probably wouldn’t be as challenged for a sport at the ‘burgh. Jamie Farndale should deserve his place by the start of next season after hopefully another strong showing at the JWC and Hidalgo Clyne will also push for the 23. In terms of the coaching I believe Ian Rankin has shown consistency over a long period of time and his struggling Dundee side this year are improving slowly. Cross for me has got to be favourite for the defence coach job and Graham should take control of the forwards having already coached professionally and after transforming Gala. I believe Chalmers and Murray both would deserve a chance and there is probably a job for both at Edinburgh if the SRU do the right thing.
    In terms of players not yet at Edinburgh there is a whole host of players who should make the step up and could break into the team if they were to be exposed to the pro environment:

    Kevin Bryce of Heriots could play his way into a pro contract if he can show up well for the club XV. Andy T should be released

    Danny Gilmour was tipped as a youngster but is yet to really breakthrough whenever I have seen him play he has been exceptionally skillful and massively phsyical

    Mike Mcdonald has also shown up well for County this year and has been around the Edinburgh squads at time

    Andy Nagle of Melrose has been massively consistent this year, number 8 who carries ball loads but also seems to be at the bottom of every ruck doing the work of a seven

    Craig Gossman has been in exceptional form for Ayr this year and has scored tries for fun. Not only is he a potent attacking threat but he is surprisingly strong and physical at the break down for a relatively small guy

    Peter Jericevich has also been outstanding for Ayr has been a massive pain to all the Prem 1 defences and has also kept Murray Mcconnell out of the starting XV whenever the young warrior has been fit

    I would also offer all the xv pro deals and bring in a fresh set of EDP’s in the form of:

    Chris Auld
    Russell Anderson
    Cameron Fenton
    George Horne
    Iain Wilson of Dundee despite being a bit older deserves a chance at pro level outstanding in Prem 1
    Jamie Bhatti
    Robbie Ferguson
    Tommy Allan if he wants to come

    With this strategy in place maybe over time Edinburgh could build a solid base and start to produce similar results to those of Glasgow

    1. Neil Back is still under contract and the SRU will not want to pay him out. Expect him to be defence coach. They have also just taken on Stevie Scott for Scotland as a forwards coach so potentially expect him to take on that role. Leaving a head coach needing filled. Also…Nick De Luca??

  15. I like the idea of the coaching setup. Bringing in young talented Scottish coaches.No place for Steven Lawrie though?? Is that intentional or a mistake as he was immense for Scotland A the other week. Also I think there is space in the squad for a couple of the ‘project signings’ such as Nel. Glasgow have players like Matawalu, Strauss and DTH who all add massively to their squad. I just think it is about finding the right players and unfortunately Edinburgh don’t seem to have been able to do that. Although perhaps under new management players such as Francis and Atiga might find their feet. It isn’t easy coming into a losing side after all.I am not sure bringing so many young guys in is the answer completely as they need some experienced players around them and often Edinburgh have looked like they have lacked leaders this year, so maybe bring in some experienced international to help steer the ship. Perhaps a former Springbok, Wallaby or All Black to add a bit of class and experience. It would also be good for young guys to be around someone like that. I think we need a player like Rob Harley, Ryan Wilson or Al Kellock who are hard as nails and are a bit more street wise than the likes of Denton, who prefers the flashier aspects of the game. That is all well and good but I would rather someone who just did the dirty work to create a platform for the backs to play. Also would be nice to get Bennett in and inject a bit of a spark to the midfield. Also I think we should approach Heathcote and try bring him to Edinburgh where he would get more regular game time as Bath have just signed George Ford who will probably move ahead of him in the pecking order at Bath as his dad is on the coaching staff. Although then players like Leonard and Hunter would get less game time which would probably hinder their development. Although I don’t think either of them will be international quality in the future as Weir and Heathcote are a similar age and seem far more developed.

    1. Matawalu, DTH and Strauss are not project signings. DTH and Matawalu are active Canadian and Fijian intrnationals whilst Strauss is too old to be a project signing on residency grounds, given that he is 26 and also playing a position we are strong in already (Ryan Wilson and Johnny Beattie are both excellent, Brown can play 8 and Vernon is similar to Strauss in being a ball carrying 8 who doesn’t do a great deal in defence).

    2. Strauss was brought in as a project signing which I would say is madness given the strength we have in that position. The Tongan boy got binned which was terribly bad faith by the SRU when they found out Strauss was available as he could play for the national team. I certainly wouldn’t classify Vernon as a similar player to Strauss. Vernon offers a great deal more than the bulk that Strauss offers as his skills are top notch and he has a great turn of pace

  16. I wasn’t meaning Matawalu and DTH were going to play for Scotland. I just re-read what I wrote. I was meaning to make the point that Glasgows foreign imports have had a far greater impact than the likes of Atiga and Francis. Just the way I wrote it was slightly unclear. I don’t think Strauss should be considered for Scotland when we have plenty depth in that area already and young guys like Denton will hopefully have improved by the time he qualifies and then the likes of Adam Ashe for Glasgow who looks like a good prospect for the future will be coming through.

  17. The SRU seems to think Scotland should adopt a similar professional structure to NZ. But lets be honest, we dont have the depth of players or the funds that a number one sport in the country brings.

    Essentially, we need to follow an Irish or Australian model and create academies or centres of excellence around the Pro teams. But we also need to make sure that those talented youngsters are playing regular rugby for both Clubs and regional/district teams.

    That way the ProTeams can recruit tested youngsters rather than average overseas players like Bradley did this season.

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Scottish Rugby News and Opinion