Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Champions Cup First Round Preview: Montpellier vs Edinburgh

Montpellier v Edinburgh
Graphic © Scottish Rugby Blog

Playing Montpellier in their own backyard is a daunting prospect.

Even for champions Leinster, it was no easy away day in the pool stages when they had to do it. Looking at their squad, it makes sense why some teams’ knees tremble. Players like Picamoles, Serfontein, Dumoulin, the du Plessis brothers and Ruan Pienaar are a daunting prospect. That is even with all the high profile absentees like Nadolo, Cruden and Goosen. This squad is loaded with international class and pedigree.

Edinburgh Rugby is making their long-awaited return to Europe’s elite competition, and this fixture is a perfect baptism of fire.

Although Edinburgh have had a mixed start to their domestic campaign, it is beginning to pick up in the right direction in terms of points and performance. Continuing that momentum at Montpellier will be difficult, but any sort of points and a performance will be a good result for coach Richard Cockerill. The competitive nature of the once-again-Heineken Cup means an away win is extremely difficult. Winning the home games is vital to having a chance to get out of the group. but getting some points away from home is essential. With some of the Montpellier stars missing – including the giant winger Nadolo – this could represent the perfect opportunity to fight for unexpected points away in Montpellier.

However, despite this slight let off, the plethora of stars still in the home team provide the second, though contrary, reason why this fixture is a great opportunity for Edinburgh. They will still be playing a top quality side and this will stand them in good stead as a marker for the standard for this pool stage, with any points being a great bonus. It will serve the young players like Bradbury, Ritchie and Kinghorn well to face the creme de la creme of Europe consistently. Especially with a world cup on the horizon, where some of them may be involved. Cockerill has picked a strong team up front and brought the top backline out after a rest, so if Edinburgh are seeking a test to figure out exactly how good a team they are currently, this is it.

Edinburgh has been mixed so far this season: lost a couple of games they could have won, at least one fortunate win, and a tendency to let teams back into the contest.

In the Champions Cup, Edinburgh cannot afford to do this. Although this young team is still developing, and this fixture provides another learning experience for the players, points are crucial in this competition in any way they come.

Getting involved in an arm wrestle, in Cockerill’s words, is not the way to go because that will spell trouble and, most likely, a convincing loss.

Being smart, tactical and points savvy is something that Edinburgh will need to bring to the fore in this competition, especially away from home. Hickey’s kicking has been good so far this season and will be needed this weekend, furthermore, players such as Mata will need to stand up to their goliath-like opposite numbers.

If Edinburgh can get even a point from this fixture, either through attacking flair or tactical savvy by staying in the contest and taking their kicks, it would be a fantastic opening round.

Montpellier: 15. Henry Immelman, 14. Benjamin Fall, 13. Vincent Martin, 12. Jan Serfontein, 11. Gabriel N’gandebe, 10. Ruan Pienaar, 9. Enzo Sanga, 1. Mikheil Nariashvili, 2. Bismarck Du Plessis, 3. Jannie Du Plessis, 4. Nico Janse van Rensburg, 5. Paul Willemse, 6. Fulgence Ouedraogo, 7. Wiaan Liebenberg, 8. Louis Picamoles (c).
Replacements: 16. Vincent Giudicelli, 17. Grégory Fichten, 18. Antoine Guillamon, 19. Kevin Kornath, 20. Kelian Galletier, 21. Julien Tomas, 22. Yvan Reilhac, 23. Alexandre Dumoulin.

Edinburgh Rugby: 15. Blair Kinghorn, 14. Darcy Graham, 13. James Johnstone, 12. Matt Scott, 11. Dougie Fife, 10. Simon Hickey, 9. Henry Pyrgos, 1. Allan Dell, 2. Stuart McInally (c), 3. WP Nel, 4. Ben Toolis, 5. Grant Gilchrist, 6. Magnus Bradbury, 7. Hamish Watson, 8. Viliame Mata.
Replacements: 16. Ross Ford, 17. Rory Sutherland, 18. Simon Berghan, 19. Luke Hamilton, 20. Jamie Ritchie, 21. Sean Kennedy, 22. Jaco van der Walt, 23. Chris Dean.

Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)

43 Responses

  1. Socino should of been picked ahead of Johnstone, with Scott being moved to 13, and Van Der Merwe should have been in the team ahead of Fife but apart from that I think this is a perfect team selection and am very optimistic for our chances.

  2. Edinburgh putting out a decent side. Nadalo out, Graham in.

    Feels like Glasgow could be blown away. Lee Jones and Jackson both starting; Matawalu and Seymour are where?

  3. Good team selection for Edinburgh. That pack could easily be the one that runs out against Wales in the autumn (minus Mata obviously) and, while VdM and Bennett would strengthen it, the backline could be deadly if the game opens up. Could be the making of Darcy Graham.

    Montpellier team look much weaker without Cruden and Nadolo but there are still some serious, if aging, names in there.

    Roll on Saturday!

    1. Why obviously minus mata ?

      We could give him a new name, dye his hair ginger and spraypaint him vanilla.

      No one would be none the wiser.

  4. Gabriel N’Gandebe is listed on Wiki as 5 foot 8 and 12 stone so it should be fairly even between him and Graham.

  5. Not sure thats the best Scotland pack. For starters, Johnny Gray is the first name on the team sheet. Reid, Bhatti, Allan would all be preferrable to Dell imo.

    Throw in guys like Matt Fagerson, Zander (admittedly not available), Simon Berghan, Richie Gray, Fraser Brown and Ryan Wilson and Blade Thompson – I suspect an all Edinburgh pack is more than a little optimistic with Watson and possibly Gilchrist the only Edinbrugh players starting tomorrow that are nailed on to start against Wales.

    1. Only players in the pro14 are elligible for the game against Wales. If fit, Richie Gray etc would obviously be in the mix for the other tests.

      All I meant was that with the exception of Jonny Gray (an oversight), there aren’t any of the Glasgow pack that I would have starting for Scotland. Wilson probably at 8 for leadership but Ritchie and Bradbury arguably offer more.

      1. I really lost faith with wilson after last year’s Rome test where he was brushed aside by a 22 year old Polledri. I think our backrow is getting more competitive and I wouldn’t bet on either Wilson it Barclay being nailed on to start at the World Cup.

      2. To be fair, quite a few players are being brushed aside by Polledri these days. An absolute machine and tearing it up in the premiership.

        Agreed re Wilson though. For me, he’s a slight reminder of the old Jim Hamilton types (‘edge’, ‘enforcer’), that coaches seem to love but give away tons of penalties. A much better player than Hamilton but nowhere near as talented as younger guys like Fagerson, Crosbie, Ritchie or Bradbury.

        Barclay is nailed on for me though. Invaluable experience and a great leadership qualities. When he gets on the same page as the ref, like against England this year, he’s as good as any 6 in the northern hemisphere.

  6. Edinburgh getting screwed by their own mistakes and some nonsense from Barnes. Montpellier’s first try a result of a dubious penalty, their third from an illegal steal followed up by holding on and an illegal clearout.

    1. Offload for first try looked forward as well but Barnes has made some bad decisions both ways. Kinghorns missed tackle inexcusable, was in a good position and you just have to make that tackle.

      1. That said Montpellier getting away with high tackles yet Edinburgh penalised. He’s inconsistent.

      2. Barnes is The archetypal “refereeing by reputation”. Ignored a shedload of dodgy rucking by Montpellier. As for the YC to DuPlessis, even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

  7. Does BT sport offer anything to view there channels where you dont need a monthly subscription with their broadband ?

  8. That was just brilliant from Edinburgh. Performance of the season by an absolute mile and so unlucky not to win it. So many standout performances, let’s hope this acts as a catalyst for the league campaign.

    1. Edinburgh were valiant and deserved the victory as much as Montpellier, especially given how many decisions went against them. Again, though, with a little more composure – especially from SH (I think with SHC they would have won) – they could have won that despite those decisions. For me the worst was from the two ARs, firstly missing Picamoles’ chicanery then incorrectly calling a forward pass.

      Edinburgh should be kicking themselves, and I too hope it ignites their season.

  9. The time has come when one referee for a game of rugby is just not right. TMOs should have wider powers and perhaps even introduce a right for coaches to challenge a limited number of refs decisions on the field.

    1. Yep, missing the unbelievably glaringly obvious hand on the floor at 75 minutes is inexcusable from an assistant referee. Where was he looking? That was the game right there.

      One of many pluses, Chris Dean’s remarkable cover tackle at the death could be hugely important – saving a bonus point for Edinburgh and denying Montpellier a try bonus point.

    2. And should have been a yellow card for Picamoles for a blatant professional foul – Edinburgh 10m out for 5 minutes against 14.

      1. So infuriating…When replayed on the big screen surely Barnes could surely make a decision seeing as the AR wouldn’t.

  10. Before this game started I’m sure any Edinburgh fan would have been happy enough to be bemoaning our luck and blaming the officials costing us the game. Injuries or not, Montpellier have an embarrassment of riches from stadium, coaching staff to players, one or two of which cost the same as our whole squad of 40. To basically dominate them for large periods is testament to the players and coaches who have turned this side around. If we had turned up to this match a few years ago we would have been humiliated.

    There’s so much more to gain from today than going to a kids park in Moscow and spanking a 2nd rate team in the challenge cup. We need to Be more clinical but that will come and this will hopefully be the start of better things to come in this competiton and the league.

  11. I thought Edinburgh were really good. Don’t see them often- impressed.

    I thought front rows (both of them) were really good. Looks like Nel is back and there is some life in Ford yet.

    Gilchrist and Toolis were good – maybe both in with a shout of starting in the autumn.

    Watson good, Mata and Bradbury did well too.

    Dougie Fife has a good game too and thought Van der Walt did well off bench.

    If they play 5 more games like that they could get out of the group.

  12. Well … cant get any harder than that for the pool stages.

    our backline can now go up against Radradra/Fekitoa/Bastareud/Tuisova no problem.

    Oh and Savea…

  13. Wayne Barnes retirement can’t come soon enough. I don’t know how he’s rated one of the top refs. He might be a good communicator, but he makes more glaring errors than any other ref I see regularly.

    1. Hear bloody hear! He’s well known on the after dinner circuit for his anti scottish jibes too. Perception bias!!

    2. Barnes is irritating ,first name dialogue with captains is patronising , they must hate his games. Nigel Owens is sanctamonius but trustworthy. I believe would have questioned the speed at which the ball came out of the ruck, we are all used to tempo and norms in matches, he was unsighted but not gormless. I have heard Owens and JP Doyle speaking with the TV official during plays.

      Edinburgh were the better side , it is a shame the scoreboard is not aligned. Stick with them , this is a side that play for each other . I am a Glasgow fan , but love the team unity of Edinburgh.

  14. Last try for Edinburgh should not have been disallowed. Berghan took possession of the ball first before Bradbury took it off him. Barnes is 5 yards away looking straight at it – great job ref.

  15. It’s not just Barnes , wait till tomorrow ( or the springbok match) it sadly seems that Refs just wont give Scottish teams a decent break , they don’t expect us to be good enough , so ergo we need to be 60/40 to get an even break


  16. Barnes really didn’t help us much in that one. His ‘play on’ on their final turn over following clear interference in the ruck irritated me a lot, he didn’t see it. Unlucky but good to get the bonus point I guess.

    Hats off to Darcy Graham and Jimmy Johnston for stepping up to the big time. Big Bad Billy what’s the Mata with your tackling ultimate bad boy we love you. Another fans favorite emerging there.

    I hope we are still to see the best of Hickie, linked well for McInally’s try but seems a tad too lightweight at times?

    I hate to sound like a harsh critic, but our lack of front row options is laid bare with onward substitution of Ross Ford. Can anyone advise who our next in line development Hookers might be, and whether they are anywhere near Champions Cup rugby level?

    1. To be fair I don’t think any clubs 3rd choice hooker is at champions cup level..We have Fenton and Cherry fighting for the 3rd hooker spot. Cherry is simply cover and Fenton has done ok from what I’ve seen. Hopefully he steps up when Ford retires.

      And i agree re Hickey…I get nervous whenever he goes into contact and in defence. Feel VDW has outplayed him so far this season and should start next week.

      1. Think Hickey is starting to come onto a game. He doesn’t have VdW’s pace but what he does have is an excellent rugby brain and does lots of subtle stuff that goes unnoticed. His work in the build up to McInallys try was really good and have seen glimpses of it in other matches too, the offload to VdMs for a rare first phase try a few weeks ago springs to mind. We are lucky to have two genuine decent 10s this year and for me VdW is a better option off the bench as he stretches the defence more when the game is open like he did yesterday. Hickey also has a significant edge is his place and goal kicking game.

    2. Think this is a bit harsh on Ross Ford. I thought he did well. He doesn’t have the ‘all court’ game of mcinally but is solid, good lineout thrower and good scrummager. As a Glasgow fan I would be delighted if we had the front row (and rest of pack) depth that Edinburgh do.

      With one of your prop options I would be more confident about today (still not very!).

      Really pleased that Edinburgh competed and hope it brings some interest and supporters to the pro game in Edinburgh – you might even get 5,000 for Toulon next week…..

  17. For the 2nd week in a row I was very impressed by Darcy Graham. He’s always looking for work, he had a couple of jinking runs and he’s a terrier in defence. In all honesty I can’t think of a player that didn’t front up yesterday.

    It’s a weird one because expectations were low before the game but Edinburgh have come away probably feeling annoyed as it was a game they should have won on the balance of play – much like Scotland against the All Blacks last Autumn.

You might also like these:

The Scotland team to face Chile this weekend has been announced and features 10 changes from the side that beat the USA last weekend.
Rory watches as Scotland reach the half way point in their tour with victory over the USA in Washington.
Craig is joined by Rory and Iain to look at the latest news including Scotland's win over Canada and the upcoming test against the USA.
Gregor Townsend has picked the strongest XV possible from his touring squad for the visit to Washington DC to play the USA, writes Rory.

Scottish Rugby News and Opinion