Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


European Round 6: The Final Reckoning

Leone Nakarawa - pic © Al Ross
Leone Nakarawa - pic © Al Ross

Sale Sharks v Glasgow Warriors

Date: Sat 18 January 2020
KO: 17:30
Venue: AJ Bell Stadium

Byron McGuigan is given the week off after his call up to the Scotland squad, but for the struggling Warriors there is no such luck.

Welcome news for Glasgow fans with one former second-row star packing down at 6 for this fixture, and another in the form of Richie Gray signing a 2 year deal to replace brother Jonny next season.

For now though Jonny has the weekend’s task of trying to get a bonus point win away from home to complete, and Dave Rennie has sent a strong side down to Manchester (not to mention Cammy, John and Iain). Will they get on the right side of the French referee this time? (Probably not).

Glenn Bryce follows up a handy performance against Exeter with another start – could he become the answer to Glasgow’s fullback conundrum? Tommy Seymour certainly looked a lot more at home on the wing although he is absent this weekend. It’s another strong backline, and another start for Huw Jones who fumbled his way out of a hat-trick against the Chiefs but was otherwise very good.

All eyes of the Warrior Nation will naturally be on the blindside berth, where Leone Nakarawa finally makes his return in Warriors colours. Will the Curry brothers have played against anybody quite like him before?

The Warriors pack also offers another chance to see Tom Gordon in action while Glasgow’s own set of brothers await with Niko Matawalu on the bench to unleash chaos in the later stages.

Sale Sharks: 15. Joe Carpenter, 14. Denny Solomona, 13. Luke James, 12. James Williams, 11. Marland Yarde, 10. Thomas Curtis, 9. Will Cliff; 1. Ross Harrison, 2. Curtis Langdon, 3. Willgriff John, 4. Matthew Postlewhaite, 5. James Phillips, 6. Tom Curry, 7. Ben Curry, 8. Jono Ross (c).
Replacements: 16. Rob Webber, 17. Ben Carlile, 18. Jake Cooper-Woolley, 19. Sam Dugdale, 20. Cameron Neild, 21. Fergus Warr, 22. Cameron Redpath, 23. Thomas Roebuck.

Glasgow Warriors: 15. Glenn Bryce, 14. Kyle Steyn, 13. Huw Jones, 12. Samuel Johnson, 11. DTH van der Merwe, 10. Adam Hastings, 9. Ali Price; 1. Aki Seiuli, 2. Fraser Brown, 3. Zander Fagerson, 4. Scott Cummings, 5. Jonny Gray, 6. Leone Nakarawa, 7. Tom Gordon, 8. Ryan Wilson (capt).
Replacements: 16. George Turner, 17. Oli Kebble, 18. Adam Nicol, 19. Robert Harley, 20. Chris Fusaro, 21. George Horne, 22. Peter Horne, 23. Niko Matawalu.

Not available due to injury: Andrew Davidson (foot), Matt Fagerson (rib), Bruce Flockhart (back), Siua Halanukonuka (calf), Sean Kennedy (shoulder), Johnny Matthews (ankle), Kiran McDonald (hip), Robbie Nairn (knee), D’arcy Rae (hand), Brandon Thomson (calf), Tommy Seymour (head), George Thornton (ankle) and Ratu Tagive (shoulder)

Referee: Pascal Gauzère (France)

Edinburgh Rugby v Agen

Date: Sat 18 January 2020
KO: 15:00
Venue: BT Murrayfield Stadium

Richard Cockerill takes advantage of his squad depth while he can, in some cases resting figures who will be important in the coming weeks (Bill Mata, James Johnstone) and in others flogging Darcy Graham, WP Nel, Toolis, Gilchrist, Crosbie, Watson and Haining while he still has them.

That means that as usual, it’s a monster pack with a re-jigged backline, George Taylor coming back into the midfield and Nic Groom captaining from scrum-half. With Matt Scott back in the Scotland fold, Chris Dean makes a welcome return from injury on the bench but can he reclaim his shirt from the impressive Taylor?

Will this squad be enough to pick up the win, and hopefully a bonus point? At home, it should be just about enough.

Edinburgh Rugby: 15. Damien Hoyland, 14. Darcy Graham, 13. Mark Bennett, 12. George Taylor, 11. Duhan Van Der Merwe, 10. Jaco van der Walt, 9. Nic Groom (capt); 1. Pierre Schoeman, 2. David Cherry, 3. WP Nel, 4. Ben Toolis, 5. Grant Gilchrist, 6. Luke Crosbie, 7. Hamish Watson, 8. Nick Haining.
Replacements: 16. Mike Willemse, 17. Rory Sutherland, 18. Pietro Ceccarelli, 19. Fraser McKenzie, 20. John Barclay, 21. Henry Pyrgos, 22. Simon Hickey, 23. Chris Dean.

Agen: 15. Leo Berdeu, 14. JJ Taulagi, 13. Johann Sadie, 12. Nathan Decron, 11. Benito Masilevu, 10. Raphaël Lagarde, 9. Paul Abadie, 1. Giorgi Tetrashvili, 2. Clément Martinez, 3. Walter Desmaison, 4. Pierce Phillips, 5. Adrian Motoc, 6. Romain Briatte (capt), 7. Jessy Jegerlhener, 8. Dylan Hayes.
Replacements: 16. Paula Ngauamo, 17. Fernandez Correa, 18. Corentin Chabeaudie, 19. Andrés Zafra Tarazona, 20. Gauthier Maravat, 21. Hugo Verdu, 22. Sam Vaka, 23. Julien Jane.

Unavailable: Stuart McInally, Magnus Bradbury, Jamie Ritchie

Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys (England)


Duncan Weir and recent Scotland call-up Cornell du Preez start for Worcester against Castres on Friday night. Allan Dell is on the bench for London Irish and Luke Hamilton starts at 6 for Bristol. Alex Dunbar is back for Brive while Rory Hughes (wing) and Jake Kerr (bench) will be in action for Leicester.

Duncan Taylor and Sean Maitland both start for the beleaguered Saracens as they welcome Finn Russell‘s Racing92. Stuart Hogg starts for Exeter although no sign of Sam Skinner yet. No Chris Harris for Gloucester this weekend, although Alex Craig starts. Rory Hutchinson, Greig Laidlaw and Darryl Marfo are all replacements for their clubs.

Ben Blain referees the Worcester game while Mike Adamson takes charge of Toulouse v Gloucester.

84 Responses

  1. Sale seem to be resting a few players (like the three SA brothers and FDK) but disappointing to see the Curry twins in the line up! Still should be enough for Glasgow to get the BP win, just need to hope any two of Northampton, Sarries or Gloucester lose…a lot of ifs and buts and will go to the wire but that is why we watch!

  2. I wonder if Kevin knows how many games Hogg has started since he came back from the RWC – the Chiefs seem to be on TV most weeks and he’s always there starting.

    A bit of a concern.

    1. He’s said before that he’s at his best with a run of games, it’s the breaks that lead to injuries. I think. I don’t think Exeter are a team who flog their players.

    2. Based on what I’ve seen he’s had a relatively easy ride so far at Exeter so shouldn’t be a spent force come the six nations.

  3. Can Exeter use Hogg in the 6 Nations break weekends as this would (should) be an issue for Scot – didn’t we lose Finn last year due to an injury during a ‘break’, Taylor not being considered for this squad due to Sarries fixtures etc & Hogg as capt really needs to be a constant presence

  4. Surprised Townsend has not had a word about getting Bhatti and Sutherland game time this weekend. Both will most likely be needed in the 6N and Bhatti in particular has hardly played. Would have been a good opportunity to say to Pierre have a week off and rest as he will be needed a lot over the 6N.

  5. Glasgow have to win this given the line-ups. I’m also pretty optimistic about Glasgow’s games during the 6N window which is a surprise.

    Compared to last season we have available to us:

    Matt Fagerson
    Pete Horne

    and an easier run of games

    Zebre (H) – win
    Dragons (H) – win
    Leinster (A) – loss
    Ospreys (A) – win

    Whereas Cheetahs (our rival for 3rd place) have

    Leinster (A)
    Ulster (A)
    Dragons (A)
    Leinster (H)

    1. Fagerson will be called up to the Scotland squad. He’s currently injured.

      Good side though.
      Bryce; Seymour, Grigg, McDowall, van der Merwe; Horne, Dobie; Seiuli, Stewart, Nicol; Nakarawa, Swinson; Flockhart, Gibbins; Wilson
      (Dolokoto, Kebble, du Plessis, Harley, Vakaloloma, Frisby, Thomson, Matawalu)
      But the team will be stronger than that. At times, you might have Tagive, Steyn, Huw Jones, Bhatti and Gordon. The squad goes deeper, too; Allan, Reid, Matthews, Davidson, McDonald, Ashe, Fusaro, Smith, Kennedy, Jackson, Lee Jones and Nairn could all be involved.

      1. Bit harder for Edinburgh.

        Hoyland; Sau, Bennett, Taylor, van der Merwe; Hickey, Groom; Schoeman, Cherry, McCallum; Thomson, McKenzie; Carmichael, Barclay; Mata

        (Willemse, Grahamslaw, Stanley, Hodgson, Kunavula, Shiel, van der Walt, Dean)

        Blain, Farndale, Fenton, Johnstone, Nutton.

        Miller is with Scotland Sevens.

        Possibility that Bhatti/Sutherland, Toolis, and Crosbie or Haining will be free to play for Edinburgh sometimes. Berghan will likely be retained as emergency prop cover when he doesn’t make the 23.

        Boyle and Darge could get some games.

  6. Excellent start for Lyon against Northampton. Glasgow in with real shot here.

    Other news, Finn is Greenwoods’s 10 in team of the champions cup so far (honourable mention for Byrne, Ntamack, Simmonds and Hastings). Larmour at 15 honourable mention for Hogg.

    Love it if Finn puts Glasgow through at the Allianz…

    1. Still not over – if Glasgow can get 5 points against a fairly weak Sale, Toulouse should beat Gloucester and Racing will hopefully see off Saracens (although it’s away so this may be the big one!).

      1. Would normally think that but Saracens are imploding off the pitch as of Friday…

      2. Saracens officially getting relegated – just announced.
        Interesting timing on a Saturday night before a massive game….

      3. On Saracens…

        There is a case that their illegally gained position in the Premiership, and therefore status in the Champions Cup, means that their involvement in the competition is void.

        Or does the fact they won last time around get them off that particular hook?

      4. Don’t blame EPCR for not wanting to get involved…but what happens if Saracens make the final or even win?

        EPCR will be desperate for them to be eliminated PDQ.

      5. I reckon they’ll just ignore it. Like you say, it’s hard to blame them if they do so. Personally I think they should have been disqualified after today’s game and their place in the final 8 given to the next team in line, either us or Gloucester, but that’s still really messy and hard on the teams in their group. Easier just to ignore it.

  7. Loving the solo cameraman in the Edinburgh game – doing his best!
    Can’t find an audio commentary anywhere though.

  8. Tempted to look back a year or so and find all the posts saying Darcy Graham was too small to be a top class winger….

  9. Agen are a bit of a rabble but those were 4 quality finishes by Graham, looked electric.
    Bennett did pretty well again, could Walter Mitty not have included him instead of one of the pointless wingers called up. Dean looked good when he came on, underrated player. Beginning to think Walter just doesn’t like Scottish centres.

    1. He doesnt like any that could surpass him in popularity as a player. Wants to be remembered for ever as mercurial , a true genius. That is my theory.

      Probably crazy theory but just open your mind for a second or two. When Bennett joined the GB 7’s squad he did something unique for a scot, winning a silver, he did something even more unique. Has he suffered since , yes and no , Injury is a good mask. I wonder how many hoops and threats he needed to ride to get to the squad. I am not sure on timings , but he was not retained at Glasgow. No man is bigger than Toony ! I wonder how much Bennett will suffer for having that silver round his neck. Huw Jones , Currie Cup winner, unique as well and guess what , Toony cannot take that from them. They may try !!

      1. FFS not more of this gibberish.

        Fair enough if people don’t like Toonie but why waste time making up stupid rubbish???

      2. It’s less a ‘crazy theory’ and more a ‘profoundly stupid, bordering on satirical, hypothesis’.

      3. Dear Scottish Rugby Blog, I’d like to report a Glitch, my “Hide” button has disappeared and my feed is filling up with garbage, kindly send some one from technical to sort it out asap. thanks.

    1. Unconvincing by Warriors so far. Highlight so far for me was our 7-man pack dismantling their maul. Feel sorry for the Sale fans who showed up tonight, to be honest.

  10. OMG, just realised that Gauzere is going to referee the Calcutta cup match this year. Good luck to the Scotland coaches trying to work him out.

    Good win for Glasgow on the road. Sale very rarely lose at home whoever they put out to play.

    1. No danger of us retaining it this year! He does try his best, but it’s always… disappointing.

    1. Fine. Faded a little in the last quarter, but I don’t think it’s a concern. I was surprised he played 80.

      1. He didn’t he got an extra ten after halftime to enjoy. Might have been better had he got two breaks rather than one long one.

      2. He was off the field for about 15 minutes of game time. It was weird. No weirder than many of Gauzere’s calls, mind…

  11. Great to see graham turn on the afterburners. He’s really got an opportunity to become a bit special. There are not many players in world rugby who can actually regularly skin the opposition given even the slightest glimmer of an opening. On Saturday you could see the second he received the ball he was getting round his opposition. Still perhaps a little underrated by the opposition going into the 6n so let’s hope he surprises everyone. 4 tries well done Sir.

  12. To be honest even if Sarries and Gloucester both lose Glasgow would be up against Leinster away in the QF. Almost better not to go through and “concentrate on the league” in chavball parlance.

  13. Was resigned to the fact that Saracens would win and after the first 2 tries I thought that was it. However the tide has turned and Glasgow could well benefit. Mon the Racing, and keep up the good work, Finn!

    1. Racing got a third try, 21-17. Skelton red carded. Finn Russell showing up really well against Farrell – or so it sounds from the radio commentary- fingers crossed no injury in the remaining 40. Hard to feel too much sympathy for Sarries (with the exception of their fans) allez les Racingmen.

      1. Completely bottled by Racing. They got little change from Owens but were a man up for most of the game and even had the lead when Skelton went off.

        Russell was great in the first half but, like the entire Racing team, anonymous in the 2nd.

        Fair play tp Saracens though. Managed the game well and didn’t even look like they were a man down.

      2. We know now how good sarries counting is…maybe they accidentally snuck on a fifteenth player.

  14. Game over – Glasgow gooooooone.

    On the plus side Russell and Maitland (and Taylor) looking good.

    Vunipola suspected broken arm

  15. Pretty disappointing but Glasgow have only themselves to blame for losing at home to La Rochelle. The European heavyweights simply do not lost those home games. This should have been a draw Glasgow progressed from but underlines the drift that’s taken place this season.

  16. Great resilience from Saracens to win through in the end. Disappointed for Glasgow but at least there can be no distractions from the bread and butter of the league.

  17. Never rule the Evil Empire out-Sarries by three. Finn Russell subbed near the end but uninjured . So Glasgow are out which probably allows them to concentrate on the Pro 14.

  18. You’ve got to admire Sarries’ fortitude and tactics. Second-half was dull af, and Racing were just pinned back and complacent. Gotta say, though, Owens and his team practically gave them the win. His arrogance when speaking to Chavancy and claiming there were no 50/50s – when one had just been replayed – was breathtaking. Lots of imaginary knock-ons given against Racing, and lots of indulgence of Sarries’ transgressions… He really should have retired a couple of years ago.

    It’s worth remembering the Sarries didn’t knock Glasgow out: Glasgow did. If they hadn’t changed tactics in the second-half down in Exeter, or if they’d kept the heid against La Rochelle, or they’d converted just one of the four tries they left on the pitch last week, then today’s match would merely have been an amusement. Shame it took half a season for Rennie to get the team to click. It’ll be tough to make the play-offs, but if they maintain their current standard, it’s possible.

    Good to see Maitland, Russell and Taylor looking sharp.

  19. Glasgows main blame should be on themselfs, could of won that Exeter or Rochelle home games really needed.

    Im happy to blame cheaters Saracens also however, really they should be removed from CC for coming in with a big money advantage over there fellow premiership representatives, appreciate there are no pay cap rules for CC but they are not following the same rules the likes of Exeter/Glocester/Sale/Bath etc have had to play under.

    Perhaps if they were playing under there premiership budget rules it might of been a different story on Glasgows progression in previous seasons .. who knows.

    1. Glasgow Rangers board should be asking why HMRC are not taking an interest in the Saracens players payment scheme.

  20. What’s the deal with Toony and Duncan Taylor? Some reason he can’t pick him now due to Sarries predicament? He was obviously dead keen on getting him in the team as recently as September but now he’s obviously fitter he doesn’t even make the wider squad. Odd.

    1. After shambolic handling by GT, with current form, got to be a way to combine Scott, Hutchinson and Jones before Johnson . All ahead of DT. Ally Price was superb yesterday too. Got 2 weeks to make these combinations work, lots of driven players. Needs brave decision making.

      1. I like Sam Johnson and no issues if he keeps his place, he’s an excellent all round player. Townsend was obviously desperate to get Taylor involved in Japan and it was another bad error, Taylor was totally off the pace.

        Dodson and his bonus, he’s a total chancer. Revenue is up due to the sell-outs at Murrayfield, which is nothing to do with him and everything to do with the improved coaching and ultimately standard of player in the last few years. Right place at the right time for the useless toad. Finn Russell’s dad was spot-on when he said it’s so disappointing that the SRU is not run by good guys.

      2. Taylor was excellent before his injury – probably our best all round centre. One of those players who consistently make the players around him look better.

        Unfortunately and inevitably after such a long lay-off he’s looked a bit off the pace. He was alright today and you can still see why he’s highly rated by Saracens and Scotland but he got burned by Vakatawa and was part of a pretty stodgy Saracens backline (Itoje’s 2nd try excluded). If he manages to get significant gametime then theres no reason he couldn’t come back into the side.

        I’d prefer the other options at the moment though. Scott/Hutchinson would be my choice vs Ireland. Hutchinson should work well with Russell as the 2nd distributor, kind of like when Pete Horne played there. Scott offers a bit more solidity and beef against the Irish.
        Would like to see Hutchinson and Jones play together against Italy though just for sheer fun.

    2. See the link to the OffsideLine report over in the comments section on the squad announcement post. That has the rundown on the Saracens training issues. Short story is they’ve a GP game the Sunday before.

  21. Seeing as how that game is now a dead rubber for Saracens perhaps GT could ask them to release Maitland and Taylor early for 6N duty.

      1. I agree Alanyst. Saracens will now be shunned for whatever team they put out and whatever performance they put in. I am sure the players will still give it their all on match days but there is no way they will be training 100% (with the exception of European weeks). If GT rates Taylor so highly, he should be persuading the SRU to get him to Glasgow or Edinburgh, though as someone mentioned earlier both teams are reasonably well stocked with Scottish centres so it may not be high on their priority list

      2. You might be right, also might be that GT was burnt by Taylor’s world cup and this was a convenient excuse to drop him.

        On another note and since I love a good conspiracy, Do you think it’s just coincidence that the investigations into Saracens are only taking place now – immediately after a world cup?

      3. I think the main thing is probably as others have said, the form. Taylor’s in good form, but I think Hutchinson and Scott are in great form, and Jones is fast approaching it. So from that point of view probably Bennett is the most unlucky to miss out.

  22. How did Luke Crosbie do?

    I’ve got a feeling we’ll see him off the bench against Ireland.

    Could be wrong, but he’s progressed under Cockers and has a bit of up and at em attitude.
    + he can cover all 3 backrow positions.

    Anyone else agree? Or not?

    1. I thought he was very good. Again. We’ve some good young back rows coming through. If The Mish or Ritchie were injured, I’d have no problem with Crosbie filling in. Of course once Fagerson recovers from his injury, this decision becomes tougher…

      1. Thanks Teamcam.

        The thing I like about Crosbie is that he’s a bit mean.

        I think we’ve got loads of forwards that can run about all day making 30 tackles on a tank of vapour but we haven’t had a real mean player since (the underused) Strokosch….

        I’ve got a sense a few others have the potential – Ritchie, Watson, Fagerson and even Gray.

        Maybe someone in the team whose game is based on being abrasive might bring it out of them more.

        I think we’re going to see him this 6N. Probably off the bench to begin with.

      2. I think between Ritchie, Crosbie, Bradbury, Fagerson, Cummings, Brown, Fagerson and Sutherland there are plenty of abrasive characters in the pack. They just need to embrace it!

      3. The meanest I saw those players play was v England in 2018 when they were all over the ball and in English faces.
        Ryan Wilson has a mean streak but translates it into giving penalties away too often.

  23. For me its Crosbie @ 6 for the Ireland game, the Irish strangle us, use the short high kick & will happily win a scrappy game. They don’t want the ball anywhere near Hogg or Russell when they’ve got space & / or front foot ball. Crosbie is the best guy to put them on the back foot, which given quick ball & a wee bit luck will result in just what the Irish don’t want – an open chaotic game & / or Russell/Hogg with a wee bit time/space

  24. Crosbie will rightly be eased into the Scotland setup – there is no way he’s going to be starting at 6 against Ireland.

  25. Stu, Crosbie has been superb for Edinburgh, he plays hard & more importantly is hard. We are blessed with back rows (Graham, Gordon, Fagerson not even in the squad) however I do think that Crosbie & his aggressive ball carrying merits the 6 jersey. For too long “big” teams have beaten us comfortably, at the very least Crosbie would make our opponents less comfortable.

    1. Crosbie on the bench v Ireland imo. Ritchie, Watson and Bradbury are the clear starters.

      Crosbie has done the best of the other back row options (admittedly haven’t seen much of Du Preez this season). Will be a good match for whichever of Deegan or Doris gets the nod for the Irish bench.

  26. For me its Bradbury, Ritchie, Crosbie with Watson on the bench. Incidentally, Haining ,despite his limited game-time, has looked very good so far @ Edinburgh.

  27. Crosbie should definitely get some game time at some point in the campaign. Think it’s a big ask to throw him in at the aviva but at the same time I’m sure he would swim rather than sink, if he was. It almost certainly has to be Ritchie and Watson at 6 and 7. No 8 is as always a question mark. It will more than likely be Bradbury but the fact he has had almost no game time in the position all season has to be a worry, not only for now but going forward as well, with Mata undoubtedly first choice and Haining now second can we continue to select him at no 8 at international level? I think there’s a strong argument for Haining to play at 8 ahead of him, he’s a very good ball carrier and has a good set of hands. Not seen any premiership this year so not sure how good form Du Preez is in but given his last appearance in the 6N it would take a big set of balls to select him this time around.

  28. Back row to start against Ireland Bradbury, Ritchie, Haining. Replaced by Crosbie, Watson and Du Preez. Worcester fans say he’s been superb.

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