Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Pro Clubs: Coaches’ Updates

Glasgow vs Edinburgh - graphic © Scottish Rugby Blog

With both clubs still sore from this weekend’s European defeats, the clouds seem determined to linger over Central Scotland. Just when Glasgow fans thought things couldn’t get much worse than a 42-point roasting from Exeter, the next bombshell had hit.

The rumours of Adam Hastings moving to Gloucester at the end of the season were true. In fact, the Scotland stand-off – still recovering from a double dislocation of his shoulder against Wales – may not reappear in a Warriors jersey given that their last scheduled fixture falls on January 24th 2021.

“What Adam said to me and what he said in public is very much aligned, which is he wanted to play in the Premiership. Glasgow and Scottish Rugby worked hard to get Adam to stay, in terms of trying to make a good offer for Adam, and I believe that was done.

“He has developed really well and become a really good player and done well on the international stage and when that happens clubs will come looking. It is an opportunity he deemed too good to turn down, so he has made that decision.”

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but this will leave Glasgow short of another Scottish internationalist in a key position. One which Wilson has been looking to fill for some time.

“At the end of last year that was one of the three players we were looking to bring in once the finances got cut. At the end of the season we wanted to bring another ten to go with Hasto and Brandon and Horne. Horne is a twelve playing ten. The target was another ten then and the target is to do that now. There is a fair bit of work to be done around ten and hopefully we can confirm something around that sometime soon.”

Wilson confirmed that interest in Munster’s Scottish qualified fly-half Ben Heatly had not progressed any, but that nationality would not be a primary factor in negotiations.

“There’s the opportunity to sign non-Scottish-qualified. The obvious aim for all of us, and part of my role, is to make sure that we bring through Scottish-qualified players to add to the talent pool and to the depth that Scotland needs to create.

“But it’s a Catch-22, isn’t it? If you fill your squad with Scottish internationals, that’s brilliant for the big picture, which we all want to support, but it’s also very, very tough for Glasgow during those periods as we’re seeing right now.

“That’s the next stage for me. We’ve got to get that bit right. Leinsters, Ulsters, Munsters – yes, they’ve got great academy systems and great depth of Irish internationals, but they’ve also got sprinklings of real quality foreign signings that help the younger players coming through and help when the internationals are away.”

Edinburgh may have put up a sterner fight in their European loss, but the gossip wasn’t all around Glasgow, Hastings and Gloucester.

Duhan van der Merwe, the titanic, Teutonic, totemic blunderbuss has been linked with a move to Worcester Warriors, only a few short weeks after his first televised burst of “Flower of Scotland”. Unsurprisingly, Richard Cockerill doesn’t want him – or a few certain others – going anywhere.

“Like all our players who are out of contract and we want to keep, we are having discussions and we don’t really comment on speculation. 

“There is going to be lots of guys interested in certain players because they are very good players, so at this point there is nothing to report other than we want to keep our best players and we’re doing everything we can to achieve that.”

“Our thoughts are around keeping all our players. We’re working with the Union and that narrative changes on a weekly basis around [the return of] potential crowds. Can we get half-crowds into Six Nations, potentially? We don’t know yet.

“It’s a bit of a moveable feast at the moment around what’s happening, so you’ve got to be a little bit flexible and a little bit patient. We’re working with all the players as best we can to try to keep the squad together and keep our best players in Scotland.

“We want to be competitive as an Edinburgh team. Guys want to play for their country and this is a good place to be to play for Scotland. We’re all here to compete but there is only one team that can win a trophy each year in the Pro14 so there are always going to be 13 who will be disappointed.
“We’re not going to be a team who buys 30 superstars and wins the trophy in 12 months’ time. We’ve got to build our squad and keep it together. That may be difficult at times because all teams, you are always vulnerable to others trying to recruit your players. That’s the nature of the business.

“We’ve recruited well, we’ve managed to keep our squad together and as we saw on Saturday against a very good side when we’ve got players available and we are all fit and healthy we are more than capable of competing.”

Although both sides have struggled desperately at the start of this season, both head coaches saw no need to go full panic mode yet.

“It’s what you make of it, isn’t it?” Cockerill answered when asked about despondency seeping in to Scottish fans.  

“Scotland lost a couple of tough games against good opposition, before that it was five on the bounce and everyone was telling us how good our strength in depth was, so it is how you want to play the narrative. 

“We’ve not started as well as we’d like in the league as an Edinburgh team, however we’ve had 13 or 14 guys playing I the international team. If you look at the English Premiership, there is nobody losing 14 players to go and play Test matches.

“There’s a lot to be positive around Scottish rugby. We just have to keep doing what we’re doing and trying to get better.”

His West coast counterpart, who if we had to compare has been dealt the hand you’d be more likely to fold with, isn’t ready to toss his cards away just yet.

“The whole season has elements of frustration for a whole host of reasons. From covid, budget, injuries, international release. All I can do is keep standing up and going again, standing up and going again. It is tough and in tough times you see the true character of people.  We want to keep fighting despite the frustrations and difficulties.

We’ve a period now with this group of about 6 weeks before they all disappear again for Six Nations. It is – and I’m sorry to repeat myself, – a very, very, strange and different season. But there’s no way we accept losing games. I can assure you it’s an extremely hurt group of players.”

20 Responses

  1. Jeeze doesn’t look like I will be changing my non de plume to happy cheerful flanker anytime soon then. An excellent article by Iain which paints a realistically gloomy if not full on despondent picture of where the pro teams are at present.

    There has been a slow decline at the Warriors for a couple of years now. The asset stripping being masked to some extent by grit, character and determination to do well in tandem with some journeyman players stepping up to the plate. You can’t now help the feeling however that we have reached a tipping point. What to do?

    Signing Ben Healy would be a great start, however I wouldn’t be surprised if he sees himself as a future Ireland star (I do), that would be in jeopardy if he signed irrespective of any truckload of cash we offer him. That brings me into my next point, if we are offering truckloads of cash don’t throw it at players that want to be elsewhere or those looking for a last payday. Invest what little we have in players that will develop and fit into a squad that will in turn develop.

    Lastly both the Edinburgh and Glasgow squads look unbalanced. Glasgow have 5 good hookers, 5 great scum half’s but only two (now one) 10’s, one experienced full back and a lightweight back row. Pragmatism not rivalry or pride needs to enter the equation and the squads to some extent need re-balanced. We need to use our scant resources better and smarter to hopefully benefit both clubs and player development.

    Not a quick fix but it’s the best I can come up with on the spur of the moment.

    1. Interesting choice facing Ben Healy. Still on an academy contract but Scotland offering him massive pay hike, straight into wider Scotland squad and pretty much a guarantee of a long test career (if not necessarily as a starter, who knows after Finn goes?) and Glasgow being rebuilt around him.

      IRFU are refusing to negotiate until new year and have around 90 players to recontract – Glasgow came back with an improved offer after Hastings signed for Gloucester.

      Meanwhile, not only does Healy have an almighty scrap to get in the Ireland squad, with Sexton, Burns, R Byrne and H Byrne ahead of him (and Sexton threatening to continue until the next World Cup) but even his Munster place isn’t certain with Carbery likely to be back next season, Hanrahan currently favoured ahead of him and Crawley apparently as highly rated. Will Munster even be willing to match any offer Glasgow make for a FH who is not first choice yet?

      Apparently it’s his mother who is Scottish so Irish raised or not, he’ll always have known this option would be open to him.

      I very much hope Glasgow get their man, Irish fans seem less bullish now than they did when the rumours first emerged.

      1. It would be a massive coup for Glasgow and Scotland if they were to pull it off but I’m sceptical. I’m not actually sure the competition in Scotland isn’t harder than Ireland.

        Sexton vs Russel
        adv Scotland given sexton age
        Carberry vs Hastings adv Scotland given carberry injuries
        Carty vs J VDW adv Scotland given carty post World Cup form slump.
        R Byrne vs Duncan Weir even maybe adv Ireland
        Then prospects which Ireland have a clear advantage but Healy is probably top of that list for Ireland right now.

      2. Healy wasn’t in the recent Ireland squad – Billy Burns and Harry Byrne were. The latter is the most highly rated young 10 in Ireland. If Healy signs for Glasgow he goes straight into the 6N squad IMO alongside Russell and VDW in Hastings absence.

        Carbery is injured but before injury was Sextons heir apparent and moved to Munster on a big money deal. It’s a test for Munster whether they can find the money for a player who remains their third choice 10 if all their contracted players are available (Hanrahan was chosen ahead of Healy for their European game recently)

      3. Maybe, but Russell and Hastings are well established and in their prime whereas Sexton is hanging on to the end of his career and carberry’s injuries seem chronic as far as i know his injury recovery is still open ended.

        Frawley, H Byrne, R Byrne and sexton are all competing against each other at Leinster so how much game time are they each going to get? As far as I know Healy was injured against Harlequins but all the chat seems to be that he was set to move up to first choice at Munster and basically be given the keys to one of the top european clubs who are flying in the Pro ? and about to embark on europe. He’s Munster born and bred.
        Here’s hoping that we get him, it would be a much needed shot in the arm for Glasgow. The main advantage we have is the number of contracts the IRFU have to resolve and the fact they do have other options but it still seems a long shot.

  2. Wilson’s comments about bringing through SQ players is perhaps laudable, but it’s not his job and it shouldn’t be.

    He needs to build Glasgow back up for their own sake, not to feed the Scotland team.

    The way I see it, strength at the pro level will build more sustainable depth at a national level.

    1. Well no, as the SRU bankrole both sides with the overriding understanding of the primacy of the national team then that money has to have a case for the greater national team good, and rightly so the pathway is already congested enough as it is.
      Of course you can make that case for supplementing the teams with a small number of really high quality imports who will drive standards, develop culture, advise and guide young SQ players, ensure those players are exposed to the highest level of the club game and hold the Fort during the international window.

      But I can’t see how that case has been met with the recent GW recruitment. I mean how can you say there is no room for Adam Ashe or Matt Smith and then recruit TJ Ione and Lokotui a couple of rank average journeymen???

      Anyway if you want a club that can put it’s own interests first then it would need to be a private venture.

      1. Well, I wish the SRU bosses don’t see the world that way, but maybe they do.

        Edinburgh and Glasgow need to be their own destinations, and the coaches need to fight for their teams.

        This includes pushing back against the SRU as Cockers has done. I doubt he’s the most popular guy at HQ, but he’s had an impact.

  3. Re Glasgow situation – the ‘Rona can’t be blamed for the failure to recruit any quality talent for the past 3 years. It can’t be blamed for the mismanagement of young players and can’t be blamed for basic incompetence in succession planning. Some of the excuses being rolled out are pathetic.

    I also wonder is we have an S&C issues at Warriors. Take big Naks for instance – knee injured before lockdown, returns to the club with a knee that has healed but no rehabbed…WTF?!? What the heck were the Glasgow S&C team doing during lockdown?? He is supposed to be a talisman and is no doubt picking up a decent wedge – surely the very least we should have been doing was ensuring that when he turned up he was fit and ready. He’s a professional sportsman for goodness sake, not some tantrum prone kid that you need to tip toe around.

    Our players almost to a man look overweight and slower than our opponents despite having had the longest pre season in the history of pre seasons.

    1. I believe there’s no capacity to postpone these fixtures.

      If Glasgow are forced to default, then is it 28-0 to Lyon?

      Or does the blame fall on Exeter? Maybe a draw in this case, which helps neither team.

      1. I think the appropriate thing to do is award a 28-0 to Lyon, and reverse the score to Glasgow for the Exeter game.

      2. There is an optics issue here with regards to fair play. Scottish teams tend not to get the rub of the green in these situations though.

        I think they might go with 28-0 to Lyon while giving Glasgow 28 points retroactively for the game against Exeter.

    2. Bonus point win for Lyon. I don’t doubt the organisers made a “correct” decision but it is also a wrong one. An insensitive application of inflexible rules punishing the unlucky and arbitrarily rewarding their opponents.

      1. Don’t see there is any fair way to resolve it. Ultimately glasgow couldn’t fulfil the fixture and if they awarded a draw it would penalise Lyon. Without space to reschedule this is an impossible situation.

        I mean the defending champions are at v high risk of being knocked out because of a COVID breakout. It’s a mess but this whole season is a write off basically.

        Not only that but because of format many teams are already naming virtual second string sides – can’t say I’d blame Glasgow for doing the same now. What’s the point really???

  4. Before any decision is made I think the competition organisers need to have to close look at how rigorous Exeter’s testing was prior to the game with Glasgow. Anything less than squeaky clean should see Exeter’s win reversed with 28-0 wins awarded to Glasgow for last weekend and Lyon and Toulouse this weekend.

    1. The sensible decision would have been to revise qualification criteria: your best three results count, and cancelled fixtures are BP draws.

      Too late for that now I suppose.

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Scottish Rugby News and Opinion