A packed weekend schedule should see Scottish rugby supporters through until at least Saturday night with both professional sides involved in the Guinness Rainbow Cup – even though with it now being a “dual competition” with the South African sides barred from entering the UK, “Cups” may be on offer – and the national side featuring in the Guinness Women’s Six Nations. Guinness are mad into their rugby, aren’t they?
With one eye on the 1872 Cup decider and little else to play for given that the Rainbow Cup(s) carries with it the same amount of prestige as the Tennent’s Sixes, both head coaches have picked a pick and mix bag, with Danny Wilson given a slightly bigger section of the sweet shop.
For Edinburgh, 16 players are unavailable through injury – although it has been confirmed that Hamish Watson’s absence is caused by a niggle rather than anything more serious – so head coach Richard Cockerill has turned to youth.
With an average squad age of 24.5 years, seven of the starting XV are in single figures when it comes to caps for the capital side, including highly rated no: 8, Ben Muncaster who will be making his debut.
“He’s 19 years old, he’s very dynamic, he’s quite a big lad – 108-9kgs – and he’s been with us the best part of 12 months working very, very hard both on and off the field.” Cockerill said of the youngster who will have Mesu Kunavula, and captain for the night, Luke Crosbie, for company in the back row.
“He’s got a lot of talent, very enthusiastic, loves playing with the ball in hand, so very much a ball-carrying eight but probably more in a Sam Simmonds mould than a Duane Vermeulen mould – he runs at space rather than through people.
More generally, Cockers explained the decision to go with the youth for this latest run out, thusly:
“They have been picked because they are good players and it is a really good opportunity in this competition. Now, how it has been formatted and what has happened over the last few days over South African teams not being in it, I think it’s a real opportunity to give guys opportunities to play and get some experience for the future.
“It is a great opportunity. We are looking more around development and performance than potentially the result, although we always want to win.”
Despite Glasgow missing the likes of Huw Jones – who it has been confirmed has no chance of recovering from foot surgery in time to play any part in the competition, and thus will not be back in Glasgow black – Matt Fagerson, and Adam Hastings, Danny Wilson has been able to pick a more experienced side than his M8 counterpoint as they face Benneton Treviso. Again.
Kyle Steyn makes his long-awaited return from injury, while a strong pack with co-captain Fraser Brown shifting to openside flanker as he continues his return from injury, also features returning internationals Oli Kebble, George Turner and Zander Fagerson in the front-row.
Speaking to the press earlier in the week, loosehead Kebble, who has been away with the international side for large swathes of the season, spoke of how it’s been returning to the day-to-day:
“You would think the increased amount of rugby would impact your motivation negatively, but my mindset has been really positive coming from the national setup back to Glasgow. I’ve come back hungry and wanting to do well for the club side.
“It was good to get a break last week. After the win with Scotland in Paris it wasn’t as if we were all coming back in dragging our feet. We were all so excited to be back with Glasgow. I had missed a lot of my teammates and it was exciting to get a full squad of Glasgow boys together because we haven’t had many chances to play together this season.”
Kebble had also spoken about how excited he was to be facing some of his compatriots as part of this new competition, so let’s hope the news which followed hasn’t dampened his spirits too much.
The weekend’s action rounds up on Saturday evening, with the Scotland women’s national side taking on Wales in the 5th/6th place play-off of the Six Nations.
After a performance against England which showed signs of improvement despite the somewhat inevitable defeat, the wheels fell off in somewhat spectacular fashion against Italy, as the visitors ran in 7 tries on their way to a 41-20 victory
Their opponents haven’t fared much better in the competition, having been on the receiving end of 45-0 and 53-0 whitewashes against Ireland and France respectively, which has made Scotland the slight favourites in the eyes of some, and head coach Bryan Easson also believes they have the tools with which to get the desired outcome.
“The last seventeen years we have beat Wales once. It’s like: “Okay that is long term stuff”, but the way we have been performing we have had our ups and downs against both England and Italy. Having a bump in the road like Italy in terms of our journey has been a positive as we can sit back and look at it. We reviewed as a group Sunday and Monday and asked the players to look at the positive and negatives of the game so it has been a real positive build up. If we get it right there is no reason we can’t go into this game expecting to win.”
Edinburgh (v Zebre, Fri 23rd April 8:15pm) Blair Kinghorn, Damien Hoyland, Matt Currie, George Taylor,
Eroni Sau, Nathan Chamberlain, Charlie Shiel; Boan Venter, Mike Willemse, Lee-Roy Atalifo, Marhsall Sykes, Jamie Hodgson, Mesu Kunavula, Luke Crosbie, Ben Muncaster
Replacements: Patrick Harrison, Pierre Schoeman, WP Nel, Villiame Mata, Connor Boyle, Roan Frostwick, Jack Blain, Chris Dean
Glasgow Warriors (v Benetton, Sat 24th April 1:00pm) Cole Forbes, Rufus McLean, Nick Grigg, Sam Johnson, Kyle Steyn, Ross Thompson, George Horne; Oli Kebble, George Turner, Zander Fagerson, Richie Gray,
Rob Harley, Fotu Lokotui, Fraser Brown, Ryan Wilson
Replacements: Grant Stewart, Tom Lambert, D’arcy Rae, Leone Nakarawa, Rory Darge, Ali Price, Ian Keatley, Ollie Smith
Scotland (v Wales, Sat 24th April 5:00pm) Chloe Rollie, Liz Musgrove, Hannah Smith, Lisa Thomson,
Megan Gaffney, Helen Nelson, Jenny Maxwell; Christine Belisle, Lana Skeldon, Megan Kennedy, Emma Wassell, Louise McMillan, Evie Gallagher, Rachel McLachlan, Siobhan Cattigan
Replacements: Jodie Rettie, Leah Bartlett, Lisa Cockburn, Nicola Howat, Mairi McDonald, Sarah Law, Evie Wills, Rachel Shankland