Author: Al Kerr

Alan Kerr is a long time rugby lover and occasional player for Broughton FP RFC. Site co-founder Al prides himself on offering the "man on the bus" view of Scottish Rugby!

Breaking News…Blair a Lion!

Breaking news…

Scotland Captain Mike Blair has been called up for the British and Irish Lions squad that travels to South Africa this summer.  Blair has been called up to replace the unfortunate Thomas O’Leary who recently broke his leg playing for his club side Munster.

Blair, who plays for Edinburgh,  was thought at the turn of the year to be a certain to travel South Africa.  However a poor Six Nations campaign and unsure performances for his club side saw him not even make the travelling party.   Blair has been a key part of the Edinburgh side that has recently gone on a five match winning streak and his performance in last weekends 43 – 3 defeat of the Dragons will have no doubt helped highlight what he can bring to the Lions party.

Fellow Scot Chris Cusiter was initially rumoured to be the front runner as a replacement but perhaps being stuck on the bench for Perpignan has hurt him (the same could be said for Dwayne Peel at Sale), while Blair has been able to take full part in Edinburgh’s recent string of consecutive victories. I am sure he will make a full contribution and if he finds the form of the autumn (where he made most of the Springbok team look a little ordinary at times) he definitely has the class and vision to be the test scrum half.

Blair will no doubt now want to push for a test place in the Lions team.  His inclusion now ups the number of Scots in the Lions squad to a (still paltry) 3.  All of us here would like to congratulate Mike on his call up and hope he’ll be able to do both himself and his country proud.

Irish Eyes a Smiling, Scottish Eyes a Bleeding…

“And now the end is near…”

I ain’t no Las Vegas crooner, able to sweet talk the ladies and the local Mob in equal measure, but just like Ol’ Blue Eyes even I can see that the end is near for Frank Hadden.  After another frustrating afternoon at “Fortress” (more like a soggy cardboard box crumbling under the elements) Murrayfield the pressure on Frank Hadden has risen to such a level that even Frank himself has noted that his time may well be up.

Saturday was the typical game of two halves.  Scotland dominated the first half, should have been a lot further in front and gave hope that we had an idea of what we were actually trying to do.  The second half…..aaaaargh!  What a stinker.  Lineout fell to pieces, holes large enough to drive a fleet of tanks through appeared in the defence (the fact it was the bastard love child of Mini-Me and an Oompa Loompa that capitalised, made it look even worse) and we had all the penetration of Pele before he started advertising Viagra.  We were never more than a converted try behind, yet never looked like getting anything out the game and that makes me want to weep for Scottish Rugby.  Whatever was said at half time should never, ever, be uttered again because it had the effect of killing all the momentum and enthusiasm that had been built up in a good first half display.  I could go on and on about different aspects of the game but others elsewhere have written far more erudite and accurate analysis than I can…and it just makes me angry!

As for Ireland, well fair play on keeping on track for the much elusive Grand Slam.  They came to a ground they traditionally struggle on and got the win they needed.  If they do win in Wales and get the Grand Slam I ask only one favour… that no bugger buys me the commemorative DVD for Xmas – it’ll be a horror show.  The game against England made my eyes bleed and to be honest the BBC should be given a kicking for putting that game on before the watershed… the children, for the love of God would someone please think of the children!  The Scotland game was only a fraction better.  Fair play the France game was good.  If, and it’s still a big IF, they do win the Grand Slam Ireland deserve all the plaudits but it still doesn’t take away from the fact that they will have been one of the poorest Grand Slam winning teams in living memory.

As for Scotland, well we look towards trying to get a first win in 26 years on English soil.  Of course, life being what it is, the toffs across the Border have seemingly stopped trying to play with 14 or 13 men and as a result find the 15 man game a damn site easier!  Beyond that who knows.  I think Hadden will go, he may even do the decent thing and fall upon his own sword.  Cast your mind back 4 years and think of the walking Satan in charge of Scotland at that time… he that shalt not be named (but is the coach of  Ulster) and should be burned the next time he places his over-inflated sense of worth back on Scottish soil… and you’ll remember just how bad Scotland were at that time.  Hadden at least came in, settled the ship and looking at the squad at least there appears to be some talent within the ranks.  However, he (Hadden) has taken this team as far as he can and the challenge of taking the raw ability and turning it into a polished end product should be passed on to a new head coach.  Just who that new head coach should be is the big unknown, but maybe the SRU should show some ambition for once… this is a Scotland side with the raw talents to be a winning side, maybe a coach with ambition and steel will be able to actually get the end product right?

Le Team…

Hadden never makes changes…ever!

Well, except this time.

Scotland have made 5 changes to the starting XV for this Saturday’s game against the French in Paris. In come both Max and Thom Evans to the starting line-up, joined by Simon Danielli, Alasdair Strokosch and Alasdair Dickinson. The full team for the game is:

First XV:

1. Allan Jacobsen (Edinburgh)
2. Ross Ford (Edinburgh)
3. Alasdair Dickinson (Gloucester)
4. Jason White (Sale)
5. Jim Hamilton (Edinburgh)
6. Alasdair Strokosh (Gloucester)
7. John Barclay (Glagow)
8. Simon Taylor (Stade Francais)

9. Mike Blair (Edinburgh)
10. Phil Godman (Edinburgh)
11. Thom Evans (Glasgow)
12. Graeme Morrison (Glasgow)
13. Max Evans (Glasgow)
14. Simon Danielli (Ulster)
15. Hugo Southwell (Edinburgh)

Replacements:
Dougie Hall (Glasgow); Moray Low (Glasgow); Kelly Brown (Glasgow); Scott Gray (Northampton); Chris Cusiter (Perpignan); Chris Paterson (Edinburgh); Nick De Luca (Edinburgh)

Having only had a few minutes to digest I’ve a couple of thoughts.

Firstly this looks like a side set up to attack, the backs are quick and have natural finishers. The choice of Danielli is interesting, didn’t see that one coming but fits with the policy of one big and one not so big (there is no small in international rugby!) winger. Obviously no Paterson again and, considering his decent performance against the Welsh, that is slightly surprising. He does however allow you to put more depth on the bench as he can cover a number of positions. The additions of both Evans boys is encouraging and if they can get decent ball they have the skills and sheer pace to frighten the French.

Happy to see Strokosch in the starting line-up, he’ll certainly add a bit of bite and God help a Frenchman on the wrong side of a ruck! He’ll feel he has a point to prove after missing out against the Welsh and we can only hope he channels his aggression and passion in a more productive manner than Geoff Cross. Disappointed to see that White has kept is starting slot. Nothing against him, he is a cracking player, but this is not his strongest position and he looks like he is lacking match fitness. Surely a fit and ready Ally Kellock would have better? Moray Low doesn’t quite make the starting XV but at least he is on the bench and edges towards the elusive first cap.

Overall I’m pretty happy – this is a team that should have been selected last week. If we had Murray and Hines I’d be very optimistic about going to France. As it is the main worry for me is the pack’s ability to secure good quick ball and put pressure on the French forwards. If, and I think it is a pretty huge if, the pack can perform at the top level we have a back unit that can trouble any side in the competition. If I was French I’d look at that side and look at that back unit and be fairly apprehensive as the way the French play the game leaves them open to attack by speed. This Scotland line-up is quick. There are points in this side but so much comes down to ensuring protection for Blair and Godman.

Much happier this week, and whilst not optimistic of a Scottish victory this squad at least makes me think it’s going to be a damn good game. One thing is for sure, come Saturday evening we’ll know for sure whether Scotland are moving in the right direction and whether Frank Hadden has a future in his post as national coach.

The Life of Doh!

(aka The Frank Hadden Story)

Stupid.

That’s the one word that describes so much of Scotland’s performance last Saturday, from the coaching staff down to the players. Scottish rugby are the masters of turning gold in crap, whether that is on the pitch, on the management bench or up in the comfort of the padded seats for the Blazers.

Scotland botched the whole start to the 6 Nations and were on the back foot from the minute the team was announced. There was genuine excitement in the lead up to the tournament and whilst it would have been nice to fantasise about Grand Slam heroics, most Scotland fans were just looking forward to a steady showing, a couple of wins and sign of greater attacking intent. Instead Hadden chose a side that was a mix of players playing out of position and, in some cases, out of form. As soon as the squad was announced the wind was taken out the sails as it was apparent that Hadden had gone for a lot of the old familiar faces that have been at the heart of the Scotland team over the last couple of disappointing seasons.

To compound this the players generally failed to rise to the occasion and in a couple of cases they made suicidal decisions. Simon Webster was a man under a lot of pressure: a public outcry (even if not reflected in the national press) had surrounded his inclusion instead of the on form (on fire?) Thom Evans. With this in mind, it is understandable that he was eager to put on a display and to make a mark. Alas, having lined his man up he decided to tackle like an idiot, failing to lead with his shoulder and choosing instead his napper. As a result he knocked himself out, and it is surprising that he managed to last as long as he did. Geoff Cross had a debut to forget, literally. Anyone who saw him during the national anthems would have seen how much the occasion meant to him and I was hopeful he would go on to have a good debut. Unfortunately events overtook him and in the end his challenge on a flying Welshman was both reckless and feckless.

So where does this leave us with just 4 days to go until they face the French in Paris?

The easy option is to say that that we’re doomed.

However, all might not be lost. For 20 minutes at the end of the game on Sunday, Scotland started to play a lot flatter and were able to attack the Welsh line. Max Evans scored a corker of a try and I was quite impressed with Paterson when he came on. The key this weekend will be the pack. It is essential that Strokosch is brought back in as his ability to battle and be aggressive will be vital to securing the breakdown. The Welsh were continually flopping over onto the Scottish side of the ruck, and whilst the ref chose not to punish this, the Scottish forwards should have made sure they didn’t want to do this twice. Instead they stood back and did nothing and the whole performance suffered from a lack of controlled and focussed aggression. The news that Hines is not available is a blow but there are suitable direct replacements waiting in the wings and I for one would very much like to see Kellock get a game. He will at least provide expert knowledge of the position and also isn’t afraid to stick the boot in if necessary.

In the backs out should go Lamont (looked off-pace and uninterested), Webster (injured and ineffective) and, unfortunately, Cairns. Cairns had a decent game but since he got almost no service he had little chance to shine and with Max Evans performing so well when he came on you have to feel that Evans has earned the start. Also coming in should be Paterson on one wing and Thom Evans on the other.

Like Rory I thought Cusiter came on and gave a very strong performance. He looked like he got the backs playing flatter and as a result the speed in which Scotland attacked, and broke the gain line, was actually fairly impressive. Cusiter also has the knowledge of the French game and his time overseas has obviously improved his game. However, unlike Rory, I’d stick with Blair. This is a guy who was nominated for world player of the year and whilst he didn’t have a great performance against the Welsh he was another player who was totally undermined by the misfiring pack (thanks Frank!). He deserves another start.

The French lost on Saturday in a cracking match against the Irish but they looked like they had a soft belly. Don’t get me wrong I think they pose a big attacking threat but if made to face a back line full of pace I believe there are weaknesses that the Scotland team can target. To me the French looked off the pace in the final 20 minutes, so if Scotland can stay within 10 points going into the last quarter they will have a chance to get something from the game.

Finally, one request to the Scotland team – make sure the first tackle counts. Too many times on Sunday it took multiple Scotland players to halt the Welsh and if we allow the French the opportunity to off-load in the tackle we leave ourselves open to attack. Hit your men and hit them hard (but not hard enough to knock yourself out cold!).

My head says that France will probably win this game but I do think Scotland can go to Paris and put on a good performance. If they perform to their true abilities then a result might just come.

I’ll be back later once Hadden has announced the squad – fingers crossed he doesn’t make the same mistakes as last week.

6 Nations – the ill-informed view…

Having not had the opportunity to post for a while now I thought I had better remove my finger and provide the world with some more of my ramblings.

You guys have had it too good since New Year, having the pleasure of Rory’s well-considered musings on the game.  As with any good partnership you need the Yin and Yang – I am the screaming, cursing, bipolar (“we’re great…nah, we’re sh*te”), Townsend-sceptic rugby fan in comparison to Rory’s deer-stalker wearing, drinks out the back of the Land Rover, Townsend-lovin’ rugby toff.  As such my musings are formed purely of prejudice, half-baked ideas and a tenuous knowledge of the rules (I played in the front row, no need for rules!).

The 6 Nations are less that 2 weeks away and this year’s tournament looks like it is shaping up to be a cracker.  The Northern Hemisphere’s premier tournament is always essential viewing but this year there is a general feeling that pretty much every team has the ability to pick up results…well maybe except England!  Here are my thoughts on Scotland in the lead up to the big kick-off, look out for my views on the other teams in the coming days:

Scotland

Every year, without fail, I’ll look at the Scotland squad and think to myself that it looks pretty strong and that with a wee bit of luck this could be the year we string some result together and maybe claim a wee bit of glory.  Every year I’m wrong and the last couple of 6 Nations have seen Scotland win 2 games…out of 10!  Can this be the year where Scotland turn promise into results?

Well, yes!

Hadden has by far and away his strongest squad in his tenure as top dog.  A pack that is possibility the best in the tournament and a set of backs that, whilst not the finished article, look like they might actually score some points.  The club sides are producing good results (think Glasgow and Edinburgh winning in France) and are pushing at the right end of the Magners League.  Key to their success has been the breakthrough of a number of younger players and this has fed into the national side where an injection of fresh blood has been needed for sometime now.  Since the last 6 Nations the national team has toured Argentina picking up a win in the process and put in 2 encouraging displays in their Autumn Internationals (didn’t see the NZ game but didn’t sound great).  The game against South Africa, the world champions, showed just how far the team have come…and how far they still have to go.  We bullied the South Africans around in the pack.  The forwards were tight and very, very aggressive.  The backs ran good angles and with a little more precision could have scored more points.   That though is where they still have issue: finishing off the chances they create.  For Scotland to prosper this coming 6 Nations they need to take the form from the South Africa and Canada games and add the finishing – if, and it’s still a big if, they can do that then they may well have a very good tournament.

This Scotland team has the look of a team that is still a distance from peaking (2011 would be nice!) but if they continue to develop at the same rate as the last 12 months then the future should be good, or at least better than what has gone before.  A successful Scotland side will help ensure that the punters turn up in number ensuring more money into the SRU coffers which will then, hopefully be fed into the grass routes (and not Chris Cusiter’s pockets!) to bring on the next generation of players.

A quick note on Hadden, who like his squad, appears to have come on leaps and bounds in the last 12 months.  I’ve never been a huge fan (despite the fact he put up while Rory and I dribbling drunken nonsense to him in St Etienne) but he seems to have got a better idea of the game he wants to play.  Like most Scotland fans I’m delighted that Dan Parks has burnt the dodgy pictures he must have had of Hadden and he is no longer compelled to pick him.  Hadden has a depth of squad that has not been available to him in the last couple of years and this should allow him to develop a Plan B in the case any games are going pear shaped.  Of course this means that the excuses that Hadden has used to cover his own inadequacies are not going to wash.  This tournament will cast a fair eye over Hadden’s abilities at this level.

Finally, the backroom staff appears to be doing a good job, the pack is tight (although the lineout is still in need of work) and provide an extremely solid base for attacking the opposition.  As much as I was never a huge Townsend fan when he was a player (way too erratic) if his coaching is half as good as his thoughts on the game then we should see a back line that will trouble even the best sides in the world.

Predictions:

So, can Scotland win the 6 Nations?  Yes!

Really?  Well it’s certainly not outwith the realms of possibility and we are certainly due a run of luck in terms of injuries and the bounce of the ball…

The first game against Wales is the key.  Wales, off the back of a Grand Slam and a decent set of Autumn Internationals will be looking to start strong but Murrayfield is far from a happy hunting ground for the singing coal miners.  Presuming Scotland don’t forget how to tackle, they will fancy bloodying the noses of the Welsh and setting up a lip-smacking clash in Paris the following week.  The other home games should be winnable (the Irish are on the slide in my opinion, and Italy should still always be beatable) so a lot comes down to the trips to Paris and London.  Scotland don’t travel that well (not lately anyway!) but this is a Scotland squad filled with players who have won on French soil (albeit at club level) so Paris may not be so scary.  As for England, who knows but this could well be the year the Scots end the Twickers hoodoo!

Head: Mid table mediocrity.  Win against Ireland and Italy at home, lose in France, just miss out in a classic open running game versus Wales and a lack of composure in scoring position ultimately see us lost to England by a score.  4th / 3rd
Heart: Get off to a flyer against Wales, lose in France but pick up 3 more victories, including a gritty display at Twickers to records a long awaited victory to finish 1st or 2nd.
Arse:  Lose badly against a buoyant Welsh side, struggle for composure in France, run Ireland close but lose and face an England side that suddenly comes into form at the right time.  Sneak a win at home to Italy to avoid the wooden spoon.  5th.

Fixtures:

Scotland v Wales (Murrayfield) – Sunday 8th February, 3pm.
France v Scotland (Stade France) – Saturday 14th February, 3pm
Scotland v Italy (Murrayfield) – Saturday 28th February, 3pm
Scotland v Ireland (Murrayfield) – Saturday 14th March, 5pm
England v Scotland (Twickenham) – Saturday 21st March, 3.30pm

Rugby in Gaelic on TV…

Hey folks, as Rory says below – happy birthday to us!  Time for our terrible two’s!

Can the standard of writing get any lower?!?

Anyway, my esteemed comrade is away from a PC and can’t bring you the exciting news – rugby in Gaelic!  BBC Alba are showing the Scoland A team’s game against Georgia tonight so if you’ve got nothing else to do and see how the boys do against the full Georgia side.

If the game is a howler at least the commentary should provide giggles or a drinking game i.e. every time an English word, instead of a Gealic word, is used you take a drink – do they have a Gaelic term for Scrum?

Zinzan ‘The Mouth’ Brooke flaps his trap..again!

Zinzan Brooke has stated on the BBC website that he hopes that the All Blacks “…beat the hell out of Scotland…“.  Fair enough, he’s a patriotic Kiwi and you’d want him to back his team.  His reason for this rather over the top, and schoolboy-esque, outburst: because those dastardly Scots didn’t play a full strength side at last year’s World Cup pool game and that hurt NZ form.  Now 2 things spring to my mind:

1) As a child Zinzan had a dog, Tuffy, who he loved dearly.  They did everything together, long walks through the stunning New Zealand countryside, warm, cosy nights in front of the log fire and off to watch the local sheep-shearing competition at the weekends.  Alas, Tuffy’s wonderful time with his dear master Zinzan was to end all too early!  One day, whilst running down the road to meet young Master Brooke a milk float came round the corner and not hearing the oncoming vehicle (electric engine…damn them!) poor Tuffy was mortally wounded.  As Zinzan help his dear Tuffy in his arms the driver of the milk float jumped out to see if the dog was ok… and to Zinzan’s horror the driver was wearing a kilt!!!  From that day on he vowed to hate Scottish rugby and all it stands for!

OR/

2)  Zinzan Brooke is a bitter man, yet another sign that some (and only a minority) in the New Zealand rugby fraternity will blame anybody else rather than their own team for underperforming at World Cup after World Cup after World Cup.  Maybe if the likes of Zinzan Brooke spent more time analysing the frailty in the All Black mentality when it comes to Webb Ellis then maybe he’d have less time, and cause, to start pointing the finger of blame at other rugby playing nations!

In summary, and to bastardise an old Stephen Fry comment:

Question – “Please provide a definition of Countryside”
Answer – “Killing Zinzan Brooke

Off on holiday from tomorrow so going to miss the game but I hope Scotland can put up a good show on Saturday and those of you who attend enjoy the game!

Maybe Frank Hadden should put Zinzan’s words up on the dressing room wall! :-)

Over and out.

Al

Scotland Team to play All Blacks…

Scotland today announced their team to line up against the All Blacks this coming Saturday.  Scotland are looking for their first ever victory against New Zealand and Frank Hadden has picked a team with a balance of experience and form players.  A total of 7 changes have been made from the team that won away in Argentina at the beginning of the summer and the likes of Sean Lamont and Jason White return to the starting line up.  The starting line-up for Saturday is:

  • A Jacobsen (Edinburgh)
  • R Ford (Edinburgh)
  • E Murray (Northampton)
  • N Hines (Perpignan)
  • J Hamilton (Edinburgh)
  • J White (Sale Sharks)
  • S Taylor (Stade Francais)
  • J Barclay (Glasgow Warriors)
  • C Paterson (Edinburgh)
  • T Evans (Glasgow Warriors)
  • B Cairns (Edinburgh)
  • N De Luca (Edinburgh)
  • S Lamont (Northampton)
  • P Godman (Edinburgh)
  • M Blair (Edinburgh)

Dan Parks has dropped to the bench with World Class Phil Godman given a starting berth and he will have a huge responsibility to ensure Scotland keep moving forward.  Given the starting line-up it would appear Scotland have gone for an experienced pack who can hopefully combat the aggression and drive of the All Blacks, and most importantly, secure ball for the backs.  Its encouraging to see such an attacking set of backs, and, in my opinion, that is a back unit capable of scoring points…whether they’ll score enough to trouble the All Blacks is the big question!

RORY UPDATE: Here’s our bench:

Replacements: Hall (Glasgow Warriors), Dickinson (Gloucester), Mustchin (Edinburgh), Gray (Northampton), Lawson (Gloucester) or McMillan (Glasgow Warriors), Parks (Glasgow Warriors), Southwell (Edinburgh).

The referee is Wayne Barnes (huzzah) assisted by Dave Pearson (boo) and Paul, um, Dix.

And the New Zealand team is as follows:  Isaia Toeava; Anthony Tuitavake, Richard Kahui, Ma’a Nonu, Joe Rokocoko; Stephen Donald, Piri Weepu; Jamie Mackintosh, Keven Mealamu (capt), John Afoa, Anthony Boric, Ali Williams, Kieran Read, Adam Thomson, Liam Messam.
Replacements: Corey Flynn, Neemia Tialata, Ross Filipo, Richie McCaw, Andy Ellis, Dan Carter, Cory Jane.

Far from the first team, but look at that bench! If Scotland are anywhere close to a result with 15 to go expect them to pour that lot on and still beat us by 40 points. Am also disappointed that Rory Lamont or the big Stroker are nowhere to be seen, having been in better form than SRBlog favourites Hugo Southwell and Big Jason. They didn’t have to pick him just so we can shout Hugooooooooooooo…

Heineken Horror!

I’ll keep this brief as the idea of reliving Saturday’s Edinburgh v Leinster match is putting me off my lunch!

Glorious day, sun splitting the sky, a good Autumn wind and, with Mrs Al off visiting relatives, a free pass to go and do with the day whatever I desire.  For once Edinburgh are playing at home at a time that actually encourages attendance, not only that but a 1.30pm ko ensured that I was out and in the pub in time for the second half of the Scotland v Norway snorefest.   So off to fortress Murrayfield I went and to be honest the signs were good!  For once the ticket arrangements were well organised with separate booth for those of us paying cash so no wait in a long queue.  Into the stadium in time for a pint from the well manned (it’s true!!) booze cabins and an almost tasty burger from the stall – really, trips to Murrayfield rarely go this well.  It’s a case of sit where you like with the ticket I have and I get a seat right under the media boxes and a cracking view for the game ahead, find myself surrounded by Leinster fans but they are in good form.  For the first 15-20 minutes this general vibe of positivity was sustained by a good start from Edinburgh…

Those first 15 minutes or so saw Edinburgh press Leinster back and put real pressure onto the lineout. The Leinster lineout was an abomination at times, with lineout after lineout being stolen at the rear by Edinburgh.  You just knew that Edinburgh needed to make the most of the pressure, but all they got was 3 points from a Godman kick.  Sure enough, no sooner had Edinburgh scored than the wheels came off the Edinburgh wagon in spectacular fashion…

TACKLE: “Most forms of football have a move known as a tackle. In most cases this move is one that prevents an opposing player from carrying out what they intend.

The word is used in some contact sports to describe the act of physically holding or wrestling a player to the ground. In other sports, it simply describes one or more methods of contesting for possession of the ball.”

If you happen to be a member of the Edinburgh squad please take note of the above definition (thanks Wikipedia).  For about 15 minutes Edinburgh’s defence was pathetic.   A total inability to tackle or even put in something resembling a tackle cost Edinburgh the game.  Coupling this with a very high line and one missed tackle meant that Leinster were able to break free and score from long range run-ins.  Time after time this happened.  Granted, Leinster benefitted from one of the worst decisions I’ve ever seen on a rugby pitch – the forward pass so far forward the Leinster player was sprinting to Livingston to actually catch it.  Now, the referee was miles away from play so, possibly, can be forgiven, but his line judge was bang in line with it and how he missed it only he will know!  Two moves later Leinster break again, second try and effectively game over.  Gutting as it may have been Edinburgh had no one to blame but themselves.

The second half at least saw some fight from Edinburgh and I’m pretty sure I even saw them put a tackle in.   A wee bit more cutting edge and Edinburgh might have had a chance of recovering, but like the national side, they just seem to lack ideas in the opposition 22.  Fair play to Leinster, they took their chances well but this was a victory they didn’t have to work for.

A couple of final points.  Firstly a word on the Leinster fans, certainly the ones around me, who were great craic and supported their team well – Edinburgh fans could learn from them (i.e. stop sitting on your hands and bein quiet!).  Secondly, praise must be given to Edinburgh for the buy one adult get 4 kids free offer.  Seemed to me a fair number of kids in attendance and hopefully they’ll want to come back; get them young, get them playing and get them passionate for the game. It’s the only way we, as a nation, will get better at this wonderful sport.

Over and out.  Al.

An ill-informed look at what lies ahead…

So no sooner has season stopped than it’s up and running again.  A thankfully drama-free summer for Scottish Rugby and the focus (albeit a very limited focus from the nations media) has at least been on developments on the pitch and not in the boardroom.  Not that there has been much going on.  The big name transfers that have been ongoing in the rest of rugby seem to have largely passed by Scottish rugby, with incoming players not being prepared to play for the packet of sweets and a ‘See You Jimmy’ wig being offered by Edinburgh and Glasgow.  Regardless, the Scottish teams have attempted to build on the previous promising seasons and here are my quick thoughts on both:

EDINBURGH – Probably made the biggest signing of the summer by rescuing Chris Paterson from his miserable spell in England (well, it is England so you can kind of understand him being miserable!).  The addition of Jim Hamilton will also add considerable bulk to the forwards (all 19+ stones) so Robinson will no doubt be hopeful that he now has a side ready to kick on.  Last season turned into a sterling effort as Robinson’s impact started to show through in the later half of the season and Edinburgh will be realistically looking to claim their first ever Magners League championship.  They are certainly equipped with some exciting youngsters with a year’s experience under their belts and if they can get a strong start to the season, then come the end of it I think they’ll be there or thereabouts.

As for Europe there is a real opportunity that they could at last qualify from the group stage.  All 4 teams will fancy their chances but Wasps, Leinster and Castres will not be looking forward to a trip to Murrayfield.  Edinburgh are outsiders to qualify but a strong home record coupled with a slice of luck away from home could well see them become the first Scottish side to reach the later stages of Europe’s premier competition.

Predictions

Magners League – chance of the title but more likely a top 3 finish – 3rd

Heineken Cup – Mmmmmm, not sure….ach, early season optimism, 2nd in group.

Glasgow – a fairly quiet summer over in the West Coast.  The arrival of Mark McMillan from Wasps could be a major signing for our Weegie brethren who will hope that he can fill the scrum-half position which has been a troublesome area for some time.  If he can form a relationship with Dan ‘Parko’ Parks then Glasgow may then have attacking verve to trouble opposition defences.  Lineen had a decent season with Glasgow last year and, like Edinburgh, I’m sure he’ll be looking to kick on again and push harder for success in the League.  I don’t think they have the same depth as Edinburgh but Glasgow will certainly be pushing the top teams hard, and with some luck could still be in with a shout come the last run of games.

With regards to Europe I suspect 3rd in the group will be as good as it gets.  Toulouse and Bath will be hot favourites for top slot with the Dragons and Glasgow fighting it out for best of the rest.  I’m sure Glasgow will run both Toulouse and Bath close at home – indeed a sneaky win against either is possible – but away from home they might struggle, difficult to see them getting anything from trips to France or the West Country.  Still, they won’t be whipping boys and if you keep it close enough who knows what can happen.

Predictions

Magners League – outside bet for Championship glory, likely to push the top teams though so I’m going to say an improvement on last year and predict 4th.

Heineken Cup – Strong displays but not enough cutting edge will see Glasgow come 4th in my opinion.

So, there we go.  Told you it was ill informed.  Let us know what you think…enjoy the new season!

Al

Industrial Revolution…

Friday – the weekend is just round the corner, the sun is shining, ladies up and down this fine land are stripping down to their skimpies and you can almost taste the first cold sip of lager! That’s unless you’re like me, stuck in Scottish Rugby Blog HQ waiting for something, anything, exciting to happen on the Scottish rugby front. Sure, we have a squad announced for the up coming tour of Argentina, and with 4 new caps, it’s almost raised me from a slumber. The news that Di ‘OhNo’ Rollo is making a reappearance on the international scene, albeit with the ‘A’ squad, would normally get my blood pressure rising… but today it hardly registered. Nothing, it seemed, was going to stir me from my general malaise and the only thing left to do was plug in the MP3 player and listen to the tunes and hope that they would help pass the long day…

Suddenly, as Al Green faded out, a distant orchestra could be heard through the headphones… I know that tune…damn, what is it?…where have I heard that before…?

Slowly, ever so slowly, it all becomes clearer and I can cast my mind back 6 months….

St Etienne, 28th September 2007

9am– Wake up with the most almighty hangover, not good…damn Le Glasgow for staying open so late, running out of the normal beer and only having the 8% skull-crusher left! Turn around to find Rory sharing the same bed… damn apartment organisers only providing 2 beds for 4 people! Everyone else is still asleep so I decide I’ll creep out the apartment and go and hunt down some food. The locals don’t seem too impressed with the bedraggled Scotsman who stumbles through some rudimentary French in order to get some munch. I apologise for my unkempt appearance and leave with a bag of assorted pastries and head for a park bench. Sun is just starting to break through the early morning clouds… today’s going to be a nice day.

12pm – Creep back into the apartment and people are just starting to come round. My hangover has largely gone and starting to get ready for another day of alcohol excess and, of course, the small matter of the Scotland qualification decider against the Italy. The others still have a hangover but seem to have enough energy to fill in the blanks from the previous night…damn them and damn the Italians that kept buying me beer at 4am. Still, only 9 hours till the big kick-off and no sign of nerves, got to be a good sign!

4pm – Hangover totally gone and a good wee crowd starting to gather in one of St Etienne’s town squares. Kilted, booted and starting to get excited. Only thing missing is a beer. My companions are drinking hot chocolate, water and cola – no sign of alcohol….this is not good.

4.15pm – Success!!!! Convince the folks that the best cure for their hangovers is to start on the lager. The first round in and the days excitement can begin. Get the first butterfly in the stomach, its either nerves or the jambon cru sarnie for lunch was a bad idea.

6pm – Town square is really busy. A good mix of Italians, Scots and plenty of locals. The Italians are in good voice, lots of singing and the wearing of blue colanders upon heads. The Scots are noticeably subdued, there are either all still nursing the effects f le Glasgow’s finest or the nerves are kicking in. The sun has disappeared behind a flurry of big grey clouds and the chance of rain increases – that’ll suit us though….surely!

7.30pm – Big Gavin Hasting hits the stage and mumbles something in French before trying to rouse the Scots in the crowd into action. Still subdued, nerves are now starting to take hold. Rory and I have a panicked conversation about what to do for the next 10 days if Scotland get knocked out of the World Cup! We never considered that possibility and now it is a looming consideration. Anyway, no time for such defeatist talk. Just time to down the beer and join the mass march, led by Big Gav, thats making its way out to the Stadium. Did I just feel some rain?

8pm – Nearing the stadium now, and the damn rain is on. Seems to be getting ever heavier. Good craic on the march out to the stadium and finally some renditions of Flower of Scotland are started up. The locals are hanging out of the tower blocs, waving to the fans, taking photos and one smart cookie has a lion rampant flag hanging from his balcony – good man! Round a corner and there is the Stadium, floodlights on and its looks like a good place for a battle.

8.45pm – find out seats, we are in a corner behind the posts and the stadium us functional but basic. The atmosphere is cracking, the Italians are out singing the Scots and making a heck of a racket. Amazing atmosphere and nerves are only just in control. Good news is that most of the folk around us are also Scottish with a few locals and only a couple of Italians spotted about to make up the numbers.

8.55pm– A tune comes over the stereo, not sure what it is but boy does it get the blood pumping! The rain is thumping down now, puddles are forming round the side of the pitch and its so wet I have to put on my wee red berets has been put on to try keep the rain off! Rory informs me that the music is a guy called Jean Michelle Jarre and the tune is Industrial Revolution (Part III). Need to remember to try get a copy and put on my MP3 player.

9.05pm – Game has kicked off and Scotland start well. Parks has put a couple of spiralling kicks in that have pushed the Italians back and they have coughed up a penalty and gotten a man yellow carded. Maybe this isn’t going to be that close…

9.40pm – Half time and Scotland are struggling. They’ve lost a silly try, given away a penalty and Rory Lamont has been taken to hospital with an awful looking neck injury that came from reckless play by the Italians. Jonathon Kaplan is having a horror show as the referee and misses high tackles, late tackles and even diving from the Italians. Nerves are shot, I really want to go home! Never been so nervous at a sporting event in my life. Still the game is not away from us, we’ve scored penalties and surely we will push on in the second half and grab the win.

10.10pm – Thats better, 8 points in front and we aint going to throw it away now. Heart pressure is almost back to normal and even have a wee laugh with Rory about how we had worried about Scotland losing.

10.11pm – Arse, Italian penalty and gap down to 5. Still, we should get more penalties and don’t look like gifting any more tries.

10.18pm – Christ on a bike, another Italian penalty! Gap now down to 2 and the nerves are back withfull force. Rory looks a little sick. The Italian fans are getting very loud now, they can sense victory is close and that Scotland are crumbling. The Scottish fans are sitting quiet, fingernails are gone and all that is left is to sit, grim faced, in the rain and wait for the inevitablele.

10.23pm – 7 minutes to go….COME ON SCOTLAND!!!! Only 7 minutes to hold out and we are into the Quarter Finals. No silly mistakes….

10.24pm – A bloody silly mistake, an Italian penalty. Its out on the right but its kickable….he bloody kicked an identical kick in the first half. Look at Rory, he’s going even whiter than normal and looks to have aged several years. The Italians are on top of their seats, they know the game is theirs…they’ll play Argentina in the Quarter Finals and Scotland will return home ashamed. Rory and I know our 10 days left in France will be pointless, no team in the tournament no point in being there. Gutted.

10.25pm – The kick is lined up, taken bloody ages so it has. I grab Rory’s arm and hold on for all I’m worth. The Italian runs and gets a clean contact and the ball is on its way. The ball travels about 3 meters and Rory is on his feet “He’s missed!” he screams. No he bloody hasn’t I think to myself. Poor Rory has lost his mind and is seeing things. Sure enough the ball has started wide but its curling towards the near post. Scotland tournament, our holiday all lost on a single kick of a rugby ball…arse. Rory seeing that the ball is bound for the post starts to sit down, but hold….by god the ball has stopped coming in, either the wind has caught it or it didn’t have enough on it but its starting to fade…..everyone is starting to rise….did it go over, did it go wide? A cheer comes up from the far side, is it Scots, is it Italians? The line judge…. all eyes on the line judges….forever they bloody take…empires fall…alien civilisations land, build cities, die out and disappear….bloody line judges take ages. Flags stay down….NO CONVERSTION! Ya dancer! Need a seat now, my heart can’t take this…

10.30pm– Italian pressure, they have the ball looking for space or a last gasp penalty. Scotland ahead by 2…..2 little points…not enough. Rory looks sick again. I feel sick and think my heart is about to pack in. Scotland can’t get the ball, can’t get it into touch, can’t bloody finish the game off. Troncon gets it, Troncon kicks it aimlessly into Scottish possession……Parks, being top tonight so he has, has it, sorts himself and plants the ball far down into the Italian corner, picked up by an Italian but a Scot is on him. The Italian is bundled into touch……relief! Game over, stand of seats to celebrate but get dizzy and need to sit down. Rory hasn’t moved, its been too much for him. He looks like he’s just watched carnage, is so almost was. This stress is too much, the high too high to enjoy – never ever again will I put myself through that….well, until next week and the Quarter Final!

Industrial Revolution is a tune that whenever comes on my MP3 will forever remind me of St Etienne. Sitting in the stadium waiting for the game and the elation, or should that be relief, at the result. It is also a fair description of how Scotland played on the night….industrial, ugly but ultimately effective rugby. I’ve still never seen that game back on the telly, too scared to watch it in case that damn Italian penalty goes over – that single minute of rugby is the reason I have grey hairs!!

Tagged: Al’s Story…

I see my esteemed colleague Rory has ‘Tagged’ me and I’m compelled to give you an insight into my mind.  Its a scary place so you’ve been warned….

What was I doing 10 yrs ago?

Was at Uni and was making an effort to eat all the packets of Rib ‘n’ Saucy Nic Naks that I could lay my grubby little hands on…happy days!  I wasn’t in a rock band.

Five things on my To Do list today:

  • To not kill myself when climbing tonight
  • Start packing  – I’m moving house at the end of the week
  • Dig out the rugby ball – touch rugby training starts this week!
  • Have a fight with my IT department and get them to do what I have been asking for for the last 6 months.
  • To not  annoy the living crap into Mrs Al – a near impossibility.

Snacks I enjoy:

Food!  Like Rory I’m a fan of the Croq Monsieur but an honourable mention must go to Rib ‘n’ Saucy Nic Naks and the bacon roll (although their is a battle in the Al house over whether red or brown sauce is best!).  Also a lot to be said for Pink Lady apples…tasty!

Things I would do if I were a billionaire:

  • As Rory mentioned I always said that I would sponsor the Scotland rugby team and get my picture on the jersey!  Since Rory is kindly doing this for me, with his billions, I thought I’d repay the favour.  So I’ll sponsor the England team and get Rory’s picture put on their jersey….he’ll like that!
  • Make sure my family were all sorted for life
  • Take Mrs Al to Paris (again!) and let her run wild in the Prada and Dior shops!  I’d get plenty of kudos and she could never again moan when I put rugby on the telly…ever!
  • Probably put money into my favourite football team (Aberdeen)
  • Pay to have Austin Healey fight an angry gorilla and for David ‘the Gob’ Campese to have his fat, Aussie mouth sewn shut!

Three of my bad habits:

  • Getting wound up at rugby internationals and being very loud
  • Getting very drunk the night before rugby internationals and then going AWOL in a foreign country
  • Drinking Lager Tops – its a girls drink

Five places I have lived:

  • Foyers (a wee village on Loch Ness)
  • Inverness
  • Dundee
  • Inverness (again)
  • Edinburgh

Five jobs I have had:

  • Helper monkey at the Co-op
  • Helper monkey (senior) at Tesco’s
  • Photocopier extraordinaire
  • Community project judge, jury and executioner
  • NHS desk jockey

Current position

Part time rugby blogger, part time NHS grunt, part time sports enthusiast, full time pain in the backside.

Bloggers I want to know more about?

All you lovely people!  In the words of Delia “Where are ya?…Lets be havin’ ya!”

Over and out.

Al