Category: Adventures in Rugby

Stories from our own experiences watching or playing rugby.

Scotland vs Ireland Looking Close to Sell-Out

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A bit of actual news reporting for you here! Your faithful correspondent was up at the crack of dawn today to try and snare a couple of the last few cheap seats for Scotland’s Six Nations Clash with Ireland. By the end of the waiting process the following was clear: no “cheap” ie £30 pairs of tickets left anywhere in the stadium, let alone 4! However due to some cunning use of the “back” button (that “nearby seat finder” thing is rubbish) and randomly adding single tickets to the basket, I eventually managed to get hold of two close to each other separated only by a couple of rows in a glorious and hopeflly dry corner of the lower North Stand. This means that at least one match this Six Nations will have full Scottish Rugby Blog coverage. But probably not this particular one, as we’ll have been in the pub all day. Furthermore the SRU website reports that 4,500 tickets were sold in the first hour this morning. Reportedly first in the queue for tickets in person was a young man unwilling to reveal his identity to the SRU press office as he’d taken a sickie off work to grab the tickets. As usual no tickets are on sale on match day, so get yours now – a sensible enough policy for the big matches which usually sell out anyway but for the Autumn Ints and Italy, it’s a bit silly. They could probably pick up a few extra quid and lord knows they need it. Once those cheapest seats are all gone it’s the “luxury” of the West Stand… Tickets are also still available for Scotland vs Wales and Scotland vs Italy. You can also try our advertiser links in the top right as well so no excuse (other than impending global financial catastrophe) for not supporting the boys.

Why Ireland, you ask? Well, because we might beat them, I’d reply. And I’ve been at the last two home Calcutta Cups not to mention a couple of stiffings by the All Blacks and I’d quite like to see something fun in a full stadium. Okay beating England was fun, but hardly a rugby spectacle. Whether this wish will be fulfilled by the men in green from across the sea is another matter.

Still, the craic will be good.

1872 Cup Goes to Edinburgh…

… but at the end of it all, it might be Glasgow left with the bigger smiles. Here’s brief rundown on each match, as taken in (without benefit of sound) at a couple of Inverness’s Setanta-bearing hostelries – plaudits to The Exchange and Fairways for sticking the game on for us.

The first leg (on Boxing Day) was the brighter affair with both teams trying to play rugby but Glasgow inexplicably failing to put anything half decent together. Consequently they found themselves on the end of a hiding in front of a record crowd. Deserved man of the match Hugo Southwell took a great try and his boot was instrumental in most of Edinburgh’s positional play. World Class Phil also stepped up to the plate with a great no-look ball that sent Malkovich Webster in for a well-taken try that put Edinburgh well on the way to their bonus point. Edinburgh played some sparkling rugby at times backed up by a strong defensive display – Cairns and De Luca were quite impressive – while Glasgow were largely MIA. Still quite a lot of handling errors and unforced turnovers, not to mention strange goings on at scrum time that Andy Robinson blamed on the rookie ref.

After first leg:

UP: Hugo Southwell (MoM), Ally Hogg, Phil Godman, Ben Cairns, Simon Webster, Thom Evans, Jim Hamilton, Nick De Luca, Colin Gregor
DOWN: Dan Parks, Graeme Morrison, Max Evans, the ref/the scrum
NO CHANGE: Mike Blair, John Barclay

The second leg at Firhill was a much steelier affair, with a fair amount of niggle in the early period – led mainly by Ally Kellock who seemed to direct most of his ire at Jim Hamilton. Kellock may have been the only man on the park tall enough to even attempt a punch on the big man, not that we condone such things. Godman kicked steadily but didn’t get much ball to work with. Parks had a much better game behind a Glasgow pack that kept an icy grip on ball at the fiercely contested breakdown, though his kicking went off-kilter a little just before he was replaced by Ruaridh Jackson. After that the game became a battle of the second strings. Overall it was more of an even contest in front of another good crowd (who mostly paid this time) but still a lot of spilled balls (and probably as many spilled pints). Again the home side had the defensive edge, with Thom Evans showing that is one area he has worked on. Glasgow turned Edinburgh over a fair bit in the ruck and there were a few poor errors from Southwell and De Luca. I still think De Luca should be swapped from 12 to 13, given Cairns’ slight edge in physicality highlighted by the great last ditch try he took from the 12 position to snatch a late losing bonus point for the visitors. That’s what the Christmas trial is for, isn’t it?

UP: John Barclay (MoM), Scott Newlands, Ben Cairns, Dan Parks (a bit), Phil Godman (well, his kicking game), Thom Evans, Graeme Morrison
DOWN: Nick De Luca, Hugo Southwell
NO CHANGE: Max Evans, Simon Webster, Kelly Brown, Ally Kellock

Best XV Over 2 legs:
Southwell, Robertson, Cairns, Morrison, Evans, Godman, Blair, Hogg, Barclay, Newlands, Hamilton, Gissing, Low, Ford, Jacobsen

Swap Newlands out for exiles big Jason or big Stroker, Robertson for Lamont or Mossy, bring in Hines and you have the makings of a team there…

Happy New Year! Look out for a slight redesign over these pages, coming to you soon.

Well Of Course Not

Still, for about three minutes there it looked like we might give New Zealand a game. Having watched the match since on video, most of my initial thoughts on it remain unchanged from the beery haze of Saturday.

The Good:

Euan Murray was dominant in the scrum and should cement his place in the team, and hopefully the list of Lions contenders. Alongside him Ross Ford showed up well in the loose and the lineout was solid until he was taken off. John Barclay put himself about well, but didn’t turn over quite so much ball as he might have liked. Moreover Scott Gray did when he came on. Depends on training this week, but might there be a switch or another way of bringing him into the team? Thom Evans showed excellent spirit and pace chasing balls and tackling, and of the other backs Chris Paterson actually showed up a lot more than it appeared from the stands. Once again, Mike Blair was outstanding.

The Bad:

As usual the finishing was very jittery. So jittery that we didn’t cross the line. At all. Comparing the number of fluffed tries (Lamont’s air shot, Blair’s drop, Evans’ chip, Hogg’s failure to pass out) to similar opportunities at the other end and Scotland were more in this game than you’d think. The All Blacks only created a couple of chances but took them, while ruthlessly exploiting our poor play with quick hands and thinking for their other scores. Heart can be taken from the fact that usually the good bits happen in our own 22 where it doesn’t matter. Now Scotland are making line breaks, Scotland are getting down to a few metres from the line, putting pressure on a better team. They’re just not crossing it. This time last year we looked nowhere near it. Make no mistake, Scotland will have a cutting edge soon. They can pass and handle well (there were some nice examples during the game further away from the line). I think it’s a bit of confidence and a little more concentration near the line that would see us over it.

One thing that could be improved are the supporting runners. Often the Scotland team are so far behind Mike Blair that they’re standing about admiring him  – “look at Mike go, isn’t he brilliant”. If he was wearing a Black shirt he’d have men on each shoulder pouring through the gap behind him. Too many times a Scotland man made a break only to find no passing options on either side and the move ground to a halt. Mossy was one of the few guys who showed up well in support, but sadly due to the laws of physics was not available to support himself during his excellent early run.

Big Jim played well later on, but you get the feeling he’s not quite mobile enough for the sort of game Scotland need to play. Big Jason had a few good runs and restart takes, but looked short of match fitness as you’d expect. Hopefully Simon Taylor will be fit for next week. But you still might want to try and slot Hoggy in.

Thom Evans didn’t get any ball in space, despite his incredible pace. Welcome to being a Scotland wing, Thom.

The Ugly:

Frank Hadden’s substitution policy of rotating the half-backs for no reason other than his watch tells him to. Unless Blair was injured, why bother taking him off? One could argue that the try he looked like the only prospective creator of would be more important to Scotland’s confidence than giving Parks and Lawson 10 minutes game time. Godman is another player who would have benefited from staying on. Giving him a chance should be just that.

Wayne Barnes’ refusal to give a penalty against New Zealand scrum which was crumbling under all sorts of pressure. Props were kneeling at one point. Other than that I thought Barnes had a pretty good game.

Nick De Luca’s sin binning after only 3 minutes was justified, stupidly playing the ball on the ground. I have a lot of time for him as an attacker and he put in some big hits late in the game, almost atoning for his earlier sins. But he has to cut out the silly stuff.

Also, TV people, do we have to look at Dan Carter all the time? He only played ten minutes, and at scrum half. By the end you’d think he was man of the match. Mikey Blair was nominated for IRB Player of the Year too, you know.

The Future:

Brewer seems to have instilled some solidity into the set-piece, and while the defence wasn’t quite as reactive as the All Blacks’ scramble it would take time to adjust to the new systems in any case. Perhaps given Edinburgh’s similar inability to cross the line despite masses of pressure, the benefit of the doubt should be given to backs men Hadden and Lineen. My team for next week might be:

Paterson, Evans, Cairns, De Luca, Lamont R, Godman, Blair, Hogg, Barclay, Gray, Taylor, Hines, Murray, Ford, Jacobsen

Fitness allowing, of course. You could switch Paterson and Lamont, but I think Paterson did enough to justify his place at full back regardless of goal kicking, so why not let him be rather than shuffling the poor chap again.

Improvement next weekend is a must, and it’s fairly easy to spot the area for work: scoring tries.

Weekend Roundup

Glasgow 9-15 Toulose
In the first half this was there for the taking, but by the time the second half got into its stride so did Toulose, With a couple of moments of typical clinical brilliance from Jauzion and Skrela forcing Glasgow to chase the result, and they actually came very close on a couple of occasions. In a country where wings are now either of the “bulky and powerful” or “dancing feet and turning ball over” variety, Thom Evans is starting to look like the real deal in terms of offering genuine pace to beat people with. The Sky commentators kept blabbing on about his 100m time – reputed to be sub 11 seconds – but in fairness on most of the occasions the ball got to him he displayed it to good effect, and was unlucky not to have added to his tally of tries this season. Even David Strettle said he wouldn’t fancy chasing him down. In addition John Barclay showed that after Mike Blair, he should probably be the second name on the team-sheet with a ferocious display of tackling on the pitch – he almost managed to stop Kelleher scoring a try while simultaneously (accidentally) kicking him in the head – and refreshing candour in the press afterwards. Mention should also go to the officials, who once again let a couple of blatant forward passes go.

Stade Francais 37 – 15 Llanelli Scarlets
It’s not often you see a lock kicking, or coming in at first receiver twice in ten minutes, but Simon Taylor showed up well at 5 during another frightening display of skill from Hernandez and Parisse. With Scotland locks Hines and Macleod currently injured, might Taylor find a place there for Scotland in the Autumn?

Ospreys 15 – 9 Perpignan
A grubby little game now beset by accusations of gouging, so the less said the better. Cusiter was given little to work with in terms of go-forward from his pack but still lacked in attack, preferring simply to distribute (this may be the USAP way). He’s obviously practicing for having Dan Carter outside him, but still.

Castres 6 -13 Edinburgh
To be honest this one should have been out of site with a 4-try bonus point by half time, with Mossy and De Luca butchering a couple of chances as Edinburgh – led by Cairns in the midfield – cut Castres apart seemingly at will. The second half saw Castres come back into it and Edinburgh were forced to defend solidly for large periods, never able to regain the sort of posession that had allowed them to dominate the first half. Godman did reasonably well to keep the backs moving with some brilliant passes moving his players on to the ball at pace, and Robertson showed guts and zip on the wing. Webster had a pretty quiet game though, and may be lucky to get in the Scotland team given some of the form other wingers are in (Lamont, Evans). Hoggy showed up well too and should be in with a shout for New Zealand depending on what Hadden decides to do with Simon Taylor. This was the Edinburgh team we remember from last season, and the team that sold all those season tickets for this year. Welcome back, we hope you stick around.

Other games: MIA Bruce Douglas, it turns out, has been at Montpellier all this time. The French team were the latest on the end of a 5 point hiding from resurgent Northampton Saints. Tom Smith still proved he is the man with a last ditch try saving chase – steaming in ahead of Sean Lamont to get there and clear to touch. Rob Dewey got a whole 12 minutes on the pitch in Ulster’s 42-21 kicking from ‘Quins. Rory Lamont displayed power and control as well as some great full-back kicking skills in Sale’s loss to Munster. Still, it was a great game so we can’t complain too much. The Gloucester boys were unlucky not to come away with something in Cardiff in another great game. Al Strokosch showed up well, but I’m not sure if 7 is the best use of his talents – or if it provides the best supply of ball for Gloucester…

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.

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!!

Scotland Squad to Tour Argentina Announced

Backs: Chris Paterson (Gloucester), Hugo Southwell (Edinburgh Rugby), Simon Danielli (Ulster), Thom Evans (Glasgow Warriors), Ben Cairns (Edinburgh Rugby), Graeme Morrison (Glasgow Warriors), Andrew Henderson (Glasgow Warriors), Nick De Luca (Edinburgh Rugby), Dan Parks (Glasgow Warriors), Phil Godman (Edinburgh Rugby), Rory Lawson (Gloucester), Mike Blair (Edinburgh Rugby) (capt), + 2 players tba

Forwards: Allan Jacobsen (Edinburgh Rugby), Alasdair Dickinson (Gloucester), Ross Ford (Edinburgh Rugby), Dougie Hall (Glasgow Warriors), Euan Murray (Northampton Saints), Moray Low (Glasgow Warriors), Scott MacLeod (Llanelli Scarlets), Dave Callam (Edinburgh Rugby), Johnnie Beattie, John Barclay, Kelly Brown (all Glasgow Warriors), Allister Hogg (Edinburgh Rugby), Alasdair Strokosch (Gloucester), + 3 players tba

So it looks like the Mossy debate will rage on, with Paterson seemingly picked amongst the full backs. Thom Evans adds a bit of zip to a back three shorn of both Lamonts and Simon Webster. Cairns will most likely be used as utility cover. Glad to see faith has been retained in De Luca, hoepfully he’ll get a chance to show what he can do – more likely if Godman gets the nod at ten although apparently Parks has been playing a lot flatter (and better) of late. Perhaps Parks’ club coach Lineen will get the best from him where Hadden has thus far had limited success.

Not sure who the additional backs are going to be, but if Rob Dewey stays fit I imagine he will be one of them, and Max Evans has been in good form too, but perhaps he will get a run in the Churchill Cup A Team squad (announced tomorrow). The additional forwards may feature some of the absent French contingent depending on how their various clubs are performing come end of season. Given that there is only one second row selection currently (and Jason White is not available to slot in there either), I would look to see Murray or possibly Hines in the mix for those slots. It just goes to show that Jim Hamilton’s move to Edinburgh may prove a blessing until some younger second rows come through. Good to see former Highland man Moray Low rewarded for his form this season.

Players who may yet get an A Team selection include the likes of Max Evans, Gordon Ross, Nick Lloyd, Mark McMillan – newly signed for Glasgow, David Blair, Alan MacDonald, Roland Reid etc. We’ll give you details on that as and when.

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

 

Six Nations Roundtable

aka The Five Thingies of Journalism. We do have a round table in the house though seriously, so Al and I sat at it post Six Nations and had a chat as we lay cringing in the rubble of Scotland’s wooden spoon near miss.

What should be done?

RB:I think we need to look at a new coaching structure for Scotland. Or new personnel in the existing structure. There seems to be a lack of tactical nous coming from players we know are better than this. I think Parks – who we have both been more supportive of than some, it has to be said – needs to only be let back into the squad if he’s playing better than Paterson or Godman and the policy adopted (half way through the tournament) of picking players on form needs to be stuck to across all positions, not just number 6, where it worked particularly well.
AK: Personally I’m going to start by going back through my family heritage and try and uncover my Tongan roots!  Calcutta Cup aside that was a minging tournament from a Scottish perspective.  I struggle to see how Hadden can keep his role as it currently stands, as the head honcho he needs to take responsibility for the debacle and he’s been culpable in a number of areas from poor choice of tactics to baffling selections of substitutes.  As the backs coach the fact that Scotland only scored 3 tries (I think) says it all.  A new head coach is needed, a new coaching structure needs to be put in place and for the love of God play form players – we just can’t afford to carry passengers!

Where Next For Scotland?

RB: Argentina is the short answer. Although more interesting could be the A team’s trip to the Churchill Cup in June, with Robinson and Lineen hopefully showing the way forward. A position in the third group of seedings for the World Cup in 2011 is looking more likely unless we upset the applecart twice over the summer away from home against the Argies.
AK: I suspect a couple of thumpings for a Scotland side over in South America.  You never know though.  In my opinion we have the players to beat Argentina but we need to go with form.  Its an opportunity to blood some new players and try a more expansive game – this means no Parks!  I don’t think we are a particularly bad team, its just they really don’t – yet – know how to play with each other.  Beyond that, who knows what will happen, much will depend on coaching structures.

Who Next for Scotland?

RB: Not sure, but I think Andy Robinson should be left where he is. A possible part-time Scotland job as with Shaun Edwards, Wasps and Wales may be the answer. The same could be said for Lineen at Glasgow. They are only just starting to get results and they should be allowed to build on that to create a strong and dare I say it confident professional core on which to found our national squads. I don’t know if that means get rid of Hadden or not, to be honest. Jake White would be unlikely to take the job if offered – though representing one of the few real challenges in rugby left to him(!) – , but there are a few decent coaches floating about. But please not Eddie O’ Sullivan. In terms of players, younger players such as De Luca, Rennie, Barclay, should be given their chance, sooner rather than later. France are blooding young players without regard for results and getting the results anyway. Who’s to say it wouldn’t work on a smaller scale?
AK: Erm…pass?  Not a clue, I agree its probably too soon for Robinson who is, in my opinion, not an international head coach – better to use his skills as a forwards coach.  Not sure if we could try and get someone like Brian Redpath involved but whether he’d leave day-to-day rugby is debatable.  I think Scotland need a team of coaches rather than this head coach figure.  I appreciate a team pulled together by ‘committee’ is risky but it may be our best way forward.  We really need a motivator in this new coaching ‘team’ so happy to take someone who’ll strip the paint of the changing rooms at half time!  At the moment I get the feeling we lack leadership, Strokosh, over time may start to take more and more on.  Players wise the future is brighter than it may seem, Edinburgh and Glasgow have a decent crop of youngsters starting to come through but now, not 2 years from now, is the time to blood new players.

Why?

RB: Because the current team aren’t playing to their potential, and that needs to start happening if interest in the game is to grow and I’m to have any hair left before I turn 30.
AK: Because what we currently have is performing below what it should be.  In my opinion this is the perfect time to take a risk.  Nothing to lose, World Cup is 3 years away and new players can get the chance to get international experience.  A new coach, a new ethos and a new spirit need to be instilled into the whole Scottish setup.  The time for consolidation is really over and Scottish rugby is crying out for someone to take the bull by the horns and make some bold, and possible brave, decisions.

When should this all happen?

RB: If you’re getting rid of Hadden, it should be as soon as possible. Or if not now, then after the Churchhill Cup and Summer Tour. Disastrous results may see that happen anyway. Not making change now may reduce the summer tour to an exercise in telling us what we already know, ie that we’re not as good as Argentina with Hadden in charge. But perhaps we could be, without him.
AK: Now.  That’s it really!  Wholesale changes need to be made, the sooner we start the better.  Not just Hadden, under-performing players need to be dropped and chances taken on players who are in form.  We go to Argentina with nothing to lose so why not start from scratch?  Ultimately whatever we do, whenever we do it, it can only get better…unless we take Matt Williams back!!!!! 

Scotland Win Calcutta Cup

In other news, pig seen taking off from Heathrow…

So the boys did it against all odds and most of the expectations. We drunk rather a lot of beer and ended up in a Chinese restaurant with menus in, well, Chinese. I think we ate Jellyfish. Al is so hungover that he has gone to France for the week with Ms Al, so it is left to me to regale you with tales of derring-do from the muddy trenches of Murrayfield.

The weather was a little interesting, it seemed like four seasons in one minute at some points. This led to rainbows, and rivers of sewage on the streets of Gorgie.

Flower of Scotland was particularly well performed by the crowd. When the band stopped playing and let the crowd continue, I half expected the pipe major to clap his hands above his head and then give us a drum solo at the end.

All in all, the atmosphere was a lot less hostile than the 2006 match, even with the advent of beer at Six Nations games, and more like just another international match. Or as close to it as a Calcutta Cup match gets. Everything was good spirited as you’d hope and expect, apart from the queue-barger at the beer stall who later paid for his insolence when karma collapsed his beer carrying device. I just wish they’d stop booing the kickers, but it wasn’t as bad as last time.

Poor Rory Lamont was knocked out again, which once again took the wind out of our attacking sails a bit. Again he shows ultimate commitment, again he comes off second best to a dangerous (but possibly not malicious) tackle. The referee both times, you would think, would have a responsibility to do something about the safety of players in his care. Step forward J. Kaplan. Rory Lamont seems to have fractured his face which hopefully will not discourage his female fans, though his mother must be having a fairly torrid time of it.

We did manage to turn our little corner of the North Stand (section 18, if you must know) into the headquarters of the Hugo Southwell fan club. By the end everyone was shouting HUUUUGOOOO, even the little kid behind us who kept kicking Al’s seat. In fairness, he did have a storming game (Hugo, not the kid) which makes it a lot easier. If Mossy is on at 10, I think you could argue that Hugo needs to be on the pitch for his tactical kicking.

I don’t think we looked like scoring tries, but then neither did England. I still feared they’d sneak something soft at the end but for once I was reasonably confident in our ability to retain the ball.

As the Scotsman has already pointed out, the back row and breakdown play was a lot more solid perhaps as a result of Andy Robinson’s helping hand. Perhaps also as a result of Simon Taylor’s return to form. “Stroker” Strokosch was immense again. This blog was, to a certain extent, founded on the principles of a “drop Jason White and Simon Taylor until they deserve their places in the team once again” type conversation and on current evidence, picking players on form rather than reputation is starting to bear fruit.

I’ll probably chime in with some more thoughts through the week, including the team announcement, but for now I’ll let you get back to work/hangover (delete as applicable). It always seems kinda fuzzy this side of a Calcutta Cup victory, but it’s like the secret no-one else knows that you can just bring to the front of your thoughts to give you a pick-me-up. Do it now. We won. There, feels better, doesn’t it?

We’re Off To See The Wizard…

Okay, so Andy Murray got beaten by a Russian. And Celtic got shunted out of Europe by some “Spaniards”. But we all know what the big Scottish sporting event is this week. It’s that time of year when we once again forget about sporting skill, sporting inevitability and sporting behaviour in the interest of putting one over our cousins from south of the border.

Your Scottish Rugby Blog correspondents will be fearlessly climbing the face of the North Stand on Saturday in order to witness what we’re all hoping will be at least a decent game, although the weather forecast is poorer than Scotland’s current form. But we don’t want to get down on our team (at least until afterwards), so we’ll cheer them on with no lack of full throatedness. If any of the rest of you are going to the game, I would ask a few things:

  1. Can we please keep cheering until at least the last five minutes? I know we don’t have good songs to sing (unlike the Welsh or the Irish) and our name doesn’t have enough syllables to be chanted by over-excited fans (Italians) so we sound like a bunch of tools shouting “Scot-land” really slowly, but at least make some noise. Otherwise the away fans will sing that song about Chariots and Jerusalem. Over and over.
  2. Let’s not boo the kickers. Unless it’s the Calcutta Cup on the line with two minutes to go. Then I’ll shut the hell up and let you get on with it.
  3. Let’s keep it clean. Its not the Battle of Gogarburn.

And with that I’ll get packing, and leave you with an extract from my esteemed colleague Al’s match preview from what seems like an eternity ago:

“This game will be the usual Scotland v England heavy match, blood, guts, thunder, no little passion and a good piss up afterwards.

Heart – Scotland win
Head – England win – we beat them the last time at Murrayfield so they’ll look to get revenge, plus its England and no side in the world is jammier!”

Since 1871 the record stands thus: Scotland 41, England 66 (they seem to like that number), Draws 17.

But let’s go with our hearts, eh?

Crystal Ball or Crystal Meths?

World Cup 2007 – phew, what a tournament! The scrummage was intense, the rivalry between two passionate set of combatants, the immense handling skills – all to the backing track of rousing renditions of national anthems. Yup, getting to and fro the bar in Le Glasgow Bar the night before the Scotland v Italy match was a sight to behold and some of the handling skill on display was immense – 4 pints, 2 nips and a bag of crisps all expertly carried by one brave soul through the heaving masses. Awe-inspiring. Then there was some rugby too.

Somewhere in a Paris bar in the aftermath of Scotland’s defeat to the fantastic Pumas this blog was dreamt up – the bastard love-child of too much red wine and a sober realisation that, for us, RWC ’07 was over. I have a fuzzy memory of making a commitment to write regularly and passionately about all things rugby related, and also to produce a ‘tour-de-force’ argument vaunting the merits of Dan Parks (it’s still my intention – honest guv’!). Alas, like so many of Scotland’s free-flowing attacking movements, my promise has not been fulfilled and it has taken until now to chip in (sorry Rory!).

Scotland’s announced a new training squad on Wednesday 5th December in preparation for the upcoming 6 Nations. A lot of familiar faces (White, Paterson, Parks), chances for some that thought maybe their chance was gone (World-Class Phil) and a couple of new faces (Low and Rennie sounds like a folk outfit!). There was also Di Ohno…sorry, I meant Di Rollo. Overall impressions are that this was a fairly predictable collection of players that have been put together and this is probably a good thing. Teams need consistency, to grow to understand each other’s games and gain a proper appreciation of what each other can do (and can’t do – note to Godman: that means no long throws on your 22).

So, using my renowned psychic powers, I have come up with the XV that I think will possibly, if the stars are aligned correctly, start Scotland’s first 6 Nations game against France (Murrayfield, 3pm, 3rd February 2008).

Backs:
15 Paterson – Mr Reliable, kicks goals for fun. Needs to add more to the rest of his game but as long as continues to be the kicker Wilkinson dreams of being then he is first pick for me.
14 Evans – not seen much (ok, anything) of Evans this season but led to believe he has been playing well for a Glasgow side that have a chance of challenging for Magners glory.
13 Webster – big fan of Malkovich, adds a dynamism that is lacking from the team – big question is where to play him, adds a threat centre field but suffers from butter-fingers at the crucial moment. Has the ability to get the crowd on their feet and Scotland need some flair.
12 Dewey – young, big and could be a big player for Scotland in the future. Looking at the long term development of the game the likes of Dewey need to be given time on the field at international level.
11 R Lamont – providing he can stop using his head as a trampoline, he could be a big player in the next 6 Nations. His up’n’unders scare the living daylights out of some full-backs, just needs to cut out silly errors and gain some game savvy – again game time at this level is important.
10 Parks – the most important ass-patter in Scottish Rugby. The sort of player you want to choke with one hand and give an ass-pat with the other. Can control a game with his tactical kicking but has no pace and gives nothing creative with ball in hand. Still an essential player for Scotland though.
9 Cusiter – almost went for Blair here but think Scotland need more creativity at the breakdown and Cusiter is able to pick holes in defences – experience of French rugby with Perpignan should help also.

Forwards:
8 Hogg – adds experience and a sense of composure to the forwards, also a threat with the ball in hand going forward.
7 Barclay – another young ‘un but needs time at this level. Adds bulk to the team and, like Dewey, could go onto become and important player for Scotland.
6 White – El Capitan, immense for Scotland for a number of years now, inspirational 2 years ago in the 6 Nations and for a long time the only world class player we had (sorry Phil!). Have to say at RWC ’07 I wasn’t convinced by his leadership, choices were fine most of the time but needs to do more to motivate the players on the pitch – especially in games where he isn’t breaking opponents into little bits.
5 Hines – the nastiest man in a Scotland shirt, would use his Gran as a weapon if he thought it would gain a couple of metres. For me a must start – even if he’s only on the pitch 70 minutes!
4 Hamilton – adds bulk, and lots of it. Scotland showed at the World Cup that they can operate fairly well behind a big pack and it’s important the likes of Hamilton are in the team to even up the odds in the scrum be a big hitter in the loose.
3 Low – like Evans I haven’t seen him play this season but is another one who I have heard good things about. Every selection needs a surprise choice – this is mine!
2 Ford – think he is pretty accurate at the lineout but a question over how he stands up in the scrum, Hall (if fit) could take this place.
1 Jacobsen – Meant to be playing ok and deserves another chance in a Scotland top.

So there we have it, my XV for the first game v France. Will be interesting to see what the line-up will actually be – only 2 months to wait! Will be interested to hear what other peoples XV would be, so leave a post and let us know what you think…

Al