Category: Site News

News relating to the ongoing development of the Scottish Rugby Blog website including new rugby writers, new features and announcements.

Obama, Eat Your Heart Out

Every time you turn on the news these days you are bombarded with the word ‘CHANGE’. The politicians are all screaming it. Travel agents can’t get enough of it. Even the chief exec.’s of Rangers and Celtic seem to be on the streets begging for some spare. So what is set to change in Scottish rugby next season?

The answer to that appears to be the squads of almost every single ‘top level’ team.

Premier Cup Final Decided

Due to congestion a special fixture sits nestled in the middle of a busy fixture list. The match that should crown a glorious moment for one club at the end of the season will pit virgin finalists Ayr against cup specialists Melrose.

The semi-finals finished Melrose 31-8 Currie, and Ayr 23-14 Heriot’s. The final will be held on the 24th of this month, and while Ayr may be more confused than Caster Semenya, competing on two fronts, they will definitely be pumped for their first ever final against record-breaking finalists, Melrose.

Premier Cup Action

This saturday sees the men’s semi’s (classic!) of the Scottish Hydro Premier Cup in which league leaders Currie travel south to face Melrose and Champions Ayr host cup holders Heriot’s. Both of these fixtures are interesting, to say the least. While it has been noted that the league’s trailblazers have been kept apart this does not necessarily mean that Currie and Ayr will play each other on the big pitch later this month.

Prem 1 roundup

A delayed roundup of last weekend’s premier 1 matches. Things are getting tight at the top as Hawks beat Dundee, Melrose got the win they had needed and every top half team is ravenously hunting for a top four spot rumoured to earn the highest placed teams a station in next years British and Irish Cup. Of course this is all supposition right now. Something that is true, however, is that Watsonians are staring into the relegation abyss after losing to Selkirk. It could come to the wire between them and fellow strugglers Accies but with two of their remaining games against Melrose and Hawks, things aren’t looking good for the men in maroon.

Here are Saturday’s results:

Back to the Future

It’s all changing in Scottish rugby at the moment. A new generation of players are bedding into the national side. Glasgow and Edinburgh could be in the picture for the first ever Magners League playoff. A few club sides have taken part in the first year of the British and Irish Cup. Yep, things are evolving.

So why would we revert back to a system we had previously abandoned?

Help Us Develop The Site

Now that we have a team of crack (pot) writers working with common purpose, I thought it was time to do a bit of work on the site itself. So I’m throwing it out to you, the faithful reader (Al, AD and Gregor feel free to chime in too). Or even the unfaithful reader – if this is your first or hundredth time here we are still interested in your opinions. What would you like to see? More silly stuff? More serious stuff? Interviews? Travel pieces? More rampant nationalism? More articles about the Super 14?

How do we make Scottish Rugby Blog the #1 destination for Scottish rugby news (and ranting)?

Here are some of the things planned for the site:

  • Integrating our new twitter feed, along with some big links to follow us on twitter and facebook (yup we’re on there so you can get SRBlog posts in your news feed)
  • The ability to liveblog commentaries for the odd (or otherwise) game you might not be able to catch like they do for tennis etc over on the infinitely richer BBC
  • I might also look at the design a little, just because I like to tinker so any ideas for colours, styles etc

If you have any other suggestions on these or other matters please add them in the comments section. For example on the home page would you prefer short intros with “Read More” links so that you can see at a a glance the new articles you might want to read, or do you prefer to do all your reading on the home page in one big scroll (we’ve been experimenting with it this week so you can see it in action)?

In the season down-time if you have any ideas for articles or interviews we could do to keep the site busy please mention them too.

Thanks for reading, and contributing!

A look at the opposition

I thought I should also chip in with something; what about the Welsh?!

During the 6N a bit of navel gazing is common place and no nation is more morbidly insular than Scotland. We mustn’t, however, always focus on our own shortcomings. If Gregor is right about Andy Robinson’s feelings towards the last game then there is no need to dwell on the past. And rightly so. Unlike France during much of Sunday’s onslaught Wales will never bludgeon their way through a defence. Not the way they are playing right now. At the Millennium Stadium a lot depends on which Wales turns up. Jekyll or Hyde?

If we were being positive (which Scots, of course, always are!) then for our own sakes we should look at the Welsh deficiencies. The most glaring of which, at this point, must be their line-out. Wyn Jones, last Saturday’s pariah, has failed to dominate proceedings in the restart of late and Charteris has been dumped from the squad because of his inconsistency. None of this matters, anyway, because Gareth Williams couldn’t hit a barn door with a bazooka from 5m out.

 All set-pieces are vital.  In fact, while most of the country worries about our magic disintegrating scrum and the fact that 5 of the Welsh starting pack duke it out together for the Ospreys every week, we have to look at things more closely. For most, or all of the game they have no Jenkins. No Rees. No Bennett. No Gough. While the second row for Saturday is Jonathan Thomas, a man who is really a back-rower who normally likes to fly off towards 10 from a scrum. Along with this, I’m pretty certain I would take the sizeable pairing of Murray and Hamilton over Paul James and Jonathan Thomas any day. Yet again, none of this could matter because Chris Cusiter is looking through the scrum every time at Gareth Cooper, a man whose service could be timed with a sun dial.

Unfortunately once we get past these potential problem spots in tight for Wales we see why we could be in for a long day. If Cooper manages to put the ball in the right place then we may have problems for certain members of our back division. In Stephen Jones Wales have a 10 that at the present time can control a game the same, if not better, than Parks. In Jamie Roberts they have a guy who is a genuinely world class player on his day. James Hook can step Morrison, Lamont and Paterson. Lee Byrne might decide to play.

Make no mistakes about it. Wales have a few weapons in their arsenal. If there is parity in the set-piece and the Welsh blitz defence, which has been leaky of late, monopolises the gain-line then there could be a few smiling taffs by half 4. On the other hand, if rumours are to be believed, Gatland and Edwards are close to exhausting their relationship with the Welsh player. Allegedly both men would at least listen to some offers once this campaign is over, and if Gatland begins to show the indifference he did at the end of his Irish reign then the rest of the 6N could be in luck.

This match is one Robinson is seemingly targeting and it is true that Wales are inconsistent right now. In truth I reckon that the only chance Scotland has of winning this away fixture is if the Scots back-row cancels out Martyn Williams and Ryan Jones at the breakdown. A firing Welsh team thrives on quick ball on the front foot and needs it to make the likes of Byrne and Shane Williams effective. Let us hope that Wales defeat themselves, long before the men in Blue touch the ball.

In different news, if you’re interested in hearing about other games this weekend (two with a Welsh-Scottish flavour!) then check out these British and Irish Cup fixtures taking place:    

Friday 12: Newport v Gael Force, Rodney Parade, Newport KO 7.30pm

or in Scotland:

Saturday 13: Ayr v Birmingham and Solihull, Millbrae, Ayr KO 4pm
and, Sunday 14: Heriot’s v Neath, Goldenacre, Edinburgh, KO 2pm

Welcome Back

Al, of course! Who did you think I meant? Dan who?

Welcome also to Gregor who has joined us to keep an eye on rugby happenings on the West Coast, no doubt he’ll have something for you soon, bios of all our punditry team can be found on the About Page.

Injury update to the Scotland Squad: big Jim Hamilton has jumped straight into the match XV to replace Nathan Hines who has not recovered sufficiently from a calf injury. Perhaps it is felt that it is still to early to chuck Richie Gray (who remains on the bench) in after only 10 minutes at test level, but I would think he might get a shot again on Saturday to keep building his experience. In days of yore we could have chucked him and Jackson in against Italy for a bit of craic, but now every game is must win and Italy no longer the “easy” game…

The Highs and Lows of a Scottish Weekend…

We had two wins, a draw and a loss from various national teams. Sounds alright, doesn’t it? However, the public’s opinion of Scottish rugby is shaped entirely by the fortunes of the national side. Every other result is a bonus (or a continued indicator of the fallow years to come; although thankfully this doesn’t seem to be the case!). So let’s put each result in context…

The Scottish Women’s team overcame their French counterparts 10-8 at Lasswade on Saturday giving them the perfect start to their 6N campaign. I cannot testify to knowing too much about women’s rugby, but as a result against regular opponents this looks pretty good and show that a minority, in an already minor sport, can still thrive.

Something I can testify to (allegedly) knowing about is the fortunes of the Scottish Club International side. The team fought hard to win 13-9 in an intense, if not end to end globetrotter-style, match.  Much like the Women’s match conditions didn’t favour an exciting, mercurial contest but the endeavour was there. Even 2000 folk braved the dreich Border’s weather to watch. Also, the crowd still got treated to a physical display and some hard running from the likes of Kelly and Weston as well as some great defence from Clapperton and co. What this did show was that Amateur rugby here is improving all the time and more than compares with the French opposition (although comparing myself to my opposite man on Friday night was more like comparing myself to my own father- he looked like he was in his 40’s!).

The under-20s drew 8-all with their French foils. While not the perfect score, it was better than losing! Also, the performances of highly rated youngsters like Maltman and McInally shows the potential we have here. We also have yet another Blair at 10, and lord knows we’re all hoping he proves to be a genius! Rory was at the game, so he will be better placed to tell you if they are likely to win against Wales down there, but the future may seem bright in some areas of that team.

And then there was Sunday. I, for one, am weary of over analysing, but when the shortcomings are that obvious it is rude not to point them out. We all know what they are. 1) The backline are standing so deep during second phase it is surprising they can even see Chris Cusiter. 2) While Johnnie Beattie played outstandingly well in the loose yesterday, it was verging on the cruel the longer he left the ball in the back of the scrum. 3) If a team stands in attack in two banks, most standing in a flat line and some standing in a small group deeper and wider, then we become bamboozled.  Twice Bastreaud was in the second group ready to receive passes direct from the flatter group and he scored. Once Clerc, brilliantly tap tackled by Kelly Brown and held up by Evans, broke from a similar situation. 4) Next time (i.e. against Wales) please give the ball to someone quick enough to make an inside break when facing a blitz defence.  5) Jonathan Davies is more annoying than a postal gold advert.

The good thing is, though, that it was still only 9 points we lost by. Look after the ball without forcing the play and we might be alright…maybe?!

So what did you make of the day? What would you do if you were Robbo? And what is going to unlock an equally depressed Welsh team?!

Scottish club International Team

Club International coach Ally Donaldson has named his starting XV and subs bench for Friday nights game against France at Netherdale (7.30 ko).

Glasgow Hawks lock, Rory McKay, Dundee prop Alan Brown and Melrose pair James King (centre) and Fraser Thomson (wing) have all earned their place in the starting XV for the first time. New caps also include Gregor Wood (Watsonians), Alastair Hamilton, Andrew MacMahon (both Currie), Paul Burke and Jamie Hunter (both Ayr) on the bench.

The coaching staff are eagerly looking forward to this game and are hoping to go one better after losing by a point in last years reverse fixture. Club International team manager, Ian Rankin said: “The days of French teams supposedly not traveling well is long gone. This French team will play with the classic French style – huge powerful forwards and lightning quick backs.

“But in this starting XV we have 11 players that faced the French last season, with another two poised to play from the bench who all know what they have to face.

“It’ll be a tough assignment but hopefully we can get a big Netherdale crowd out to back the team. I’ve heard the game is of big interest in the Borders but there are a lot of clubs represented by this team.

“There’s a real connection between the clubs and their players with the clubs taking a lot of pride and pleasure in being represented in the match. I think that’ll be measurable this Friday night.”

Scottish Club International Team to face France: Harkness (Selkirk); Thomson (Melrose), Clapperton (Boroughmuir), King (Melrose), Anderson (Melrose); Wight (Melrose), Snedden (Currie); Dymock (Heriot’s), Burnett (Heriot’s), Brown (Dundee), Kelly (Ayr), McKay (Glasgow Hawks), Dalziel (Melrose) CAPTAIN, Cairns (Currie), Weston (Currie).
Replacements: Wood (Watsonians), Reid (Ayr), Hamilton (Currie), Sutherland (Ayr), Burke (Ayr), Hunter (Ayr), MacMahon (Currie).

Entry is free on the night. Why not head down to Gala and support the Club International lads?

Compress for Success

It had emerged over the weekend that Graham Lowe, the director of performance rugby in Scotland, intends to review the set-up of the top division. As coaches bemoan the lack of respect club sides get and call out for a semi-professional atmosphere in Scottish club rugby people are searching for alternatives. The main drive of Lowe’s review, it could be suggested, will be to make more money from Prem 1. A concept as elusive as Julien Malzieu (yeah, it’s time to get nervous/excited about Sunday already!).

Scottish club rugby needs a new way to generate excitement. But how do you make it more sexy?! The mainstream ideal tends to be cutting the league down to a more competitive 10 team league. In fact, if The Scotsman is to be believed, the powers that be at Hawks have produced a paper calling for the league to be reformatted to include 8 teams only. This, however, looks unlikely. One; because it is improbable that all the Prem 1 powers will agree on this but also because, two; it is doubtful that Lowe would propose such a grand change so soon into his tenure that could instantly alienate up to 6 clubs as 4 are relegated and 2 denied promotion.

It is obvious that change is needed in some degree. The truth is, however, that cutting the amount of teams alone would not guarantee that the premier club rugby competition in this country is more exciting. More competitive? Definitely. More entertaining? I, for one, am not convinced.

Excitement is what generates more interest. More interest generates more coverage. More coverage generates bigger attendances and more sponsorship. In short, ladies and gentlemen, excitement brings the bucks. So Prem 1 needs to foster the pluralist notion of entertainment and rivalry within a league, preferably shortened to 10 teams. Some remit, Mr. Lowe! You’d have an easier job convincing card-happy Hines that collecting yellows in the 6N is not a good thing.

Would a play-off between the top 4 teams at the end of the season create more buzz? Would a play-off at the bottom of the league create more buzz? How do we get the BBC or STV to show more of our ‘amateur’ games? Craig Chalmers has been saying for months that play-offs (at the top half of the table at least) would not only initiate interest but give local broadcasters a better package to work with. This would definitely seem more marketable.

As well as this theory, Lowe is said to be considering an SPL-style split at a certain point in the season where the top-half teams fight for the title while the bottom-half teams scrap for survival. This would engender a ‘survival of the fittest’ mentality, but seems to lack the market appeal of a shorter play-off product. Either way the mission is clear. Get more punters; thrill more punters; take cash off more punters. As a punter, I’m just hoping the league retains some of its classic rivalries while offering a fair opportunity for teams to earn a league title. And some unexpected high scoring results wouldn’t go amiss, either, thank you Mr. Director!