Category: Site News

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

If You’re Happy And You Know It…

Tags: , ,

Michael wrote in today with a link to the following petition to remove Frank Hadden as national coach.

http://www.petitiononline.com/Frankout/petition.html

While I should point out that here at Scottish Rugby Blog we do not necessarily endorse this viewpoint that Frank Hadden should go – I’m fairly ambivalent to be honest, although considerably more likely to sign it than I was, say, last month, and I’m not sure about Al – I felt it only fair to give you, the reader, the option to make a decision for yourself should you wish to get involved.

Despite some Quixotic selections in recent weeks, my main hesitation is the lack of a current viable alternative. Where is our Warren Gatland? Our Shaun Edwards-type in Alan Tait has already gone to be replaced by another league man. With more (better?) coaches under him now, hopefully Hadden recedes to a director of rugby type role that might suit him more than as a hands on coach. Given that Andy Robinson and Sean Lineen (certainly Robinson) are more than happy where they are and more to the point best left in place as quality coaches who can develop new talent, who would you replace him with?

Give it till the end of the Six Nations, and then maybe it’ll be time to pile on.

Now The Boks Want In

Scurrilous rumours are circulating in the e-press-o-sphere (new word for you there) that the Springbok franchises are looking for a break-away from the Super 14 next year, with an entry into the Magners League being touted as the replacement. Leaving aside the fact that every one involved seems to deny anything of the sort to both The Scotsman/Evening News and the source article itself in The Australian – which means the article is basically conjecture – there are several reasons this might not work:

  • Same time-zone games mean that revenues from TV would go up at both ends. As Wayne Smith in The Australian says, “the rugby wouldn’t be as good but the bottom line would be a whole lot healthier.” Indeed the rugby would become fairly schizophrenic, switching between firm South African grounds and Firhill on a rainy Friday night. Are the Blue Bulls really going to want to play Connacht?
  • The lesser teams in a financial and rugby sense (Connacht, Dragons, and well, our two) would struggle to compete with the likes of the Sharks both financially and in a rugby sense. It is hard to see anything but a South African monopoly on the top end of the table even with Munster or Cardiff at the top of their games. Would the South Africans also make demands financially, bringing a hefty ratings slice to the table as they would?
  • It would probably screw the Italians’ chances of getting involved. For the development of the world game surely it is of more interest to help a developing rugby nation like Italy achieve parity. On the other hand, it might mean Argentina or the Pacific Islands got invited in to the Super umm, 9.
  • Adding another 5 teams to the fixture table would clog it up even further, with or without the presence of the EDF Cup (which seems to be on the way out or due for a reworking). Where do we fit all these games in when there’s barely enough time as it is? Would we have to synch our season with the Saffers, resulting in summer rugby (not such a terrible thought) and starting off with the Six Nations in the Spring? Where would it leave England, France and the Heineken Cup? It might work as the previously mooted “Rainbow Cup”, which could fill the “gulf” left by the EDF Cup but might threaten to overshadow Europe’s premier Cup competition. Nice as the idea is, with the increasing physicality and injury-laden nature of the game of Rugby Union, do we really have room for more expansion?

In other news, rumours concerning a trio of Wasps players moving to France have been confirmed. With another dedicated lock in Tom Palmer, and a utility back row in James Haskell, will this see Simon Taylor squeezed out? Maybe Wasps will want him! Is there room for him in Scotland? Sounds wonderful, but seems unlikely. Never one to give up on a challenge, Taylor will surely stay on and defend his lovely pink shirt…

UPDATE: this has, of course, now been quashed

Good Luck Chuck

Quick round-up: Scotland U20s were trounced fairly comprehensively by the French, 30-3. The Scotland Club International side lost to their French counterparts by only a point 13-12, so unlucky there guys. No word on the A team score as yet but with Ruaridh Jackson at 10, Cairns as captain the 35-10 scoreline was pretty disappointing (after 14-3 at half time). Lineen on the radio blamed the tries conceded on the breakdown and scrum, so worrying signs there.

Below are some headlines we would like to see come Sunday:

Evans Above
Manna from Evans
French Strokosched Over the Head
Max-Imum Impact
Phil Man-God
Poitrenaud Use Against Rampant Scots

And some we wouldn’t:

Jason White-wash
Scots Left Singing Les Blues on Valentines Day
Have you Haddenough Yet?
Simon Dani-hell’s Bells

Any Editors that want to use any of these for the Sunday papers, you are more than welcome.

All the best to the boys tomorrow. I’m actually less hesitant about our chances than against Wales. We may get beaten if the French play properly and if they play very well then we could be in trouble, but if they don’t show up then we have a definite chance. The Toulouse back line should hold no fear for the Evans brothers in particular, and I hope Mike Blair can have a good game and lead from the front.

Your country is counting on you to restore some pride. Remember the Toony flip? Go for it lads.

UPDATE: Report on the A Team game on Planet Rugby.

Scrum.com Fantasy XVs Updated

Tags:

You can now log in and see how your team did, and if you haven’t already signed up there is probably still time to do so here. Reader Kieran has stormed into an early lead due to the somewhat risky selection of Andy Goode at 10 – a selection that may not last long once the tournament rolls on I suspect. You get 15 changes across the whole tournament / 5 max in any one round, so choose your timings carefully. Is Shane Williams worth leaving in as an injury risk? Wednesday should see the next lot of squads announced so you’ll probably want to hold off till then before ditching all the English guys about to get hammered by on-form Wales…or will you jump on the Ireland bandwagon?

Scrum.com have also very kindly asked me to post some tidbits on their 6 Nations Fan Blog section, so once that is up and going you’ll get some additional and largely exclusive ramblings from me over there.

Stephen Jones Was Not Down In Jungleland

Tags: ,

Seems that by being sent to cover England’s infamous “spit roast” tour in NZ last summer, the esteemed Sunday Times pundit missed the Boss at Cardiff Millenium Stadium. Don’t agree with his top 20 songs. Where is Jungleland, Tenth Avenue Freezeout, No Surrender or Dancing in the Dark?

Scottish Rugby Blog 1, Sunday Times 0.

UPDATE: speaking of the mainstream press, it seems that The Scotsman may be planning some live blogging for Scotland’s upcoming Six Nations matches. If you can’t catch it on TV or live online, then there would be worse ways to get a blow by blow of the games. I only say “seems” as I found this site in our stats, but I can’t find any links to it elsewhere…

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

The Emperor’s New Clothes

So the new blog theme is finally completed, I hope you like it. There may be a few little adjustments to be made here and there so if you spot anything wonky please let me know. Suggestions gratefully received for version 3.0! One thing I am working on is a “classics” header for the archive section similar to the one above but with players of a slightly older vintage. If any of you have any pictures they’d be most welcome.

I’ve also taken this opportunity to update some of the pages like the Scottish Rugby on TV list which is now a pretty comprehensive guide to watching rugby (not just Scottish) on TV in the UK. I’d still like to get channel details from readers overseas (US, Canada, Aus, NZ etc) who might want to help spread the rugby gospel and help ex-pats or interested parties keep up with the boys in navy. Not the boys in the navy, mind, though we wish them well too. The About Us page has been freshened up too, with a bit more information on how you loyal readers could help out the blog if you were so inclined.

Speaking of which, I’d also like to take this opportunity to point out we have a new social bookmarking site on our links, namely Punditit. Fraser got in touch to tell us a bit about the new site:

Punditit is a great new website that aims to make it very easy to find the sports stories on the web that are worth reading. When you find an interesting sports story anywhere on the web that you want to share, simply submit the URL to Punditit. The link will then appear on the New News page and if it gets enough votes it will move to the Front Page. As all the stories on the Front Page have been voted there by Punditit’s expert community of users you know they are worth reading. A simple concept that makes things easier for all of us, so go to Punditit get voting for Scottish Rugby Blog Stories now!

I’ve been over there and although it covers a lot of sports, rugby is definitely not shunted into the background so it’s worth a look. And we don’t have to talk about rugby all the time… I’ll be back later with news of the Scotland squad announcement due today.

Stephen Jones Says Something Agreeable 2 Weeks Running

There must be something in the water…

Townsend Turning
They recently announced some figures in Scotland that purported to show a major revolution in the sport north of the border, with increased numbers playing the game and watching the professional teams.

All very fine, although if you delved beneath the figures you found that, basically, Jock McTavish and his mate had started to play rugby for someone’s under-13s and that Jimmy Stewart has agreed to go to watch Edinburgh now and again provided it’s not raining.

Still, good luck to them, a Scotland rugby revival is the next key to the well-being of the RBS Six Nations and even small rises are turning a tide. And, in my opinion, that revival came a little closer last week when it was announced that Gregor Townsend, the former Scotland back, had joined Frank Hadden’s coaching set-up – this after an odd period when Townsend seemed to have been banished to the outer limits.

The choice is superb. I have always regarded Townsend as a genius, although not without flaws. He didn’t pick the best time to be born, since his deftness, passing, ability to put people into space and all-round expertise were somewhat wasted. Those outside him in the Scotland teams for which he played between 1993 and 2003 were not on his wavelength, some were not even on the same planet.

Look what happened when they gave him players to bounce off – he was able to marshal the 1997 Lions to victory in South Africa. A career that took him to Northampton, Brive and Castres also gave him a wider vision. I used to love watching him end on, to see him work his angles. His wisdom and modest manner could well herald a revival in Scotland back play and something better in terms of the scoreboard. Those are the numbers that really matter.

Full article can be found on the Times Website.

Scotland vs Ireland Looking Close to Sell-Out

Tags:

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.

Stephen Jones Big Ups Big Nathan

Ahh, some sense at last. In his most recent Rolling Maul (well worth a read for many reasons, primarily it seems as something to argue with your PC screen about) the esteemed Sunday Times Rugby correspondent has highlighted Big Nathan’s possible usefulness as a Lions tourist:

Nathan Hines (Perpignan)

He has had his injury problems, he has had his moody periods – notably when he decided to retire from Scotland, although in the dire reign of Matt Williams as coach this was seen as compulsory, not disloyal.

Hines, however, is hardcore. Someone has to stand opposite Bakkies Botha on tour and give back in kind everything Bakkies dishes out, in deed or word. At present, Hines seems to be the leading candidate to out-Bakkies Bakkies. He is big, tough and uncompromising, and if you can become a hero in a tough place like Perpignan then you have it all going for you.

You can get the full thing here.

If it goes wonky then it’s all Al’s fault

Sadly this is not the case, it will in fact be me messing about under the hood. But if the site appears somewhat schizo over the next few days, please bear with me as I rejiggle it a little. I would also take this opportunity to apologise to anyone trying to join the neglected Guinness Premiership Fantasy Rugby mini-league, I promise to try and find a more successful one we can all start on an even footing for the Six Nations.

UPDATE: I have switched over to a more widget-heavy theme to reduce future maintenance so some of the features and buttons in the sidebar may have vanished temporarily. They’ll be back!

5 Reasons To Be Cheerful

1) With the mid level teams (Fiji, Samoa, Italy, Georgia) fronting up at World Cup time as the professional game grows, does it really matter who we have in our group in NZ 2011? Sure we could get a couple of stinkers, but with a young team that should be together for the next three years we might get Ireland, Argentina, or day I say it England? Sure they’d be tough matches, but it’s the World Cup. Scotland no longer belongs at the top table by right – we should have to play well enough to get there and it should be the same for all the other teams in our situation. Still, Argentina may do us a favour if they can beat ramshackle Ireland. Maybe we could swap it for a round-ball win with Diego?

2) Phil Godman is growing with every game. He distributed well, made a couple of great breaks and kicked for position with reasonable accuracy. He still made a couple of schoolboy errors at the end – I would argue they may have been down to his desperation to atone for the missed kicks that might have proven the difference between an ok result and a great one. It was a big game of what-ifs, and Phil will have felt it the most. Forget Italy a few years back, on a grey Saturday in November 2008 he will have learnt much about the true test-match pressure on an international standoff. Seeing the look on his battle-bloodied face come the final whistle, you feel that the South Africa match may be the making of Phil Godman. I certainly hope so.

3) Nick de Luca and Ben Cairns are forming a solid partnership in the centre. Again De Luca gave away an early penalty on Saturday, but after that he settled down and both put in solid defensive display. He’s had a few shockers, but I think now he has settled and needs to build on that. Now they both need a chance to show what they can do in attack against Canada. EDIT: they got it, see below.

4) We’re developing a pretty useful front row partnership in Euan Murray and Ross Ford. Let’s not forget Chunk, Dicko or Moray Low either. Stability in Scotland’s set-piece (not to mention the odd bit of supremacy) would do our chances of winning games no end of good. Mike Brewer seems to be doing his job well. He wears a suit on match day too, something Frank “one of the boys” Hadden should maybe do too.

5) Over the course of two games against the best Rugby Nations in the world, arguably, Scotland did more right than they did wrong – even without a W in the column for either of the games. With Mossy on the pitch on Saturday, we would have almost certainly beaten the World Champions. Isn’t that a reason to be cheerful?

Team to face Canada:

Rory Lamont (Sale Sharks); Simon Webster (Edinburgh), Ben Cairns (Edinburgh), Nick De Luca (Edinburgh), Nikki Walker (Ospreys); Phil Godman (Edinburgh), Mike Blair (capt) (Edinburgh); Allan Jacobsen (Edinburgh), Ross Ford (Edinburgh), Euan Murray (Northampton Saints), Nathan Hines (Perpignan), Jim Hamilton (Edinburgh), Alasdair Strokosch (Gloucester), John Barclay (Glasgow Warriors), Simon Taylor (Stade Francais).
Replacements: Dougie Hall (Glasgow Warriors), Alasdair Dickinson (Gloucester), Matt Mustchin (Edinburgh), Scott Gray (Northampton Saints), Rory Lawson (Gloucester), Dan Parks (Glasgow Warriors), Max Evans (Glasgow Warriors).