Category: British and Irish Lions

News and articles on the historic British and Irish Lions touring side as viewed from our particular Scottish perspective. Since the blog started we have covered the 2009, 2013 and 2017 Lions tours.

The Deadline Has Passed

So if you were planning to apply for the job of Scotland coach, you are now too late. We should get a result in the next four weeks or so. They claim to have received applications from around the world, although Andy Robinson is still the front runner.

The deadline has also passed to squeeze into the Lions squad, with Geech and the gang currently holed up in a hotel somewhere near Heathrow arguing over whether Danny Cipriani is any good or not and who leaked O’Connell as the captain. I’ll be back tomorrow lunchtime with an (almost) live announcement of the Lions squad. Whoever has “3 or less” in the “how many Scots in the Lions squad” office pool could be in with a winner. Although it was interesting to see people talking of Hines and Cusiter in the Sunday papers, despite having mostly forgotten about them for the last few months (unlike the geniuses here at Scottish Rugby Blog Towers).

Just so I can slag myself off tomorrow when I am proven wrong:

Crappy timing/form awards: Simon Taylor, the big Stroker (injury), big Rory (injury), John Barclay, Chunk (injury), pretty much all of the Scotland team who dominated South Africa in the autumn.

In with a shout but most likely to be “held in reserve” ie snubbed/overlooked: Chris Cusiter, Thom Evans, Ross Ford, big Nathan, Mossy, Mike Blair. Ford, Hines and Blair could easily fit into the first list if they don’t go although apparently Ford played well for Edinburgh last weekend. Andy Robinson’s picks would be Ford, Blair and Mossy. (Either) Evans only has inexperience against him, certainly the Lions could use a bit of the Evans magic.

On the plane: Euan Murray. Er, that’s it. Unless you count all the Scots in the backroom team. They’ll probably wheel out Jim Telfer for the odd Guinness ad.

So, fingers crossed but don’t get too excited, we’ll just have to cheer our Celtic brethren who look sure to dominate the team, given Cardiff and Munster’s form of late. Although if they knock the crap out of each other in the Heineken Cup final, there’s every chance a Scot or two will sneak on tour in the injury strewn aftermath…

Is there hope for Chris Cusiter?

After the autumn internationals, there were two real front runners for the Lions 9 shirt, Mike Blair number one on form with Mike Philips of Wales offering a different option in terms of physicality which some preferred.

Fast forward to the Six Nations, and the half back choices are in disarray. Blair went backwards form-wise in the Six Nations, Peel and Cusiter looked very sharp but didn’t get picked, Philips was injured, Care couldn’t keep his head when all around were losing theirs and Ireland’s best option was Peter Stringer.

Since then Tomas O’Leary has found form for Munster, and become a credible front runner. Care has found his zip again for in-form Quins but Mike Philips is stuck playing in an underperforming Ospreys team.

Step forward Chris Cusiter. First Kenny Logan picked him in his Lions team and now this from Shaun Edwards suggests they are not overlooking foibles of national selection:

After our most recent three-hour huddle – in a hotel near Heathrow this week – it is obvious that Ian is sticking by his word: he will pick on form and not reputation. Some big players who have been there and done it before, won Six Nations or Heineken Cups, might be in for a shock next Tuesday… Some of those currently in the reckoning may not have made their national teams in the Six Nations which ended less than a month ago.”

Hopefully Cusiter is still in with a chance of making the tour – Perpignan have been on a bit of a winning streak lately. Might that bode well for Hines too, who a lot talked up before his recent injury? I had a look on their site and can’t find much in the way of recent match reports so I hope they haven’t taken the huff because Cusiter is returning to Glasgow. According to Eurosport he played their win against Stade Montois (?), but seems to be part of a fairly even-handed rotation system in the games previous. He’s not injured though, I managed to pick that up.

Could he be the ideal man to partner ROG, given that they played together in Geech’s successful dirt trackers team in 2005? It seems like a fairly large straw to clutch at, but other than Euan Murray where else are the definite picks? I’d like to hope the Evans boys are considered too. Here in Scotland we’ve got a lion rampant on our ‘B’ flag, but doesn’t look like too many on the plane to South Africa, even in the ‘B’ team. Still, I can’t wait for the squad announcement tomorrow – I hope it’s a great tour.

Planet Rugby Makes Bold Choice

I was trying to come up with a Blair-related pun there, but I’ll save that in case it actually comes true. Here is Planet Rugby’s chosen Lions squad (hypothetical) for South Africa.

While the Scots selected are probably what you’d expect (as are most of the rest of the players), surprise inclusion of Mike Blair as captain would certainly set tongues and tails wagging were Geech’s selection the same. Harry Ellis, though, really? He’s barely Leicester first choice at the moment. Still if you take him then Blair’s more likely to hold on to his place in the team… If you read the rest of the article, interesting to see the number Scots that are just bubbling under in the minds of their pundits. So we live in hope, eh?

Backs: Lee Byrne, Rob Kearney, Tommy Bowe, Luke Fitzgerald, Leigh Halfpenny, Mark Cueto, Thom Evans, Shane Williams, Jamie Roberts, Tom Shanklin, Brian O’Driscoll, Stephen Jones, Toby Flood, Ronan O’Gara, Mike Phillips, Harry Ellis, Mike Blair (captain).

Forwards: Ryan Jones, Jamie Heaslip, Martyn Williams, David Wallace, Joe Worsley, Stephen Ferris, Paul O’Connell, Simon Shaw, Alun Wyn Jones, Steve Borthwick, Adam Jones, Euan Murray, John Hayes, Ross Ford, Jerry Flannery, Lee Mears, Gethin Jenkins, Andrew Sheridan.

Odds and Sods and Lions Centres

After all the excitement of yesterday evening, tonight Edinburgh take on Cardiff at Murrayfield tonight (not on TV, but probably on BBC Radio Scotland along with a lively debate about future Scotland coaches from 8pm), while Glasgow visit Llanelli live on S4C on Saturday at 5.30pm ish with a few more of their internationals back. A couple of good games from Thom Evans could see him shoot up in the Lions reckoning, which would be nice. Also with one eye on the future, Ruaridh Jackson is starting at 10 for Glasgow with Parko (still without a contract for next season) on the bench. Edinburgh should also have newly resigned and restored prop Geoff Cross packing down in the scrum (but not against Cardiff’s Gethin Jenkins, who is rested). Cross will be looking to make up for his inauspicious test debut vs Wales in the Six Nations, one hopes…

Speaking of the future, Edinburgh and Glasgow seem to be scouring the English club game for Scottish-qualified youngsters with ex Stew-Mel and Newcastle scrum-half Ross Samson signing for Edinburgh and centre Peter Murchie signing for Glasgow from London Welsh. Samson’s signing and Ben Meyer’s exit from Edinburgh would mean I think that Edinburgh now only have one non-Scottish qualified player on their books (in Ben Gissing).

At the other end of the career spectrum, former Edinburgh scrum-half Graeme Beveridge has also announced his retirement from pro-rugby after he was let go by Bristol. He aims to have a go at coaching in the future though, so we wish him all the best with that and hope to see him plying his trade north of the border soon. Andy Henderson is also off to pastures new in Montauban after a game for the BaaBaas – it was getting crowded in the Glasgow midfield I suppose.

After their exertions last week in victory over Connacht and loss to Munster respectively, good to see a few home-based Scots creeping into the (only half serious) Sky Sports Lions Watch team of the week, as well as a few exiles. In fact this team is almost thick with Scots – that’ll never last. Big Stroker is definitely increasing the awareness of his physical talents, while I’m sorry to have missed the battle between Euan Murray and Gethin Jenkins in the scrum… plus the comments on these things are always fun to read…

With Henson now out with injury till May, it looks like Goron D’Arcy could be coming into form at just the right time to re-cement his partnership with O’Driscoll… Shanklin or possibly Jamie Roberts should keep Maxi out of the reckoning at 13 but he may have more value as a utility back than Thom. Tindall is injured too, lest we forget so if the 2×2 centres were Flutey (ugh) and D’arcy, O’ Driscoll and Shanklin, they’d probably still need a utility back who could cover centre. Step forward Maximus! Such are the discussions that the coming weeks are made of, so I’ve put up a handy countdown in order to build the hype towards the inevitable leonine let-down (but we are used to such things by now).

Have a good weekend. Next week was going to be chat about the Lions, but now we have some fantasy coach shopping to do!

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.

Glasgow Miles Better

I have to admit it, I’ve always been kind of an Edinburgh man. I like the city more than Glasgow, went to University there, most of my friends live there. So naturally I gravitated towards Edinburgh Rugby as a natural home for my supporter’s sympathies – other than the mighty Highland, of course. It was also pointed out recently that (inadvertently) I had even sustained this anti-Glasgow bias in the header of this site – now slightly redressed. But it seems in all that I overlooked something. Glasgow are actually pretty good.

Currently they sit 2nd in the Magners League. They are building a passionate and consistent crowd of supporters at Firhill, and Lineen is long past being happy with valiant defeats. Performance -and results – are starting to matter to him, as well they should. A lot of the focus is on Andy Robinson rebuilding teams and careers at Edinburgh, but Lineen has been quietly turning the ship around on the other side of the country for a few years now, and this season it looks to have started steaming in the right direction.

Failing some sort of Munster miracle game, Glasgow took part in the Heineken Cup match of the weekend – even including Harlequin’s thriller in the Stade de France – against Bath today. England’s second best team looked like they would have too much class, but Glasgow never gave up and eventually went down 35-31. If you get a chance to watch the highlights on Sky tonight, I’d recommend it. On Friday Ian MacGeechan blamed Wasps’ endless kicking and lacklustre rugby (still enough to defeat Edinburgh) on the ELVs and new interpretations at the breakdown, yet Bath seem to manage quite well. Even Munster, led by kicking machine Ronan O Gara, are willing to throw it about a bit. Glasgow manage it quite well too. Kicking ping-pong only works if you’re certain that the other team will kick it back. Bath don’t. Problem solved. Glasgow didn’t much either, and it gave us an enthralling game of rugby. I hope Geech will sort it out in time for the Lions tour.

Speaking of which, John Barclay is continuing his run of understated but utterly effective play in the tackle and at the breakdown that will hopefully see him as an outside pick for the tour at 7. Tom Rees and Martin Williams are probably ahead of him, but the Six Nations will give him a broad stage on which to showcase his talent. And he’s only 22. If not this one, maybe the next.

Ruaridh Jackson may yet prove the most important find of the season (though we probably won’t really know for a couple of years) in his first professional start at 10. He’s got great hands, a bit of pace, vision and his tactical kicking wasn’t too bad either (and that’s one area he could learn from Dan Parks). In a Glasgow team filled with sevens players, they were always alive to the counter – as proven by Thom Evans’ opportunistic hat-trick of tries created largely through sheer pace and acceleration. You won’t have heard it here first, but I believe Ruaridh Jackson has a part to play in Scotland’s future.

The one area Glasgow did suffer in was depth, as illustrated by the very last play of the game. After the clock had ticked over the 80 minute mark, Bath were camped on Glasgow’s line with the sustained pressure that had characterised the second half (punctuated by breakaway Glasgow tries). You felt the last chance for a well deserved – if unlikely – snatched victory was gone. Suddenly, there’s an interception and Jackson is steaming up the pitch – a repeat of his try minutes before that had put Glasgow into twin bonus point territory and announced that this game was far from over. The Rec crowd go nuts as a frantic foot race begins and Jackson finds the touchline closing him out. If there’s one man you want on his shoulder it was Thom Evans, but he had gone off ten minutes previously to be replaced by the slightly less pacy Hefin O’Hare. So instead Jackson chips past the defender, and looks to regather. But the ball bounces into touch, and the Rec breathes easy again. Not bad for a first game – to be so influential on the outcome, and against a World Cup winning fly-half on the other team. Glasgow never stopped battling, but their class diminished slightly with every substitution (unlike Bath). Still, next time Jackson is stuck on the bench behind Parks, you might not be able to say the same.

Sean Lineen, I am fast becoming a fan.

Scotland Squad and Lions Coaches Announced

Scott Gray makes a surprise and (if he continues current form) welcome return to the Scotland National squad, while in form Max Evans and Geoff Cross make up the uncapped contingent. No real suprises otherwise but a few points:

  • Good to see Hadden’s picked some genuine 7s.
  • Not too many locks there though – Hamilton and Hines are the only genuine ones, so expect cover from Mutschin or Taylor (vindicated). Scott MacLeod may yet make it, test results/appeal pending (see previous post). No sign of Scott Murray who looked good in Montauban’s near miss against Munster.
  • All the usual suspects in the backs, though it could be Lawson that misses out rather than Cusiter this time
  • They seem to be heading for warm-weather training in Spain. With all the games being played in Novermber (including one practically in the North Sea) would they not be better training in Reykjavik?
  • For me Barclay and Euan Murray are probably the only certs in the forwards, and Blair in the backs. Highly recommended picks would be Godman, Evans and Cairns also but I guess that comes down to Hadden’s tactics. There is plenty of scope for picking a form team rather than a favourites team.
  • My starting (form) XV to face New Zealand would be: Lamont R, Evans T, Cairns, Morrison, Lamont S (maybe Mossy), Godman, Blair, Hogg, Barclay, Strokosch, Taylor, Hines, Murray, Ford, Dickinson. I imagine he’ll play Parks and Mossy in there somewhere though as Godman’s goal kicking may not be reliable enough – kicks could be our only source of points after all…

In other news of the un-surprising nature, most of Wales’ coaching staff were announced as the Lions backroom team plus team doctor and Scotsman James Robson. Gatland, Howley, Edwards and McGeechan certainly sounds bloody good on paper, even if it decimates Wales’ touring party in the summer. But then the Lions squad selection might have done that anyway. Shane Williams, James Hook, Ryan Jones and Martin Williams are all shoe-ins if you ask me. Also, Sky pundit Dick Best advocated Allan “Chunk” Jacobsen as a possible midweek Lion last weekend. The campaign starts now… and there’ll be more Lions preview stuff in the coming weeks.

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…

Social Rugby Players from Scotland Wanted!

Friend of the SRBlog Rolf has been in touch with some details of an event he is involved in South Africa next year, the Social Rugby World Championships:

Every rugby player has at one time or another worn the boots of their rugby heroes – standing in the back garden imagining the kick that’ll win the World Cup Final for his team.

From Opunake, New Zealand to Clonakilty, Ireland the dreams remain the same. For most, these dreams fade, but for 480 social rugby players these dreams will finally be realised from 13 to 26 June 2009 when the inaugural Social Rugby World Championships kicks off in Cape Town, South Africa.

The tournament, with teams from across the globe, promises to be packed with great running rugby, good times, healthy competition and new friendships being formed.

SOCIAL RUGBY WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS 2009

  • 16 international teams
  • 480 rugby players
  • 2 weeks of socialising and rugby
  • 40 matches
  • 1000’s of spectators
  • 4 finals – Cup, Plate, Bowl and Shield
  • 1 of the world’s most beautiful cities
  • 1 social outreach programme that’ll help change the lives of players and previously disadvantaged communities forever.

The groundbreaking Social Rugby World Championships – coinciding with the British & Irish Lions tour of South Africa – is the perfect opportunity to make some new friends, enjoy a few games of social rugby, visit the most beautiful city in the world (our unbiased opinion) and watch the Lions in action (probably getting thumped by the current World Champions – also an unbiased opinion).

While I take issue with the Lions jibe, it sounds like a great idea so if you have a team that you think might be interested, spread the word! More details on www.srwc2009.co.za.

On other fronts, we realise we have been a bit slack lately but Wimbledon was on. Although also on summer break, Al and I have thankfully (or is that unfortunately?) not been involved in any late-night hotel-based scandals with foreign lovelies, nor re-constructive surgeries of any kind.

Like the rest of the world, we’ll be back to oval balls soon.

Geech named Lions Coach – Big Cat Metaphors Start Now

Today Wasps Director of Rugby Ian McGeechan is expected to be named as the head coach for the next British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa in 2009. The former Scotland coach has become synonymous with Lions tours both as coach and player, and anyone who has seen his midweek team talks on the 2005 tour DVD – way more impressive than Woodward’s – should be assured he is the man for the job of restoring a bit of pride to Lions rugby.

Sorry, couldn’t resist it.

He also has a successful tour of South Africa under his belt which can’t hurt. Shaun Edwards – having already expressed a desire to go on this tour as his reason for taking the Wales job – is a near cert as defence coach, and Warren Gatland also likely to take a job as forwards coach in the “dream team”. All of which might leave Wasps slightly understrength come next season’s late spurt for the title, but that would be no bad thing, would it?

In other news, poor Moray Low is going to miss the Scotland tour of Argentina and his chance of a first cap due to an ankle injury sustained in the last game of the season, and Max Evans has been promoted to the main squad to join his brother, while we await word on Simon “Malkovich” Webster’s inclusion pending recovery from an injury. In the absence of the Lamont brothers, let’s hope the Evans boys can follow in the footsteps of them and the Hastings brothers and form another dynamic family duo in Scotland’s back line.

Hadden Announced as Lions Coach

Yesterday sources deep inside the British and Irish Lions camp announced a surprise front runner for the post of Lions coach in the upcoming 2009 test series against South Africa, namely visionary Scotland head coach Frank Hadden. It is believed that his preferred deputies are Brian Ashton to coach the backs, and Ulster Coach Matt Williams as forwards coach. Said team manager Gerald Davies, “we think Frank would give the Lions the direction and tactical nous needed to take on the current World Champions in their own back yard, and look forward to watching him talk about put together a great team.”

In other news, it is reported on Skynet that Leicester Fly-half Andy Goode is actually responsible for the destruction of mankind through his work on chess-playing super-computers. Little Terminator humour for you there, folks.

Sky Sports picks Lions Team, Scots included shocker

Stuart Barnes and Dewi Morris both picked their hypothetical Lions teams (if the match was played now not in 2009) on the Rugby Club this week, with a small Scottish contingent. Barnes picked Hines at 4 and Rory Lamont at 14, with Blair and Hogg on the bench, while Morris went for Blair and Hines on the bench and no-one in his starting XV. Myself, it would probably go something like this, fitness allowing:

Sheridan
Mears
Jenkins
Hines
O’ Callaghan
Strokosch
M. Williams
R Jones
Blair
Cipriani
S. Williams
Henson
O’ Driscoll/Shanklin
R Lamont
Murphy/Kearney

Bench: Stevens, Bennett, O’Connell/Gough/Wyn Jones (take your pick!), Haskell or Hogg, Phillips, Hook, Tait

Also, congrats to all the guys who whooped me in Six Nations Fantasy Rugby, shows what I know eh? Big shout out to Pedro who finished 3rd in the mini league.