Category: Player Watch

Keeping an eye out for Scotland’s up and coming rugby stars

Hines Not on the Comeback Trail, Actually

A report up on Scrum.com gives us the skinny that unfortunately Big Nathan will not make it back in time for the France game, as he now requires exploratory surgery on his injured knee. There’s more on the BBC too. This is a big blow for us, more so now that we know how much we missed him against Wales. The pressing question now becomes: is Hadden fool enough to mess about two weeks running? Will he pick a proper lock (Kellock) this time, or at least a back rower with recent experience and form in the position (Taylor)? Either would be more suitable than Jason White who looked short of pace and form. After all, they have both won matches in France this year playing in that position. I’d be tempted to include Cusiter ahead of Blair for the same reason. He looked very sharp, and he’ll know the French players he faces (unlike the rest of us).

A delayed team announcement tomorrow should reveal all. Murray is out till at least the Italy game and everyone else who was a worry seems to have trained in full, but Hadden is waiting on news of head-cases Cross and Webster. Here’s a time saving tip for you Frank: don’t worry about Simon, he’s clearly not going to have “trained well this week” and probably doesn’t know which planet he is on, so there’s no excuse to put him in ahead of Thom Evans. There, that was easy, wasn’t it?

Big Nathan is on the Comeback Trail

Nathan Hines has told the BBC he hopes to be fit for Saturday’s game in Paris. Good news if he can slot in straight away with his form of the Autumn, as he was sorely missed on Sunday will he be really fit though or is it too risky?

Full article and video here.

And while we’re all running over to the BBC website, have a look at the gentlemen of the press ripping into Scotland’s performance on Sunday…

Another One Back in the Fold

Tags:

Scott Macleod has announced he is signing for Edinburgh, part of the SRU’s growing effort to herd in some of our lost sheep and get them playing rugby in the Scottish meadow again. Apologies for the over-extended pastoral metaphor there.

He has recently been out of favour for Llanelli following a second drugs testing incident – both of which he has been cleared over and only recently got back on to the bench. It’s a shame as he was playing a blinder down there for a while and was a fixture in their second row. However Edinburgh could always use more locks and with the pairing of Jim Hamilton and Scott MacLeod they now have some real potential there. No word on Rob Dewey’s mooted move to Glasgow as yet, but the SRU are definitely pushing to have a core of players in country where their availability can be controlled.

P&J Ditches Clermont, Moves To Glasgow…And So Does Chris Cusiter

Chris Cusiter has in fact signed for Glasgow, rumours in L’Equipe to the contrary. This means they will now have former Wasp Mark McMillan (when he returns to fitness) as well as Colin Gregor to cover scrum half, perhaps a sign of the growing depth in Scottish rugby. I don’t know where it leaves Sam Pinder though, other than perhaps playing in National One. Rumours were that the SRU had offered Cusiter a record high salary to tempt him back and away from the jaws of Clermont Auvergne – whether this is the case or not remains to be seen. We’ll probably find out if the SRU declares insolvency.

With one of the best scrum halves in the world currently (yes I said it) in Mike Blair holding down the 9 shirt and the captaincy, Cusiter obviously believes he needs to be closer to Frank Hadden’s office if he is to return to his Scotland and Lion halcyon days. For those of the rest of us who don’t see much French rugby it will be interesting to see what sort of player the Francophised (not a word, I know) Cusiter is. I bet Glasgow don’t let him call the line-outs…

Clermont set to become P & J’s Favourite Rugby Team

Lovers of all things Aberdonian such as the above mentioned newspaper may be interested in rumours that Chris Cusiter is not coming “home” to Glasgow (and possibly crippling the SRU salary budget) but off to join fellow North East man Jason White at Clermont Auvergne. According to an article in French sports paper L’Equipe (and I’m paraphrasing here from the French):

This is not yet official, but Chris Cusiter should play for Clermont next season. After two years in Perpignan, the Scottish international scrum-half  (age 26, 39 caps) chose to join the Auvergne club  where he will be in competition with Morgan Parra of Bourgouin. Indeed, the French international has just signed to ASM for the four next seasons. This transfer confirms a little more the departure of Pierre Mignoni. The international (age 31, 28 caps) will leave Clermont after six years of faithful service, and should join Toulon, the club where he began his professional career.

To be honest it’s probably sensible, given Glasgow’s Mark McMillan was going well until his injury and they have backup in Colin Gregor and I suppose Sam Pinder. It might hurt his international chances but Hadden has so far been fair. When he wasn’t playing for Perpignan,  he wasn’t for Scotland either. Now he is playing and in form too, he’s back in the squad and sure to hold down at least the bench scrum half spot. Maybe out of favour Rory Lawson should come back to Glasgow instead?

Further information on some other potential Scotland transfers mentioned a while back can be found in the Telegraph, of all places, including news that Edinburgh may be after lock Scott Macleod but are definitely not after Rob Dewey… which is fair enough as locks are what they need at the moment…

Glasgow Beat Toulouse

Toulouse 26 – 33 Glasgow

Yes, you read that correctly. A historic result for Glasgow Rugby today saw Glasgow shock pre-tournament favourites and poster boys of French Club rugby Toulouse in the Heineken Cup. Not only that, but they did it in Toulouse, forcing the home crowd to suffer a range of emotions from histrionic booing through stunned silence and frantic cheering as their team chased what was in the end a losing bonus point. Glasgow opened hard and kept phenomenal pressure up on Toulouse’s attack. From a back division this skilled – Michalak, Clerc, Ellisalde, Poitrenaud among them – it was telling that their handling was made to look poor as they tried to get into  gear. Man of the Match Max Evans had a wonky moment early on as he chipped rather than cleared from his own line, but Toulouse failed to capitalise and from then on he was at the heart of Glasgow’s attack. Dan Parks, in at the last minute for promising youngster Ruaridh Jackson, did little wrong and distributed well to the powerful Morrison and threatening Evans boys. Thom Evans in particular is on a hot streak where everything he tries comes off. We can only hope the bounce of the ball will continue to go his way during the Six Nations, where he must start – his defence is now swiftly catching up on his attack. Morrison also did plenty to cement his grip on the Scotland 12 shirt. With Paterson playing at 10 for 30 mins yesterday after Godman took a hamstring knock, Parks may well yet have a part to play in Scotland’s Six Nations too.

After taking a 9-22 lead in at half time, Glasgow found themselves on the receiving end of a blistering Toulouse attack. Guy Noves emptied out his bucket marked “cavalry” and brought on the likes of Florian Fritz, Byron Kelleher and Fabian Pelous. The game was tranformed as the passes stuck (for the most part) and Glasgow’s attacking ball was stifled. Sustained pressure saw a penalty try from a scrum, a few kicks and some more typical Toulouse back play leading to a try. Here were go, you thought, as Glasgow seemed to be opened up at will by Kelleher’s darting breaks and the gap on the scoreboard closed bit by bit: normal service resumed.

Only it wasn’t. After a quick bought of fisticuffs that saw Ellisalde and Barclay sin-binned, Glasgow seemed to weather the storm. Max Evans even scored another try. The crowd went quiet as they slowly realised the unthinkable was about to happen. Toulouse were going to lose. By the time they could only kick for a losing bonus point with the last play of the game –  an undeserved victory long since out of reach thanks to Glasgow’s miserly defence – the furious booing had started. One senses it may continue for some time in the South of France.

But here in Scotland: nothing but cheering.

It’s Rob Dewey Time

It’s about that time of year when the pre-Six Nations player roundabout starts, so with that in mind I have a few snippets for you.

Rob Dewey returns to Murrayfield this week (alongside former Scotland coach and silver surfer Matt Williams) with Ulster, and rumours are flying that he has begun negotiations with the SRU for a more permanent return to these shores. As yet it is unclear where he will settle his ship – The Times seems to think Glasgow, while the Scotsman seems to think Edinburgh (and also mentions they may be interested in Scott MacLeod too which – despite his other troubles – would be a good signing in rugby terms). Edinburgh already have three promising young centres in Houston, De Luca and Cairns while Glasgow would have been a more obvious choice were it not for the appearance this season of Max Evans, giving them three decent centres also (Evans, Henderson, Morrison). Where do you fit in Dewey? As a battering ram 12 it is more likely to be at Edinburgh where the midfield is a little lightweight. But will that do anyone any good with regards to the national setup? After all, there are only two shirts to fill week in, week out – so someone’s development will be hampered. I still maintain you could swap Cairns and De Luca around, but nobody listens. Also, what happened to Al’s bête noire Marcus Di Rollo? Last we heard he was stuck at Toulouse unable to play there for medical reasons, and forbidden to leave and play anywhere else. An investigation beckons…

Big Jason White is to leave Sale Sharks at the end of this season to join ASM Clermont Auvergne. Glasgow had been hopeful of returning the former Scotland skipper north of the border, but White is clearly looking to pastures new after 5-odd years in Manchester. He’ll join the likes of Elvis Vermeulen and Julien Bonnaire in the back row at Clermont.

“I was very impressed by the organization, the structures, the team and the ambitions of the club. Clermont belongs to the best European clubs and I think that it is likely here there is a real chance to gain titles. I always wanted to play in France and the prospect to discover a new culture and a new language is very exciting.” (apologies for the Babelfish translation)

No Scottish rugby on TV tonight, (unless perhaps you have Setanta) but coverage on BBC Radio Scotland as usual. Glasgow take on the Dragons who feature ex-Glasgow man Andy Hall in their squad, and will be looking to cement their form with a victory over the often troublesome Dragons. Edinburgh as mentioned above face Ulster, and feature a back row shorn of Ross Rennie (now out for the season) and Alan MacDonald (head knock) so Simon Cross and academy sevens man Roddy Grant come in. Still, Ally Hogg – who played in all of Matt Williams’ games in charge of Scotland – will be there to hold down the fort.

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.

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.

Edinburgh and Glasgow Teams for Boxing Day Derby

It should be an interesting one, with a number of match-ups featuring the incumbent in the national jersey against his closest rival. For example, Barclay/Rennie, De Luca/Morrison, Godman/Parks or Ford/Hall. And a Scottish team is guaranteed victory, huzzah!

Edinburgh

Hugo Southwell, John Houston, Ben Cairns, Nick De Luca, Simon Webster, Phil Godman, Mike Blair (capt), Allan Jacobsen, Ross Ford, Gavin Kerr, Craig Hamilton, Jim Hamilton, Scott Newlands, Ross Rennie, Allister Hogg.
Replacements:
Andrew Kelly, Geoff Cross/Kyle Traynor, Matt Mustchin, Alan MacDonald, Greig Laidlaw, David Blair, Jim Thompson.

Glasgow Warriors

Bernardo Stortoni, Hefin O’Hare, Max Evans, Graeme Morrison, Thom Evans, Dan Parks, Colin Gregor, Justin Va’a, Dougie Hall, Ed Kalman, Tim Barker, Alastair Kellock (capt), Kelly Brown, John Barclay, Johnnie Beattie.
Replacements:
Fergus Thomson, Moray Low, Dan Turner, Richie Vernon, Sam Pinder, Andrew Henderson, Ruaridh Jackson.

Player News – Rory Lamont and more

Rory Lamont will be out of the Six Nations while he recovers from ankle surgery made necessary after ligament damage sustained playing for Sale against Montauban. This is a real shame as he was in a rich vein of form, and it may well affect his outside chances of a Lions berth – while it solidifies the odds that Chris Paterson will fill the 15 shirt where he has been playing reasonably well for Edinburgh so far.

UPDATE: It seems the patented Rory Lamont Helicopter™ is to blame. Quoted on the BBC Website Rory says:

“I seem to spin through a lot of contact and it puts a lot of force through your body when you’re spinning. I guess I just open my body up for injuries with that style of play.”

We wish the flying Chinook of Scottish Rugby well with his recovery.

Ross Rennie’s citing has delayed the team picked to face Wasps (update to follow as I hear), but Andy Robinson has largely stuck with the side that played all the rugby at Murrayfield last weekend but got none of the points. Meanwhile Andy Robinson has revealed that they tried to lure Rocky Elsom last year to play in Edinburgh before he opted for Leinster and may look overseas again next year for a new signing. I’m all for Edinburgh expanding their squad, but a balance has to be found between bringing in world-class experience and keeping improving back rowers like Ross Rennie and Alan Macdonald out of the team. Darryl Gibson was less than a success on the pitch for Glasgow (though reputed to have been very influential off the pitch) whereas Todd Blackadder is probably the benchmark for a successful import. Oh, and we did have a world-class back row at Edinburgh – but Simon Taylor left. (Edinburgh vs Wasps, Sky Sports, Sunday 1pm)

UPDATE: Ross Rennie has received a two match ban for his tackle on Paul Sackey. Paterson has failed a fitness test so Hugo Southwell will start at 15. Scott Newlands fills in for Rennie and the only other change is Andy Kelly filling in for the injured Ross Ford.

And having cemented his place in Glasgow’s Outside Centre position, Max Evans has signed a new deal with the club. Let’s hope he repeats his performance against Bath this weekend. Disappointing to see that Ruaridh Jackson has dropped to the bench to welcome back Parko, but I suppose it was inevitable. (Sunday 2pm, not on the telly, highlights on Sky Sports ERC Rugby Special Sunday night)

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.

Building a Tank from a Shopping Trolley

Bad A-Team related joke time again. Yesterday the backup team gave the Georgians a doing (under the tutelage of Andy Robinson, Gregor Townsend and Shade Munro) in front of a pretty small crowd at Firhill. The early scheduling of 6ish was apparently at the behest of TV behemoth BBC Alba. Surely an extra hour would have nearly doubled the crowd to the usual solid Friday night support? However it was on the TV so for that we can be thankful. They give with one hand and take with the other. In fact, the viewing experience was similar to watching Welsh counterpart S4C, complete with pitchside interviews conducted in English. I haven’t worked out the Gaelic for Seren Y Gem yet, but I will. Al’s drinking game suggested below could also have been improved with a “James Jones” bonus round in honour of the Welsh referee.

It was a pretty good squad we had, and strong performances from Richie Vernon, Rob Dewey and Mark McMillan saw a comfortable victory against a Georgia team far from their World Cup near-glory. Nikki Walker still turned over a few balls in contact though. Georgia go on to play Edinburgh on Tuesday and may find themselves up against many of the same players and coaches with potentially the same result. There were a couple of darn good tries though (including a great solo effort from Max Evans) and it was very encouraging to see the support lines in full effect with Scotland players (forwards and backs) streaming through gaps in search of tries, and using well timed passes and angles of running. Let’s hope we see the same from the full team this afternoon. Having seemingly revitalised World Class Phil, is Gregor Townsend going to prove – along with Andy Robinson – one of the coaching jewels hidden in Scotland’s tarnished crown?