Category: Player Watch

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

Scottish Rugby Blog is Back

Kicking down the door and shouting “Sucka” (while no-one really gets hurt) like the Mr-T of sports journalism that we are, I bid you welcome to a new season of rugger-based ramblings. Oh, wait, the season hasn’t started yet. Still, there is some stuff to report, namely that two of Scotland’s favourite sons went head to head the other night in a pre-season friendly between Sale Sharks and Perpignan. Chris Cusiter started at 9 and may or may not have played the whole game – they’re not exactly reporting the hell out of this one – while Rory Knee-Face Lamont (Batman’s new nemesis) seems to have sparked a bit of a second half fightback, scoring two tries to leave the final score a tie at 24-24. The good news is he was playing at 15, hopefully a position that Saint-Andre will give him a run at this season. Otherwise he may end up marking his brother…

Glasgow seem to have beaten Castres in a pre-season friendly, without most of their top players and trialling some of the ELVs. New signing Mark McMillan hopefully gave an indication of things to come with a late try to seal the win, whilst Colin Gregor illustrated his versatility by kicking most of his goals. Here at SRBlog Towers, we’re almost as happy to see McMillan at Glasgow as teammate Dan Parks:

Mark Mcmillan and Dan Parks

Welcome back to Scottish Rugby Blog. Come in, the water’s lovely.

More Squad and Coaching Roundabout News

Edinburgh prop Geoff Cross has been called up to the Scotland squad to tour Argentina after Craig Smith pulled out of the squad. Smith is also reported to be “considering his future in rugby” after a less than successful season. I suppose after meeting Al and I in St Etienne it was all downhill from there, but I hope he considers sticking around – he has strong potential to become the new Chunk, and his love of beards will only boost his chances of becoming a cult figure. Meanwhile Argentina have named a squad that includes a clutch of Premiership and Magners League players – but perhaps luckily for Scotland several of the big names playing in France (ie Hernandez) are absent.

Marcus Di Rollo has been withdrawn from the A Squad by Toulose, despite the fact they refuse to play him on health grounds, which is a bit mean spirited. And Scott Barrow can no longer play for Scotland through residency as he, um, sold his house.

Alan Tait has announced he is to follow former Borders colleague Steve Bates to become Newcastle Assistant Coach. Should be a good signing for the Falcons, and it will be interesting to see if he extends his remit beyond simply defence coaching – let’s not forget he knows a thing or two about attacking play too, having played cross-code at the highest levels.

And finally, eligible Scotland front-rower Nick Lloyd of Saracens has been selected for England’s experimental XV to face the BaBas on Sunday, putting that issue to bed once and for all. Add him to the list with Ryan Lamb of “what-might-have-been”s. Hadden does have a policy of not chasing players eligible to play for Scotland, but with such a small player pool anyway is he letting too many slip through the nets?

Magners League Ends

So another season of Magners League rugby comes to an end, another disappointing year for the Scottish pro-teams. Oh, no, wait. That’s not entirely true, is it?

With wins away at Llanelli and Munster respectively yesterday, Edinburgh and Glasgow secured fourth and fifth places in the table, which I am pretty sure are record highs for them. Munster’s losing bonus point against Glasgow held Edinburgh out of third. Edinburgh put a tired looking Llanelli to the sword, which was worth seeing even if I had to watch it in Welsh. If they had a play-off system – and word is they will soon – Edinburgh would be in them. Would you have said that, this time last year? Glasgow very nearly beat Biarritz twice – once was more than most people hoped for. Both teams have a solid base of young talent (+ Dan Parks) and have boosted their strength with some useful signings for next year (Paterson, McMillan). I am also heartened to see Fa’atau starting to score tries at Glasgow, hopefully he’ll stick around and prove as useful as some of the other southern hemisphere imports have been elsewhere (Munster, Bath, Sale, Worcester).

Final league positions:

Leinster
Cardiff Blues
Munster
Edinburgh Rugby
Glasgow Warriors
Llanelli Scarlets
Ospreys
Dragons
Ulster
Connacht Rugby

You can also vote for your Magners League dream team of the year. Hopefully there will be a few Scottish representatives among them, Moray Low and Nick De Luca would surely merit inclusion, regardless of international performances. Mine would look something like this, with a slight Scottish bias I’ll admit:

Lee Byrne (Ospreys)
Doug Howlett (Munster)
Nick De Luca (Edinburgh)
Lifeirni Mafi (Munster)
Shane Williams (Ospreys)
Felipe Contepomi (Leinster)
Mike Blair (Edinburgh)

Ryan Jones (Ospreys)
Martyn Williams (Cardiff)
Ally Hogg (Edinburgh)
Paul Tito (Cardiff)
Donnacha O’ Callaghan (Munster)
Moray Low (Glasgow)
Fergus Thompson (Glasgow)
Allan Jacobsen (Edinburgh)

They’re not asking for a coach, but Andy Robinson would be my choice!

Hope you’ve enjoyed the Magners season, limited though the viewing of Scottish teams has been for those of us without Setanta. Our thoughts now turn to the summer tour of Argentina – word is Moray Low has picked up an ankle injury that may rule him out, which has us gutted for him, the Churchill Cup, and the announcement next week of the Lions coach for 2009, and South Africa.

Oh, and an official SRBlog trip to Cardiff’s home of rugby, the Millennium Stadium, to see, um… Bruce Springsteen.

I Ain’t Gettin On No Plane

But these guys are, to Canada for the Churchill Cup next month:

Backs: Scott Barrow (Glasgow Warriors), David Blair (Edinburgh), Marcus Di Rollo (Toulouse), Max Evans (Glasgow Warriors), Rob Dewey (Ulster), Colin Gregor (Glasgow Warriors), Steve Jones (Newcastle Falcons), Calum MacRae (Edinburgh), Mark McMillan (Wasps), Sam Pinder (Glasgow Warriors), Roland Reid, Mark Robertson (both Edinburgh), Gordon Ross (Saracens)

Forwards: Geoff Cross (Edinburgh), Jon Dunbar (Leeds Tykes), James Eddie, Ed Kalman (both Glasgow Warriors), Andrew Kelly, Alan MacDonald (both Edinburgh), Andy Miller (Exeter), Scott Newlands (Edinburgh), Fergus Pringle (Edinburgh), Craig Smith (Edinburgh), Stevie Swindall, Fergus Thomson, Dan Turner (all Glasgow Warriors), David Young (Leicester Tigers), plus one more player who will be selected later this month.

A few names I haven’t heard of I have to admit, but most of them are the usual suspects. Injuries to the main squad have I think weakened the A team’s potential player pool, but hopefully it will give the coaching staff (disappointingly not Robinson and Lineen?) a chance to blood some of these younger players in a more competitive international environment. Alan’s old pal Di Rollo sneaking in there is interesting, he could form a good partnership with Dewey in the midfield if either are on any sort of form…

Scotland Squad to Tour Argentina Announced

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

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

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

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

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

It’s All Good News for Edinburgh

Ospreys 18 – 19 Edinburgh

Edinburgh sneaked victory away to the Ospreys in a last minute nail-biter (this side of the border anyway). Edinburgh were definitely worth the win, with both sides alternating between throwing it about and throwing it away. Nick De Luca was a deserved man of the match – and it looked like he would be man of the match on the losing team, until a 3 or minute spell at the close where Edinburgh refused to let the ball die, and refused to finish without scoring another try. One lucky bounce later and Edinburgh edged it by a point, to resounding boos from the home fans, and the delight of (miracle-worker?) Andy Robinson who had been frustrated by some of the decisions to that point. Answers on a postcard (but not in the comments section please) as to precisely which word it was that caused the ref to give a penalty against De Luca though. Edinburgh currently sit in third in the Magners League, and with immediate neighbours Munster (hopefully preserving their strength for the Heineken Cup final) and Llanelli (in disarray after the sacking of Phil Davies this week) to play each other tomorrow, it is not inconceivable Edinburgh could still finish in the top 4. Who would have thought that at the start of this season?

And so according to BBC Sport Chris Paterson’s European adventure is over, with the Gala man set to return to Edinburgh after only a year away at Gloucester in which he didn’t get picked much, and – shock horror – missed the odd kick. One or two contributed to Gloucester’s exit from the Heineken Cup, so you can see why the Kingsholm faithful didn’t have much patience… Here’s hoping he settles home again and finds some good form under Andy Robinson. I wonder if he’ll join Gregor Townsend’s stand-off class with Al Warnock, Phil Godman and David Blair…?

Scottish Players sign on the dotted line

According to BBC news, Kelly Brown, Dan Turner and Thom Evans have all signed new contracts with Glasgow. In slightly more exciting news, Jim Hamilton has finally left Leicester and signed a 3 year deal to bolster Edinburgh’s second row, in a move that has been rumoured for some time. It’ll do him good to get more game time, and he will no doubt help with Edinburgh’s power up front.

Worryingly, there is no word on Mossy’s future at Gloucester, despite everyone and their grandma signing new contracts at Kingsholm (including Scotland’s other famous Als, Dickinson and Strokosch). With incoming Olly Barkley providing a solid kicking boot – not to mention cover at 10 – next season, will he be seen as surplus to requirements?

MEGA UPDATE: at the exact moment I chose to upgrade the site’s software and kill it, it was announced that Chris Paterson will be returning to Edinburgh next season. Initial thoughts are that this won’t be great news for either Phil Godman or Hugo Southwell, if he is indeed to be used to play at 10 or 15 as has been proposed. More likely they’ll get short of wingers and chuck him out there, just to get his kicking boot on the pitch. Sound familiar? More on this over the weekend, I’m off to watch the Edinburgh game on TV. Apologies for any ongoing technical blips.

Heineken Cup Round-up

London Irish 20 – 9 USAP / Perpignan

Hines and Cusiter had a good start, with Cusiter in particular rescuing Percy Montgomery from a few classic Percy moments under high balls etc, but Irish piled on the pressure as the match wore on, and consequently ran out the winners. Hines kept his discipline, indeed what could easily have been an ill-tempered affair only really spilled over in the dying minutes, and for once big Nathan was far from the action.

Gloucester 3 -16 Munster

Paterson (starting on the wing) had a shocking start, missing two bread-and-butter kicks and one tricky one, which seemed to unsettle him for the rest of the game. Substituted after 55 minutes. You wonder what lies in his future at Kingsholm if he’s no longer considered a kicker, given the presence of Lamb at 10 and plenty of pacier/bigger depth in the back three. It is unlikely that he will have experienced anything like the high pressure of European knockout rugby, in an atmosphere created by such devoted fans as Munster and Gloucester posess, but I hope he will get a chance to do so again, and am sure he will bounce back. Lawson marshalled his forwards as well as he could but made a few poor decisions early on that led to turnovers and could in fact have led to worse. No sign of Strokosch (or Dickinson), and to be honest they could have done with Stroker’s physicality up front, considering the size of the hits even the Munster centres were putting in from start to finish. Dean Ryan will not, one suspects, be too happy.

Saracens 19 -10 Ospreys

No Nikki Walker due to injury, and SuperGordo is absent from the bench for Saracens.

Toulouse 41 – 17 Cardiff

No Scottish interest here either. So I can post this article now, rather than tomorrow. I’ll update it with the scores as and when.

UPDATED:

Scores posted above. Semi Finals will be as follows: London Irish v Toulouse and Saracens vs Munster on the weekend of the 25th April. Not a Scot in site, unless you count uncapped but eligible Sarries prop Nick Lloyd, or Marcus di Rollo makes an appearance for Toulouse in a random display of rashness by Guy Noves. Stranger things have happened.

DOUBLE UPDATED:

As Giorgia pointed out, Mossy is taking a kicking (sorry) on the Gloucester Forum. Interesting, a Worcester fan posting there claims to have heard rumour linking him to the Warriors (Worcester that is) next season. Interesting. I wonder if a lack of pressure – and a better chance of first team games with Shane Drahm heading off to Japan – would suit him more, assuming they escape relegation.

Transfer rumblings, Magners League Round-Up

Edinburgh defeated Connacht on Friday to move into 3rd spot in the Magners League for a day, securing a 4-try bonus point along the way after the Irish team maintained parity up to the half way point. After Munster’s win over new boss Matt William’s Ulster, they leap frog into 3rd with a game in hand and start building the momentum as only they know how.

Glasgow struggled against league leaders Leinster and failed to do their east-coast counterparts a favour as Leinster forged on in their challenge to secure the title, seeing them nearly ten points clear. Next weekend sees Edinburgh play Cardiff and the Scarlets play Leinster in match-ups that could well affect how the top of the table looks come the end of the season.

Suggestions on the Scotsman website are that both pro-teams could be looking to bring some exiles home, in Edinburgh’s case the long mooted Jim Hamilton move from Leicester, and much more interestingly Mark McMillan from Wasps to Glasgow, who in this blogger’s opinion are in fairly urgent need of a class scrum half. McMillan has been on fire for Wasps in Reddan’s Six Nations absence and would make a valuable addition to the team. Expect him to make an appearance alongside either Cusiter or Lawson in the Churchill Cup squad.

Cipriani’s chance turns to a Pumpkin…

Breaking news today that Danny Cipriani, the new Wunderkind of English rugby, has been dropped from the English squad to play Scotland this coming Saturday. According to reports Cipriani was seen sneaking out of a nightclub after midnight and Brian Ashton has taken the hump with Cipriani’s late night escapade and has dumped him out the squad. Cipriani will now line up for Wasps at the weekend.

Reports that Cipriani was seen canoodling with Jodie Marsh on the back of a giant pumpkin pulled by a team of mice in waiters jackets have yet to be confirmed…

For the benefit of the scottishrugbyblog.co.uk lawyers that last comment was for humorous purposes!

Over and out…
Al

Dreigiauing the Bottom of the Barrel

Don’t forget, Edinburgh vs Dragons is on BBC2 Wales (channel 991 on Sky Digital if memory serves) tonight from 7pm. Edinburgh are fielding a pretty decent team (including Rennie, De Luca and Godman) that should be in with a shout of getting a win, although the Dragons are looking for their double over Edinburgh this season, having won at Murrayfield in October when Andy Robinson was only weeks into the job.

In other news, it turns out Gregor “Toony” Townsend has begun to coach the Edinburgh backs one day a week, in particular focusing on imparting his 82 caps worth of knowledge to the Edinburgh standoffs Blair, Godman and Warnock. More positive news coming out of the Edinburgh camp. Although I can hear Al choking on his lunch from here. Let’s just forget about the national team for a week and hopefully we’ll be rewarded with a victory tonight!

Also diminutive ball-ferret Donnie Macfadyen makes a long-awaited comeback for Glasgow vs Ospreys tonight in a game refereed by a Mr J Kaplan (with the Super 14 trialling the ELVs, I suppose all the officials currently north of the equator are kept here even in the off weeks to avoid confusion). Here’s hoping there are soon three dedicated open-sides for the Scotland selectors to choose from – all the best to Donnie and the Glasgow boys tonight.

Apologies for the appalling pun in the title, but you’d expect nothing less from us by now.

UPDATE WITH TONIGHT’S RUGBY RESULTS:

Dragons 10 – 10 Edinburgh
Not the most stunning of games, but the wind was pretty appalling. The Dragons failed to capitalise on the wind advantage in the second half and put Edinburgh away, but Edinburgh possibly should have made more of chances in the first half. Cairns scored a good try and World Class Phil was as sparky as the weather allowed, but worryingly Nick De Luca may have picked up an ankle sprain which led to his substitution on the first half.

Glasgow 9 – 6 Ospreys
Caught the end of this on Internet radio, Glasgow sounded like they were putting up a good fight (Moray Low especially) exciting finish although again not much of a try fest, and again very poor weather. Macfadyen made it through 62 minutes before coming off for John Barclay, and the crowd sounded in good form too. However I was a little concerned at all the BBC Scotland reports of Moray Walker and Edinburgh playing the Llanelli Dragons. Come on, guys.

Scotland Rugby Player doesn’t fail doping test, fills in form wrong

News is just breaking that a Scotland Rugby Union player has failed a drugs test of some sort. As if things weren’t bad enough… anyway we’ll avoid unhealthy (and possibly actionable) speculation and bring you more news as we get it, so keep an eye out!

UPDATE: The BBC are reporting that a player has been retrospectively cleared following some sort of form-filling mix up. So we can all put our toys back in the pram now, it just seems like a bureaucratic bungle rather than anything malicious.

UPDATE: Apparently the player involved is Scott Macleod (who is asthmatic) the incident revolves around special dispensation (a T.U.E, or Therapeutic Use Exemption) to use different types of inhaler, and it has already been cleared up to the satisfaction of UK Sport and an independent judicial committee.

If you can find them, maybe you can hire…

… the Scotland A team to play Italy in Venice on the 3rd Feb. The back division looks a bit weaker than the first XV – with the exception of the half-backs – but the pack looks like they’d give the full team a run in an old-fashioned probables vs possibles type match. It is nice to see the likes of Rennie (Bourgoin) and McMillan (Wasps) getting a chance, but I am disappointed prop Nick Lloyd of Saracens hasn’t been given a shout due to his recent form.

Backs: C MacRae (Edinburgh), S Danielli (Ulster), B Cairns (Edinburgh), G Morrison (Glasgow), T Evans (Glasgow), P Godman (Edinburgh), R Lawson (capt) (Gloucester)

Forwards: A Dickinson (Gloucester), D Hall (Glasgow), M Low (Glasgow), M Rennie (Bourgoin), A Kellock (Glasgow), A Strokosch (Gloucester), J Beattie (Glasgow), R Rennie (Edinburgh)

Subs: S Lawson (Sale), C Smith (Edinburgh), C Hamilton (Edinburgh), J Eddie (Glasgow), M McMillan (Wasps), G Ross (Saracens), J Houston (Edinburgh)