Category: Pro Teams

In these pages you will find all our articles on Scotlands rugby Pro Teams gathered together, including Edinburgh Rugby and Glasgow Warriors in the PRO12 league and in European rugby competition.

Un Sac Mélangé

Edinburgh 9-7 Stade Francais
at Murrayfield

Mossy once again picked up all the points in what despite the low score was a fairly enterprising display from the home team. Jim Thompson – who must have been emotionally all over the place after the minutes applause for his grandfather the late Bill McLaren – was probably the standout back for me, although it was also hard to argue against Greg Laidlaw’s MoM performance at scrum-half that saw him dart Edinburgh seriously close to the Stade line on a couple of occasions. Jim Hamilton was very industrious for a man of his size and seems to have upped his workrate in the loose considerably. I reckon it could force a tricky decision for Robbo as to the make-up of his pack against France with Al Kellock, Richie Gray and Nathan Hines in good form too. Special mention should also go to returning vagabonds of various descriptions: Malkovich was able to conduct one of his darting runs but with Edinburgh’s new look back row in support he didn’t actually turn the ball over. On the opposition team, Hugo battled valiantly at scrum-half providing a (mostly) crisp service and his new-found versatility may see him on to the bench for Scotland at the very least. Good to see Simon Taylor back from injury too for the last twenty, he seemed to be relishing taking on his old teammates at his preferred position of Number 8 and must have been vaguely perturbed to see a small ginger openside filling the shirt he held for so long. Back in his day they used to work around the Number 8 with Hoggy, Callam and Taylor all competing. These days it is the 7 shirt that hold the embarrassment of riches.

Edinburgh: Paterson, Robertson, Cairns, De Luca, Thompson, Godman, Laidlaw, Traynor, Kelly, G. Cross, MacLeod, J. Hamilton, MacDonald, Rennie, R. Grant.
Replacements Used: Webster for Paterson (52), Houston for De Luca (41), Jacobsen for Traynor (64), Ford for Kelly (52), C. Hamilton for MacLeod (64), Newlands for Rennie (33). Not Used: Young, Samson.

Stade Francais: Beauxis, Gasnier, Messina, Bousses, Camara, Mieres, Southwell, Roncero, Szarzewski, Gerber, Palmer, Pape, Haskell, M. Bergamasco, Leguizamon.
Replacements Used: Bastareaud for Bousses (47), Slimani for Roncero (66), Kayser for Szarzewski (50), Ledesma for Gerber (58), Taylor for M. Bergamasco (52). Not Used: Vigouroux, Barraud, M. Bergamasco.

Scoring Summary
Edinburgh: Pens: Paterson 3.
Stade Francais: Try: Pape; Con: Beauxis.

Biarritz 41-20 Glasgow
at Stade Aguilera

Glasgow played some excellent stuff for 60 minutes, scoring one of the tries of the tournament in the process and putting the expected home victory in serious doubt. With the impressive Richie Gray going off at half time, the under-powered pack was then obliterated by substitutions as the strong Biarritz bench took serious advantage of Glasgow’s second string deficiencies. Sadly Biarritz prop Campbell Johnston is not from Jedburgh – he has an All Black cap, just another antipodean whose parents came over all nostalgic when dishing out the names. Pluses for Scotland though: Thom Evans looks back on form, Low, Kellock, Cusiter and Parks seem to have maintained theirs going into the Six Nations (just keep Dan away from the high ball/pitch) and the three Bs back row was an infuriatingly dominant force at the breakdown for most of the match. Minuses for Scotland: on this display, the second string just aren’t good enough. To be fair though, this is the second string that Glasgow have had for a while and the young players leap-frogging through (Gray, Jackson) look like they will be good enough given game time which must come soon.

Biarritz: P Couet-Lannes; T Ngwenya, A Mignardi, L Tranier, I Bolakoro; V Courrent, Y Lesgourgues; E Coetzee, B August, M Moala, P Taele, J Thion (capt), M Lund, T Hall, I Harinordoquoy.
Replacements Used: Balshaw for Couet-Lannes (66), Hunt for Lesgourgues (54), Hughes for Coetzee (71), Terrain for August (71), Johnstone for Moala (45), Carizza for Taele-Pvihi (67), Alaxndre for Hall (70).
Glasgow: B Stortoni; R Dewey, M Evans, G Morrison, T Evans; D Parks, C Cusiter; J Welsh, D Hall, M Low, R Gray, A Kellock (capt), K Brown, J Barclay, J Beattie.
Replacements Used: O’Hare for Dewey (56), Jackson for Parks (64), McMillan for Cusiter (65), Tkachuk for Welsh (61), Thomson for Hall (59), Turner for Low (41), Eddie for Beattie (59).

Scoring Summary
Biarritz Tries: Coetzee, Ngwenya, pen try, Lesgourgues. Cons: Courrent 3. Pens: Courrent 5.
Glasgow Tries: T Evans, Cusiter. Cons: Parks 2. Pen: Parks 2

Blowing in the Wind

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Ulster 21-13 Edinburgh

Edinburgh failed to deal with the conditions and a determined Ulster pack in a first half when they had the wind behind, leaving them unable to take the win they could probably have claimed with a solid performance into the wind in the second half. David Young had settled down in defence from his earlier over-exuberant Edinburgh appearances but still found his way into the sin-bin early on. Ulster couldn’t really kick the penalties such was the wind (Humphries did attempt one ridiculous banana job that came close), but they excelled in holding on to the ball and depriving Edinburgh of possession. Mossy kicked the few chances they got – for kicking at goal the wind was no real help either – and they went in at half time with a lead. When they finally got possession in the second half they proved particularly adept at holding on to it for more than 20 phases without ever really moving forward despite crash ball runners like Ford and Hamilton. Perhaps aware of his troubles on the pitch and the resultant slaggings off it, Phil Godman was particularly targeted by Ulster with a few big hits and the backline mostly failed to get the ball wide to Visser and Thompson. When they eventually did, a try came for Thompson very similar to last week’s one but Ulster finished the game as they had started, controlling possession and watching Edinburgh huff and puff but go nowhere.

It may be a lack of depth at Edinburgh, but some of the willy-nilly sub-hurling from about 50 minutes onwards is worryingly Hadden-esque – some of the replacements were not quite up to standard and putting them on the park just because you can (especially when removing the likes of Laidlaw) seemed like a backwards step especially when the result is still within reach.

As with the 1872 Cup games, this Heineken Cup campaign has proved to be largely a triumph of content over style. Glasgow and Ulster have the content, and Edinburgh can’t seem to get their style going.

Scotland 6N squad announcement expected on Wednesday!

Bring in the reinforcements!

Panic seems to have hit Martin Johnson. Shontayne Hape?! Well we’re used to this in Scotland.   Every time Scotland sees a decline in talent in certain positions there seems to be a desperate snatch for anyone Scots qualified, by the SRU. While some might question Andy Robinson’s desire to put in a long term plan for Scottish youth there is almost something admirable in his declaration of interest in the long-term progress of Ayr’s Frazier Climo: a man not eligible for Scotland until 2012. Then there is Dan Parks.

The much derided stand-off has been written off more times than his motor (allegedly), but he keeps coming back for more. As Phil Godman struggled to kick himself out of his shadow and was constantly caught with the ball in his hands during the 1872 cup matches against Glasgow, his opposite man, Parks, had put the ball wherever he wanted and ran the game with metronomic rhythm.

While this may have delighted Glasgow fans you could hear the rest of Scotland groaning. Perhaps not because Parks was back in the frame for a Scotland call up but because the transitional period is set to continue at 10, for us. Parks has, at pro level, the ability to control a game but with rumours he is only interested in reaching a 50th cap and his attentions soon turning to Cardiff’s fortunes the future seems unsure.

This creates an interesting situation. Many believe that Kiwi Climo will slide into Parks’ vacated position at Glasgow while calls to sign up Hutton are increasing in Edinburgh. Every outcome suggests a few more unsure years for the fans regarding the Scottish fly-half berth. While it is obvious that the SRU have no problems bringing in a ‘foreign’ player for the two pro teams it creates a fascinating precedent. Do we really want another situation where a Matt Mustchin is called up for a Scotland tour because no young Scottish players are deemed good enough? Do we want another like Boroughmuir’s Fergus Pringle playing on tour for Scotland ‘A’, maybe the most developmental stage of Scottish international rugby, while talented, if not a little inexperienced, kids stay at home like a few seasons ago?

This situation possibly says more about the state of the pro set-up in Scotland, but it is also true that the infiltration of ‘foreign’ players is evident in all aspects of the Scottish game. Almost every premier club in Scotland has at least one player who is not Scottish qualified. Some teams have more than three every game. What this means is that a disparity occurs. If we are being honest, players like Hutton, Jackson, David Blair and even Climo are too good to play amateur rugby every week but what is coming up behind them is not encouraging. What’s more, most clubs are more interested in league positions, cups and getting one over their rivals. Some cynics can say there is not as much concern about strengthening Scotland as a nation as much as there is an internalized drive to make ‘my club’ stronger. There could be some substance to this. Of course there is the by-product of younger players learning from experienced foreigners. This helps, but it becomes much harder when the best Scottish talents are whisked away by the SRU, or worse, head down south to earn their stripes because there are no places north of Hadrian’s dyke.

The age old shocker of a question arises: what the hell do we do?!

Finally, I’ve known a few overseas players who have landed on their feet in this country. What would I do in their situation if I was asked to play for Scotland? Alex Tait is thinking about it. Even if I had a silver fern tattooed on my arse would I take the cap/pay rise/accolades? Maybe. On Tuesday Paul Tito said “If Wales were in massive dire, dire need I’d probably have a think about it [playing for them].” Doesn’t sound like a definite NO, does it?

What would you do?

Edinburgh team for Ulster…Blair to Warriors? And a new blogger!

Ha, gotcha. No, Worcester are the Warriors I was talking about. I refer to an interesting article which on reflection is mostly about nothing (something of a Scotsman specialism sometimes) over at the Scotsman speculating as to the employment future of Mike Blair, which I missed this week. Although arguably not missing him at scrum half specifically, are Edinburgh missing Mike’s cutting edge as he recovers from his ankle injury?

Edinburgh to face Ulster at Ravenhill: C Paterson (capt), J Thompson, B Cairns, J Houston, T Visser, P Godman, G Laidlaw, A Jacobsen, R Ford, D Young, S MacLeod, J Hamilton, S Newlands, A MacDonald, R Grant
Replacements: A Kelly, K Traynor, G Cross, C Hamilton, D Callam, R Samson, N De Luca, M Robertson. Simon “Malkovich” Webster is the spare man for Edinburgh in his quest on the comeback trail.

Sky Sports, k.o 8pm tonight (Friday)

News on the blog front: in addition to myself and Al – who has been busier playing rugby than writing about it recently (that and his laptop broke) – we now have a new blogger on the team who is going to do some bits and bobs for the site, concentrating mainly on the club game in Scotland. Confusingly enough, his name is also Alan (distinguishing nickname TBA) so I hope you will all make him feel welcome when his pieces appear over the next few weeks.

UPDATE: Stade bring the crazy (again): Hugoooooooo set for scrum half vs Bath – does this help Edinburgh’s chances of the result they need? (Thanks to Dougal for the tip – may your balls ever be oval)

Edinburgh Beat Those Winter Blues

Edinburgh 21 – 12 Cardiff Blues

Edinburgh finally woke up as a team for the first time in a month or two to provide the sort of display the hardy faithful at Murrayfield were growing accustomed to at the start of the season. Gone is the 1872 Cup and most likely the chance of Heineken Cup glory but the capital team still have a chance for an end of season playoff spot, which after second last season should really be a minimum expectation. This win puts them in third for now, but Leinster now have 2 games in hand (one against Connacht) while the rest of the league have one due to all the postponements this weekend.

The try drought was eased by a couple of cocky darting breaks from the impressive Rory Hutton who brought a spark to Edinburgh’s attack that allowed indecision to creep in to the Cardiff defence and be capitalised on by the support runners. I thought he looked pretty decent in defence too – Cardiff didn’t send Jamie Roberts at him nearly as much as they should have – with a couple of good tactical kicks. Although his passing was a little haphazard there is no substitute for the will to attack!

Overall Edinburgh dominated in attack and defence for large chunks of the game until discipline threatened to let Cardiff back in late on. Roddy Grant made an interesting looking number 8 but was the usual hive of industry and would surely have been Seren Y Gem but for a late sin-binning, so they gave it to Ross Rennie instead who was at least playing in his proper position. Jim Hamilton looked twice the player he was last week (he made Ford’s lineouts look a lot better for starters) and both Ford and Chunk made their usual excellent contributions in the loose, including a scything Mike Blade-style break from the base of the ruck from the prop that could only be described as epic.

Pro Teams for the Weekend (Weather Permitting)

Assuming the games go ahead as the freezing weather continues (a couple of Magners games have already been called off), here are the teams to take the field in Dublin and Edinburgh respectively.

Glasgow Warriors to face Leinster: Bernardo Stortoni, DTH van der Merwe, Max Evans, Graeme Morrison, Thom Evans, Dan Parks, Chris Cusiter, Jon Welsh, Dougie Hall, Moray Low, Alastair Kellock (capt), Richie Gray, Kelly Brown, John Barclay, Johnnie Beattie.
Replacements:
Fergus Thomson, Kevin Tkachuk, Dan Turner, James Eddie, Colin Gregor, Ruaridh Jackson, Rob Dewey.
(Probably on BBC Radio Scotland, Friday night).

Edinburgh team to face Cardiff: Chris Paterson (capt), Jim Thompson, Ben Cairns, John Houston, Tim Visser, Rory Hutton, Greig Laidlaw, Allan Jacobsen, Ross Ford, David Young, Jim Hamilton, Scott MacLeod, Alan MacDonald, Ross Rennie, Roddy Grant.
Replacements:
Andrew Kelly, Kyle Traynor, Craig Hamilton, Scott Newlands, Ross Samson, Nick De Luca, Mark Robertson.
(Live coverage on S4c, Saturday from 6pm-ish)

Can’t say I’m not a little intrigued to see what Hutton can do, given what is a massive opportunity for him… but I wouldn’t expect miracles straight off the bat. Highlights of both games are also on STV as usual on Sunday. Given the lack of games this weekend they will presumably pad by talking about either the upcoming 6 Nations or perhaps porridge: ie the new Scott’s limited edition packets that are to feature Ross(y), Mossy and Thom. Hopefully this will help boost the sport at breakfast tables everywhere, especially during the current wintry spell. Speaking of, um, spelling, can someone tell me when they changed the spelling of porridge?

UPDATE: The Leinster vs Glasgow game has been called off due to late weather complications: more info on the BBC. Glasgow want to sue people given the cost of getting to Dublin has already been undertaken by the team after advice that the game would go ahed… Most of the weekend’s scheduled GP matches are also off, with just a few top flight rugby fixtures still hoping to go ahead including Munster, Leicester and Edinburgh.

Glasgow Win 1872 Cup

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Although I thought it a bit of a damp squib in terms of rugby (the weather can probably take some of the blame) the intensity was definitely there in the festive derby series, with plenty of niggle in the first leg as Glasgow set the standard for intensity, and some stupid yellows in the much better second leg. When we said “more aggression Ross”, we didn’t mean that. In the end it was that intensity mainly at the breakdown that was probably enough to see Glasgow through – they simply seemed to want it more than Edinburgh, and had a clearer plan B (which may actually be plan A) to turn to when it wasn’t on to run it (ie get Dan Parks to kick it). Perhaps with Ruaridh Jackson back from injury and getting a wee run today and Parks off to Cardiff in a few months, Plan A (as Andy Robinson might see it) will get more of an airing. While Edinburgh continue to be try-less and unfortunately not looking like changing it much, a big New Year shout out to Nikki Walker, Scotland’s top try scorer of the year so far having picked up two yesterday for the Ospreys against Cardiff.

So for now Glasgow will be happy to be leading the race for the Magners League title (as reflected on the “marvellous” new splash page where Evans is front and centre!) sitting clear at the top of the table with 8 or so games left until the all important end of season play-offs. With a steely aggressive core at the heart of the team and a solid defence, Glasgow are playing with the sort of heart Scottish fans tend to demand and hopefully it sees them well into the playoffs. As pitches dry up in the spring though I hope the backs will get more ball through the hands – a winning team needs to have more attacking options than ol’ Parko and the cross-field kick, and I get the feeling the Irish teams and Ospreys are soon going to start bringing the big guns in Magners fixtures.

For the Scottish teams it will only get harder, but we like a bit of a challenge, don’t we?

Second Leg Teams / Happy New Year

Happy New Year when it comes. Here is some team news for Saturday for you to digest while your liver recovers:

Glasgow: B Stortoni, DTH van der Merwe, M Evans, G Morrison, T Evans, D Parks, C Cusiter, J Welsh, D Hall, M Low, A Kellock (captain), R Gray, K Brown, J Barclay, R Vernon.
Replacements: TBC (rumour is Ruaridh Jackson may be given a bench slot, but then again may not).

Edinburgh: C Paterson (captain), M Robertson, B Cairns, J Houston, T Visser, P Godman, G Laidlaw, K Traynor, R Ford, G Cross, S MacLeod, J Hamilton, A MacDonald, R Grant, S Newlands.
Replacements: S Crombie/A Kelly, A Jacobsen, C Hamilton, D Callam, R Samson, N De Luca, J Thompson

Glasgow fans interested in going to the game without braving the drive in our current Hoth-like conditions might like to read this from the Glasgow Supporters Club: http://www.glasgowwarriors.com/gwsc/archives/2009/12/edinburgh_bus.html

1872 Cup Preview

It’s the first leg of the 1872 Cup this weekend as matters turn parochial. Brother on brother, blood on blood; Chris on Chris, Thom on Thompson, Brown vs Blair, DTH vs DC, Vernon vs Visser, Cross, Ross and Ross vs Dan, Dan, John and Johnnie, that sort of thing – basically civil war. That sentence would have been a lot easier with Welsh names. The first leg is in Glasgow, the second in Edinburgh and it’s hard to see past the home teams in each fixture. Still, I have a sneaky suspicion that Glasgow will come out the better over two legs.

Edinburgh are struggling (as always) to find a cutting edge and their attacking form seems to revolve around Godman who is treading water at the moment, while Glasgow now seem to play okay even when Parks is having one of his duff days – and even those have been rare recently. While Edinburgh seem to be building a team based on familiarity and combinations, Glasgow seem to be building a team based on leadership (Barclay, Kellock, Cusiter, Thomson, Gregor, McMillan and Grey have all captained Scotland at age group, sevens or international level) and the team seems to be coming together from the increased confidence that brings. Sean Lineen had seen the improvement in Edinburgh and maybe realised he might be under threat if his team didn’t start living up to the promise of the squad he was building having changed from a policy of duff foreigners to promising youngsters, and this season they seem to be repaying him. The “inconsistent” tag still rears its ugly head every so often (second half at Gloucester) but this season they have started winning away, and they just look a lot more confident when their top line-up takes the field. Gallus, you might say.

More importantly – who will the commentators be? Andy Nicol summarises for the Beeb while Scott Hastings summarises AND commentates for Sky. Given they both present on the STV highlights show, I would imagine they will be present, but as pundits, commentators or both? I would imagine it will be the two of them running back and forth between pitchside and commentary booth. Let’s face it STV is short of cash these days so I doubt they can afford to draft in the legendary Runrig soundalike Andrew Cotter (just listen to that tune Murrayfield play at half time, you know, the one about Scotland), and he is probably manacled to the BBC.

Unless STV feels the spirit of Christmas past and signs up Doddie Weir’s all conquering trousers…

Edinburgh Cling On, Glasgow Fall Off

During whiteout conditions at Murrayfield on Saturday where the weather played a larger role than either of the teams for a chunk of the first half, Edinburgh managed to grab a victory against Bath. It was a pity the snow came in when it did, as both teams were showing a willingness to throw the ball about, but when the ball became invisible in a sea of white it became time for a game of Very Cold Hot Potato (mixed in with a little Dead Ants).

Mossy’s boot saved them as it has so often, and while I have often been reluctant to wade in on the whole Mossy at 10 thing, Godman’s form seems to be on the wane while Mossy seems to have gained a yard of pace, gets turned over in the tackle far less and his tactical kicking is miles better than it was and miles ahead of Godman. He’s surely done enough to be the front runner for the Scotland 15 shirt with Hugo a close second (who honestly believed he would be a regular at Stade?), but is he worth a look at 10 for Edinburgh as so many have suggested? (This is assuming Rory Lamont remains in the injury information black-hole he is currently in). While Robbo has been telling anyone who will listen about Scotland’s deficiencies in the 10 position, is Mossy finally worth a shout, having made his tactical game a bit, well, more Dan Parks-esque?

Speaking of Parks, he controlled the game against Gloucester extremely well in the first half while Barclay led the forwards in a masterclass in frustrating the opposition. For a game with so many Scot on Scot match-ups there was plenty of niggle, and no doubt a sign of what is to come next weekend (worryingly for Edinburgh, the Weej seem to excel in this area). Yet in the second half Gloucester came out and pretty much reversed the situation, bullying Glasgow off their 0-6 lead and the ball and sharpening up their attack enough to take the victory. A raft of late-term substitutions probably didn’t help Glasgow – much in the same way as it buggered up Edinburgh last week – with Cusiter going off and replacement McMillan then having to hide at the back with an injury while Gregor filled in at scrum half. This only served to rob Glasgow of Gregor’s running lines and pace from at the back, which they were already short of  with Thom Evans out. The Gloucester Scottish showed up well too with Scott and Rory Lawson and Al Strokosch showing good skills in attack, although Kellock and Gray were all over Lawson (hooker) at the lineout. And one more thing: does Graeme Morrison ever pass? You’d be as well playing Richie Vernon in the centre, who unveiled the pace that has Glasgow abuzz while the rest of us were initially wondering why Beattie was left on the bench in favour of a guy with two first names…

Weekend Teams

Glasgow: Bernardo Stortoni, Dave McCall, Max Evans, Graeme Morrison, DTH van der Merwe, Dan Parks, Chris Cusiter, Jon Welsh, Dougie Hall, Moray Low, Alastair Kellock, Richie Gray, Kelly Brown, John Barclay, Richie Vernon
Replacements: Fergus Thomson, Kevin Tkachuk, Ed Kalman, Dan Turner, Colin Gregor, Mark McMillan, Johnnie Beattie, Colin Shaw

Good mix in the second row and great that Richie Gray is well settled into the Glasgow team now. The wingers get a chance to show what they can do, but leaving off the front line chaps suggests either a) they are injured or b) the ball is never getting that far and Parks is going to try and nick all the points going with his boot. (UPDATE: Turns out it’s a wee knee injury to Evans).

Edinburgh: Paterson, Houston, Cairns, De Luca, Visser, Godman, Laidlaw, Traynor, Ford, Cross, Turnbull, Hamilton, MacDonald, Rennie, Newlands.
Replacements: Kelly, Jacobsen, Young, MacLeod, Callam, Samson, Robertson, Thompson

Bath are targeting this one for a win despite almost being beaten at home last weekend. With “Tony” Blair out injured, it will be interesting to see what happens if/when Godman goes off, word is that Thompson has been asked to consider filling in at 10 before… I’m also interested to see if Rennie has the same impact that Roddy Grant has been having recently… here’s to another flowing game of rugby although maybe a little less self-destruction and a little more confidence in the finishing (Cairns should definitely have been able to finish that break last week) would be nice. Where have I heard that before?

Weekend Teams

Going to be out of Sky range this weekend but hoping to go along to the Heriots game on Saturday if I get a chance. Meanwhile here are the teams announced so far for the weekends action, plenty of Scots all round and some interesting match ups at 2, 6 and 9 in the Glasgow game. Cusiter faces his closest rivals for the national shirt in his next four games – should be interesting to see how he takes them on.

Glasgow: B Stortoni, P Murchie, M Evans, G Morrison, T Evans, D Parks, C Cusiter; J Welsh, D Hall, M Low, R Gray, D Turner, K Brown, J Barclay (capt), R Vernon.
Replacements: F Thomson, E Kalman, K Tkachuk, T Barker, C Gregor, C Forrester, M McMillan.

Gloucester: C Spencer, C Sharples, J Simpson-Daniel, E Fuimaono-Sapolu, L Vainikolo, N Robinson, R Lawson; N Wood, S Lawson, G Somerville, D Attwood, A Brown, P Buxton (capt), A Strokosch, L Narraway
Replacements: D Dawiduik, P Doran-Jones, A Dickinson, A Eustace, G Delve, D Lewis, T Voyce, T Molenaar

Edinburgh: C Paterson (capt), J Houston, B Cairns, N De Luca, T Visser, P Godman, G Laidlaw; A Jacobsen, R Ford, G Cross, S Turnbull, S MacLeod, A MacDonald, R Grant, S Newlands.
Replacements: A Kelly, K Traynor, D Young, C Hamilton, A Hogg, R Samson, D Blair, J Thompson.

Top Of The Table

After Leinster’s failure to topple the ever-improving Dragons at the weekend, the Scottish pro-teams go in to the Heineken Cup break first and second in the Magners League table. So congratulations to Glasgow and Edinburgh for that excellent bit of away points-grabbing, in particular the two oft-abused/unsung 10s David “Tony” Blair and King of Dans Parko Parks who both played pivotal roles. What’s more with only each other to play in the league between now and then, there’s a pretty good chance that one of the Scottish pro-teams will go into the half way point after Christmas atop the table, with the other in close attendance – along with the likes of Leinster and Ulster. It’s really great to see the teams doing so well and heading into the second half of the season with one and possibly both primed for at least a decent chance of a playoff spot come the sharp end.

This weekend attention turns to the Heineken Cup. Both Glasgow and Edinburgh need to win all their remaining games to have a chance of getting anywhere, including a possibly shift sideways into the latter stages of the Amlin Challenge Cup (might be a better bet there anyway!). For Glasgow that’s back to back against Gloucester, then the Dragons and away to Biarritz. All of which is in theory possible based on previous events, but still fairly unlikely for a team that has struggled so often with inconsistency. Still the way they toughed it out against Ulster gives me hope. Going out to the south of France with the weather turning a bit and all to play for could make for exciting times though. Good news for them too that Ruaridh Jackson came through an hour for Ayr (at full-back) on Saturday.

Edinburgh also face a team struggling in the GP, Bath (get Robinson on as a pundit!) before taking on Ulster at Ravenhill and Stade at home. With those wacky Edinburgh guys and their love of shirts that look like a tartan factory threw up and throwing it about in their own 22 anything is possible, but I fear “for zem ze vor is ova” and I reckon they will target the festive derbies for a clean sweep instead, maybe giving David Blair some more game time between now and then – he did pretty well against the Scarlets on Friday night. Or is that defeatist talk? On the Internet the walls have ears. Win against Bath at the Rec and I’ll probably change my mind again.

In terms of TV coverage, according to ERC rugby we get delayed highlights of Glasgow on Friday (this I think means “delayed until the round-up show on Sunday night”) and red button for Edinburgh on Sunday afternoon. What do you reckon – We Are The Champions or Mission: Impossible?