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.

Heineken Cup Update

I’ll keep this brief so you can read Al’s awe-inspiring Six Nations preview below. I was going to call this article “Stephen Jones can suck my poop”.

Glasgow managed a narrow victory against Viadana (pop. approx 17,000, and led by Al’s boogeyman Kaine Robertson), but no sign of the 4 try bonus point that was so vital if they are to fluke their way out of the group stages. Especially with Saracens going so well (5 points against Biarritz), Glasgow will need to get a bonus point victory against them next week. This group could go down to the wire next weekend. Brown, Barclay and Beattie looked like they might have picked up a few knocks though…

Edinburgh weren’t given a hope by anyone against Leicester after a 39-0 drubbing in the away leg – so I’m looking forward to seeing the highlights of that one on Sunday night as they outplayed the Tigers and emerged thoroughly victorious! 5,800 people turned up and Radio Leicester thought only about a thousand were travelling support, so hopefully the crowds will keep improving. With Parks not amazing against Viadana while Godman scored a try and kicked accurately, could World Class Phil once again be the saviour of Scottish standoffery?

Please leave some comments if you are an actual human being, but spammers don’t bother I only delete them!

Review of the Year

Happy New Year from all here at the Scottish Rugby Blog!

Well, that’s 2007 out of the way. And while we don’t like to dwell in the past much (unless we get to live in 1990 all the time), here’s a look back at some of our personal highlights of 2007.

The Six Nations and the Heineken Cup of last season were pretty disappointing. 6 minutes of separation from some of the first XV’s brain cells against Italy and it went very wrong indeed. Phil Godman’s career has only just begun to recover, and Chris Cusiter had to go and live in France. At home and in Europe, Glasgow were good in patches, while Edinburgh Rugby turned into the lamp-post in some sort of farcical pissing contest between the SRU and the Carruthers brothers. Who would have thought that you would be glad to see Edinburgh back under central control? We also lost the Borders, depriving Scotland’s rugby heartland of pro rugby.

However this season, things are starting to look up. We have the most settled squad and coaching team of any nation together with some young talents straining to be unleashed on the bigger stage. Both remaining pro teams having beefed up their squads, and a large number of our other players are now further afield playing high stakes, high intensity rugby with real pressure for places – and only some of them from the bench. Andy Robinson seems to be making an effort to build bridges with the rugby community in Edinburgh, while Sean Lineen already has a committed if small support and a win against Biarritz (should’ve been two) under his belt. A home win against Saracens could see them through to the Heineken Cup knockout stages. 6,200 people turned out for the derby match last weekend – might the Scottish public finally be paying attention?

Al in St EtienneRugby World Cup 2007 – who says the French can’t do hospitality? French lads handing out booze from rucksacks, locals looking on in bemusement and waving saltires from their balconies, Le Glasgow providing a bewildering blend of Scottish craic, French cuisine and crazy German beer so potent that Rory Lawson couldn’t hold on to his pen. And that was just St Etienne. Okay so we didn’t get to the semis and we could have. (Should have?) But it was my first World Cup in person, we met a bunch of the squad and generally had a whale of a time, best summed up by attached photo of Al augmenting the local sculpture.

Other highlights of the World Cup:

Chris Paterson is the world’s best kicker. Despite what the Sunday Times might think.
Japan’s tries against Wales. Forget the yankee dude skinning Habana, this (one of two) was the best of the Tournament. [youtube link]
The day the Northern hemisphere kicked back. New Zealand and the Aussies finally found common ground – both going out in the same day. Due to a misreading of the draw Al and I found ourselves cheering for England in some Firkin Bar in Paris, laughing as our southern cousins ordered magners at €7 a pop. As it turns out in the end I was unable to stop myself from cheering England on, and the scenes later that night in Paris – when France did the unthinkable and killed the king before the coronation we had all been assured – were unforgettable.
England not winning the World Cup. Despite having garnered a fair amount of good will (see previous item) it would have been a bit of a travesty if a team showing nothing in the way of previous form for 3.5 years had suddenly come out “the best in the world” and then gone on about it for the next 4 years. Justice, I feel, was served by a Springbok team that had the belief AND the skill. I am however gutted Bobby Skinstad didn’t get a chance to play in the final. It would have made a hell of a movie.
The Minnows Spread the Word, and the Word is Rugby. Any tournament that gets football crazy countries like Argentina and Portugal talking about Rugby is to the benefit of the game. It is a bonus that they did so by producing spirited performances in Portugal’s case, and in Argentina’s by punching so far above their perceived weight that it may alter the structure of world rugby.Here’s to the next one.

Tune of the Year: Industrial Revolution Pt II (Orchestral) – Jean Michel Jarre. Instant France flashbacks.

Man of the Year: Chris Paterson. For kicking 19 from 19, and also for talking to me and Al – and many other Scotland fans – when he could quite easily have been in his hotel bed asleep.

Man of Next Year: Nick De Luca. Undoubtedly, you didn’t hear it here first. Or if you’re more of a forwards man, Ross Rennie, John Barclay or Moray Low…

This year we aim to grow the blog into your number one source for chat and opinion regarding Scottish Rugby, so here’s to 2008! Stick with us, and please let us know any suggestions you may have about the blog.

Who Dares Wins

Unless you lose. Not that we endorse wanton gambling or anything, but James at the Rugby Blog has been in touch to say that they’re running an offer in conjunction with Betfair offering you good deals on Six Nations betting. So if you think that Marcus Di Rollo will win the most Man of the Match awards or you think Chunk will be the leading try-scorer of the Six Nations, why not follow this link and put your money where your mouth is? There are prizes and everything.

Also I should probably mention the sterling performances put in by our pro-teams last weekend. When Biarritz fluked a result against Glasgow I felt almost as gutted as when the Argies knocked us out of RWC ’07 – only at least the Argies deserved to beat us. So that’s the performance we asked for in my last post – even Sean Lineen thought they had won in the interview he gave afterwards on the radio. John Barclay also made me reconsider my choice at 7 in the fantasy XV I posted a while back. Meanwhile Edinburgh made Leinster look like, well, Ireland, and got the win that we asked for too. Robinson seems to have put a bit of steel in the Edinburgh team, and I like it. All I need now is some snow and it’s a merry Christmas.

In other unexpected news (“cruelly” ignored on the Rugby Club yesterday) Frank Hadden got a new contract for 12 months or more, presumably any extension depending on what’s happening with the SRU this time next year rather than if he’s been any good or not. Brian Ashton got a similar deal from the RFU, which was a less certain outcome – though probably the right one. Give them both a chance at a complete World Cup cycle – all the 6 Nations are going through upheaval of one sort or another, hell Scotland are practically the most settled team, and injuries have taken care of a couple of players who were treading water perhaps forcing Hadden into a more adventurous selection policy. So Hadden, Ashton – I wonder if Betfair will give you the odds on who lasts the longest?

‘Mon the boys

Here’s to the Scottish teams doing well this weekend. This means a win for Edinburgh on the Saturday against Leinster, and a decent game (bonus point) for Glasgow on Friday. If Parks kicks his touch and Biarritz forget to turn up again though, it could be the shock of the tournament. Both games are on Sky (red button Friday night for Glasgow, or you can watch Nikki Walker make Ulster look bad again) so if you can’t make it to Biarritz (ahem) or Murrayfield then watch it on the TV! If you prefer not to watch Edinburgh vs Leinster, Chris Cusiter is due to start for Perpignan alongside big Nathan (and Percy) in the match against London Irish, also on Sky Sports red button.

Player Watch: No appearances tonight for Jason White or Rory Lamont in Sale’s win over Bayonne. So Rory was unable to extend his 7 tries in 6 games streak – I suppose from St Andre’s point of view, why play him at full-back when he’s a try machine on the wing? However Scott Lawson finally got a wee run in Sale colours, and though wasn’t able to do much he made a few good tackles and his line-out throws were spot on.

Also thanks to our first commenters on the blog, here’s to many more!

How do you solve a problem like Murray-a (field)?

Murrayfield

“I’ve watched enough games involving their sides, to wonder what they actually bring to the event, because Murrayfield is like a morgue. Edinburgh and Glasgow have achieved very little over the years, and if there was any move to set up a British league in the future I don’t think that anyone would be rushing to sign up the Scottish sides.” Jonathan Davies, quoted in the Sunday Times

Okay, so he has a point – the Scottish pro sides have woefully under-performed in comparison to their Celtic brethren in recent years. Although setting up a league without the Scots would restrict his ability to mispronounce Malcolm Changleng’s name at every opportunity.

Name-calling and the non-sequitur of his opening sentence aside, the Scottish pro teams remain occasionally competitive (Glasgow beating Cardiff, Edinburgh’s away win at Ulster this weekend), and hold mid table positions in the Magners League without ever really challenging for honours. Couple that with the potential of their respective set-ups and various blends of youth and experience (Lineen with his southern hemisphere muscle, Robinson with Edinburgh’s at times fearless vitality) and it seems clear that the thing that would really help is a decent crowd to watch it all, the famed 16th man that the likes of Munster, Ulster or Llanelli can bring off the bench to help push their side over the line.

Consider Simon Taylor’s decision to move to Stade Francais into a back row that already has Remy Martin, Sergio Parisse and Mauro Bergamasco. Only now getting a game due to injuries to the others, Taylor still chose this over staying at Murrayfield, surrounded by political infighting and poor crowds. You feel the fact that Stade can sell nearly 80,000 tickets for a league game against Toulouse while Edinburgh struggle to get 4,000 for a similar fixture, at home to the Frenchmen in the Heineken Cup, may have had something to do with it. (Although this was a pretty good crowd for Edinburgh, you wonder what would happen if 80,000 people actually tried to turn up at Murrayfield for an Edinburgh match. They’d probably turn them away).

I don’t think getting rid of Edinburgh and Glasgow is the answer to getting well-supported teams. I feel it would create one or two powerful “super” clubs (ala the Old Firm) from the Premier League who the rest of Edinburgh or the Borders (and to a lesser extent Glasgow) would more than likely refuse to get behind, splitting along parochial lines, which was a problem highlighted in the demise of the Borders. Surely city based teams with no fixed club-based allegiance are the only way forward in Scotland, but they should work with the Premier League clubs, sharing players, coaches etc and Andy Robinson certainly seems to be trying to take steps to build such bridges where the SRU have tried and failed. Perhaps his credentials at club level with Bath give him credibility the SRU cannot muster.

Variously – and only in relation to club games it seems, as the atmosphere is fine on international days – Murrayfield is described as a tomb, a mausoleum, a coffin. The SRU somewhat wistfully try to convince us it’s a castle. But never a cauldron, like the Stade Geoffrey Guichard in St Etienne that managed such a ferocious atmosphere with only 30,000 people – a stadium incidentally designed like an English football ground. But Glasgow play at a smaller football ground, and they suffer from similar problems so it can’t just be that the stadium is crap. Indeed the problem may be that Murrayfield is far from crap – it boasts world-class facilities, already paid for by the SRU. Why pay out more money (that they don’t have) to move permanently?

Okay then, how about a temporary move?

It seems if Munster and the Crusaders can remain highly successful whilst still farming out the odd home game to Cork or Nelson (the Crusaders have even touted hosting games in Melbourne in the past) then surely Edinburgh or Glasgow could spread the game in their own respective catchment areas to try and build a fan-base, and perhaps prove to the SRU that there is support for the game in other areas. It worked for internationals held in Aberdeen and Perth, would it work for club games? There has been a lot in the press this weekend regarding Scotland’s poor attendances, with various solutions offered. Netherdale has been touted by Allan Massie as somewhere with the facilities to host an Edinburgh game that is closer to Edinburgh than Cork is to Limerick. And the people of the Borders might even turn up en masse just to spite the SRU for closing down their own poorly supported pro team, the Reivers.

I live in the North of Scotland, so a trip to Edinburgh every weekend is tricky for a man without a car or a bottomless wallet, but I go to matches when I am in Edinburgh, I went to France and watch as much as I can on TV. I am a Scotland rugby supporter, but feel powerless in this instance other than badgering my Edinburgh-based friends to go along. So I’ll watch the STV show on a Sunday, I’ll keep on posting and I’ll keep on saving up to go to New Zealand in 2011. But if you get the chance to go along and watch, why don’t you?

Apologies for the appalling pun in the title. I was going to try and shoehorn Brian Moore in to make it Moore-ia, so you should think yourself lucky.

UPDATE: Just noticed this on the Edinburgh website – I wonder if Robinson has been on at them, or if this is part of a new strategy:

“Nevertheless it proved to be a productive weekend for everyone involved in rugby in the Scottish capital and, we will regularly promote the local club games involving our players as we strive to strengthen the bond between Edinburgh Rugby Club and the rugby clubs of Edinburgh.”

Heineken Cup Player Watch AND Pro-Team Round Up

Slim updates all rolled into one this week – I had a busy weekend! I also got a chance to watch STV’s new rugby programme imaginitively titled “Scotsport Rugby” which happens on a Sunday around 6, for those of you that have missed out so far. While I’m still not sure who Richie Gray is, it’s good to see Rugby back on the telly in Scotland, and I think it’s something we should all get behind.

Leicester 39-0 Edinburgh

Leicester were up 15-0 after 15 minutes, with a new strategy from Loffreda that seemed to involve offloading before/in the tackle, and Edinburgh being crap. Still, a Leicester team more interesting to watch would be no bad thing. Goode’s kicking was anything but, which kept Edinburgh in sight, but they compounded their lack of possession with errors and penalties for holding on and Leicecster’s pressure proved too much to bear for Robinson’s men.

Edinburgh seemed to perform better in the second half – not least when reduced to 13 men, but never quite pulled together enough to penetrate Leicester’s defence (even when the Tigers fell asleep towards the end of the game).

Once again, a Scottish team show an inability to perform two weeks in a row – disappointing.

Glasgow 41-31 Viadana

Closer than you would hope, Glasgow let them get back to 24 all before closing the game out. Still, it shows high standards that Sean Lineen is still not happy with a bonus point win. Reports describe that
Glasgow were pretty sloppy.

Player Watch

Mossy got a whole half an hour on the pitch for Gloucester and made a good account of himself at 10, during which they closed out a close game against the Ospreys. Rory Lawson was once again very good, and Nikki Walker also had quite a good game for the Welsh team in the first half at least before it tightened up. Al “Stroker” Strokosch was lucky not to be sin-binned/sent off for a sneaky trip though.

Perpignan vs Treviso, Chris Cusiter got his first start for USAP, while Hines came off the bench after his sin-binning last week

Rory Lamont scored two tries for Sale in their Challenge Cup Victory. Look for him (on the wing, sadly) in Sale’s match vs Worcester live on TV on Thursday, no doubt we’ll see Luke McAlister winging
lots of miss passes to him on his debut for Sale. Please note, we do not condone the use of a miss pass as an effective attacking tactic.

Still no sign of Simon Taylor in Stade Francais 22 for their defeat to Bristol(!), but with Parisse and Bergamasco both picking up leg injuries he might get a chance for some game-time soon!

Next Heineken Cup weekend 7th-9th December, both sides are being shown: Edinburgh vs Leinster and Glasgow vs Biarritz. Start bricking it now.

Pro Team Round-Up

Edinburgh 15-19 Toulouse

Edinburgh were unlucky to lose this one – if David Blair had kicked a few more points this game would have been a first major scalp for Edinburgh. However, it’s unfair to lay the blame for what might have been at the foot of the diminutive Edinburgh fly-half, as this was another reasonably assured performance from him, and in general Edinburgh handled well with far fewer knock-ons and dropped balls than we are used to. There were still a few turnovers at the breakdown which they will be worried about, but a refreshing unwillingness to kick showcased a young Edinburgh team unafraid to throw it about a bit: backs and forwards alike offloading in the tackle and moving forward with zest. Nick De Luca scored a great try – going past Jauzion in the process – proving that he is developing as a centre offering a genuine attacking threat born of pace and speed, rather than brute strength.

Saracens 33-31 Glasgow

Parks early penalty gave Glasgow a lead, but from then on it was a case of weathering the first half storm. Thom Evans went off with a head knock, depriving the Warriors of some zip on the wing, and Saracens seemed to have all the luck from that point. Glasgow came out fired up in the second half and clawed back 6 points through Parks, but Farrell seemed to be orchestrating slick attacks all over the park and it wasn’t long before Saracens had stretched the lead again, by seemingly too great a margin for Glasgow to come back from. Glasgow never gave up though with late converted tries from O’Hare and Al Kellock securing a well deserved bonus point and causing jitters amongst the home support. Five more minutes of pressure and Parko might have drop-goaled a sneaky victory, but alas (again) Glasgow are searching for a victory against Saracens.

It is heartening to see the pro-teams still (or in some cases starting to) play with spirit and determination even when facing defeat. Soon though, they will have to start getting results.

From Behind the Couch – Heineken Cup Preview 2007

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So, the rugby World Cup is over and attention once again turns to club rugby, in particular this weekend sees a start to the European competitions, the Challenge Cup and the ever more popular Heineken Cup (H-Cup for beer-averse readers in France). If some of the club sides can slip off the shackles of recent international playing styles then there could be some cracking rugby played, and that’s why we’re all here really isn’t it?

Are the English and French clubs too powerful in every sense of the word? Will a Scottish team win a game, let alone progress to the group stages? Will Steven Berkoff recite some Shakespeare to get Sky viewers pumped up?

Edinburgh Rugby

Once again Edinburgh find themselves in a pool of death. Once again with Toulouse. This year, however, they find themselves without a host of the internationals they fielded last season – moved to pastures new – a beefed up front row with Ross Ford in at hooker and a fledgling back division looking to try and find a cutting edge for Scottish rugby. Even if they pull off three wins at home (the mostly empty Murrayfield) they still face the monumental challenges of winning away at either Toulouse or Leicester’s Welford Road, and the marginally-easier-but-still-a-little-tricky Leinster, who will be looking to make amends for the Irish backs poor showing in the World Cup. Will Andy Robinson have a successful cup run? Instinct says no, but if he’s looking to blood young talent – in Blair junior he may have a standoff who can kick goals and run an attack – it may just prove beneficial to Scotland in the future.
Players to watch: David Blair, Nick De Luca, Simon “Malkovich” Webster.

Glasgow Warriors

Of the two, Glasgow have more of a chance if they can win all their home games and maybe sneak an away win somewhere other than Viadana. Glasgow played Saracens several times last year and came close, but the Glasgow squad is a lot stronger this year with Gibson and Fa’atau as well as a few Borders strays, and Parks seemingly on a run of confidence following some good World Cup performances and kicking Ulster to death last week. They are an outside chance to sneak out of the group if they can beat Saracens (twice?!), but I don’t know how far they can go after that.
Players to watch: Dan “Parko” Parks, Thom Evans, Darryl Gibson

Although the two Scottish pro-sides are unlikely to progress out of the group stage (though we live in hope), there may still be Scottish interest available in the later stages, so we’ll do our best to keep you updated.

This weekend (all TV matches on Sky Sports) you can see:

Thursday 8th

Sale v Montpellier 7.30pm Challenge Cup – can Rory Lamont keep up his recent try scoring run for Sale, not to mention his place in the team? Jason White returns to the team, Lamont may earn a place on the bench after coming back from an ankle knock. No sign of Scott Lawson in the team. Lots of other

Friday 9th

Ulster v Gloucester 8pm Heineken Cup – Paterson, Lawson, Strokosch, Dickinson may feature, though Paterson seems once again resigned to fate as a goal kicker and utility back rather than the stand-off he was rumoured to be signed as. But with the mercurial Ryan Lamb in the 10 shirt he’d have his work cut out to pin that position down anyway. What might have been, Ryan. Rob Dewey and Simon Danielli may feature for Ulster.

Perpignan v Dragons (Sky Interactive) 8pm Heineken Cup – Will Chris Cusiter get a game after his start against Albi last week? Captain and fellow Scot Nathan Hines should also feature, as may World Cup winner Percy Montgomery. You’d fancy USAP to win this one.

Saturday 10th

Leinster v Leicester Tigers 1pm Heineken Cup – Big Jim Hamilton may get a run in this one, but not much Scottish interest, other than giving the bookies some idea of the points differential Edinburgh may face in the later pool stages. Could be a great game though, so watch it anyway.

Edinburgh v Toulouse 3.30pm Heineken Cup – Can Andy Robinson’s black and red army (as the SRU’s marketers like to put it) pull together the victory they have searched for under his control? They get closer to a result with each passing game, but it seems unlikely with such a young back division facing Toulouse’s class and experience. But that may make them fearless, and the best time to play the French is early on at home. Plus they all get to have a pop at Marcus Di Rollo.

Wasps v Munster 5.30pm Heineken Cup – Another potentially mouth-watering clash between two club giants. Wasps have started the premiership a little slowly, but they (almost) always turn up for European matches.

Auch v Bath 7.45pm Challenge Cup

Sunday 11th

Cardiff Blues v Bristol 1pm Heineken Cup – The strongest team so far in the Magners League, Cardiff will be looking to get a result here and they should manage it at home.

Clermont v Llanelli 1pm Heineken Cup – Scott Macleod may continue his run of fine form in a red shirt, which has till now not really been replicated for Scotland. Bruce Douglas also followed him to this region of Wales, still most likely reeling from the recent death of legend Ray Gravell.

Not on the TV but you might find them on the radio online:

Saracens vs Glasgow (Sunday 3pm, Radio Only) Heineken Cup – Glasgow need to start strong (see above). Fingers crossed!