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.

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.

What We Learned in the Autumn

1) We shouldn’t really bother playing New Zealand, ever again. What useful purpose does it serve? It does us little good, and it gives them pointlessly easy grand slams. Think of that, we could scupper their grand slam tours without even playing a match.

2) Scotland now have a scrum that shouldn’t get pushed around. If we could get back our lineout dominance of a few years back we might be a serious threat up front. Bring back Scott Murray?

3) Nick De Luca looks like he is over his 6N hiccup and is now forming a dynamic centre partnership with Ben Cairns that augers well for the future. A lot of our players should hit their playing peak in around 3 years. Many of them already have a solid base of caps and are growing in maturity. We may not be able to just unwrap a new test-ready fly half like the All-Blacks seem to do, but I think we are managing the resources we do have well. Gregor Townsend’s mentorship scheme of the young players is a similarly excellent idea.

4) Mike Blair may be the best scrum half in the world at the moment. He outshone the best the southern hemisphere showed him, even leading a losing team. Euan Murray gave a great account of himself too, although it could be argued he didn’t face NZ’s best scrum combination. Both, along with Lee Byrne of Wales, are certain Lions if their form and fitness continue. Blair now pops up in most people’s World/Lions XVs. (Except for Stephen Jones of the Sunday Times, who picked him in his World XV but not his Lions team. Someone should point out to Mr Jones that Mike Phillips and Gavin Henson are short of fitness and form, and too busy duking it out on the streets of Cardiff to merit inclusion at this stage. Stuart Barnes didn’t pick Murray at tighthead but at least explained his reasoning! And he picked Barclay at 7, kudos.)

5) Ryan Jones is far from certain of a Lions test place, due to the barnstorming performances we have seen from Powell in the Welsh No 8 shirt. The Lions captaincy is still wide open.

5) Commentators still love mispronouncing names. Award of the season goes to John Beattie for “Cleanburger” (Adam Kleeberger of Canada). Rokocoko got a bit of a mangling from the BBC boys as well… Jonathan Davies is not alone.

6) England are having a few problems. They are probably where we were a few years ago, bottoming out on the constant wave of world rugby. Their players and management will take a while to bed in – Martin Johnson is a novice coach, remember. Let’s just hope they get it sorted. In 2012.

7) The second tier rugby nations are still getting screwed by the clubs. While the big unions can buy player release, pity poor Canada who have a core base of amateurs and can’t even get Ander Munro on release from Italy. They should shut off all club play on the continent while the Autum Internationals are on (masterplan for restructuring 4-years rugby cycle coming soon). This would undoubtedly help the likes of Italy, Georgia and Romania whose players fill in when the Frenchies are off playing tests. Georgia could quite easily have played a close full test against similarly ranked Canada rather than them getting pasted by our A and full sides respectively. Georgia might have also been beaten by Edinburgh had the floodlights at Meggetland not failed (poor show).

8) Australia will rise, and soon. Their last two games against Wales and the Baa-Baas were great fun, backed by a steely spine of solid – that’s almost not strong enough a term – defence. We could learn a lot from the Robbie Deans “soak it up then counter” school of thought. They will definitely be a force come 2011. Good job we didn’t get them in our group.

9) World XV based mostly on Autumn performances I saw: Byrne (Wal), Muliaina (NZ), De Villiers (SA), Nonu (NZ), Williams (Wal), Carter (NZ), Blair (Sco), Powell (Wal), McCaw (NZ), Burger (SA), Matfield (SA), Botha (SA), Murray (Sco), Ford (Sco), Woodcock (NZ). Honorary mention should go to the Aussies who showed up with a team rather than some individuals, so I’d pick Robbie Deans as the coach.

10) Wales are still 6N favourites. Behind them it’s a toss-up but Scotland have more than a good chance of making the top three. On current form you might hesitate to say that about England or Ireland. France, as always under Lieveremont are a mystery until they take the field. Frank Hadden has us as dark horses, and for once I’m in agreement with Franky baws. The Scots are coming.

Don’t forget there is Heineken Cup rugby on Sky this weekend again, though no Edinburgh vs Wasps on Friday night. Bath vs Glasgow is on on Sunday. Player watch as usual to follow next week. Oh, and you can add number 11) in the comments section below. We don’t bite.

Scotland Squad and Lions Coaches Announced

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

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

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

Weekend Roundup

Glasgow 9-15 Toulose
In the first half this was there for the taking, but by the time the second half got into its stride so did Toulose, With a couple of moments of typical clinical brilliance from Jauzion and Skrela forcing Glasgow to chase the result, and they actually came very close on a couple of occasions. In a country where wings are now either of the “bulky and powerful” or “dancing feet and turning ball over” variety, Thom Evans is starting to look like the real deal in terms of offering genuine pace to beat people with. The Sky commentators kept blabbing on about his 100m time – reputed to be sub 11 seconds – but in fairness on most of the occasions the ball got to him he displayed it to good effect, and was unlucky not to have added to his tally of tries this season. Even David Strettle said he wouldn’t fancy chasing him down. In addition John Barclay showed that after Mike Blair, he should probably be the second name on the team-sheet with a ferocious display of tackling on the pitch – he almost managed to stop Kelleher scoring a try while simultaneously (accidentally) kicking him in the head – and refreshing candour in the press afterwards. Mention should also go to the officials, who once again let a couple of blatant forward passes go.

Stade Francais 37 – 15 Llanelli Scarlets
It’s not often you see a lock kicking, or coming in at first receiver twice in ten minutes, but Simon Taylor showed up well at 5 during another frightening display of skill from Hernandez and Parisse. With Scotland locks Hines and Macleod currently injured, might Taylor find a place there for Scotland in the Autumn?

Ospreys 15 – 9 Perpignan
A grubby little game now beset by accusations of gouging, so the less said the better. Cusiter was given little to work with in terms of go-forward from his pack but still lacked in attack, preferring simply to distribute (this may be the USAP way). He’s obviously practicing for having Dan Carter outside him, but still.

Castres 6 -13 Edinburgh
To be honest this one should have been out of site with a 4-try bonus point by half time, with Mossy and De Luca butchering a couple of chances as Edinburgh – led by Cairns in the midfield – cut Castres apart seemingly at will. The second half saw Castres come back into it and Edinburgh were forced to defend solidly for large periods, never able to regain the sort of posession that had allowed them to dominate the first half. Godman did reasonably well to keep the backs moving with some brilliant passes moving his players on to the ball at pace, and Robertson showed guts and zip on the wing. Webster had a pretty quiet game though, and may be lucky to get in the Scotland team given some of the form other wingers are in (Lamont, Evans). Hoggy showed up well too and should be in with a shout for New Zealand depending on what Hadden decides to do with Simon Taylor. This was the Edinburgh team we remember from last season, and the team that sold all those season tickets for this year. Welcome back, we hope you stick around.

Other games: MIA Bruce Douglas, it turns out, has been at Montpellier all this time. The French team were the latest on the end of a 5 point hiding from resurgent Northampton Saints. Tom Smith still proved he is the man with a last ditch try saving chase – steaming in ahead of Sean Lamont to get there and clear to touch. Rob Dewey got a whole 12 minutes on the pitch in Ulster’s 42-21 kicking from ‘Quins. Rory Lamont displayed power and control as well as some great full-back kicking skills in Sale’s loss to Munster. Still, it was a great game so we can’t complain too much. The Gloucester boys were unlucky not to come away with something in Cardiff in another great game. Al Strokosch showed up well, but I’m not sure if 7 is the best use of his talents – or if it provides the best supply of ball for Gloucester…

Team News for the Weekend:

IN:
Ben Cairns – Edinburgh – will he combine with De Luca on his return and revitalise Edinburgh’s cutting edge?
Dan “Parko” Parks – Glasgow – will he return Glasgow’s cutting edge or boot everything in sight?
Thom Evans – Glasgow – back from plastic surgery (well, he was in a boy band) to show us if his zip and zest belong in a Scotland shirt. Malkovich look out.
Richie Vernon – Glasgow – young back rower gets his first start of the season. Against Toulose.
Rob Deweytime – Ulster – into the squad vs Quins on Saturday but no guarantee his time in the wilderness is over.

OUT:
Hugo Southwell – Edinburgh – drops right out of the 22
Matt Mutschin – Edinburgh – pays the price for his stupid trip on Kearney and ensuing Yellow Card
Kelly Brown – Glasgow – possibly also paying for indiscipline last weekend
Nikki Walker – Ospreys – out for 3 weeks with a hand injury

SHAKE IT ALL ABOUT:
Phil Godman – Edinburgh – hopes to celebrate his 100th appearance for Edinburgh with a victory at Castres
Dan Biggar – Ospreys – with a name like that he should be playing for Scotland. Rumour has it he had a grandfather in the right place.
Rory Lamont – Sale – continues his run at full-back
Jason White – Sale – still on the bench
Tom Smith & Euan Murray – Northampton – still cooking up a storm in the front row
Sean Lamont – Northampton – finding his way back into form with a try last weekend
Rory & Scott Lawson, The big Stroker and Dicko – Gloucester – all exactly where they were last week as Dean Ryan names an unchanged team.

Glasgow vs Toulose – Sky Sports, Friday night 8pm
Harlequins vs Ulster – Sky Sports, Saturday 3pm
Castres vs Edinburgh – Sky Sports (red button) Saturday 5.30pm
Northampton vs Montpellier – Sky Sports Saturday 7.30pm
Sale vs Munster – Sky Sports Sunday 1pm
Cardiff vs Gloucester – Sky Sports, BBC Radio Wales Sunday 3pm

Heineken Horror!

I’ll keep this brief as the idea of reliving Saturday’s Edinburgh v Leinster match is putting me off my lunch!

Glorious day, sun splitting the sky, a good Autumn wind and, with Mrs Al off visiting relatives, a free pass to go and do with the day whatever I desire.  For once Edinburgh are playing at home at a time that actually encourages attendance, not only that but a 1.30pm ko ensured that I was out and in the pub in time for the second half of the Scotland v Norway snorefest.   So off to fortress Murrayfield I went and to be honest the signs were good!  For once the ticket arrangements were well organised with separate booth for those of us paying cash so no wait in a long queue.  Into the stadium in time for a pint from the well manned (it’s true!!) booze cabins and an almost tasty burger from the stall – really, trips to Murrayfield rarely go this well.  It’s a case of sit where you like with the ticket I have and I get a seat right under the media boxes and a cracking view for the game ahead, find myself surrounded by Leinster fans but they are in good form.  For the first 15-20 minutes this general vibe of positivity was sustained by a good start from Edinburgh…

Those first 15 minutes or so saw Edinburgh press Leinster back and put real pressure onto the lineout. The Leinster lineout was an abomination at times, with lineout after lineout being stolen at the rear by Edinburgh.  You just knew that Edinburgh needed to make the most of the pressure, but all they got was 3 points from a Godman kick.  Sure enough, no sooner had Edinburgh scored than the wheels came off the Edinburgh wagon in spectacular fashion…

TACKLE: “Most forms of football have a move known as a tackle. In most cases this move is one that prevents an opposing player from carrying out what they intend.

The word is used in some contact sports to describe the act of physically holding or wrestling a player to the ground. In other sports, it simply describes one or more methods of contesting for possession of the ball.”

If you happen to be a member of the Edinburgh squad please take note of the above definition (thanks Wikipedia).  For about 15 minutes Edinburgh’s defence was pathetic.   A total inability to tackle or even put in something resembling a tackle cost Edinburgh the game.  Coupling this with a very high line and one missed tackle meant that Leinster were able to break free and score from long range run-ins.  Time after time this happened.  Granted, Leinster benefitted from one of the worst decisions I’ve ever seen on a rugby pitch – the forward pass so far forward the Leinster player was sprinting to Livingston to actually catch it.  Now, the referee was miles away from play so, possibly, can be forgiven, but his line judge was bang in line with it and how he missed it only he will know!  Two moves later Leinster break again, second try and effectively game over.  Gutting as it may have been Edinburgh had no one to blame but themselves.

The second half at least saw some fight from Edinburgh and I’m pretty sure I even saw them put a tackle in.   A wee bit more cutting edge and Edinburgh might have had a chance of recovering, but like the national side, they just seem to lack ideas in the opposition 22.  Fair play to Leinster, they took their chances well but this was a victory they didn’t have to work for.

A couple of final points.  Firstly a word on the Leinster fans, certainly the ones around me, who were great craic and supported their team well – Edinburgh fans could learn from them (i.e. stop sitting on your hands and bein quiet!).  Secondly, praise must be given to Edinburgh for the buy one adult get 4 kids free offer.  Seemed to me a fair number of kids in attendance and hopefully they’ll want to come back; get them young, get them playing and get them passionate for the game. It’s the only way we, as a nation, will get better at this wonderful sport.

Over and out.  Al.

The Heineken Cup starts this weekend

So we wouldn’t be serving you, the Scottish Rugby blog reader (there may only be one of you), correctly if we didn’t give you a run-down on where and when you can catch up with all the Scottish players on show this weekend in the world’s biggest and best club rugby tournament. Last night the junior tournament (without sponsor, so the Challenge Cup thingy as it shall henceforth be known) kicked off with a classy looking Northampton destroying Tana Umaga’s Toulon. Sean Lamont bagged a try, showed up well and the 66% Scottish front row were rampant once again, as was Scott Gray. Perhaps spending a year in the first division learning from Tom Smith could be the best thing that ever happened to Euan Murray. Special mention also to Fitzgerald the Toulon hooker and captain, who also hails from bonny Scotland, although he was mostly outclassed by Dylan “Fists of Fury” Hartley.

Friday

Munster v Montauban: Scott Murray is playing for the visitors who may struggle to win at the revamped Thomond Park. On Sky Sports from 1930 I reckon.
Perpignan vs Treviso: Chris Cusiter, but no Nathan Hines or indeed Dan Carter who is rumoured will start his brief European sojurn vs Leicester in December. Not on the telly.

Saturday

Edinburgh vs Leinster: a must win game for Edinburgh, even at this early stage. The SRU are running a “buy one ticket, get 4 kids in free” offer so if you are in Edinburgh and have 4 kids it could be worth going along. It has the potential to be a cracker. Or a drubbing. Malkovich is back from injury though which may help as Edinburgh field a near full strength back division (minus Ben Cairns). The back row still misses Ross Rennie, but if Connacht can beat a pretty strong Leinster team, then there is always hope. On Sky Sports, ko 1335.
Dragons vs Glasgow: Glasgow have already beaten the Dragons away this season so hopefully they can repeat it. If they play to their strengths they should have no problem but the Dragons have picked up a bit since the teams last met (beating Edinburgh for example). Pity this one’s not on the telly, as it would be nice to see the Evans boys in action, but you can I think get it on BBC Radio Wales. Ko 1430.
Clermont vs Sale: Big Jason and big Rory should be involved in this one (White from the bench) and the heartening news is that following Matthew Tait’s less than impressive start to his Sale career – and injury – Rory Lamont is finally getting a run at the 15 shirt he prefers. On Sky via the Red button, ko 1435
Scarlets vs Harlequins: Scott Macleod’s on the bench for Llanelli, ko 1530 via the red button.
Ulster vs Stade Francais: Hopefully sporting the bitching/utterly tasteless (delete as applicable) new strip, Stade will feature Simon Taylor at 5, his position du jour. Meanwhile, no sign of either Rob Deweytime or Simon “Ice Cream” Danielli (you like those? I just made them up) in Matt William’s Ulster lineup. Sky Sports, ko 1530.
Gloucester vs Biarittz: the Alisdairs Dickinson and Strokosch will both start at 1 and 7 respectively while Rory Lawson is on the bench. Dickinson has looked sharp so far this season, and if Hadden is looking for a mobile prop with good running skills he could do worse. Think Chunk, without the, um, chunk. Strokosch is getting game time in all three back row shirts, which might go in his favour if it came down to a “him or Jason White” type decision for the Scotland 6 shirt but you still want him in the team. Sky Sports, ko 1730.

Sunday

Leicester vs Ospreys: Nikki Walker pops up in his usual position on the wing. Sky Sports ko 1300.

And rest assured, Scotland will feature in the Heineken Cup final this year.

It’s at Murrayfield.

What is going on with Scottish rugby?

It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster over the past few weeks, with more ups and downs on the Scottish rugby scene than the Dow Jones. Firstly we saw Edinburgh put in a storming performance to dispatch Llanelli while Glasgow failed to beat Irish development side Connacht.

Then off the pitch there was a similar mix of good news/bad news with the announcement of Mike Blair’s place on the short list for IRB Player of the Year, followed soon after by Frank Hadden having his mammoth training squad shrunk a little by PRL’s refusal to release GP based players.

Blair finds himself in the exalted company of Shane Williams, Ryan Jones, Dan Carter and Sergio Parisse. Carter’s been very hit and miss in the Tri-Nations, and although he did save New Zealand’s blushes on a couple of occasions I would be surprised if he won. Williams had a near-perfect Six Nations and although Wales underperformed in their first test vs the Springboks, he’s the clear bookies favourite. My personal (biased) choice for recognition would be Blair, who has been Scotland’s best player for a few years now (sorry, Mossy fans). Despite Scotland’s relatively poor Six Nations, when given a chance to play his type of rugby in the second Argentina test, he showed what sort of a leader and inspirational player he could be (perhaps in a Lions shirt too?). So much so that one-time rival Chris Cusiter will (only for the moment, one hopes) have to be satisfied with holding down the Perpignan number 9 shirt, where he will soon hook up with a certain Mr D. Carter…

Then last weekend Edinburgh failed to beat the Dragons – who Glasgow defeated away from home on the opening day of the season – while Glasgow got their season moving again by beating the Scarlets in some style. The emergence of the Evans boys as genuine pace merchants is something that should hearten Scottish rugby fans. Glasgow also competed well against favourites Munster the following weekend, with a conversion the difference that cost them a losing bonus point.

Edinburgh have since followed that up with narrow defeat to Matt Williams’ Ulster team and are looking at a pretty sluggish start to the season. It seems they miss Ben Cairns and Malkovich more than we thought would be possible.

Later in the week we’ll take a look at the world’s premier club tournament, the Heineken Cup.

Friday Night Lights – Except for viewers in Scotland

Chris Paterson returns to full-back tonight while Super Hugoooooo is playing at centre for injury-riddled Edinburgh vs the Llanelli Scarlets, who have lost on trips to Murrayfield the last six times. Given Edinburgh’s recent form, the chance of the Welshmen overturning that record tonight seems plausible, but we’ll hope that is not the case. At this rate Andy Robinson will be borrowing back-row players from Glasgow before long, and rueing Simon Taylor’s departure before he took over. Ross Rennie can’t get back to fitness quickly enough.

Those self-same Warriors from the Weege travel to the Sportsground to face Connacht, a match they will be hoping to win now that Dan Parks has his record and can concentrate on playing rugby again. If the reliance on kicking is a sign of things to come under the new ELVs, Parks may find himself singing Flower of Scotland again before long. Which will delight and frustrate us in equal measure, I’m sure.

Both kickoffs are 7.30pm and you’ll get some coverage on Sportsound, BBC Radio Scotland (available online) from 8pm. You might also get a chance to catch Nikki Walker in action on BBCw, as the Ospreys take on title holders Leinster.

Woops – apocalypse

So what happened at the weekend then? Due to prior commitments to liver destruction at a friend’s wedding I didn’t catch much of the action and I’m fairly sure Al missed it too, that is if he made it home without falling into the river. However from the sound of things the Edinburgh scoreline pretty much speaks for itself. Andy Robinson will have to work hard to turn his team around, as Leinster are only going to get stronger with the addition of Rocky Elsom and others before the teams meet again in the Heineken Cup group stages. Edinburgh’s physios will need to work overtime to restore their pack to its full strength, although hope will be sparked in the news that new signing Jim Hamilton came through his first game back (playing for Watsonians). Glasgow only lost narrowly,so arguably they have less to worry about however their team was mostly at full strength, and failed to close out the game. Parks got a bit flaky as soon as the Magners League points record hove into view, but he did at least claim it, and should be congratulated for that.

In other news, Sean Lamont claimed a try for Northampton even though they lost (and Euan Murray was sin-binned) and Simon Taylor played at 5 again for Stade, where he seemed to be largely reduced to the role of roving ruck guardian rather than actually getting any ball in hand. And the ELVs produced a lot of kicking, or so it seemed based on the highlights I saw. The new ITV highlights show is good value though (Sundays ITV4 6.30pm), with plenty of match action and not too much banter – which let’s face it Sky’s The Rugby Club already does pretty well. More good news came in the discovery that S4C now offers an English commentary on its rugby coverage so no more watching in Welsh for Scottish rugby fans. I suppose it’s a bit of a moot point though, as there is not scheduled to be another Edinburgh or Glasgow match on BBCw or S4C this year.

I’ve also updated the About Us page to include some onformation on the sort of people we’d like to help expand and grow the blog into a bigger and better resource for Scottish Rugby fans, so if you think you might be able to help, have a look.

Scott who?

Good News: Glasgow beat the Dragons, in what is often referred to as “one for the purists” – a fairly unexciting match played in appalling weather. Still, Dan Parks kicked his goals and marshalled Glasgow to a decent away win against a Dragons side who had talked themselves up a bit in the pre-season. Mark McMillan had a shocking start to his second stint at Glasgow with a couple of dodgy passes, but felt his way into the game and was reassuringly solid by the end. Fa’atau and Stortoni looked sharp in attack and there was some solid defending all round in the Glasgow 22. Not really a day for the (Scottish) Evans boys, as although both had a few decent moments it was a bit too wet underfoot for any of their twinkly dancing feet.

Bad News: Edinburgh were outmuscled by Heineken Cup champs Munster. Didn’t catch much of the game save on the radio, but it sounded like they were hindered by poor set-piece and not actually playing until the last few minutes. Ordinarily it would be no bad thing, but we’re starting to expect more from Edinburgh, especially in front of record number of season ticket holders who will be hoping their newfound faith is to be rewarded. After De Luca had a try knocked off they got a bonus point out of it though, due to Mossy’s boot. I’m hoping he will not be relied upon too much as the season goes on.

Other News: Former Border Reiver (and single Scotland cap) Scott Gray put in a storming performance for Premiership returnees Northampton Saints on Sunday, in a game that also saw Sean Lamont’s return to rugby after almost 10 months out. Lamont made a few good runs, looked good under the high ball but in fairness didn’t get much to do in a slightly disjionted game – seems to be the pattern created by the ELVs where an unbalanced line-out becomes a bit of a risk unless you are Munster/Leicester. Northampton is also turning into a bit of a Scot-prop factory with oldest man in the Premiership Tom Smith still toiling ably away, followed by proteges Euan Murray and the oft-overlooked Barry Stewart. Back to Gray though, who put himself about in true Stroker/White style, hammering anything that moved and contributing to a few nice wee moves as required. Hopefully his season will continue in this vein and we’ll be looking at another potential Scotland back row champ. Speaking of which, I’ve a funny feeling I spotted (scrumcap-less) Simon Taylor playing in the second row for Stade’s win against Perpignan (Hines and Cusiter both on from the start). Anyone catch the game on Eurosport able to confirm – I turned over to watch Andy Murray!

An ill-informed look at what lies ahead…

So no sooner has season stopped than it’s up and running again.  A thankfully drama-free summer for Scottish Rugby and the focus (albeit a very limited focus from the nations media) has at least been on developments on the pitch and not in the boardroom.  Not that there has been much going on.  The big name transfers that have been ongoing in the rest of rugby seem to have largely passed by Scottish rugby, with incoming players not being prepared to play for the packet of sweets and a ‘See You Jimmy’ wig being offered by Edinburgh and Glasgow.  Regardless, the Scottish teams have attempted to build on the previous promising seasons and here are my quick thoughts on both:

EDINBURGH – Probably made the biggest signing of the summer by rescuing Chris Paterson from his miserable spell in England (well, it is England so you can kind of understand him being miserable!).  The addition of Jim Hamilton will also add considerable bulk to the forwards (all 19+ stones) so Robinson will no doubt be hopeful that he now has a side ready to kick on.  Last season turned into a sterling effort as Robinson’s impact started to show through in the later half of the season and Edinburgh will be realistically looking to claim their first ever Magners League championship.  They are certainly equipped with some exciting youngsters with a year’s experience under their belts and if they can get a strong start to the season, then come the end of it I think they’ll be there or thereabouts.

As for Europe there is a real opportunity that they could at last qualify from the group stage.  All 4 teams will fancy their chances but Wasps, Leinster and Castres will not be looking forward to a trip to Murrayfield.  Edinburgh are outsiders to qualify but a strong home record coupled with a slice of luck away from home could well see them become the first Scottish side to reach the later stages of Europe’s premier competition.

Predictions

Magners League – chance of the title but more likely a top 3 finish – 3rd

Heineken Cup – Mmmmmm, not sure….ach, early season optimism, 2nd in group.

Glasgow – a fairly quiet summer over in the West Coast.  The arrival of Mark McMillan from Wasps could be a major signing for our Weegie brethren who will hope that he can fill the scrum-half position which has been a troublesome area for some time.  If he can form a relationship with Dan ‘Parko’ Parks then Glasgow may then have attacking verve to trouble opposition defences.  Lineen had a decent season with Glasgow last year and, like Edinburgh, I’m sure he’ll be looking to kick on again and push harder for success in the League.  I don’t think they have the same depth as Edinburgh but Glasgow will certainly be pushing the top teams hard, and with some luck could still be in with a shout come the last run of games.

With regards to Europe I suspect 3rd in the group will be as good as it gets.  Toulouse and Bath will be hot favourites for top slot with the Dragons and Glasgow fighting it out for best of the rest.  I’m sure Glasgow will run both Toulouse and Bath close at home – indeed a sneaky win against either is possible – but away from home they might struggle, difficult to see them getting anything from trips to France or the West Country.  Still, they won’t be whipping boys and if you keep it close enough who knows what can happen.

Predictions

Magners League – outside bet for Championship glory, likely to push the top teams though so I’m going to say an improvement on last year and predict 4th.

Heineken Cup – Strong displays but not enough cutting edge will see Glasgow come 4th in my opinion.

So, there we go.  Told you it was ill informed.  Let us know what you think…enjoy the new season!

Al

Match of the Day?

It’s not quite in name at least, but it looks like the campaign for a Match of the Day for Rugby has finally scored some points, with the announcement of a highlights show to be screened on ITV4 (and repeated at an unsocial hour on ITV1) on Sundays at 6.30pm. ITV have recently acquired the rights to Guinness Premiership highlights previously held by the BBC, and the programme will be fronted by sometime BBC touchline/holiday reporter and double glazing salesman Craig Doyle. Quite what happened to our own little Scotsport version complete with handheld footage from your local rugby pitch, Doddie Weir’s trousers and the odd bit of pro-team action, we’ll never know.

Also announced was the news that several regulars from Edinburgh’s squad last season – plus a couple of newly minted pros – will be living it up in the Premier League until such time as they regain form or fitness, having not been registered as part of Edinburgh’s playing squad for the season. Big surprise on the list is Ross Rennie (injury), who presumably will be re-instated when he recovers. Roland Reid has also been left off.

And the SRU have announced that anyone buying an Autumn test ticket will be eligible for a free ticket for the Boxing Day derby between Edinburgh and Glasgow. Which is nice of them.