It occurs to me I haven’t written anything about the pro-teams yet this week, and I’m really busy with work so I may not get round to it in any great detail, sorry. Next week, I promise. However, I can give you a brief rundown in the style of the Incredible Hulk:
In English – BBC Alba are to show Edinburgh and Glasgow Magners League games next season. Granted it’ll be in a language that only 3 men and their sheep understand and every fifth word will be an English word said in a funny way but it is a damn site better than what has gone beforehand!
Congrats to the BBC for doing this – might get some decent numbers tuning in!
Chris Cusiter has all but ruled himself out of at least the first test due to his wobbly knee, in stating he expects not be able to train fully till later in the week. Robbo had earlier said he would need to be training by today to be considered for inclusion. Argentina’s squad contains a number of familiar faces but reassuringly still no Juan Martin Hernandez, who seems to have been in hiding since about 2007.
Forwards: Patricio Albacete (Toulouse), Marcos Ayerza (Leicester), Alejandro Campos (Montauban), Manuel Carizza (Biarritz), Agustin Creevy (San Luis), Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe (Toulon), Genaro Fessia (Cordoba Athletic), Juan Figallo (Montpellier), Mariano Galarza (Universitario de La Plata), Mario Ledesma (Clermont), Juan Manuel Leguizamon (Stade Francais), Rodrigo Roncero (Stade Francais), Martin Scelzo (Clermont).
Backs: Horacio Agulla (Brive), Lucas Borges (Albi), Felipe Contepomi (Toulon), Santiago Fernandez (Hindu), Agustin Figuerola (CASI), Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino (Leicester), Alfredo Lalanne (London Irish), Ignacio Mieres (Stade Francais), Martin Rodriguez (Atletico del Rosario), Gonzalo Tiesi (Harlequins).
Full team news later in the week.
Don’t forget it is live on the telly, Saturday 12th June. This should potentially be a great audience pull for the Beeb north of the border given that it lines up against coverage of England vs USA in the round ball game, but sadly more people will probably want to watch ITV1 – and shout at their TVs about how they don’t care about 1966 and stop being so biased whilst drinking Tennents and wearing their ABE shirts etc – than watch BBC2 Scotland (free from jingoistic adverts) and support their countrymen (and Dan Parks) doing something positive.
Trust me, you’ll still get a chance to shout at the TV.
Seeing as we have had some great posts this week from the rest of the team I’ll keep this one brief, but just to let you know Wales vs Scotland U20 will be live on BBC2 Wales tonight, Sky channel 991 as usual. If you’re making the trip south to catch the big game tomorrow and are in Cardiff at a loose end tonight the game is at Cardiff Arms Park kick off 7.05pm.
We had two wins, a draw and a loss from various national teams. Sounds alright, doesn’t it? However, the public’s opinion of Scottish rugby is shaped entirely by the fortunes of the national side. Every other result is a bonus (or a continued indicator of the fallow years to come; although thankfully this doesn’t seem to be the case!). So let’s put each result in context…
The Scottish Women’s team overcame their French counterparts 10-8 at Lasswade on Saturday giving them the perfect start to their 6N campaign. I cannot testify to knowing too much about women’s rugby, but as a result against regular opponents this looks pretty good and show that a minority, in an already minor sport, can still thrive.
Something I can testify to (allegedly) knowing about is the fortunes of the Scottish Club International side. The team fought hard to win 13-9 in an intense, if not end to end globetrotter-style, match. Much like the Women’s match conditions didn’t favour an exciting, mercurial contest but the endeavour was there. Even 2000 folk braved the dreich Border’s weather to watch. Also, the crowd still got treated to a physical display and some hard running from the likes of Kelly and Weston as well as some great defence from Clapperton and co. What this did show was that Amateur rugby here is improving all the time and more than compares with the French opposition (although comparing myself to my opposite man on Friday night was more like comparing myself to my own father- he looked like he was in his 40’s!).
The under-20s drew 8-all with their French foils. While not the perfect score, it was better than losing! Also, the performances of highly rated youngsters like Maltman and McInally shows the potential we have here. We also have yet another Blair at 10, and lord knows we’re all hoping he proves to be a genius! Rory was at the game, so he will be better placed to tell you if they are likely to win against Wales down there, but the future may seem bright in some areas of that team.
And then there was Sunday. I, for one, am weary of over analysing, but when the shortcomings are that obvious it is rude not to point them out. We all know what they are. 1) The backline are standing so deep during second phase it is surprising they can even see Chris Cusiter. 2) While Johnnie Beattie played outstandingly well in the loose yesterday, it was verging on the cruel the longer he left the ball in the back of the scrum. 3) If a team stands in attack in two banks, most standing in a flat line and some standing in a small group deeper and wider, then we become bamboozled. Twice Bastreaud was in the second group ready to receive passes direct from the flatter group and he scored. Once Clerc, brilliantly tap tackled by Kelly Brown and held up by Evans, broke from a similar situation. 4) Next time (i.e. against Wales) please give the ball to someone quick enough to make an inside break when facing a blitz defence. 5) Jonathan Davies is more annoying than a postal gold advert.
The good thing is, though, that it was still only 9 points we lost by. Look after the ball without forcing the play and we might be alright…maybe?!
So what did you make of the day? What would you do if you were Robbo? And what is going to unlock an equally depressed Welsh team?!
Good luck to all our teams in action tonight (Amateur International, the Under 20s and the Scotland A Team), tomorrow (the Women) and on Sunday. I have a new piece up on scrum.com’s fanzone previewing the big game – and lauding the P & J’s headline writers. In addition to A.D who has some exciting stuff coming up in future weeks, we’ve got another new writer Gregor who will be joining us shortly and dragging the blog into the web 2.0 era, so exciting stuff coming up over the Six Nations, hopefully some live-blogging of matches via our new twitter account: twitter.com/ScotRugbyBlog. More on this next week probably.
I have been informed that the Scotland A match vs Ireland A will be on the Telly for some via red button or BBC online, click here for more info (thanks to Andrew, may your button never be red).
But if you can get along to any of the games I would urge you to go along and show support for Scottish rugby at all levels.
Now go and watch this, and tell me you aren’t ready for the Six Nations.
It had emerged over the weekend that Graham Lowe, the director of performance rugby in Scotland, intends to review the set-up of the top division. As coaches bemoan the lack of respect club sides get and call out for a semi-professional atmosphere in Scottish club rugby people are searching for alternatives. The main drive of Lowe’s review, it could be suggested, will be to make more money from Prem 1. A concept as elusive as Julien Malzieu (yeah, it’s time to get nervous/excited about Sunday already!).
Scottish club rugby needs a new way to generate excitement. But how do you make it more sexy?! The mainstream ideal tends to be cutting the league down to a more competitive 10 team league. In fact, if The Scotsman is to be believed, the powers that be at Hawks have produced a paper calling for the league to be reformatted to include 8 teams only. This, however, looks unlikely. One; because it is improbable that all the Prem 1 powers will agree on this but also because, two; it is doubtful that Lowe would propose such a grand change so soon into his tenure that could instantly alienate up to 6 clubs as 4 are relegated and 2 denied promotion.
It is obvious that change is needed in some degree. The truth is, however, that cutting the amount of teams alone would not guarantee that the premier club rugby competition in this country is more exciting. More competitive? Definitely. More entertaining? I, for one, am not convinced.
Excitement is what generates more interest. More interest generates more coverage. More coverage generates bigger attendances and more sponsorship. In short, ladies and gentlemen, excitement brings the bucks. So Prem 1 needs to foster the pluralist notion of entertainment and rivalry within a league, preferably shortened to 10 teams. Some remit, Mr. Lowe! You’d have an easier job convincing card-happy Hines that collecting yellows in the 6N is not a good thing.
Would a play-off between the top 4 teams at the end of the season create more buzz? Would a play-off at the bottom of the league create more buzz? How do we get the BBC or STV to show more of our ‘amateur’ games? Craig Chalmers has been saying for months that play-offs (at the top half of the table at least) would not only initiate interest but give local broadcasters a better package to work with. This would definitely seem more marketable.
As well as this theory, Lowe is said to be considering an SPL-style split at a certain point in the season where the top-half teams fight for the title while the bottom-half teams scrap for survival. This would engender a ‘survival of the fittest’ mentality, but seems to lack the market appeal of a shorter play-off product. Either way the mission is clear. Get more punters; thrill more punters; take cash off more punters. As a punter, I’m just hoping the league retains some of its classic rivalries while offering a fair opportunity for teams to earn a league title. And some unexpected high scoring results wouldn’t go amiss, either, thank you Mr. Director!
Scott Gray has been called up to the Scotland squad to cover Rennie and the big Stroker who are still suffering from knocks. What, no Roddy Grant? Gray has been mostly on the bench this season so who knows if he is in the form that displaced John Barclay last year or not. Should get more chances now that Neil Best is moving to Worcester. Still, I reckon Roddy would have been a cheaper train fare for the SRU’s budget to stump up… from the BBC
Richie Gray is also sitting out training after being so omnipresent vs Biarritz that Jerome Thion had to punch him in the face to make him stop, breaking his nose in the process. A citing is on the way… from the Scotsman
Edinburgh MSP Sarah Boyack has hammered BBC Scotland over its unwillingness to cover Scottish rugby. Quite right too: now that Heather the Weather has gone Reporting Scotland is pish, unless there is rugby in the sports bit – and even then it’s only five seconds less pish. Who cares who Kilmarnock have just signed? Apart from Kilmarnockians, obviously. Write to your MSP/MP and tell them to get on the case, that you are a single issue voter, that issue is rugby and if they don’t sort it out they are fired in May… from the Scotsman.
I’ve also got a preview piece up on scrum.com 6 Nations fanzone. The drums in the jungle tell me Al may be working on the SRBlog version shortly…
News has reached my ears of yet another rugby competition from O2 (sponsors of England) and once again you can have the chance to win some, um, England goodies. Anyway if you are on the O2 priority list (whatever that is) and have an English wife/girlfriend/cousin who would probably quite like a trip to Rome, you can click here to play the O2 Rugby Game. Where is Murray group offering us the chance to win a trip to Dublin? At least STV do have a competition somewhere (unknown) to win tickets to the France game. Guess you’ll just have to watch the highlights show and write down the address though, buggered if I can find it.
So Europe’s finest club competition shuffles into view, unloads its wagon, sends the freaks round the back to get the candy floss machine running and erects a big top suitable for showcasing some of the finest club rugby teams known to man, and er, our lot. Here are the games on this weekend, sadly unless you have Sky you are probably screwed for watching them (most are on Sky Sports unless indicated otherwise). Several are mouthwatering:
Castres vs Toulon (Amlin Challenge Cup) Fri 5.30 – only one reason this is on the telly, and his name is Jonny. Might get a squizz at Rory Lamont in action though. At least, that’s what you think until you look at the team sheet and find that the only names you recognise are Tom May and Phil Christophers (who has been at Castres since Goggsy was). Unlucky Jonny watchers, there’s little here to get you back from the pub/work early.
Ulster vs Bath Fri 7.30pm – Ulster should be strong enough to win this one but it might help Edinburgh if Bath can nick a result at Fortress Ravenhill. Danielli is on the bench, and it’s not on the telly.
Leinster vs London Irish Fri 8pm – Could be the game of the weekend, which would leave the weekend downhill from here. Leinster’s Lions seem to have found form where their Welsh counterparts have struggled, while the non-Irish Irish are playing sparkling rugby without a host of stars. Blarney begorrah and bejesus will be in full attendance. Big Nathan starts at 5 for Leinster.
Gloucester vs Dragons Fri 8pm – if you have Sky but not Sky Sports you might catch this on S4C, Sky Sports have it on Red Button though so whether there is an English commentary is open to debate. Practically a local derby, it should see Gloucester win but given their form of late who knows? Would a Dragons win help Glasgow in the group? Dicko, the two Lawsons and the big Stroker all start for Redpath’s men.
Cardiff vs Harlequins Sat 1.35pm – Battle of the slow starters, but if they live up to last season’s play it could be so much better. Little Scottish interest but doesn’t mean it won’t be work a watch. But wouldn’t you rather watch…
Stade Francais vs Edinburgh Sat 1.35pm (2.35pm local) – What to say? Things were looking pretty good up until the Ospreys last week. But Moffat’s put the proper team back together and if they can find some of their early season spark against a Stade side who have been struggling until recently then Edinburgh could sneak a home result. Home field advantage with the accompanying razmatazz could be irresistable though. Several of the guys who have impressed so far – Cairns, Grant, Houston, Robertson have a real opportunity to stake a place for caps here. No sign of a Stade team yet so Hugo may yet make an appearance. Red Button on Sky for this one.
Edinburgh: Chris Paterson, Mark Robertson, Ben Cairns, John Houston, Tim Visser, Phil Godman, Mike Blair (capt), Allan Jacobsen, Ross Ford, Geoff Cross, Craig Hamilton, Scott MacLeod, Alan MacDonald, Roddy Grant, Allister Hogg. Replacements: Andrew Kelly, Kyle Traynor, Ryan Grant, Steven Turnbull, Scott Newlands, Greig Laidlaw, Nick De Luca, Steve Jones.
UPDATE: Hugo is indeed starting at 15 against his former teammates.
Scarlets vs Brive Sat 3pm – Chance for Sean Lamont to continue his try scoring form. Not on telly anywhere.
ASM Clermont Auvergne vs Viadana Sat 3pm – Little known Scot Garry Law appears at full back for Viadana while big Jason White could be in the as yet unannounced team. Not on TV.
Glasgow vs Biarritz OPB Sat 3.45pm – having (apart from a blip at the Dragons) mostly maintained the consistency that often eludes them, Glasgow have a real chance to lay down an early marker provided the team have shaken off the big that has dogged Chris Cusiter and Kelly Brown in particular. Jon Welsh continues to impress although Rob Dewey needs to find a bit more spark to convince us he can play at wing. Talk coming out of the camp is good, and as usual it depends if the French come to play or not. Biarritz should be pool favourites, so a win would send a message out to the other teams, both of whom should be beatable. Hard to tell who a kicking fest would favour, Parks or the French who should have siege gun Traille on side, but it could turn out to be another one of those tight games that see Parks turn from liability into lifeline.
Glasgow Warriors: Bernardo Stortoni, Rob Dewey, Dave McCall, Graeme Morrison, Thom Evans, Dan Parks, Chris Cusiter, Jon Welsh, Dougie Hall, Moray Low, Tim Barker, Alastair Kellock (capt), Richie Vernon, John Barclay, Johnnie Beattie.
Replacements:Fergus Thomson, Ed Kalman, Kevin Tkachuk, Dan Turner, Kelly Brown, Hefin O’Hare, Colin Gregor, DTH van der Merwe.
Northampton vs Munster Sat 6pm – another of those “could be a classic” matches so often thrown up by this tournament. No Euan Murray yet and no Tom Smith now either, but the ever reliable Scott Gray continues to add to Robbo’s back row riches.
Leicester vs Ospreys Sun 1245pm – And another one. Nikki Walker continues a rich vein of form and the Ospreys are starting to spark in a backline that should be a match for any team, even the Tigers at Welford Road. If they don’t fire though, expect Leicester to win, ugly or otherwise.
Toulose vs Sale Sharks Sun 3pm (4pm local) – Should be a comfortable win for Toulose, but could out of form Sale cap the weekend with an upset?
Phew. I won’t be doing that every Friday. Enjoy the weekend!
Well done to Edinburgh for a good result away from home facing down an admittedly poor Cardiff team and coping with the usual performance from G. Clancy esq. Did I say Edinburgh? Oh, I meant Glasgow. Telling the difference between the Scottish pro teams must be getting hard for poor old BBC Wales, who made several references to John Beattie, Firhill, and playing Biarritz next week during the coverage of Edinburgh’s pisspoor display against the Ospreys. Granted, Beattie (junior, I can only imagine) and Ally Hogg may share a hairdresser and Edinburgh have “Aberdeen” on their shirts to confuse matters further, but it’s pretty commentary standards (never mind the bias). This gave me something to get excited about and shout at the telly for (not really the TV’s fault I suppose), given I was long past the point of shouting at Edinburgh’s general ineptitude.
Roddy Grant looked sharper at the breakdown than pretty much the whole team put together, and Ospreys turned Edinburgh over almost at will. A few chances went begging but inability to (or lack of desire to) keep ball proved pretty foolish against an international class (and in many places Lions/world class) backline who promptly cut them to shreds. Good to see Nikki Walker looking sharp though. Godman kicked perfectly from tee so Mossy was not missed in that regard, but as one of the chaps pointed out on the BBC boards, his marshalling of the defensive line was sorely absent. Stand in full back and new signing Steve Jones didn’t cover himself in glory, shall we say, but he should not be the scapegoat.
Meanwhile new Glasgow full back Peter Horne got one kick of the ball on Saturday and sclaffed it into touch, but as it was to end the match I can’t really complain. Still, it’s a good sign for a youngster that he looked thoroughly disappointed in himself even for something that had no bearing on the game. The match had long since been won by the combined work of Colin Gregor and Thom Evans behind a sturdy pack effort and this time Glasgow did not surrender their half time lead. Huzzahs all round for pseudo-Highlander Moray Low’s boot up field that eventually led to Johnnie Beattie’s try (see Jonathan, he was playing for Glasgow). With Cusiter undoubtedly the best 9 Glasgow have, perhaps they should find somewhere else to bring Gregor’s skills into play on a more regular basis – 10 or 15 perhaps?
Big Nathan looks like he would have had fun during the Leinster 30-0 demolition of Munster that brought several tries, a bit of controversy and no doubt plenty of niggle. A much better range of highlights from STV this week too – they are learning a game of rugby is not just the penalty offences that lead to points and I reckon it’s getting better.
Next weekend – Heineken Cup!
In addition to STVs ever improving highlights package on Sunday, this weekend you can also catch the Cardiff vs Glasgow game on S4C at 1820 on Saturday and Ospreys vs Edinburgh on Sunday at 1550, giving you the full selection of Scottish pro rugby excitement to clog up your social schedule. While to some extent normal service resumed with both teams losing last weekend – you could hear the roars of despair coming out of Murrayfield from down the road at fellow SRBlogger Al’s birthday party – Edinburgh still top the table (what my Australian friends would call the ladder) and will be looking to finish off an Ospreys team that Glasgow should have put away. Roddy Grant, Phil Godman and Ben Cairns continue to look sharp as does Mossy’s play with ball in hand, and I think Nick De Luca may struggle to get off the bench when Houston is making powerful breaks at 12. Much of the Edinburgh back division looks to have kicked on from last year and some of the less well known names may be challenging the overly familiar from recent years (Walker, Webster, Lamont) for Scotland squad places.
Glasgow can put some of their inconsistencies down to a bout of flu running through the squad but still lacked concentration at key moments of the match. Seemingly it was ever thus, so I wonder what more Sean Lineen can do to fix it? He has tried both giving the team a chance to make amends and droppings en masse (as it were) but neither with much success. Cusiter still looks good when not ill, Rob Dewey looked pretty good with a solid break up the middle, and would perhaps merit a run in the centre until either Peter Murchie or Max Evans is fit (which should be pretty soon). Especially as he won’t get much ball stuck out on the wing with Parks kicking inside of him.