The 6 Nations are over and the hard slog towards New Zealand begins. But before we kick-off against Romania on the 10th of September in Invercargill there are a lot of things that will happen on our own shores.
I went along to the Scotland vs Ireland U20 international last night at Caledonian Stadium in Inverness. Despite sunny patches throughout the day, the weather really turned on the crowd and what was blustery at the start turned into a bit of a downpour just before halftime that sent the crowd scurrying for cover and flattened the atmosphere considerably.
Scotland U20s take on U20s up North this weekend, with kick off at 730pm and free entry hopefully it will be a big crowd like last year. More information can be found on the SRU site here.
Don’t forget to check out the posts A.D and I have been doing for ESPN’s scrum.com on the Six Nations campaign, but only if you want to.
Of more pressing concern is the news from New Zealand this week that the city of Christchurch has suffered a horrible natural disaster. The thoughts of all at Scottish Rugby Blog towers go out to the people of Christchurch and we wish them all the best on the long road to recovery. Talk of merriment is probably far from their minds right now but I am sure if their rugby men are indicative of the region’s spirit and durability they will bounce back stronger, and we hope to be able to drink a beer with some of them come September.
It has been confirmed that Scotland Sevens will be representing the land of wild haggis, Nessie and the Buckfast triangle at this years Commonwealth Games. Whether they will send the usual mix of academy players and the legend that is Colin Gregor, or whether they will turn out a team of pro-team ringers as they do at Murrayfield every year remains to be seen.
It’s all changing in Scottish rugby at the moment. A new generation of players are bedding into the national side. Glasgow and Edinburgh could be in the picture for the first ever Magners League playoff. A few club sides have taken part in the first year of the British and Irish Cup. Yep, things are evolving.
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?!
Scotland U20 Team to face France U20
Backs: Tom Brown (Edinburgh Accies), Oliver Grove (Worcester Warriors), Jonny Kennedy (Sale Sharks), Alex Dunbar (Selkirk), Dougie Fife (Currie), Alex Blair (Edinburgh Accies), Alex Black (Leeds Carnegie)
Forwards: Craig Owensen (Heriot’s), Alun Walker (Currie), Colin Phillips (Stewart’s Melville), Robert Harley (West of Scotland), Grant Gilchrist (Stirling County), Michael Maltman (Heriot’s), David Denton (Edinburgh Accies), Stuart McInally CAPTAIN (Watsonians)
Replacements: Lindsey Gibson (Melrose), George Hunter (Glasgow Hawks), Matthew Reid (Heriot’s), Callum Stidston-Nott (London Scottish), Kris Hamilton (Caithness), Matthew Scott (Currie), James Johnstone (Currie)
At Inverness Caledonian Stadium, Friday 5th February, 7.30pm
Both scrum halves are “local”, with Alex Black Inverness born and Kris Hamilton repping Caithness from “just” up the road. There are plenty of well-kent names on show, if not faces (brothers of Groves and Blairs, sons of Taits and Kennedys). Hopefully there will be a good turn out – your faithful SRBlog correspondent will be at this one although less hands-on than our correspondent in the Amateur International!
Speaking of Blairs, it seems that Mike Blair has rejected overtures from the likes of Worcester and Ulster to stick with Edinburgh for another 2 years. I suppose this means I take back what I said about him moving on being a good thing…