Category: Scotland National Team

Who Won’t Line Up Against Scotland

Phil Godman was last seen limping about during Edinburgh’s very impressive victory over the Ospreys on Sunday (anyone spot Clancy whistling up 20 seconds before time?!), but no word on troubles with any other Scotland players. So in the meantime here, lukewarmish off the presses and in the interests of fair reporting, an injury report on players in England’s EPS who may not feature against us next weekend:

(now updated with Scotland news)

A Quick Chat With The Future: Part 2- Richie Vernon

On the 21st of November 2009 Scotland recorded a magnificent result. A win against Australia thought to be nigh on impossible in the days leading up to the fixture. It was some day. Yet while this day was special for everyone lucky enough to see such a spectacle it held extra significance for one young man.

Scotland Team for Italy

Scotland team to play Italy in the RBS 6 Nations Championship at the Stadio Flaminio, Rome, on Saturday 27 February, kick-off 1.30pm GMT

15 Hugo Southwell (Stade Francais), 14 Simon Danielli (Ulster), 13 Max Evans (Glasgow Warriors), 12 Graeme Morrison (Glasgow Warriors), 11 Sean Lamont (Scarlets), 10 Dan Parks (Glasgow Warriors), 9 Chris Cusiter (Glasgow Warriors) CAPTAIN, 1 Allan Jacobsen (Edinburgh), 2 Ross Ford (Edinburgh), 3 Euan Murray (Northampton Saints), 4 Jim Hamilton (Edinburgh), 5 Alastair Kellock (Glasgow Warriors), 6 Kelly Brown (Glasgow Warriors), 7 John Barclay (Glasgow Warriors), 8 Johnnie Beattie (Glasgow Warriors)

Substitutes:

16 Scott Lawson (Gloucester), 17 Alasdair Dickinson (Gloucester), 18 Nathan Hines (Leinster), 19 Alasdair Strokosch (Gloucester), 20 Mike Blair (Edinburgh), 21 Phil Godman (Edinburgh), 22 Nick De Luca (Edinburgh)

Not considererd through injury: Chris Paterson, Jim Thompson (both Edinburgh), Thom Evans (Glasgow Warriors), Rory Lamont (Toulon) and Moray Low (Glasgow Warriors).

Pretty much what was expected. Still, the bench looks a little flaky based on recent form apart from the Big Stroker who will be looking to make an impact. What about the likes of Cairns or Grove? The first XV looks pretty strong though, and hopefully Danielli will be looking to make up for a few errors he made in the autumn while maintaining his try scoring form. Congrats also to Chris Cusiter and Hugooooooooo who will be earning their 50th caps. Careful with the kicking though boys, leave it to Dan…

Scotland Squad News

Head coach Andy Robinson has today announced a 36-strong squad as Scotland and Scotland A begin their preparations for next weekend’s matches against their Italian counterparts.

The squad will gather at Murrayfield on Sunday (21 February) ahead of both Scotland’s RBS 6 Nations Championship match against Italy at the Stadio Flaminio, Rome, on Saturday 27 February; and Scotland A’s match against Italy A in Biella on Friday 26 February.

Additional players will be called in for Scotland A duty next week but the enlarged squad will train together on Monday and Tuesday.

Both lock Nathan Hines (Leinster) and flanker Alasdair Strokosch (Gloucester) who missed last weekend’s game in Cardiff through injury, are expected to be fit to take an active part in training.

Squad: Backs – Mike Blair, Ben Cairns (both Edinburgh), Chris Cusiter (Glasgow Warriors), Simon Danielli (Ulster), Nick De Luca (Edinburgh), Max Evans (Glasgow Warriors), Phil Godman (Edinburgh), Alex Grove (Worcester Warriors), Ruaridh Jackson (Glasgow Warriors), Sean Lamont (Scarlets), Rory Lawson (Gloucester), Graeme Morrison, Dan Parks (both Glasgow Warriors), Mark Robertson (Edinburgh), Hugo Southwell (Stade Francais), Nikki Walker (Ospreys)

Forwards – John Barclay, Johnnie Beattie, Kelly Brown (all Glasgow Warriors), Alasdair Dickinson (Gloucester), Ross Ford, Roddy Grant (both Edinburgh), Scott Gray (Northampton Saints), Richie Gray, Dougie Hall (both Glasgow Warriors), Jim Hamilton (Edinburgh), Nathan Hines (Leinster), Allan Jacobsen (Edinburgh), Alastair Kellock (Glasgow Warriors), Scott Lawson (Gloucester), Moray Low (Glasgow Warriors), Scott MacLeod, Alan MacDonald (both Edinburgh), Euan Murray (Northampton Saints), Alasdair Strokosch (Gloucester), Jon Welsh (Glasgow Warriors).

Unavailable to train through injury: Jim Thompson (Edinburgh).

Invited to attend squad training: Simon Webster (Edinburgh).

Scotland’s cap centurion Chris Paterson is returning home from Cardiff today as medics are satisfied that he has recovered sufficiently from the kidney damage he sustained in Scotland’s RBS 6 Nations Championship match against Wales last week.

Meanwhile, Scotland wing Thom Evans has undergone a second operation on his neck at University Hospital in Cardiff and surgeons are pleased with his progress.

Scotland coach Andy Robinson visited both players in Cardiff yesterday. He said: “It was uplifting to speak to both players and hear first-hand that they’re both feeling better. Once again, on behalf of the Scotland team, I want to thank our own medical team, the Welsh Rugby Union medical personnel at the Millennium Stadium and all the staff at the University Hospital in Cardiff for the quite magnificent care they have delivered.”

Scotland team doctor James Robson said today: “Mossy (Chris Paterson) was discharged from hospital in Cardiff on Tuesday night. He has rested for a couple of days further in Cardiff and is now well enough to travel home with his wife Claire, which is excellent news.

“Thom, after discussion with his family and the surgeons who performed his initial operation, elected to undergo a second procedure to enhance his recovery.

“This surgery has now taken place. Thom is in good spirits and the surgeons are delighted with his progress.

“Thom has asked me to pass on his heart-felt thanks to the thousands of people who have expressed their support.

“At this stage I would expect that, if Thom’s recovery continues in the same vein, he will be able to return home next week.”

Less Invictus, more Convictus

Despite the result Saturday had everything a 6N weekend needs. Plus a little more criminal activity.

Any great story or sporting event has certain key components that make it memorable. If you were making a feature film about a game (Take notes, Mr. Eastwood!) then Scotland vs. Wales certainly met all the right criteria. Somehow I think most of us would have rather seen the director’s cut, though!

To make a blockbuster accessible you need clearly defined heroes and villains. Well there were both at the Millennium Stadium. While Parks cut an unlikely figure as the skilful saviour Chris Paterson took on the role of the elder statesman, before taking his final bow for this campaign. On the other side Shane Williams, aka ‘The Milkman’, popped up at the final twist to ensure a disappointing ending for the Scots. Then we come to the bad guys. I actually feel a little sorry for WCP because if I was the last man for Scotland and it looked like a definite try I would probably take the hit and do what he did. Scott Lawson, however, has no excuse. Bang in the middle of the park, slow ball, numbers up in defence. Basically, the kid had a shocker!

We are not even going to talk about the pantomime villain Jonathan Davies…

Another vital aspect of a Hollywood hit is a level of mystery. Thankfully, Clancy (George not Tom – ed.) had that covered. The scrum was a mess and no one knows why. I’m not saying that Murray was scrummaging well, but it should have been an indicator to Clancy that the scrum stopped nose-diving when James went off the park for a stint. In fact, regardless of who the culprit was a yellow card early doors may have discouraged Lawson from being so naïve later on. Precedence has a tendency to influence decisions later. Clancy left himself so much work in the last quarter.

Blockbusters also need tragedy, and unfortunately the game had this, too. 3 players are out for a long time. It is doubtful that Evans will play again this season and it is looking like Paterson and Lamont will have relatively lengthy lay-offs. The good news is that Evans is improving according to doctors and his surgery was successful. There will now be, though, a few spaces up for grabs for the next game and there should be changes. Evans for Evans makes sense, but why, oh why does Robbo not rate Southwell? Maybe bringing Grove back in would be sensible.

Comedy relief is another thing you need but this didn’t come until after the game. Andy Powell has consequently been dropped from the Welsh team. The worse hangover ever? Maybe not, but the drunken use of a Golf Buggy, no matter how funny it is, is not original. If you want a lesson in going off the rails on a golf course look at Italy’s Stand-off Craig Gower’s Wikipedia page. Can you relate?!

Unfortunately for us, the last thing a sports movie needs is an underdog or comeback story. Well Wales made sure of that. It was almost spectacular how well Scotland were playing in the first half but does our nationalistic pessimism have to always manifest itself? We were the agents of our own downfall. We were 10 points up with 7 minutes left and with a bit less harum scarum and perhaps more sensible ‘cheating’ and gamesmanship we could have seen the result out.

Picking on Byrne is a bit silly. If it was a professional foul then we cannot blame him or the ref. We didn’t see it. ‘Diving’ is a big debate in football, and Thierry Henry’s handball begged the same question, as bloodgate before it; is it ever worth cheating? I know a few club players who will occasionally dive when the situation merits it… and I know a lot of coaches would take the rewards gleaned from it, even if they don’t condone it. No one questions Byrne’s hardness or work ethic. If he did cheat, which is up in the air anyway, then he got a win out of it. I digress. The signs are there that we can achieve something and if we play at the pace we were in the first half for 80 against England, we should win. If we play with the width and guile we had in the first half for 80 against Italy, we should win.

Sorry for all the crippling movie metaphors. A bit cringe, but it gets the point across… kind of. We need the sequel, I mean next game, to be better. But not by much. The pack continues to perform and Ford and Murray should play 80 next time round. Hamilton did surprisingly well considering he’s not played much. Beattie continues to carry like a game breaker. Barclay must rack up more events than anyone else in post match analysis and Brown sat more than one taff on his backside. Now if Parks can play like he did in the next test, obviously without flying up and leaving an Alessandro Zanni-sized hole in defence, then the backline could be firing and exciting, regardless of personnel.

The outlook is good… Just as long as Jonathan Davies isn’t behind you.

Here is also a brief Prem. 1 roundup

Watsonians 3 – 7 Edinburgh Accies
at Myreside

West of Scotland 20 – 18 Melrose
at Burnbrae

Dundee High 52 – 5 Stew Mel
at Mayfield

Heartbreak Fridge

Well boys ‘n’ girls wasn’t that a right royal kick to the rugby knackers?

Never have I felt so deflated, upset, despondent yet awfully proud at a game of rugby.  To a man Scotland played out of their socks and in Dan Parks had the outstanding player on the field of play – his performance in defeat is one of the finest in a Scotland shirt in a long time.   I’ve no idea how Robinson will go about lifting the spirits of the team after the crushing blow of Saturday but I hope he reminds the players of the level of performance they turned in and how, in the first half in particular, they played some damn good rugby.  I also hope he shows them the dirge that Italy and England served up – in my opinion Scotland have a damn site more to offer that either of those sides, even with the injured players.

Everything Left On The Pitch

Wales 31-24 Scotland

This weekend the game of rugby itself received a transfusion of energy, as finally the Six Nations lived up to its billing and provided rugby fans with sporting drama of the kind not seen since the second Lions Test last year, and before that not seen at test level for some time. The fact that the drama was created with skill in attack rather than restriction in defence was all the more heartening.

It was just unfortunate that new lifeblood was drawn from the twitching corpse of a Scotland back division battered into a wholly unrecognisable shape. Wingers in the centre, centres on the wing, half-backs on the wing, forwards on the wing. Wales’s onslaught in the last ten minutes was as physical and skilful as their approach in the first half had been inept in the face of a near perfect Scotland performance. By the time they finally came at Scotland – sensing as Scotland fans probably could too the inevitability that they would steal this game – they faced a group of players not used to defending a decent and deserved lead, players out of position: players out on their feet.

Comparisons were drawn in a BBC interview with Scotland and Lions Team Doctor James Robson with the body count in the aforementioned 2nd Lions Test and while that game had five serious injuries (and a gouge), it still seems that great sporting drama exacts a high physical toll. Scotland are now faced with the removal of the entire first choice back three, their front line place kicker and their fastest attacking player.

I should imagine the pack remains the same for the next game, having done little wrong. Once again the back row were outstanding, Brown the best I have ever seen him. At 10 Dan Parks will undoubtedly retain his place, and he will deserve it (and anyway Godman may conceivably be banned, no one seems sure if it was a red or yellow he received – more distinctly dodgy TV direction from the BBC Wales OB unit). As we’d all hoped, Dan’s tactical control allowed Scotland to show what they could do playing the game in the right areas. Cusiter too led from just the right side of the law and was outstanding in rallying the troops and defending. I’d still like to see him break more, but unless you are the size of Mike Phillips it seems increasingly hard for a scrum-half to get away from the hangers-on at the breakdown (hangers-on like Scott Lawson, who will wish to forget that particular moment of rashness).

For the next game against Italy, Robinson will have to make changes. I would like to see Grove in, Morrison will have to stay – and he wasn’t too bad anyway. Sean Lamont would move back to the wing (although he should still come inside hunting for work) and probably Max Evans on the other wing. He may look to bring in a specialist winger, but look what Evans can do with 5 minutes on the pitch and the understanding he has with Parks. Southwell is the best candidate to come in at full back and you have a back division still mostly consisting of players from the core of this team.

Because it is this team you want to preserve, this team that is restoring a little hope to Scotland and so nearly much more, and this team that will want to make sure it never happens to them again.

Things left on the “cutting room floor” of this article: showboating wingers, George Clancy, diving full-backs, Jonathan Davies’ standard of “neutral” commentary, paying attention to the clock, continually being shafted by inept Irish referees, playing running rugby with the roof open, Andy Powell and the game of golf, George Clancy. Feel free to gripe in the comments section!

Good Luck Thom

So near and yet not actually that far. Shane Williams had a great five minutes. Dan Parks had a great game. George Clancy: not so much.

5.7 (e) If time expires and the ball is not dead, or an awarded scrum or lineout has not been completed the referee allows play to continue until the next time that the ball becomes dead. If time expires and a mark, free kick or penalty kick is then awarded the referee allows play to continue.

Still, all of that is of little consequence in the great scheme of things. Full reaction will of course take place through the week, but for now all of us at Scottish Rugby Blog send our best wishes to Thom Evans for a swift and complete recovery from his injury (the exact nature of which is unclear), and our thoughts go out to Max and the rest of the family too.

UPDATE: just in case you wanted to see the full interview with Andy Robinson post match you can find it here. Much angrier than the short version they broadcast!

UPDATE: Update on Thom Evans injury condition, it seems he has undergone neck surgery but is able to move his arms and legs which is good news I should think.

UPDATE: Another update on Thom Evans, Chris Paterson and Rory Lamont injuries (from Dr James Robson), all of which it seems will keep them out of the remainder of the Six Nations but thankfully all will have full recoveries, it is hoped.

A look at the opposition

I thought I should also chip in with something; what about the Welsh?!

During the 6N a bit of navel gazing is common place and no nation is more morbidly insular than Scotland. We mustn’t, however, always focus on our own shortcomings. If Gregor is right about Andy Robinson’s feelings towards the last game then there is no need to dwell on the past. And rightly so. Unlike France during much of Sunday’s onslaught Wales will never bludgeon their way through a defence. Not the way they are playing right now. At the Millennium Stadium a lot depends on which Wales turns up. Jekyll or Hyde?

If we were being positive (which Scots, of course, always are!) then for our own sakes we should look at the Welsh deficiencies. The most glaring of which, at this point, must be their line-out. Wyn Jones, last Saturday’s pariah, has failed to dominate proceedings in the restart of late and Charteris has been dumped from the squad because of his inconsistency. None of this matters, anyway, because Gareth Williams couldn’t hit a barn door with a bazooka from 5m out.

 All set-pieces are vital.  In fact, while most of the country worries about our magic disintegrating scrum and the fact that 5 of the Welsh starting pack duke it out together for the Ospreys every week, we have to look at things more closely. For most, or all of the game they have no Jenkins. No Rees. No Bennett. No Gough. While the second row for Saturday is Jonathan Thomas, a man who is really a back-rower who normally likes to fly off towards 10 from a scrum. Along with this, I’m pretty certain I would take the sizeable pairing of Murray and Hamilton over Paul James and Jonathan Thomas any day. Yet again, none of this could matter because Chris Cusiter is looking through the scrum every time at Gareth Cooper, a man whose service could be timed with a sun dial.

Unfortunately once we get past these potential problem spots in tight for Wales we see why we could be in for a long day. If Cooper manages to put the ball in the right place then we may have problems for certain members of our back division. In Stephen Jones Wales have a 10 that at the present time can control a game the same, if not better, than Parks. In Jamie Roberts they have a guy who is a genuinely world class player on his day. James Hook can step Morrison, Lamont and Paterson. Lee Byrne might decide to play.

Make no mistakes about it. Wales have a few weapons in their arsenal. If there is parity in the set-piece and the Welsh blitz defence, which has been leaky of late, monopolises the gain-line then there could be a few smiling taffs by half 4. On the other hand, if rumours are to be believed, Gatland and Edwards are close to exhausting their relationship with the Welsh player. Allegedly both men would at least listen to some offers once this campaign is over, and if Gatland begins to show the indifference he did at the end of his Irish reign then the rest of the 6N could be in luck.

This match is one Robinson is seemingly targeting and it is true that Wales are inconsistent right now. In truth I reckon that the only chance Scotland has of winning this away fixture is if the Scots back-row cancels out Martyn Williams and Ryan Jones at the breakdown. A firing Welsh team thrives on quick ball on the front foot and needs it to make the likes of Byrne and Shane Williams effective. Let us hope that Wales defeat themselves, long before the men in Blue touch the ball.

In different news, if you’re interested in hearing about other games this weekend (two with a Welsh-Scottish flavour!) then check out these British and Irish Cup fixtures taking place:    

Friday 12: Newport v Gael Force, Rodney Parade, Newport KO 7.30pm

or in Scotland:

Saturday 13: Ayr v Birmingham and Solihull, Millbrae, Ayr KO 4pm
and, Sunday 14: Heriot’s v Neath, Goldenacre, Edinburgh, KO 2pm

When you’ve got no one else to turn to..

Despite the differences between the two sports similar debates are currently going on amongst fans of Scottish football and rugby.

In football, Kris Boyd had become accustomed to being left out of big games by Rangers and chose to quit international football because he was not satisfied with being always on the bench. This was because he was seen by management as being a one dimensional player. He scored goals but his all round game wasn’t good enough to justify his selection particularly against higher skilled defences. In the end, Boyd altered his game and tried to become a more all round footballer. As a result he has forced his way into being an automatic starter for Rangers and is now being approached to reconsider his position for international selection.

But the debate goes on. Is Kris Boyd now a starter because of a lack of options at his club? Has he really changed his game that much? Does he still take away more from a team than he offers? One thing is sure. If Kris Boyd had Fernando Torres or Wayne Rooney in front of him in the pecking order there would be no debate. But as the players competing with him for selection are Kyle Lafferty and Nacho Novo, there’s hardly an embarrassment of riches available.

The same argument is being played out in Scottish international rugby with Dan Parks. While Dan Parks has always been recognised as a very strong kicker his tackling and delivery leave a lot to be desired. At club level his defensive weakness has led to Bernardo Stortoni alternating in at stand off in defensive situations, a scenario which we may see play out with Chris Paterson in Cardiff on Saturday.

Parks has been out the Scotland team for fourteen months, but he is a different player since the last time he played for Scotland and despite his weaknesses he has one strength over any other stand off available for Scotland in relation to his game management ability. There is no doubting that he has an arrogance and ability to take over the game with his kicking, a virtual guarantee of points scoring and an awareness to play the field position game to his teams strengths.

There seems little doubt from the pattern of recent selections that Robinson and Townsend would prefer their stand off be an all rounder but Parks’ selection for Cardiff on Saturday indicates a recognition by Scotland’s management that the other options available are either unproven or too risky – the product of thinking just too far outside the box. Phil Godman continues not to assert himself as his supporters would wish. Having conclusively lost two head-to-head duels with Parks in the Inter City matches over the Christmas and New Year period his performance against France was mixed at best. Considering Ruaridh Jackson as an option is jumping the gun dramatically. Though his day will come he’s just not ready to play at this level. The other options are Chris Paterson, previously written off by Robinson as a viable option at stand off, or Hugo Southwell, who doesn’t see number 10 as his preferred position although he has played there for Scotland A and is a talented player Scotland probably should utilise somewhere in their team or at least have available on the bench.

The final option is Mike Blair. He’s clearly seen as one of Scotland’s top players and while it’s no doubt tempting to see if both Blair and Cusiter can be accommodated in the starting 15 to date he’s untried in this position.

Scotland need to be more adaptable and urgently start exploring other options. In his article, “The Curious Case of Rory Hutton”, Kevin Ferrie of The Herald writes about the lack of adaptability of Scottish coaching. The fact that Dan Parks is now seen as Scotland’s best option in the playmaker position may be seen as a sad indictment on coaching in this country recognising as it does that no stand off available to us has been developed beyond his level.

At the very least, with the kicking prowess of Parks and Paterson, Scotland should be able to defend in the opposition half and kick the penalties which come their way but they won’t be a true threat at top international level until they have real attacking options. With Scotland being left with no other option but to turn to a player Robinson clearly wanted to discard from the international scene and who wasn’t in either the chosen 44 in August, the A team in Belfast or the 22 chosen against France there could be no better demonstration of our lack of progress as an attacking force at international level.

In the second guessing of the selection that will no doubt continue until Saturday, Scotland’s supporters should avoid being be too harsh on Parks because the simple fact is that now as never before we really need him to be playing at the top of his game. Rumours coming out of the camp suggest that Robinson expected to lose against France but that Wales is a match he believes Scotland can win. Let’s hope that in the critical selection of Dan Parks at stand off he’s got it right.

Welcome Back

Al, of course! Who did you think I meant? Dan who?

Welcome also to Gregor who has joined us to keep an eye on rugby happenings on the West Coast, no doubt he’ll have something for you soon, bios of all our punditry team can be found on the About Page.

Injury update to the Scotland Squad: big Jim Hamilton has jumped straight into the match XV to replace Nathan Hines who has not recovered sufficiently from a calf injury. Perhaps it is felt that it is still to early to chuck Richie Gray (who remains on the bench) in after only 10 minutes at test level, but I would think he might get a shot again on Saturday to keep building his experience. In days of yore we could have chucked him and Jackson in against Italy for a bit of craic, but now every game is must win and Italy no longer the “easy” game…