The Scotland under-20s have already left for their World Cup in Italy. In their ranks they have Duncan Weir, Mark Bennett and Stuart Hogg. They also, it must be said, go with mixed expectations.
While I was sitting thinking about whether to write about London Scottish getting promotion (congrats to all) or Chris Cusiter heading down under for some match fitness (throw another shrimp on the barbie, don’t get injured) or maybe the Sevens squad again being strengthened with pros (more non-reflective gloss on the results), Andy Robinson decided today was the day to announce his initial World Cup training squad of 40 men. So, mostly opinion free today. As expected there are few surprises (but still one or two). So here it is, hot from Murrayfield:
As Rory has chosen to focus on the backs he has left me with the slightly easier task of looking at the forwards.
The reason this is easier is because Andy Robinson has a pretty samey starting pack and, barring injury, I can’t imagine it will change too much for the first game in the World Cup. So this means the warm-up games against Ireland and Italy will help pick a bench, and the training sessions before hand are hugely important for individuals.
This may be a little premature, but I was looking at the World Cup pools the other day and a nasty question raised itself in my mind. Assuming we play well enough to get out of the group stages, is it worth considering exactly where we come (position wise) in the group? There is one team you want to avoid at all costs if you are not Aussie or France (and we are certainly not): the All Blacks. Warning: contains squiffy fan logic, hypothetical situations and a total dismissal of Argentina as a factor.
With the news that Scott MacLeod is off to Japan to ply his trade, those of us turning thoughts to Rugby World Cup 2011 and who should go on the plane just found our lives a lot easier. Assuming that Robbo takes 4 locks (plus a back-rower or two with a bit of time in the second row perhaps) and that the front runners are most likely Gray, Kellock and Hines, the debate was always going to be over MacLeod or Hamilton for the extra cover berth. Now MacLeod’s move has forced him to recuse himself from World Cup duty, the door is wide open for big Jim. Not always the most mobile, his undoubted contribution has always been general grunt, lineout height and some extra power behind Euan Murray in the scrum. But this news, coupled with decent form for Gloucester should see him tie up the fourth lock slot. Unless Fraser McKenzie gets back to his early season form, then it could get interesting again…
It is rare that you can talk to someone who has’ been there and done it’. Indeed since the era of professionalism it is rare to even talk to someone regarding the inner workings of sport and get a straight answer. So when Frank Hadden starts telling you about the magic of the 6 Nations you know you have to sit up and listen. A.D. caught up with him earlier in the week.
Under Andy “Build A Score” Robinson Scotland have improved. Split hairs if you want, but things are certainly looking better than they did only three years ago. Even the most pessimistic of supporters (i.e. any Scotsman) has to admit that.
Romania sealed the deal with a 39-12 win over Uruguay, and made their way as the final qualifier into Group B along with Georgia, Scotland, Argentina and England. As the event draws near, we will of course delve more deeply into the issues surrounding Scotland’s requirements for continuing the record of qualification from the group stages. And by delve, I mean make jokes about England and the All Blacks.
Factoid du jour: Georgia are coached by Scotsman and formal Scottish national coach Richie Dixon. Andy Robinson of course has also previously coached group opposition in the form of England.
Inverness Caledonian Stadium will host the opening match of Scotland’s U20s Six Nations campaign against France, and there is even a possibility of a “local” lad being in the frame in the form of a Caithness player:
Friday 5th Feb at 7.30, free entry. Wrap up warm. Very warm.
Also, the IRB have announced the ticket prices for RWC New Zealand 2011. More on this at a later date, but don’t worry they are not on sale until April.
UPDATE: And one last little snippet: Scotland have lost their opening IRB Sevens pool matches in Dubai against Fiji and Samoa, but did manage to get a draw against Zimbabwe.