Category: Rugby World Cup

World Cup Squad Preview: Forwards

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.

So who is a dead cert to go, and who “could do better”?

World Cup Squad Preview: Backs

The club season is done. The pro-team season is almost over, unless you happen to be challenging for a playoff place (hint: Edinburgh and Glasgow are not). All eyes turn now to the World Cup, at least in this part of the world.

Fell On All Black Days

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.

Big Jim’s Day Got Brighter

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…

6 Nations Exclusive: Frank Hadden’s View

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.

Wanted: Scotland Captain 2011

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.

Pressure, then, is steadily mounting for the 6N and the World Cup this summer.

World Cup Groups Finalised

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 to host Scotland U20

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:

Scotsman Article

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.

Scotland World Cup Dates for Your, umm, 2011 Diary

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So here are the dates of Scotland’s World Cup games and locations for 2011. At least it allows us to start planning already! It looks like we get to go all over, to Invercargill, Dunedin, Christchurch and then Auckland for the biggie…and perhaps beyond? Although it means back to back matches with the two top seeds, it’s nice of them to put that one last – it could become an all or nothing encounter at the Cake Tin. Imagine the intense craziness of the St Etienne game… versus England? I’m having a panic attack just thinking about it.

10 September:
Scotland v Play-off winner, Rugby Park Stadium, Invercargill

14 September:
Scotland v Europe 1, Carisbrook, Dunedin

25 September:
Argentina v Scotland, Christchurch Stadium

1 October:
England v Scotland, Eden Park, Auckland

Quarter-final Two: 8 October
Winner Pool B v Runner-up Pool A
(Christchurch Stadium)

Quarter-final Four: 9 October
Winner Pool A v Runner-up Pool B
(Christchurch Stadium)

In other news, the Evans boys and Euan Murray have just announced the signing of new contracts with Glasgow and Northampton respectively.

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.