The revelations of the last few days that the SRU don’t want to tour the big southern hemisphere nations because it will stifle our developing players has, understandably, been met with disdain from some quarters. Robbo says “as far as our overseas tours are concerned I do not believe it would be beneficial for us to play a series of three Tests against the individual SANZAR countries at the end of our season. What I believe works for us, from a performance perspective, is a mix between SANZAR and Tier 2 unions as that gives us the opportunity to develop players which is part and parcel of touring”. Meanwhile, a great number of Scottish fans will be saying, “WOW! Look at him spin!”
Former Scotland and Lions cross-code legend Alan Tait is to take over control of the Newcastle Falcons following the departure of his long time partner in crime. Great to see another Scottish coach being given a chance to cut his teeth at the highest level of club rugby. Hopefully the policy of using the Borders as something of a feeder area for their academy that he and Bates seemed to espouse will continue under the new regime.
In other news:
- Ian “Mighty Mouse” McLaughlan will be the new SRU President
- Houston, Cairns and Cross have all signed new contracts for Edinburgh. Hoggy has an offer in but it is rumoured to be less than he’s currently on. Aren’t Cardiff in the market for a number 8?
- Aberdeen Asset Management have also renewed their shirt sponsorhip of Edinburgh.
Sorry I’ve been a bit slack lately but hopefully we can get some coverage sorted of the games this weekend in the run up to the playoffs…
UPDATE: Tait has revealed a little of his plan for taking over at Newcastle here on the BBC.
Well, it’s that weekend of the year again where the Heineken Cup knockout stages face off against the Melrose Sevens for domination of your rugby-viewing brain. You can watch live rugby from the Super 14, Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup from about 8am on Saturday till well past 10pm non stop (apart from adverts) on Sky Sports 2, while BBC 2 Scotland has coverage of the Melrose Sevens from 2-5pm. So much rugby, so little time! Still, some of the interesting bits could include:
- The return of Ally Hogg and Marcus Di Rollo to our TV screens (/hearts?) in the Watsonians Sevens set up
- Munster vs Northampton’s potentially “large ship v iceberg” clash at Thomond Park
- The South African students endlessly praising Jesus in front of a bemused Melrose crowd after they have thrashed allcomers.
- The slim outside chance of a Lamont vs Lamont clash in Toulon vs Scarlets – although looking at the squads there is no sign of Rory.
- Trying to decide which non-Scottish team to root for, based possibly on the number of Scots on the pitch (Saints and Gloucester are prob worth a cheer on those grounds!).
And that’s before we even think about Leinster vs Clermont tonight at the RDS or Stade Francais vs Toulose on Sunday… enjoy your weekend…
Rumours are bouncing around the media this week that there is some secret SRU conspiracy afoot to block Italian entry to the Magners League, and so in return a counter-conspiracy to boot the Scottish pro-teams out of the Magners has been mooted by the Welsh press.
“Scottish teams Edinburgh and Glasgow could be kicked out of the Magners League by their Welsh and Irish counterparts, Scrum V understands” is the quote. Key word being could. I could be a millionaire by next week, Scrum V, but it’s bloody unlikely. Would you write about that?
Oops. I think I just dignified it with a response.
SRU Supporter survey with a chance to win Calcutta Cup tickets:
Don’t forget to mention Scottish Rugby Blog in your answer to #3!
Also just to complete my public service announcements for the week here are the details for any of you thinking about grabbing some last minute tickets for the France game next weekend, there are still approx 8,000 tickets available:
Tickets can be bought now – in person from the Murrayfield Ticket Centre, via the 24-hour hotline on 0844 335 3933 or online at www.scottishrugby.org (there are no ticket sales on match day).
EXTENDED TICKET CENTRE OPENING HOURS
The Murrayfield Ticket Centre opening hours are as follows:
25-29 January – 9am – 5pm
Sat 30 January – 10am – 4pm
Sun 31 January – CLOSED
1-5 February – 9am – 8pm
Sat 6 February – 10am – 5pm
Sun 7 February – 9 am onwards collections only
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…
As Al said to me earlier, it was a bit of a travesty the man was never knighted with or without the efforts of the accompanying Facebook campaign that brought him back into the public consciousness briefly last year. Sad too that he was never capped, TB having put paid to his promising playing career. But let us not dwell on negatives.
For so many of us raised on wintry February mornings watching the Five Nations on the telly, Bill McLaren will forever be remembered as the voice of rugby – always quick to conjure up a bizarre Scots or animal-related metaphor to describe a player. I never met the man, but I did briefly meet his wife once on the back pitches of Murrayfield after he had been commentating on an international late in his career, she said he had just had “a pretty good game”. I think it a fitting measure of his famed professional approach to his work to be described in the same terms as the players he watched, commentated on, coached and raised. Our thoughts are with all of Mr McLaren’s family and friends at this time.
A rugby professional long before the game was, off to the big rugby pitch in the sky – the game down here remains richer for his contribution.
Bill McLaren CBE, OBE and MBE
1923 – 2010
Glasgow have confirmed rumours Kelly Brown is to leave them for Saracens at the end of the season, splitting up the infamous Killer Bs back row. However fellow “B” John Barclay has renewed his contract, which should keep Glasgow and Scotland fans happy – I imagine there was much interest in him. Brown has been in a rich vein of form for the Warriors recently but with a number of youngsters like Richie Vernon, James Eddie, Calum Forester et al pushing through for back row places – and in considering International level you have to factor in Edinburgh’s burgeoning back row talent too – Brown’s move allows them to develop in the limited spots we have up here, while still he’s playing top level rugby and trying to force his way back into the international team. Still, unless Mike the Blade moves to Worcester I won’t be able to make Blair vs Brown jokes anymore, which will be a relief to you.
In other good news, Gougy McGouge aka Stade Prop David Attoub has been handed a 70 week ban on top of Dupuy’s 23 week ban both for gouging Stephen Ferris. Good enough for him, I say.
Nothing to do with Alan Tait mind, but instead an interesting article from the Scotsman that Alex Tait, Newcastle full-back and younger brother of the oft-shuffled around never-settled-in-one-position Matthew Tait (can we use the word Mossified to describe such a process, or possibly Fodenification?) is considering pinning his colours to the Scottish mast (assuming he could find a boat with a mast, of course. Try Dundee – have they not got an old one there?).
It’s an interesting prospect, but does he have more chance of caps with us than with England? We have Mossy, Lamont R and Hugo as the current front runners, with the likes of Jim Thompson coming up hard on the rails and folk like Ben Cairns or Colin Gregor as wacky back-up plans. England meanwhile have Armitage, Foden, Morgan and Tait’s own brother Matthew not to mention the likes of Cipriani (if Johnno can get over his beef) or Monye/Cueto (and other wingers who aren’t really fullbacks).
I suppose it should really all come down to who he really wants to play for, but it would be interesting to see brothers on the opposite side of a Calcutta Cup/RWC2011 match, wouldn’t it?
Assuming the games go ahead as the freezing weather continues (a couple of Magners games have already been called off), here are the teams to take the field in Dublin and Edinburgh respectively.
Glasgow Warriors to face Leinster: Bernardo Stortoni, DTH van der Merwe, Max Evans, Graeme Morrison, Thom Evans, Dan Parks, Chris Cusiter, Jon Welsh, Dougie Hall, Moray Low, Alastair Kellock (capt), Richie Gray, Kelly Brown, John Barclay, Johnnie Beattie.
Replacements: Fergus Thomson, Kevin Tkachuk, Dan Turner, James Eddie, Colin Gregor, Ruaridh Jackson, Rob Dewey.
(Probably on BBC Radio Scotland, Friday night).
Edinburgh team to face Cardiff: Chris Paterson (capt), Jim Thompson, Ben Cairns, John Houston, Tim Visser, Rory Hutton, Greig Laidlaw, Allan Jacobsen, Ross Ford, David Young, Jim Hamilton, Scott MacLeod, Alan MacDonald, Ross Rennie, Roddy Grant.
Replacements: Andrew Kelly, Kyle Traynor, Craig Hamilton, Scott Newlands, Ross Samson, Nick De Luca, Mark Robertson.
(Live coverage on S4c, Saturday from 6pm-ish)
Can’t say I’m not a little intrigued to see what Hutton can do, given what is a massive opportunity for him… but I wouldn’t expect miracles straight off the bat. Highlights of both games are also on STV as usual on Sunday. Given the lack of games this weekend they will presumably pad by talking about either the upcoming 6 Nations or perhaps porridge: ie the new Scott’s limited edition packets that are to feature Ross(y), Mossy and Thom. Hopefully this will help boost the sport at breakfast tables everywhere, especially during the current wintry spell. Speaking of, um, spelling, can someone tell me when they changed the spelling of porridge?
UPDATE: The Leinster vs Glasgow game has been called off due to late weather complications: more info on the BBC. Glasgow want to sue people given the cost of getting to Dublin has already been undertaken by the team after advice that the game would go ahed… Most of the weekend’s scheduled GP matches are also off, with just a few top flight rugby fixtures still hoping to go ahead including Munster, Leicester and Edinburgh.
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.