Category: World of Rugby

News from around the game, ie outwith Scotland.

U20s edged out by Samoa, Lions Win

Scotland 14 – 17 Samoa (view coverage here)

Scotland U20s battled bravely but an inability to find the cutting edge in slippery conditions saw them beaten with a last play of the game drop goal. For large parts of the game Samoa survived on instinctive handling rather than any particular shape to their game, and once Scotland found theirs they seemed to break the gainline at will but (sound familiar) without often troubling the try line. Richie Gray at 5 and Dewar at 6 looked game around the park, while Scotland’s stand-out performer was West of Scotland’s Peter Horne with several scything runs from deep inside his own territory. Unable to capitalise on several such breaks which left Samoa’s defensive structure in tatters, they went into the closing minutes at 14-apiece and you always sensed Samoa with their 6’4″, 21 stone “19 year olds” would batter over the try line. In the end, though, it was a drop goal that sealed it.

Scotland play England on the 9th of June, it’s not being streamed live that I can see but may appear later or on Eurosport.

Cheetahs 24 – 26 British and Irish Lions

In South Africa the Lions narrowly avoided getting egg on their manes by edging out a Cheetahs side that proved far more combative than the Golden Lions who finished above them in the Super 14. Mostly the Lions were beaten to and at the breakdown, and this almost gave the Cheetahs a famous win against a Lions side with a cobbled-together feel. Hines looked sharp when he came on, the 2/3rds Scottish front row did reasonably well without being as destructive as we hoped and Mike Blair sat on the bench all afternoon. Hook looked good and kicked creatively and accurately. Other than that, not much of note.

Scots Give Strong Showing in Sevens

… Mike Blair, not so much.

Scotland’s patchwork Sevens squad did the nation proud and narrowly missed out on beating IRB series winners South Africa to a place in their first cup final. In front of a home crowd sunning its pasty white self beneath rare Scottish sunshine (tops off at the first opportunity as expected), the Scots gave another edge of the seat viewing experience typified by the physicality of Ally Hogg and Sean Lamont. It seemed to be their extra muscle and experience that gave the more specialised skills of sevens regulars such as Colin Gregor, Roddy Grant, Greg Laidlaw and Jim Thompson room to flourish in victories over last week’s winners England, as well as Canada and Samoa. A controversial group-stage loss to Kenya (with the winning try coming after Laidlaw being punished for “throwing the ball in to touch” while seemingly catching the ball when tackled in touch) might have given them an “easier” semi-final had the result gone differently, but as it was Scotland stood up to the possibility of annihilation by the champions bravely and the South Africans were only able to clinch victory in extra time.

Meanwhile in South Africa, the British and Irish Lions tour kicked off fairly quietly, with most of South Africa seemingly watching the Bulls destroy the Chiefs in the Super 14 final instead. A half-full Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace (we should change our stadium to Murrayfield Sports Palace) nearly saw an upset with the touring side putting in a pretty ropey first performance against a fired up Royal XV. Defeat to what was essentially a third-tier team was avoided thanks to Lee Byrne who single-handedly wrestled the match back under the control of the Lions with some expert kicking and a brilliant solo try. Mike Blair had a fairly nervy start, and although eventually he settled into things with a chargedown, a good break (only halted by a tap tackle) and some good work under the high ball, his service was a bit slow and put under constant harrying pressure by his opposite number. If it’s any consolation, Mike Phillips’ passing was not much better when he came on, and Ronan O’Gara coped well with the variety of strange passes he received throughout the match to haul in 22 points. A good test of O’Connell’s leadership and he threw himself into the latter stages of the game to help the Lions seal victory. Full rundown of the match can be found here.

Monty Steps In to Sevens Squad

After punching above their weight in reaching the semi final of the IRB World Sevens at Twickers last week, the Scotland Sevens squad move on to Murrayfield this week hoping for a repeat of the good performance on home turf. Having watched Scotland throw away a winnable match against Kenya I went out thinking “oh well, same old same old” only to return and find they had beaten Fiji and humped the USA setting up a quarter against Portugal. They won through that (just) to face a semi with Auld Enemies England. The game was probably there for the winning at points, had Thom Evans not been ruled out, but in the end England were too strong – they went on to win the competition.

So with Thom Evans out with a foot problem, for this weekend’s squad coach Stephen Gemmell has called in new Scarlets man Sean Lamont, who represents a different sort of winger but who will hopefully be more than up to the challenge. Ally “played every game this season and still volunteering for Sevens” Hogg and Roddy “Ginger Warrior” Grant give them a good shout at the breakdown (such as it is in Sevens) so hopefully we can see some good results at Murrayfield. First group game up is a chance for revenge against England. Tickets for both days still available, naturally. And for those of you outwith spitting distance of Edinburgh, full coverage is on Sky apart from when the Lions are on.

In other Murrayfield news, Edinburgh have signed Scotland A, ex Borders and Newcastle full back and sometime fly-half Steve Jones to swell their ranks with the departure of Hugo to France. Robbo has also signed Dutch wing Tim Visser from the Falcons, his first non-Scottish signing of the season.

Meanwhile reports of team spirit being forged in South Africa seem positive, with Donnacha O’C saying it already feels like a club side. Let’s hope they don’t play like one. Big Nathan has been put in charge of rooming arrangements – good move putting Ross Ford with Paul O Connell. When is Nathan going to be roomed with O’Gara? And Warren Gatland has announced his intention not to publically slag anyone off (the Irish?) this time out. First game up on Saturday against the Royal XV, team announcement on Thursday around 2. Anyone getting excited yet?

PS If there are any Scottish fans going out to SA on tour, please get in touch (details on About Us page) – we’d love for you to do some reporting either out there or when you get back.

UPDATE: It is actually possible to watch all the Sevens on Saturday, Sky is just channel hopping it. So you can still record Scotland’s glory.

Scotland Sevens All-Star Squad

A few Scotland stars have been called up to bolster the Scotland Sevens squads for the home legs of the IRB Sevens World Series events, in London (23 and 24 May) and Edinburgh (30 and 31 May):

Scott Forrest (Ayr) CAPTAIN, Mike Adamson (Glasgow Warriors), Thom Evans (Glasgow Warriors), Roddy Grant (West of Scotland), Colin Gregor (Glasgow Warriors), Allister Hogg (Edinburgh), John Houston (Edinburgh), Greig Laidlaw (Edinburgh), Hefin O’Hare (Glasgow Warriors), Colin Shaw (Glasgow Warriors), Jim Thompson (Edinburgh), Andrew Turnbull (Edinburgh)

London Pool C: Fiji, Kenya, USA, Scotland

Scotland 7s Pool C fixtures on day one (Saturday 23 May) of the Emirates Airline London Sevens: Kenya v Scotland (kick-off 12:41pm), Fiji v Scotland (kick-off 3:25pm), USA v Scotland (6:21pm)

Edinburgh Pool C: Kenya, England, Canada, Scotland

Scotland 7s’ Pool C fixtures on day one (Saturday 30 May) of the Emirates Airline Edinburgh Sevens Festival: England v Scotland (kick-off 12.09pm), Kenya v Scotland (3.13pm), Canada v Scotland (6.56pm)

It already looks a pretty strong squad and not short of pace even before you throw Evans into the mix. His brother Max was supposed to be in there, but he may now be out for up to 6 months with the knee injury sustained at the weekend. Here’s hoping they can grab a result on home soil and Thom doesn’t get skinned by some Kenyan/Portuguese tyro in the the quarter finals of the bowl competition.

Geech Rumoured For London Scottish – Where Next for Basil?

With the player roundabout settling down a bit, the coaching roundabout has now stepped up as clubs complete their end of year reviews. The Times yesterday posited that Ian McGeechan could be headed to London Scottish after he hangs up his Lions boots, with current employers Wasps said to be unhappy at the current performance of their team and planning to give him the heave-ho. Once again this would be quite the coup for London Scottish and another step on the road back to success. Best to do it now and give time to build a team over a couple of seasons and promotions, rather than parachuting in a top-flight coach at the last minute before (one hopes) entering the top flight. It wouldn’t harm the prospects of any young Scottish qualified players down there to have Geech showing them the ropes either. A London Scottish spokesperson told Scottish Rugby Blog, “Ian has provided valuable guidance to London Scottish in the past. However, this story is speculation. We hope that he will be able to contribute to our success in the future, but he does not have a specific role with the Club at present.” More news if we hear it.

The article also mention that Gloucester coaches Dean Ryan, and more interestingly Bryan Redpath and Carl Hogg, may also soon be out of work after this weekend given Gloucester’s failure to capitalise on strong performances when the crunch matches come around. Although I’ve read before that Basil is not much of a fan of the internecine political warfare that accompanies interacting with the SRU, I’d like to see a move back north to fill the expected coaching vacancy at Edinburgh as the next step in his coaching career… who knows, maybe Deano would like to come too?

UPDATE: Geech has definitely left Wasps, even though the Lions have been paying his wages this year so he’s just been popping in now and then. Shaun Edwards will remain at Wasps as head coach. No official word on the move to Scottish though.

Vote For Your Magners League Dream Team

Time to select the end of season Magners League Dream Team. If you want to nominate anyone, please choose your starting XV and email MagnersLeague@brand-rapport.com. Voting closes at midnight on Friday 15th May and the Magners League Dream Team for 2008/09 will be announced shortly after. The player who polls the most votes for his position will be included in the Magners League Dream Team for 2008/09. There will be a prize for the entry which most closely resembles the final Magners League Dream Team for 2008/09.

Just out of interest, this would be mine:

15 Kearney (Leinster) – close with Ben Blair and Mossy whose boots have both been hugely influential but Kearney offers slightly more in attack.
14 T Evans (Glasgow) – top try scorer in the league, pace to burn. Narrowly missed out on being a Lion in the season he got his first International cap.
13 O’ Driscoll (Leinster) – largely written off last season, has rediscovered fun and his form. Max Evans would probably be behind Shanklin in 3rd but has had a hugely encouraging season at 13.
12 Mafi (Munster) – another import to Munster that has given their backs an edge to match the forwards. Close, with Jamie Roberts and D’Arcy’s late run of form.
11 Danielli (Ulster) – has been scoring tries by the hatful for Ulster and is enjoying working under Matt Williams so much he has signed a new contract. Deserves points just for that. Tommy Bowe a close second.
10 O’ Gara (Munster) I suppose, but let’s face it there’s not been much to whoop about stand-off wise anywhere in Europe of late. Hopefully the likes of Sexton, Biggar and Jackson will make next season more exciting.
9 Blair (Edinburgh) – remember, the start of the season counts too. Dropped off a bit in the Six Nations, but still made numerous opponents look foolish/inferior throughout the season.
8 Heaslip (Leinster) – Hoggy has been solid if unspectacular and Powell/Jones keep getting edged out by Rush/Tiatia. Heaslip has really found his form this season.
7 Barclay (Glasgow) – close between him and David Wallace but it is the Scottish Rugby Blog after all.
6 Elsom (Leinster) – several towering performances in defence, a true class signing.
5 O’ Connell (Munster) – Lions captain, speaks for itself.
4 Tito (Cardiff) – a real talisman for the Blues, the ginger “Maori” was greatly missed in Cardiff’s HC loss – possibly not during the penalty shoot out though. A testament to his leadership that he earned the captaincy after only one season.
3 Jones (Ospreys) – has matured from a hairy figure of fun to an excellent prop.
2 Ford (Edinburgh) – better form in his Edinburgh shirt than during the Six Nations for Scotland. Powerful in the loose, not so accurate with the throwing.
Jenkins (Cardiff) – stand out prop in the Northern Hemisphere at the moment. Phenomenal workrate has made him leading candidate to fill the Lions 1 shirt.

SRU Making Sense In The Autumn

Well this is a bit of welcome news in my inbox. Opponents and ticket prices for the autumn internationals – our first under the new head coach whoever that may be – have been announced. The SRU are finally pitching at the right level, and while the teams may not be such big box office draws, I think they may prove far more useful to our team development in the long term. The Test opponents are Fiji (14th Nov), Australia (21st) and Argentina (28th), and we should have a decent (but not easy) chance to beat all three if we are on form (and the Aussies are not!) despite the sides sitting at 8th, 3rd and 5th in the IRB rankings respectively. Scotland currently sit in 10th, so we get points if we beat any of them. So far, so sensible, and not an All Black whipping in sight.

Furthermore, ticket prices for all three start from £10 for adults. There’s not even a price hike for the Aussie game, and if you buy a £20 or above seat you will also get a free ticket for the Edinburgh leg of the pro-team derby, in a repeat of last year’s deal. So there’s no reason for us all not to get along and try and get decent crowds for all three – at £30 the lot, that’s the same as a cheap Six Nations ticket.

Is the SRU finally helping Scottish Rugby fans to beat those credit crunch blues?

SRU Pulls London Scottish Academy Funding

Just got this in, seems like the SRU are no longer willing to fund London Scottish’s academy system which means they can’t afford to emply a coach any more. Given they have pulled the plug after only two years with limited (but not negligible) success, the irony given their failure to pull the plug so quickly on more spectacular failures north of the Border would be delicious, were it not so annoying. One suspects they will still provide a valuable proving ground for semi-Scottish youngsters despite the SRU’s best efforts.

London Scottish today announced that Rowly Williams will be leaving the Academy as it’s Director/Coach.

The decision is linked directly to the decision by Scottish Rugby to withdraw all funding for the academy programme at the club.

In the post since November 2007, Williams has overseen the establishing of the player development programme of young Anglo-Scots at the club. In conjunction with the Scottish Exiles, The Academy has hosted Development Group evenings during this period which have identified players, along with others by direct selection. These young players at the club have received rugby training, conditioning, game understanding and position specific skills coaching.

Steady progress was being seen – eligible players have gone on to represent the Scottish Exiles in trial matches, several have made various performance (high potential) group camps with Scottish Rugby, player Matt Heeks represented Scotland at U19 and U20 in the past two seasons and Ryan Wilson was recently selected for the Scotland U20 World Cup squad. The eight senior academy players have all represented London Scottish at 1st, 2nd and Development XV level.

Despite the decision being made, the club intends that a Player Development Programme will continue. Williams is confident that, where possible, the club will continue to develop and promote those deemed good enough onto the Scottish pathway route.

“The idea and concept of an academy here is a sound one and whilst it produced what some might see as a modest return in the 2 full years of operation, I always felt there was much more to come as the club continued its rise up the leagues. The support of Scottish Rugby was invaluable, as was that of The Friends of Scottish Rugby.”

“I’m sure some common ground will be found again soon and young Anglo-Scots will make London Scottish their team of choice and Scotland the Country they choose to represent.”

Oops He Did it Again, and Cheerio Tom

Now that all the Lions disappointment is out of the way for a few days, back to parochial matters.

In the news today: Parko arrested for alleged car/booze related incident, according to BBC Sport (I shall try not to use the words “disappointment” and “Lions” in this sentence too lest I be accused of taking the michael).

In memories of slightly happier times, 37 year old Scottish Lions Braveheart Warrior Poet Scrummaging Genius Legend non-disappointment etc etc Tom Smith has announced his retirement from professional rugby at the end of the season – now rapidly upon us. Smith famously was the dark horse in the front row for Geech’s last visit to South Africa, and now Tom’s protege at Northampton (Euan Murray) is off on his own Lions Tour to South Africa with Geech. Smith also took part in Scotlands 1999 Five Nations tournament victory – those were the days, eh? He had 6 Lions caps, 61 Scotland caps and over 200 appearances for Saints. We wish Tom well with whatever he chooses to do next – he’s been helping out at Scottish age grade coaching I think so here’s hoping we see him rising through the coaching ranks soon, he sure has a lot of knowledge to impart to someone…

And finally, Andy Robinson has indeed announced his willingness to be Scotland coach, thereby causing bookies everywhere to breath a sigh of relief. With Gloucester losing again, could Bryan “Basil” Redpath/Carl Hogg, hell even Dean Ryan too be a good team to take over at Edinburgh if Robinson moves upstairs?

Walk 4 Matt Hampson

Nick of the similarly monikered but containing more leek-jokes Welsh Rugby Blog has been in touch, highlighting a great rugby charity event that I would urge you to support in any way you can.

This year the walk from the home of rugby (Rugby) to the home of cabbage (Twickenham) has been adopted as a way of raising money for the Matt Hampson trust, while also supporting some other great causes like Wooden Spoon and Cancer Research. Each Guinness Premiership club nominates a charity, so it’s basically about the rugby community joining together in a good cause.

You’ll find full details on the walk, some of the rugby greats who are joining Matt on the route and how you can help raise money on the page:

http://www.walk4matt.org/

And here’s Nick’s page about it on his site. You can donate by Paypal, CC, text etc. We’ll be donating our ad revenue for the month (such as it is) to the cause, hopefully you can chip in something too.

Lineen Rules Himself Out

Sean Lineen has ruled himself out of contention for the Scotland Rugby head coach’s position. Wise enough to mastermind a famous away victory in Toulouse, the original kilted Kiwi is also wise enough to know that he has unfinished business with Glasgow. He talks a lot of sense about where he is as a coach, realising his own strengths and weaknesses and he’ll probably be a great Scotland coach, just not this time round. This leaves Andy Robinson as pretty overwhelming favourite now. Will he take a similar step out of the spotlight, clearing the way for a worldwide headhunt, or is he actually far more anxious to prove himself once again on the biggest stage? One overwhelming thing in his favour is that he doesn’t get on with Brian Moore. We should know if he throws in the hat or the towel in the next week or two.

While rumours abound that Sean Lamont is Edinburgh bound – he certainly seems to be MIA at Saints although that may be more to do with the form of Paul Diggin – one thing for sure is that Robinson has also just completed the signing of Sevens captain Roddy Grant to a full-time contract at Edinburgh. Grant, who plays as flanker in the fifteens game, should be afforded an ideal opportunity to learn his trade first hand from a coach with a pretty large knowledge base in that area. Unless of course he moves upstairs…

Meanwhile Lineen, with an even stronger Glasgow squad for next year including Chris Cusiter and Rob Dewey, wants to give himself a chance for success there first, realising that one good Heineken Cup result does not a good Scotland coach make.

Oh, wait…

Melrose Pipped at the Sevens as the Sun Shines

In glorious conditions at the Greenyards, thousands spent the weekend celebrating the greatness of the shortened form of Rugby Union. Overall there was a much stronger showing from Scottish teams than in recent years (other than the team of ringers brought in to win it last year), with a few reasonably well-kent names such as Ben Addison, Chris Fusaro and Jim Thompson popping up for their clubs and most of the invited overseas sides going out early. Host side Melrose progressed to the final but as usual the tournament was won by a bunch of students from South Africa who though everything was awesome and talked about God a lot. The vets tournament was won by a motely crew of ex-Border Reivers.

As one legend of the game – possibly the only legend of sevens, but what a legend – in Waisale Serevi retired, having finally played at the ground where the short game was invented, another bright young star was unearthed in the lightning quick feet of South African Earl Lewis. Melrose put up a fight in the brilliant final, clawing almost every score level thanks to some canny (and some Australian) operators – there was no shortage of class on both sides. In the end though, it was Lewis’s pace that proved the difference, able to kill off the game in the dying moments with a couple of individual sprints over the line.