Category: World of Rugby

News from around the game, ie outwith Scotland.

Campaign to get Bill McLaren a Knighthood

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In case you’re wondering where to find the campaign started by Watsonians coach Bruce Aitchison, it’s in the form of a group on Facebook at:

http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=71786527160

Nothing much more to say about this one other than if you are on Facebook, join it because “Sir Bill McLaren” seems like a bloody good idea, and a fitting tribute to a man whose commentary has complemented so many people’s best rugby-watching memories.

Help the Crusaders at the Melrose 10s Tournament on 10th April

No, the other Crusaders. To explain more, I’ll hand over to friend of the blog Mark Dainter, who’s looking for some veteran players to help out a good cause:

David meets Goliath in the name of “Charity” at the Melrose 10s’s Vets Tournament on Friday 10th April

“We are The Crusaders RFC, a charity touring rugby team made up of a group of players who have all either had cancer or had their lives touched by cancer. We have entered a side into this years Vet’s 10’s Tournament at Melrose on the 10th April and are currently looking for a couple more additions to our squad. If you’re over 35 or know someone who is and might be interested in playing against Vet’s team’s from Melrose, Hawick, Ulster and Edinburgh Accies. You could be playing against the likes of Craig Chalmers, Scott Hastings and maybe even Waisale Serevi so if you’re free on Friday 10th April please contact me at markdainter@googlemail.com. We would also love to have an international or two in our own team for a bit of PR so any ex Scotland players over 35 please feel free to contact me.

The tournament takes place on Friday the 10th of April with the final being played between the semi-finals and final of the main tournament on Saturday 11th at around 5:30pm. The final will be broadcast by BBC Scotland as part of their coverage of the main sevens event. The tournament will cost £45 (at present) to enter for each player which will include food & drink with entertainment on the Thursday evening.”

Play Rugby, Tackle Cancer

Mark Dainter
Team Manager, The Crusaders RFC

All the best to Mark and his team. I’ll be back tomorrow with some chatter about Glasgow’s match at the weekend.

Frank Hadden Quits as Scotland Coach

According to press reports whizzing about just now, Ol’ Franky baws has jumped, possibly whilst being pushed.

Scotsman
BBC
SRU

While in recent years the team has lapsed into a fairly inconsistent sort of malaise, I feel Scottish Rugby fans (and players) will always wish Frank Hadden well simply for restoring faith and a little hope in the aftermath of the Matt Williams era. His record in home Calcutta Cups was pretty good and his team notched up an away Southern Hemisphere win, something of a rarity. Okay, Argentina without Llofreda or Hernandez. But – south of the Equator. Live with it.

However (without wishing to kick a man whilst down) he may also be remembered for an over-reliance on reputation (or relationship?) at the expense of form (cough Dan Parks, Marcus Di Rollo cough) whilst stalling before bringing in players who merited a run in that famous navy shirt of ours (Godman, Cairns, Evans, Evans). Should I even mention Mossy and the standoff debate? Sorry, no time – dinner’s ready. Whatever he’s up to next Al and I shall wish him well, as he always seemed a decent bloke. But it is time for this Scotland team to move on. Or try to.

Now talk inevitably turns to: which fool wants the job? Steve Bates/Todd Blackadder/Eddie Jones/Marcelo Llofreda/Bryan Redpath/Rob Moffatt etc etc… Will Robinson and Lineen want to abandon rebuilding the pro-teams, now they seem to be getting somewhere? Can the SRU afford anyone decent? Will a newcomer hang on to Brewer, Steadman and Townsend? Does Tom Smith have any coaching qualifications?

Discussion, as always, in the coming weeks – as the size of Frank’s name in the tag popularity cloud to the right diminishes slowly into the night…

Scotland’s Summer Tour That Is Not

According to an article on Planet Rugby, Scotland had hoped to tour New Zealand in June but have been turned down by the provinces. Presumably this means they were looking to send a squad to play some province/Super 14 teams, but drew short of wanting to play the All Blacks in their back yard (and I stand by my previous assertion that we should not play New Zealand ever again, or at least till we are not poop, which could be the same as “ever”).

While Wales are in discussion for a proper old-fashioned tour, the SRU request was turned down because “it wasn’t a goer financially or operationally really”. Which presumably translates as “while we love you jocks, your skirt-wearing lunatic fans aren’t going to travel half-way round the world to watch Scotland (minus a couple of Lions if you are lucky) get stuffed by our provinces and/or the ABs and our fans don’t want to see that either. Come back when you’ve got a decent coach and more NZ$ to spend”. Paraphrasing all mine, naturally.

The A Team are touring Romania this summer, I guess that’ll have to do. Let the main team players have a summer off (other than the usual complement of 3 Lions) and prepare for total dominance at pro-team and international level next season.

I believe the phrase you are looking for is LOL.

Exclusive Interview with Robbie Russell

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A world first Scottish Rugby Blog exclusive interview for you here. Last week former Scotland, London Irish and Saracens hooker Robbie Russell was kind enough to sit down and let us pick his brains about a few things, including Scotland’s chances tomorrow, his career highs and lows and his current business – running Shudoo, an online designer shoe store. Robbie Russell earned 28 Caps for Scotland between 1999 – 2005, including appearances at 2 Rugby World Cups.

Scottish Rugby Blog: How do you think today’s Scotland team compares with the ones you played in? Do you think we’ve got a chance against Ireland or England in the coming weeks?

Robbie Russell

Robbie Russell: I am not sure the results are as good in recent years however the team has some quality players. I don’t think there is a great difference however I may be a bit biased!

We used to have a great home record against Ireland so hopefully we can see that restored. I believe we have a real chance against both Ireland and England although I see England improving as well and that will make it tough at Twickenham.

SRB: In your career who was the toughest front row opponent you came up against – any real masters of the dark arts?

RR: I came up against plenty of tough front row players, many of whom had a few tricks up their sleeves. I think my first awakening to the dark arts of front row play came from the amateur days when playing for Aberdeen Grammar in 98.

SRB: You were born in Australia, so what did it feel like scoring a try for your adopted country (Scotland) against your country of birth (Australia) in RWC2003, which was held in Australia?

RR: It was fantastic. The whole 2003 WC experience was an amazing time. I was worried I wasn’t going to get off the bench in that game. When I got on the field I remember one of the Aussie players (Nathan Sharp who was an old uni mate) heckling a bit, so it was nice to get over the line.

SRB: That World Cup trip was when you had the idea for your shoe business too, wasn’t it?

RR: That’s correct. At the end of our campaign we had some spare days so I met with an Australian supplier and decided to import a few hundred Ugg boots and started selling them online (www.shudoo.co.uk). Being online meant I could still run the business even when away in camp with the Scotland side. We even used some of the Scotland players as models on our website in the early days!!

SRB: Both countries have a fairly small player base in competition with other sports (football in our case, any number of things in Australia’s). Apart from the odd scrum, a lot of the Aussies seem to have better basic skills than us – do you think there are there things that they do over there at a younger age (in schools for example) that the Scottish setup could look to emulate?

RR: I seriously believe the weather plays a big part and if it wasn’t for that, skill levels across the countries would be the same.

During school years, all year round you are able to go outside and play ball games of all descriptions in Australia. This really helps development and breeds a sporting culture. The weather conditions in Australia encourage taking more risks and because things come off more, you keep doing it and get better.

SRB: As a London Irish man presumably you are glad to see their resurgence in the Premiership. But as a former Saracens man, what do you think of the current revolving door of players and staff at Saracens, and rumours of it becoming basically a South African franchise?

RR: Revolving doors at Saracens is nothing new! There was plenty in my time as well.

There is always a lot of speculation about the club and they love being in the media. I am uncertain as to what is going to happen there but it will be sad if the club loses its history and disappointing for some of the boys who have served their whole careers there. I imagine it will be more concerning for the RFU, but that’s the nature of the Premiership now.

I am delighted to see the successes at London Irish. I feel they’re a great club and deserve some silverware soon.

SRB: Many thanks for your time Robbie, all the best in the future.

Weekend Round Up

Losing weekend for our pro-teams which was hardly inspiring, but it’s not all doom and gloom.

Glasgow were beaten by a strong Ulster team with Simon Danielli having a hand in both tries. Glasgow will however have been buoyed by the news that the Evans brothers Thom and Max are to stay at Glasgow until after RWC 2011, despite being courted by English and French clubs.

Edinburgh lost to Scott MacLeod’s old team Llanelli in a pretty dire game that was there for the taking. MacLeod had a reasonable 60 minutes before being warmly applauded from the pitch. In the battle of the full-backs, Mossy was the resounding winner simply by virtue of the fact he ran more than he kicked and when he did kick it wasn’t rubbish. Sorry Hugo, but you screwed the pooch there. Whether or not Southwell was hampered by a different set of tactics in the first half is open to debate but there was some pretty dire ping-pong and Hugo and Blair Jr did not show themselves in the best light. Worryingly, Cairns and De Luca also did not seem able to string much together in the centre although De Luca forced himself into the match as it went on. Apart from Paterson and perhaps Malkovich Webster, no-one really stepped up to say “Hoy Frank, I should be in the team.” Edinburgh were still in it at the end, and a lack of passion/commitment/skill in the first half prevented them from nicking the away result they probably deserved on the basis of the second.

Scott Gray, Sean Lamont and Euan Murray all played for Northampton in their win over Worcester, with Gray picking up both a try and a yellow card. Al Strokosch got on for the last 20 in Gloucester‘s loss to Leicester while Rory Lawson picked up a yellow card too. And Big Jason White had a pretty good game for Sale in their brilliant match with Newcastle which saw former Borders men Steve Bates and Alan Tait’s resurgent Falcons team eke out a win. That game also illustrated what a team can do with a solid scrum platform led by a class tighthead, and while our Euan is no Carl Hayman, he’s still vital to Scotland’s set piece efforts. After doing some digging online it looks like Chris Cusiter and Simon Taylor were also rested by their French teams at the weekend.

Also major plaudits should go to Ayr, who secured their first Premiership Division 1 title in 112 years of trying at the weekend, and the Scotland Sevens Squad who managed to see off Australia in final of the Plate (middle level runners up competition). The Dubai World Cup event also saw a number of upsets including Kenya beating Fiji, and (eventual winners) Wales reaching the main final against Argentina, between them having seen off New Zealand and South Africa. Wales, World Cup Winners eh?

Big Up Milburn Academy

In Inverness, from our old school, saying this would have been the equivalent of saying something like “that Laurence Dallaglio is a nice chap”. Oh wait. But still, props of the non-front-row variety go to Milburn rugby team members Andrew Kellock (aged 12, no relation, one imagines) and John Clark (age 13) who managed to bring their careening minibus to a safe stop after their rugby teacher collapsed at the wheel. The team were returning from dishing out a beating in Plockton – which just shows the sort of away fixture you get in Highlands rugby. With reactions that fast, a place in the Scotland team can’t be far off for those boys. We wish the teacher well for his recovery.

On a childish side-note, ‘mon the IRA (Inverness Royal Academy, not the other lot – and if our latter experiences of rugby were anything to go by, a school that probably now has a bigger tiddlywinks team than rugby team). Meet you at the quarry for a ruckus after PE.

Spaghetti Western

Mixed news ahead of Scotland’s crunch wooden spoon duel against Italy this weekend.

The Good: Tighthead prop Euan Murray played the full 80 minutes for Northampton in their narrow defeat against Wasps yesterday with no news of any adverse affects. In case we need backup, Moray Low had a pretty decent game for Glasgow against Cardiff on Friday too. Simon Taylor is reported to have played well in his preferred position of Number 8 for Stade at the weekend. Simon Danielli, meanwhile, was in try-scoring form for Ulster.

The Bad: Chris Cusiter seems to have been mauled by some South-Sea Island type playing for Perpignan. We await updates on the status of his knee – he did play on afterwards so hopefully he was taken off at half-time only as a precaution. Kelly Brown suffered a head knock in the Cardiff game while failing to make a tackle on Martyn Williams. In fact, most of Glasgow’s tackling in the first half of that game was bad.

The Ugly: The following all seem to have had pretty mediocre games at the weekend based on the mainstream press reports and the couple of games I saw; Ally Kellock, Ally Hogg, Ben Cairns, Chris Paterson (although these last pair did score a try each) Rory Lawson.

Buried in a rough wooden casket in the desert: To continue the cowboy theme, the following were MIA this weekend having been (presumably) released to their clubs or not in full use by the main squad: Al Strokosch, Scott Gray, Sean Lamont, Al Dickinson (left on the bench for Gloucester), Rob Dewey.

UPDATE: It turns out Rob Dewey has been drafted into the Scotland Sevens squad for Dubai.

Now The Boks Want In

Scurrilous rumours are circulating in the e-press-o-sphere (new word for you there) that the Springbok franchises are looking for a break-away from the Super 14 next year, with an entry into the Magners League being touted as the replacement. Leaving aside the fact that every one involved seems to deny anything of the sort to both The Scotsman/Evening News and the source article itself in The Australian – which means the article is basically conjecture – there are several reasons this might not work:

  • Same time-zone games mean that revenues from TV would go up at both ends. As Wayne Smith in The Australian says, “the rugby wouldn’t be as good but the bottom line would be a whole lot healthier.” Indeed the rugby would become fairly schizophrenic, switching between firm South African grounds and Firhill on a rainy Friday night. Are the Blue Bulls really going to want to play Connacht?
  • The lesser teams in a financial and rugby sense (Connacht, Dragons, and well, our two) would struggle to compete with the likes of the Sharks both financially and in a rugby sense. It is hard to see anything but a South African monopoly on the top end of the table even with Munster or Cardiff at the top of their games. Would the South Africans also make demands financially, bringing a hefty ratings slice to the table as they would?
  • It would probably screw the Italians’ chances of getting involved. For the development of the world game surely it is of more interest to help a developing rugby nation like Italy achieve parity. On the other hand, it might mean Argentina or the Pacific Islands got invited in to the Super umm, 9.
  • Adding another 5 teams to the fixture table would clog it up even further, with or without the presence of the EDF Cup (which seems to be on the way out or due for a reworking). Where do we fit all these games in when there’s barely enough time as it is? Would we have to synch our season with the Saffers, resulting in summer rugby (not such a terrible thought) and starting off with the Six Nations in the Spring? Where would it leave England, France and the Heineken Cup? It might work as the previously mooted “Rainbow Cup”, which could fill the “gulf” left by the EDF Cup but might threaten to overshadow Europe’s premier Cup competition. Nice as the idea is, with the increasing physicality and injury-laden nature of the game of Rugby Union, do we really have room for more expansion?

In other news, rumours concerning a trio of Wasps players moving to France have been confirmed. With another dedicated lock in Tom Palmer, and a utility back row in James Haskell, will this see Simon Taylor squeezed out? Maybe Wasps will want him! Is there room for him in Scotland? Sounds wonderful, but seems unlikely. Never one to give up on a challenge, Taylor will surely stay on and defend his lovely pink shirt…

UPDATE: this has, of course, now been quashed

Good Omens?

Scotland U20 18 – 17 Wales U20

See, it’s easy really. I knew there was some rugby on TV tonight but I missed it. Still you can get a BBC report here.

Let’s hope it’s a good omen. Speaking of which, Wales have never lost a Six Nations game Gavin Henson has started. But he’s not starting on Sunday anymore, having been pulled due to a calf strain (his replacement is Tom Shanklin). Interesting – or just straw clutching?

Good luck to Italy tomorrow, and for that matter to England I hope they manage to sort something out. France and Ireland too, here’s looking forward to a great Six Nations. See you on the other side with a roundup.

France Playing Loony Tunes Again

France’s Coach Marc Lievremont has named a Six Nations squad shorn of Vincent Clerc (one of the standouts of last year), and with only one “dedicated” stand-off in Lionel Beauxis, who has not played exclusively in that position for Stade having been over shadowed by Argentinian Juan Martin Hernandez. Still, it does feature some of the usual suspects (Jauzion, Heymans, Rougerie, Elissalde, Chabal, Dusautoir) alongside those I’ve never heard of, despite watching a fair amount of European rugby this year.

Still, look what happened to us last time we said “oh check out crazy Marc, we might have a chance here”. Scotland were going to win the Six Nations by kicking off with a victory against a novice French team, and we got humped 6-27 at home. This time round, Ireland are the guinea pigs.

France squad – Backs: Maxime Medard, Clement Poitrenaud, Cedric Heymans (all Toulouse), Alexis Palisson (Brive), Julien Malzieu, Aurelien Rougerie (both Clermont-Auvergne), Yannick Jauzion, Florian Fritz (both Toulouse), Benoit Baby (Clermont-Auvergne), Maxime Mermoz (Perpignan), Lionel Beauxis (Stade Francais), Jean-Baptiste Elissalde (Toulouse), Sebastien Tillous-Borde (Castres), Morgan Parra (Bourgoin).
Forwards: Julien Bonnaire (Clermont-Auvergne), Thierry Dusautoir (Toulouse), Fulgence Ouedraogo, Louis Picamoles (both Montpellier), Damien Chouly (Perpignan), Sebastien Chabal (Sale), Lionel Nallet (Castres), Romain Millo-Chluski (Toulouse), Jerome Thion (Biarritz), Guilhem Guirado (Perpignan), Benjamin Kayser (Leicester), Dimitri Szarzewski (Stade Francais), Nicolas Mas (Perpignan), Lionel Faure (Sale), Fabien Barcella (Biarritz), Fabien Lecouls (Toulouse).

In other news on the rest of my trawl around the Sky Sports Rugby site I found an intriguing ad offering me a 3/1 bet on England for an outright win in the Six Nations, which if had had any tea in my mouth would have made me spray it all over my screen. I also found Stuart Barnes extolling the virtues of Glasgow and John Barclay, Will Greenwood naming Glasgow in 3 of his 5 thingies “of the Week” awards and a Lions XV “Team of the Week” where Ally Kellock and Max Evans were the only Scots. Still, some of the ludicrous pro-irish XV selections in the comments were quite a laugh. Tomas O’ Leary? C’mon.

Enjoy the Heineken Cup weekend coming up in which Edinburgh are out to spoil Leinster’s party, and Glasgow are out to umm, not lose against the Dragons again. Next week I – or hopefully we, ahem – will start the Six Nations buildup, this being the time of year when Al comes out of his cave with a big bag of tuppences…

Stephen Jones Says Something Agreeable 2 Weeks Running

There must be something in the water…

Townsend Turning
They recently announced some figures in Scotland that purported to show a major revolution in the sport north of the border, with increased numbers playing the game and watching the professional teams.

All very fine, although if you delved beneath the figures you found that, basically, Jock McTavish and his mate had started to play rugby for someone’s under-13s and that Jimmy Stewart has agreed to go to watch Edinburgh now and again provided it’s not raining.

Still, good luck to them, a Scotland rugby revival is the next key to the well-being of the RBS Six Nations and even small rises are turning a tide. And, in my opinion, that revival came a little closer last week when it was announced that Gregor Townsend, the former Scotland back, had joined Frank Hadden’s coaching set-up – this after an odd period when Townsend seemed to have been banished to the outer limits.

The choice is superb. I have always regarded Townsend as a genius, although not without flaws. He didn’t pick the best time to be born, since his deftness, passing, ability to put people into space and all-round expertise were somewhat wasted. Those outside him in the Scotland teams for which he played between 1993 and 2003 were not on his wavelength, some were not even on the same planet.

Look what happened when they gave him players to bounce off – he was able to marshal the 1997 Lions to victory in South Africa. A career that took him to Northampton, Brive and Castres also gave him a wider vision. I used to love watching him end on, to see him work his angles. His wisdom and modest manner could well herald a revival in Scotland back play and something better in terms of the scoreboard. Those are the numbers that really matter.

Full article can be found on the Times Website.

Toony Army Marches On

The SRU announced today via their shiny new website that former Scotland and Lions (not to mention Gala, Northampton, Brive, Warringah, Sharks etc etc) standoff and centre Gregor Townsend is to take over the coaching of Scotland’s back division for the upcoming Six Nations. While this is certain to set the fingers muttering in Al’s neck of the woods due to Gregor’s, shall we say, inconsistencies as a player, I reckon it could be a good move. Edinburgh’s backs (Godman and Cairns in particular) seem to have benefitted from his recent input by showing a bit more of a cutting edge, and his mentoring scheme of pairing young Scottish talent with past masters such as Gavin Hastings, Sean Fitzpatrick and, er, himself was the envy of many, including All Black Kevin Mealamu. And besides, Parks and World Class Phil already know plenty about throwing intercept passes and running up their own backsides.

He also has more coaching qualifications than his Lions captain and current England manager Martin Johnson, so far as I can find out.