Glasgow Win 1872 Cup

Although I thought it a bit of a damp squib in terms of rugby (the weather can probably take some of the blame) the intensity was definitely there in the festive derby series, with plenty of niggle in the first leg as Glasgow set the standard for intensity, and some stupid yellows in the much better second leg. When we said “more aggression Ross”, we didn’t mean that. In the end it was that intensity mainly at the breakdown that was probably enough to see Glasgow through – they simply seemed to want it more than Edinburgh, and had a clearer plan B (which may actually be plan A) to turn to when it wasn’t on to run it (ie get Dan Parks to kick it). Perhaps with Ruaridh Jackson back from injury and getting a wee run today and Parks off to Cardiff in a few months, Plan A (as Andy Robinson might see it) will get more of an airing. While Edinburgh continue to be try-less and unfortunately not looking like changing it much, a big New Year shout out to Nikki Walker, Scotland’s top try scorer of the year so far having picked up two yesterday for the Ospreys against Cardiff.

So for now Glasgow will be happy to be leading the race for the Magners League title (as reflected on the “marvellous” new splash page where Evans is front and centre!) sitting clear at the top of the table with 8 or so games left until the all important end of season play-offs. With a steely aggressive core at the heart of the team and a solid defence, Glasgow are playing with the sort of heart Scottish fans tend to demand and hopefully it sees them well into the playoffs. As pitches dry up in the spring though I hope the backs will get more ball through the hands – a winning team needs to have more attacking options than ol’ Parko and the cross-field kick, and I get the feeling the Irish teams and Ospreys are soon going to start bringing the big guns in Magners fixtures.

For the Scottish teams it will only get harder, but we like a bit of a challenge, don’t we?

Second Leg Teams / Happy New Year

Happy New Year when it comes. Here is some team news for Saturday for you to digest while your liver recovers:

Glasgow: B Stortoni, DTH van der Merwe, M Evans, G Morrison, T Evans, D Parks, C Cusiter, J Welsh, D Hall, M Low, A Kellock (captain), R Gray, K Brown, J Barclay, R Vernon.
Replacements: TBC (rumour is Ruaridh Jackson may be given a bench slot, but then again may not).

Edinburgh: C Paterson (captain), M Robertson, B Cairns, J Houston, T Visser, P Godman, G Laidlaw, K Traynor, R Ford, G Cross, S MacLeod, J Hamilton, A MacDonald, R Grant, S Newlands.
Replacements: S Crombie/A Kelly, A Jacobsen, C Hamilton, D Callam, R Samson, N De Luca, J Thompson

Glasgow fans interested in going to the game without braving the drive in our current Hoth-like conditions might like to read this from the Glasgow Supporters Club: http://www.glasgowwarriors.com/gwsc/archives/2009/12/edinburgh_bus.html

Happy Christmas

Al and I would like to wish everyone a Happy Christmas and New Year, and to thank you all for stopping by every once in a while and reading our ramblings on Scottish Rugby, so here’s to you ladies and gents – we hope you keep coming. Tell your friends! And if you are interested in writing please get in touch. Season of goodwill and all that, why not help out?

I couldn’t find the picture of Chunk in a Santa hat (which I faked anyway), so you’ll just have to imagine his beard is white not ginger. I’ll try and get a report in on the 1872 Cup matches but it’ll be a pretty busy festive period for me (non rugby related) so I might have to wait for a two-leg review on the second or third of Jan. If you can’t go along, they are both on STV this year, perfect veg-out material while you are adopting the Chunk look on the couch post all those roast dinners…

1872 Cup Preview

It’s the first leg of the 1872 Cup this weekend as matters turn parochial. Brother on brother, blood on blood; Chris on Chris, Thom on Thompson, Brown vs Blair, DTH vs DC, Vernon vs Visser, Cross, Ross and Ross vs Dan, Dan, John and Johnnie, that sort of thing – basically civil war. That sentence would have been a lot easier with Welsh names. The first leg is in Glasgow, the second in Edinburgh and it’s hard to see past the home teams in each fixture. Still, I have a sneaky suspicion that Glasgow will come out the better over two legs.

Edinburgh are struggling (as always) to find a cutting edge and their attacking form seems to revolve around Godman who is treading water at the moment, while Glasgow now seem to play okay even when Parks is having one of his duff days – and even those have been rare recently. While Edinburgh seem to be building a team based on familiarity and combinations, Glasgow seem to be building a team based on leadership (Barclay, Kellock, Cusiter, Thomson, Gregor, McMillan and Grey have all captained Scotland at age group, sevens or international level) and the team seems to be coming together from the increased confidence that brings. Sean Lineen had seen the improvement in Edinburgh and maybe realised he might be under threat if his team didn’t start living up to the promise of the squad he was building having changed from a policy of duff foreigners to promising youngsters, and this season they seem to be repaying him. The “inconsistent” tag still rears its ugly head every so often (second half at Gloucester) but this season they have started winning away, and they just look a lot more confident when their top line-up takes the field. Gallus, you might say.

More importantly – who will the commentators be? Andy Nicol summarises for the Beeb while Scott Hastings summarises AND commentates for Sky. Given they both present on the STV highlights show, I would imagine they will be present, but as pundits, commentators or both? I would imagine it will be the two of them running back and forth between pitchside and commentary booth. Let’s face it STV is short of cash these days so I doubt they can afford to draft in the legendary Runrig soundalike Andrew Cotter (just listen to that tune Murrayfield play at half time, you know, the one about Scotland), and he is probably manacled to the BBC.

Unless STV feels the spirit of Christmas past and signs up Doddie Weir’s all conquering trousers…

John Beattie Snr Talks About Gouging then I Rant a Bit

Interesting blog post from the big man about life-time bans for eye-gouging:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/johnbeattie/2009/12/the_insanity_of_eye_gouging.html

Some of the comments following his article are enlightening (not to mention some of the stories recounted frightening). It is interesting too how some people (PDV, that loon from Stade) still seem intent on downplaying it or sidelining gouging as an issue – a 24-week ban is anti-French, really? Stade Owner Guazzini should be fined into 2020 by the IRB, till the only pink thing he can afford are those little 2p sugar mice, as should the South Africa coach have been before him.

“”The ERC wanted to make an example of a symbolic player of Stade Francais and of the French team which has never had a disciplinary problem. It’s not normal that a private organisation in Ireland prevents a club employee from working, from playing. It is we who pay him.” says Max. I assume he meant “a French team”. Fair enough Max, if you don’t like it then you can bugger off out of the Heineken Cup too (sorry Hugo, you’d be collateral damage). It’s another example of the French clubs (following what I have just decided to call Tincugate) playing by the rules when it suits them and railing against interference when it doesn’t. We’d miss the French flair for sure, but I’m not sure I would want to be part of a game where people thought that what Dupuy did was okay. Watch this and see if you agree:

One of the BBC commenters suggests 6 months for a first attempt, then a life ban for a second one. Sounds fair to me. Although he was raking rather than gouging by the look of things, Dupuy did it twice in the space of 30 seconds after checking to see if he was being watched. Abhorrent is a good word.

Cardiff Arms Parks?

Breaking news: rumour has it that Magners League leading points scorer, kicking machine and regular Scottish rugby/Strathclyde Police source of amusement Dan Parks is to sign for Cardiff Blues. At 31, he’s most likely a short term solution to the Blues’ issues at standoff where Sam “Two-dads” Norton-Knight has struggled to fit in (possibly because he is a full-back). Cardiff never struck me as much of a kicking side but I am sure Dan will feel right at home alongside several antipodeans, a Blair and a giant ginger chap. Is that the sound of Dai Young capitulating to aerial ping-pong?

Up this end of the country it frees up Jackson, Gregor and some other youngsters TBA for a run at the Glasgow ten shirt. Interesting, although unconfirmed…

BBC Article

http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/rugby_union/welsh/8426303.stmBBC Article

2010 Six Nations Officials

Here’s the list of 2010 Six Nations match officials for Scotland’s games. Anyone else not wild about George Clancy?

Sunday, 7 February 2010 – Scotland vs France at Murrayfield
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: Chris White (England),Tim Hayes (Wales)
Television match official: Graham Hughes (England)
Assessor: Tappe Henning (South Africa)

Saturday, 13 February 2010 – Wales vs Scotland at Millennium Stadium
Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Alain Rolland (Ireland), Peter Fitzgibbon (Ireland)
Television match official: Geoff Warren (England)
Assessor: Tappe Henning (South Africa)

Saturday, 27 February 2010 – Italy vs Scotland at Stadio Flaminio
Referee: Dave Pearson (England)
Assistant referees: Peter Fitzgibbon (Ireland), Tim Hayes (Wales)
Television match official: Nigel Whitehouse (Wales)
Assessor: Jim Fleming (Scotland)

Saturday, 13 March 2010 – Scotland vs England at Murrayfield
Referee: Marius Jonker (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Peter Fitzgibbon (Ireland), Carlo Damasco (Italy)
Television match official: Giulio De Santis (Italy)
Assessor: Patrick Robin (France)

Saturday, 20th March 2010 – Ireland vs Scotland at Croke Park
Referee: Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Craig Joubert (South Africa), Jérôme Garces (France)
Television match official: Giulio De Santis (Italy)
Assessor: Steve Hilditch (Ireland)

You can get a full list for all matches here.

Edinburgh Cling On, Glasgow Fall Off

During whiteout conditions at Murrayfield on Saturday where the weather played a larger role than either of the teams for a chunk of the first half, Edinburgh managed to grab a victory against Bath. It was a pity the snow came in when it did, as both teams were showing a willingness to throw the ball about, but when the ball became invisible in a sea of white it became time for a game of Very Cold Hot Potato (mixed in with a little Dead Ants).

Mossy’s boot saved them as it has so often, and while I have often been reluctant to wade in on the whole Mossy at 10 thing, Godman’s form seems to be on the wane while Mossy seems to have gained a yard of pace, gets turned over in the tackle far less and his tactical kicking is miles better than it was and miles ahead of Godman. He’s surely done enough to be the front runner for the Scotland 15 shirt with Hugo a close second (who honestly believed he would be a regular at Stade?), but is he worth a look at 10 for Edinburgh as so many have suggested? (This is assuming Rory Lamont remains in the injury information black-hole he is currently in). While Robbo has been telling anyone who will listen about Scotland’s deficiencies in the 10 position, is Mossy finally worth a shout, having made his tactical game a bit, well, more Dan Parks-esque?

Speaking of Parks, he controlled the game against Gloucester extremely well in the first half while Barclay led the forwards in a masterclass in frustrating the opposition. For a game with so many Scot on Scot match-ups there was plenty of niggle, and no doubt a sign of what is to come next weekend (worryingly for Edinburgh, the Weej seem to excel in this area). Yet in the second half Gloucester came out and pretty much reversed the situation, bullying Glasgow off their 0-6 lead and the ball and sharpening up their attack enough to take the victory. A raft of late-term substitutions probably didn’t help Glasgow – much in the same way as it buggered up Edinburgh last week – with Cusiter going off and replacement McMillan then having to hide at the back with an injury while Gregor filled in at scrum half. This only served to rob Glasgow of Gregor’s running lines and pace from at the back, which they were already short of  with Thom Evans out. The Gloucester Scottish showed up well too with Scott and Rory Lawson and Al Strokosch showing good skills in attack, although Kellock and Gray were all over Lawson (hooker) at the lineout. And one more thing: does Graeme Morrison ever pass? You’d be as well playing Richie Vernon in the centre, who unveiled the pace that has Glasgow abuzz while the rest of us were initially wondering why Beattie was left on the bench in favour of a guy with two first names…

Weekend Teams

Glasgow: Bernardo Stortoni, Dave McCall, Max Evans, Graeme Morrison, DTH van der Merwe, Dan Parks, Chris Cusiter, Jon Welsh, Dougie Hall, Moray Low, Alastair Kellock, Richie Gray, Kelly Brown, John Barclay, Richie Vernon
Replacements: Fergus Thomson, Kevin Tkachuk, Ed Kalman, Dan Turner, Colin Gregor, Mark McMillan, Johnnie Beattie, Colin Shaw

Good mix in the second row and great that Richie Gray is well settled into the Glasgow team now. The wingers get a chance to show what they can do, but leaving off the front line chaps suggests either a) they are injured or b) the ball is never getting that far and Parks is going to try and nick all the points going with his boot. (UPDATE: Turns out it’s a wee knee injury to Evans).

Edinburgh: Paterson, Houston, Cairns, De Luca, Visser, Godman, Laidlaw, Traynor, Ford, Cross, Turnbull, Hamilton, MacDonald, Rennie, Newlands.
Replacements: Kelly, Jacobsen, Young, MacLeod, Callam, Samson, Robertson, Thompson

Bath are targeting this one for a win despite almost being beaten at home last weekend. With “Tony” Blair out injured, it will be interesting to see what happens if/when Godman goes off, word is that Thompson has been asked to consider filling in at 10 before… I’m also interested to see if Rennie has the same impact that Roddy Grant has been having recently… here’s to another flowing game of rugby although maybe a little less self-destruction and a little more confidence in the finishing (Cairns should definitely have been able to finish that break last week) would be nice. Where have I heard that before?

Hoggy Out, Rennie In

Busy week this one! Scottish Rugby is like buses – it makes a mess of Edinburgh city centre.

The SRU have announced that they are withdrawing from bidding for the 2013 IRB Sevens World Cup (potentially the last before it goes Olympic) due to (yet again) a lack of broadcaster interest. And Ally Hogg is to have surgery on a hip that is giving him gyp (see what I did there?) and has possibly been a factor in his form this season not being as good as last – when he played every game of the season for Edinburgh plus two sevens tournaments. On the good news side though, 23 year old openside Ross Rennie completes his comeback from injury into an Edinburgh squad alongside Roddy Grant and Alan Macdonald. Suffice to say, I think we’ve seen the last of Hoggy being shuffled to 7 as he used to be. Although with Dave Callam also almost back Ally might not find the back row slots just opening up for him when he does return, estimated to be sometime towards season’s end.

Compatibility Issues for Euan Murray

Rumours are circulating that Euan Murray may be set to confirm a new-found unwillingness to play his rugby on a Sunday, which would rule him out of selection for the tournament opener against. In the past he has been uneasy on the matter or injury has ruled him out, but both Saints and the man himself (that’s Murray, not God) are so far unwilling to comment on the matter. While Murray is undoubtedly one of the top props in the world, this puts Andy Robinson in a bit of predicament going in to his first Six Nations in charge of Scotland. Can he pick someone else (Moray Low, Geoff Cross) without them feeling they are only a place-holder until there is a game on the right day for Murray? You have to hope that anyone who is put in for that match against France will remain there throughout the tournament if they play well enough. But then again Murray does give us an edge in the scrums. Or will Robbo put the foot down and leave him out altogether a la Simon Taylor? Robbo vs God, it’s an interesting battle. Still, at least those folk who rail against Six Nations games at any time other than 3pm on a Saturday can claim him for their side.

There is an old interview done pre-last Six Nations where Murray talks a fair bit about his faith on the Scotsman site that also offers an amusing (in hindsight) Six Nations preview and even some measured debate in the comments.

UPDATE: this has now been confirmed, Murray will indeed be unavailable for selection for the opener vs France on Sunday 7th Feb.

Weekend Teams

Going to be out of Sky range this weekend but hoping to go along to the Heriots game on Saturday if I get a chance. Meanwhile here are the teams announced so far for the weekends action, plenty of Scots all round and some interesting match ups at 2, 6 and 9 in the Glasgow game. Cusiter faces his closest rivals for the national shirt in his next four games – should be interesting to see how he takes them on.

Glasgow: B Stortoni, P Murchie, M Evans, G Morrison, T Evans, D Parks, C Cusiter; J Welsh, D Hall, M Low, R Gray, D Turner, K Brown, J Barclay (capt), R Vernon.
Replacements: F Thomson, E Kalman, K Tkachuk, T Barker, C Gregor, C Forrester, M McMillan.

Gloucester: C Spencer, C Sharples, J Simpson-Daniel, E Fuimaono-Sapolu, L Vainikolo, N Robinson, R Lawson; N Wood, S Lawson, G Somerville, D Attwood, A Brown, P Buxton (capt), A Strokosch, L Narraway
Replacements: D Dawiduik, P Doran-Jones, A Dickinson, A Eustace, G Delve, D Lewis, T Voyce, T Molenaar

Edinburgh: C Paterson (capt), J Houston, B Cairns, N De Luca, T Visser, P Godman, G Laidlaw; A Jacobsen, R Ford, G Cross, S Turnbull, S MacLeod, A MacDonald, R Grant, S Newlands.
Replacements: A Kelly, K Traynor, D Young, C Hamilton, A Hogg, R Samson, D Blair, J Thompson.