Two Point Perspective – Pro Team Round-up

Edinburgh 15 – 13 Leinster

Leinster turned up in Edinburgh needing “only” 4 tries and the victory to clinch the title. Despite Edinburgh’s best efforts to throw it away in the dying minutes, the home lads clung on against heavy pressure from the Leinster forwards to grab the points and move up to fourth in the Magners League (for now) – with a little help from the goal post that denied Contepomi in the final minute. Despite pack dominance, Leinster never seemed like scoring as often as they needed to, with the back division a little bit clueless at times, even with Contepomi and O’ Driscoll a world class centre pairing. De Luca and Callam both had good games, and Godman sounded a wee bit hit and miss. Hugo missed a drop-goal. Telling that Leinster didn’t cross until the 75th minute – the championship will have to wait.

Glasgow 25 – 23 Llanelli

A decent sized crowd at Murrayfield from the sound of it too, although not as enthusiastic as the support at Glasgow, who also came out the end of their rollercoaster match against Llanelli two points ahead. Once again Parks made it difficult for his critics with a try scoring and kicking display. Colin Gregor seemed to pop up at scrum-half and full-back, scoring a try in the process. Afterwards, coach Lineen criticised his teams decision making, that “butchered” a number of potential tries, but it seems they couldn’t be faulted for effort at the end to hold on to the win. They may regret allowing Llanelli the bonus point though.

Ashton gets the boot, should we follow suit?

Bit of rhyme for you there, folks.

So, what we all knew would happen, did. Martin Johnson is to be appointed in some sort of honcho role (“team manager”) by the RFU this week. Brian Ashton will be let go as England coach, and offered some token development posts that he will almost certainly reject. Despite virtually no coaching or management experience whatsoever, expect Johnson to be hailed as the new messiah/Jonny of English rugby. The whole thing does raise a few interesting points, though.

If the SRU were to follow suit – by sacking the friendly schoolteacher-type coach who is failing to fire up the players, and getting in someone with a bit of fire in their belly but not much in the way of practical experience – who have we got as potential candidates?

Gregor Townsend -Does 1 day a week coaching. Has played all over at club, international and Lions level. Probably too nice for the job. Too much coaching experience, too.

David Sole – Scotland’s most recent figure that compares favourably with Johnson. Inspirational (slow walking) leader, Grand Slam winner and Lions winner over Australia. Lots of management experience, just not in rugby. Perhaps a bit further removed from the game than more recent retirees.

Scott Hastings – Probably too involved in media and corporate careers. Another “been there and done it” figure, like his brother Gavin. What about a brotherly coaching double-act?

Any other (less than serious) thoughts – Kenny Logan? David Campese perhaps?

Weekend of Rugby

Al’s moving house this weekend, and I’m off on a course on Saturday so it seems likely that we’ll miss the bumper crop of rugby stuff on the TV this weekend, mostly on Saturday. However here’s a list, so you don’t have to miss a thing.

The Glasgow – Edinburgh Magners League derby takes place tonight for readers in the Central Belt I urge you to go along, the last one sounded like a cracker and will hopefully be a great advert for Scottish rugby. It would be great if they get the 5,000 support they are hoping for. If you’ve got Setanta, yes you can watch it there too. I’ll be listening on the radio. Ugh. Tough one to call, but I reckon Glasgow might have the edge. Heart goes with Edinburgh though, ‘mon HUGOOOOO.

UPDATE: Glasgow win 23-14, mostly due to Dan Parks from the sound of things. He doesn’t make it easy, does he?

The world famous Melrose Sevens takes place on Saturday, with a number of guest sides including Leicester Tigers, Ulster, Roma and a Chinese side that will hopefully not be ring-fenced with blue tracksuits. The Scottish Thistles are fielding a pretty strong looking side as well, featuring a number of pro-team up and comers, who should also be in with a shout. Coverage on BBC2 Scotland in the afternoon.

UPDATE: Well done to the Thistles for winning at the end of what looked like a great day. Melrose’s defeat of last year’s champions the Shimlas was a great match as well, it’s just a pity they ran out of legs in the niggly match against Leicester.

On Sky on Saturday you can have Gloucester vs Saracens, which may or may not have any Scottish interest depending on their current view of the Mossy situation. There will more thank likely be some Super 14 action too at some ungodly hour of the morning.

Also on Saturday, the EDF final (BBC2 England) Ospreys vs Leicester. No Nikki Walker, but can Shane Williams and Justin Marshall stop Andy Goode and Skynet? Hopefully it’ll be one for the Magner’s League (and the future of mankind).

UPDATE: Big Jason scored a try in Sales victory over Bristol tonight (Friday) to help them move into 3rd spot. Gloucester coasted to victory over Saracens, although Gordon Ross came on for the losers and looked quite sharp. Rory Lawson and Strokosch showed up well, with Mossy mostly confined to the bench. Well done to the Ospreys too for making it two finals defeats for Leicester in the one day! Mankind lives another day… as for Scottish pro rugby, well that’s another matter…

Tagged: Al’s Story…

I see my esteemed colleague Rory has ‘Tagged’ me and I’m compelled to give you an insight into my mind.  Its a scary place so you’ve been warned….

What was I doing 10 yrs ago?

Was at Uni and was making an effort to eat all the packets of Rib ‘n’ Saucy Nic Naks that I could lay my grubby little hands on…happy days!  I wasn’t in a rock band.

Five things on my To Do list today:

  • To not kill myself when climbing tonight
  • Start packing  – I’m moving house at the end of the week
  • Dig out the rugby ball – touch rugby training starts this week!
  • Have a fight with my IT department and get them to do what I have been asking for for the last 6 months.
  • To not  annoy the living crap into Mrs Al – a near impossibility.

Snacks I enjoy:

Food!  Like Rory I’m a fan of the Croq Monsieur but an honourable mention must go to Rib ‘n’ Saucy Nic Naks and the bacon roll (although their is a battle in the Al house over whether red or brown sauce is best!).  Also a lot to be said for Pink Lady apples…tasty!

Things I would do if I were a billionaire:

  • As Rory mentioned I always said that I would sponsor the Scotland rugby team and get my picture on the jersey!  Since Rory is kindly doing this for me, with his billions, I thought I’d repay the favour.  So I’ll sponsor the England team and get Rory’s picture put on their jersey….he’ll like that!
  • Make sure my family were all sorted for life
  • Take Mrs Al to Paris (again!) and let her run wild in the Prada and Dior shops!  I’d get plenty of kudos and she could never again moan when I put rugby on the telly…ever!
  • Probably put money into my favourite football team (Aberdeen)
  • Pay to have Austin Healey fight an angry gorilla and for David ‘the Gob’ Campese to have his fat, Aussie mouth sewn shut!

Three of my bad habits:

  • Getting wound up at rugby internationals and being very loud
  • Getting very drunk the night before rugby internationals and then going AWOL in a foreign country
  • Drinking Lager Tops – its a girls drink

Five places I have lived:

  • Foyers (a wee village on Loch Ness)
  • Inverness
  • Dundee
  • Inverness (again)
  • Edinburgh

Five jobs I have had:

  • Helper monkey at the Co-op
  • Helper monkey (senior) at Tesco’s
  • Photocopier extraordinaire
  • Community project judge, jury and executioner
  • NHS desk jockey

Current position

Part time rugby blogger, part time NHS grunt, part time sports enthusiast, full time pain in the backside.

Bloggers I want to know more about?

All you lovely people!  In the words of Delia “Where are ya?…Lets be havin’ ya!”

Over and out.

Al

 

Heineken Cup Round-up

London Irish 20 – 9 USAP / Perpignan

Hines and Cusiter had a good start, with Cusiter in particular rescuing Percy Montgomery from a few classic Percy moments under high balls etc, but Irish piled on the pressure as the match wore on, and consequently ran out the winners. Hines kept his discipline, indeed what could easily have been an ill-tempered affair only really spilled over in the dying minutes, and for once big Nathan was far from the action.

Gloucester 3 -16 Munster

Paterson (starting on the wing) had a shocking start, missing two bread-and-butter kicks and one tricky one, which seemed to unsettle him for the rest of the game. Substituted after 55 minutes. You wonder what lies in his future at Kingsholm if he’s no longer considered a kicker, given the presence of Lamb at 10 and plenty of pacier/bigger depth in the back three. It is unlikely that he will have experienced anything like the high pressure of European knockout rugby, in an atmosphere created by such devoted fans as Munster and Gloucester posess, but I hope he will get a chance to do so again, and am sure he will bounce back. Lawson marshalled his forwards as well as he could but made a few poor decisions early on that led to turnovers and could in fact have led to worse. No sign of Strokosch (or Dickinson), and to be honest they could have done with Stroker’s physicality up front, considering the size of the hits even the Munster centres were putting in from start to finish. Dean Ryan will not, one suspects, be too happy.

Saracens 19 -10 Ospreys

No Nikki Walker due to injury, and SuperGordo is absent from the bench for Saracens.

Toulouse 41 – 17 Cardiff

No Scottish interest here either. So I can post this article now, rather than tomorrow. I’ll update it with the scores as and when.

UPDATED:

Scores posted above. Semi Finals will be as follows: London Irish v Toulouse and Saracens vs Munster on the weekend of the 25th April. Not a Scot in site, unless you count uncapped but eligible Sarries prop Nick Lloyd, or Marcus di Rollo makes an appearance for Toulouse in a random display of rashness by Guy Noves. Stranger things have happened.

DOUBLE UPDATED:

As Giorgia pointed out, Mossy is taking a kicking (sorry) on the Gloucester Forum. Interesting, a Worcester fan posting there claims to have heard rumour linking him to the Warriors (Worcester that is) next season. Interesting. I wonder if a lack of pressure – and a better chance of first team games with Shane Drahm heading off to Japan – would suit him more, assuming they escape relegation.

Tagged

I’ve been “tagged” by TotalFlanker in some kind of bizarre blog-led game of tag. At the risk of baring my sensitive soul to the world, I shall enter into the spirit of teamship (© Andy Robinson) and complete the tasks assigned. The rules are:

  • The rules of the game get posted at the beginning.
  • Each player answers the questions about themselves.
  • At the end of the post, the player then tags 5 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they’ve been tagged and asking them to read your blog.

So, here goes…

What I was doing 10 years ago:

Playing in a rock band, squeezing my way into honours at university and starting to discover film was almost as exciting as music, if a little less cool. Watching the occasional Six Nations game if someone gave me a ticket (thanks Dad).

Five things on my To Do List today:

Finish this post
Edit some photos of chemical cleaning products
Watch Sale vs Brive on telly tonight and hope there are some Scots to watch, wondering why Ben Foden plays at full-back instead of Rory Lamont, and possibly hoping that Ben Cohen drops a pass two metres out from the line
Pick up my guitar again
Have a few beers

Snacks I enjoy:

Croq Monsieur
Cheese and biscuits
Cookies
Apples

Things I would do if I were a billionaire:

Make a quality film and pay everyone
Pay off the SRU’s debt and take it over. I would also install Al as the Scotland shirt sponsor so he could have his face on the team jersey. This is his idea, and I would have stolen it so I will probably have to use some money to pay him off too
Give mum a heap of money to make the house ecologically friendly
Give my brother funding to build his own secret underground volcano lair

Three of my bad habits:

Not finishing things
Not talking to girls
Not finishing things with girls that I haven’t talked to enough, or mostly not starting them

Five places I have lived:

Inverness
Edinburgh
Inverness
Stirling (for a week)
Maths was never my strong point.

Five jobs I’ve had:

Cinema Grunt
Web Designer
Assistant Director. Unpaid.
Rock and Roll Frontman. Unpaid.
Rugby Blogger. Unpaid. Spotting a trend?

Current position:

Hot love on the Hot Love Highway. Or something a little less, you know. Web Designer and Filmmaker?

Five Bloggers I want to know more about:

Al my co-conspirator
Giorgia the Mossy Fan
Umm..

Okay so I’ve changed my mind, mostly because TF tagged all the other rugby bloggers. Post your answers in the comments section, whoever you are, so we can find out a bit about our readers. Then it’s less of a chain letter, and more of a get-to know you session. Until then, enjoy the weekend’s Heineken Cup action!

Six Nations Roundtable

aka The Five Thingies of Journalism. We do have a round table in the house though seriously, so Al and I sat at it post Six Nations and had a chat as we lay cringing in the rubble of Scotland’s wooden spoon near miss.

What should be done?

RB:I think we need to look at a new coaching structure for Scotland. Or new personnel in the existing structure. There seems to be a lack of tactical nous coming from players we know are better than this. I think Parks – who we have both been more supportive of than some, it has to be said – needs to only be let back into the squad if he’s playing better than Paterson or Godman and the policy adopted (half way through the tournament) of picking players on form needs to be stuck to across all positions, not just number 6, where it worked particularly well.
AK: Personally I’m going to start by going back through my family heritage and try and uncover my Tongan roots!  Calcutta Cup aside that was a minging tournament from a Scottish perspective.  I struggle to see how Hadden can keep his role as it currently stands, as the head honcho he needs to take responsibility for the debacle and he’s been culpable in a number of areas from poor choice of tactics to baffling selections of substitutes.  As the backs coach the fact that Scotland only scored 3 tries (I think) says it all.  A new head coach is needed, a new coaching structure needs to be put in place and for the love of God play form players – we just can’t afford to carry passengers!

Where Next For Scotland?

RB: Argentina is the short answer. Although more interesting could be the A team’s trip to the Churchill Cup in June, with Robinson and Lineen hopefully showing the way forward. A position in the third group of seedings for the World Cup in 2011 is looking more likely unless we upset the applecart twice over the summer away from home against the Argies.
AK: I suspect a couple of thumpings for a Scotland side over in South America.  You never know though.  In my opinion we have the players to beat Argentina but we need to go with form.  Its an opportunity to blood some new players and try a more expansive game – this means no Parks!  I don’t think we are a particularly bad team, its just they really don’t – yet – know how to play with each other.  Beyond that, who knows what will happen, much will depend on coaching structures.

Who Next for Scotland?

RB: Not sure, but I think Andy Robinson should be left where he is. A possible part-time Scotland job as with Shaun Edwards, Wasps and Wales may be the answer. The same could be said for Lineen at Glasgow. They are only just starting to get results and they should be allowed to build on that to create a strong and dare I say it confident professional core on which to found our national squads. I don’t know if that means get rid of Hadden or not, to be honest. Jake White would be unlikely to take the job if offered – though representing one of the few real challenges in rugby left to him(!) – , but there are a few decent coaches floating about. But please not Eddie O’ Sullivan. In terms of players, younger players such as De Luca, Rennie, Barclay, should be given their chance, sooner rather than later. France are blooding young players without regard for results and getting the results anyway. Who’s to say it wouldn’t work on a smaller scale?
AK: Erm…pass?  Not a clue, I agree its probably too soon for Robinson who is, in my opinion, not an international head coach – better to use his skills as a forwards coach.  Not sure if we could try and get someone like Brian Redpath involved but whether he’d leave day-to-day rugby is debatable.  I think Scotland need a team of coaches rather than this head coach figure.  I appreciate a team pulled together by ‘committee’ is risky but it may be our best way forward.  We really need a motivator in this new coaching ‘team’ so happy to take someone who’ll strip the paint of the changing rooms at half time!  At the moment I get the feeling we lack leadership, Strokosh, over time may start to take more and more on.  Players wise the future is brighter than it may seem, Edinburgh and Glasgow have a decent crop of youngsters starting to come through but now, not 2 years from now, is the time to blood new players.

Why?

RB: Because the current team aren’t playing to their potential, and that needs to start happening if interest in the game is to grow and I’m to have any hair left before I turn 30.
AK: Because what we currently have is performing below what it should be.  In my opinion this is the perfect time to take a risk.  Nothing to lose, World Cup is 3 years away and new players can get the chance to get international experience.  A new coach, a new ethos and a new spirit need to be instilled into the whole Scottish setup.  The time for consolidation is really over and Scottish rugby is crying out for someone to take the bull by the horns and make some bold, and possible brave, decisions.

When should this all happen?

RB: If you’re getting rid of Hadden, it should be as soon as possible. Or if not now, then after the Churchhill Cup and Summer Tour. Disastrous results may see that happen anyway. Not making change now may reduce the summer tour to an exercise in telling us what we already know, ie that we’re not as good as Argentina with Hadden in charge. But perhaps we could be, without him.
AK: Now.  That’s it really!  Wholesale changes need to be made, the sooner we start the better.  Not just Hadden, under-performing players need to be dropped and chances taken on players who are in form.  We go to Argentina with nothing to lose so why not start from scratch?  Ultimately whatever we do, whenever we do it, it can only get better…unless we take Matt Williams back!!!!! 

Hadden Announced as Lions Coach

Yesterday sources deep inside the British and Irish Lions camp announced a surprise front runner for the post of Lions coach in the upcoming 2009 test series against South Africa, namely visionary Scotland head coach Frank Hadden. It is believed that his preferred deputies are Brian Ashton to coach the backs, and Ulster Coach Matt Williams as forwards coach. Said team manager Gerald Davies, “we think Frank would give the Lions the direction and tactical nous needed to take on the current World Champions in their own back yard, and look forward to watching him talk about put together a great team.”

In other news, it is reported on Skynet that Leicester Fly-half Andy Goode is actually responsible for the destruction of mankind through his work on chess-playing super-computers. Little Terminator humour for you there, folks.

Transfer rumblings, Magners League Round-Up

Edinburgh defeated Connacht on Friday to move into 3rd spot in the Magners League for a day, securing a 4-try bonus point along the way after the Irish team maintained parity up to the half way point. After Munster’s win over new boss Matt William’s Ulster, they leap frog into 3rd with a game in hand and start building the momentum as only they know how.

Glasgow struggled against league leaders Leinster and failed to do their east-coast counterparts a favour as Leinster forged on in their challenge to secure the title, seeing them nearly ten points clear. Next weekend sees Edinburgh play Cardiff and the Scarlets play Leinster in match-ups that could well affect how the top of the table looks come the end of the season.

Suggestions on the Scotsman website are that both pro-teams could be looking to bring some exiles home, in Edinburgh’s case the long mooted Jim Hamilton move from Leicester, and much more interestingly Mark McMillan from Wasps to Glasgow, who in this blogger’s opinion are in fairly urgent need of a class scrum half. McMillan has been on fire for Wasps in Reddan’s Six Nations absence and would make a valuable addition to the team. Expect him to make an appearance alongside either Cusiter or Lawson in the Churchill Cup squad.

Sky Sports picks Lions Team, Scots included shocker

Stuart Barnes and Dewi Morris both picked their hypothetical Lions teams (if the match was played now not in 2009) on the Rugby Club this week, with a small Scottish contingent. Barnes picked Hines at 4 and Rory Lamont at 14, with Blair and Hogg on the bench, while Morris went for Blair and Hines on the bench and no-one in his starting XV. Myself, it would probably go something like this, fitness allowing:

Sheridan
Mears
Jenkins
Hines
O’ Callaghan
Strokosch
M. Williams
R Jones
Blair
Cipriani
S. Williams
Henson
O’ Driscoll/Shanklin
R Lamont
Murphy/Kearney

Bench: Stevens, Bennett, O’Connell/Gough/Wyn Jones (take your pick!), Haskell or Hogg, Phillips, Hook, Tait

Also, congrats to all the guys who whooped me in Six Nations Fantasy Rugby, shows what I know eh? Big shout out to Pedro who finished 3rd in the mini league.

O’Sullivan Quits Ireland

Not really Scottish news this, but of interest nonetheless. Despite having around 3 and a half years left on his contract, Eddie O’Sullivan stepped down as coach of Ireland yesterday, pre-empting the possibility that he might have been fired. It’ll be interesting to see if indeed he took the opposite tack to former England football manager Steve Maclaren and forewent any possible contract buyout by the IRFU, but at the moment it certainly looks like he did the gentlemanly thing.

Interestingly the BBC’s current short list of coaches states:

“Declan Kidney is among those tipped to take over, but Mike Ruddock, Pat Howard, Wayne Smith, Jake White and Alan Gaffney are also in the frame.”

Whether any of these would be interested in the Scotland vacancy (should it arise) would be debatable (Kidney would be unlikely, and may be the most likely successor to O’Sullivan), but certainly the likes of Pat Howard and Alan Gaffney would be interesting. Not another Aussie, I hear you say…

Team of the Tournament

1 Allan “Chunk” Jacobsen – Scotland’s only decent ball carrier in the first three games. Accounted himself well in the scrums throughout except for a wobble that led to the dubious penalty try.
2 Lee Mears – more level headed than “clown” Regan and surely the future in England’s front row. Assured performance against Ireland.
3 Martin Castrogiovanni – the same amount of tries as the entire Scotland team. Consistently passionate.
4 Ian Gough – We struggled to pick a standout lock, to be honest. So we asked Pedro to pick one. This may have been down to a lot of poor throwing by hookers, however. Hines might be in but for his costly indiscipline.
5 Scott Macleod – restored a bit of control to the Scotland lineout, and offered a more mobile option than his predecessor Hamilton.
6 Al Strokosch – Find of the tournament from Hadden’s point of view, even though everyone else knew about him. Aggression, control, good hands and ball carrying. Does the basics well – a big future in a Scotland shirt. And possibly elsewhere…?
7 Martin Williams – In rugby games where it’s “an overall team effort”, there is a rule for picking the man of the match. Give it to the No 8, the fly-half, or if Martin Williams is on the pitch, give it to him. Consistently excellent.
8 Sergio Parisse – If Mallett will be frustrated at his lack of a fly-half, he’ll be glad of players like Parisse. Taylor played well against England, but there’s a reason he’s not getting much of a game for Stade. Parisse’s girlfriend is not bad either but we couldn’t let petty jealousy take away his place in the team.
9 Mike Blair – Grown with every game. Showed maturity and intelligence in his play since being given the captaincy. Still shows up incredibly well in defence. And when allowed, gives Scotland the pace at which they need to play. Put your money on the Lion’s captaincy now before the odds shoot down.
10 Ronan O’ Gara – A tournament for steady stand-offs rather than individual brilliance. That said, he put in some stunning kicks against Wales and a classy flick on for Kearney’s try against us.
11 Shane Williams – Wales’ top try scorer ever, and player of the tournament. ‘Nuff said.
12 Gavin Henson – Finally showed some of the class he had promised early in his career. Good in defence and attack. Alan still says “meh”, though.
13 Damian Traille – Offered a re-assuring solidity to France’s inexperienced team. Formed a decent combination with Jauzion when Lievremont finally started chasing the tournament. In the last game.
14 Vincent Clerc – Another wee guy on the wing who showed some old-fashioned French class when he was picked. Still looked sharp after being shuffled to the bench and back.
15 Lee Byrne – Now a sure-footed, mammoth-booted and pacy option from full-back. A different player from his woeful performances last year. Proof that picking on form is often rewarded.

Bench: Ford, Sheridan, O’ Callaghan, Ryan Jones, Phillips, Paterson, Kearney

Coaches: Gatland, Edwards & Howley

Honourable mentions

RB: Danny Cipriani. If he’d played more than one game he’d probably be in our team at 10, having offered a glimpse of what his talents could bring. He may not be the next Jesus but he definitely had an impact when he finally got a chance. Jonny may now begin the time-honoured shuffle outwards along the backline ala Gregor Townsend.

AK: Rob Kearney – maintained his Leinster form with some storming defensive play and a great try against Scotland. May finally signal the end of the Golden Generation’s strangle-hold on the Irish back division.