Little Bits

I’ve been asked to be scrum.com’s Fanzone Scottish pundit for the upcoming Six Nations again, so there might be some fun stuff to read over there in the ensuing weeks. Cheers to the folks at scrum.com for that.

Also I’ve added an Amazon AStore to the site – see the shop link in the navigation bar above – so if you fancy buying anything from Amazon.co.uk at any point, if you could do it through that it would really help us out it won’t cost you anything extra and you might find an interesting present or two for the rugby mad in there. Thanks!

Tait vs Tait?

Nothing to do with Alan Tait mind, but instead an interesting article from the Scotsman that Alex Tait, Newcastle full-back and younger brother of the oft-shuffled around never-settled-in-one-position Matthew Tait (can we use the word Mossified to describe such a process, or possibly Fodenification?) is considering pinning his colours to the Scottish mast (assuming he could find a boat with a mast, of course. Try Dundee – have they not got an old one there?).

Read the article here

It’s an interesting prospect, but does he have more chance of caps with us than with England? We have Mossy, Lamont R and Hugo as the current front runners, with the likes of Jim Thompson coming up hard on the rails and folk like Ben Cairns or Colin Gregor as wacky back-up plans. England meanwhile have Armitage, Foden, Morgan and Tait’s own brother Matthew not to mention the likes of Cipriani (if Johnno can get over his beef) or Monye/Cueto (and other wingers who aren’t really fullbacks).

I suppose it should really all come down to who he really wants to play for, but it would be interesting to see brothers on the opposite side of a Calcutta Cup/RWC2011 match, wouldn’t it?

Edinburgh Beat Those Winter Blues

Edinburgh 21 – 12 Cardiff Blues

Edinburgh finally woke up as a team for the first time in a month or two to provide the sort of display the hardy faithful at Murrayfield were growing accustomed to at the start of the season. Gone is the 1872 Cup and most likely the chance of Heineken Cup glory but the capital team still have a chance for an end of season playoff spot, which after second last season should really be a minimum expectation. This win puts them in third for now, but Leinster now have 2 games in hand (one against Connacht) while the rest of the league have one due to all the postponements this weekend.

The try drought was eased by a couple of cocky darting breaks from the impressive Rory Hutton who brought a spark to Edinburgh’s attack that allowed indecision to creep in to the Cardiff defence and be capitalised on by the support runners. I thought he looked pretty decent in defence too – Cardiff didn’t send Jamie Roberts at him nearly as much as they should have – with a couple of good tactical kicks. Although his passing was a little haphazard there is no substitute for the will to attack!

Overall Edinburgh dominated in attack and defence for large chunks of the game until discipline threatened to let Cardiff back in late on. Roddy Grant made an interesting looking number 8 but was the usual hive of industry and would surely have been Seren Y Gem but for a late sin-binning, so they gave it to Ross Rennie instead who was at least playing in his proper position. Jim Hamilton looked twice the player he was last week (he made Ford’s lineouts look a lot better for starters) and both Ford and Chunk made their usual excellent contributions in the loose, including a scything Mike Blade-style break from the base of the ruck from the prop that could only be described as epic.

Pro Teams for the Weekend (Weather Permitting)

Assuming the games go ahead as the freezing weather continues (a couple of Magners games have already been called off), here are the teams to take the field in Dublin and Edinburgh respectively.

Glasgow Warriors to face Leinster: Bernardo Stortoni, DTH van der Merwe, Max Evans, Graeme Morrison, Thom Evans, Dan Parks, Chris Cusiter, Jon Welsh, Dougie Hall, Moray Low, Alastair Kellock (capt), Richie Gray, Kelly Brown, John Barclay, Johnnie Beattie.
Replacements:
Fergus Thomson, Kevin Tkachuk, Dan Turner, James Eddie, Colin Gregor, Ruaridh Jackson, Rob Dewey.
(Probably on BBC Radio Scotland, Friday night).

Edinburgh team to face Cardiff: Chris Paterson (capt), Jim Thompson, Ben Cairns, John Houston, Tim Visser, Rory Hutton, Greig Laidlaw, Allan Jacobsen, Ross Ford, David Young, Jim Hamilton, Scott MacLeod, Alan MacDonald, Ross Rennie, Roddy Grant.
Replacements:
Andrew Kelly, Kyle Traynor, Craig Hamilton, Scott Newlands, Ross Samson, Nick De Luca, Mark Robertson.
(Live coverage on S4c, Saturday from 6pm-ish)

Can’t say I’m not a little intrigued to see what Hutton can do, given what is a massive opportunity for him… but I wouldn’t expect miracles straight off the bat. Highlights of both games are also on STV as usual on Sunday. Given the lack of games this weekend they will presumably pad by talking about either the upcoming 6 Nations or perhaps porridge: ie the new Scott’s limited edition packets that are to feature Ross(y), Mossy and Thom. Hopefully this will help boost the sport at breakfast tables everywhere, especially during the current wintry spell. Speaking of, um, spelling, can someone tell me when they changed the spelling of porridge?

UPDATE: The Leinster vs Glasgow game has been called off due to late weather complications: more info on the BBC. Glasgow want to sue people given the cost of getting to Dublin has already been undertaken by the team after advice that the game would go ahed… Most of the weekend’s scheduled GP matches are also off, with just a few top flight rugby fixtures still hoping to go ahead including Munster, Leicester and Edinburgh.

O2 Rugby Competion

News has reached my ears of yet another rugby competition from O2 (sponsors of England) and once again you can have the chance to win some, um, England goodies. Anyway if you are on the O2 priority list (whatever that is) and have an English wife/girlfriend/cousin who would probably quite like a trip to Rome, you can click here to play the O2 Rugby Game. Where is Murray group offering us the chance to win a trip to Dublin? At least STV do have a competition somewhere (unknown) to win tickets to the France game. Guess you’ll just have to watch the highlights show and write down the address though, buggered if I can find it.

Break A Leg

Some quick news snippets: poor Jason White has broken his leg in New Year training with Clermont, and as a result the injury will keep him out of the coming Six Nations campaign (only about a month away now!). Although the big Stroker had mostly usurped him from the starting 6 shirt, big Jason’s versatility and impact play would have probably seen him on the bench at least so it will be a blow to Andy Robinson’s squad selection tactics. All the best for the recovery, Jason.

Simon Danielli is now joint first in the SRBlog Scottish Wings 2010 try scoring table having also scored 2 this year, against Munster yesterday. If our exiled back three players keep this up it will give us Evans apologists a major headache come amateur selection time. Hugooooo is playing for Stade today too, seemingly now a fixture at full back for the original pinkos.

Meanwhile it seems to be Not World Class Phil week in the press, but who can blame them after he’s played pretty craply for the last few months – could this be what coasting with no clear competition for your shirt at club or international level can do to a man? In that case Phil: Dan Parks for Scotland captain! Pull your socks up mate!

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.