Glasgow team to face Champs

Sean Lineen announced his first Glasgow Warriors squad of the season, fresh from a narrow pre-season victory over Kelly Brook’s boyfriend and the rest of the Wasps. They take on champs Munster who may play more of their big guns early on in the season (rather than save them for Europe) now that a top four place is all that is required…  Pity we won’t get to see Max Evans match up against De Villiers till later in the season though… No, I’ve never heard of young prop Jon Welsh either but I think Scottish rugby may have finally woken up to the reality that young talent needs to be brought “on stream” earlier than was previous to keep the level of depth and competition for places strong. Chuck ’em in at the deep end – it seems to have worked for Ruaridh Jackson last season. I’m particularly excited to see what impact Chris Cusiter can bring to a Glasgow backline with a fair amount of potential with newcomer Peter Murchie, Rob Dewey and Thom Evans (especially with the likes of Jackson, Colin Shaw, Peter Horne, Max Evans and Colin Gregor challenging  too). After many of us thought he had disappeared without contract, Dan Parks continues his career resurrection, holding off Jackson’s challenge at 10 for now. Consistency is the watchword for this season – if they can find that, Glasgow can do better than many expect.

Glasgow team to face Munster:
Bernardo Stortoni, Rob Dewey, Peter Murchie, Graeme Morrison, Thom Evans, Dan Parks, Chris Cusiter, Jon Welsh, Dougie Hall, Moray Low, Tim Barker, Alastair Kellock (captain), Kelly Brown, John Barclay, Johnnie Beattie

Substitutes: Pat MacArthur, Kevin Tkachuk, Dan Turner, Richie Vernon, Mark McMillan, Ruaridh Jackson, Colin Shaw

It’s not on TV this one, but you can catch Nathan Hines’s new team Leinster in action against Sean Lamont’s new team the Scarlets on Saturday evening on S4C (Lamont starts, Hines is rested).

UPDATE: you can now see highlights on Sunday, 5.30pm, STV though!

Dutch Rugby’s Finest To Start for Edinburgh

A new look Edinburgh team under new coach Rob Moffat will seek a return to winning ways in Cardiff on Friday. Some of the changes are enforced by injury – Edinburgh still have a long list of injured including Jim Hamilton, Dave Callam and Ross Rennie – while others like Lions Ross Ford and Mike Blair are rested. While the bench looks a little youthful/undercooked, look for sevens man Roddy Grant to lay down a marker, while Scott Macleod will look to continue his road to redemption in the second row. We also have Holland’s sole pro rugby player and new signing from Newcastle Falcons Tim Visser hoping to pin down a wing spot. And let’s not forget the return of Chunk!

Given performances in the pre-season it’s difficult to tell if the players will be able to live up to last seasons results but I reckon Cardiff may be too strong for them, especially as they will be smarting after home defeat to Edinburgh at the end of last season. Hope Moffat’s boys can prove me wrong though.

Edinburgh team to face Cardiff Blues: Chris Paterson, Mark Robertson, Ben Cairns, John Houston, Tim Visser, Phil Godman, Greig Laidlaw, Allan Jacobsen, Andrew Kelly, Geoff Cross, Craig Hamilton, Scott MacLeod, Alan MacDonald, Roddy Grant, Allister Hogg (captain)

Substitutes: Sean Crombie, Kyle Traynor, Steve Turnbull, Fraser McKenzie, Ross Samson, David Blair, Nick De Luca.

The game will be shown live on BBC2 Wales – see our Scottish Rugby on TV page for details of how to view this (basically have Sky or live in Wales).

STV to Screen Scottish Magners Games?

As usual, I trot back on to the pitch with a whimper rather than a bang.

I had planned a grandiose piece to open the new season about how this was the summer that rugby found its soul (on the marvellous but ultimately non-victorious Lions tour) then lost it again (gouging) and again (armbands) and again (fake blood), and how this was to be an important season for us all where rugby should step up to the plate and try and reclaim some of its honour. About the new hopes we have for Scotland under Andy Robinson, about whether Edinburgh and Glasgow can continue to / compete and how the Magners League will fare with playoffs at the sharp end of the season. I was going to call it “What I Learnt on My Summer Holidays” and everything – all without using anything “-gate”. But as usual, time is my enemy and some news more worthy of your attention has appeared. Like some sort of tubby West Ham fan taking off his pie-stained t-shirt and jumping a barricade in order to do a one-man conga round a pitch similarly crowded with idiots, it has hurdled into the lead position for “first new post in ages”. Such tidbits will keep appearing in the press and online, demanding an airing on this platform, until the polemic once so clear in my mind to kick off the season has faded to nought but a distant memory, beaten into submission by harrowing viewings of Scotland’s rugby finest trying to cross a line less than four inches wide.

So I guess: we are back. Welcome to the new rugby season.

Lewis Stuart in The Times is reporting that there may be an announcement this week that STV will show some form of  footage of the missing gaps in the Magners League schedule available to view on TV, namely the Edinburgh and Glasgow matches not BBC Wales/S4C. The report reckons it could be limited to just a highlights package, however that is better than nothing. Look for updates to our Scottish Rugby on TV page as soon as I hear. Hopefully this will be well supported enough that they may be encouraged to show the odd live game – for example the 1872 cup matches. but look what happened with STV’s last foray into rugby. Now that STV have opted out of airing almost all of ITV’s dramas there should be plenty of room in the schedule. What else have they got to show?

The Times also reports that Max Evans and Mike Blair are rushing back to fitness. The article is not online yet so you’ll just have to trust me or rush out and buy a copy.

Edinburgh utility back Calum Macrae has signed with Mike Ruddock’s Worcester Warriors. I would have thought he might have stuck around to try and fight incomer Steven Jones for Mossy’s 15 shirt but perhaps he felt it time for pastures new.

And the SRU have introduced a new “Any Game” voucher which can be bought in advance at £5 off full ticket price – putting the price back to an almost reasonable £15 – that allow you access to (almost) any of your chosen pro-team’s Magners and Heineken Cup matches. Buy them in bulk in advance and turn up to whichever game you want. It sounds like a good plan especially if the weather suddenly turns nasty at 5pm on a Friday, you can save your ticket for the next game rather than going and getting wet sitting by yourself in the West Stand. Details on the SRU website.

Also, I know I said we should never play New Zealand again, ever. Except in the RWC final in 2011. But they have looked pretty inept of late, with their back line firing as well as, well, ours. Tri Nations: pretty dull so far.

Comeback Kings

Scottish Rugby Blog will return soon as the season is almost upon us and exciting things are afoot (well, Chunk is coming back). Anyone interested in writing for us during the new season? See the About Us section (link above) to find out what areas we are looking to cover.

News Round Up

Bit of a news digest this week, hope you are enjoying the off season!

Andy Robinson has announced his 44 man Scotland training squad for later in the month including all four Lions, several fresh faced youngsters like Ruaridh Jackson, Alex Grove and Richie Gray, and missing Simon Taylor who has requested not to be involved at this stage. All very mysterious. Nick De Luca has been named, but I think he is carrying an injury so presumably won’t be doing any physical training. Good to see the Rory Lamont Helicopter back and challenging for the full back shirt…

Scotland squad for three-day training camp at St Andrews – Monday 17-Wednesday 19 August:

Backs – Mike Blair, Ben Cairns (both Edinburgh), Chris Cusiter (Glasgow Warriors), Simon Danielli (Ulster), Nick De Luca (Edinburgh), Thom Evans, Max Evans (both Glasgow Warriors), Phil Godman (Edinburgh), Alex Grove (Worcester Warriors), John Houston (Edinburgh), Ruaridh Jackson (Glasgow Warriors), Rory Lamont (Toulon), Sean Lamont (Scarlets), Rory Lawson (Gloucester), Graeme Morrison (Glasgow Warriors), Chris Paterson (Edinburgh), Hugo Southwell (Stade Francais), Jim Thompson (Edinburgh), Nikki Walker (Ospreys), Simon Webster (Edinburgh)

Forwards – John Barclay, Johnnie Beattie, Kelly Brown (all Glasgow Warriors), Geoff Cross (Edinburgh), Alasdair Dickinson (Gloucester), Ross Ford (Edinburgh), Richie Gray (Glasgow Warriors), Scott Gray (Northampton Saints), Dougie Hall (Glasgow Warriors), Craig Hamilton, Jim Hamilton (both Edinburgh), Nathan Hines (Leinster), Allister Hogg, Allan Jacobsen (both Edinburgh), Alastair Kellock (Glasgow Warriors), Scott Lawson (Gloucester), Moray Low (Glasgow Warriors), Alan MacDonald, Scott MacLeod (both Edinburgh), Euan Murray (Northampton Saints), Alasdair Strokosch (Gloucester), Kyle Traynor (Edinburgh), Richie Vernon (Glasgow Warriors), Jason White (Clermont Auvergne).

Speaking of Clermont, Glasgow take them on in the Challenge Auvergne mini-tournament tomorrow night, having won their previous game 20-11. Lineen seems to be rotating the squad and blooding plenty of the new signings, but Rob Dewey seems to be in the thick of the action whether at wing or centre.

Glasgow Warriors team to play Clermont Auvergne at the Challenge Auvergne in Issoire, France, on Friday 7 August (kick-off 8pm local time)

Bernardo Stortoni, Rob Dewey, Peter Murchie, Peter Horne, Colin Shaw, Ruaridh Jackson, Mark McMillan, Justin Va’a, Dougie Hall, Hamish Mitchell, Richie Gray, Dan Turner, Calum Forrester, Chris Fusaro (Heriot’s)*, Johnnie Beattie

Not present will be scrum half Sam Pinder, who has announced he is leaving Glasgow for a coaching position in Hong Kong. With Cusiter coming in as clear number one scrum half it was always going to be tricky given McMillan and Gregor are probably ahead of Pinder in the pecking order too…

UPDATE: Glasgow lost 12-0 to a Clermont side featuring Jason White, with the only serious news being that young Richie Gray mentioned above dislocated his elbow and will be out for a few months.

BBC Takes Aim At Murdoch’s Crown Jewels

The BBC have just published their list of the proposed protected “free to air” sporting events, seen as invaluable in promoting sport in Britain and being accessible to the widest possible audience. Broadcast rights to several of these lie in the clutches of Rupert Murdoch’s Sky Sports or elsewhere.

The BBC’s proposed list for protected free-to-air Rugby events (* denotes additions):

A1: UK conversation events (Live)

No rugby, it being stuff like the Olympics and Football World Cup

A2 List: Resonance in the Nations (Live in relevant nation)

Welsh rugby union Six nations and autumn internationals (Wales)*

A3 List: Pinnacle sports events (Live)

Rugby union World Cup final

B List: Events of UK importance (Highlights)

Rugby union World Cup
Six Nations rugby tournament (extended to all games*)
British and Irish Lions tour*

Why do only Wales get to have their Six Nations games protected as the highest priority? Removing Scotland’s games to ESPN Sports Extra 2 (highlights only, at half past midnight) will hardly help the cause of the game here. S4C seem to have enough cash to throw about on such things that Wales would probably get coverage anyway. I am pretty sure the Beeb recognises the Six Nations for the ratings winner it is and would fight to keep it, but still.

While the idea of the Lions being viewable to a largely ambivalent community outside the immediate rugby one fills me with joy, the idea of listening to Brian Moore commentating on it does not.

Full list of all events here.

Tom Smith Returns

Ahh, there’s the “why didn’t I think of that” coaching appointment I was bemoaning the lack of in my last post. Rob Moffat has announced recently retired Northampton Saints, Scotland and Lions legend Tom Smith as his forwards coach. Having seen the improvements in Saints front row play in recent years and in particular the advances in Euan Murray’s game since being taken under Smith’s wing, I feel this can only be a good choice for Edinburgh, who have a stable of up and coming props as well as current internationalists like Geoff Cross and the inimitable Chunk. Unbeknown to most of us he has been working away in recent years to achieve his coaching qualifications, helping the Saints young forwards along the way.

SRU Release | BBC Report

Just the right sort of appointment!

Moffat To Take Over Edinburgh

Edinburgh have promoted backs coach Rob Moffat to the position of Head Coach, filling the vacancy left by Andy Robinson’s move to the national position.

BBC Report

Moffat seems to have done a pretty decent job with the Edinburgh backs, but is probably a journeyman appointment rather than the “oh, wow/really?” appointment of Robinson a couple of years ago. We of course wish him all the best in the job and hope he can take Edinburgh to greater heights or at the very least preserve their level of performance.

Other candidates known to have been up for the job were former Scotland front row merchants George Graham and Peter Wright, and I suppose it is a possibility that Wright may wish to make a move into the pro game as a forwards coach. Graham already has a head coaching job in Italy so I would think it unlikely he’d be interested in the lesser job. Moffat’s backroom appointments will be made in due course.

Scotland Lose Shirts From Their Backs

Kit manufacturer Canterbury’s European trading arm has gone into administration, resulting in the collapse of kit sponsorship deals with both Glasgow Warriors and the national side. Edinburgh kit is supplied by Rhino, so they should be unaffected. Canterbury and the SRU were due to unveil a new away (or “change”) strip this week, so I guess we will never see what the new shirt would have looked like. The parent company Canterbury of New Zealand remains unaffected, so it is possible that the national side’s deal may be revived with them given it is still a pretty high profile team. Glasgow will be on the hunt for a new kit provider though.

Scotsman Story

Scotland’s Chance to Beat New Zealand in a Rugby Related Matter

http://www.olympic-rugby.org/friends.html

As you can see from this page, the Kiwis are sorely slacking in the petition signing stakes, languishing in 27th place with Scotland having only 7 fewer signatories in 28th. We are ahead of Wales though, and we’d like things to stay that way. So if you haven’t already signed the petition to get Rugby 7s into the Olympics, head over now (you can use the big ol’ button to the right) and make us proud! Tell all your friends and get them to sign it too, and make sure your country is down as Scotland…We might even overtake such rugby behemoths as Sweden, Hungary and the Ukraine!

Summing Up The Lions

I will no doubt have a bash once I have had a chance to watch the second and third tests again (pub viewing not the best conditions for analysis although the craic is better) but for now this article by Nathan Hines on the Scotsman site sums up nicely what it meant to all the players, not just the test ones, and his general feelings on the tour.

Nathan Hines: “Rugby of the highest class”

Hard to disagree with most of it, especially the views on PDV’s reaction to the gouging and second test disciplinary controversy. Although it now seems big Nathan won’t be heading back to Perpignan post summer holidays…

Is Big Nathan The New Rocky?

Elsom that is, not Balboa. After his Wikipedia entry was recently amended to suggest he would be moving to Wales (the Ospreys and the Scarlets simultaneously), it seems that Scottish Lion and general all-round troublemaking loon Nathan Hines is now set to leave French Top 14 Champs Perpignan for Irish province Leinster, where he can team up with fellow Lions BOD, Fitzgerald, Kearney and Heaslip and aim to fill the Australian sized gap left by the return home of Rocky Elsom. Presumably the USAP lot are wound up that he prized a Lions shirt over victory in the championship and have decided to let him go. Could be a valuable signing for Leinster, and should be able to give plenty of insight into the Irish camp come 6 Nations time…

Shame one of the pro-teams couldn’t have snapped him up, but with the likes of beanpole Richie Gray coming through the ranks at Glasgow perhaps youth development is more of a focus these days – hardly a bad thing.

Scotsman Report

It is also being reported that Euan Murray has actually broken his leg on tour in South Africa and will be out for longer than feared, and will possibly not be ready in time for the autumn internationals.

Ford Stays On The Bench

No sign of big Nathan sadly, but with Shaw’s phenomenal performance last week it is understandable. Less understandable is bringing Worsley in at 6. Both Flutey and Bowe have looked fairly sharp this tour so it will be interesting to see if they can even approach the heights of Roberts/O’Driscoll’s pairing. I hope Ross Ford gets a chance for a bit of a run just to show there were some Scots on what has been a pretty good tour. Here’s hoping the boys can salvage some pride with a victory over a good South African team (and their idiotic coach) – there is no way they should be two tests down, and yet there it is, 2-0 on the score sheet. Such is sport.

British & Irish Lions versus South Africa on Saturday 4th July

15. Rob Kearney (Leinster/Ireland)
14. Ugo Monye (Harlequins/England)
13. Tommy Bowe (Ospreys/Ireland)
12. Riki Flutey (London Wasps/England)
11. Shane Williams (Ospreys/Wales)
10. Stephen Jones (Scarlets/Wales)
9. Mike Phillips (Ospreys/Wales)
8. Jamie Heaslip (Leinster/Ireland)
7. Martyn Williams (Cardiff Blues/Wales)
6. Joe Worsley (London Wasps/England)
5. Paul O’Connell (Munster/Ireland) Captain
4. Simon Shaw (London Wasps/England)
3. Phil Vickery (London Wasps/England)
2. Matthew Rees (Scarlets/Wales)
1. Andrew Sheridan (Sale Sharks/England)

Replacements:
16. Ross Ford (Edinburgh/Scotland)
17. John Hayes (Munster/Ireland)
18. Alun-Wyn Jones (Ospreys/Wales)
19. David Wallace (Munster/Ireland)
20. Tom Croft (Leicester Tigers/England)
21. Harry Ellis (Leicester Tigers/England)
22. James Hook (Ospreys/Wales)