Scotland Six Nations Fixtures 2010

Scotland vs France (H), Sunday Feb 7th, 3pm

Wales vs Scotland (A), Saturday Feb 13th 2pm

Italy vs Scotland (A) Saturday Feb 27th 2.30pm (local)

Scotland vs England (H) Saturday Mar 13th 5pm

Ireland vs Scotland (A), Saturday 20th Mar 5pm

Any takers for a championship decider at the new Landsdowne (sorry Aviva) Stadium? A new coach should (we hope) give us a team that can fulfill it’s potential, so why the hell not? Having said then, England could well be on their way to revival by then. Wales play another Friday night match, this time in Cardiff on the 26th Feb, again vs France. That’s sure to get the knickers twisting once again.

A Note on Our Feeds

We recently outsourced our RSS feeds to Feedburner in order to reduce a bit of load on our bandwidth which was getting hammered by feed-crawlers. If you were a previous subscriber, all traffic to the old /feed/ address should be getting forwarded to the right place through the magic of Quantum / Gaia / Tim Berners Lee (delete as applicable). Regardless, the address for the main RSS feed is now:

http://feeds.scottishrugbyblog.co.uk/ScottishRugbyBlog

If you’re having any problems, please let us know. The new feedburner format should be browser friendly and readable in all sorts of devices too so you can read us on the train, your phone or whatever. Of course, old fashioned readers who just turn up and look at the actual pages here are most welcome. Don’t forget to support our advertisers! Thanks for reading, now back to normal service…

Glasgow Extend Their Stay At Firhill

Glasgow Warriors have announced a deal to stay at Firhill for another 5 years, quoshing rumours that they were moving to (national eyesore of the year several years running) Cumbernauld. They share the ground with round-ball merchants Partick Thistle, who will also get a degree of financial stability from the deal. I reckon this gives them a chance to grow their crowds (record so far is 6,665 v Edinburgh) and while the pitch is a bit narrow, the atmosphere seems to be good – at least when the Glasgow team turn up.

London Scottish Win Title and Promotion

Scotland’s own exiles team are slowly catching up on London Irish and London Welsh in their attempt to rise back to the heights of the English Club game, having this past weekend captured the National League 3 (South) title. London Scottish could also go unbeaten for the season with only three games left to play and just one draw muddying the W column in the table. Their promotion to National League 2 (with no geographical subdivisions) is subject to RFU confirmation but hopefully there will be nothing to stand in their way.

Though possibly not quite as tartan as they may have been in the past with a few imports like England Sevens star Simon Amor to help them progress, and a mega-sponsor deal with Middle Eastern group Saudex Global, the club can still offer a valuable proving ground for exiled talent in the future (Max Evans is a former player) as well as providing somewhere to drink a pint of Deuchars after another Calcutta Cup drubbing at Twickers. Speaking to LS roving reporter Simon MacMichael in this article, London Scottish man (and key player in the recent investment) Kenny Logan articulated where he sees the club fitting into the bigger picture:

London Scottish is a great pathway for any international, never mind just Scottish. Obviously we’ve got very much a Scottish heritage, and we have a history of being the most successful team for producing Scotland players, that’s something that the club is very proud of and we want to continue that. But at the same we’ve got to bring other players on, whether they’re English or Scottish. We’re a very Scottish-based club, but we’re very proud to be in the English league, and also very proud to have Scottish players playing for Scotland.”

Apparently they have a promising young standoff by the name of Hadden, too.

Onwards and upwards boys.

Thanks to Helen and Simon @LS for permission to reprint. I hope to have more regular reports for you on the progress of London Scottish in National League 2 next season.

Campaign to get Bill McLaren a Knighthood

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.

Odds and Sods and Lions Centres

After all the excitement of yesterday evening, tonight Edinburgh take on Cardiff at Murrayfield tonight (not on TV, but probably on BBC Radio Scotland along with a lively debate about future Scotland coaches from 8pm), while Glasgow visit Llanelli live on S4C on Saturday at 5.30pm ish with a few more of their internationals back. A couple of good games from Thom Evans could see him shoot up in the Lions reckoning, which would be nice. Also with one eye on the future, Ruaridh Jackson is starting at 10 for Glasgow with Parko (still without a contract for next season) on the bench. Edinburgh should also have newly resigned and restored prop Geoff Cross packing down in the scrum (but not against Cardiff’s Gethin Jenkins, who is rested). Cross will be looking to make up for his inauspicious test debut vs Wales in the Six Nations, one hopes…

Speaking of the future, Edinburgh and Glasgow seem to be scouring the English club game for Scottish-qualified youngsters with ex Stew-Mel and Newcastle scrum-half Ross Samson signing for Edinburgh and centre Peter Murchie signing for Glasgow from London Welsh. Samson’s signing and Ben Meyer’s exit from Edinburgh would mean I think that Edinburgh now only have one non-Scottish qualified player on their books (in Ben Gissing).

At the other end of the career spectrum, former Edinburgh scrum-half Graeme Beveridge has also announced his retirement from pro-rugby after he was let go by Bristol. He aims to have a go at coaching in the future though, so we wish him all the best with that and hope to see him plying his trade north of the border soon. Andy Henderson is also off to pastures new in Montauban after a game for the BaaBaas – it was getting crowded in the Glasgow midfield I suppose.

After their exertions last week in victory over Connacht and loss to Munster respectively, good to see a few home-based Scots creeping into the (only half serious) Sky Sports Lions Watch team of the week, as well as a few exiles. In fact this team is almost thick with Scots – that’ll never last. Big Stroker is definitely increasing the awareness of his physical talents, while I’m sorry to have missed the battle between Euan Murray and Gethin Jenkins in the scrum… plus the comments on these things are always fun to read…

With Henson now out with injury till May, it looks like Goron D’Arcy could be coming into form at just the right time to re-cement his partnership with O’Driscoll… Shanklin or possibly Jamie Roberts should keep Maxi out of the reckoning at 13 but he may have more value as a utility back than Thom. Tindall is injured too, lest we forget so if the 2×2 centres were Flutey (ugh) and D’arcy, O’ Driscoll and Shanklin, they’d probably still need a utility back who could cover centre. Step forward Maximus! Such are the discussions that the coming weeks are made of, so I’ve put up a handy countdown in order to build the hype towards the inevitable leonine let-down (but we are used to such things by now).

Have a good weekend. Next week was going to be chat about the Lions, but now we have some fantasy coach shopping to do!

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.

Rugby’s Big Shots Stomp on the ELVs But Not Really

News was announced today that a conference of Union members, refereeing bodies and playing associations has recommended several of Rugby’s Experimental Law Variations (ELVs) to  the IRB to be passed into law. For the most part it seems they have kept the fairly innocuous ones – although the 5 metre offside line has come in for criticism of late – such as law 6 or law 22, as well as legalising the things everyone did anyway like taking squint throws at quick lineouts, pre-gripping and lifting. The two “major” ones – dropping rolling mauls and unequal numbers at the lineout will be thrown out with the bathwater in an attempt to keep forwards in the pack and free up more space in midfield. Anything which gives our beleaguered backs is to be applauded. Although it is not yet official, it seems to be set in stone that the IRB would not go against these recommendations, so Munster and Italy will be happy… however still lurking in the background is the “everything’s a free kick” sanctions which are pending further review after being trialled in the Southern Hemisphere. Hopefully that one get’s the heave-ho too.

Now can we get back on with refereeing the laws that are in place – squint feeds, consistency at the breakdown etc?

ELVs recommended to be passed into law:

Law 6 – Assistant referees allowed
Law 19 – Kicking directly into touch from ball played back into 22 equals no gain in ground
Law 19 – Quick throw permitted in any direction except forward
Law 19 – Positioning of player in opposition to the player throwing-in to be two metres away from line-out and the line of touch
Law 19 – Pre-gripping of line-out jumpers allowed
Law 19 – Lifting in the line-out allowed
Law 19 – Positioning of receiver must be two metres away from line-out
Law 20 – Five-metre offside line at the scrum
Law 20 – Scrum-half offside line at the scrum
Law 22 – Corner posts no longer touch in goal

ELVs not recommended:

Law 17 – Maul, head and shoulders not to be lower than hips
Law 17 – Maul, pulling down the maul
Law 19 – Freedom for each team to determine line-out numbers

ELVs sent for further examination:

Sanctions and free-kicks

Al Wins Fantasy League

After a statistical error, it appears my co-blogger Al should actually have come first. Apologies to all those who entered in the hope of defeating his rugby magnificence.

Okay, that’s April 1st out of the way.

Congratulations are due to all who played, but after pretty much leading from the front in week 1, legendary Scottish Rugby Blog reader Jenny actually emerged victorious with a final 328 points. May her skill, beauty, taste, genius, wondrousness etc never diminish.

A storming final round from the official blog XV (mostly courtesy of Maxime Medard’s sideburns) saw yours truly face-savingly boosted into second place. Thanks to all who played and we’ll probably run a similar thing next season. Commiserations to Al and Mark who had proper jobs to do (rugby-related or otherwise) which left them with an unchanged team for the whole tournament. A finest piece of tree-based cutlery for my blog partner. Perhaps we should impose a no transfers rule next year, injuries be damned?!

Hope you enjoyed it.

So That’s The End of That, Then

Another year, another pretty miserable Six Nations for Scotland. Our celtic cousins over the sea celebrate their shiny new Grand Slam – created out of gritty Munster-like determination (and a missed penalty) rather than any sort of fantastic rugby – and those in Wales cry into their Brains after slumping to fourth in the table despite being in with a shout at the end of a fantastic deciding match. France were their usual schizophrenic selves, Italy look like they may be going backwards and England seem to be starting to develop a little unit cohesion and some decent backs whilst maintaining that indisciplined streak that lets other teams back into matches.

And so it was for Scotland in the Calcutta Cup, where Paterson and Godman kept us just about within touching distance, and a little bit more vision/ruthlessness/Ugo Monye having one leg might have seen us snatch an unlikely victory. Once again Al Strokosch put in a powerful performance, but it’s about time someone else steps up to his intensity levels. Euan Murray gave England a tough time in the scrums, but was not totally dominant even once Vickery went off. He started to show up in the loose again too, which is good. Mike Blair had probably his best game of the tournament, but that’s not saying much and sad to say that may not be enough to put him on the plane to South Africa, where in the autumn he was a certainty. Thom Evans once again set a stadium alight with a try that almost was, but he has now become the Shane Williams of Scotland – marked heavily wherever he goes. World Class Phil Godman seems to have put the “who should play 10 for Scotland” debate to bed, but the Scottish attack is still not setting the heather on fire, let alone the sunny turf of Twickenham. Credit must also go to England who finally look to be adding the ruthlessness to their game that has been missing for a while. No sense in dwelling too much on the past, so here’s what I would like to see in the future, Six Nations wise.

Let’s Have More Of:

Scotland’s Defence, for the most part. In the first half against Ireland, much of the France game and all of the Italy game the defence was solid and convincing. Al Strokosch may not put in the crowd-pleasing big hits that Jason White did, but his work rate is phenomenal – it’s the little hits, all the time, phase after phase that help us. We turned over a lot of ball with Scott Gray at 7 too. Barclay is undoubtedly the future in the position, but Gray was probably the standout man in blue during the Calcutta Cup match and it’s good to have competition for places.

Scotland scoring tries. Well, for a while at least. It was good to see Simon Danielli coming on to some form after some pretty cruel luck in the past, and you fancy in the autumn there will be real competition for back three places from the Lamont boys, Evans boys, Malkovich, Mossy etc. The A Team tour to Romania in the summer should be interesting too. Unlikely you’ll find it on TV though.

Chris Cusiter. I hope he has a couple of blinders for Perpignan to round off the season, and I hope Geech is watching.

Euan Murray destroying opposition scrums. Yeah, something to cheer about!

Andrew Cotter. Is he the new Bill McLaren? Maybe even some more of Lawrence Dallaglio who was balanced and fair in his assessments. Rob Henderson, Andy Nicol and Philip Matthews were also pretty good. The rest sadly fall into the second half of this article.

France playing sexy rugby. That first half against Ireland was brilliant, no matter what Marc Lievremont thinks.

Brian O’Driscoll being good, and like the Murphy’s not bitter. Seems to have lost the chip on his shoulder that he got from Tana Umaga, and in perfect time for the Lions.

Let’s Have Less Of:

Scotland Being Rubbish. Okay so we have a tiny player base compared to say England (apparently approx 30,000 vs 715,000 or so), but we have some decent players once it is just 22 vs 22, so why do they perform so inconsistently? Sorry Frank, but I think it comes down to coaching and confidence in their selection based on form or position. We need to be a bit sharper in midfield too. It would be interesting to see whether a new coach would persist with bruisers at 12, or go for someone with more varied angles of running and distribution like Ben Cairns or De Luca – assuming he can get over the handling issues he still seems to suffer at international level. Sir Clive Woodward probably would have brought in a team psychologist now to get to the root of it, and maybe it is ingrained in our national psyche but something needs to be done to sort it. Even change for changes sake, which worked last time.

Not picking second rows in the second row. It started off being about injuries, and ended up with the selectors painted in a giant corner in a fetching shade of red face. Kellock and Hamilton both restored balance and ballast to the lineout – think what they could do with a proper second row. Nick Mallet picking Bergamasco at 9 falls under this umbrella too.

Bickering BBC Pundits. Brian Moore, Eddie Butler, Austin Healey, Jonathan Davies – leave us alone please. Give us some pundits who can keep their flags in their back pockets and pronounce people’s names. John Inverdale telling Rafa Ibanez to be quiet because they wanted to talk about England was one of the worst things I have seen from a BBC punditry team that often seems over-burdened with “faces” – some people might use another term…

Indecision over the ball being in or out of the ruck. One thing Moore-oh gets right. Half-backs sitting guarding a ball that is clearly no longer in the ruck kills the momentum of the game. If they can put their hands on it to pass it, the ball is out. Else they are handling in the ruck, no? Let the defence at it. If a ref is shouting “ruck” every so often, it’s only a couple of extra breaths to shout “ball out” and remove the indecision.

Diving. Italians and pseudo Italians (Nigel Owen’s “drama school” quip after Danielli took a tumble was classic), I’m looking at you.

Aerial Ping Pong. Is it really the ELVs? Not really. Is it actually that the breakdowns are now (mostly) refereed according to the laws in existence and it has become a lot easier to turn over ball in contact that causes the “you make a mistake – no you make one” dialogue between full backs.

What about you? Please add your own in the comments here below. Thanks for reading during the Six Nations, we’ll be back soon with the results of the nailbiting (for the six of us involved) fantasy rugby. Then it is time for the big daddy of tours set to dominate the rugby world from now until June – the British and Irish Lions in South Africa. Check out Planet Rugby for their analysis of who’s in form now after the Six Nations has finished. Good to see a few Scots in there, I’m sure if they make the tour they can make an impact.

Warm Up With The U20s

Don’t forget a) to change your fantasy team ahead of the weekend – last chance to snatch victory or *cough* make an impact *cough* – and b) that you can catch England U20s vs Scotland U20s live on Sky Sports tonight. Scotland are (numerically at least) still in with a shout of victory in the tournament as a whole, and also after a Triple Crown.

And as for the big boys – well, we have to hope that they turn up. France didn’t turn up to Twickers at all last week and look what happened to them. Borthwick rambling about over-exuberant celebrations last year (well, we don’t win that often do we?) to try and match the edge that Scotland always take into this particular game will probably only increase Scottish fire. We all hope that will be followed by an ability to well, pass and catch the ball. Kudos to friend of the blog Pete for putting his money where our mouth should be, but at this stage of the tournament I have to confess it pains me to say it’s hard to see a Scotland win… go out there and prove me (and all of England) wrong.