Is there hope for Chris Cusiter?

After the autumn internationals, there were two real front runners for the Lions 9 shirt, Mike Blair number one on form with Mike Philips of Wales offering a different option in terms of physicality which some preferred.

Fast forward to the Six Nations, and the half back choices are in disarray. Blair went backwards form-wise in the Six Nations, Peel and Cusiter looked very sharp but didn’t get picked, Philips was injured, Care couldn’t keep his head when all around were losing theirs and Ireland’s best option was Peter Stringer.

Since then Tomas O’Leary has found form for Munster, and become a credible front runner. Care has found his zip again for in-form Quins but Mike Philips is stuck playing in an underperforming Ospreys team.

Step forward Chris Cusiter. First Kenny Logan picked him in his Lions team and now this from Shaun Edwards suggests they are not overlooking foibles of national selection:

After our most recent three-hour huddle – in a hotel near Heathrow this week – it is obvious that Ian is sticking by his word: he will pick on form and not reputation. Some big players who have been there and done it before, won Six Nations or Heineken Cups, might be in for a shock next Tuesday… Some of those currently in the reckoning may not have made their national teams in the Six Nations which ended less than a month ago.”

Hopefully Cusiter is still in with a chance of making the tour – Perpignan have been on a bit of a winning streak lately. Might that bode well for Hines too, who a lot talked up before his recent injury? I had a look on their site and can’t find much in the way of recent match reports so I hope they haven’t taken the huff because Cusiter is returning to Glasgow. According to Eurosport he played their win against Stade Montois (?), but seems to be part of a fairly even-handed rotation system in the games previous. He’s not injured though, I managed to pick that up.

Could he be the ideal man to partner ROG, given that they played together in Geech’s successful dirt trackers team in 2005? It seems like a fairly large straw to clutch at, but other than Euan Murray where else are the definite picks? I’d like to hope the Evans boys are considered too. Here in Scotland we’ve got a lion rampant on our ‘B’ flag, but doesn’t look like too many on the plane to South Africa, even in the ‘B’ team. Still, I can’t wait for the squad announcement tomorrow – I hope it’s a great tour.

Edinburgh Go Third

Edinburgh beat off the Leinster seconds at a cold Murrayfield while Glasgow failed to edge out Ulster at home with Parko missing a late kick. That puts Edinburgh only two points behind Leinster on the table, however the Ospreys who currently sit 2 points adrift of them with two games in hand. Edinburgh’s visit to the Liberty Stadium next week could be key (it’s live on S4C, 7.30pm on the Saturday). Glasgow currently sit in fifth.

Edinburgh 26 – 17 Leinster | BBC Report | Scotsman Report

Glasgow 19- 20 Ulster | BBC Report | Scotsman Report 

In other news, current Scotland forwards coach Mike Brewer has announced his intention to apply for the post of Scotland head coach.

Planet Rugby Makes Bold Choice

I was trying to come up with a Blair-related pun there, but I’ll save that in case it actually comes true. Here is Planet Rugby’s chosen Lions squad (hypothetical) for South Africa.

While the Scots selected are probably what you’d expect (as are most of the rest of the players), surprise inclusion of Mike Blair as captain would certainly set tongues and tails wagging were Geech’s selection the same. Harry Ellis, though, really? He’s barely Leicester first choice at the moment. Still if you take him then Blair’s more likely to hold on to his place in the team… If you read the rest of the article, interesting to see the number Scots that are just bubbling under in the minds of their pundits. So we live in hope, eh?

Backs: Lee Byrne, Rob Kearney, Tommy Bowe, Luke Fitzgerald, Leigh Halfpenny, Mark Cueto, Thom Evans, Shane Williams, Jamie Roberts, Tom Shanklin, Brian O’Driscoll, Stephen Jones, Toby Flood, Ronan O’Gara, Mike Phillips, Harry Ellis, Mike Blair (captain).

Forwards: Ryan Jones, Jamie Heaslip, Martyn Williams, David Wallace, Joe Worsley, Stephen Ferris, Paul O’Connell, Simon Shaw, Alun Wyn Jones, Steve Borthwick, Adam Jones, Euan Murray, John Hayes, Ross Ford, Jerry Flannery, Lee Mears, Gethin Jenkins, Andrew Sheridan.

Walk 4 Matt Hampson

Nick of the similarly monikered but containing more leek-jokes Welsh Rugby Blog has been in touch, highlighting a great rugby charity event that I would urge you to support in any way you can.

This year the walk from the home of rugby (Rugby) to the home of cabbage (Twickenham) has been adopted as a way of raising money for the Matt Hampson trust, while also supporting some other great causes like Wooden Spoon and Cancer Research. Each Guinness Premiership club nominates a charity, so it’s basically about the rugby community joining together in a good cause.

You’ll find full details on the walk, some of the rugby greats who are joining Matt on the route and how you can help raise money on the page:

http://www.walk4matt.org/

And here’s Nick’s page about it on his site. You can donate by Paypal, CC, text etc. We’ll be donating our ad revenue for the month (such as it is) to the cause, hopefully you can chip in something too.

Huuuuuuggoooooing?

According to this article in the Scotsman, Hugo Southwell might be heading to pastures new. While a move to Harlequins so they could have shouted Ugo AND Hugo might have been better for the amusement of people like me, it sounds like he could be heading to France. Presumably the reason for this is Paterson’s kicking will cement his place in the Edinburgh team, but it leaves them a bit short when Mossy gets injured or is away on international duty. Cairns and De Luca have both filled in at full-back for Edinburgh in the past, and Jim Thompson could follow the example of Colin Gregor for Glasgow last month as a sevens man slotting in at 15 and playing a blinder. From there they get plenty of space to look up and see what’s on, rather than, say, just hoofing it skywards. I thought Gregor did a pretty decent job, and Thompson is physically more what you’d expect a full back to be. Sorry Colin, but you’re wee. Speaking of which, he’s playing 15 again this weekend as Glasgow take on Matt Williams’ Ulster. Ruaridh Jackson once again gets a shot at the 10 shirt and Andrew Henderson returns from injury to take a slot on the bench. Meanwhile Edinburgh take on a Leinster side still featuring plenty of internationals, just not the front line ones. Gordon D’Arcy may take a last tilt at the Lions tour here, and it’s a final chance for the Scottish guys to put a hand up. To be fair, the squad is announced on Tuesday so they’d have to do something pretty spectacular to get in at this late stage!

Anyway, should Hugo indeed be away to pastures new, we at Scottish Rugby Blog would of course wish him all the best.

Lineen Rules Himself Out

Sean Lineen has ruled himself out of contention for the Scotland Rugby head coach’s position. Wise enough to mastermind a famous away victory in Toulouse, the original kilted Kiwi is also wise enough to know that he has unfinished business with Glasgow. He talks a lot of sense about where he is as a coach, realising his own strengths and weaknesses and he’ll probably be a great Scotland coach, just not this time round. This leaves Andy Robinson as pretty overwhelming favourite now. Will he take a similar step out of the spotlight, clearing the way for a worldwide headhunt, or is he actually far more anxious to prove himself once again on the biggest stage? One overwhelming thing in his favour is that he doesn’t get on with Brian Moore. We should know if he throws in the hat or the towel in the next week or two.

While rumours abound that Sean Lamont is Edinburgh bound – he certainly seems to be MIA at Saints although that may be more to do with the form of Paul Diggin – one thing for sure is that Robinson has also just completed the signing of Sevens captain Roddy Grant to a full-time contract at Edinburgh. Grant, who plays as flanker in the fifteens game, should be afforded an ideal opportunity to learn his trade first hand from a coach with a pretty large knowledge base in that area. Unless of course he moves upstairs…

Meanwhile Lineen, with an even stronger Glasgow squad for next year including Chris Cusiter and Rob Dewey, wants to give himself a chance for success there first, realising that one good Heineken Cup result does not a good Scotland coach make.

Oh, wait…

Melrose Pipped at the Sevens as the Sun Shines

In glorious conditions at the Greenyards, thousands spent the weekend celebrating the greatness of the shortened form of Rugby Union. Overall there was a much stronger showing from Scottish teams than in recent years (other than the team of ringers brought in to win it last year), with a few reasonably well-kent names such as Ben Addison, Chris Fusaro and Jim Thompson popping up for their clubs and most of the invited overseas sides going out early. Host side Melrose progressed to the final but as usual the tournament was won by a bunch of students from South Africa who though everything was awesome and talked about God a lot. The vets tournament was won by a motely crew of ex-Border Reivers.

As one legend of the game – possibly the only legend of sevens, but what a legend – in Waisale Serevi retired, having finally played at the ground where the short game was invented, another bright young star was unearthed in the lightning quick feet of South African Earl Lewis. Melrose put up a fight in the brilliant final, clawing almost every score level thanks to some canny (and some Australian) operators – there was no shortage of class on both sides. In the end though, it was Lewis’s pace that proved the difference, able to kill off the game in the dying moments with a couple of individual sprints over the line.

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.