Edinburgh Beat Wasps

Bet you never thought you’d see that headline – indeed you may not see it again this season when the Heineken Cup warms up properly. For now though, Edinburgh Rugby seem to have given the visiting Premiership champs a decent game under the new ELVs, and more importantly held out for the win in this pre-season friendly.

Mossy as predicted came on at full-back amongst a half-time bucketload of subs, but Godman still seems to have done a fair bit of the kicking. Ben Cairns worryingly may have picked up a ligament injury, but De Luca seems to have once again come through with honours against a reasonably strong Wasps side. Even better news was a good sized crowd of 4,225. Let’s hope the crowds – and the wins – continue. Next up: Bath away.

Anyone at the game?

UPDATE: In other news, Glasgow lost narrowly 15-12 to Bristol in a game that sounds a lot less fun.

Hadden hires new coaches

In news announced yesterday, Scotland have appointed two new assistant coaches to fill positions temporarily held by Andy Robinson and Alan Tait over the summer tours.

Former All Black captain Mike Brewer of NZ has been appointed as forwards coach, and former GB Rugby League International Graeme Steadman as defence coach filling the roles left by previous incumbents George Graham and aformentioned Tait.

While Brewer played a controversial role in one of Scotland’s closer results against the All Blacks, he did sterling work with Leinster’s pack last season and should he work similar magic for our national side he may be forgiven. Steadman is a less well-known figure, having worked with both Munster and Ireland in the past since crossing codes. Steadman will also work with Edinburgh, hopefully to ease the transition between their 10-12-13 defensive axis from club to international level. The SRU site claims a replacement for Mark Bitcon is being looked for in the fitness department. So, with all this blarney-flavoured news, should it be pointed out that -as was the situation with Eddie O Sullivan – there seems to be a worrying lack of appointment of a backs coach?

We all know what happened to Eddie O Sullivan…

Fantasy Rugby warming up for the new season

Okay so it’s the (ssshhhhh) Guiness Premiership we’re talking here, not our “beloved” Magners League. But you could just about field a team of exiled Scots here, or at least people who have vaguely Scottish names – Luke McAlister I’m looking at you.

I’ve even set up a Scottish Rugby Blog mini-league so if anyone wants to join in that, the name of the league is “ScottishRugbyBlog.co.uk” and the password is “optimism”. Tell all your friends. No prizes for mini-league victory other than those already offered by the sponsors, and our undying respect. Unless Al wins, in which case no prizes full stop and shame on the rest of us. I’ll be playing anyway, so if it’s by myself well that’s nothing new. But there’s plenty of room in the sandpit so why not give it a bash, you’ve got till the 6th September to get stuck in.

Word of warning – best set up your team in Internet Explorer if you can, their fancy interface only lets you pick one back if you try it in Firefox, which would be about as useful as picking Dan Parks. If he were available. Tsk.

http://www.guinnesspremiershipfantasyrugby.com

Scottish Rugby Blog is Back

Kicking down the door and shouting “Sucka” (while no-one really gets hurt) like the Mr-T of sports journalism that we are, I bid you welcome to a new season of rugger-based ramblings. Oh, wait, the season hasn’t started yet. Still, there is some stuff to report, namely that two of Scotland’s favourite sons went head to head the other night in a pre-season friendly between Sale Sharks and Perpignan. Chris Cusiter started at 9 and may or may not have played the whole game – they’re not exactly reporting the hell out of this one – while Rory Knee-Face Lamont (Batman’s new nemesis) seems to have sparked a bit of a second half fightback, scoring two tries to leave the final score a tie at 24-24. The good news is he was playing at 15, hopefully a position that Saint-Andre will give him a run at this season. Otherwise he may end up marking his brother…

Glasgow seem to have beaten Castres in a pre-season friendly, without most of their top players and trialling some of the ELVs. New signing Mark McMillan hopefully gave an indication of things to come with a late try to seal the win, whilst Colin Gregor illustrated his versatility by kicking most of his goals. Here at SRBlog Towers, we’re almost as happy to see McMillan at Glasgow as teammate Dan Parks:

Mark Mcmillan and Dan Parks

Welcome back to Scottish Rugby Blog. Come in, the water’s lovely.

Social Rugby Players from Scotland Wanted!

Friend of the SRBlog Rolf has been in touch with some details of an event he is involved in South Africa next year, the Social Rugby World Championships:

Every rugby player has at one time or another worn the boots of their rugby heroes – standing in the back garden imagining the kick that’ll win the World Cup Final for his team.

From Opunake, New Zealand to Clonakilty, Ireland the dreams remain the same. For most, these dreams fade, but for 480 social rugby players these dreams will finally be realised from 13 to 26 June 2009 when the inaugural Social Rugby World Championships kicks off in Cape Town, South Africa.

The tournament, with teams from across the globe, promises to be packed with great running rugby, good times, healthy competition and new friendships being formed.

SOCIAL RUGBY WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS 2009

  • 16 international teams
  • 480 rugby players
  • 2 weeks of socialising and rugby
  • 40 matches
  • 1000’s of spectators
  • 4 finals – Cup, Plate, Bowl and Shield
  • 1 of the world’s most beautiful cities
  • 1 social outreach programme that’ll help change the lives of players and previously disadvantaged communities forever.

The groundbreaking Social Rugby World Championships – coinciding with the British & Irish Lions tour of South Africa – is the perfect opportunity to make some new friends, enjoy a few games of social rugby, visit the most beautiful city in the world (our unbiased opinion) and watch the Lions in action (probably getting thumped by the current World Champions – also an unbiased opinion).

While I take issue with the Lions jibe, it sounds like a great idea so if you have a team that you think might be interested, spread the word! More details on www.srwc2009.co.za.

On other fronts, we realise we have been a bit slack lately but Wimbledon was on. Although also on summer break, Al and I have thankfully (or is that unfortunately?) not been involved in any late-night hotel-based scandals with foreign lovelies, nor re-constructive surgeries of any kind.

Like the rest of the world, we’ll be back to oval balls soon.

England Saxons team to face Scotland A

England Saxons team: Nick Abendanon, Ugo Monye, Ollie Smith, Anthony Allen, Matt Banahan, Ryan Lamb, Paul Hodgson, Alex Clarke, George Chuter, Jack Forster, Chris Jones, George Skivington, Chris Robshaw, Will Skinner (capt), Jordan Crane. Replacements: Andy Titterrell, Tom French, Stuart Hooper, Steffon Armitage, Lee Dickson, Adrian Jarvis, Ben Foden.

Scotland A team: Steve Jones, Mark Robertson, Rob Dewey, Calum MacRae, Roland Reid, Gordon Ross, Colin Gregor, Ed Kalman, Fergus Thomson (capt), David Young, Fergus Pringle, Dan Turner, James Eddie, Alan MacDonald, Stevie Swindall. Replacements: Andrew Kelly, Stuart Corsar, Jon Dunbar, Scott Newlands, Mark McMillan, David Blair, Jim Thompson

(Coverage is on Sky Sports 2, 7.45pm)

If you were just playing the “who’s name do I recognise” game between the two teams, you’d likely soil yourself. Indeed regular followers of Edinburgh and Glasgow might still be pushed to identify some of these chaps, where as the Saxons side is packed with guys in top form in the GP. But as Al and I were commenting the other day – and has been proven amongst otherwise dismal results for the national team over the last few years – a Scotland vs England match sees the formbook (but hopefully not the rulebook) thrown out the window. If Thomson leads the pack from the front, and RobDeweyTime, Gregor and Ross have a good game, there’s hope for us. If Banahan, Hodgson or Lamb get too much quick ball it may be curtains. Here’s hoping that the A team can keep the positive up-swing at the end of the season going.

Scotland beat Argentina for first time since I was 11

Argentina 14 – 26 Scotland

What a shocker, eh? Did you see that one coming? Having belatedly caught the game on pay per view through Mediazone – disgustingly the only broadcast provider willing to carry it, good on them though – I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. We could mutter about how Scotland had a chance to protect the 15 point plus lead that would have leap-frogged them over Ireland in the IRB rankings, but let’s face it considering some of the recent performances, a win’s a win. That the victory was achieved by playing pacy, running rugby, and by cutting out (most of) the errors on top of the usual solid defence made it all the sweeter.

Funny how you play World Class Phil at 10 and suddenly the emphasis is not on kicking or up-and-unders – probably a good job, as despite a pretty solid performance he did fluff a few touch kicks. Or maybe they were meant to miss touch and force the counter, you know, like Dan Carter does. He attacked the line constantly, passed flat and in front of his runners, and made one sterling break that could have quite easily made a try for Mossy in the corner but for a better timed pass. Speaking of good passes, yes Parks got on, and yes he set up a try with a sweet pass to Morrison off an interception, but by that point it was “shut up shop” time and he was patently brought on to pin the Argies in their own half with his boot. Cairns also made some great breaks, and for the first time in a Scotland shirt looked the real attacking threat we know he could be. Poor De Luca received a total of no passes that I could see. His time will come.

The forwards put in an awesome display (Barclay and Stroker acting like nightclub bouncers around the ball and generally looking up for the challenge), but despite what the rankings say this wasn’t the Argentina that finished 3rd in the World Cup. They were missing the verve of Hernandez and Corletto, and the likes of Longo and Albacete up front. Even with the backing of a passionate crowd they reverted to type-1 rugby. I also thought they didn’t dive into the ruck nearly as effectively as they did in the World Cup, and their turnover rate on our ball was much lower. Or maybe that’s just because Alain Rolland kept an eye on them after the battering they gave Mikey Blair last week.

Next weekend after the Churchill Cup Final – Scotland A vs England Saxons – Al and I will chip in with our end of season thoughts.

A chance for revenge…sort of

So, 15 points. Can we really beat Argentina by that much? Without scoring any tries? With Dan Parks at 10? Not having seen the previous game yet, I can’t really comment specifically but from the sounds of it on the radio we were solid in the set piece but bullied at the breakdown, which led to slow ball, which led to, well, the usual. It’s good to see Stroker in the press with some fire in his belly about losing games we should win, and hopefully Robinson will key the back row (and Alain Rolland) in a bit to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Much like many of you out there, it seems pretty evident to me that regardless of club form or favouritism, the team don’t fire with Parko at 10 (unless we are playing England and it is raining), so it is of little use constantly shuffling the backline when the ball never gets beyond 10 or 12. Therefore I will refrain from discussing the backs. What’s the point?

Don’t forget you can catch the Scotland A game vs Argentina A in the Churchill Cup from 9.30 tonight to see if the understudies can manage what the full team have singularly failed to do, namely beat the Argies. It was a good showing from the A team to beat a stubborn and fired-up Canada on Saturday, but the lack of familiar faces in the team compared to say the England Saxons team does highlight the lack of depth we have in Scotland once you skim off the Glasgow and Edinburgh first 22s and the current crop of big name exiles. A lot of these guys have not been playing first team professional rugby this season, and although you could argue this tour will give them valuable experience, it does show that to get the results we would all love to see, Scotland needs to find a way to sustain more than just a core of about 30-40 players – once these ranks are depleted through injury or the niceties of the French club season, we are severely short of form and experience. Even the A Team coaches have been spirited away to the main team in an effort to bolster confidence, depriving our up and coming players of what would have been a valuable learning process.

Anyway, all the best. Good luck to both teams and I hope I will be proven wrong. Al and I are off to Cardiff to pay homage at the Millennium Stadium, so we may be unavailable for comment after Saturday’s match. Feel free to leave your build-up and feedback on any of the games in the comments below – don’t forget new look Oz and England are both in action this weekend too, against the Irish and All Blacks respectively.

UPDATE: here’s the team, comments below:

Southwell, Paterson, Cairns, Morrison, Webster, Godman, Blair, Jacobsen, Ford, Murray, Mustchin, MacLeod, Strokosch, Barclay, Hogg.
Replacements: Hall, Dickinson, Kellock, Brown, Lawson, Parks, De Luca.

More Squad and Coaching Roundabout News

Edinburgh prop Geoff Cross has been called up to the Scotland squad to tour Argentina after Craig Smith pulled out of the squad. Smith is also reported to be “considering his future in rugby” after a less than successful season. I suppose after meeting Al and I in St Etienne it was all downhill from there, but I hope he considers sticking around – he has strong potential to become the new Chunk, and his love of beards will only boost his chances of becoming a cult figure. Meanwhile Argentina have named a squad that includes a clutch of Premiership and Magners League players – but perhaps luckily for Scotland several of the big names playing in France (ie Hernandez) are absent.

Marcus Di Rollo has been withdrawn from the A Squad by Toulose, despite the fact they refuse to play him on health grounds, which is a bit mean spirited. And Scott Barrow can no longer play for Scotland through residency as he, um, sold his house.

Alan Tait has announced he is to follow former Borders colleague Steve Bates to become Newcastle Assistant Coach. Should be a good signing for the Falcons, and it will be interesting to see if he extends his remit beyond simply defence coaching – let’s not forget he knows a thing or two about attacking play too, having played cross-code at the highest levels.

And finally, eligible Scotland front-rower Nick Lloyd of Saracens has been selected for England’s experimental XV to face the BaBas on Sunday, putting that issue to bed once and for all. Add him to the list with Ryan Lamb of “what-might-have-been”s. Hadden does have a policy of not chasing players eligible to play for Scotland, but with such a small player pool anyway is he letting too many slip through the nets?

Battle of the Nicknames – Malkovich and Munchkin called up

Simon Webster are the latest additions to the tour party for Argentina, with the fleet-footed winger being declared fit after a hamstring injury and Edinburgh lock (but New Zealand born) Matt Mustchin added to boost the second row numbers. Mustchin’s inclusion will no doubt raise eyebrows in some quarters – he only just qualifies on residency – but if the Kiwis prefer South Sea Islanders, then why not give us the spare Kiwis, many of whom will be sporting Scottish ancestors more likely than not… Sure, it’s not strictly cricket, but then neither is putting the ball into the scrum squint – and that happens, too.

In other news, George Graham has confirmed he will not be staying with the SRU after being largely scapegoated for the poor Six Nations showing – Alan Tait has since been re-positioned and re-hired for Argentina – and is eyeing up positions with Munster and Newcastle among others. Steve Bates, the former Borders head coach, has been installed “permanently” as Director of Rugby and is looking for a forwards coach (and a defence coach too if Tait should grow weary of his role north of the border), so Graham may indeed opt for the rough and tumble of the Premiership. He has expressed a desire to be Scotland coach one day, so best of luck George.

Geech named Lions Coach – Big Cat Metaphors Start Now

Today Wasps Director of Rugby Ian McGeechan is expected to be named as the head coach for the next British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa in 2009. The former Scotland coach has become synonymous with Lions tours both as coach and player, and anyone who has seen his midweek team talks on the 2005 tour DVD – way more impressive than Woodward’s – should be assured he is the man for the job of restoring a bit of pride to Lions rugby.

Sorry, couldn’t resist it.

He also has a successful tour of South Africa under his belt which can’t hurt. Shaun Edwards – having already expressed a desire to go on this tour as his reason for taking the Wales job – is a near cert as defence coach, and Warren Gatland also likely to take a job as forwards coach in the “dream team”. All of which might leave Wasps slightly understrength come next season’s late spurt for the title, but that would be no bad thing, would it?

In other news, poor Moray Low is going to miss the Scotland tour of Argentina and his chance of a first cap due to an ankle injury sustained in the last game of the season, and Max Evans has been promoted to the main squad to join his brother, while we await word on Simon “Malkovich” Webster’s inclusion pending recovery from an injury. In the absence of the Lamont brothers, let’s hope the Evans boys can follow in the footsteps of them and the Hastings brothers and form another dynamic family duo in Scotland’s back line.

Magners League Ends

So another season of Magners League rugby comes to an end, another disappointing year for the Scottish pro-teams. Oh, no, wait. That’s not entirely true, is it?

With wins away at Llanelli and Munster respectively yesterday, Edinburgh and Glasgow secured fourth and fifth places in the table, which I am pretty sure are record highs for them. Munster’s losing bonus point against Glasgow held Edinburgh out of third. Edinburgh put a tired looking Llanelli to the sword, which was worth seeing even if I had to watch it in Welsh. If they had a play-off system – and word is they will soon – Edinburgh would be in them. Would you have said that, this time last year? Glasgow very nearly beat Biarritz twice – once was more than most people hoped for. Both teams have a solid base of young talent (+ Dan Parks) and have boosted their strength with some useful signings for next year (Paterson, McMillan). I am also heartened to see Fa’atau starting to score tries at Glasgow, hopefully he’ll stick around and prove as useful as some of the other southern hemisphere imports have been elsewhere (Munster, Bath, Sale, Worcester).

Final league positions:

Leinster
Cardiff Blues
Munster
Edinburgh Rugby
Glasgow Warriors
Llanelli Scarlets
Ospreys
Dragons
Ulster
Connacht Rugby

You can also vote for your Magners League dream team of the year. Hopefully there will be a few Scottish representatives among them, Moray Low and Nick De Luca would surely merit inclusion, regardless of international performances. Mine would look something like this, with a slight Scottish bias I’ll admit:

Lee Byrne (Ospreys)
Doug Howlett (Munster)
Nick De Luca (Edinburgh)
Lifeirni Mafi (Munster)
Shane Williams (Ospreys)
Felipe Contepomi (Leinster)
Mike Blair (Edinburgh)

Ryan Jones (Ospreys)
Martyn Williams (Cardiff)
Ally Hogg (Edinburgh)
Paul Tito (Cardiff)
Donnacha O’ Callaghan (Munster)
Moray Low (Glasgow)
Fergus Thompson (Glasgow)
Allan Jacobsen (Edinburgh)

They’re not asking for a coach, but Andy Robinson would be my choice!

Hope you’ve enjoyed the Magners season, limited though the viewing of Scottish teams has been for those of us without Setanta. Our thoughts now turn to the summer tour of Argentina – word is Moray Low has picked up an ankle injury that may rule him out, which has us gutted for him, the Churchill Cup, and the announcement next week of the Lions coach for 2009, and South Africa.

Oh, and an official SRBlog trip to Cardiff’s home of rugby, the Millennium Stadium, to see, um… Bruce Springsteen.