We reveal the winners of our 10th Anniversary Awards and reveal the surprising reactions we received from some of the winners
As Rory has chosen to focus on the backs he has left me with the slightly easier task of looking at the forwards.
The reason this is easier is because Andy Robinson has a pretty samey starting pack and, barring injury, I can’t imagine it will change too much for the first game in the World Cup. So this means the warm-up games against Ireland and Italy will help pick a bench, and the training sessions before hand are hugely important for individuals.
15 Chris Paterson (Edinburgh)
14 Thom Evans (Glasgow Warriors)
13 Sean Lamont (Scarlets)
12 Graeme Morrison (Glasgow Warriors)
11 Rory Lamont (Toulon)
10 Dan Parks (Glasgow Warriors)
9 Chris Cusiter (Glasgow Warriors) CAPTAIN
1 Alasdair Dickinson (Gloucester)
2 Ross Ford (Edinburgh)
3 Euan Murray (Northampton Saints)
4 Nathan Hines (Leinster)
5 Alastair Kellock (Glasgow Warriors)
6 Kelly Brown (Glasgow Warriors)
7 John Barclay (Glasgow Warriors)
8 Johnnie Beattie (Glasgow Warriors)
16 Scott Lawson (Gloucester)
17 Allan Jacobsen (Edinburgh)
18 Richie Gray (Glasgow Warriors)
19 Alan MacDonald (Edinburgh)
20 Mike Blair (Edinburgh)
21 Phil Godman (Edinburgh)
22 Max Evans (Glasgow Warriors)
Referee: George Clancy (Ireland).
Touch-judges: Alain Rolland (Ireland) and Peter Fitzgibbon (Ireland).
Television Match Official: Geoff Warren (England)
AARGH he almost did exactly what was I thought was required with this selection, but Morrison is still in there and Grove is nowhere to be seen. If Morrison has a donkey adventure day again what is the plan B? Parks to kick it, I guess. Still my feeling is that there is no spark in the 10-12 axis and if you were bringing Parks in, club combinations aside I think someone at least a little tricksy in the 12 shirt would have been nice… Dan will hopefully be looking to show the Cardiff faithful he is worth a punt… Suprised to see Dickinson still in, thought Chunk did enough to bolster the front row to get his start and Murray’s return was pretty much a given.
Oh and Mossy gets his 100th cap, congratulations!
UPDATE: Wales Team: Lee Byrne, Leigh Halfpenny, James Hook, Jamie Roberts, Shane Williams, Stephen Jones, Gareth Cooper, Paul James, Gareth Williams, Adam Jones, Jonathan Thomas, Alun Wyn Jones, Andy Powell, Martyn Williams, Ryan Jones (Captain)
REPLACEMENTS: Huw Bennett, Gethin Jenkins, Bradley Davies, Sam Warburton, Richie Rees, Andrew Bishop, Tom Shanklin
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.
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).
This would be the team I announce tomorrow, and here’s why:
15 – Chris Paterson. This was trickier than I thought, which is a good thing. Hugo has been on fire recently, but before the recent rib injury, so was Mossy. Frank Hadden is looking for maturity of decision making from this team, having identified that as the difference between Scotland and South Africa in the Autumn. Scotland’s record cap holder displayed this in spades in the gritty Heineken Cup defeat to Leinster, out-foxing a charging Rob Kearney on a couple of occasions and showing a better ball retention than Paterson of old. Hugo on the other hand does still have a little rash streak. If Scotland are going to live up to their potential this has to be brought under control. Then of course, there’s the kicking. It’s almost a flip of a coin between Hugo’s educated left boot and Mossy’s goal kicking. Sadly we need the points more.
14 – Thom Evans. Time for Thom to step up and make people take notice. Blistering pace, a much improved defence and now the chance to show some of these other chaps (Shane Williams, Rob Kearney) he means business. Named by Stuart Barnes in his Lions XV at the weekend on the back of just 3 caps – although credited as a Welshman! He’s been in miraculous form for Glasgow and the ball seems to bounce his way almost every time. If Hadden is looking for luck, Evans should be the rabbit’s foot he needs.
13 – Ben Cairns. There’s a lot of talk about Max Evans at the moment, and both he and Cairns seem to have jumped De Luca as the bright young things of Scottish centre play. In a tournament where they could come up against the likes of O’Driscoll, D’Arcy, Jauzion or Wales powerhouse Jamie Roberts, I think the extra grit in Cairns’ defence gives him the odds over the naivete Evans has been known to show (although he is improving quickly under Lineen). Given a free reign and a little outside space to work in, Cairns could be devastating.
12. – Graeme Morrison. Shown some fine form recently, and will add some bulk to a backline outside him that for once is more pace and raw talent than raw meat. Will need to keep breaking the line though as a Hadden-style 12 should or he’ll soon find himself back in the shark tank with the circling young bloods in the squad such as De Luca, Dewey and Houston. De Luca may be the ideal choice, but he’s never shown ideal form at international level. I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t get a run at some point though.
11 – Sean Lamont. Scored a wonderful wingers try recently for the Saints and needs to recapture the form of a couple of years ago. A chance for him to escape the glare of brother Rory’s halo and prove why he’s worth his place in a Scotland team getting younger by the minute. Remember the Sean Lamont who scored 4 tries in one game for Northampton in between Six Nations victories over France and England? Go on Seanie, have a wee run…
10 – Phil Godman. Hopefully the Dan Parks thing has been put to bed. Yes he is reliable, sometimes. Yes he is frequently very good for Glasgow. But Scotland just play better with a mazy runner like World Class Phil bringing them on to the ball. With an attacking back division they need an attacking fly half. Godman has improved his positional and goal kicking too (as has Paterson) making the usual arguments for Parks’ inclusion less relevant. A couple of steady games (dare we hope for a victory?) and the shirt should be his for some time to come. At least until Glasgow’s young pretender Ruaridh Jackson gets picked for a Scotland squad. Oh, wait…
9 – Mike Blair. Probably the form scrum half in Europe over the winter despite a relatively poor showing from the pro-teams. Mike Philips and Danny Care are up there, but there is a coolness to Blair’s game that sets him apart – and keeps him on the pitch head up, rather than in the sin bin or at the bottom of a ruck. Being captain gives him the chance to set the pace and the others will follow if they can keep up. Good to see Chris Cusiter coming back to form and if there is an injury he’ll be chasing hard to get his old shirt back.
8 – Simon Taylor. Damn this one was tricky, as I’m a big fan of Hoggy and Kelly Brown has been playing pretty well for Glasgow (at 6). There’s Johnny Beattie too. There is a wee niggle in my mind that Taylor has been playing at lock all season. In the end Taylor has too much class to leave him out – witness his textbook tackle in the recent Stade vs Perpignan game and a couple of solid performances in the autumn. Hogg and Brown may once again suffer for their back-row versatility and it’s a coin toss for the bench spot.
7 – John Barclay. One of the easiest choices. Hadden fumbled about without a proper 7 for long enough, now he has several itching to get on the pitch. Consistently solid, aggressive yet organised, with good awareness – and sick of losing. His battles with Martin Williams at 7 in the first match and with David Wallace in March could well set the tone for Scotland’s Six Nations, and possibly the Lions tour too.
6 – Al Strokosch. You could pick any one of Jason White, the Big Stroker, Kelly Brown (again), Ally Hogg (again); even Scott Newlands has been in good form. Al Strokosch has been consistent if unexciting for Gloucester so far this season, but in terms of regular playing at 6 it’s between him and Brown. I’ve gone for Strokosch’s extra fire here but he is not yet quite the player he was last season when walked into the Italy dressing room and handed his man of the match award to Sergio Parisse after the Italy game. That shows a level of commitment and sportsmanship that can only be applauded.
5 – Jim Hamilton. In great form since his return to the fold at Edinburgh. Adds tremendous bulk to the front five and is starting to take on a little ball carrying now too. Given his proportions, this makes him hard to stop.
4 – Nathan Hines. News he did not train on Monday is a little concerning. The man from Wagga Wagga has been a fixture on the team sheet since his return from international exile. Continued knee problems could see a last minute replacement by Al Kellock who on recent form may manage to bring a similar amount of niggle as Big Nathan.
3 – Euan Murray. One of the first choices on many team sheets as a result of his sterling play since moving to Northampton to learn at the feet of the great Tom Smith. Recent news of a rib injury could open up a spot for Geoff Cross or Moray Low to make their mark but from Scotland’s point of view Murray has to be fit!
2 – Ross Ford. Offers a lot both in attack and defence. Dougie Hall is coming back to a bit of form after the switch to Glasgow while last season’s incumbent Fergus Thompson has dropped off a bit. Ford is the front runner by some distance, and offers good handling and running as an auxiliary back-row type. In the absence of the bulky back divisions we have seen in the past, forwards like Ford and Hines will need to step up for their share of the ball.
1 – Allan Jacobsen. He might not be praised at Murray’s level but still a capable pair of hands who shows up well in attack. In fact, in last year’s Six Nations he was about the only one who showed up in attack. We can but hope that this year’s brand of Scotland team will allow Chunk to concentrate a little more on the scrummaging. There are a number of younger props coming through though, so Chunk may do well to hold them off.
Bench: Geoff Cross, Dougie Hall, Ally Kellock, Ally Hogg, Chris Cusiter, Max Evans, Hugo Southwell
There are only 2,800 odd tickets left. Go on, you know you want one. A full Murrayfield would really help the team: I’d be there were it not for previous commitments. Damn those commitments.
Scott Gray makes a surprise and (if he continues current form) welcome return to the Scotland National squad, while in form Max Evans and Geoff Cross make up the uncapped contingent. No real suprises otherwise but a few points:
- Good to see Hadden’s picked some genuine 7s.
- Not too many locks there though – Hamilton and Hines are the only genuine ones, so expect cover from Mutschin or Taylor (vindicated). Scott MacLeod may yet make it, test results/appeal pending (see previous post). No sign of Scott Murray who looked good in Montauban’s near miss against Munster.
- All the usual suspects in the backs, though it could be Lawson that misses out rather than Cusiter this time
- They seem to be heading for warm-weather training in Spain. With all the games being played in Novermber (including one practically in the North Sea) would they not be better training in Reykjavik?
- For me Barclay and Euan Murray are probably the only certs in the forwards, and Blair in the backs. Highly recommended picks would be Godman, Evans and Cairns also but I guess that comes down to Hadden’s tactics. There is plenty of scope for picking a form team rather than a favourites team.
- My starting (form) XV to face New Zealand would be: Lamont R, Evans T, Cairns, Morrison, Lamont S (maybe Mossy), Godman, Blair, Hogg, Barclay, Strokosch, Taylor, Hines, Murray, Ford, Dickinson. I imagine he’ll play Parks and Mossy in there somewhere though as Godman’s goal kicking may not be reliable enough – kicks could be our only source of points after all…
In other news of the un-surprising nature, most of Wales’ coaching staff were announced as the Lions backroom team plus team doctor and Scotsman James Robson. Gatland, Howley, Edwards and McGeechan certainly sounds bloody good on paper, even if it decimates Wales’ touring party in the summer. But then the Lions squad selection might have done that anyway. Shane Williams, James Hook, Ryan Jones and Martin Williams are all shoe-ins if you ask me. Also, Sky pundit Dick Best advocated Allan “Chunk” Jacobsen as a possible midweek Lion last weekend. The campaign starts now… and there’ll be more Lions preview stuff in the coming weeks.