No matter how your season is going it is nice to be recognised for your achievements, Even if you didn’t know you were being watched. Humble Borderer Lee Jones, upon hearing of his award of Hotel Du Vin/Malmaison Player of the Month, simply afforded himself a sheepish smile.
In which Rory takes a look at the opening weeks of next season’s Heineken Cup fixtures. With Sean Lineen looking to prove his underperforming squad has not been destroyed by further departures, and Michael Bradley looking to make an instant impact at the helm of Edinburgh, it should make an interesting return to high intensity rugby following all the World Cup madness.
Before we focus completely on ‘The Italian Job’ (yeah, you’re gonna be reading that headline. A lot!) perhaps I should look at the recent developments at Glasgow and Edinburgh. Development is in fact the key word here because, as we acknowledge that this season has been very poor for Scottish rugby, I am forced to ask “will at least one of Scotland’s pro sides be turned into a development team?”
After the weekends abysmal results for Glasgow and Edinburgh and after the crushing realisation that we all got a little carried away talking about Scotland we must now appreciate that our pro sides are in dire need of a shot in the arm.
Monday morning: a time to take stock.
If the answers to your bleary Monday morning questions are ‘Yes’ then congratulations: you are either a Russian Billionaire, a skilful Serb or a delusional Egyptian. You are most likely not a Scotsman.
Do not despair, though!
(now with update)
Every time you turn on the news these days you are bombarded with the word ‘CHANGE’. The politicians are all screaming it. Travel agents can’t get enough of it. Even the chief exec.’s of Rangers and Celtic seem to be on the streets begging for some spare. So what is set to change in Scottish rugby next season?
The answer to that appears to be the squads of almost every single ‘top level’ team.
We’ll be back in the next few days with our teams of the tournament and other Six Nations round-uppery, but time waits for no man and the Edinburgh boys are straight back into the action this weekend.
Edinburgh: Jim Thompson, Mark Robertson, Ben Cairns, Nick De Luca, Tim Visser, Phil Godman, Mike Blair (captain), Kyle Traynor, Andrew Kelly, Geoff Cross, Scott MacLeod, Steve Turnbull, Alan MacDonald, Ross Rennie, Roddy Grant.
Replacements: Ross Ford, Allan Jacobsen, Jim Hamilton, Scott Newlands, Greig Laidlaw, David Blair, John Houston.
Murrayfield, Friday night ko 1930. Not on TV as far as I can see, this one.
When one looks at Rory Hutton, he’ll be the first to admit, he doesn’t look like a rugby player. Tall and slender, slight with a lazy gate you could be forgiven for thinking he was an electrician, or something! Then you put a ball in the kid’s hands.
When Rory played against Cardiff on the 9th of January rugby viewers in the Celtic regions sat up and took notice. While easing into the game in a way natural to his insouciant spirit, it was his feint and dart that made spectators catch their breath. Twice he unlocked the Cardiff defence and made seasoned pros and British Lions follow imaginary passes. If he gets on this Friday he could do it to Munster.
He’s been doing this for years. Just ask anyone from Hawick. He’s got 5 7’s caps to prove he is a talented ball player. Even in his fleeting forays into this season’s Scottish Hydro Premier 1 matches for Heriot’s he has shown glimpses of something special. Is he ready for a professional contract? Most likely. Is he going to be the answer to Scotland’s problems at 10? We will have to wait and see. One thing is for sure; Wherever Rory plays, he will be doing so with a smile on his face.
A.D. briefly caught up (‘Countdown’ style) with Rory this week;
AD: Alright, Rory! How do you feel your season has gone so far?
RH: It’s been ok. A bit stop start with injuries but I’ve had a game with Edinburgh and on the whole it’s going pretty well.
Being, ostensibly, an Academy player stepping into your first pro. game, how did you feel before the Cardiff game?
I did feel a little bit nervous. Training had gone well, though, and I was more excited at the chance, rather than anything else.
Having made an impact on that game how have you coped with the increase in recognition and notoriety? A lot are calling for you to get a contract next season/play for Scotland, after all!
Ha-ha it’s been fine! I’ve not noticed it too much to be honest. I try and just get on with my rugby.
Has it changed your outlook on games?
No I always take every game the same. It’s important to perform at whatever level I’m involved in.
What is your normal match preparation? (Day before: food, sleep, cinema, swimming etc)?
I try and eat well and regularly. Other than that I just chill out, usually with the girlfriend.
How lovely…Away from rugby, what is your Nickname?
For some reason I have now become known as ‘The Eel’ at Heriot’s.
What is your drink of choice?
I am prone to an Irn Bru.
What’s a perfect Saturday night for you?
I like to go out have a good laugh with the boys. Always being sensible, though…
What is your ‘Dream Job’?
I wouldn’t mind being a musician.
If you could be a kingpin in any other sport, who would it be?
Easy. Usain bolt. Superstar.
Which 3 people, dead or alive, would you love to go for a pint with?
Frankie Boyle, Peter Griffin from family guy…and your lovely self!
And finally…Scarlett Johansson or Beyonce Knowles?
Look out for Rory in Edinburgh’s colours this Friday as he lines up on the bench against champions Munster. He could also feature for Heriot’s in their upcoming British and Irish Cup games. It could be an exciting 6N period for the youngster.
I will hopefully be back soon with a quick word with another up-and-coming Scottish prospect…
With six games left in the season and it looking increasingly like the title race is one being run by two horses one could be excused for looking beyond league proceedings. Stew Mel, I’m sure, would love to forget about league duties! Even the Cup looks to have become less of factor in premier clubs thinking. My brother and I could argue for hours about this. Sure it is still a huge event and obviously it is a massive honour to end your season on the big pitch at Murrayfield, but with fewer teams (Premier 1,2 and 3 only) competing for the Cup it can take less effort over a season to get there. If you win one game you’re into the quarter finals. So what is the result of this?
Suddenly more eyes are turning towards the British and Irish Cup. This season has been given more significance for certain amateurs because they have had an opportunity to measure themselves against professional players. Having played in a couple of games in the B&I Cup with Heriot’s I have enjoyed it but in some facets of the game, not all, it is difficult to compete with full time professionals. Playing against Coventry, a team that at the time of our game was complaining of over training with two sessions a day, four days a week, we competed in terms of skill, creativity and endeavour. Where we fell down was that we simply weren’t as big as our opposition, or as ‘collision-drilled’. This is to say that we weren’t able to stop the constant pounding of a massive English rucking game. This, it seems, will continue to afflict any amateur team facing a mature pro counterpart.
While both club teams have been competitive, Ayr winning against Rotherham and Heriot’s running Nottingham close, it is evident that Scottish club players are capable of out playing full time opposition. However, it is no great shock that Scotland’s player base has the depth of a teaspoon. If rumours are to be believed then the SRU fully intends to increase Scottish participation in the B&I Cup to four teams. How could teams, by definition, of less quality than the top two teams in Prem 1 be as competitive? There just aren’t enough players in our country. In order to compete with Welsh, Irish and, in particular, English teams we definitely don’t have enough monsters. So what should we do to contend on four fronts in the B&I Cup?
If you are a fan of club rugby most of you will be effing and blinding at your screen (much as if you were watching yet another rolling maul from Munster in the HC). The majority, it appears, want a return of the district teams. And why not?! If you want better players in certain positions for one team, pick from the best nearby. If the current league finishes the way it is now then the top four will comprise of a representative from the North (Dundee), the South (Melrose), the East (Currie) and the West (Ayr), anyway, showing how combative each region already is.
If the Scotland Club International has shown us anything it’s that amateur players relish the opportunity to play as near as they can get to their dream level: with a thistle on their chest. A lucky few have also propelled themselves into the professional ranks via the Club International. The same could happen through the districts. Surely the ultimate aim of teams like the Club International is to provide Scotland with more potential internationalists. If there is, say, a quality young player at West of Scotland who is never seen by Sean Lineen but could make the step up to pro rugby then they may never get the chance to prove themselves, more than once, at a higher level while Ayr and Ayr alone represent the West in the B&I Cup. Let players prove themselves. Sure there will be inter club politics but there always is anyway. There may be grumblings from the National Academy but just let Academy guys and unused pros play for the region of the club they are drafted to.
What harm can bringing back the districts do? If I was certain to finish mid-table with my club and no prospects of a Club International cap I would be crying out for a chance to play district rugby. Hell, if I was getting relegated I’d still want a district call!