On Monday morning I attended a press launch for the Glengoyne Auld Enemies Dinner.
The Event looks like a good one and the charity involvement is great. For everyone there, though, talk inevitably turned to the Heineken Cup…
There must be something in the water…
They recently announced some figures in Scotland that purported to show a major revolution in the sport north of the border, with increased numbers playing the game and watching the professional teams.
All very fine, although if you delved beneath the figures you found that, basically, Jock McTavish and his mate had started to play rugby for someone’s under-13s and that Jimmy Stewart has agreed to go to watch Edinburgh now and again provided it’s not raining.
Still, good luck to them, a Scotland rugby revival is the next key to the well-being of the RBS Six Nations and even small rises are turning a tide. And, in my opinion, that revival came a little closer last week when it was announced that Gregor Townsend, the former Scotland back, had joined Frank Hadden’s coaching set-up – this after an odd period when Townsend seemed to have been banished to the outer limits.
The choice is superb. I have always regarded Townsend as a genius, although not without flaws. He didn’t pick the best time to be born, since his deftness, passing, ability to put people into space and all-round expertise were somewhat wasted. Those outside him in the Scotland teams for which he played between 1993 and 2003 were not on his wavelength, some were not even on the same planet.
Look what happened when they gave him players to bounce off – he was able to marshal the 1997 Lions to victory in South Africa. A career that took him to Northampton, Brive and Castres also gave him a wider vision. I used to love watching him end on, to see him work his angles. His wisdom and modest manner could well herald a revival in Scotland back play and something better in terms of the scoreboard. Those are the numbers that really matter.
Full article can be found on the Times Website.
The SRU announced today via their shiny new website that former Scotland and Lions (not to mention Gala, Northampton, Brive, Warringah, Sharks etc etc) standoff and centre Gregor Townsend is to take over the coaching of Scotland’s back division for the upcoming Six Nations. While this is certain to set the fingers muttering in Al’s neck of the woods due to Gregor’s, shall we say, inconsistencies as a player, I reckon it could be a good move. Edinburgh’s backs (Godman and Cairns in particular) seem to have benefitted from his recent input by showing a bit more of a cutting edge, and his mentoring scheme of pairing young Scottish talent with past masters such as Gavin Hastings, Sean Fitzpatrick and, er, himself was the envy of many, including All Black Kevin Mealamu. And besides, Parks and World Class Phil already know plenty about throwing intercept passes and running up their own backsides.
He also has more coaching qualifications than his Lions captain and current England manager Martin Johnson, so far as I can find out.
Bad A-Team related joke time again. Yesterday the backup team gave the Georgians a doing (under the tutelage of Andy Robinson, Gregor Townsend and Shade Munro) in front of a pretty small crowd at Firhill. The early scheduling of 6ish was apparently at the behest of TV behemoth BBC Alba. Surely an extra hour would have nearly doubled the crowd to the usual solid Friday night support? However it was on the TV so for that we can be thankful. They give with one hand and take with the other. In fact, the viewing experience was similar to watching Welsh counterpart S4C, complete with pitchside interviews conducted in English. I haven’t worked out the Gaelic for Seren Y Gem yet, but I will. Al’s drinking game suggested below could also have been improved with a “James Jones” bonus round in honour of the Welsh referee.
It was a pretty good squad we had, and strong performances from Richie Vernon, Rob Dewey and Mark McMillan saw a comfortable victory against a Georgia team far from their World Cup near-glory. Nikki Walker still turned over a few balls in contact though. Georgia go on to play Edinburgh on Tuesday and may find themselves up against many of the same players and coaches with potentially the same result. There were a couple of darn good tries though (including a great solo effort from Max Evans) and it was very encouraging to see the support lines in full effect with Scotland players (forwards and backs) streaming through gaps in search of tries, and using well timed passes and angles of running. Let’s hope we see the same from the full team this afternoon. Having seemingly revitalised World Class Phil, is Gregor Townsend going to prove – along with Andy Robinson – one of the coaching jewels hidden in Scotland’s tarnished crown?
Bit of rhyme for you there, folks.
So, what we all knew would happen, did. Martin Johnson is to be appointed in some sort of honcho role (“team manager”) by the RFU this week. Brian Ashton will be let go as England coach, and offered some token development posts that he will almost certainly reject. Despite virtually no coaching or management experience whatsoever, expect Johnson to be hailed as the new messiah/Jonny of English rugby. The whole thing does raise a few interesting points, though.
If the SRU were to follow suit – by sacking the friendly schoolteacher-type coach who is failing to fire up the players, and getting in someone with a bit of fire in their belly but not much in the way of practical experience – who have we got as potential candidates?
Gregor Townsend -Does 1 day a week coaching. Has played all over at club, international and Lions level. Probably too nice for the job. Too much coaching experience, too.
David Sole – Scotland’s most recent figure that compares favourably with Johnson. Inspirational (slow walking) leader, Grand Slam winner and Lions winner over Australia. Lots of management experience, just not in rugby. Perhaps a bit further removed from the game than more recent retirees.
Scott Hastings – Probably too involved in media and corporate careers. Another “been there and done it” figure, like his brother Gavin. What about a brotherly coaching double-act?
Any other (less than serious) thoughts – Kenny Logan? David Campese perhaps?