Edinburgh team revealed featuring six changes and two milestone appearances for captain Stuart McInally and local favourite Chris Dean
Like an overheard conversation, we all have some nagging doubts in our mind about how Edinburgh and Glasgow are going to progress next season.
So in the end last week wasn’t so bad. Glasgow conquered the Dragons. Edinburgh where unlucky to lose (Thanks to the ‘Knee of God’). In Delhi Scotland just missed out on a semi-final place, and finished a respectable 6th. This is almost erring on the side of a positive week! Throw in some liberated miners, some fat-headed American tycoon-types getting chased out of Liverpool, and some posh people getting slagged off on the Apprentice. Yup…good week so far!
It’s a biggie, this weekend. Up and down the country rugby fans will become hermits, forget to wash and most likely forget about (OMG, GAMU!) Saturday night reality TV as the Heineken Cup starts up again.
Thankfully the national papers have already written our sides off, so we, the fans don’t have to think about it. Cheers. Maybe next year, eh? Oh…. We’ve been written off for that one, too?! Ok. Also, our Commonwealth 7s campaign starts on Monday. Tape it? Alright. Let’s just focus on our club rugby, then…
So we wouldn’t be serving you, the Scottish Rugby blog reader (there may only be one of you), correctly if we didn’t give you a run-down on where and when you can catch up with all the Scottish players on show this weekend in the world’s biggest and best club rugby tournament. Last night the junior tournament (without sponsor, so the Challenge Cup thingy as it shall henceforth be known) kicked off with a classy looking Northampton destroying Tana Umaga’s Toulon. Sean Lamont bagged a try, showed up well and the 66% Scottish front row were rampant once again, as was Scott Gray. Perhaps spending a year in the first division learning from Tom Smith could be the best thing that ever happened to Euan Murray. Special mention also to Fitzgerald the Toulon hooker and captain, who also hails from bonny Scotland, although he was mostly outclassed by Dylan “Fists of Fury” Hartley.
Munster v Montauban: Scott Murray is playing for the visitors who may struggle to win at the revamped Thomond Park. On Sky Sports from 1930 I reckon.
Perpignan vs Treviso: Chris Cusiter, but no Nathan Hines or indeed Dan Carter who is rumoured will start his brief European sojurn vs Leicester in December. Not on the telly.
Edinburgh vs Leinster: a must win game for Edinburgh, even at this early stage. The SRU are running a “buy one ticket, get 4 kids in free” offer so if you are in Edinburgh and have 4 kids it could be worth going along. It has the potential to be a cracker. Or a drubbing. Malkovich is back from injury though which may help as Edinburgh field a near full strength back division (minus Ben Cairns). The back row still misses Ross Rennie, but if Connacht can beat a pretty strong Leinster team, then there is always hope. On Sky Sports, ko 1335.
Dragons vs Glasgow: Glasgow have already beaten the Dragons away this season so hopefully they can repeat it. If they play to their strengths they should have no problem but the Dragons have picked up a bit since the teams last met (beating Edinburgh for example). Pity this one’s not on the telly, as it would be nice to see the Evans boys in action, but you can I think get it on BBC Radio Wales. Ko 1430.
Clermont vs Sale: Big Jason and big Rory should be involved in this one (White from the bench) and the heartening news is that following Matthew Tait’s less than impressive start to his Sale career – and injury – Rory Lamont is finally getting a run at the 15 shirt he prefers. On Sky via the Red button, ko 1435
Scarlets vs Harlequins: Scott Macleod’s on the bench for Llanelli, ko 1530 via the red button.
Ulster vs Stade Francais: Hopefully sporting the bitching/utterly tasteless (delete as applicable) new strip, Stade will feature Simon Taylor at 5, his position du jour. Meanwhile, no sign of either Rob Deweytime or Simon “Ice Cream” Danielli (you like those? I just made them up) in Matt William’s Ulster lineup. Sky Sports, ko 1530.
Gloucester vs Biarittz: the Alisdairs Dickinson and Strokosch will both start at 1 and 7 respectively while Rory Lawson is on the bench. Dickinson has looked sharp so far this season, and if Hadden is looking for a mobile prop with good running skills he could do worse. Think Chunk, without the, um, chunk. Strokosch is getting game time in all three back row shirts, which might go in his favour if it came down to a “him or Jason White” type decision for the Scotland 6 shirt but you still want him in the team. Sky Sports, ko 1730.
Leicester vs Ospreys: Nikki Walker pops up in his usual position on the wing. Sky Sports ko 1300.
And rest assured, Scotland will feature in the Heineken Cup final this year.
It’s at Murrayfield.
So no sooner has season stopped than it’s up and running again. A thankfully drama-free summer for Scottish Rugby and the focus (albeit a very limited focus from the nations media) has at least been on developments on the pitch and not in the boardroom. Not that there has been much going on. The big name transfers that have been ongoing in the rest of rugby seem to have largely passed by Scottish rugby, with incoming players not being prepared to play for the packet of sweets and a ‘See You Jimmy’ wig being offered by Edinburgh and Glasgow. Regardless, the Scottish teams have attempted to build on the previous promising seasons and here are my quick thoughts on both:
EDINBURGH – Probably made the biggest signing of the summer by rescuing Chris Paterson from his miserable spell in England (well, it is England so you can kind of understand him being miserable!). The addition of Jim Hamilton will also add considerable bulk to the forwards (all 19+ stones) so Robinson will no doubt be hopeful that he now has a side ready to kick on. Last season turned into a sterling effort as Robinson’s impact started to show through in the later half of the season and Edinburgh will be realistically looking to claim their first ever Magners League championship. They are certainly equipped with some exciting youngsters with a year’s experience under their belts and if they can get a strong start to the season, then come the end of it I think they’ll be there or thereabouts.
As for Europe there is a real opportunity that they could at last qualify from the group stage. All 4 teams will fancy their chances but Wasps, Leinster and Castres will not be looking forward to a trip to Murrayfield. Edinburgh are outsiders to qualify but a strong home record coupled with a slice of luck away from home could well see them become the first Scottish side to reach the later stages of Europe’s premier competition.
Magners League – chance of the title but more likely a top 3 finish – 3rd
Heineken Cup – Mmmmmm, not sure….ach, early season optimism, 2nd in group.
Glasgow – a fairly quiet summer over in the West Coast. The arrival of Mark McMillan from Wasps could be a major signing for our Weegie brethren who will hope that he can fill the scrum-half position which has been a troublesome area for some time. If he can form a relationship with Dan ‘Parko’ Parks then Glasgow may then have attacking verve to trouble opposition defences. Lineen had a decent season with Glasgow last year and, like Edinburgh, I’m sure he’ll be looking to kick on again and push harder for success in the League. I don’t think they have the same depth as Edinburgh but Glasgow will certainly be pushing the top teams hard, and with some luck could still be in with a shout come the last run of games.
With regards to Europe I suspect 3rd in the group will be as good as it gets. Toulouse and Bath will be hot favourites for top slot with the Dragons and Glasgow fighting it out for best of the rest. I’m sure Glasgow will run both Toulouse and Bath close at home – indeed a sneaky win against either is possible – but away from home they might struggle, difficult to see them getting anything from trips to France or the West Country. Still, they won’t be whipping boys and if you keep it close enough who knows what can happen.
Magners League – outside bet for Championship glory, likely to push the top teams though so I’m going to say an improvement on last year and predict 4th.
Heineken Cup – Strong displays but not enough cutting edge will see Glasgow come 4th in my opinion.
So, there we go. Told you it was ill informed. Let us know what you think…enjoy the new season!