Mossy returns to the squad for the first time since the Six Nations, and with Hugo Southwell in try scoring form for Stade Francais Chris’ll be looking to reassert his hold on the Scotland 15 shirt ahead of the summer. In-form inside centre James King keeps Nick de Luca on the bench.
Edinburgh (to face Aironi): Jim Thompson, Simon Webster, Ben Cairns, James King, Tim Visser, Greig Laidlaw, Mike Blair, Kyle Traynor, Andrew Kelly (captain), Geoff Cross, Scott MacLeod, Esteban Lozada, Fraser McKenzie, Roddy Grant, David Denton. Replacements: Alun Walker, Lewis Niven, David Young, Steven Turnbull, Stuart McInally, Nick De Luca, Lee Jones, Chris Paterson.
Live TV Coverage: Friday 15th April 1945 BBC Alba
Meanwhile Chris Cusiter is back for Glasgow after almost a year out of action (unless you count twitter and the BBC Pundit’s box).
Team to follow.
According to STV news Joe Ansbro, Hugo Southwell and Rory Lamont will all sit out this weekend’s game with Ireland due to injury. Unlike the England Internationals, our exiles were back in action this weekend and Joe picked up a head knock after a collision with Butch James, he has been rested from training as a routine precaution and is unlikely to feature.
Scotland team to play Italy in the RBS 6 Nations Championship at the Stadio Flaminio, Rome, on Saturday 27 February, kick-off 1.30pm GMT
15 Hugo Southwell (Stade Francais), 14 Simon Danielli (Ulster), 13 Max Evans (Glasgow Warriors), 12 Graeme Morrison (Glasgow Warriors), 11 Sean Lamont (Scarlets), 10 Dan Parks (Glasgow Warriors), 9 Chris Cusiter (Glasgow Warriors) CAPTAIN, 1 Allan Jacobsen (Edinburgh), 2 Ross Ford (Edinburgh), 3 Euan Murray (Northampton Saints), 4 Jim Hamilton (Edinburgh), 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 Alasdair Dickinson (Gloucester), 18 Nathan Hines (Leinster), 19 Alasdair Strokosch (Gloucester), 20 Mike Blair (Edinburgh), 21 Phil Godman (Edinburgh), 22 Nick De Luca (Edinburgh)
Not considererd through injury: Chris Paterson, Jim Thompson (both Edinburgh), Thom Evans (Glasgow Warriors), Rory Lamont (Toulon) and Moray Low (Glasgow Warriors).
Pretty much what was expected. Still, the bench looks a little flaky based on recent form apart from the Big Stroker who will be looking to make an impact. What about the likes of Cairns or Grove? The first XV looks pretty strong though, and hopefully Danielli will be looking to make up for a few errors he made in the autumn while maintaining his try scoring form. Congrats also to Chris Cusiter and Hugooooooooo who will be earning their 50th caps. Careful with the kicking though boys, leave it to Dan…
Ha, gotcha. No, Worcester are the Warriors I was talking about. I refer to an interesting article which on reflection is mostly about nothing (something of a Scotsman specialism sometimes) over at the Scotsman speculating as to the employment future of Mike Blair, which I missed this week. Although arguably not missing him at scrum half specifically, are Edinburgh missing Mike’s cutting edge as he recovers from his ankle injury?
Edinburgh to face Ulster at Ravenhill: C Paterson (capt), J Thompson, B Cairns, J Houston, T Visser, P Godman, G Laidlaw, A Jacobsen, R Ford, D Young, S MacLeod, J Hamilton, S Newlands, A MacDonald, R Grant
Replacements: A Kelly, K Traynor, G Cross, C Hamilton, D Callam, R Samson, N De Luca, M Robertson. Simon “Malkovich” Webster is the spare man for Edinburgh in his quest on the comeback trail.
Sky Sports, k.o 8pm tonight (Friday)
News on the blog front: in addition to myself and Al – who has been busier playing rugby than writing about it recently (that and his laptop broke) – we now have a new blogger on the team who is going to do some bits and bobs for the site, concentrating mainly on the club game in Scotland. Confusingly enough, his name is also Alan (distinguishing nickname TBA) so I hope you will all make him feel welcome when his pieces appear over the next few weeks.
UPDATE: Stade bring the crazy (again): Hugoooooooo set for scrum half vs Bath – does this help Edinburgh’s chances of the result they need? (Thanks to Dougal for the tip – may your balls ever be oval)
That’s probably more of a humping than we expected. Listening to the radio commentary it sounds like the Hugo experiment worked pretty well and Thom Evans didn’t seem to get much ball. Listening to Peter Wright is always fun too. Ben Cairns had a stormer, which really puts pressure on Grove for tomorrow so I hope he responds. Great to see 3 attacking 13s developing in the Scotland back line, makes a change from recent years… good luck to the boys for tomorrow against Australia!
Southwell at fly-half? Never saw that one coming, though apparently he has been featuring at first receiver during play for Stade. Decent enough defence and a solid left boot (some days). Could be very interesting, damn shame its not on the telly. Still if you are in the Borders and have nothing better to do on a Friday night, entry is free and kick-off is at 7.30pm, Netherdale. Someone tell us how it goes – with a bunch of full caps this team should really be able to beat the Tongans.
Scotland A Team: Jim Thompson (Edinburgh), Thom Evans (Glasgow Warriors), Ben Cairns (Edinburgh), John Houston (Edinburgh), Nikki Walker (Ospreys), Hugo Southwell (Stade Francais), Rory Lawson (captain, Gloucester), Jon Welsh (Glasgow Warriors), Scott Lawson (Gloucester), Geoff Cross (Edinburgh), Scott MacLeod (Edinburgh), Richie Gray (Glasgow Warriors), Kelly Brown (Glasgow Warriors), Alan MacDonald (Edinburgh), Allister Hogg (Edinburgh)
Replacements: Andrew Kelly (Edinburgh), Ed Kalman (Glasgow Warriors), Craig Hamilton (Edinburgh), Roddy Grant (Edinburgh), Greig Laidlaw (Edinburgh), Colin Gregor (Glasgow Warriors), Mark Robertson (Edinburgh).
UPDATE: Mike Blair’s ankle injury has kept him off the bench for the full international, so Rory Lawson steps up to replace him (whether he will also assume co-captaincy remains to be seen), Greg Laidlaw moves up to start tonight and Mark McMillan comes into the vacant bench spot.
As reader Derek pointed out in the comments for our last impeccably titled Hugo related post, Hugo Southwell has now indeed confirmed a move to France, in particular Stade Francais where he hopes to find a spot in the team alongside former Edinburgh stablemate Simon Taylor. While the concept of Hugo in a flowery pink shirt would in principle seem awesome, I think he will need to up the consistency of his play a fair bit to pin down a regular spot at Stade.
Meanwhile the Beeb reports that Sean Lamont’s rumoured move to Brive (a club seemingly beloved of out of form Northampton players, having played recent host to Ben Cohen and Steve Thompson) has fallen through and coach Saints Jim Mallinder is now “unsure” of Sean’s future at the club. A decent run in the European Challenge Cup match against Sarries on Friday could help turn the tide.
According to this article in the Scotsman, Hugo Southwell might be heading to pastures new. While a move to Harlequins so they could have shouted Ugo AND Hugo might have been better for the amusement of people like me, it sounds like he could be heading to France. Presumably the reason for this is Paterson’s kicking will cement his place in the Edinburgh team, but it leaves them a bit short when Mossy gets injured or is away on international duty. Cairns and De Luca have both filled in at full-back for Edinburgh in the past, and Jim Thompson could follow the example of Colin Gregor for Glasgow last month as a sevens man slotting in at 15 and playing a blinder. From there they get plenty of space to look up and see what’s on, rather than, say, just hoofing it skywards. I thought Gregor did a pretty decent job, and Thompson is physically more what you’d expect a full back to be. Sorry Colin, but you’re wee. Speaking of which, he’s playing 15 again this weekend as Glasgow take on Matt Williams’ Ulster. Ruaridh Jackson once again gets a shot at the 10 shirt and Andrew Henderson returns from injury to take a slot on the bench. Meanwhile Edinburgh take on a Leinster side still featuring plenty of internationals, just not the front line ones. Gordon D’Arcy may take a last tilt at the Lions tour here, and it’s a final chance for the Scottish guys to put a hand up. To be fair, the squad is announced on Tuesday so they’d have to do something pretty spectacular to get in at this late stage!
Anyway, should Hugo indeed be away to pastures new, we at Scottish Rugby Blog would of course wish him all the best.
Hugoooooooooo vs Mossy, head to head for the Scotland full-back shirt, being given 40 minutes game-time apiece vs Llanelli Scarlets at the new Parc Y Scarlets (my Welsh is good, eh?), Sunday, 4pm ish, S4C (English commentary on the red button). Who will emerge triumphant?
My guess would be whoever plays the second half, which seems to be when Edinburgh wake up and throw the ball about. Scott MacLeod is also taking the next step in his comeback, hoping for a start to prove his fitness.
In other news, Glasgow face an Ulster team on Saturday (that one’s on Setanta) including Simon Danielli but none of their Irish starters. Cheers Matt.
Scotland 26 – 6 Italy
Yesterday we saw Scotland beat Italy, led largely by the efforts of a man with an Italian name over whom many (including myself) have been guilty of indifference to in the past, and (for those watching on TV) commented on by another man with an Italian name who many of us have no doubt been gulity of downright antipathy towards in the past. Twin heroes of the day, Simon Danielli and (gulp) Lawrence Dallaglio. We’ll get to Lol later, but first let us talk (as we must) of Scotland.
We saw a fair bit less ineptitude in the basic skills than against France and almost a different team to the one that failed to turn up against Wales. The good thing was the way Scotland maintained the cutting edge and better support lines they had found at times in Paris, while chopping out some of the sloppy tackling and handling. But for a yard of pace (or a pass inside) Simon Danielli would have had a second try, and he more than made up for his knock-on a fortnight ago. With every performance he is cementing his ownership of the shirt and the same could be said of both Evans boys. Even with a hesitant interception thrown by Southwell, we now had the pace to recover the breakaway runner where 2 years ago we did not. Max or Thom didn’t get nearly enough ball, while Southwell got too much and kicked much of it away. Having found a storming running game for Edinburgh, he seems to have lost it again and kicked too much, often poorly. I think Paterson has earned his chance to start at full back against Ireland – we’ll need his boot, which would also allow Godman to concentrate on the Ireland back row that will be charging down his channel. Speaking of changes, what about Chris Cusiter starting? I’m a huge fan of Blair who has been talked up a lot for the Lions, but Cusiter has looked the sharper of the two with every game as Blair seems to go a little off the boil. Sly hunch of the day: Cusiter with an outside chance of a slot on the Lions tour? I just have a feeling he could be coming on to form at the right time and would like to see him get more of a chance to show this.
Up front, Euan Murray and Ally Kellock restored a bit of nous to the scrum and lineout, and should be definite starters in two weeks. Provided his fitness is okay, Murray is only going to improve from here. And there is something to be said for playing both Hamilton and Kellock to give real power in the set piece against Ireland. Alisdair Dickinson was much criticised in recent weeks for his scrum performances, but the Italy game allowed him to show that the set-piece is not necessarily the best showcase for his talents. With Jacobsen injured he should slot into his preferred number 1 shirt for the next game and give us a few more barnstorming runs.
The back row of Strokosch, Barclay and Taylor looked solid and settled – Taylor and the big Stroker had vastly improved games with the ball in hand. Strokosch set the tempo with strong early running while the defence and breakdown were solidly patrolled as we are coming to expect – and we will expect it to continue. The one exception to any attempts at marshalling was Sergio Parisse, who seemed to do exactly what he wanted whenever he wanted in just about every area of the pitch (legally too). The man’s performance was quite simply, stupendous and makes one think you won’t see Taylor in the Stade No 8 shirt any time soon. Stroker handed him his man of the match award last year, and but for the scoreline yesterday Parisse would almost have deserved Danielli’s award too.
While it was at times a very loose and scrappy game, Scotland showed enough style with their two well taken tries – the second involving almost the entire backline – to give us a little hope for the coming games. More hope would have been given on watching the very poor Ireland vs England game. You almost feel sorry for Martin Johnson who is struggling to build a team who just don’t seem to all want to play on the park at the same time. 14 seems to be their preferred number. A grimly determined but overly negative performance towards the end and an undeserved near victory stopped us from overtaking them on points difference, but you wonder where England go from here. Up, I suppose may be the only way. One thing is for sure, they need a new captain.
Speaking of former England captains, kudos must unfortunately go to the BBC too for unearthing a decent pundit to be the token “Italian” during coverage – one Mr Lawrence Bruno Nero Dallaglio. Undoubtedly a figure of fear and loathing for many Scots (for the most part irrationally), yesterday Dallaglio and Scotland’s own Andrew Cotter offered a great balance of wit, insight and – ooh – objectivity in their match commentary. It was a breath of fresh air compared to the back-biting ramblings of Moore and Butler which have now descended into some sort of idiotic sideshow all of their own, or the pro-Welsh carping of Jonathan Davies who was on Friday coupled with Nick Mullins who seemed to think Vincent Clerc was on the pitch for France (not in the 22). We’ll have a full school report on the pundits post tournament but for now, I know who I’d rather listen to – I never thought I’d say it was a man named Dallaglio.
Meanwhile Ireland have found their captain again, with Brian O’ Driscoll looking almost back to his pre-2005 form, possibly minus a little bit of pace and plus a slight concussion, but with that important little bit of magic intact. It’s a good job, as Ronan O’Gara had one of his notorious off days and it seemed to spread throughout the rest of his team. Despite the extremely dangerous Irish back row (who Scotland will have to keep a very close eye on) that yesterday gave only a slight indication of the damage they could do, Ireland looked a little rattled by the pressure of leading the tournament. Post match, Keith Wood said Irish coach Declan Kidney would do his utmost to install Ireland as underdogs in a couple of weeks. Whilst this is patently ridiculous, you can see his point. Neither of ours is a nation that likes to lead from the front, seemingly preferring the mantle of scrappy outsiders. Ireland are on course for a grand slam and so must be the clear favourites, even away from home. However, make no mistake, if Scotland can keep building their level of performance and this pair don’t, Scotland COULD beat both Ireland and England.
… but at the end of it all, it might be Glasgow left with the bigger smiles. Here’s brief rundown on each match, as taken in (without benefit of sound) at a couple of Inverness’s Setanta-bearing hostelries – plaudits to The Exchange and Fairways for sticking the game on for us.
The first leg (on Boxing Day) was the brighter affair with both teams trying to play rugby but Glasgow inexplicably failing to put anything half decent together. Consequently they found themselves on the end of a hiding in front of a record crowd. Deserved man of the match Hugo Southwell took a great try and his boot was instrumental in most of Edinburgh’s positional play. World Class Phil also stepped up to the plate with a great no-look ball that sent Malkovich Webster in for a well-taken try that put Edinburgh well on the way to their bonus point. Edinburgh played some sparkling rugby at times backed up by a strong defensive display – Cairns and De Luca were quite impressive – while Glasgow were largely MIA. Still quite a lot of handling errors and unforced turnovers, not to mention strange goings on at scrum time that Andy Robinson blamed on the rookie ref.
After first leg:
UP: Hugo Southwell (MoM), Ally Hogg, Phil Godman, Ben Cairns, Simon Webster, Thom Evans, Jim Hamilton, Nick De Luca, Colin Gregor
DOWN: Dan Parks, Graeme Morrison, Max Evans, the ref/the scrum
NO CHANGE: Mike Blair, John Barclay
The second leg at Firhill was a much steelier affair, with a fair amount of niggle in the early period – led mainly by Ally Kellock who seemed to direct most of his ire at Jim Hamilton. Kellock may have been the only man on the park tall enough to even attempt a punch on the big man, not that we condone such things. Godman kicked steadily but didn’t get much ball to work with. Parks had a much better game behind a Glasgow pack that kept an icy grip on ball at the fiercely contested breakdown, though his kicking went off-kilter a little just before he was replaced by Ruaridh Jackson. After that the game became a battle of the second strings. Overall it was more of an even contest in front of another good crowd (who mostly paid this time) but still a lot of spilled balls (and probably as many spilled pints). Again the home side had the defensive edge, with Thom Evans showing that is one area he has worked on. Glasgow turned Edinburgh over a fair bit in the ruck and there were a few poor errors from Southwell and De Luca. I still think De Luca should be swapped from 12 to 13, given Cairns’ slight edge in physicality highlighted by the great last ditch try he took from the 12 position to snatch a late losing bonus point for the visitors. That’s what the Christmas trial is for, isn’t it?
UP: John Barclay (MoM), Scott Newlands, Ben Cairns, Dan Parks (a bit), Phil Godman (well, his kicking game), Thom Evans, Graeme Morrison
DOWN: Nick De Luca, Hugo Southwell
NO CHANGE: Max Evans, Simon Webster, Kelly Brown, Ally Kellock
Best XV Over 2 legs:
Southwell, Robertson, Cairns, Morrison, Evans, Godman, Blair, Hogg, Barclay, Newlands, Hamilton, Gissing, Low, Ford, Jacobsen
Swap Newlands out for exiles big Jason or big Stroker, Robertson for Lamont or Mossy, bring in Hines and you have the makings of a team there…
Happy New Year! Look out for a slight redesign over these pages, coming to you soon.