In modern British sport there is the running joke that there is no loyalty anymore. “It’s not like the good old days when a player kissed his badge and did genuinely love his club”. Yeah, the good old days. Men where men, fights were allowed, divorce was uncommon and players had a club for life.
Like an overheard conversation, we all have some nagging doubts in our mind about how Edinburgh and Glasgow are going to progress next season.
In the high pressure world of professional sport guys can ‘lose the heid’. Indeed, with every success story there is an Atlas-like struggle to achieve, while facing the crowd and the money-men. You only have to look at the fall of Tiger Woods and Wayne Rooney to see what pressure and conception can do. So when Edinburgh selected 23-year-old flanker Roddy Grant to be their captain some wondered if he could handle the pressure.
Like a startled cow, it’s time to stagger away from the debate over the Scotland 34 (how did they sneak another player into the squad?!) as this weekend sees Edinburgh take on an unbeaten Ulster and the Warriors attempt to overcome the Ospreys.
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!
So another season of Magners League rugby comes to an end, another disappointing year for the Scottish pro-teams. Oh, no, wait. That’s not entirely true, is it?
With wins away at Llanelli and Munster respectively yesterday, Edinburgh and Glasgow secured fourth and fifth places in the table, which I am pretty sure are record highs for them. Munster’s losing bonus point against Glasgow held Edinburgh out of third. Edinburgh put a tired looking Llanelli to the sword, which was worth seeing even if I had to watch it in Welsh. If they had a play-off system – and word is they will soon – Edinburgh would be in them. Would you have said that, this time last year? Glasgow very nearly beat Biarritz twice – once was more than most people hoped for. Both teams have a solid base of young talent (+ Dan Parks) and have boosted their strength with some useful signings for next year (Paterson, McMillan). I am also heartened to see Fa’atau starting to score tries at Glasgow, hopefully he’ll stick around and prove as useful as some of the other southern hemisphere imports have been elsewhere (Munster, Bath, Sale, Worcester).
Final league positions:
You can also vote for your Magners League dream team of the year. Hopefully there will be a few Scottish representatives among them, Moray Low and Nick De Luca would surely merit inclusion, regardless of international performances. Mine would look something like this, with a slight Scottish bias I’ll admit:
Lee Byrne (Ospreys)
Doug Howlett (Munster)
Nick De Luca (Edinburgh)
Lifeirni Mafi (Munster)
Shane Williams (Ospreys)
Felipe Contepomi (Leinster)
Mike Blair (Edinburgh)
Ryan Jones (Ospreys)
Martyn Williams (Cardiff)
Ally Hogg (Edinburgh)
Paul Tito (Cardiff)
Donnacha O’ Callaghan (Munster)
Moray Low (Glasgow)
Fergus Thompson (Glasgow)
Allan Jacobsen (Edinburgh)
They’re not asking for a coach, but Andy Robinson would be my choice!
Hope you’ve enjoyed the Magners season, limited though the viewing of Scottish teams has been for those of us without Setanta. Our thoughts now turn to the summer tour of Argentina – word is Moray Low has picked up an ankle injury that may rule him out, which has us gutted for him, the Churchill Cup, and the announcement next week of the Lions coach for 2009, and South Africa.
Oh, and an official SRBlog trip to Cardiff’s home of rugby, the Millennium Stadium, to see, um… Bruce Springsteen.
“I’ve watched enough games involving their sides, to wonder what they actually bring to the event, because Murrayfield is like a morgue. Edinburgh and Glasgow have achieved very little over the years, and if there was any move to set up a British league in the future I don’t think that anyone would be rushing to sign up the Scottish sides.” Jonathan Davies, quoted in the Sunday Times
Okay, so he has a point – the Scottish pro sides have woefully under-performed in comparison to their Celtic brethren in recent years. Although setting up a league without the Scots would restrict his ability to mispronounce Malcolm Changleng’s name at every opportunity.
Name-calling and the non-sequitur of his opening sentence aside, the Scottish pro teams remain occasionally competitive (Glasgow beating Cardiff, Edinburgh’s away win at Ulster this weekend), and hold mid table positions in the Magners League without ever really challenging for honours. Couple that with the potential of their respective set-ups and various blends of youth and experience (Lineen with his southern hemisphere muscle, Robinson with Edinburgh’s at times fearless vitality) and it seems clear that the thing that would really help is a decent crowd to watch it all, the famed 16th man that the likes of Munster, Ulster or Llanelli can bring off the bench to help push their side over the line.
Consider Simon Taylor’s decision to move to Stade Francais into a back row that already has Remy Martin, Sergio Parisse and Mauro Bergamasco. Only now getting a game due to injuries to the others, Taylor still chose this over staying at Murrayfield, surrounded by political infighting and poor crowds. You feel the fact that Stade can sell nearly 80,000 tickets for a league game against Toulouse while Edinburgh struggle to get 4,000 for a similar fixture, at home to the Frenchmen in the Heineken Cup, may have had something to do with it. (Although this was a pretty good crowd for Edinburgh, you wonder what would happen if 80,000 people actually tried to turn up at Murrayfield for an Edinburgh match. They’d probably turn them away).
I don’t think getting rid of Edinburgh and Glasgow is the answer to getting well-supported teams. I feel it would create one or two powerful “super” clubs (ala the Old Firm) from the Premier League who the rest of Edinburgh or the Borders (and to a lesser extent Glasgow) would more than likely refuse to get behind, splitting along parochial lines, which was a problem highlighted in the demise of the Borders. Surely city based teams with no fixed club-based allegiance are the only way forward in Scotland, but they should work with the Premier League clubs, sharing players, coaches etc and Andy Robinson certainly seems to be trying to take steps to build such bridges where the SRU have tried and failed. Perhaps his credentials at club level with Bath give him credibility the SRU cannot muster.
Variously – and only in relation to club games it seems, as the atmosphere is fine on international days – Murrayfield is described as a tomb, a mausoleum, a coffin. The SRU somewhat wistfully try to convince us it’s a castle. But never a cauldron, like the Stade Geoffrey Guichard in St Etienne that managed such a ferocious atmosphere with only 30,000 people – a stadium incidentally designed like an English football ground. But Glasgow play at a smaller football ground, and they suffer from similar problems so it can’t just be that the stadium is crap. Indeed the problem may be that Murrayfield is far from crap – it boasts world-class facilities, already paid for by the SRU. Why pay out more money (that they don’t have) to move permanently?
Okay then, how about a temporary move?
It seems if Munster and the Crusaders can remain highly successful whilst still farming out the odd home game to Cork or Nelson (the Crusaders have even touted hosting games in Melbourne in the past) then surely Edinburgh or Glasgow could spread the game in their own respective catchment areas to try and build a fan-base, and perhaps prove to the SRU that there is support for the game in other areas. It worked for internationals held in Aberdeen and Perth, would it work for club games? There has been a lot in the press this weekend regarding Scotland’s poor attendances, with various solutions offered. Netherdale has been touted by Allan Massie as somewhere with the facilities to host an Edinburgh game that is closer to Edinburgh than Cork is to Limerick. And the people of the Borders might even turn up en masse just to spite the SRU for closing down their own poorly supported pro team, the Reivers.
I live in the North of Scotland, so a trip to Edinburgh every weekend is tricky for a man without a car or a bottomless wallet, but I go to matches when I am in Edinburgh, I went to France and watch as much as I can on TV. I am a Scotland rugby supporter, but feel powerless in this instance other than badgering my Edinburgh-based friends to go along. So I’ll watch the STV show on a Sunday, I’ll keep on posting and I’ll keep on saving up to go to New Zealand in 2011. But if you get the chance to go along and watch, why don’t you?
Apologies for the appalling pun in the title. I was going to try and shoehorn Brian Moore in to make it Moore-ia, so you should think yourself lucky.
UPDATE: Just noticed this on the Edinburgh website – I wonder if Robinson has been on at them, or if this is part of a new strategy:
“Nevertheless it proved to be a productive weekend for everyone involved in rugby in the Scottish capital and, we will regularly promote the local club games involving our players as we strive to strengthen the bond between Edinburgh Rugby Club and the rugby clubs of Edinburgh.”