Tag: Max Evans

Danielli In For 2nd Test

Nick De Luca has been the unlucky victim of a backs reshuffle by Andy Robinson that sees Simon Danielli in on the wing and Max Evans shuffle in to his regular position at 13. De Luca had some luck making line breaks on the outside of the Argentinian defence last week and presumably the thinking is that Evans’ additional pace (if lesser power) will serve Scotland’s attack just as well if not better in that space. The rest of the team remains largely the same, and there’s still a spot on the bench for our new “ohno” man Scott Lawson alongside revived prop Alasdair Dickinson.

Scotland: Hugo Southwell, Sean Lamont, Max Evans, Graeme Morrison, Simon Danielli, Dan Parks, Rory Lawson, Allan Jacobsen, Ross Ford, Moray Low, Jim Hamilton Alastair Kellock (capt), Kelly Brown, Johnnnie Beattie, John Barclay.
Replacements: Scott Lawson, Alasdair Dickinson, Scott MacLeod, Alasdair Strokosch, Mike Blair, Phil Godman, Nick De Luca.

Who’s Carrying the Ball?

Edinburgh got a well deserved if unspectacular win at home to Munster on Friday while Glasgow laboured in the second half but eventually secured the expected four-try bonus point against Connacht, putting the Scottish teams at third and fourth in the league table. Sean Lineen has been asserting everywhere he can that Thom Evans is “back”, and with two tries (including a strong tackle-busting effort off his favourite inside ball move) who can argue?

Next weekend before a break going into the Autumn Internationals and Andy Robinson’s all important first match with Fiji, Edinburgh will try to do what Glasgow have so far failed to ie beat the Dragons (Sun 5pm S4C), while Glasgow go to Swansea to face the star-studded Ospreys (Fri 7pm BBCw) I just hope Thom Evans and Nikki Walker don’t knock so many bells out of each other that they can’t play for Scotland. It gives me  a week to think of the team I’d pick as well. I’m still not sure about the back row though. Having watched “Gloucester Scottish” play pretty much like an actual Scottish team (inept) at the weekend, two of the better players were actually Stroker and Scott Lawson (who can at least throw straight and was industrious about the park). Lots of good hits and work at the breakdown but Stroker is not really a big ball carrier though and neither is Barclay, which puts a lot of pressure on your Number 8… Big Nathan and the backs can’t do all the go-forward… On a side note, I fear an anti-Scottish backlash at Kingsholm if Redpath can’t turn the results around soon. Which would be a shame as moves south have been the making of Strokosch and Rory Lawson, and Redpath at least at assistant coaching level.

Next week’s matches could be key, especially if Max Evans continues his rapid return from injury. With Robbo’s assertion that Morrison is inked in at 12 that leaves Cairns, De Luca and Grove along with Evans if form merits it (looks good so far) competing for the 13 shirt and probably a bench spot. My current thinking would be Cairns – who stepped the normally rock solid De Villiers on Friday, although I wouldn’t pick him just for that – with Evans or De Luca on the bench but who knows what next week will show?

STV to Screen Scottish Magners Games?

As usual, I trot back on to the pitch with a whimper rather than a bang.

I had planned a grandiose piece to open the new season about how this was the summer that rugby found its soul (on the marvellous but ultimately non-victorious Lions tour) then lost it again (gouging) and again (armbands) and again (fake blood), and how this was to be an important season for us all where rugby should step up to the plate and try and reclaim some of its honour. About the new hopes we have for Scotland under Andy Robinson, about whether Edinburgh and Glasgow can continue to / compete and how the Magners League will fare with playoffs at the sharp end of the season. I was going to call it “What I Learnt on My Summer Holidays” and everything – all without using anything “-gate”. But as usual, time is my enemy and some news more worthy of your attention has appeared. Like some sort of tubby West Ham fan taking off his pie-stained t-shirt and jumping a barricade in order to do a one-man conga round a pitch similarly crowded with idiots, it has hurdled into the lead position for “first new post in ages”. Such tidbits will keep appearing in the press and online, demanding an airing on this platform, until the polemic once so clear in my mind to kick off the season has faded to nought but a distant memory, beaten into submission by harrowing viewings of Scotland’s rugby finest trying to cross a line less than four inches wide.

So I guess: we are back. Welcome to the new rugby season.

Lewis Stuart in The Times is reporting that there may be an announcement this week that STV will show some form of  footage of the missing gaps in the Magners League schedule available to view on TV, namely the Edinburgh and Glasgow matches not BBC Wales/S4C. The report reckons it could be limited to just a highlights package, however that is better than nothing. Look for updates to our Scottish Rugby on TV page as soon as I hear. Hopefully this will be well supported enough that they may be encouraged to show the odd live game – for example the 1872 cup matches. but look what happened with STV’s last foray into rugby. Now that STV have opted out of airing almost all of ITV’s dramas there should be plenty of room in the schedule. What else have they got to show?

The Times also reports that Max Evans and Mike Blair are rushing back to fitness. The article is not online yet so you’ll just have to trust me or rush out and buy a copy.

Edinburgh utility back Calum Macrae has signed with Mike Ruddock’s Worcester Warriors. I would have thought he might have stuck around to try and fight incomer Steven Jones for Mossy’s 15 shirt but perhaps he felt it time for pastures new.

And the SRU have introduced a new “Any Game” voucher which can be bought in advance at £5 off full ticket price – putting the price back to an almost reasonable £15 – that allow you access to (almost) any of your chosen pro-team’s Magners and Heineken Cup matches. Buy them in bulk in advance and turn up to whichever game you want. It sounds like a good plan especially if the weather suddenly turns nasty at 5pm on a Friday, you can save your ticket for the next game rather than going and getting wet sitting by yourself in the West Stand. Details on the SRU website.

Also, I know I said we should never play New Zealand again, ever. Except in the RWC final in 2011. But they have looked pretty inept of late, with their back line firing as well as, well, ours. Tri Nations: pretty dull so far.

Edinburgh Back In Fourth As Glasgow Fail to Ignite

Edinburgh blasted the Dragons with a bonus-point victory at Murrayfield this weekend but Glasgow failed to do them a favour by beating an out-of-sorts Ospreys team. They did deny them a bonus point but the game was marred by Max Evans going off on a stretcher with what looked like a nasty knee injury and another schizophrenic refereeing performance from Irishman George Clancy. Ruaridh Jackson looked inventive at 10 and kicked most of his points and Lome Fa-Atau had a pretty good game on the opposite wing from Thom Evans. I have to say that Andrew Henderson looked pretty off-peak when he came off the bench with a couple of poor and late challenges – one of which he would have been carded for if Clancy wasn’t obsessing over sending off as many props as possible. The Ospreys now move third, equal on points with Leinster. Edinburgh can regain second if both those teams lose next weekend and they manage to beat Cardiff in Cardiff. Unlikely, I know. But Cardiff have a midweek game and must be on their last legs by now – paying for the silly Anglo Welsh Cup. Meanwhile Leinster face the Dragons but Ospreys have to play Munster. So third could be on and they are guaranteed to at least equal their best ever finish of fourth.

While he was always an outside chance to be called up to the Lions as a replacement for the injured Tom Shanklin – and it was interesting to hear Will Greenwood mention him as a possibility – this will almost certainly rule Maximus out. In the same game though James Hook looked pretty good from inside centre, and he might give the Lions some fly-half cover too. With Jamie Roberts going off injured in the Munster match last night too the Lions could be looking at another replacement in the centre. Speaking of which, the Sunday Times reported that former Lions scrum half and backs coach Rob Howley was dispatched to watch Chris Cusiter in Perpignan this weekend – bit of a shame as he didn’t seem to get on the pitch. Ian Macgeechan went to watch Danny Care who didn’t have the greatest game either. No word if anyone was watching Blair, as we await the rumoured announcement this week.

UPDATE: The Times is now reporting that Rob Howley was in the crowd for the Edinburgh match, which seems more likely. Someone (in the Murdoch empire) got their info wrong.

Odds and Sods and Lions Centres

After all the excitement of yesterday evening, tonight Edinburgh take on Cardiff at Murrayfield tonight (not on TV, but probably on BBC Radio Scotland along with a lively debate about future Scotland coaches from 8pm), while Glasgow visit Llanelli live on S4C on Saturday at 5.30pm ish with a few more of their internationals back. A couple of good games from Thom Evans could see him shoot up in the Lions reckoning, which would be nice. Also with one eye on the future, Ruaridh Jackson is starting at 10 for Glasgow with Parko (still without a contract for next season) on the bench. Edinburgh should also have newly resigned and restored prop Geoff Cross packing down in the scrum (but not against Cardiff’s Gethin Jenkins, who is rested). Cross will be looking to make up for his inauspicious test debut vs Wales in the Six Nations, one hopes…

Speaking of the future, Edinburgh and Glasgow seem to be scouring the English club game for Scottish-qualified youngsters with ex Stew-Mel and Newcastle scrum-half Ross Samson signing for Edinburgh and centre Peter Murchie signing for Glasgow from London Welsh. Samson’s signing and Ben Meyer’s exit from Edinburgh would mean I think that Edinburgh now only have one non-Scottish qualified player on their books (in Ben Gissing).

At the other end of the career spectrum, former Edinburgh scrum-half Graeme Beveridge has also announced his retirement from pro-rugby after he was let go by Bristol. He aims to have a go at coaching in the future though, so we wish him all the best with that and hope to see him plying his trade north of the border soon. Andy Henderson is also off to pastures new in Montauban after a game for the BaaBaas – it was getting crowded in the Glasgow midfield I suppose.

After their exertions last week in victory over Connacht and loss to Munster respectively, good to see a few home-based Scots creeping into the (only half serious) Sky Sports Lions Watch team of the week, as well as a few exiles. In fact this team is almost thick with Scots – that’ll never last. Big Stroker is definitely increasing the awareness of his physical talents, while I’m sorry to have missed the battle between Euan Murray and Gethin Jenkins in the scrum… plus the comments on these things are always fun to read…

With Henson now out with injury till May, it looks like Goron D’Arcy could be coming into form at just the right time to re-cement his partnership with O’Driscoll… Shanklin or possibly Jamie Roberts should keep Maxi out of the reckoning at 13 but he may have more value as a utility back than Thom. Tindall is injured too, lest we forget so if the 2×2 centres were Flutey (ugh) and D’arcy, O’ Driscoll and Shanklin, they’d probably still need a utility back who could cover centre. Step forward Maximus! Such are the discussions that the coming weeks are made of, so I’ve put up a handy countdown in order to build the hype towards the inevitable leonine let-down (but we are used to such things by now).

Have a good weekend. Next week was going to be chat about the Lions, but now we have some fantasy coach shopping to do!

Glasgow Beat Toulouse

Toulouse 26 – 33 Glasgow

Yes, you read that correctly. A historic result for Glasgow Rugby today saw Glasgow shock pre-tournament favourites and poster boys of French Club rugby Toulouse in the Heineken Cup. Not only that, but they did it in Toulouse, forcing the home crowd to suffer a range of emotions from histrionic booing through stunned silence and frantic cheering as their team chased what was in the end a losing bonus point. Glasgow opened hard and kept phenomenal pressure up on Toulouse’s attack. From a back division this skilled – Michalak, Clerc, Ellisalde, Poitrenaud among them – it was telling that their handling was made to look poor as they tried to get into  gear. Man of the Match Max Evans had a wonky moment early on as he chipped rather than cleared from his own line, but Toulouse failed to capitalise and from then on he was at the heart of Glasgow’s attack. Dan Parks, in at the last minute for promising youngster Ruaridh Jackson, did little wrong and distributed well to the powerful Morrison and threatening Evans boys. Thom Evans in particular is on a hot streak where everything he tries comes off. We can only hope the bounce of the ball will continue to go his way during the Six Nations, where he must start – his defence is now swiftly catching up on his attack. Morrison also did plenty to cement his grip on the Scotland 12 shirt. With Paterson playing at 10 for 30 mins yesterday after Godman took a hamstring knock, Parks may well yet have a part to play in Scotland’s Six Nations too.

After taking a 9-22 lead in at half time, Glasgow found themselves on the receiving end of a blistering Toulouse attack. Guy Noves emptied out his bucket marked “cavalry” and brought on the likes of Florian Fritz, Byron Kelleher and Fabian Pelous. The game was tranformed as the passes stuck (for the most part) and Glasgow’s attacking ball was stifled. Sustained pressure saw a penalty try from a scrum, a few kicks and some more typical Toulouse back play leading to a try. Here were go, you thought, as Glasgow seemed to be opened up at will by Kelleher’s darting breaks and the gap on the scoreboard closed bit by bit: normal service resumed.

Only it wasn’t. After a quick bought of fisticuffs that saw Ellisalde and Barclay sin-binned, Glasgow seemed to weather the storm. Max Evans even scored another try. The crowd went quiet as they slowly realised the unthinkable was about to happen. Toulouse were going to lose. By the time they could only kick for a losing bonus point with the last play of the game –  an undeserved victory long since out of reach thanks to Glasgow’s miserly defence – the furious booing had started. One senses it may continue for some time in the South of France.

But here in Scotland: nothing but cheering.

It’s Rob Dewey Time

It’s about that time of year when the pre-Six Nations player roundabout starts, so with that in mind I have a few snippets for you.

Rob Dewey returns to Murrayfield this week (alongside former Scotland coach and silver surfer Matt Williams) with Ulster, and rumours are flying that he has begun negotiations with the SRU for a more permanent return to these shores. As yet it is unclear where he will settle his ship – The Times seems to think Glasgow, while the Scotsman seems to think Edinburgh (and also mentions they may be interested in Scott MacLeod too which – despite his other troubles – would be a good signing in rugby terms). Edinburgh already have three promising young centres in Houston, De Luca and Cairns while Glasgow would have been a more obvious choice were it not for the appearance this season of Max Evans, giving them three decent centres also (Evans, Henderson, Morrison). Where do you fit in Dewey? As a battering ram 12 it is more likely to be at Edinburgh where the midfield is a little lightweight. But will that do anyone any good with regards to the national setup? After all, there are only two shirts to fill week in, week out – so someone’s development will be hampered. I still maintain you could swap Cairns and De Luca around, but nobody listens. Also, what happened to Al’s bête noire Marcus Di Rollo? Last we heard he was stuck at Toulouse unable to play there for medical reasons, and forbidden to leave and play anywhere else. An investigation beckons…

Big Jason White is to leave Sale Sharks at the end of this season to join ASM Clermont Auvergne. Glasgow had been hopeful of returning the former Scotland skipper north of the border, but White is clearly looking to pastures new after 5-odd years in Manchester. He’ll join the likes of Elvis Vermeulen and Julien Bonnaire in the back row at Clermont.

“I was very impressed by the organization, the structures, the team and the ambitions of the club. Clermont belongs to the best European clubs and I think that it is likely here there is a real chance to gain titles. I always wanted to play in France and the prospect to discover a new culture and a new language is very exciting.” (apologies for the Babelfish translation)

No Scottish rugby on TV tonight, (unless perhaps you have Setanta) but coverage on BBC Radio Scotland as usual. Glasgow take on the Dragons who feature ex-Glasgow man Andy Hall in their squad, and will be looking to cement their form with a victory over the often troublesome Dragons. Edinburgh as mentioned above face Ulster, and feature a back row shorn of Ross Rennie (now out for the season) and Alan MacDonald (head knock) so Simon Cross and academy sevens man Roddy Grant come in. Still, Ally Hogg – who played in all of Matt Williams’ games in charge of Scotland – will be there to hold down the fort.

Player News – Rory Lamont and more

Rory Lamont will be out of the Six Nations while he recovers from ankle surgery made necessary after ligament damage sustained playing for Sale against Montauban. This is a real shame as he was in a rich vein of form, and it may well affect his outside chances of a Lions berth – while it solidifies the odds that Chris Paterson will fill the 15 shirt where he has been playing reasonably well for Edinburgh so far.

UPDATE: It seems the patented Rory Lamont Helicopter™ is to blame. Quoted on the BBC Website Rory says:

“I seem to spin through a lot of contact and it puts a lot of force through your body when you’re spinning. I guess I just open my body up for injuries with that style of play.”

We wish the flying Chinook of Scottish Rugby well with his recovery.

Ross Rennie’s citing has delayed the team picked to face Wasps (update to follow as I hear), but Andy Robinson has largely stuck with the side that played all the rugby at Murrayfield last weekend but got none of the points. Meanwhile Andy Robinson has revealed that they tried to lure Rocky Elsom last year to play in Edinburgh before he opted for Leinster and may look overseas again next year for a new signing. I’m all for Edinburgh expanding their squad, but a balance has to be found between bringing in world-class experience and keeping improving back rowers like Ross Rennie and Alan Macdonald out of the team. Darryl Gibson was less than a success on the pitch for Glasgow (though reputed to have been very influential off the pitch) whereas Todd Blackadder is probably the benchmark for a successful import. Oh, and we did have a world-class back row at Edinburgh – but Simon Taylor left. (Edinburgh vs Wasps, Sky Sports, Sunday 1pm)

UPDATE: Ross Rennie has received a two match ban for his tackle on Paul Sackey. Paterson has failed a fitness test so Hugo Southwell will start at 15. Scott Newlands fills in for Rennie and the only other change is Andy Kelly filling in for the injured Ross Ford.

And having cemented his place in Glasgow’s Outside Centre position, Max Evans has signed a new deal with the club. Let’s hope he repeats his performance against Bath this weekend. Disappointing to see that Ruaridh Jackson has dropped to the bench to welcome back Parko, but I suppose it was inevitable. (Sunday 2pm, not on the telly, highlights on Sky Sports ERC Rugby Special Sunday night)

Building a Tank from a Shopping Trolley

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?