Tag: Nick de Luca

Teams for the Weekend

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.

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.

Laying down the Law, son

Argentina 16 – 24 Scotland

For once in recent Scottish rugby memory we are greeted – nay, even rewarded – by a final scoreline that reflects the actual game that preceded it. Based on the way they played, Scotland should have been the only team that won this match, although time has taught us this doesn’t always mean they would have.

Here’s To You, Scotland

Well well well. Hopefully by now the hungovers have worn off, and the “did that really happen?” feeling has not quite worn off. And so to a little bit of post match analysis.

Scotland’s defence was magnificent – on that we can hopefully all agree. But it could quite easily have been different. Australia have put at least 30 points on us in the last few encounters and if you think of the tries they butchered, the missed kicks – including THAT one – it could quite easily have been business as usual, and I would be sitting here writing about moral victories, plucky defence, courageous losers etc. Scotland had almost no ball, and a lot of what we did get was kicked away or turned over. Ordinarily all these factors would have combined into the usual Autumn loss. So what changed? There are a few things that I noticed from between my fingers as I watched the match:

A full 80 minute performance. Usually a Scottish team hangs in there for 60-odd minutes, then there is one minor lapse in concentration, (quite often somewhere in midfield) a quick turnover and BAM the (insert Tri-Nations team here) have scored a couple of tries and put the game to bed. You almost sensed such a thing happening on Saturday, when the Wallabies kept piling attack after attack on to Scotland in the early second half, hoping that our boys would wilt. Only they didn’t. Right across the 22 man squad they tackled for the full 80 minutes, and it was only in the 81st that the unceasing battering Rocky Elsom’s men had given us finally found a chink in the armour. Immense performances from all the forwards without exception. You suspect if someone had told a lot of these players “this is what it will feel like at the end if you don’t go to sleep in the second half” this could have happened years ago.

A coach unafraid to make a hard call. Morrison had been okay in defence in the first half, but too much of the miniscule amount of ball we had was carried into contact or spilled rather than finding its way out wide, which was frankly unacceptable. At half time Robbo yanked him and stuck De Luca in instead, who repaid him with his best game in a Scotland shirt. The three centre berths for next weekend should be De Luca, Grove and Cairns in whatever order you like. Morrison was given a vote of confidence well ahead of the first team announcement and has not exactly lived up to it. Contrast this with the other guys including Grove who instantly looked at home at this level. Let’s get them going forward next weekend and see what these boys can do with some ball.

Luck. Years and years of stupid calls going against us, balls bouncing in to the arms of opposing players and kicks missing by inches were cashed in at the weekend. Everything we needed to go our way did. Everything we needed to go against Australia, did. They say good teams make their own luck, and I’m sure a lot of the pressure put on the Wallabies with our defence must have rattled them.

So basically what we have all been saying for years – if Scotland stayed focused, ditched the underperformers and got a bit of luck here and there they could compete with the top teams. All we needed was a coach that agreed with us. If Scotland can stay this passionate and intense, use that as a base for performance level and somehow hold on to some ball to play with, then we have the makings of a good – and lucky – team.

Oh and if you fancy a laugh, read this from the Sydney Morning Herald (don’t let your blood boil, it’s not worth it) and if you are interested, here are some highlights of the Scotland A game shot by the folks at Borders Rugby TV.

Edinburgh beat Cardiff to finish Second

Cardiff 14 – 36 Edinburgh

Edinburgh put together a solid performance in defence coupled with some excellent counter-attacking rugby to snatch a record second place finish in the Magners League with an away victory in the last match to be played at Cardiff Arms Park. A few decisions from Irish ref Simon McDowell that were controversial to the home crowd but on the face of it probably correct helped too – notably a penalty try and sin-binning for the deliberate knock down of a pass to Godman about 2 metres from the line. That gave Edinburgh the space they needed to keep the scoreboard operator awake and turn the match in their favour. After a lot of loose play, several knock-ons and turnovers by both sides in the first half, this period proved decisive. It was also great to see a Scottish side capitalising on opposition mistakes with a degree of ruthlessness often absent from the national side.

Ally Hogg put in a captain’s performance at the breakdown alongside youngster Roddy Grant and was turning over ball almost at will against a Cardiff side shorn of much of its international talent. Ross Ford and Geoff Cross both had good games too, although Ford missed the odd lineout throw. Phil Godman marshalled his backs well on the counter in a loose game that suited Webster’s and Mossy’s style, although he didn’t always get the best service from scrum half Laidlaw in crunch situations. Nick De Luca popped up everywhere in  midfield, putting in some good defensive work and grabbing the interception try that put the result beyond doubt – regardless of the ability Cardiff have to conjure late points that scared Leicester so.

To be fair it was mostly a second string that faced Edinburgh here, the same sorts of second strings that the bigger clubs can afford to field. Such second strings allowed the results to go Edinburgh’s way earlier in the weekend (Ospreys losing to Munster and Leinster losing to the Dragons), and is probably a sign that at least until the play-off system next season Heineken Cup Rugby is still the bigger prize for the larger clubs. Edinburgh would have been guaranteed a play-off spot anyway if the system had been in place this year – probably facing Munster or Leinster if the usual 1 v 4, 2 v  3 model is followed.

At the end of the match, as Hugo Southwell came on for his last appearance in an Edinburgh shirt, the heavens above Cardiff opened as if to signal their displeasure not to see a home victory, but it was to be Edinburgh and Andy Robinson’s day. As the Blues and their fans prepared to mark the obsolescence of one of Rugby’s old icons in the shape of the Arms Park and celebrate their current successes past and present at season’s end, the match was largely forgotten by the locals in a matter of minutes. For Edinburgh though, the last trip home from Cardiff Arms Park will be a memorable, very happy one.

A Last Throw of the Dice for Frank?

That’s assuming he has a pair, of course. Or is it a set?

Frank Hadden has delayed announcing his team for the Calcutta Cup pending injury updates on Thom Evans (shoulder) and captain Mike Blair (back). After a stinger against Ireland, the big

After a stinger against Ireland, the big stroker Al Strokosch has been cleared for training and should retain his place in the 6 shirt after one of his best performances in a Scotland shirt. Losing Blair is a pretty big blow ordinarily, but he has been out of sorts recently and his likelihood of sneaking on to the Lions tour is looking slimmer as the likes of Harry Ellis and even Peter Stringer start to show form and attack the spare scrum-half berths.

Hopefully Saturday will give Chris Cusiter the chance that he has so far been denied to show what sort of form he is in. Sadly there is no bigger stage for a Scotsman these days than the Calcutta Cup.

My team to face the (gulp) improving England would be something like: Paterson, Danielli, Evans, De Luca, Evans, Godman, Cusiter, Taylor, Barclay, Strokosch, Hines, Hamilton, Murray, Ford, Dickinson.

We need something different at 12 – a distributor in the mould of D’Arcy or Flutey and why not give Nick a bash and see if it works? There might be an argument for bringing in either fit Lamont for Danielli – but Simon has been pretty solid so far and will be less well known to the English players than the Lamont boys. Paterson has been criticised occasionally for a lack of penetration but frankly, I am astonished at the improvement in his kicking from hand (compared to say during his time at Gloucester), he’s a lot safer in the tackle now and of course there’s the place kicking. Either he or Cusiter would be a good choice as captain – or would now be the time to pick a forward leader for the future – John Barclay for captain?

Scotland Team To Face Italy

Hot (ish) off the SRU press, here is our team:

Scotland: Hugo Southwell (Edinburgh), Simon Danielli (Ulster), Max Evans (Glasgow Warriors), Graeme Morrison (Glasgow Warriors), Thom Evans (Glasgow Warriors), Phil Godman (Edinburgh), Mike Blair (Edinburgh, capt), Allan Jacobsen (Edinburgh), Ross Ford (Edinburgh), Euan Murray (Northampton Saints), Jason White (Sale Sharks), Alastair Kellock (Glasgow Warriors), Alasdair Strokosch (Gloucester), Simon Taylor (Stade Francais), John Barclay (Glasgow Warriors).
Replacements: Dougie Hall (Glasgow Warriors), Alasdair Dickinson (Gloucester), Kelly Brown (Glasgow Warriors), Scott Gray (Northampton Saints), Chris Cusiter (Perpignan), Chris Paterson (Edinburgh), Nick De Luca (Edinburgh).

Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales).
Touch-judges: George Clancy (Ireland) and Romain Poite (France).
Television Match Official: Nigel Whitehouse (Wales)

He’s pretty much picked the same team as last time, with like for like swaps in Euan Murray and Al Kellock in for Al Dickinson and Jim Hamilton. We’re hoping that gives us a boost in the front row, but the same as last time with just one lock we’re still facing the 5 back-row pack proposition if Kellock picks up a knock. We may need 5 of them to keep an eye on Parisse, having said that. This time cover man Kelly Brown may be concussed too after his head knock in the Glasgow game on Friday.

In the backs I’d have liked to see Mossy and De Luca come in as I feel they have earned a chance to help speed up the onset of this “progress” Hadden keeps talking about (Paterson is somewhat immune to the out of position debate, as he may have been playing out of position for his whole career). Otherwise could we be facing more of the same over-eagerness that led to so many knock-ons last time? After all, we should fancy our chances against Italy at home more than France in Paris. My great hope for this game is that World Class Phil will step up and banish memories of the last time he started against Italy at Murrayfield with a storming performance.

My advice to all would be stop thinking about how you’re going to skin them and just concentrate on catching the ball. After that, there’s enough natural talent here for a victory. Even if half of them are out of position, at least Hadden didn’t play a flanker at 9.

Friday Night Special

Edinburgh 32 – 14 Castres

Quick update on Edinburgh’s abortive Heineken Cup campaign: tonight they have claimed a decent home victory against an under-strength Castres side. Tries from Cairns, Godman, Ford and his replacement Kelly ensure a bonus point which will go nicely towards their draw seedings for next year’s competition if little else. Just back from a rib injury, Mossy got on for about half an hour – presumably at standoff – but more worrying news is Nick De Luca’s 21st minute substitution which suggests an injury of some sort. It might make the centre picks for the Six Nations a little easier I suppose, with Morrison and Cairns the clear favourites in De Luca’s absence. Injury news as we get it!

UPDATE: Godman was taken off with a hamstring knock as a precaution, so that could be worrying. Nick De Luca went off with a head knock but should be fine in a week or two.

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.

What We Learned in the Autumn

1) We shouldn’t really bother playing New Zealand, ever again. What useful purpose does it serve? It does us little good, and it gives them pointlessly easy grand slams. Think of that, we could scupper their grand slam tours without even playing a match.

2) Scotland now have a scrum that shouldn’t get pushed around. If we could get back our lineout dominance of a few years back we might be a serious threat up front. Bring back Scott Murray?

3) Nick De Luca looks like he is over his 6N hiccup and is now forming a dynamic centre partnership with Ben Cairns that augers well for the future. A lot of our players should hit their playing peak in around 3 years. Many of them already have a solid base of caps and are growing in maturity. We may not be able to just unwrap a new test-ready fly half like the All-Blacks seem to do, but I think we are managing the resources we do have well. Gregor Townsend’s mentorship scheme of the young players is a similarly excellent idea.

4) Mike Blair may be the best scrum half in the world at the moment. He outshone the best the southern hemisphere showed him, even leading a losing team. Euan Murray gave a great account of himself too, although it could be argued he didn’t face NZ’s best scrum combination. Both, along with Lee Byrne of Wales, are certain Lions if their form and fitness continue. Blair now pops up in most people’s World/Lions XVs. (Except for Stephen Jones of the Sunday Times, who picked him in his World XV but not his Lions team. Someone should point out to Mr Jones that Mike Phillips and Gavin Henson are short of fitness and form, and too busy duking it out on the streets of Cardiff to merit inclusion at this stage. Stuart Barnes didn’t pick Murray at tighthead but at least explained his reasoning! And he picked Barclay at 7, kudos.)

5) Ryan Jones is far from certain of a Lions test place, due to the barnstorming performances we have seen from Powell in the Welsh No 8 shirt. The Lions captaincy is still wide open.

5) Commentators still love mispronouncing names. Award of the season goes to John Beattie for “Cleanburger” (Adam Kleeberger of Canada). Rokocoko got a bit of a mangling from the BBC boys as well… Jonathan Davies is not alone.

6) England are having a few problems. They are probably where we were a few years ago, bottoming out on the constant wave of world rugby. Their players and management will take a while to bed in – Martin Johnson is a novice coach, remember. Let’s just hope they get it sorted. In 2012.

7) The second tier rugby nations are still getting screwed by the clubs. While the big unions can buy player release, pity poor Canada who have a core base of amateurs and can’t even get Ander Munro on release from Italy. They should shut off all club play on the continent while the Autum Internationals are on (masterplan for restructuring 4-years rugby cycle coming soon). This would undoubtedly help the likes of Italy, Georgia and Romania whose players fill in when the Frenchies are off playing tests. Georgia could quite easily have played a close full test against similarly ranked Canada rather than them getting pasted by our A and full sides respectively. Georgia might have also been beaten by Edinburgh had the floodlights at Meggetland not failed (poor show).

8) Australia will rise, and soon. Their last two games against Wales and the Baa-Baas were great fun, backed by a steely spine of solid – that’s almost not strong enough a term – defence. We could learn a lot from the Robbie Deans “soak it up then counter” school of thought. They will definitely be a force come 2011. Good job we didn’t get them in our group.

9) World XV based mostly on Autumn performances I saw: Byrne (Wal), Muliaina (NZ), De Villiers (SA), Nonu (NZ), Williams (Wal), Carter (NZ), Blair (Sco), Powell (Wal), McCaw (NZ), Burger (SA), Matfield (SA), Botha (SA), Murray (Sco), Ford (Sco), Woodcock (NZ). Honorary mention should go to the Aussies who showed up with a team rather than some individuals, so I’d pick Robbie Deans as the coach.

10) Wales are still 6N favourites. Behind them it’s a toss-up but Scotland have more than a good chance of making the top three. On current form you might hesitate to say that about England or Ireland. France, as always under Lieveremont are a mystery until they take the field. Frank Hadden has us as dark horses, and for once I’m in agreement with Franky baws. The Scots are coming.

Don’t forget there is Heineken Cup rugby on Sky this weekend again, though no Edinburgh vs Wasps on Friday night. Bath vs Glasgow is on on Sunday. Player watch as usual to follow next week. Oh, and you can add number 11) in the comments section below. We don’t bite.

5 Reasons To Be Cheerful

1) With the mid level teams (Fiji, Samoa, Italy, Georgia) fronting up at World Cup time as the professional game grows, does it really matter who we have in our group in NZ 2011? Sure we could get a couple of stinkers, but with a young team that should be together for the next three years we might get Ireland, Argentina, or day I say it England? Sure they’d be tough matches, but it’s the World Cup. Scotland no longer belongs at the top table by right – we should have to play well enough to get there and it should be the same for all the other teams in our situation. Still, Argentina may do us a favour if they can beat ramshackle Ireland. Maybe we could swap it for a round-ball win with Diego?

2) Phil Godman is growing with every game. He distributed well, made a couple of great breaks and kicked for position with reasonable accuracy. He still made a couple of schoolboy errors at the end – I would argue they may have been down to his desperation to atone for the missed kicks that might have proven the difference between an ok result and a great one. It was a big game of what-ifs, and Phil will have felt it the most. Forget Italy a few years back, on a grey Saturday in November 2008 he will have learnt much about the true test-match pressure on an international standoff. Seeing the look on his battle-bloodied face come the final whistle, you feel that the South Africa match may be the making of Phil Godman. I certainly hope so.

3) Nick de Luca and Ben Cairns are forming a solid partnership in the centre. Again De Luca gave away an early penalty on Saturday, but after that he settled down and both put in solid defensive display. He’s had a few shockers, but I think now he has settled and needs to build on that. Now they both need a chance to show what they can do in attack against Canada. EDIT: they got it, see below.

4) We’re developing a pretty useful front row partnership in Euan Murray and Ross Ford. Let’s not forget Chunk, Dicko or Moray Low either. Stability in Scotland’s set-piece (not to mention the odd bit of supremacy) would do our chances of winning games no end of good. Mike Brewer seems to be doing his job well. He wears a suit on match day too, something Frank “one of the boys” Hadden should maybe do too.

5) Over the course of two games against the best Rugby Nations in the world, arguably, Scotland did more right than they did wrong – even without a W in the column for either of the games. With Mossy on the pitch on Saturday, we would have almost certainly beaten the World Champions. Isn’t that a reason to be cheerful?

Team to face Canada:

Rory Lamont (Sale Sharks); Simon Webster (Edinburgh), Ben Cairns (Edinburgh), Nick De Luca (Edinburgh), Nikki Walker (Ospreys); Phil Godman (Edinburgh), Mike Blair (capt) (Edinburgh); Allan Jacobsen (Edinburgh), Ross Ford (Edinburgh), Euan Murray (Northampton Saints), Nathan Hines (Perpignan), Jim Hamilton (Edinburgh), Alasdair Strokosch (Gloucester), John Barclay (Glasgow Warriors), Simon Taylor (Stade Francais).
Replacements: Dougie Hall (Glasgow Warriors), Alasdair Dickinson (Gloucester), Matt Mustchin (Edinburgh), Scott Gray (Northampton Saints), Rory Lawson (Gloucester), Dan Parks (Glasgow Warriors), Max Evans (Glasgow Warriors).