Tag: Nikki Walker

Walker In A Winter Wonderland

Scotland 19-16 Samoa

Scotland brought their Autumn International series to a close with a narrow win over a determined bunch of Samoans, who seem to have replaced their free-wheeling and high-tackling style with something far more difficult to overcome. Consistent access to this group of players and a bit of work on the set piece will make them very tricky opponents for Wales, Fiji and South Africa in next year’s Rugby World Cup. Luckily, we only have the new Champions of the World (ie England) to contend with in our group so we can continue to be wildly inconsistent.

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?

Can We Beat The All Blacks?

After the widely derided World Cup ‘B’ Team played against New Zealand on their last visit to Murrayfield, it will be interesting to test our full XV against the might All Blacks. Your fearless Scottish Rugby Blog correspondent will be in attendance. But can we (unlike Scubbsy) man up, and get a result?

Yes We Can:

  • They have lost a few first choice players. Either to the Northern Hemisphere (Chris Jack, Carl Hayman, Luke McAllister et al) and to injury (Andrew Hore). The frightening strength in depth of the pre-World Cup era in depth seems to be absent. After another choke in the World Cup, Kiwi support for Graeme Henry is balanced on a knife edge and depends only, you feel, on the results they get. For the first time, the All Blacks seem almost fallible.
  • We get them first. They will be fresh in the country, getting used to the crappy weather we have made our national speciality. They definitely looked a little rusty against Australia. The big one for them is in four weeks against England. We’re just a warm up. Regardless of what they might say, they won’t be targeting this as a tough match. Let’s hope we can catch them off guard with a decent performance before they gel too well. Our players are mostly match sharp and some (Murray, Barclay, Taylor, Blair, Rory Lamont, Thom Evans) are in pretty good – even great – form.
  • The All Black set piece was looking a little ropey against the Aussies. If Euan Murray can continue his current form perhaps he can reverse the current tales of front row woe that we are used to. Hadden’s choice of second row might of course affect our ability in this area too. My choice would be MacLeod and Taylor, but that is looking less likely. If we can get parity and hold our defence, we have a chance. A slim one, but a chance.
  • Wayne Barnes is the referee. While one hopes that he is not anxious to make amends to the nation of the Long White Cloud for allowing that forward pass, he has been solid all season and is one of the referees who is definitely upholding the new protocols regarding the breakdown. We’ve been playing under them all season. The Kiwis have only had the ANZ Cup and one Bledisloe Cup test to get used to the much stricter refereeing of that area. In particular, flopping over the ball to protect it is an area that could see Richie McCaw either deliver a masterclass (from which John Barclay will learn much) or be penalised off the park.

No We Can’t:

  • It’s the All Blacks, for pete’s sakes. We’ve never beaten them. Ever. Played 27, lost 25, drawn 2. The last draw was in 1983. We haven’t bothered going there on a summer tour since 2000. It’s no fun getting whipped on your summer holiday.
  • The frightening strength in depth only seems to be absent because we haven’t heard of any of them this side of the world. Let’s face it, Stephen Donald would walk into the Scotland XV. He even kicks a bit like Parko. Corey Jane may sound like a girl’s name, but as Al pointed out once, so does Nikki Walker. Whichever back three they play it will be talented, very fast and there on merit. Can we say the same?
  • We’ll probably play Dan Parks. You don’t have to play a kicking game under the new ELVs, but it does seem to happen a fair bit. Ergo Hadden may feel he must play Parks. It’s the fashion. Nevermind the sense that Mike Brewer talks about wanting to score tries. We’ll probably also play some other guys short of match practice or form  (White, Webster, Paterson) ahead of less experienced, in-form players.
  • Scotland have only had a few days to work together. Some of our likely inclusions (Strokosch, Rory Lamont) have been disruptively recalled to their clubs this weekend. Lamont was not picked for Sale yesterday, so he didn’t really need to go. It doesn’t help.
  • Our strength in depth is also frightening, in a different sense. Possible Kiwi frailties in the centre could be countered if we had a few more experienced operators in that area. If he’s given a chance, this test series could be the making of Ben Cairns, not to mention Nick De Luca. These matches would be ideal for giving these guys and Max Evans chance to get experience at test level. But because of the pressure for World Cup seedings (is it really going to happen?) Hadden may opt for the conservative route. Our one area of genuine depth, the back row – is the area where they have Richie McCaw and Rodney So’oialo.

In short, Scotland will have to play the game of their lives simply to stay in contention. Putting aside the World Cup draw (even as a third seed, we could still end up with a group involving say, Argentina and Ireland which wouldn’t be that scary) there’s nothing to lose, and with a little luck, a little slice of history to gain.

Thank goodness for strength in depth

Bad news for Scotland’s squad preparations for the “autumn” (it’s already winter here in the north) internationals came yesterday with announcements that scrum halves Chris Cusiter (thumb), Rory Lawson (ribs) and centre Graeme Morrison would all be unavailable. Luckily Mark McMillan is able to step into the breach – he’s been in form for Glasgow, and it’s good to have a Heineken Cup winner and former U21 captain to call on. It’s a big blow for Cusiter, who always seems like he gets injured just as he is hitting form. Nikki Walker will also join the squad, having been released by the Ospreys. Morrison’s absence leaves the midfield looking a little lightweight – especially considering they may have to face big lads like Nonu and De Villiers running at them – could it be Rob Deweytime again?

Friday Night Lights – Except for viewers in Scotland

Chris Paterson returns to full-back tonight while Super Hugoooooo is playing at centre for injury-riddled Edinburgh vs the Llanelli Scarlets, who have lost on trips to Murrayfield the last six times. Given Edinburgh’s recent form, the chance of the Welshmen overturning that record tonight seems plausible, but we’ll hope that is not the case. At this rate Andy Robinson will be borrowing back-row players from Glasgow before long, and rueing Simon Taylor’s departure before he took over. Ross Rennie can’t get back to fitness quickly enough.

Those self-same Warriors from the Weege travel to the Sportsground to face Connacht, a match they will be hoping to win now that Dan Parks has his record and can concentrate on playing rugby again. If the reliance on kicking is a sign of things to come under the new ELVs, Parks may find himself singing Flower of Scotland again before long. Which will delight and frustrate us in equal measure, I’m sure.

Both kickoffs are 7.30pm and you’ll get some coverage on Sportsound, BBC Radio Scotland (available online) from 8pm. You might also get a chance to catch Nikki Walker in action on BBCw, as the Ospreys take on title holders Leinster.