With injuries abound and a number of candidates available Brodie Smithers looks at Scott Johnson’s options at centre.
Glasgow announced earlier in the week that Sean Lamont is to join his brother Rory at the Warriors from next season, following a successful spell at Welsh region the Scarlets where he has played not only wing, but also centre and fullback. Indeed this year’s Six Nations went on to see Sean collect unexpected international honours in the centre, filling in for Graeme Morrison during the Six Nations where he proved an effective battering ram.
Some press releases can be taken out of a clichéd handbook. “This preseason is the best we’ve ever had/we’re the fittest we’ve ever been/the new signings have created a real buzz around the place!”
Starting his 5th season as Glasgow Warriors Head Coach Sean Lineen has heard and said these several times. Now, though, he must know that he has this season, and this season alone, to try and turn things around after last term’s near disastrous plummet to the foot of the Magners League.
…As well as a few old ones. Ally Hogg continues the rehab of his playing career and he will be one of the old heads relied on to guide the younger players through the tournament. I would also look for hooker Fergus Thomson to make a big push here for senior selection in the autumn too, cementing his end of season form for Glasgow, with hulking winger Rob Dewey also on the comeback trail.
Interesting to see the two junior Blair brothers as the only real candidates at 10 in the absence of Ruaridh Jackson, although there are a couple of other fresh(ish) faces in the backs selection like former Watsonian Bryan Rennie and Bath youngster Jack Cuthbert.
Scotland A squad
Forwards: G Cross (Edinburgh), J Eddie (Glasgow), C Forrester (Glasgow), C Fusaro (Heriot’s), Roddy Grant (Edinburgh), Ryan Grant (Edinburgh), A Hogg (Edinburgh), A Kelly (Edinburgh), S MacLeod (Edinburgh), F Thomson (Glasgow), K Traynor (Edinburgh), S Turnbull (Edinburgh), R Vernon (Glasgow), J Welsh (Glasgow)
Backs: A Blair (Edinburgh), D Blair (Edinburgh), B Cairns (Edinburgh), J Cuthbert (Bath), R Dewey (Glasgow), J Houston (Edinburgh), G Laidlaw (Edinburgh), M McMillan (Glasgow), B Rennie (Exeter), M Robertson (Edinburgh), C Shaw (Scotland 7s and Glasgow), N Walker (Ospreys)
In addition to STVs ever improving highlights package on Sunday, this weekend you can also catch the Cardiff vs Glasgow game on S4C at 1820 on Saturday and Ospreys vs Edinburgh on Sunday at 1550, giving you the full selection of Scottish pro rugby excitement to clog up your social schedule. While to some extent normal service resumed with both teams losing last weekend – you could hear the roars of despair coming out of Murrayfield from down the road at fellow SRBlogger Al’s birthday party – Edinburgh still top the table (what my Australian friends would call the ladder) and will be looking to finish off an Ospreys team that Glasgow should have put away. Roddy Grant, Phil Godman and Ben Cairns continue to look sharp as does Mossy’s play with ball in hand, and I think Nick De Luca may struggle to get off the bench when Houston is making powerful breaks at 12. Much of the Edinburgh back division looks to have kicked on from last year and some of the less well known names may be challenging the overly familiar from recent years (Walker, Webster, Lamont) for Scotland squad places.
Glasgow can put some of their inconsistencies down to a bout of flu running through the squad but still lacked concentration at key moments of the match. Seemingly it was ever thus, so I wonder what more Sean Lineen can do to fix it? He has tried both giving the team a chance to make amends and droppings en masse (as it were) but neither with much success. Cusiter still looks good when not ill, Rob Dewey looked pretty good with a solid break up the middle, and would perhaps merit a run in the centre until either Peter Murchie or Max Evans is fit (which should be pretty soon). Especially as he won’t get much ball stuck out on the wing with Parks kicking inside of him.
Bit of a news digest this week, hope you are enjoying the off season!
Andy Robinson has announced his 44 man Scotland training squad for later in the month including all four Lions, several fresh faced youngsters like Ruaridh Jackson, Alex Grove and Richie Gray, and missing Simon Taylor who has requested not to be involved at this stage. All very mysterious. Nick De Luca has been named, but I think he is carrying an injury so presumably won’t be doing any physical training. Good to see the Rory Lamont Helicopter back and challenging for the full back shirt…
Scotland squad for three-day training camp at St Andrews – Monday 17-Wednesday 19 August:
Backs – Mike Blair, Ben Cairns (both Edinburgh), Chris Cusiter (Glasgow Warriors), Simon Danielli (Ulster), Nick De Luca (Edinburgh), Thom Evans, Max Evans (both Glasgow Warriors), Phil Godman (Edinburgh), Alex Grove (Worcester Warriors), John Houston (Edinburgh), Ruaridh Jackson (Glasgow Warriors), Rory Lamont (Toulon), Sean Lamont (Scarlets), Rory Lawson (Gloucester), Graeme Morrison (Glasgow Warriors), Chris Paterson (Edinburgh), Hugo Southwell (Stade Francais), Jim Thompson (Edinburgh), Nikki Walker (Ospreys), Simon Webster (Edinburgh)
Forwards – John Barclay, Johnnie Beattie, Kelly Brown (all Glasgow Warriors), Geoff Cross (Edinburgh), Alasdair Dickinson (Gloucester), Ross Ford (Edinburgh), Richie Gray (Glasgow Warriors), Scott Gray (Northampton Saints), Dougie Hall (Glasgow Warriors), Craig Hamilton, Jim Hamilton (both Edinburgh), Nathan Hines (Leinster), Allister Hogg, Allan Jacobsen (both Edinburgh), Alastair Kellock (Glasgow Warriors), Scott Lawson (Gloucester), Moray Low (Glasgow Warriors), Alan MacDonald, Scott MacLeod (both Edinburgh), Euan Murray (Northampton Saints), Alasdair Strokosch (Gloucester), Kyle Traynor (Edinburgh), Richie Vernon (Glasgow Warriors), Jason White (Clermont Auvergne).
Speaking of Clermont, Glasgow take them on in the Challenge Auvergne mini-tournament tomorrow night, having won their previous game 20-11. Lineen seems to be rotating the squad and blooding plenty of the new signings, but Rob Dewey seems to be in the thick of the action whether at wing or centre.
Glasgow Warriors team to play Clermont Auvergne at the Challenge Auvergne in Issoire, France, on Friday 7 August (kick-off 8pm local time)
Bernardo Stortoni, Rob Dewey, Peter Murchie, Peter Horne, Colin Shaw, Ruaridh Jackson, Mark McMillan, Justin Va’a, Dougie Hall, Hamish Mitchell, Richie Gray, Dan Turner, Calum Forrester, Chris Fusaro (Heriot’s)*, Johnnie Beattie
Not present will be scrum half Sam Pinder, who has announced he is leaving Glasgow for a coaching position in Hong Kong. With Cusiter coming in as clear number one scrum half it was always going to be tricky given McMillan and Gregor are probably ahead of Pinder in the pecking order too…
UPDATE: Glasgow lost 12-0 to a Clermont side featuring Jason White, with the only serious news being that young Richie Gray mentioned above dislocated his elbow and will be out for a few months.
“Back” when Scotland and Edinburgh were one dimensional in attack and never got the ball past 12, at least you could count on Rob Dewey. When within 10 metres of the line, it would be “Rob Dewey time”. Chuck him the ball and let him have a batter – at close range he was trick to stop and you stood a good chance of crossing the line. Soon fame and injury beckoned at Ulster, and by then Scotland’s opponents had him well marshalled. Briefly last year he appeared in the Churchill Cup A Team looking almost a different player, displaying the “worrying” trait of varying his lines of running and offloading, with fairly decent results.
With Scotland having a few problems getting the ball past the number 12 shirt at times on Saturday (so much so that BBC pundit and former Ireland centre Rob Henderson had worked out most of Scotland’s Morrison-centric game plan by half time), could now be the time to announce Rob Dewey’s return to Scotland to team up with former central-belt foes the Glasgow Warriors? Yes it could. Having been shunted into a club team by loveable Aussie Matt Williams, Dewey is ready to return to this fair country and stake his claim in a Glasgow back line that next year will already have the likes of Chris Cusiter, Mark McMillan, Ruaridh Jackson, Andy Henderson, Graeme Morrison and of course both Evans brothers competing for places. Exciting times ahead for Sean Lineen’s Glasgow. If you were him you’d want to stick around there for a while rather than get involved with the muck higher up…
Speaking of which, after a considerable session in the Irish-mobbed Roseburn bar on Saturday, your fearless Scottish Rugby Blog correspondents witnessed the second half debacle at Murrayfield first hand. Hopefully Al will be here with his near-patented Big Rant later. Watch out, Frank.
Lovers of all things Aberdonian such as the above mentioned newspaper may be interested in rumours that Chris Cusiter is not coming “home” to Glasgow (and possibly crippling the SRU salary budget) but off to join fellow North East man Jason White at Clermont Auvergne. According to an article in French sports paper L’Equipe (and I’m paraphrasing here from the French):
This is not yet official, but Chris Cusiter should play for Clermont next season. After two years in Perpignan, the Scottish international scrum-half (age 26, 39 caps) chose to join the Auvergne club where he will be in competition with Morgan Parra of Bourgouin. Indeed, the French international has just signed to ASM for the four next seasons. This transfer confirms a little more the departure of Pierre Mignoni. The international (age 31, 28 caps) will leave Clermont after six years of faithful service, and should join Toulon, the club where he began his professional career.
To be honest it’s probably sensible, given Glasgow’s Mark McMillan was going well until his injury and they have backup in Colin Gregor and I suppose Sam Pinder. It might hurt his international chances but Hadden has so far been fair. When he wasn’t playing for Perpignan, he wasn’t for Scotland either. Now he is playing and in form too, he’s back in the squad and sure to hold down at least the bench scrum half spot. Maybe out of favour Rory Lawson should come back to Glasgow instead?
Further information on some other potential Scotland transfers mentioned a while back can be found in the Telegraph, of all places, including news that Edinburgh may be after lock Scott Macleod but are definitely not after Rob Dewey… which is fair enough as locks are what they need at the moment…
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.
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?
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?
But these guys are, to Canada for the Churchill Cup next month:
Backs: Scott Barrow (Glasgow Warriors), David Blair (Edinburgh), Marcus Di Rollo (Toulouse), Max Evans (Glasgow Warriors), Rob Dewey (Ulster), Colin Gregor (Glasgow Warriors), Steve Jones (Newcastle Falcons), Calum MacRae (Edinburgh), Mark McMillan (Wasps), Sam Pinder (Glasgow Warriors), Roland Reid, Mark Robertson (both Edinburgh), Gordon Ross (Saracens)
Forwards: Geoff Cross (Edinburgh), Jon Dunbar (Leeds Tykes), James Eddie, Ed Kalman (both Glasgow Warriors), Andrew Kelly, Alan MacDonald (both Edinburgh), Andy Miller (Exeter), Scott Newlands (Edinburgh), Fergus Pringle (Edinburgh), Craig Smith (Edinburgh), Stevie Swindall, Fergus Thomson, Dan Turner (all Glasgow Warriors), David Young (Leicester Tigers), plus one more player who will be selected later this month.
A few names I haven’t heard of I have to admit, but most of them are the usual suspects. Injuries to the main squad have I think weakened the A team’s potential player pool, but hopefully it will give the coaching staff (disappointingly not Robinson and Lineen?) a chance to blood some of these younger players in a more competitive international environment. Alan’s old pal Di Rollo sneaking in there is interesting, he could form a good partnership with Dewey in the midfield if either are on any sort of form…