With the 6 Nations coming up Brodie Smithers looks at the position of Hooker and the possible candidiates for the number two shirt.
After the launch party last week, and Edinburgh Rugby’s victory at the weekend, we thought you might like to see some of your favourite comeback kings with their tops off. For the third year running Edinburgh Rugby players have bared all (well almost) to raise money for Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centres, and for those of you who didn’t rush out after the launch to buy one already, we’ve got a sneak preview.
As Rory has chosen to focus on the backs he has left me with the slightly easier task of looking at the forwards.
The reason this is easier is because Andy Robinson has a pretty samey starting pack and, barring injury, I can’t imagine it will change too much for the first game in the World Cup. So this means the warm-up games against Ireland and Italy will help pick a bench, and the training sessions before hand are hugely important for individuals.
This season’s Six Nations has been an unpredictable affair (should there be a Le in front of that?) with England dominating right up to the last exchange when they imploded at the Aviva Stadium. Despite this mishap, their players were generally better across the board but rather worryingly only Richie Gray could be said to be nailed on for a spot in this team with few real stand-outs on show. A.D (with a little help from Rory) gives us the team of the tournament.
When you read a national newspaper everyone is obsessed with numbers. People want a player rated out of 10, a statistical breakdown of offloads out of the tackle and the number of pints sold at a ground.
Despite being sober and despite the improved nature of our performance we have still lost 3 in a row and look set for a showdown with the Twickenham steamroller, so forgive me for wanting to hide behind statistics and numbers today.
Moves to Stade Francais were suggested at some point, but big Jim Hamilton has opted to join the big Scottish contingent at Kingsholm. Does this mean that Ross Ford’s lineout will go all to pot again, as it seems to have grown in usefulness since for club and country since Hamilton came back from injury this season…
Assuming the games go ahead as the freezing weather continues (a couple of Magners games have already been called off), here are the teams to take the field in Dublin and Edinburgh respectively.
Glasgow Warriors to face Leinster: Bernardo Stortoni, DTH van der Merwe, Max Evans, Graeme Morrison, Thom Evans, Dan Parks, Chris Cusiter, Jon Welsh, Dougie Hall, Moray Low, Alastair Kellock (capt), Richie Gray, Kelly Brown, John Barclay, Johnnie Beattie.
Replacements: Fergus Thomson, Kevin Tkachuk, Dan Turner, James Eddie, Colin Gregor, Ruaridh Jackson, Rob Dewey.
(Probably on BBC Radio Scotland, Friday night).
Edinburgh team to face Cardiff: Chris Paterson (capt), Jim Thompson, Ben Cairns, John Houston, Tim Visser, Rory Hutton, Greig Laidlaw, Allan Jacobsen, Ross Ford, David Young, Jim Hamilton, Scott MacLeod, Alan MacDonald, Ross Rennie, Roddy Grant.
Replacements: Andrew Kelly, Kyle Traynor, Craig Hamilton, Scott Newlands, Ross Samson, Nick De Luca, Mark Robertson.
(Live coverage on S4c, Saturday from 6pm-ish)
Can’t say I’m not a little intrigued to see what Hutton can do, given what is a massive opportunity for him… but I wouldn’t expect miracles straight off the bat. Highlights of both games are also on STV as usual on Sunday. Given the lack of games this weekend they will presumably pad by talking about either the upcoming 6 Nations or perhaps porridge: ie the new Scott’s limited edition packets that are to feature Ross(y), Mossy and Thom. Hopefully this will help boost the sport at breakfast tables everywhere, especially during the current wintry spell. Speaking of, um, spelling, can someone tell me when they changed the spelling of porridge?
UPDATE: The Leinster vs Glasgow game has been called off due to late weather complications: more info on the BBC. Glasgow want to sue people given the cost of getting to Dublin has already been undertaken by the team after advice that the game would go ahed… Most of the weekend’s scheduled GP matches are also off, with just a few top flight rugby fixtures still hoping to go ahead including Munster, Leicester and Edinburgh.
Although I thought it a bit of a damp squib in terms of rugby (the weather can probably take some of the blame) the intensity was definitely there in the festive derby series, with plenty of niggle in the first leg as Glasgow set the standard for intensity, and some stupid yellows in the much better second leg. When we said “more aggression Ross”, we didn’t mean that. In the end it was that intensity mainly at the breakdown that was probably enough to see Glasgow through – they simply seemed to want it more than Edinburgh, and had a clearer plan B (which may actually be plan A) to turn to when it wasn’t on to run it (ie get Dan Parks to kick it). Perhaps with Ruaridh Jackson back from injury and getting a wee run today and Parks off to Cardiff in a few months, Plan A (as Andy Robinson might see it) will get more of an airing. While Edinburgh continue to be try-less and unfortunately not looking like changing it much, a big New Year shout out to Nikki Walker, Scotland’s top try scorer of the year so far having picked up two yesterday for the Ospreys against Cardiff.
So for now Glasgow will be happy to be leading the race for the Magners League title (as reflected on the “marvellous” new splash page where Evans is front and centre!) sitting clear at the top of the table with 8 or so games left until the all important end of season play-offs. With a steely aggressive core at the heart of the team and a solid defence, Glasgow are playing with the sort of heart Scottish fans tend to demand and hopefully it sees them well into the playoffs. As pitches dry up in the spring though I hope the backs will get more ball through the hands – a winning team needs to have more attacking options than ol’ Parko and the cross-field kick, and I get the feeling the Irish teams and Ospreys are soon going to start bringing the big guns in Magners fixtures.
For the Scottish teams it will only get harder, but we like a bit of a challenge, don’t we?
No sign of big Nathan sadly, but with Shaw’s phenomenal performance last week it is understandable. Less understandable is bringing Worsley in at 6. Both Flutey and Bowe have looked fairly sharp this tour so it will be interesting to see if they can even approach the heights of Roberts/O’Driscoll’s pairing. I hope Ross Ford gets a chance for a bit of a run just to show there were some Scots on what has been a pretty good tour. Here’s hoping the boys can salvage some pride with a victory over a good South African team (and their idiotic coach) – there is no way they should be two tests down, and yet there it is, 2-0 on the score sheet. Such is sport.
British & Irish Lions versus South Africa on Saturday 4th July
15. Rob Kearney (Leinster/Ireland)
14. Ugo Monye (Harlequins/England)
13. Tommy Bowe (Ospreys/Ireland)
12. Riki Flutey (London Wasps/England)
11. Shane Williams (Ospreys/Wales)
10. Stephen Jones (Scarlets/Wales)
9. Mike Phillips (Ospreys/Wales)
8. Jamie Heaslip (Leinster/Ireland)
7. Martyn Williams (Cardiff Blues/Wales)
6. Joe Worsley (London Wasps/England)
5. Paul O’Connell (Munster/Ireland) Captain
4. Simon Shaw (London Wasps/England)
3. Phil Vickery (London Wasps/England)
2. Matthew Rees (Scarlets/Wales)
1. Andrew Sheridan (Sale Sharks/England)
16. Ross Ford (Edinburgh/Scotland)
17. John Hayes (Munster/Ireland)
18. Alun-Wyn Jones (Ospreys/Wales)
19. David Wallace (Munster/Ireland)
20. Tom Croft (Leicester Tigers/England)
21. Harry Ellis (Leicester Tigers/England)
22. James Hook (Ospreys/Wales)