Cameron Black argues that rugby should not be so quick to judge football in the wake of violence at Euro 2016.
Frank Hadden announced his training squad yesterday, so here’s my team based on that. A few notes – this is the squad I would pick today based on current form, based on what I have seen/read/heard (so there may be a slight Edinburgh bias until I get a chance to see Glasgow on TV at the weekend) and injuries not an issue!
1 Gavin Kerr (Edinburgh), maybe? Findhorn’s own Moray Low will be pressuring for a spot in the front row soon though.
2 R Ford (Edinburgh) His line-out throwing seems to have regressed, but if he can sort that he offers more going forward than the other candidates.
3 E Murray (Northampton) Learning at the feet of Tom Smith seems to be a worthwhile trade-off for first division rugby.
4 N Hines (Perpignan) Bit of grunt up front, nuff said. His twin Jim Hamilton will be pushing him though.
5 S Murray (Montauban) Saw a clip of Montauban scoring tries, and Murray was popping up everywhere. Perhaps he is enjoying himself over there?
6 J White (Sale) Lost a bit of form during the World Cup, but competition for places at Sale should keep him sharp.
7 R Rennie (Edinburgh) Outstanding young player has really shone in the last few weeks. A proper open-side, not involved in the recent drubbing at Leicester. This weekend will be a test, but he will continue to improve under Andy Robinson’s tutelage.
8 A Hogg (Edinburgh) Give him a shot in his preferred position. Or if not, let one of the young tykes (Callam, Beattie, Brown) have a go.
9 C Cusiter (Perpignan) Based on the spirit showed off the bench in the World Cup. Even if he wouldn’t let me buy him a drink in Le Glasgow (sensible chap, that beer was crazy). Blair is playing well again for Edinburgh though, so as usual it’s mostly a toss-up between the two.
10 C Paterson (Gloucester) If they’re prepared to give him a chance, shouldn’t we be? And he has to be in for his kicking.
11 S Webster (Edinburgh) This was one of the trickier ones, but let Malkovich and his dancing shoes into the game with De Luca and Rory Lamont and we might have some real penetration. Failing that stick Mossy in here and play Parks or Godman at 10.
12 A Henderson (Glasgow) I had high hopes for Rob Dewey, but he is having an off time at Ulster (like their whole team) and Henderson is usually consistent.
13 N De Luca (Edinburgh) Another young form player who has to be blooded sometime. Could he be the answer to the 13 problem at long last, unlike his similarly monikered compatriot now bench-warming at Toulouse?
14 N Walker (Ospreys) His international performances have been poop, but surely eventually his Opsprey’s form will translate? With Sean Lamont underperforming since 2006 (and injured), this could be Walker’s chance. If not, the likes of Thom Evans are waiting in the wings.
15 R Lamont (Sale) Too much of an attacking threat not to be in the team. Sorry, Hugo.
16 D Hall (Glasgow) or maybe Scott Lawson. Or maybe Fergus Thomson, who has played more games than both of them.
17 A Jacobsen (Edinburgh) A few barnstorming games from Edinburgh show how much Chunk missed going to the World Cup.
18 J Hamilton (Leicester) The seemingly aborted move to Edinburgh would have been nice, but he still offers valuable beef to the pack wherever he plays his club rugby.
19 S Taylor (Stade Francais) Needs to find his hunger again. The same could be said of S Lamont, also not present!
20 M Blair (Edinburgh) Come 6 Nations time, may actually be the front runner again.
21 D Parks (Glasgow) I actually felt sorry for moving Parko to the bench. How times have changed.
22 H Southwell (Edinburgh) HUUUUUUGOOOOOOO. I actually heard someone other than myself shout this once. The grass-roots movement starts here.
Agree? Disagree? Who’s in your 22?
Edinburgh 15-19 Toulouse
Edinburgh were unlucky to lose this one – if David Blair had kicked a few more points this game would have been a first major scalp for Edinburgh. However, it’s unfair to lay the blame for what might have been at the foot of the diminutive Edinburgh fly-half, as this was another reasonably assured performance from him, and in general Edinburgh handled well with far fewer knock-ons and dropped balls than we are used to. There were still a few turnovers at the breakdown which they will be worried about, but a refreshing unwillingness to kick showcased a young Edinburgh team unafraid to throw it about a bit: backs and forwards alike offloading in the tackle and moving forward with zest. Nick De Luca scored a great try – going past Jauzion in the process – proving that he is developing as a centre offering a genuine attacking threat born of pace and speed, rather than brute strength.
Saracens 33-31 Glasgow
Parks early penalty gave Glasgow a lead, but from then on it was a case of weathering the first half storm. Thom Evans went off with a head knock, depriving the Warriors of some zip on the wing, and Saracens seemed to have all the luck from that point. Glasgow came out fired up in the second half and clawed back 6 points through Parks, but Farrell seemed to be orchestrating slick attacks all over the park and it wasn’t long before Saracens had stretched the lead again, by seemingly too great a margin for Glasgow to come back from. Glasgow never gave up though with late converted tries from O’Hare and Al Kellock securing a well deserved bonus point and causing jitters amongst the home support. Five more minutes of pressure and Parko might have drop-goaled a sneaky victory, but alas (again) Glasgow are searching for a victory against Saracens.
It is heartening to see the pro-teams still (or in some cases starting to) play with spirit and determination even when facing defeat. Soon though, they will have to start getting results.
No, not him, the older one. The one you would have worried about if it had been this time last year. Sean “Monty” Lamont has picked up a knee ligament injury at Northampton which will keep him out for the rest of the season. Seems to be cruciate ligament damage from some of the articles online, so maybe they’ll pack him off to Vermont as they did with Jason White and Charlie Hodgson.
This puts him out of Scotland’s plans for the Six Nations, which may give Nikki Walker the run on the wing that he has been craving – and I feel he needs to build some confidence at international level. Of course Hadden may just put Webster/Paterson back out there and move Di Rollo/Webster back into the centre, but might this be an opportunity to build further experience into his expanded squad?
All the best to Monty for a quick recovery, and we hope you come back fitter, and stronger and with some fire in your belly to recapture your form of the 2006 Six Nations (and the bit in between when you scored 4 tries in one game for Saints).
So, the rugby World Cup is over and attention once again turns to club rugby, in particular this weekend sees a start to the European competitions, the Challenge Cup and the ever more popular Heineken Cup (H-Cup for beer-averse readers in France). If some of the club sides can slip off the shackles of recent international playing styles then there could be some cracking rugby played, and that’s why we’re all here really isn’t it?
Are the English and French clubs too powerful in every sense of the word? Will a Scottish team win a game, let alone progress to the group stages? Will Steven Berkoff recite some Shakespeare to get Sky viewers pumped up?
Once again Edinburgh find themselves in a pool of death. Once again with Toulouse. This year, however, they find themselves without a host of the internationals they fielded last season – moved to pastures new – a beefed up front row with Ross Ford in at hooker and a fledgling back division looking to try and find a cutting edge for Scottish rugby. Even if they pull off three wins at home (the mostly empty Murrayfield) they still face the monumental challenges of winning away at either Toulouse or Leicester’s Welford Road, and the marginally-easier-but-still-a-little-tricky Leinster, who will be looking to make amends for the Irish backs poor showing in the World Cup. Will Andy Robinson have a successful cup run? Instinct says no, but if he’s looking to blood young talent – in Blair junior he may have a standoff who can kick goals and run an attack – it may just prove beneficial to Scotland in the future.
Players to watch: David Blair, Nick De Luca, Simon “Malkovich” Webster.
Of the two, Glasgow have more of a chance if they can win all their home games and maybe sneak an away win somewhere other than Viadana. Glasgow played Saracens several times last year and came close, but the Glasgow squad is a lot stronger this year with Gibson and Fa’atau as well as a few Borders strays, and Parks seemingly on a run of confidence following some good World Cup performances and kicking Ulster to death last week. They are an outside chance to sneak out of the group if they can beat Saracens (twice?!), but I don’t know how far they can go after that.
Players to watch: Dan “Parko” Parks, Thom Evans, Darryl Gibson
Although the two Scottish pro-sides are unlikely to progress out of the group stage (though we live in hope), there may still be Scottish interest available in the later stages, so we’ll do our best to keep you updated.
This weekend (all TV matches on Sky Sports) you can see:
Sale v Montpellier 7.30pm Challenge Cup – can Rory Lamont keep up his recent try scoring run for Sale, not to mention his place in the team? Jason White returns to the team, Lamont may earn a place on the bench after coming back from an ankle knock. No sign of Scott Lawson in the team. Lots of other
Ulster v Gloucester 8pm Heineken Cup – Paterson, Lawson, Strokosch, Dickinson may feature, though Paterson seems once again resigned to fate as a goal kicker and utility back rather than the stand-off he was rumoured to be signed as. But with the mercurial Ryan Lamb in the 10 shirt he’d have his work cut out to pin that position down anyway. What might have been, Ryan. Rob Dewey and Simon Danielli may feature for Ulster.
Perpignan v Dragons (Sky Interactive) 8pm Heineken Cup – Will Chris Cusiter get a game after his start against Albi last week? Captain and fellow Scot Nathan Hines should also feature, as may World Cup winner Percy Montgomery. You’d fancy USAP to win this one.
Leinster v Leicester Tigers 1pm Heineken Cup – Big Jim Hamilton may get a run in this one, but not much Scottish interest, other than giving the bookies some idea of the points differential Edinburgh may face in the later pool stages. Could be a great game though, so watch it anyway.
Edinburgh v Toulouse 3.30pm Heineken Cup – Can Andy Robinson’s black and red army (as the SRU’s marketers like to put it) pull together the victory they have searched for under his control? They get closer to a result with each passing game, but it seems unlikely with such a young back division facing Toulouse’s class and experience. But that may make them fearless, and the best time to play the French is early on at home. Plus they all get to have a pop at Marcus Di Rollo.
Wasps v Munster 5.30pm Heineken Cup – Another potentially mouth-watering clash between two club giants. Wasps have started the premiership a little slowly, but they (almost) always turn up for European matches.
Auch v Bath 7.45pm Challenge Cup
Cardiff Blues v Bristol 1pm Heineken Cup – The strongest team so far in the Magners League, Cardiff will be looking to get a result here and they should manage it at home.
Clermont v Llanelli 1pm Heineken Cup – Scott Macleod may continue his run of fine form in a red shirt, which has till now not really been replicated for Scotland. Bruce Douglas also followed him to this region of Wales, still most likely reeling from the recent death of legend Ray Gravell.
Not on the TV but you might find them on the radio online:
Saracens vs Glasgow (Sunday 3pm, Radio Only) Heineken Cup – Glasgow need to start strong (see above). Fingers crossed!