A report up on Scrum.com gives us the skinny that unfortunately Big Nathan will not make it back in time for the France game, as he now requires exploratory surgery on his injured knee. There’s more on the BBC too. This is a big blow for us, more so now that we know how much we missed him against Wales. The pressing question now becomes: is Hadden fool enough to mess about two weeks running? Will he pick a proper lock (Kellock) this time, or at least a back rower with recent experience and form in the position (Taylor)? Either would be more suitable than Jason White who looked short of pace and form. After all, they have both won matches in France this year playing in that position. I’d be tempted to include Cusiter ahead of Blair for the same reason. He looked very sharp, and he’ll know the French players he faces (unlike the rest of us).
A delayed team announcement tomorrow should reveal all. Murray is out till at least the Italy game and everyone else who was a worry seems to have trained in full, but Hadden is waiting on news of head-cases Cross and Webster. Here’s a time saving tip for you Frank: don’t worry about Simon, he’s clearly not going to have “trained well this week” and probably doesn’t know which planet he is on, so there’s no excuse to put him in ahead of Thom Evans. There, that was easy, wasn’t it?
… but at the end of it all, it might be Glasgow left with the bigger smiles. Here’s brief rundown on each match, as taken in (without benefit of sound) at a couple of Inverness’s Setanta-bearing hostelries – plaudits to The Exchange and Fairways for sticking the game on for us.
The first leg (on Boxing Day) was the brighter affair with both teams trying to play rugby but Glasgow inexplicably failing to put anything half decent together. Consequently they found themselves on the end of a hiding in front of a record crowd. Deserved man of the match Hugo Southwell took a great try and his boot was instrumental in most of Edinburgh’s positional play. World Class Phil also stepped up to the plate with a great no-look ball that sent Malkovich Webster in for a well-taken try that put Edinburgh well on the way to their bonus point. Edinburgh played some sparkling rugby at times backed up by a strong defensive display – Cairns and De Luca were quite impressive – while Glasgow were largely MIA. Still quite a lot of handling errors and unforced turnovers, not to mention strange goings on at scrum time that Andy Robinson blamed on the rookie ref.
After first leg:
UP: Hugo Southwell (MoM), Ally Hogg, Phil Godman, Ben Cairns, Simon Webster, Thom Evans, Jim Hamilton, Nick De Luca, Colin Gregor
DOWN: Dan Parks, Graeme Morrison, Max Evans, the ref/the scrum
NO CHANGE: Mike Blair, John Barclay
The second leg at Firhill was a much steelier affair, with a fair amount of niggle in the early period – led mainly by Ally Kellock who seemed to direct most of his ire at Jim Hamilton. Kellock may have been the only man on the park tall enough to even attempt a punch on the big man, not that we condone such things. Godman kicked steadily but didn’t get much ball to work with. Parks had a much better game behind a Glasgow pack that kept an icy grip on ball at the fiercely contested breakdown, though his kicking went off-kilter a little just before he was replaced by Ruaridh Jackson. After that the game became a battle of the second strings. Overall it was more of an even contest in front of another good crowd (who mostly paid this time) but still a lot of spilled balls (and probably as many spilled pints). Again the home side had the defensive edge, with Thom Evans showing that is one area he has worked on. Glasgow turned Edinburgh over a fair bit in the ruck and there were a few poor errors from Southwell and De Luca. I still think De Luca should be swapped from 12 to 13, given Cairns’ slight edge in physicality highlighted by the great last ditch try he took from the 12 position to snatch a late losing bonus point for the visitors. That’s what the Christmas trial is for, isn’t it?
UP: John Barclay (MoM), Scott Newlands, Ben Cairns, Dan Parks (a bit), Phil Godman (well, his kicking game), Thom Evans, Graeme Morrison
DOWN: Nick De Luca, Hugo Southwell
NO CHANGE: Max Evans, Simon Webster, Kelly Brown, Ally Kellock
Best XV Over 2 legs:
Southwell, Robertson, Cairns, Morrison, Evans, Godman, Blair, Hogg, Barclay, Newlands, Hamilton, Gissing, Low, Ford, Jacobsen
Swap Newlands out for exiles big Jason or big Stroker, Robertson for Lamont or Mossy, bring in Hines and you have the makings of a team there…
Happy New Year! Look out for a slight redesign over these pages, coming to you soon.
While I was posting that latest magnum opus, the team was announced for the weekend. Brother for brother swap on the wing, the rest stay as is including the bench. Malkovich Webster and the big Stroker stay in the player pool as cover for a few potential injury cases (Hines, Hamilton, Evans). Sadly no recovery in time for Simon Taylor.
Scotland team to play South Africa: Chris Paterson, Thom Evans, Ben Cairns, Nick De Luca, Rory Lamont, Phil Godman, Mike Blair (capt), Allan Jacobsen, Ross Ford, Euan Murray, Nathan Hines, Jim Hamilton, Jason White, John Barclay, Allister Hogg.
Replacements: Dougie Hall, Alasdair Dickinson, Matt Mustchin, Scott Gray, Rory Lawson, Dan Parks, Hugo Southwell.
Simon Webster are the latest additions to the tour party for Argentina, with the fleet-footed winger being declared fit after a hamstring injury and Edinburgh lock (but New Zealand born) Matt Mustchin added to boost the second row numbers. Mustchin’s inclusion will no doubt raise eyebrows in some quarters – he only just qualifies on residency – but if the Kiwis prefer South Sea Islanders, then why not give us the spare Kiwis, many of whom will be sporting Scottish ancestors more likely than not… Sure, it’s not strictly cricket, but then neither is putting the ball into the scrum squint – and that happens, too.
In other news, George Graham has confirmed he will not be staying with the SRU after being largely scapegoated for the poor Six Nations showing – Alan Tait has since been re-positioned and re-hired for Argentina – and is eyeing up positions with Munster and Newcastle among others. Steve Bates, the former Borders head coach, has been installed “permanently” as Director of Rugby and is looking for a forwards coach (and a defence coach too if Tait should grow weary of his role north of the border), so Graham may indeed opt for the rough and tumble of the Premiership. He has expressed a desire to be Scotland coach one day, so best of luck George.