The Scotland team and the 2 Scottish PRO12 teams, Edinburgh and Glasgow Warriors, were in action this weekend playing warm-up matches.
Scotland faced Italy for the 2nd weekend in a row in the 3rd of their 4 Rugby World Cup warm-up matches. The game was played at Murrayfield in front of what was said to be a record crowd for a summer Test match. The team that ran out must have been close to Vern Cotter’s 1st choice 15 and they did not disappoint running in 6 tries and only conceding 1 in a very impressive performance.
WP Nel put in a solid performance which saw Italy’s scrum in trouble from the word go. The pressure Nel put on Italy’s loosehead prop earned Scotland a few penalties with the loosehead resorting to scrumming in on various occasions.
The next game of the day also took place in Edinburgh where the hosts took on Ulster in a preseason warm-up match, 1 week ahead of the start of the PRO12 for 2015 / 2016. The game was played at Heriot FC’s ground Goldenacre due to the Test match which was played earlier in the day at Murrayfield.
Head coach Alan Solomons would have been pleased to see his team get their 2nd win in their 2nd preseason friendly match against what was a fairly strong starting Ulster line-up.
The final game of the day, which was billed as the ‘Battle of New Scotland’, saw Canada host Glasgow Warriors in Halifax Nova Scotia.
Josh Strauss played the whole game for the Warriors ahead of possible inclusion in the Scotland World Cup squad. Former Glasgow Warriors winger DTH vd Merwe scored a try for Canada late in the game to ensure victory for them. The game was played in quite high temperatures and there were a few water breaks during the game.
Glasgow Warriors have signed winger Junior Bulumakau from the British Army on a 1 year contract.
The 24-year-old, who has been training with the Warriors for the last couple of months, played in the 28 / 10 defeat to Clermont in the pre-season fixture in France last Friday and scored a spectacular try from the halfway line.
Junior was born in Fiji and moved to Scotland at the age of 10 with his parents. He has served as an infantryman with The Royal Scots Borderers, 1st Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland since February 2010, deploying on overseas training exercises to Kenya and Cyprus.
He has played for Heriot’s in the BT Premiership, while in May he scored a try for the British Army and was named man of the match in their 36 / 18 win over the Royal Navy in front of 80 000 supporters at Twickenham.
He becomes the 2nd winger to join the club ahead of the new campaign, along with Taqele Naiyaravoro from the Waratahs, while Scotland 7s wingers Mark Robertson and Nyle Godsmark are training with the squad.
Glasgow Warriors have confirmed their pre-season schedule, which will see the Guinness PRO12 champions travel to play Clermont Auvergne and the Canadian National Team, ahead of the new season kicking off in September.
The Warriors will begin a week-long training camp in France on Saturday 8 August, which will conclude with a game against Top 14 side Clermont Auvergne on Friday 14 August (kick-off 20:00 local time).
The match with the European Rugby Champions Cup runners-up will be played in Issoire, which is located 25 miles south of Clermont-Ferrand on the Couze River and the game will be the showpiece event at the 2015 Auvergne Challenge.
Scottish Rugby has confirmed Glasgow Warriors assistant coach, Shade Munro, will be the new head coach of the Scotland Women’s team.
Munro will move into the role over the summer and is charged with progressing the women’s national side in line with the forthcoming National Strategy for Women & Girls’ Rugby which is being developed by Head of Women & Girls’ Rugby, Sheila Begbie MBE.
The 48-year-old former lock, capped 7 times for Scotland, has worked his way up the coaching ladder since retiring from playing in 1997 and will bring 18 years of coaching experience to the role.
After coaching initially at club level with Glasgow Hawks, Munro moved on to Glasgow Warriors as assistant coach in 2002, was part of the Scotland coaching set-up in 2006 and, as head coach in 2013, helped Scotland A to victory over England for the 1st time south of the border.
Gregor Townsend had the following to say:
If Carlsberg did rugby weekends… well it was very much a Guinness weekend for us and I’m sure our supporters enjoyed some of the sponsor’s product in Belfast and in the many pubs and rugby clubs throughout Scotland after the final whistle last Saturday night.
It was a joy to watch our players perform so well in such an important game and as a coaching group we were immensely proud of their efforts. Even better was the reaction to this performance from our sizeable travelling support. Their constant noise and some new chants made it a great occasion at the Kingspan Stadium – a venue that will now forever have fond memories for Glasgow supporters.
Over the past few weeks I’ve written about the culture of Glasgow Warriors and how this has been the foundation for our success. The on-field development over the past 3 years also tells a story of how the players have improved to become a much stronger team. The following games illustrate this progress.
Finn Russell inspired Glasgow Warriors to their maiden Guinness PRO12 title with a solid kicking display and a 2nd-half try to sink Munster in Belfast.
But there was to be no repeat of last year’s defeat to Leinster, as Glasgow showed their superior cutting edge to clinch a 31 / 13 victory and give retiring captain Al Kellock the perfect send-off.
A blistering 1st half saw Rob Harley, DTH van der Merwe and Henry Pyrgos each cross over for the Warriors, but Andrew Smith’s score just before the break sent Munster in just 11 points off the pace.
That deficit was cut to 8 early in the 2nd half, but Russell flew over on the hour and the Warriors expertly saw out the contest to ensure Munster’s wait for a 4th PRO12 crown goes on for at least another year.
Glasgow were let off when Ian Keatley’s early long-range penalty fell short of the posts but they almost stole a march towards the Munster line soon after, only for a heroic tap-tackle from stand-in captain Denis Hurley to halt van der Merwe’s charge.
Glasgow Warriors left it late but eventually overcame a huge challenge from Ulster to clinch a PRO12 Grand Final place.
The Irish province had much the better of the opening exchanges and took control midway through the opening period with Chris Henry’s try.
But Glasgow came out fired up for the 2nd half and kept themselves in touch before DTH van der Merwe levelled the scores on his final Scotstoun appearance 5 minutes from time.
The score sent the 10 000 sell-out crowd into ecstasy but there was still work to be done as Finn Russell lined up the decisive conversion.
In the early minutes of the 2nd half at Scotstoun there was a lineout on the main stand side of the pitch, a routine set-piece that wouldn’t have mattered a damn except for the light it shone on Glasgow’s mindset at the time.
Ulster were in position 1st. Organised and buzzing and in the lead by 10 / 6. Glasgow trooped into line sluggishly.
Glasgow’s Jonny Gray stopped en route to take some instruction from the sideline and then assumed his place, slowly. Their mission to bank a home PRO12 semi-final was always going to be mountainous, but now, in these bleak moments, it had taken on the look of Everest.
Al Kellock returns to the Glasgow Warriors side for today’s massive Guinness PRO12 match with Ulster at a sold-out Scotstoun Stadium (kick-off 15:00 BST, 16:00 SA Time).
The Warriors captain, who replaces the injured Tim Swinson in the 2nd-row, could be making his final appearance at Scotstoun, following the announcement that he is to retire from rugby at the end of the season.
2nd-placed Glasgow can still secure a home play-off, but Ulster are also playing for home advantage next weekend.
With an increased capacity of around 10 000 it will be the club’s biggest home crowd for a regular season game and tickets for this match sold out in record time.
Scotland’s most-capped prop Euan Murray announced his retirement from international rugby yesterday.
The 34-year-old brings down the curtain on an international career that began against Romania ten years ago, included the 2009 British & Irish Lions tour of South Africa and the 2008 Calcutta Cup victory over England, and ended with his record-breaking outing against Ireland in the final game of the 2015 RBS 6 Nations.
Glasgow Warriors have signed Australian centre Sam Johnson from the Reds and USA international lock Greg Peterson from Leicester Tigers, with the duo set to be at Scotstoun until at least May 2017.
Both players have signed 2-year contracts with the Guiness PRO12 side, subject to visas and medicals.
21-year-old Johnson 1st played schoolboy rugby for Australia ‘A’ after winning the Associated Independent Colleges competition with St Edmund’s College in 2011.
He played Rugby League for the Gold Coast Titans Under 20’s after school, before returning to Rugby Union at the end of 2013, when he joined the Reds wider training squad and returned to his former club GPS.
Glasgow Warriors have won the Ladies Cup for the 2nd year in a row after battling back from behind against fellow guest side, Germany in the final to lift the coveted trophy.
After beating Dundee, Gala and Jed Forest en route to the final, the side coached by Kenny Murray were behind 21 / 12 against the Germans but showed grit and determination to run out 36 / 21 winners!
The Warriors kick-started their Melrose 7’s defence with a 2nd round tie against Dundee who beat Stirling County earlier in the day.
Top guest teams North West University (RSA), Germany, Glasgow Warriors and Wasps will join 20 Scottish club sides to contest the Aberdeen Asset Management Melrose Sevens on Saturday.
Warriors, who last year featured Borders duo Scott Wight and Lee Jones, return to defend their title and, following the success of last summer’s Commonwealth Games tournament, organisers have hinted that an influx of new generation sevens players and supporters could be heading to the Borders this weekend.
Melrose Sevens convener Ian Cooper says he is delighted with the calibre of the sides his committee has been able to attract this year.
Glasgow Warriors captain Al Kellock will retire from rugby at the end of the season.
Kellock, who has been the Warriors captain for the past nine seasons, has played 154 games for the club and captained the team for the 150th time in the 34-34 draw with Leinster in Dublin on Friday.
The 33-year-old has led the club to the PRO12 Play-Offs four times since they were introduced in the 2009/10 campaign and last year skippered the team to the PRO12 Final for the first time.
At the end of the season Kellock will take up an ambassadorial role with Scottish Rugby, as well as helping to continue the development of Glasgow Warriors. The main focus of his role will be engaging with the rugby and business communities and learning more about the commercial aspect of sport, enabling him to stay connected with the Warriors.
Glasgow Warriors have today revealed plans for a revolutionary new temporary stadium cover for their Scotstoun Stadium home in the west end of the city.
The club have been working closely with Scottish architecture firm Kettle Collective, to develop the radical new system and it will be in place from the start of next season.
The design was inspired by fishing nets, similar to the Yas Island Hotel at the Abu Dhabi Formula 1 resort.
The stadium roof will be the first of its kind in the world and is an organic form that will enclose the stadium from the elements.
The Warriors moved to Scotstoun in 2012 having previously played at Hughenden and Firhill and with crowds exceeding 6,000 a decision has been made to put a roof over the existing stadium for all home matches from next season.
The Warriors have announced that hooker Dougie Hall will retire from rugby at the end of the season, while prop Jon Welsh and assistant coach Shade Munro will also leave the club.
Shade has been part of the coaching staff at the Warriors since 2003 and will leave his role this summer when his contract expires.
Dougie arrived from Edinburgh in 2007 and has gone on to make 141 appearances for the PRO12 side over an 8-year spell. In the summer he will join one of the club’s sponsors, McCrea Financial Services.
Jon, who joined Glasgow in 2008 and has gone on to make 106 appearances, will join Newcastle Falcons for next season.
Round 15 of the Guinness PRO12 started on Friday night and concluded on Sunday with the position at the top the same as when the Round started, with Glasgow Warriors still looking down on the other 11 from the pinnacle of the table. However, they have increased their lead and are now 4 points ahead of 2nd placed Ulster.
There could have been no greater difference in emotions experienced after the matches than that between Newport Dragons captain Rynard ‘Ligtoring’ Landman and Munster’s flyer JJ Hanrahan. Landman would have been feeling low and filled with nervous anticipation following his Red Card for elbowing Connacht’s flyhalf Jack Carty early in their match. JJ Hanrahan on the other hand would have been feeling on top of the world following his very late try which earned Munster a draw against Llanelli Scarlets.
Scottish Rugby has suspended Ryan Wilson for three months without pay following his conviction for assault.
It was also decided that the 25-year-old Glasgow Warriors loose forward will not be considered for Scotland selection until late August, meaning he misses the Six Nations.
Last week, Wilson, capped nine times, was found guilty of assaulting a fellow rugby player on a night out.
Wilson, who has been with Glasgow since 2010, has the right to appeal.
Glasgow Warriors forward Ryan Wilson has been suspended by the Scottish Rugby Union after being fined at Glasgow Sheriff Court on Tuesday for assaulting two men, including Ally Maclay of Glasgow Hawks, in a takeaway shop in the west end of the city in October 2013.
His co-accused Warriors team-mates, Ryan Grant and Rory Hughes, were cleared.
Jake White’s Montpellier bounced back from their comprehensive loss away from home to Glasgow Warriors last week by beating fellow French team Toulouse in their final European Rugby Champions Pool 4 match on Sunday. Montpellier won a closely contested match by the narrowest of margins with a final score of 27 / 26 in their favour.
This victory for Montpellier meant that Saracens qualified for the last eight of the Cup in spite of losing their last Pool 1 match against pool winners Clermont Auvergne. The score in that match Clermont Auvergne 18 / 6 Saracens.
The 5 pool winners along with the 3 best second placed team advanced and Saracens made it through as the last qualifying with the lowest amount of points from their 6 matches (17). Had Toulouse won they would have qualified as Pool 4 winners along with Bath who won their Pool 4 match against Glasgow Warriors. Toulouse also ended the pool stage on 17 points but Saracens got through via a superior points difference, +14 versus Toulouse’s +2.
Scotland international Sean Maitland will join London Irish next season.
Maitland, who signed for the Warriors in October 2012, has made 38 appearances for the club and has scored 11 tries during his spell in Glasgow.
The 26-year-old winger has 15 caps and 2 tries for Scotland.
Glasgow Warriors head coach Gregor Townsend said: “Sean has played a big role at the club over the last 3 years and we wish him all the best when he leaves at the end of the season.
“There is still a lot of rugby to be played between now and then and I’m sure he’ll want to leave the club on a high in the summer.”
Glasgow Warriors head to Bath this Sunday with a number of outcomes still possible in Pool 4 of the European Rugby Champions Cup with quarter-final places at stake.
The Warriors will be looking to qualify for the knockout stages of the tournament for the first time in their history.
Toulouse are currently top of the pool with 16 points while Bath are second with 15 and the Warriors have 14. Montpellier are out of the running for a quarter-final spot with three points.
Hugh Blake has become the latest player to join the Kilted Kiwi brigade, joining his fellow countrymen Blair Cowan and Sean Maitland in the Scotland squad. It came as a big surprise to see Blake’s name on the team sheet as the Junior All Black and Highlander, now getting his first call up to a Scotland squad, only joined Edinburgh in December last year.
He played in an ‘A’ team fixture for Edinburgh against Glasgow Warriors on 22 December and had to leave the field injured, suffering from concussion following a knock to his head which knocked him out for a bit. Flanker Blake (1.87m and 102kg) has yet to appear for the senior Edinburgh team and what makes his inclusion even more baffling is that he was introduced as being recruited for a trial period on his arrival in Edinburgh.
Jerry Yanuyanutawa says the Warriors will face a highly motivated Montpellier team in Sunday’s European Rugby Champions Cup match at Scotstoun.
The French side have lost all four of their Cup matches so far, but those defeats were sustained while Fabien Galthie was in charge. Galthie was replaced by Jake White at the end of last month, and the South African put down his marker by guiding them to a 16-12 victory over European champions Toulon in his very first game.
Jerry’s knowledge of the coach is based on their season together with the ACT Brumbies in Australia and he is convinced that White is a formidable and inspirational character.
Duncan Weir has been ruled out of this year’s Six Nations tournament with the 23-year-old set to undergo surgery on his arm.
The Glasgow Warriors flyhalf, who gave Scotland a last-gasp victory over Italy in last year’s competition, took a knock on his arm during the 1872 Cup clash with Edinburgh at Scotstoun last month, with subsequent examination showing that he had severely damaged his bicep.
Warriors head coach Gregor Townsend said that the injury suggested that Weir would be out of international action for the next three months.
Townsend added: “I would like to think it won’t be the end of his season, but I think it rules out the Six Nations.
“With a bicep injury you are talking months rather than weeks.”
The festive season continues with derby matches in Round 12 of the Guinness PRO12. Some of the matches are the return leg of derbies played around the Boxing Day period. The attention in Scotland will be focussed on BT Murrayfield on Friday night where Edinburgh will host their rivals from the west, Glasgow Warriors, in a PRO12 fixture that doubles up as the second leg of the 1872 Cup.
Glasgow Warriors go into the game with a 10-point advantage following their win over Edinburgh on Boxing Day and will be looking to retain what is said to be the oldest cup in club rugby, yet again. There was only 1 try scored in the first leg of the 1872 Cup last week and with blustery conditions likely for Friday night the game may be a low scoring battle of attrition that could go the way of the team that makes the least errors.
Considering the relative positions of the 2 teams on the PRO12 table and the fact that Glasgow go into the game with that 10- point cushion one should expect at the very least that they maintain their grip on the 1872 Cup.
Round 11 of the Guinness PRO12 kicked off on Friday night and ended with the final fixture on Sunday, with big derby matches being played between the teams from all four countries who have teams in the competition. South African players made a big impact during the Round, earning Player Of The Match accolades in 3 out of the 6 fixtures.
Rynard ‘Ligtoring’ Landman started it off with a Man Of The Match performance for Newport Gwent Dragons against Cardiff Blues at Cardiff Arms Park on Friday afternoon. CJ Stander added a Man Of The Match accolade in a comfortably victorious Munster effort against Leinster, while Rob Herring completed the trio of South African Man Of The Match performances on Friday for Ulster who scraped home against Connacht. Josh Strauss was pipped to the award by skipper Alastair Kellock for Glasgow Warriors against Edinburgh, but Strauss put in a fine performance for the Scotstoun-based outfit outshining his opposite number David Denton and scored the only try of the match, late in the first half.
Head coach Marius Goosen’s Benetton Treviso picked up their first win of the season in the competition in their Italian derby match away to Zebre.
The rugby year has not pegged out just yet but, even before the first of the thunderous 1872 Cup clashes between Glasgow and Edinburgh, the sport seems to have lapsed into reflective mode.
So, too, your correspondent, croaking towards 2014’s finishing line in a clapped-out but generally contented frame of mind. So when the stockings have been hung, I shall allow myself a few moments of rheumy-eyed and entirely random reflection on what made this twelve-month memorable .
Richie Vernon will start at outside centre for Glasgow Warriors, when they host French Top 14 side Toulouse at Scotstoun Stadium tomorrow lunchtime (kick-off 13:00 BST, 15:00 SA Time).
Vernon impressed from the bench in the narrow 19-11 defeat at the Stade Ernest Wallon on Sunday and replaces Peter Horne for the European Rugby Champions Cup encounter, with Alex Dunbar moving to inside centre.
There are two other personnel changes with Tim Swinson coming in for Leone Nakarawa in the second-row and Ryan Wilson replacing the injured Chris Fusaro in the backrow. Wilson starts on the blindside, with Rob Harley moving to openside.
Glasgow Warriors have received a major boost ahead of Sunday’s European Rugby Champions Cup match against Toulouse, with the news that Josh Strauss and Leone Nakarawa have signed new deals with the club.
Both players have signed two-year contracts, keeping them at Scotstoun until at least May 2017 and have committed their futures to the club just a week after Stuart Hogg and Lee Jones penned deals for the same length of time.
South African-born Strauss arrived in Glasgow in September 2012 and the 28-year-old has made 56 appearances for the Guinness PRO12 side. He has scored six tries and has captained the team.
The powerful No 8 has featured regularly for the Warriors and will become eligible to play for Scotland in September 2015.
Edinburgh head coach Alan Solomons believes that his squad has got through the worst of an injury crisis which threatened to engulf the team just a few short weeks ago.
Edinburgh flew to Milan yesterday then took a 75-mile bus ride to Parma, ahead of facing Guinness Pro12 strugglers Zebre at the Stadio XXV Aprile tomorrow afternoon.
It may have been an arduous trip but Solomons was in good fettle – despite Edinburgh still being without several leading players, including Grant Gilchrist (broken arm), Hamish Watson (knee) and Cornell du Preez, who is set to miss the rest of the season with a leg injury.
Solomons said that the Autumn Tests came at just the right time for other leading players to recover and he is excited about his team’s chances of climbing into the top six of the Pro 12 table, which would qualify them for the Champions Cup next season.
Edinburgh returned to action in fine style last Sunday when they defeated Cardiff Blues at home, and they will fancy their chances against a Zebre side which was hammered 43-3 by Connacht on Friday night.
The Warriors have confirmed that Mark Bennett will be out for in the region of 12 weeks with a hamstring injury.
The centre, who was injured during Scotland’s defeat to New Zealand on Saturday, was assessed at Ross Hall Hospital in Glasgow.
He does not require surgery and will now undergo a period of rehabiitation.
Prior to the test match between Scotland and the New Zealand All Blacks we featured a piece which suggested that we would like to see wholesale changes to Scotland’s team to face Tonga this coming Saturday. In short the reasoning was that in picking a team with as many players who ply their trade outside Scotland as the two professional teams under Scottish Rugby Union’s control would be aided in their PRO12 efforts, with Glasgow Warriors being the main benefactor. Remember Glasgow Warriors play against Welsh team Llanelli Scarlets in the Guinness PRO12 on Friday night while Edinburgh host Cardiff Blues on Sunday.
There would also be the benefit of head coach Vern Cotter and his coaching team being able to work a bit more with exiles and assess their abilities in the heat of battle in the Test match, bearing in mind that the last Test match of Scotland’s summer tour (June Internationals) was played outside the international window, so he didn’t have the chance to play any of the non Scotland based players then.
Glasgow Warriors’ stand-off Finn Russell and hooker Fergus Scott have been officially named to head coach Calum Forrester’s coaching team at Glasgow University Rugby Football Club.
Former Glasgow Warriors’ flanker Calum, who took the reigns at the club last year, believes the young duo can be crucial in helping his team become Scotland’s premier student rugby team.
The 27-year-old Scotland sevens’ cap said: “To be able to learn from two professionals of their calibre is a dream come true for our students. They will bring added professionalism and specialist coaching to sessions.
“For a young half-back to learn from Finn, or a developing front-row to be given advice from Fergus, that is priceless for a teenager.
“This coaching and expertise is what sets the University apart. One on one coaching is crucial for our players and the coaching assistance from Glasgow Hawks has already been of huge benefit.
“The added input of Finn and Fergus, two young players who the boys will relate to, will help create a unique and enviable coaching environment. It will also help them as they develop as coaches and get an early start on their post rugby career.”
Having been involved in the professional game for the best part of 20 years now, I fully appreciate the hard work that goes in on a daily basis for players to perform and the challenges they face mentally and physically throughout the season.
Since becoming a coach, I also know the hours, which all those that support the players put in behind the scenes, whether they are coaches, medics or performance staff. However, I reckon that the toughest job in professional rugby might not be that of the players or management, but that of our referees.
The game’s officials often perform a thankless task and don’t get the chance to share a victory with others like we do. And, in the context of our fast-moving collision-based sport, which has a number of intricate laws, it is very difficult to get everything right.
Coaches and players make many mistakes during 80 minutes of rugby, so it is understandable that referees will also make errors. A lot of these errors are frequently viewed as great decisions by the opposing team, which makes things even more difficult for the man in the middle to get things right.