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Wednesday, 23 February 2011

All change

The Scotland team to play Ireland on Sunday looks a lot different. With no Euan Murray, Moray Low starts at tighthead. Richie Gray replaces Nathan Hines at lock, while with Vernon replaced by Johnnie Beattie, the Killer Bs are back in town. The halfbacks are replaced as a unit by Mike Blair and Ruaridh Jackson, who is getting his first start for Scotland. Walker and Evans stay on the wings, while De Luca moves out to 13 and Sean Lamont slips into the 12 slot. The old warhorse Paterson, getting his 102nd cap. On the bench, Cross and Danielli are involved in the 22 for the first time this season. Hines, Vernon, Lawson and Parks appear to be carrying the can for the poor performance against Wales, all having to warm the bench.

On the face of it, this doesn't look a strong team, and they do need to be strong, because Ireland are not a bad side this year. However, there is no doubt that there are game breakers in this side. If Johnnie Beattie can recreate something like his best form, he can be awesome. Gray, so long castigated as a disciplinary liability, had a scorcher of a game against France, with some arguing that he should have been Man of the Match. Moray Low is likely to be rock solid, Jacobsen equally so. Of the forwards left from the Wales game, both Ford and Kellock will feel they have something to prove and both are capable of doing just that.

Mike Blair has bags of experience, but hasn't recently reached the giddy heights of a couple of season ago. Jackson is probably the unknown quantity. He's certainly got talent. Let's hope it surfaces on Sunday. Max Evans would probably be the first to admit that he hasn't sparkled so far, but he still has the ability to make surprising things happen. Lamont has been the standout among the backs so far, especially surprising since he's started twice from the bench. In the aftermath of the Wales match, he was particularly scathing of his team mates, which prompts me to think he's not likely to be short of motivation for the game. De Luca is my worry. He really hasn't looked sharp so far, in fact he's looked pretty ordinary. At the back, Paterson will more than likely give a solid performance and has an accurate kicking game, so there are probably not too many worries on that score.

As for the bench, one would hope that being moved to the touchline is all the motivation the dropped players will need. Lawson and Parks will be champing at the bit. Blair and Jackson will be only too aware of that. That won't hurt.  I'm looking forward to this game, but then I always do. I am never disappointed in advance. That won't change, but I really need a win. I hope the team feel my pain.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Cosy feelings

I did a good deed yesterday. The details don't matter, but I did it because it was the right thing to do. Try it. It makes you feel good.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Nothing new, but still hard to swallow.

I've just watched a video shot during a 'friendly' fixture between Lanark RFC and Paisley RFC. In the short sequence posted to Facebook, Ted, the Paisley scrum half, makes a tackle on a Lanark player at a ruck, lands on the ground on his side, and the Lanark No. 8, apparently named Derek, takes a good look at Ted and stamps on his face. One of the Paisley players understandably takes exception and throws a couple of punches at this thug. As a short melee ensues, another Lanark player, apparently unaware of what the idiot has done, gets involved and ends up being sent off while the brave Derek effects the attitude of the victim in all this.

I know it's unlikely that any action will be taken against this animal and that is galling. Hopefully his club will see him off the premises, but any real action, by the SRU I mean, seems unlikely, given that the footage is probably inadmissible in any disciplinary proceedings. Of course, I might be wrong about that. The point I'm really trying to make is that it's a rough game and none of us who have played are entirely innocent of any wrongdoing, but there are unwritten limits, and the line was clearly crossed during this incident. I don't doubt that Derek can do something like this and still sleep at night. His kind invariably do. However, hopefully the video will reach places he's likely to visit if his career in our great game continues, giving prospective opponents a taster of what he's like. Here's a link to the video.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Egyptian democracy

It's fast becoming a cliché to compare the events in Egypt to the collapse of the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union. The comparisons are there to be made, though. It has definitely been a people's revolution. I've been fascinated and heartened by the way the people steadfastly refused to leave the streets, facing down the authorities. As so often happens in a police state, the police were used as the thugs doing the government's dirty work while the professionals of the armed services stood back and refused to take sides.

Now, the appalling little dictator is gone, as usual leaving the West looking like the bad guy for having propped up his regime for all those years. Let's hope that the people of Egypt get what they want and what they deserve, the kind of freedoms the rest of us tend to take for granted, the kind our own governments don't always support.

Friday, 4 February 2011

Potato, potahto?

Jonathan Davies calls them linesmen. Brian Moore calls them assistant referees. They're not line judges, umpires, back judges, swimming judges or Craig Revel Horwoods. Is it so hard to remember 'touch judge'? It's especially galling when you think both Whiner and Pitbull were professional rugby players.

On a related note, Pitbull pointed out tonight that the referee Alain Rolland penalised the welsh loosehead for not 'taking the hit'. Quite rightly Brian stated that there is  no law requiring any front row forward to 'take a hit'. Now, I'm all for accepting that the ref is the sole arbiter of law and fact, but it's hard to swallow when they make the laws up. It's a bit like a judge (you know, the legal kind, the ones who wear stockings and suspenders at the weekend) finding someone guilty of failing to but a budgie licence. You want to respect him, but what the Hell is he on about?

Now off to bed to dream of that first leg on the way to a Grand Slam...

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Living here

Look, I know it's pouring with rain, the wind's blowing harder than George Galloway on speed, the economy's sort of knackered, the tabloid press are in danger of having every one of us checking under our doormat every morning for paedophiles and terrorists and half the world seems to be losing its grip on reality while the other half whines about it. Pause for a moment though. Is it really such a bad world? Whenever crises hit, isn't it heartening that heroes emerge around every corner? For every person you come across who peeves you, if you really think about it, you can think of someone who amazes you. Try it.

You think I'm being naive or optimistic, don't you? I disagree. I can substantiate my claims. Scotland are just about to win their first Six Nations Grand Slam. How's that for proof of just how good life is?