Glasgow failed to progress and will now take their place alongside Edinburgh in the lower-tier Challenge Cup, while all four Irish provinces will be in the Champions League. Still, first impressions can be misleading. Glasgow failed to qualify when they narrowly lost out to La Rochelle. Connacht qualified because their match with Toulouse was canceled due to Covid in the French camp and consequently they earned a 28-0 win. Connacht have come a long way in the last ten years and are a tough opponent for anyone, especially in Galway, but even their biggest fans wouldn’t give them much of a chance of winning in Toulouse, let alone for that sort of score. Still, good luck to them. Meanwhile Edinburgh, whose results last season meant they had failed to even qualify for the opening stage of the Champions Cup, mutinied against Brive, who, one suspects, due to their struggle to survive in the Top 14, did not has been complete. -Committed from the heart to European competition.
Glasgow, by chance, plays Connacht in the URC league today. Despite the fact that Gregor Townsend has released some players from the Scotland team (as he has also done with Edinburgh playing the Ospreys in Swansea), Glasgow are a little more weakened by international calls than Connacht, especially in the front, where they do not have the two Fagerson brothers. Rory Darge and George Turner, that is, half of what has recently been the first-choice pack.
What we should read in these communications as an indication of the Scottish team that will defend the Calcutta Cup next Saturday is anyone’s guess. Who, for example, will wear the 14 shirt, given that Darcy Graham is playing in Edinburgh today and Kyle Steyn in Glasgow? Does the release of Magnus Bradbury, who will start on the blind flank for Edinburgh, mean that he has perhaps not done enough for his club to have secured No. 8 against England?
Meanwhile, most of the Scotland team’s England-based players have been recalled by their clubs this weekend, as international rules allow. At least one of them may need a match: Camron Redpath, who has played very little rugby this season, Jonny Gray, who is returning from injury, and Rory Sutherland, who is back after a short suspension, for example. By contrast, the deal between the RFU and the English Premiership means there is no requirement for Eddie Jones to make England players available to his clubs. It is doubtful that this will give England any advantage next week, but Gregor and the rest of us will be eagerly watching for any reports of injuries to the likes of Stuart Hogg and Duhan van der Merwe. Of course injuries happen so often in training and in any case the fact that Gregor is not in full control of English or indeed French club players is the price we pay for failures of the SRU in the development and management of the professional game in Scotland over the last quarter century. If you can’t keep your star players the way Ireland can, you have no one to blame but yourselves.
Meanwhile, the 30-member Scotland under-20 Six Nations squad was announced this week, and it makes for interesting reading. Many, as usual, are based south of the border, some at university there, three from Ealing Trailfinders, which makes for a surprise. Fourteen of the squad are survivors of last season, when all games were played in Cardiff due to Covid, twelve played in the semi-professional Super6 last summer, and to some extent their performance will be seen as an opportunity to judge success. of that still controversial tournament. One is Captain Rhys Tait, now also employed by Glasgow. Although his Super6 club was the Boroughmuir Bears, he is a Hawick boy, as are Stuart Hogg, Darcy Graham and Rory Sutherland. Although Hawick no longer dominates the club game in Scotland as it did in the days of the likes of Jim Renwick, Alan Tomes, Colin Deans and Tony Stanger, the city remains a great breeding ground for rugby. Bill McLaren would have been proud to see a Terie captaining Scotland at international and age group level. That’s good news. It’s also good news that the Under-20 internationals, the first one next Friday, will be broadcast on BBC iPlayer.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.