Robinson picks Gray for All Blacks test

Richie Gray
(Credit: Scottish Rugby Union)

Published EN4 News on 8/11/2012

Richie Gray is declared fit for Scotland duty while scrum half Harry Pyrgos could win his first cap at the weekend.

Scotland head coach Andy Robinson has brushed aside injury concerns surrounding giant second row Richie Gray ahead of Sunday’s clash with New Zealand at Murrayfield.

Gray and fellow lock Jim Hamilton were both doubtful before the team was announced but Robinson insists that both will be ready to play the worlds champions. He said: “I’m not going to put anyone there who cannot be at 100% in terms of their physicality and their attitude.”

Behind the scrum Edinburgh scrum half starts at stand off after missing Edinburgh’s last two games. Robinson dismissed suggestions that Laidlaw may be under-prepared for such a daunting game. He said: “Greig has been doing the contact work but I didn’t want him to play [for Edinburgh} last Friday as I felt the work we were doing as a team and the intensity that we had in training and the pressure he would be under would be ideal preparation.”

Glasgow prop Ryan Grant and Edinburgh’s Dutch born winger Tim Visser will both be making their first appearance for Scotland at Murrayfield. Meanwhile Grant’s club team-mate Henry Pyrgos is the only uncapped player in the match-day squad.

Explaining the scrum-half’s selection on the bench ahead of the vastly experienced Rory Lawson, Robinson claimed the move was done with one eye on the future. He said: “We have three scrum-halves who are 30 and above so it is about seeing young nine coming through and that is why Henry got the nod ahead of Rory.”

Kelly Brown will captain Scotland for the first time in the match on what will be his 50th cap. The Saracens number eight will be looking to do what no Scotland skipper has done in the past – lead his side to a victory over New Zealand.

Listen to Andy Robinson on his pack selection

Scotland team to play New Zealand in the EMC Test at Murrayfield on Sunday 11 November, kick-off 2.30pm

15 Stuart Hogg (Glasgow Warriors) 7 caps, 1 try, 5 points

14 Sean Lamont (Glasgow Warriors) 68 caps, 8 tries, 40 points
13 Nick De Luca (Edinburgh Rugby) 35 caps, 1 try, 5 points
12 Matt Scott (Edinburgh Rugby) 4 caps
11 Tim Visser (Edinburgh Rugby) 2 caps, 2 tries, 10 points

10 Greig Laidlaw (Edinburgh Rugby) 10 caps, 2 tries, 8 conversions, 15 penalties, 71 points
9 Mike Blair (Brive) 83 caps, 7 tries, 35 points

1 Ryan Grant (Glasgow Warriors) 3 caps
2 Ross Ford (Edinburgh Rugby) 61 caps, 2 tries, 10 points
3 Geoff Cross (Edinburgh Rugby) 14 caps
4 Richie Gray (Sale Sharks) 24 caps, 1 try, 5 points
5 Jim Hamilton (Gloucester) 39 caps, 1 try, 5 points
6 Alasdair Strokosch (Perpignan) 28 caps, 1 try, 5 points
7 Ross Rennie (Edinburgh Rugby) 19 caps
8 Kelly Brown (Saracens) CAPTAIN 49 caps, 4 tries, 20 points


16 Scott Lawson (London Irish) 34 caps, 2 tries, 10 points
17 Allan Jacobsen (Edinburgh Rugby) 64 caps
18 Kyle Traynor (Bristol Rugby) 3 caps
19 Alastair Kellock (Glasgow Warriors) 44 caps, 1 try, 5 points
20 David Denton (Edinburgh Rugby) 6 caps
21 Henry Pyrgos (Glasgow Warriors) uncapped
22 Ruaridh Jackson (Glasgow Warriors) 13 caps, 2 conversions, 2 penalties, 2 drop-goals, 16 points
23 Max Evans (Castres) 30 caps, 3 tries, 15 points


Independent Scotland will gain automatic entry to Europe, says top EC expert

Graham Avery

An independent Scotland will continue to be a member of the European Union (EU) and will not have to re-apply according to Graham Avery, Honorary Director-General of the European Commission and Senior Adviser at the European Policy Centre in Brussels.

Mr Avery, one of the UK’s most experienced academic authorities on European affairs, has provided written evidence to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee at Westminster. In it he states: “Scotland’s five million people, having been members of the EU for 40 years, have acquired rights as European citizens.

“For practical and political reasons they could not be asked to leave the EU and apply for readmission.”

The report goes on to cite other EU states as parallels saying: “The point can be illustrated by considering another example: if a break-up of Belgium were agreed between Wallonia and Flanders, it is inconceivable that other EU members would require 11 million people to leave the EU and then reapply for membership.”

Avery’s submission claims that precedents have been set regarding changing entry criteria in special circumstances saying: “As in the case of German reunification, the EU would adopt a simplified procedure under which the Commission would be asked to conduct exploratory talks with Edinburgh, London and other capitals, and submit proposals. Although an intergovernmental conference would be needed, it would not be of the kind that handles accession negotiations with non-member countries.”

The findings were welcomed by Blair Jenkins, chief executive of Yes Scotland who said: “This is an extremely significant and important contribution from an eminent and vastly-experienced European policy adviser.

‘People in Scotland should be reassured that an independent Scotland will remain a member of the European Union.”

Political Wrangle

The report follows calls from Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie for first minister Alex Salmond to clarify an independent Scotland’s EU membership. He said “The SNP have been guessing that Scotland would continue in the European Union on the same terms. But Scotland deserves facts, not more guesswork.

“If the SNP is wrong the consequences could be severe – including being forced to join the Euro, accept Schengen and lose the rebate.”

Rennie went on to highlight the possibility that Spain may seek to block Scotland’s membership. He added: “If the Spanish veto an independent Scotland’s smooth transition to the EU in 2015 it will be too late for Scotland to turn back. We simply can’t wait until 2015 for a Spanish veto; we need to know before the referendum.”

The Liberal Democrat leader’s statement had been preceded by a stormy First Minister’s Questions where Rennie backed Labour leader Johann Lamont’s proposal for an independent judicial review into whether Salmond had lied over taking legal advice on an independent Scotland joining the European Union.

However, former Labour first minister Henry Mcleish poured scorn on such a review claiming that the Labour leader had her priorities wrong. He said: “I think our energy, our focus could be used in better ways because at the end of the day this is unlikely to happen. There are far more important areas where Labour could win many converts and score political goals.”

Speaking on STV’s Scotland Tonight programme Mcleish also claimed that while Salmond had mishandled the affair he did not think that the first minister had lied. He said: “I don’t think he’s misled. But he hasn’t handled the situation well.”

Original here

Robinson names seven rookies in Scotland squad

The seven new faces named by Andy Robinson (Credit: Scottish Rugby Union)

Scotland coach Andy Robinson named seven uncapped players in his 34 man squad quad for training at St Andrews next week in preparation for the first EMC Test against New Zealand at Murrayfield next month.

Edinburgh pair Stuart McInally and Grant Gilchrist join Glasgows’ Alex Dunbar, Peter Horne, Peter Murchie, Tommy Seymour and Henry Pyrgos as the untested players named.

The addition of five uncapped players from Glasgow can be seen as a reward for their strong start to the season.

Scotland won all three tests on their summer tour against Australia, Fiji and Samoa and Robinson is keen to get the players back in the groove to build on this success. He said: “It’s some four months since Scotland last played an international so when the squad reconvenes there’ll be an element of renewing acquaintances and reigniting the spark and spirit that was such a key part of our success on our summer tour.”

However, Robinson is only too aware of the monumental challenge presented by the all conquering All Blacks, a side Scotland have never defeated. He said: “New Zealand are formidable opponents. They do the basics exceptionally well and play with a pace and ruthlessness. It’s no co-incidence that they are the best team in the world.

We must look to build on the physical commitment of our players against Australia, Fiji and Samoa. As ever the Scotland supporters are right behind us and with more than 55,000 tickets sold already for our game against New Zealand, the players are determined to give their all.”

The coach delayed naming a captain until next week with last seasons skipper Ross Ford and Saracens Kelly Brown, who returns to the squad after injury, the frontrunners for the armband.

Scotland squad (sponsor RBS) for training camp at St Andrews 29-31 October in preparation for the EMC Test against New Zealand at Murrayfield on Sunday 11 November (kick-off 2.30pm)

Backs: Mike Blair (Brive), Nick De Luca (Edinburgh Rugby), Alex Dunbar (Glasgow Warriors), Max Evans (Castres), Stuart Hogg, Peter Horne and Ruaridh Jackson (all Glasgow Warriors), Lee Jones, Greig Laidlaw (both Edinburgh Rugby), Sean Lamont (Glasgow Warriors), Rory Lawson (Newcastle Falcons), Peter Murchie, Henry Pyrgos (both Glasgow Warriors), Matt Scott (Edinburgh Rugby), Tommy Seymour (Glasgow Warriors) and Tim Visser (Edinburgh Rugby)

Forwards: John Barclay (Glasgow Warriors), Kelly Brown (Saracens), Geoff Cross, David Denton, Ross Ford and Grant Gilchrist (all Edinburgh Rugby), Ryan Grant (Glasgow Warriors), Richie Gray (Sale Sharks), Dougie Hall (Glasgow Warriors), Jim Hamilton (Gloucester), Allan Jacobsen (Edinburgh Rugby), Alastair Kellock (Glasgow Warriors), Scott Lawson (London Irish), Stuart McInally and Ross Rennie (both Edinburgh Rugby), Tom Ryder (Glasgow Warriors), Alasdair Strokosch (Perpignan) and Kyle Traynor (Bristol Rugby).

Original here

Scottish independence: Yes Scotland launch top team

Yes Scotland, the principle campaign group for a yes vote at the independence referendum, has announced five new executive directors.

The organisation’s chief executive Blair Jenkins OBE revealed that Jacqueline Caldwell, Susan Stewart, Shirley-Anne Somerville, Stan Blackley and Ian Dommett would make up the team.

Jacqueline Caldwell was previously a business manager for the RBS group and she becomes the director of operations. Of her new role she said: “’I am delighted to have the opportunity to contribute to this historic campaign and to play my part in helping to shape the future of Scotland.”

New director of communications, Susan Stewart, is a former senior diplomat who has been director of corporate communications at Glasgow University for the last seven years.

Shirley-Anne Somerville was a SNP MSP in the Lothians for four years until she lost her seat at the 2011 Holyrood elections. Since then she has been working as a strategist for the party and she will be the director of communities. Stan Blackley, ex-chief executive of Friends of the Earth Scotland, will be Ms Somervile’s deputy.

The director of marketing will be Ian Dommett who has a background in the area including playing a key role in devising and delivering the marketing strategy that helped return the SNP government to Holyrood with an overall majority last year.

Mr Jenkins insisted that the five new appointments provided Yes Scotland with the strongest possible team. He said: “I said when I took on this role that I wanted a team of the highest calibre to match such an important and historic event in Scotland’s future direction. I can say with certainty that with these appointments this goal has been achieved.

“I am thrilled and delighted to welcome aboard Jacqui, Susan, Shirley-Anne, Ian and Stan, marking another major step in building the country’s largest ever community-based campaign.

“Each one of them has a proven track record in his or her field of expertise and I am confident that with their input and commitment we can deliver a Yes vote in 2014.”

The announcement comes as the group prepares to participate in the first national march and rally for independence on 22 September. The independently organised event aims to give a platform to voices from across the political and social spectrum that back a yes vote in the independence referendum. Organisers plan to hold similar events in September 2013 and 2014 in the run up to the vote.

The inaugural event which will take place in Edinburgh will feature speakers such as first minister Alex Salmond, Green party leader Patrick Harvie MSP and a host of current and former MSP’s including Margo MacDonald, Dennis Canavan and Colin Fox.

Co-organiser Jeff Duncan was keen to stress that the rally will be a non-partisan affair. He said: “The event will bring together people from all political parties including the SNP, Greens, SSP, Labour and even some Liberal and Conservative voters whose views are not catered for within those parties.”

The rally and march follows a recent campaign weekend by the Better Together group, which is campaigning for a no vote, which held a number of smaller events in towns and cities throughout Scotland.

Original article here –

Scotland face wooden spoon decider

Andy Robinson - Copyright SRU

Scotland head coach Andy Robinson has called on his side to tighten up defensively if they are to avoid a seventh successive defeat in Rome on Saturday.

After seeing the Scots concede 32 points against Ireland last weekend Robinson said: “What we have to improve is that ruthless edge within our own third. We have conceded soft scores and that is why we are in the position we are in. And if we concede soft scores this weekend we will be in a similar position. If we defend and are able to keep that concentration for 80 minutes and attack as we have been developing then we will win the game.”

Many were surprised that Robinson chose to only make one change to the starting line up with a fit again Nick De Luca coming in at outside centre with Max Evans moving to the wing to replace Lee Jones. Robinson defended his selection saying: “They are in because of the improvements shown in the first three games. This is where we are and this is the best team I feel we have to go out and win the game.”

Ross Ford - copyright SRU

Earlier captain Ross Ford had expressed his frustration and anger over last Saturday’s performance saying that he was “raging” after the match. Ford went on to say: “It was the worst I have felt after a game for a long time as I thought we were past that (level of performance).” Hear more of Ford’s press conference below.

Ross Ford Press Conference

One player who is itching for Saturday to arrive is De Luca. After suffering much criticism over his performance and yellow card against Wales he had played his way back into the starting line up for last weekend with an eye-catching display as a substitute against France. A hamstring injury robbed him of that opportunity but he is raring to go against the French saying: “When you are playing well you want to carry on and you are in a good head space but I think I still am and I am looking forward to this weekend.”

Go to our facebook page to hear an interview with Scotland prop Geoff Cross from this weeks press conference.

Original here

Copyright SRU

Scotland on the up?

Dan Parks kicking Scotland to victory.

By Andy Mackie

Scotland took a southern hemisphere scalp for the second successive year against South Africa on Saturday. Las year after victory over Australia I looked at the state of Scottish rugby overall. This year in the wake of the latest victory I am going to concentrate on the national team.

There is little doubt that both in terms of ability of individual players and strength in depth that the squad is in ruder health than it has been for many years. There are still some areas of concern, not least the lack of a genuine cutting edge in attack, but lets concentrate on the positives first.

The Scottish pack of the 1970’s featuring the likes of Mclauchlan, Carmichael, Brown and McHarg was known as the mean machine and its present day counterpart is showing similar qualities. Indeed there is not a pack in world rugby you wouldn’t fancy the Scots having at least parity with. Especially satisfying is the number of genuine international quality second rows available. This position was an achilles heel of Scotland for many years, while some excellent locks, notably Doddie Weir and Scott Murray, have played for Scotland over the last 15 years they tended to be of the beanpole variety. Scotland seemed incapable of producing the second row monsters such as Johnson, Grewcock and  Shaw that England seemed to churn out. Yet this autumn the prodigious and giant Richie Gray, the resurgent Scott Macleod, the near 20 stone Jim Hamilton, and tough nut veteran Nathan Hines have all pulled on the blue jersey. Add to that Glasgow skipper Al Kellock who is just returning from injury after leading Scotland to victory in Argentina and that’s a formidable bunch. Gray is particularly exciting as at 21 he seems destined for greatness.

Behind this group in the back row Scotland have if anything an even greater wealth of talent. The killer B’s back row of Barclay, Brown and Beattie proved as good a back row as any since Jeffrey, Calder and White this year. However injury to Johnny Beattie has allowed Richie Vernon to blossom at number 8 for club and country. It will be interesting when Beattie returns to see if Andy Robinson elects to go with the power and solidity of Beattie or the pace and offloading of Vernon. Alistair Strokosh also missed the autumn schedule through injury and on return will provide fierce competition to Kelly Brown on the blindside. Over on the open both Ross Rennie and Allan MacDonald can count themselves very unfortunate to be contemporaries of John Barclay – surely one of the finest open sides in the world.

The one area of slight concern may be the front row. Not that there is anything wrong with the first choice trio of Jacobsen, Ford and Murray. Jacobsen in particular is in the best form of his life and they are both effective in the scrum and dynamic around the park. The worry would be in the back up players. At prop Moray Low has done well when called upon but the likes of Dickinson, Cross and Traynor have yet to convince at this level. The nightmare scenario for Andy Robinson would no doubt involve a serious injury to Ross Ford as Hall and Lawson may be decent club players but neither are serious international class hookers.

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