Allan Massie

Allan Massie: Finn Russell affair is a small storm in a very small teacup

The Finn Russell business is disappointing, but, one hopes, not too disruptive. If what is reported is correct, he has behaved unprofessionally. Such things happen in every walk of life. There are many who have phoned in sick after a night on the town. Cabinet ministers have been known to be what Private Eye calls “tired and emotional”. Finn’s very talented team-mate at Racing22 , Teddy Thomas, stepped over the same line after the Scotland-France match two years ago and was consigned to outer darkness by Jacques Brunel, then the French coach.

Rugby Union 7
Jonny Gray's move to Exeter has provoked mixed feelings. Picture: Ross Parker / SNS

Allan Massie: Glasgow’s inability to retain their best players is depressing

With the New Year thoughts turn naturally
to the Six Nations. We could probably all guess ten or 11 of the team Gregor Townsend will pick for the opening match in Dublin. There would be question marks over some positions of course. Scrum-half: Ali Price or George Horne? Tight-head: Zander Fagerson or WP Nel? The back-row invites speculation, but at least the choice there is who to pick from a strong field: Hamish Watson, Jamie Ritchie, Blade Thomson, Magnus Bradbury, Sam Skinner, Ryan Wilson and Matt Fagerson.

Opinion 2
Flanker Jamie Ritchie runs with the ball during Scotland's World Cup defeat by Japan, arguably the best game of the tournament. Picture: William West/AFP via Getty Images

Allan Massie: Not a memorable year but young Scots talent point to bright future

One can’t deny that 2019 has been a disappointing year for Scottish rugby. Not a disastrous one, just rather less than one had hoped for. Realism tells us that our high expectations are usually ill-founded and that the odds against success are long. It is after all 20 years since we won what was the last of the Five Nations tournaments, and we have never won four out of the five matches in the Six Nations.

Rugby Union
Matt Fagerson, centre,  is shown a red card in last week's match against La Rochelle. Picture: SNS/SRU

Allan Massie: Is the classic hand-off with an open palm soon to be judged unlawful?

One couldn’t argue against the penalty conceded by Matt Fagerson and the red card he was given. The referee was acting in accordance with the instructions given: punishment is now mandatory when there is contact of shoulder, arm or hand with an opponent’s head, face or neck. Yet there was something unsatisfactory about it, and this would have been the case even if the penalty hadn’t denied Glasgow the try which would have put them level with La Rochelle at 12-12 with a conversion to come.

Should Scotland now say thanks and good-bye to Greig Laidlaw? Picture: Odd Andersen/AFP via Getty Images

Allan Massie: World Cup has been great success but it devalues Six Nations

Whatever the result of the final, this will be judged a successful and, importantly, an enjoyable World Cup, though one of course which has been disappointing for Scotland and Ireland. Compared with the football and cricket World Cups, there is still a huge gulf between the strongest and weaker countries. So there are too many very one-sided matches in the pool stage, even if there are fewer won by a margin of 70 points or even more.

George Ford was superb against the All Blacks.

Allan Massie: England were very good and, God help us, can improve

England were so good on Saturday that, when it was all over, one was surprised that the margin of victory was only 12 points and that they didn’t score a try after the second minute of the game. Some will indignantly remark on the two disallowed tries, always a futile observation. The first one seemed pretty obvious. The little knock-on that led to the second being disallowed could only be spotted by the TMO and some will mutter about this, but we have to accept that, in professional rugby, the TMO is as much part of the game as the DRS is in Test cricket.

Steve Hansenhas enjoyed a long and successful tenure as All Blacks coach. Picture: Aaron Favila/AP

Allan Massie: Coaches now to the forefront but suffer from expectations and impatience

Coaches get as much attention as players these days, just as football managers do. Everyone in football knows that the most successful managers were themselves often no more than average players. So too in rugby. Steve Hansen has never scored a World Cup try. Neither has Eddie Jones or Warren Gatland. I think South Africa’s Rassie Erasmus may have done so, but even if he hasn’t, he is the odd man out among the head coaches of the semi-finalists: the only one who has played international rugby this 

Dejection at the final whistle following defeat by Japan. But the numbers just don't stack up for Scotland. Picture: PA.

Allan Massie: Scotland needs a third professional club

The post-mortem will go on for a long time, as indeed it must. It should, however, be extended well beyond an examination of coaches, players and performances, for it is likely that such an examination will yield few useful results. Indeed it might lead to the conclusion that, things being as they are, we did a bit worse than we had hoped, but it is unlikely we could have done much better.

Opinion 6
George Horne and Jamie Ritchie will hope they will be celebrating another Scotland win. Picture: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Allan Massie: Japan on a high but Scotland have cause for optimism

Journalists have often previewed matches while aware that vile weather may lead to postponements. Today is different, for the pool match between Scotland and Japan is threatened with cancellation, not postponement, the latter being, according to Alan Gilpin, World Rugby’s tournament director, “unfeasible on logistic and safety grounds”.

Rugby Union
John Barclay is congratulated by Duncan Taylor after scoring Scotland's eighth try during the victory over Russia. Picture: Adam Pretty/Getty

Allan Massie: Scotland’s two clean sheets impressive but Japan are a different beast

I t is already an odd World Cup for Scotland. We didn’t, as the old hack used to put it, “trouble the scorecard” in losing to Ireland. Now, against Samoa and Russia, we have scored 95 points and conceded none. Clean sheets are rare in rugby now; two in a row very rare. Critics have for a long time said it’s too easy to score tries against Scotland. Well, we’ll see how the defence stands up against Japan.

Load more