Allan Massie

A head injury forced Finn Russell to miss Scotland's Six Nations match with France. Picture: SNS

Allan Massie: Safety to the fore in revision of laws

Football is a simple straightforward game and so its laws, which are easily understood by fans, have remained more or less unchanged for ages, only the interpretation of some, such as what constitutes a dangerous or illegal tackle, being revised. But rugby union is so complicated that a periodic review of 
its laws has been deemed necessary, and there will, it seems, be another revision of several of them after this year’s World Cup.

Glasgow scrum-half Ali Price played youth-grade cricket for Cambridgeshire. Picture: Stu Forster/Getty Images

Allan Massie: Sporting all-rounders a vanishing breed

Profoundly disappointing. That’s the indisputable Scottish verdict on the Heineken quarter-finals. Edinburgh opened the door an inch to Munster and so let slip a match they had the winning of. You had to conclude it wouldn’t have happened the other way round.

Sergio Parisse, the greatest Six Nations No 8, will be missed if he bows out. Picture: AFP/Getty.

Allan Massie: Grand Slam built on leadership, efficiency and luck

There have been a good many Welsh teams more exhilarating to watch than Warren Gatland’s Grand Slam winning side, but very few that might lay a claim to being as effective. Wales reminded us that there is more than one way to win a match. Their game was built on the leadership of Alun Wyn Jones, a hard-working and efficient front five, a voracious and skilful back-row, a pair of centres who offered rock-solid defence in midfield, a full-back who swallowed up opposition kicks and reliable goal-kicking. Then they had a try-scoring wing in Josh Adams and what every winner of a Grand Slam needs: a generous slice of luck, with regard to injuries and opposition 

Six Nations
Scotland forwards 'Grant Gilchrist, left, and Ben Toolis in action against Italy. Picture: Gary Hutchison/SNS/SRU

Allan Massie: Who will win pack battle between Edinburgh and England?

Can the Edinburgh pack beat the England one, or at least achieve equality against it? These are the first questions about this afternoon’s Calcutta Cup – surprising ones certainly. Admittedly it’s the Edinburgh pack without Bill Mata, but Exeter’s Sam Skinner is no mean substitute for the brilliant Fijian. Still, it’s an interesting challenge for Richard Cockerill’s men, lent this weekend to Gregor Townsend. Not even in the great days of Hawick’s “Green Machine” did one club supply seven-eighths of a Scotland scrum.

Six Nations
Jim Renwick is mobbed by Scotland supporters after a 15-6 win over Wales at Murrayfield in the 1981 Five Nations Championship. Picture: TSPL

Allan Massie: Scots can revive memories of Renwick and Co with win over Wales

I thought we might beat France, but wasn’t surprised that we didn’t. Scotland have always found it difficult to win away from home. Jim Renwick was one of the greatest midfield backs we have ever had, but, first capped in 1972, he had to wait till that astonishing 1982 game in Cardiff to win a Five Nations match away from Murrayfield. Yet the teams he played in beat the great Welsh side of Gareth, Phil, Gerald and JPR in 1973 and ’75, while also recording resounding Calcutta Cup victories at Murrayfield.

Six Nations
Scotland head coach  Gregor Townsend in action as a player in 1998. Picture: Michael Cooper/Allsport

Allan Massie: Russell as important to Scots as Townsend in his pomp

Scotland have had too many bad days against Italy, most recently on the final day of last year’s Six Nations, to be complacent today. Most people thought Italy unlucky not to win that one. It certainly wasn’t Scotland’s only sloppy performance against the Italians. Moreover Glasgow and Edinburgh players are well aware that the two Italian clubs in the Pro14 are a tough proposition these days. So Gregor Townsend and his players know that they will have to be good to win.

Glasgow's Matt Fagerson suffered an early injury against Cardiff. Picture: Gary Hutchison/SNS/SRU

Allan Massie: Glasgow deserve some luck against Saracens

Glasgow players this morning may have reason to either be happy and relaxed or grim and determined, depending on the result at Murrayfield last night. Sticking my neck out I reckon that Edinburgh will have beaten Montpellier, and so their friends in the West can head for Allianz Park in the knowledge that they have already qualified for the Champions Cup quarter-final. So then they can enjoy themselves while –of course – being aware that beating Saracens with a four-try bonus point and denying them a losing one would give them, like Edinburgh, a home quarter-final, improbably as this may seem. On the other hand if Edinburgh have stumbled at the last hurdle in the pool, it’s a very different kettle of fish.

Greig Laidlaw is regarded highly at Clermont Auvergne. Picture: SNS/SRU.

Allan Massie: A must-win assignment for Glasgow Warriors

This is crunch weekend for Glasgow and Edinburgh. Glasgow play Cardiff Blues at Scotstoun, Edinburgh Toulon away. Victory for either club would almost certainly secure a place in the Champions Cup quarter-finals, though Glasgow may need a bonus point to be sure. On the face of it, Glasgow have the easier task. They are at home and Cardiff Blues have no chance of proceeding further in the Cup. Edinburgh’s assignment this weekend is more demanding, even though Toulon are having their worst season for years and, like Cardiff, can’t qualify for the knock-out stages.

Champions Cup
Edinburgh's Grant Gilchrist with Juan Pablo Socino. Picture: Bill Murray/SNS

Gregor Townsend will need Edinburgh’s piano-shifters to call the tune

Ithink it was a French 
journalist who first made the distinction between the piano-players and the piano-shifters, the former being of course the backs, the latter the 
forwards. It was a fair distinction a long time ago when the respective roles of backs and forwards were more distinct than they are now, and it certainly made good sense when one considered the game in France.

Greig Laidlaw patrols the back of the Scotland scrum against Fiji. Picture; Paul Devlin/SNS

Allan Massie: Scotland coach Gregor Townsend spoiled for choice at 9

Both Edinburgh and Glasgow can go into the Champions Cup break feeling reasonably satisfied and confident, both with a good chance of qualifying for the quarter-finals. If they do, the professional game will here will be in a happier state than it has been in the more than 20 years since Rugby Union went professional. Even more remarkably, it looks as if Saracens may be the only English club to escape the pools. That said, they obviously have a better chance of winning the Cup than either of the Scottish clubs.

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