Allan Massie

Allan Massie: The prospect of seeing Duncan Taylor partner Huw Jones is enticing

The sight of Gareth Anscombe being helped off the field at Twickenham and out of the World Cup will have sent nervous shivers down many spines. We are all aware of the risk of serious injuries in these warm-up internationals, an apprehension scarcely alleviated by the knowledge that injuries are suffered in training too. Indeed, a mishap in training has already deprived Wales of Toby Faletau.

This tackle by Ireland's Chris Farrell on Sam Johnson of Scotland would be illegal under the proposed new law. Picture: SNS/SRU.

Allan Massie: Law change must focus on dispersal

E ven as we get ready for the World Cup and anxiously scan the news for reports of any injuries – Wales have already been deprived of Toby Faletau – the law-makers are looking to the future beyond whatever happens in Japan, and have come up with a number of law changes or revisions which will be given trials at various levels of the game.

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All Blacks captain David Kirk with the William Webb Ellis trophy in 1987. Picture: AP

Allan Massie: Scotland can go to Rugby World Cup with optimism

It is thirty-two years since the first Rugby World Cup. So I suppose you have to be fortyish to have any memory of it. It may surprise anyone younger to be told that enthusiasm for the adventure was lukewarm. Ireland and Scotland were both, predictably very dubious , England, as I recall, scarcely less so. The hesitation to commit themselves was reasonable. Anyone could see that if the tournament was a success and followed by another, it might become more difficult to keep rugby union as an amateur game. The threat was already looming: there were mutterings about the All Blacks’ hooker Andy Dalton cashing in on his reputation by advertising a tractor.

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Scotland assistant coach Mike Blair. Picture: Bill Murray/SNS/SRU

Allan Massie: Scotland must be roosters not feather dusters

The Rugby World Cup is creeping up on us, but the creep will soon turn into a sharp trot. Scotland play the first of their four warm-up matches against France in Nice three weeks today. Four warm-up internationals seem a bit like tempting fate to some of us, risk of serious injury rising with every game. True, of course, but injuries come in training too. The Wasps flanker Brad Shields has just been sent home from the England training-camp with a foot injury.

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Australia head coach Michael Cheika during a training session. Picture: Dan Mullan/Getty

Allan Massie: Rugby Championship will be vital source of World Cup learning for the north

Most of us would, I hope, hate the thought of the Six Nations being regarded as preparation for a World Cup rather than as the great tournament it is, but the Southern Hemisphere’s Rugby Championship has neither the history nor the allure of the Six Nations, and there’s no doubt that all four countries – New Zealand, South Africa, Australia and Argentina – see the truncated Championship which kicks off today as, principally, an opportunity for preparation and experiment. There’s more reason to regard it as such because it is of course that much nearer to the World Cup than the Six Nations was.

Alex Dunbar is joining Brive in the French Top 14. Picture: Bruce White/SNS

Allan Massie: Alex Dunbar’s Brive encounter is a flight of French fancy

It is the time of year when most of the news is about things off the field. Yesterday one learned that John Jeffrey has just been appointed chairman of the Six Nations Committee,on which he has served for a number of years, as indeed on World Rugby and the SRU itself also. JJ has come a long way into the ranks of the Great and Good since, along with his mate Finlay Calder, he was described as a “scavenger” by England’s coach, Geoff Cooke. A long way also from that night when he and England’s mighty No 8 Dean Richards indulged in some passing practice up and down North Bridge with the Calcutta Cup instead of a rugby ball. I don’t really know what the remit and powers of the chair of the Six Nations Committee may be, but I trust that JJ will greet proposals for change with a healthy Borders scepticism, offering our characteristic defence of the status quo: “it’s aye been”.

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Hooker Ross Ford retires as Scotland's most-capped player. Picture: Lynne Cameron/PA Wire

Allan Massie: Ross Ford a ‘splendid servant to clubs, country and the game’

It is in character that Ross Ford should have announced his retirement in a dead week of the close season. One would have liked to see him take his leave after sixty or seventy minutes of an international match at a packed Murrayfield so that he could receive the grateful and admiring applause that he deserves. But he has never been a player to seek, let alone hog, the limelight .For him, a match has always been about the team, not himself.

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Richie Gray is not in Scotland's extended pre-world cup squad. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Allan Massie: Six Nations should heed cricket’s cautionary tale on TV rights

Our under-20 team may have been enduring a disappointing time at the Junior World Cup in Argentina but there is some good news. World Rugby’s reluctant decision to scrap their proposed re-structuring of the international game is to be welcomed, not only in Scotland and Italy, the two countries most likely, on the record over the 20 seasons of the Six Nations, to be at risk of relegation if the proposed two-tier European structure had been agreed.

SRU president Dee Bradbury is a member of Oban Rugby Club. Picture: SNS/SRU.

Allan Massie: SRU short-sighted to omit Glasgow and north from Super Six

Losing 43-19 always sounds pretty bad, but few would have expected Scotland to beat South Africa in the under-20 Junior World Cup being played in Argentina, and it wasn’t a one-sided match with Scottish tries coming near the end as so-called consolations. On the contrary, we were only three points behind going into the last quarter of the match. So the difference was staying-power and perhaps the quality of the replacements who flooded the field from the hour-mark.

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Finn Russell, left, is still the go-to man for Scotland at stand-off, despite Adam Hastings' rise to prominence. Picture: Bruce White/SNS/SRU

Allan Massie: Hastings is fine prospect but Russell is picture perfect

The other day, Dave Rennie commented that Adam Hastings was already, or perhaps would be, a better stand-off than Finn Russell. This surprised more than a few of us who are members of what the former England scrum-half turned TV pundit Austin Healey once called “the Finn Russell Appreciation Society”. That, as I recall, was on an evening when Finn had orchestrated the demolition of Healey’s former club, Leicester.

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Brilliant Fijian No 8 Viliame Mata could be key for Edinburgh. Picture: Craig Foy/SNS/SRU

Allan Massie: Form favours Glasgow but Edinburgh have forward power

Edinburgh have beaten Glasgow twice, so that they have already retained the 1872 Cup and they are the only Pro14 team to have won at Scotstoun this season. This might reasonably make them favourites today, even away from home. On the other hand Glasgow have recovered from their humiliating loss to Saracens in the Heineken quarter-final more convincingly than Edinburgh since they let victory slip in their quarter-final against Munster at Murrayfield.

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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.

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