Allister Hogg ponders Edinburgh offer as squad sizes increase

ALLISTER Hogg is still mulling over a contract offer from Edinburgh but there are precious few positions still to be filled with the Scottish pro teams for next season as they prepare to bring the curtain down on this one.

Edinburgh and Glasgow have suffered budget cuts in the past two years, but this time have been encouraged to increase the size of their squads after the SRU received extra funding as part of their share of the new money coming from Italy and their teams being granted access to the Magners League.

It is still a miniscule sum in the multi-million terms of pro rugby sides across Europe, but should be sufficient to add a handful more players on salaries between 20,000 and 50,000 – the bottom end of the scale these days – which goes against the trend of many teams in England, France and Wales, where squads are being slashed.

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Edinburgh and Glasgow will next season push towards squads of up to 40 players, with another dozen academy talents attached to them on a near-daily basis rather than operating out of a central Murrayfield set-up. There is a distinct shift away from signing up foreign players on six-figure deals and instead spreading that money across a handful of young Scots.

Both Edinburgh coach Rob Moffat and Sean Lineen at Glasgow declined to confirm the complete make-up of their squads for 2010-11, insisting that the final signings should be announced in coming weeks, if not days. Money remains tight, however, with many leading players in Scotland experiencing lower-wage offers for the first time in their careers.

Hogg is understood to be one of them. The 40-times capped back row was among Scotland's highest-paid performers when he last negotiated a contract but has since fallen out of the Scotland squad and spent the past four months recovering from injury.

Edinburgh No8 Dave Callam has been supported by the club through two years of rehabilitation from serious injury, but with a clutch of young back rows coming through neither he nor Simon Cross have been offered a new deal while hooker Sean Crombie, and Rory Hutton, the stand-off, are also leaving. Hooker Andy Kelly is still to sign a new contract, but Edinburgh are hopeful deals will be struck soon with him and Ben Cairns, John Houston, Geoff Cross and Fraser McKenzie to provide experience around new signings Alex Blair, Lee Jones, Stuart McInally, Fraser Brown and Lewis Niven.

At Glasgow, Dan Parks, Kelly Brown, Mark McMillan and Kiwi prop Hamish Mitchell are known to be leaving or have left from this season's squad with locks Tim Barker and Dan Turner, Samoan prop Justin Va'a and young wing Chris Kinloch also believed to be off.

So far they have announced the signing of Alex Dunbar, Duncan Weir and Chris Fusaro from the next generation of native talent.