SCOTLAND stand-off Duncan Weir has put pen to paper on a new deal with Glasgow that keeps him at the club until 2016, but his international rival Ruaridh Jackson is expected to leave the Warriors this summer.
The signing of Weir is seen as vital to Glasgow’s plans to develop, but while the club would make no statement on Jackson’s future yesterday The Scotsman understands that he has not been made an offer to stay once his contract is up at the end of this season.
Jackson is one of a handful of Scotland internationalists looking for a new club, including Edinburgh trio Geoff Cross, Ross Rennie and Nick de Luca.
Weir said that once an offer was put on the table there was little hesitation in signing it.
“I’m really happy to have signed the new deal to stay in Glasgow for another two years,” he said. “We have a really strong squad, with a lot of competition for places and it’s great to see so many young players coming through. It was an easy decision for me to stay. I was born in Glasgow and I’m very proud to be playing for my local club and representing my country. Now that this has been agreed I’m looking forward to a successful end to the season, as we try and reach the play-offs once again.”
Weir has experienced the topsy-turvy nature of Test rugby in the past three weeks, becoming an instant Scottish hero with the 80th minute drop-goal that snatched a 21-20 win over Italy in Rome, and then delivering the pass on Saturday that was intercepted by Yoann Huget for a France try that played a defining part in Saturday’s Murrayfield defeat. Weir will nevertheless be named in the Scotland team today to face Wales in the final RBS Six Nations match on Saturday and, having started all five games so far, the 22-year-old is firmly in the driving seat in the race to take possession of the stand-off jersey.
Scott Johnson will relinquish his role as the side’s head coach ahead of Scotland’s summer tour to North and South America, and South Africa, and under new coach Vern Cotter Weir can be expected to face renewed pressure from Jackson for game-time there.
However, it appears that Jackson is now swithering over whether his future is best served at the Warriors. Coach Gregor Townsend preferred Jackson to Weir at the turn of the year, though postponements may have deprived Weir of opportunities, but there is little between two stand-offs with different approaches and skills.
The development of both, notably in their game management ability, has been hindered by Scotland’s too-narrow professional game structure which has limited their runs in the team, the periods where players truly learn from mistakes and hone their game, while both have also spent periods out of the game recovering from the kinds of serious injury taken for granted in the modern game.
As a result both need good periods in the firing line at Glasgow to smooth off rough edges and while Weir is destined for that at the Warriors 26-year-old Jackson is now looking to England and France for opportunities.
Weir, who was persuaded to return to rugby at 16 while playing football in Celtic’s youth section, has scored 508 points in 70 appearances since he stepped up to the senior level four years ago. The former Cambuslang RFC youth player has represented Scotland at U17, U19, U20, level, sevens and A levels, making his full debut against France in the 2012 Six Nations. Saturday was his 12th Test appearance, and his second half penalty took his tally to 17 points.
Townsend declined to comment on where discussions were with Jackson, but on Weir he stated: “We are delighted that Duncan has committed to the club for the next two seasons and this is really good news for us and for Scottish rugby.
“He has made a great return from injury this season and has been a consistent performer for the club and for Scotland during this year’s RBS 6 Nations. His drop-goal to win the Italy game was top drawer and he has shown that he can operate at the highest level of the game.
“Duncan works hard at getting better every day at training and he’s made great strides in both the technical and tactical side of playing at stand-off. His ability to lead the attack is beginning to become a real strength of his game. He has a big role to play at the club over the next couple of years.”
Meanwhile, South African lock Izak van der Westhuizen has confirmed that he is one of a clutch of players expected to leave Edinburgh at the end of the season. The 28-year-old, who was signed by former head coach Michael Bradley in 2012 from Super Rugby side Free State Cheetahs is returning to play for Solomons’ old club, Eastern Province Kings, after making 19 starts in 24 appearances for the club to date. He and his wife also welcomed a daughter into the world last year and being nearer his family in South Africa was among his reasons for wanting to leave.
He said: “I’m settled in Edinburgh and really enjoy the city but I’m from a very tight-knit family and the chance to be closer to them was one of the biggest, most important reasons – we’ll now be a one hour away instead of 11. Scotland will always have a special place for me and I’ll be able to look back on a lot of good times. Thanks to everyone for their support during my time here.”