That was the month that was: October 2023

Colin Renton reports on the trials and tribulations of Scottish props based in England, France ... and the Borders

Fiji were one of the teams which lit up the 2023 Rugby World Cup. Image: World Rugby
Fiji were one of the teams which lit up the 2023 Rugby World Cup. Image: World Rugby

Sutherland makes French debut

Rory Sutherland had a tough introduction to the French Top 14. The 31-year-old prop came off the bench after 52 minutes to make his debut for Oyannax in their match away to Toulon. Four minutes later he was shown a yellow card for a scrum offence. It was a happier afternoon for Scotland scrum-half Ben White, who has moved to Toulon from London Irish and played the final 20 minutes of the game, which ended in a 41-7 win for the hosts.

Scots selected for sevens series

A total of 10 Scots have earned selection for the men’s and women’s GB sevens squads for the upcoming season. The HSBC series starts in December and features eight rounds of competition before finishing in Madrid next May. Lisa Thomson, Rhona Lloyd and Shona Campbell are named in the core women’s squad, although their contracts contain clauses that mean they are also available to Scotland. Robbie Fergusson, Jamie Farndale, Ross McCann, Max McFarland, Femi Sofolarin, Jordan Edmunds and Kaleem Barreto are in the men’s squad.

Tier 2 European fixtures revealed

Three teams which featured at the recent World Cup are among the contenders for the 2024 edition of the Rugby Europe Championship. Defending champions Georgia join Spain, Netherlands and Germany in Pool A, while Portugal – last season’s runners up and on a high after defeating Fiji in France – are drawn against Romania, Belgium and Poland. The top two in each pool will qualify for the semi-finals.

Ten Rugby World Cup Takeaways

Duhan van der Merwe wins ‘International Rugby Players Men’s Try of the Year’ award

Scotland crowned WXV2 champions

Reds players seal new deals

Several players caught up in the collapse of Jersey Reds have found new clubs. Among those who have secured contracts elsewhere are Stevie Longwell, who has signed for URC outfit Zebre. Also heading for pastures new are Longwell’s fellow Scottish front-rows Sam Grahamslaw, who has joined Bristol Bears as medical cover. and Adam Nicol, who has made the move to Coventry. Meanwhile, back-row Lewis Wynne has returned to Stirling Wolves as an injury replacement for Adam Woods.

World Rugby draws criticism

World Rugby came in for criticism over many aspects of the World Cup, including a farcical draw, a shambolic ticketing system, inconsistent refereeing and a draconian approach to controlling video from matches. The latter measure prevented good news stories being shared, and hit ludicrous levels when the governing body forced the removal of a clip shared on social media by referee  Wayne Barnes showing an incident from a match in which he officiated and illustrating the positive spirit of the game. The video was later restored, but the good news story was tarnished by the heavy-handed behaviour. Clearly, the governing body forgave the whistler for his actions as they appointed him for the title decider between New Zealand and South Africa.

Houston nails a Pirates deal

Cornish Pirates have confirmed the signing of Bruce Houston from Super Series side Heriot’s. The 24-year-old, who has been capped by Ireland at age group level and had a partnership deal with Edinburgh last season, has joined the Championship side on a one-year deal.

Worcester withdrawal a concern for Scots

Four Scots have been left in limbo after Worcester Warriors Women pulled out of both league and cup competitions. The team was rescued from the wreckage of the Worcester Warriors collapse by funding from Cube International. However, the company is not renewing its backing, forcing Warriors to withdraw from the 10-team set-up. That casts doubt over the future of Lana Skeldon, Lisa Cockburn, Evie Gallagher and Caity Mattinson, who were in South Africa with Scotland squad successfully contesting the WXV 2 tournament when the news was announced.

Coaches quit after World Cup heroics

The coaches of two teams that captured the attention and hearts of neutrals at the Rugby World Cup have given up their jobs. Portugal’s Patrice Lagisquet signed off by leading the team to a stunning win over Fiji, whose coach Simon Raiwalui will also step down when his contract expires at the end of the year. Raiwalui, who took on the role after Vern Cotter resigned earlier this year, earned plaudits for the refreshing style of the side that bowed out against England at the quarter final stage.

Spanish silverware up for grabs

Four of the nations that narrowly missed out on qualifying for the World Cup in France will contest a tournament in Spain in November. US Eagles – currently the highest ranked of the quartet at number 18 in the world, will play Brazil in one match of La Vila International Rugby Cup, with the hosts facing Canada in the other match. the winners will compete in the final, with the losers meeting in a third/fourth play-off.

Salary cap report shows few changes

The latest salary cap report for the Gallagher Premiership shows that there is no change at the top of the list of highest earners, with fly-half still the best-paid position in the 2021-22 season. Hookers remained the poor relations of the nine positions, while back-row players have moved up to second spot. However, the figures quoted are an average and can be distorted by a few marquee players on lucrative contracts. The average fly-half earned £217,000, with hookers averaging £119,000. The salary cap restricted total squad spending to £5 million, down from £6.4 million the previous season, and will remain at current levels this year.

European nations mull three-way World Cup bid

The Spanish sports newspaper Marca carried an article suggesting that Spain, Portugal and Italy are planning a combined bid to host the World Cup in 2035. The 2027 edition of the tournament will take place in Australia and the US is scheduled to host the 2031 competition.

Paulo pulls the plug on playing

For the second time this year, Jed-Forest stalwart Paulo Ferreira has announced his retirement from the game. After reversing his earlier decision to hang up his boots, the prop suffered a hand injury during the match against Heriot’s Blues in late September. He has now called time on his Jed career after 141 appearances for the club and a tally of 48 tries, as well as involvement in the South squad for the Inter District Championships in May.

Russell quick to make a mark at Bath

There was no time for Bath duo Finn Russell and Cam Redpath to lick their World Cup wounds, with the pair featuring in the side that faced Newcastle Falcons in the opening round of Gallagher Premiership fixtures. Russell made his debut for his new club off the bench and had his first start the following week away to Saracens. And, in true Russell style, he showed what he brings to the side when he created a try with a sublime offload:

Ten Rugby World Cup Takeaways

About Colin Renton 296 Articles
Colin has been a freelance writer on various subjects for more than 20 years. He covers rugby at all levels but is particularly passionate about the game at grass roots. As a fluent French speaker, he has a keen interest in rugby in France and for many years has reported on the careers of Scots who have moved across the Channel. He appreciates high quality, engaging writing that is thought provoking, and hopes that some of his work fits that bill!