That was the month that was: December 2019

Hines and Gray at a loose end? Brett Gosper on the move? South American rugby on the rise? And the best Christmas present ever for one of rugby's big men with an even bigger heart!

Cardiff Blues No8 Nick Williams got the best Christmas present this year
Cardiff Blues No8 Nick Williams got the best Christmas present this year

by COLIN RENTON


Scottish coaches moving on

While it’s already known that Vern Cotter will leave Montpellier in the summer, there has been less chat about what will happen to two of his assistants, Nathan Hines and Richie Gray. The club’s owner, Mohed Altrad, is understood to be lining up Philippe Saint-André as Cotter’s replacement. Should the former coach of Les Bleus take on the Montpellier job, he would be expected to bring in his own team, leaving Hines and Gray looking for a new challenge.


Piercing comments from Canadian Cameron

The former Canadian international Cameron Pierce used Twitter to make clear his feelings about the coaching style of Simon Mannix, the Kiwi who was in charge when Pierce played at Pau. In a comment prompted by allegations that the ice hockey player Daniel Carcillo witnessed abuse by a coach Darryl Sutter, Pierce did not mince his words.


 

Gosper tipped for American job

Brett Gosper, chief executive of World Rugby, looks set to quit his post. Gosper, who was first appointed in 2012, is credited with being a driving force behind rugby 7s being included at the Rio Olympic Games. On a less positive note, he was heavily criticised for his handling of the fallout from Hurricane Hagibis during this year’s World Cup in Japan. Gosper is tipped to take up a post with the Rugby United New York franchise in the US Major League.


Liga launched in South America

Rugby in South America continues to grow, and there was a further development this month with the launch of the Super Liga. The competition will be contested by six teams, with Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Colombia all represented. The competition gets under way in February, with matches contested home and away before concluding with a grand final in May.


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No beers for Varsity victors

Victory in the Varsity match is normally a big deal and therefore often involves extensive post-match celebrations. Not so for James Horwill and Flip van der Merwe. The experienced international pair featured in the winning Cambridge side. But they had no time to enjoy the success as they had to prepare for exams at 8am the following morning.


A major review by Myners

After the Saracens salary-cap fiasco, Premiership Rugby has announced a review of the system, including the sanctions that apply when the rules are broken. Lord Myners, a former government minister, will lead the review and make proposals that will be in place by the start of next season. It follows a similar exercise in France, where the limit for Top 14 clubs is set at €11.3 million.


Springbok skipper staying put

The overriding impression of Springbok captain Siya Kolisi during the World Cup was that he is a man of great integrity and honour. And he has again shown those qualities by resisting the overtures of overseas clubs to sign a contract extension of two years at the Stormers. While the foreign interest may have helped his agent to negotiate a higher wage, Kolisi explained his decision, saying: “I have been playing with some of these guys my whole career and we are all looking forward to reaching new heights in a Stormers jersey”.


An appreciation: John Evans pays tribute to his friend Scott Glynn MBE

The Offside Line’s End of Year Awards for 2019

Scotland’s best uncapped team? Bruce Aitchison makes a late run


A dark day for French rugby

Rugby became embroiled in protests over changes to pensions in France with power cuts at two Top 14 fixtures. Proposals to make public servants work longer have not gone down well. The match between Edinburgh’s Challenge Cup opponents Agen and Toulouse was halted for 14 minutes after the stadium was plunged into darkness. The game between Castres and Lyon had also been affected earlier in the day. The CGT union later claimed responsibility for the acts, which have certainly damaged the goodwill the protesters might have had in the rugby community.


Scots clash in unfashionable North

Northern France is not renowned as a rugby hotbed, but a crowd of more than 4,000 watched the region’s two PRO D2 teams clash. And there was a bit of Scottish interest. Former Edinburgh lock Ollie Atkins, who has been capped for Scotland A, helped strugglers Rouen to a valuable 29-15 win over a Vannes side featuring former Scotland Under-20s captain Andy Cramond, who came off the bench for the final quarter.


Mother Christmas visits Wales

Christmas came early for Cardiff Blues No 8 Nick Williams when the club arranged for his mother to fly to Wales from her home in New Zealand. Williams thought he was speaking to her via video link when she walked into the changing rooms for an emotional reunion and a chance to see him play for the first time since he came to the UK 12 years ago.


Inspirational Barclay

There has been a steady of flow of former internationals into non-playing roles at the SRU – Chris Paterson, Al Kellock, Ross Ford and Sean Lamont are among those still on the payroll. So, could there be a job in rugby for John Barclay, Tommy Seymour and Laidlaw when they eventually retire from the game? All three have announced that they are quitting the international scene, but will continue to play at club level. Barclay appears to be one step ahead with his plans for the future. He is assured as a television summariser and seems destined for a media career. He has also been signed up by an Edinburgh agency that works with inspirational speakers. Barclay’s blurb promises that his aim is to inspire others to get the best out of themselves.


Cosgrove forced to quit rugby

There was less happy news for another one-time Edinburgh player, Jack Cosgrove, who has been forced to retire from the game after suffering a serious eye injury in training. The 25-year-old prop, who joined Edinburgh from Worcester Warriors in 2015, spent two seasons at Murrayfield, including a loan spell at London Scottish, before returning south with Bristol Bears then re-joining Worcester. From there he signed for Dragons at the start of the current PRO14 campaign, making one appearance.


Opinion: Colin Renton’s 2020 vision for Scottish rugby

About Colin Renton 212 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!