That was the month that was: February 2021

Colin Renton’s round-up of last month’s news stories from around the world, including: progress on a World Club Cup, Scots forward bulking up and a big award for Pete Eccles

Mike Adamson broke Scotland's long streak without an international referee. Image: © Craig Watson -
Mike Adamson broke Scotland's long streak without an international referee. Image: © Craig Watson -

Club World Cup taking shape

Fresh moves are underway to set up a global club competition. World Rugby vice-president Bernard Laporte mentioned last year that the tournament was up for discussion and initially wanted it to become an annual event. Players representatives appear to have overruled that idea and the preference is for it to take place every four years. Now it seems that EPCR have taken up the baton to negotiate on behalf of the Guinness PRO14, Gallagher Premiership and Top 14 who would each provide four clubs. Reports in the French media suggest that Mark McCafferty has met World Rugby bosses to discuss the proposal which would mean the European Champions Cup would not take place in World Club Cup years. In addition to representatives from Six Nations countries, the competition would involve the winners of the Japanese and US Major League and six Super Rugby sides, with 20 teams playing in four pools of five before a knockout phase from quarter finals onwards.

Mark Dodson looks forward to ‘transformational’ cash injection from CVC

Sports Minister threatens to block France’s involvement in Six Nations

Mark Dodson hopes that clubs will consider summer rugby

Adamson breakthrough for Scots whistlers

After 19 years in the wilderness, Scottish referees finally earned Guinness Six Nations recognition when Mike Adamson took charge of the England versus Italy match. While referees will never enjoy universal approval however they perform, the 36-year-old’s efforts were generally well received by supporters. In addition to being in the middle for that match, he has three assistant referee appointments during the tournament.

Scots bulking up

Scotland’s average pack size has increased by more than those of their Six Nations rivals since 1995, according to a study on behalf of CT Shirts, a sponsor of the RFU. However, although the research shows a substantial beefing up over the 25 years ending at the 2019 World Cup, meaning the Scots now weigh in at 897kg (up from 839kg), they are still smaller than England, Wales and Ireland. Among the other findings was the fact that French back-rows are now 6kg lighter on average than they were, and Irish full-backs are 6 centimetres shorter. The survey can be accessed HERE. 

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Hart quits the Blues

Grayson Hart, whose career has included spells at Edinburgh, Glasgow Warriors and London Scottish, has been freed from his contract with his latest club, Bedford Blues. The 32-year-old scrum-half, who won three Scotland caps and also featured for Scotland 7s, will now focus on his business interests – he and another former Warriors player, Adam Ashe, co-founded Pure Sport CBD, which uses cannabidiol in natural therapies targeted at professional athletes.

No relegation from English top flight

An extra team will be added to the Gallagher Premiership Rugby for 2021-22 after organisers announced that there will be no relegation this season. However, there will still be a place in the elite group for the winners of the abbreviated Greene King IPA Championship which starts on 6th March. There will also be no relegation from the Championship into National One.

Beattie leaves Scottish to secure game time

Former Glasgow Hawks and Glasgow Warriors Academy back Bobby Beattie has signed for Ealing Trailfinders. The 27-year-old, who is a Scotland 7s cap, has spent the past two seasons with London Scottish, ending the last campaign as joint top scorer. The move secures regular rugby for Beattie, after Scottish opted out of this season’s Greene King IPA Championship following the decision not to accept a government loan. The club took the view that the 10 matches scheduled for the shortened programme would have been loss making and would therefore have added to the financial strain. With no relegation this season, the decision not to play these fixtures will not affect the club’s league status. Scottish will play one more season at Richmond Athletic Ground before moving to the club’s new home at Esher in 2022.

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International stars lead brain injury campaign

A group of former and current international players have written to World Rugby seeking changes to the way brain injuries are handled. The group, which is called Progressive Rugby, features Scotland’s Rory Lamont, as well as the Canadian Jamie Cudmore, England’s Steve Thompson, Paul Wallace of Ireland and former Wales flanker Alix Popham. The initiative also has the support of senior medical people. Among the suggestions are limited contact in training, substitutions only for injuries, and regular health check-ups, as well as an extended return-to-play protocol following a brain injury. There are also demands for stricter refereeing of the ruck and tackle area. Thompson and Popham are among the nine players who launched legal action against World Rugby and their individual federations last year. World Rugby has welcomed the opportunity for constructive debate on the subject.

Mental health in focus

While there has been a greater emphasis on dealing with physical stress that results from playing rugby, there has been little research into the mental demands of the game. Academics from Cardiff Metropolitan University have sought to address that with a study that involved players representatives and input from other academic institutions. Researchers found that injured players suffered most, with isolation, loneliness and loss of identity among the key issues. The findings have been incorporated into the Professional Rugby Mental Health Review undertaken by the RFU, Premiership Rugby and the Rugby Players’ Association.

Wee Greeg is big in Japan

Greig Laidlaw scored a try, booted a penalty plus two conversions, and filled in at stand-off during an HIA reshuffle, as he helped NTT Communications Shining Arcs post a 41-13 win over Honda Heat in the first round of Japan Top League fixtures. However, his global fame didn’t quite extend to the television caption writer:

Elsewhere in round one, Murray Douglas also had a successful start to the campaign as he and his Yamaha Jubilo colleagues returned from the trip to face Hino Red Dolphins with a 52-17 win to their credit, while Sam Thomson featured for Toyota Verblitz, who suffered an agonising 34-33 loss away to Toshiba Brave Lupus.

All-rounder Eccles lands another title

Pete Eccles enjoyed a fair amount of success during a lengthy career at Heriot’s and a spell with Melrose, contributing to league and cup triumphs and being capped for the Scotland Club XV. Latterly, he played with the Greenyards side when work commitments would allow – and he came out of retirement two seasons ago to help them during an injury crisis. And although he now focuses on life as manager of Saughland Farm in Midlothian, the honours have not dried up. Eccles lifted the prestigious Farmer of the Year title for 2020 in the Farmers Weekly awards, with the citation marking him out as “A true all-rounder and an innovator, Peter pushes beyond the boundaries of common practice, readily adopting new technology and operating multiple collaborations.”

StewMel kids profit from recycled balls

There isn’t much rugby being played at the moment, but the enterprising Graves family at Stewart’s Melville have been putting their time to good use and transforming burst balls into pencil cases, an activity that has seen them raise more than £5,000 for the Wooden Spoon Foundation and earn the Canterbury Club of the Month award for the Inverleith outfit.

Rugby Recycled ready for big Christmas push

Mark Dodson hopes that clubs will consider summer rugby

About Colin Renton 288 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!