That was the month that was: March 2021

Colin Renton's round-up of some of the more colourful stories during the last month from across the rugby world

Scott Steele (background) and Stuart Hogg, who started together at half-back against Italy, are bites sons of Border referees. Image: © Craig Watson -
Scott Steele (background) and Stuart Hogg, who started together at half-back against Italy, are bites sons of Border referees. Image: © Craig Watson -

World Cup ticket fiasco leaves fans fuming

Following a shambolic initial ticket sale, Rugby World Cup 2023 organisers issued a statement but declined to apologise to frustrated supporters who had spent hours in online queues only to be left empty handed by a system that was clearly not up to the task. The statement acknowledged that “many fans experienced issues”, adding, “We would like to assure them that we take their experience very seriously and have sought assurances from the organising committee that every effort will be made to resolve any platform-related issues in advance of the general public sale beginning on 6 April at 18:00 CET.” Organisers used the ‘City Packs’ to flog tickets for unfashionable games but did not appear to have realised that creating false demand by insisting supporters of Scotland, England and France must include a ticket for the contest between Asia/Pacific’s top qualifiers and Europe 2 would result in it being oversubscribed. As a result, Scots looking to bag a place in Lille for the match against the second European qualifiers were unable to do so because of a sell-out for an encounter few people want to attend.

Racing 92 v Edinburgh: visitors outclassed and out of Champions Cup

England v Scotland: progress is a slow process for visitors

Montpellier v Glasgow: Warriors tumble out of Challenge Cup

International trio on the move

There have been contract renewals aplenty, and the transfer merry-go-round has been operating at full tilt over recent months. Huw Jones has confirmed that he is drawn to the challenge of the French Top14 after signing up at Bayonne, while his fellow Scotland international Cornell du Preez has announced that he will also play his rugby on the other side of the English Channel next season. The 30-year-old, who joined Worcester Warriors from Edinburgh three years ago, has committed his future to Toulon. Closer to home, Darryl Marfo, who earned the last of his three Scotland caps in 2017, has continued his peripatetic career by signing a short-term deal with Leicester Tigers.

Cockerill definitely staying at Edinburgh, maybe

Edinburgh coach Richard Cockerill has been mentioned as a possible successor to Franck Azéma, who will leave Clermont Auvergne at the end of the season. The Englishman, who played for the club for two years from 2002, was listed among a group of potential contenders that also included Yannick Bru, Jeremy Davidson and Jono Gibbes. However, Cockerill appeared to dispel the notion when he spoke after Edinburgh’s Guinness PRO14 match away to Cardiff Blues, saying that no discussions had taken place with Clermont and his focus is on seeing out his Edinburgh contract. However, he later admitted that joining a big-budget club would have its attractions. He is tied to Edinburgh until 2023, so compensation would be due should he leave before then.

Refs relish Border pairing

The Border Referees Society made an interesting observation when the Scotland team to face Italy was named. BRRS pointed out that the inclusion of Stuart Hogg and Scott Steele was surely the first occasion when Scotland’s starting half-backs were the sons of Borders referees – a proud moment for the dads, who are both called John.

French and Italians honour their roots

France and Italy both used the Guinness Six Nations as an opportunity to acknowledge the role of clubs in developing the players who go on to represent the national side. The Italians issued a picture with squad members wearing the colours in which they first played the game. Meanwhile, the numbers on the French tops were made up of lines featuring the names of the country’s 1941 amateur clubs, with each player’s own team written just below the number on that individual’s shirt.

K.O. for Campbell’s boxing debut

There was frustration for Nick Campbell when the former Glasgow Warriors and Jersey Reds lock had his debut as a professional boxer called off a few days before the fight was scheduled to take place. The 31-year-old, who was capped at Under-20 and Club International level, had lined up a clash with the Croatian Igor Mihajlovic. However, the British Board of Boxing Control refused to sanction the contest as it does not permit any British boxer to have their first fight outside the United Kingdom.

Jethart’s here in Ichikawa

The connection with a player’s educational establishment is strong in Japan, with schools and universities given credit for the development of players. In the case of Greig Laidlaw, that means a shout out for Jedburgh High School on the NTT Communications Shining Arcs team sheet (although strictly speaking it should be Jedburgh Grammar School). The Scot has been a key man in his side’s early fixtures, weighing in with 47 points in the opening five matches as ARCS have posted two wins, two defeats and a draw.

Malcolm kicks off with a treble

There was a change of plan for James Malcolm after the former Scotland Under 20 hooker’s move to Dallas Jackals fell through when the Texas-based outfit announced that it was delaying its entry to Major League Rugby until next season. That prompted Malcolm to make the switch to Seattle Seawolves where he links up in the front-row with Djustice Sears-Duru, who was also a colleague at Glasgow Warriors. Malcolm made an instant impression when he bagged three tries for the twice MLR champions in their match away to LA Giltinis, although his contribution could not prevent the home side – with another former Warriors duo of Glenn Bryce and Adam Ashe in the starting line up, easing to a 57-26 win.

Taking it to the Max

Bristol Bears prop Max Lahiff has cemented his reputation for a distinctive interview style with a unique take on the game, comparing one European tie to Jurassic Park with “big confrontational Frenchmen and some Polynesian warlords.” This chat before his side’s match with Wasps went viral:

Raynal shows Latu a clean pair of heels

The Top 14 clash between Stade Francais and Clermont Auvergne kicked off in unusual fashion with a foot race between referee Mathieu Raynal and Stade Français hooker Tolu Latu. Seconds before Raynal’s whistle sounds for the start of the game, he can be heard setting up the challenge with the Australian international. He does, however, steal at least a metre on his rival. The clip was posted on Twitter by a fellow referee:

Racing 92 v Edinburgh: visitors outclassed and out of Champions Cup

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!