by COLIN RENTON
Mixed fortunes for France-based Scots
Scottish Rugby’s link up with Stade Nicois bore fruit when the Mediterranean side secured a place in the third tier Federale 1 next season. After going through the regionalised league campaign unbeaten, Nice beat St Priest in the first knock-out round to secure a showdown with Chateaurenard with the winners progressing to the last eight of the national competition and securing promotion. Nice, with Dave Cherry and Bruce Flockhart starting, and Josh Henderson on the bench, squeezed home 19-18 in the first leg. However, the return became a procession, with Nice easing to a 47-7 win in a match that was halted for ten minutes while supporters in the stands fought each other. That result booked a quarter final spot and saw Nice clinch one of the eight promotion berths.
Elsewhere, Al Strokosch signed off at Perpignan on a high note as the Catalan side clinched the Pro D2 title and promotion to the Top 14, beating Grenoble 38-13. Perpignan’s win ended four years of exile in the second tier.
There was a disappointing end to the season for Richie Gray and his colleagues at Toulouse who lost in the Top 14 play-off semi-final against his former team Castres Olympique. Gray left the field early in the second half with an injury that has subsequently ruled him out of Scotland’s summer tour.
In the women’s Top 8, Lille, whose agreement with Scottish Rugby saw Lisa Thomson, Chloe Rollie and Jade Konkel figure prominently throughout the campaign, were edged out over two legs at the semi final stage by Stade Toulousain. Lille subsequently announced that Scottish Rugby will again be sending three international players next season.
Meanwhile, Vern Cotter has led Montpellier to the final of the Top 14 where they will meet Castres. Cotter’s impact at the club has been impressive in his first season back in France after his spell at the helm of the Scotland national team. Montpellier, who last reached the final in 2011, swatted off the challenge of Lyon in what was Cotter’s eighth semi-final in nine years of coaching French sides.
World Cup clarity at last
After months of dodging the issue, World Rugby finally pronounced on the shambolic aftermath of the Belgium versus Spain match – a qualifying tie for Japan 2019 refereed by Vlad Iordachescu of Romania, the country that benefited from Spain’s defeat. The final outcome was that the result should stand. However, in the course of the investigation, it had come to light that Romania, Spain and Belgium had all fielded ineligible players. Following deductions of 40 points for Spain and 30 points or both Belgium and Romania, the final outcome was that Russia qualified in place of Romania and Germany will take Spain’s spot in the European play-off against Portugal. And rubbing salt into the wounds, Belgium were fined £125,000, Spain £50,000 and £100,000. How everyone must wish that World Rugby had just appointed a neutral whistler.
Van der Merwe flips over pushing ban
Still in France, Clermont Auvergne lock Flip van der Merwe took to Twitter to complain about a four week ban he received for helping to ‘relocate’ the referee at a ruck in the Top 14 match against Toulouse.
— flip van der merwe (@flipvandermerwe) May 24, 2018
And you have to say that van der Merwe appears to have a point when his punishment is compared with that of Highlanders wing Tevita Nabura who was suspended for six weeks after landing a kick on Waratahs wing Cameron Clark.
Nabura was red carded for the offence and the subsequent disciplinary committee considered a 12-week ban but opted for only six given the “player’s excellent record, his remorse, his inexperience and his guilty plea.” A statement from the committee added that: “The player’s action was seen by the committee as a misguided effort by an inexperienced player to both try and regain balance whilst in the air and ward off the approaching opposing player.”
Canada needing cash
Canada, currently 21st in the World Rugby rankings and an ever-present at the World Cup since the competition’s inauguration in 1987, asked the public for financial support to help cover the cost of building up to November’s repechage tournament, which is set to take place in France. Urging all those with an interest in the sport to dip into their pockets and support the fundraising project which has a facility for online donations to the national body, Canada coach Kingsley Jones said: “Financial support from the provincial unions, clubs and the rugby community will allow our programme to make sure we have the appropriate tactical and technical support, coaching resources, analysis and a full-time high-performance daily training environment in Langford. We have organised a comprehensive match schedule, full of both domestic and international fixtures, over the next seven months and this would not be possible without adequate funding from our partners and fervent supporters.”
Gloucester fans told to ink it over
Several supporters of Gloucester discovered the harsh commercial reality of professional rugby when the Cherry and whites unveiled a new club logo. However, the club, realising that unintended consequence of the move, stepped in to ease the financial pain of updating body tattoos, with an offer to cover the cost.
— Gloucester Rugby (@gloucesterrugby) May 16, 2018
Tindall nose the score
Also on the subject of Gloucester, the event of the month that excited some and became tiresome for many others was of course the royal wedding. The world’s media dissected the event, with detailed analysis of every aspect. But surely the main story of the day was the lengths that former England centre Mike Tindall went to in order to look good in the wedding photos. In advance of the big day, the queen’s son-in-law had an operation to replace his famously squint nose with a normal neb.
And finally, coaches looking for a drill that will improve handling might want to copy the example set at Lindenwood University in Missouri – although it might not work in Scotland after August.
Things got messy at training today… pic.twitter.com/DDGKTRKnGM
— Lindenwood Rugby (@LURugby) May 25, 2018