by COLIN RENTON
International honours for Scots
Two Scots made their international debuts in November for countries other than the land of their birth. Matt Kidd, a former prop at GHA, is now working and playing in Norway and came off the bench in the Rugby Europe Championship defeat away to Austria. Among his team-mates was Ruairidh Salmon, an ex-Bishopton player who lives in Stavanger, and had already been capped for the Norwegian 7s side. The other debutant was Gregor McNeish, who played for Dunfermline and Heriot’s before moving to Hong Kong three years ago. He now qualifies on residential grounds and played in both matches on Hong Kong’s European tour to Belgium and Spain.
Salary cap doesn’t fit for Montpellier
While Saracens lick their wounds following the swingeing punishment for breaching the salary cap, Montpellier have been celebrating a lucky escape. Vern Cotter’s club was fined €400,000 for having committed the same offence in the 2017-18 season. However, the French Rugby Federation’s (FFR) appeal committee has overturned the decision which was announced in October. The original decision stated that Montpellier had exceeded the €11.3 million cap by €428,000. In its ruling, the appeals commission doubled the fine for lack of transparency to €100,000. An enquiry has been launched into the influence of FFR president Bernard Laporte on the decision. He is a close friend of Mohed Altrad, owner of Montpellier and shirt sponsor for the French national side.
Prolific Pocock one short of a milestone
The World Cup marked the end of David Pocock’s international career. The 31-year-old was capped 83 times by Australia. The tally would probably have been higher but for a string of injuries that kept him out of action for lengthy spells. And the source of those injuries was probably the way he played the game, as suggested by a statistic that emerged shortly after he announced he was quitting. Pocock achieved a massive tally of 999 tackles while playing for the Wallabies, an average of 12 per game. That’s impressive, although he might regret not having managed just one more.
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Surprise Korea move in Asian qualifiers
Not known as a force in world rugby, South Korea pulled off a shock win over Hong Kong in the final of the Asian qualifying competition to secure the penultimate spot in next year’s Olympic Games 7s tournament. The Koreans join Great Britain, Fiji, Japan, US, New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, Canada, Argentina and Kenya, with the last place being decided next June.
Temp contract for the Italian job
With Conor O’Shea not extending his contract as Italy coach and deciding to quit his post now rather than after the Six Nations, the Italian Federation (FIR) has appointed Franco Smith on an interim basis. Smith, who formerly played then coached at Treviso, was capped nine times by South Africa in the 1990s. He will be assisted Giampiero De Carli, Marius Goosen, and fitness coaches Pete Atkinson and Giovanni Sanguin. The FIR will take its time to consider candidates before making a permanent appointment.
The Beast considers propping in the Prem
World Cup winner Tendai Mtawarira could be headed for the English Premiership. The 34-year-old prop, who has 117 Springbok caps to his credit, has confirmed that he will be leaving the Super Rugby outfit, Sharks, where he has played since 2006. It seems that Gloucester – coached by South African Johan Ackermann – are leading the charge for the signature of the man dubbed, ‘The Beast’. However, Mtawarira may opt to retire from the game to focus on business interests.
Worrying trend continues in Caley
Proof, if any were needed, that concern over player numbers is well-founded has come from recent events in Caledonia Division Three. Of the five fixtures scheduled for the sixth day of the league programme, four were postponed because the away team in each case was unable to field a side. There is no obvious solution to the current problem, but the stop-start nature of the league programme has surely not helped.
Richie’s regrets over World Cup absence
Richie Gray has admitted that he regrets missing out on the World Cup, although the Toulouse lock recently explained to French media that the decision to stay at home was dictated by personal circumstances and a commitment to his club. “It remains a delicate, even painful, issue because every player dreams of playing in a World Cup. But we had just a baby and I had to be there for my family as well as for my club, having been out injured for a long time,” he told the rugby paper, Midi Olympique.
Not so Nice for SRU partner club
It hasn’t been a great start to the Federale 1 campaign for Scottish Rugby’s French partner club Stade Nicois. Five wins in nine matches left the club sixth in the 12 team table at the end of November, nine points behind leaders Narbonne, despite ending the block of fixtures with a win over erstwhile pacesetters Bourg en Bresse. The Scots at the club have had limited game time, with only Hamish Bain starting one of the three matches played in November, while Kaleem Baretto and Ross Dunbar each had an appearance off the bench. Nice look to play open rugby and when it comes it’s a joy to watch as this try in the final minute of October’s win over Bedarrides shows: