Archive for the ‘Rugby’ Category

Scots pin hopes on Dutch Courage

Edinburgh Rugby and potential Scotland international Tim Visser speaks to Stef Meens about his club and country career.

Winger Tim Visser does what he does best: scoring tries. Pic: PA

Scotland finally scored their first try for 17 months at Murrayfield in their win over Italy in the final match of the 2011 Six Nations, but their next source of tries could come from an unlikely source.

As the Magners League Young Player of the Season for 2010, and top try scorer with 11, Tim Visser is eager to help the Scots when he becomes eligible to play for them.

The 23-year-old Dutchman, who plays on the wing for Edinburgh Rugby, says he is relishing the prospect of playing in the big international tournaments for his adopted homeland.

“The possibility is still a year away, but if I keep working hard and developing then I think I’m ready for it,” Visser said. “I feel at home here and it would be an honour to represent this country and their rugby tradition.”

While most of his team mates were playing in the Six Nations, Visser enjoyed some time off. As his allegiance lay with the Scots, “The Flying Dutchman” watched most of their matches.

“Quite a few of the Edinburgh guys are part of the Scotland team so I supported them. I also know a few lads that play for England from my time at the Newcastle Falcons but since I hope to play for Scotland next year, I cheered for the Scots.”

For Tim, watching the Six Nations has become a household tradition. “My dad played 66 times for the Dutch national team so I grew up with rugby watching him play,” he explained. “Every year we would tune in for Six Nations coverage.

“This year, I particularly enjoyed Italy versus France. The Italians have tried so long to beat one of the big teams in the Six Nations and in a tense match they finally did it. The look on their faces after their victory was priceless.

“In terms of players I would say Chris Ashton and Chris Paterson were the stars for me. The latter was outstanding especially in defence. Ashton has impressed over the last couple of seasons and keeps on scoring. He is a good role model for me in terms of getting the tries”

With England crowned as Six Nations champions, Edinburgh Rugby’s players have now returned to Murrayfield to prepare for the remainder of the season. Visser is glad the team is back together.

“It was good to have a week break. I went back to Holland to catch up with friends and family but I’m glad everybody is back now. You always get a bit disorganised when there’s time off so I’m glad we are returning to full training.”

In his teens, Visser played for Rugby Club Hilversum. His talent was spotted while representing the Dutch national team at the Amsterdam Sevens before joining the the Newcastle Falcons Academy.

When Visser made his debut in the Guinness Premiership in September 2006, he scored the winning try after replacing Jonny Wilkinson.

Despite a good start for the Falcons, Visser played on loan for Darlington Mowden Park in 2006/07 and Northampton Saints in 2007/08. In his last season at Newcastle he scored five tries in 21 appearances before making his move to Scotland

Tim joined Edinburgh Rugby as the club went through a good spell, which helped him find his way in the Magners League.

“I was a bit surprised that I started so well. I never reached my full potential in England but here at Edinburgh they believed in me and after my first try I had the confidence to go on a keep scoring, developing and putting the performance in for the team.

“So it was fantastic to become top try scorer and it was an honour to be named talent of the year.”

For most of the current season, Edinburgh have struggled to find their form. They are out of the Heineken Cup and in the league they are keeping fellow Scots Glasgow Warriors company near the bottom of the table.

However a 23-16 win against Ospreys last Saturday, including a try by Tim, proved Edinburgh have not given up this season and Visser thinks there is enough quality for them to be competitive against any opponent.

“Frankly, I think we were just playing below our par. We fail to eliminate mistakes so it’s getting harder and harder to see games off. “

However, Visser is pleased with his own development this year with five tries in the first four games of the season.

“It’s not as easy to score many point when as a team we are struggling. But in terms of positioning and tackling I feel I improved a lot. The main thing is to get back winning with the team because we have the quality to do just that.”

In a year’s time, “Dutch delight”, as he was called in Newcastle, will become eligible to play for Scotland. With Thom Evans ending his career and Scotland going through a tough period, Visser’s chances to play for Scotland are on the up.

“I spoke to Andy Robinson on a couple of occasions and he asked if I would be prepared to play for Scotland. He said that if I keep improving there is a chance for me so that is a great motivation for me to work hard and keep training.

“Also there is still a lot of competition on the Scotland wings with the likes of Sean Lamont, Simon Danielli and Nikki Walker. They are all physical and the same kind of players like me. A lot will come down to the guy that displays the best form.”

His fellow team-mates are pleased for Visser that he could play in the big international tournaments in the near future.

“We’re all friends and they took me aboard in a great way. I have to say the Scots in general are really friendly. They never gave me the idea I’m an outsider.”

His potential international debut for Scotland is still a year away, which gives him the time to learn the words to Flower of Scotland.

“My teammates asked me the lyrics not too long ago and I think I managed the first two sentences so I’ll have to work on that. But if I get the chance to play for Scotland I’ll sing Flower of Scotland to honour the tradition and to pay respect to this country”


The 6 Nations Story So Far…

With the first two rounds of fixtures completed, this years RBS 6 Nations Championship is starting to heat up. Spectacular tries and controversial celebrations in the bag, only one team has really come out of the blocks flying.

England have started the championship in superb form; thrashing Italy at Twickenham and beating Wales comfortably in what was predicted as a potential ‘banana-skin’ fixture. Their opening win in Cardiff confirmed England as a strong favourite for not only the championship but a Grand Slam as well.

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Predictions of a tense, brutal battle were correct, and the free-flowing match captivated the spectators. Neither team managed to get a foothold in the game, and with both sides playing expressive attacking rugby the momentum shifted without warning. Wales’ lacked efficiency and there ill-discipline meant England’s Toby Flood could stretch the gap time and again through his trusty right boot. Wales fought gallantly but ultimately fell short, resulting in England’s first victory in Cardiff for 8 years: the game finished 19-26.

To quote a certain blogger;

“It was snakes and ladders on a rugby field. And in a contest of relentless ebb and flow, England emerged from the rubble with a precious victory.”

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Confidence rife in the England camp they went into the next fixture with Italy predicting of a demolition job; and that’s how it turned out. Italy were no match for a powerful England side and as a result the English ran out comfortable 59-13 winners, scoring 8 tries in the process. Four of these tries were scored by winger Chris Ashton, who’s controversial ‘swallow dive’ celebration has sparked much debate. However his ability cannot be questioned, and his rugby league type supporting runs have rejuvenated the English attack. Having scored 6 tries in two matches so far, England coach Martin Johnson won’t care how they are scored as long as Ashton keeps up his rich vein of form.

Chris Ashton's spectacular 'swallow dive'

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Italy, in contrast to England, started well in their first match but lost any sort of momentum when they were thrashed at Twickenham. The Italians will have taken a great deal of confidence from their close-fought battle with Ireland in Rome, losing 11-13. A strong defensive performance in the Stadio Flaminio gave them a good platform to grab an opening day win but a catalogue of errors from both sides meant neither could get a foothold in the match. And with time running out, substitute Ronan O’Gara provided a crucial drop goal which gave Ireland the points.

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Consequently, Ireland went into their second game with confidence and hoping to build on their momentum. Welcoming reigning champions France to the Aviva Stadium the Irish knew they would always be in for a tough challenge. The home side made a confident start, scoring twice in the first half and going in 15-12 at half time, but as is so often the case discipline was to blame for their downfall. Giving away 6 ‘kick-able’ penalties over the course of the match, and on top of winger Maxine Medard’s penalty, Ireland were the architects of their own collapse, eventually losing 22-25.

French winger Medard slides over for their only try

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Previous to the match in Dublin, Frances opening game went as well as most predicted winning against Scotland in Paris. The French ran out 34-21 winners in the Stade de France and put on an impressive attacking display. Four tries, a penalty and a drop goal helped defeat the Scots, who managed to score 3 tries of their own. A good attacking display from Scotland was not enough as their defence crumbled under the pressure the French created. However, the future looked bright for Scotland with many predicting them to run Wales close the following week at Murrayfield, and if they played as freely as they did in Paris there is no reason why they couldn’t.

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Scotland welcomed Wales to Edinburgh in what was predicted to be a tight affair, but what turned into an embarrassing display from the Scots. Hoping to build on momentum following an impressive display in Paris the Scottish fans were expectant. Instead, they witnessed a lackluster Scottish performance rife with errors and lacking in penetration. The Wales line stood firm, and even with two Welshman in the sin bin the Scots could not capitalise. Two tries from Shane Williams and four James Hook penalties meant Wales raced to a 6-24 win.

Fullbacks Hugo Southwell (Scotland) and Lee Byrne (Wales) clash at Murrayfield

The men from Cardiff have had mixed fortunes so far in the tournament. But having lost to England in the first game of the championship their title charge looks somewhat frail. It remains to be seen whether the 2009 Grand Slam champions can mount a serious challenge, and their next game away to Italy could be a real test.

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Results:

Sunday 13th Feb

Ireland 22 – 25 France

Saturday 12th Feb

England 53 – 13 Italy

Scotland 6 – 24 Wales

Saturday 5th Feb

France 34 – 21 Scotland

Italy 11 – 13 Ireland

Friday 4th Feb

Wales 19 – 26 England

 

For upcoming fixtures check out the 6 Nations Preview article.

 

Elliot Busby

Behold! It’s Six Nations time!

The start of the RBS 6 Nations is an exciting time for any rugby fan. For me, it signals the beginning of Spring. Although it may still be below freezing outside, the tournament brings fresh hope and entusiasm to the competing nations.

The old cliche, ‘the romance of the cup’ is rarely more evident than in this proud tournament. The mutual respect between rival fans is what makes it so special. Meeting England fans in an Edinburgh pub after beating them at Murrayfield proves this. Settling your differences over a pint, something that would not be found after an Old Firm game in Glasgow, or following a Liverpool-Everton match on Merseyside.

This years competition is being branded as one of the most open yet, with at least three of the six sides predicted to challenge for the title. 2011 could prove to be the year of the youngster in European rugby union. Every one of the 6 nations has their fair share of injury troubles, prompting the call-up of many new caps, and with the World Cup in the summer the youngsters will be keen to impress. See below a quick summary of all the competing nations, including past honours, injury troubles and their chances at claiming the title this time around.

France:

  • Favourites for 2011 6 Nations.
  • Won Grand Slam in 2010, which included a dominant 33-10 win over Ireland in Paris.
  • The only side with a clean bill of health.

England:

  • Last won the tournament in 2003, when Martin Johnson Captined the side to their first Grand Slam.
  • Viewed by many as equal favourites with France.
  • Very strong, physical forwards.
  • They are injury ridden however, missing 4 key forwards including Lewis Moody and Tom Croft.
  • Centre Mike Tindall has been handed the captaincy for the opening game against Wales on Friday (4th Feb).

Ireland:

  • 2009 Grand Slam Champions.
  • Had a relatively poor championship last year, but still managed 2nd place.
  • This year they have a lot of injury problems, with British Lions players Tommy Bowe, Rob Kearney and Stephen Ferris all out.
  • Ireland could easily slump this year, but are in good form having won their last two test matches, and will want to start strongly against Italy in Rome, on Saturday (5th Feb).

Wales:

  • Since winning the Grand Slam in 2009, Wales haven’t managed to finish higher than 4th.
  • Not considered serious title contenders.
  • They too are missing key players in the form of Leigh Halfpenny, Adam Jones and Gethin Jenkins.
  • However, the Millenium Stadium in Cardiff is a fortress for the Welsh and any team can be humbled on it’s stage.

Scotland:

  • The Scots have never won the 6 Nations in it’s 10 year history.
  • Very good defensively, but struggle to score tries and therefore fail to beat the bigger sides of a regular basis.
  • However, Scotland won their last two tests against South Africa and Samoa, and have risen to 7th in the World Rankings.
  • Injured Graeme Morrison may return for the last two games of the tournament, and Johnny Beattie is only lacking in match fitness, so Scotland’s injury troubles are not as great as the other home nations.

Italy:

  • Very much the underdog of the tournament having finished bottom 7 times out of 10.
  • Italian rugby is growing quickly, helped by the induction of clubs Bennetton Treviso and Aironi Rugby into the Magners League.
  • They will also be boosted by the return of captain Sergio Parisse after he missed last years tournament through injury.

 

    Fixture List (All times GMT):

    Fri 4th Feb

    Wales v England – 19.45

    Sat 5th Feb

    Italy v Ireland – 14.30

    France v Scotland – 17.00

    Sat 12th Feb

    England v Italy 14.30

    Scotland v Wales 17.00

    Sun 13th Feb

    Ireland v France – 15.00

    Sat 26th Feb

    Italy v Wales – 13.30

    England v France – 17.00

    Sun 27th Feb

    Scotland v Ireland – 15.00

    Sat 12th March

    Italy v France – 13.30

    Wales v Ireland – 17.00

    Sun 13th March

    England v Scotland 15.00

    Sat 19th March

    Scotland v Italy – 14.30

    Ireland v England – 17.00

    France v Wales – 18.45

     

    Elliot Busby

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