Six Nations: Full previews as Scotland men’s, women’s and under-20’s teams prepare for France test

 

Scotland Men vs. France

Sunday March 8, Murrayfield, 7:45 PM 

Weir returns to Scotland fold against tournament favourites

Wigan Warriors fly-half Duncan Weir could make his first Scotland start under Gregor Townsend as he is named on the bench for the squad to face France at Murrayfield.

He made the last of his 27 caps in 2017 before his former Glasgow Warriors boss Townsend omitted him from the fold after becoming Scotland head coach.

“When I reflect on the England game, to have someone like Duncan on the bench would have helped,” Townsend admitted.

In one of three changes to the side, Nick Haining takes the spot of Magnus Bradbury at number eight, while Fraser Brown will make his 50th cap by replacing Stuart McInally.

The visiting team have been tipped by many to emerge as the competition’s winners, having won all three of their matches so far.

Scotland’s form contrasts greatly, having picked up just the sole victory in the Stadio Olympico last week with a 17-0 win.

“We’re going to have to deliver our best rugby of the championship in order to beat a team in such good form,” Townsend said.

“It’s a very different French team to the one we played in Paris 12 months ago, that’s for sure.

“France’s victories have been built on an aggressive and well-organised defence, so the precision, decision-making and attacking game will have to be very good to get in behind them this weekend.

“It’s no different to the challenges we face every week in this championship.”

The game has survived any threats of cancellation due to the coronavirus, while the Italy vs Ireland match due for the day before was deemed unsafe to go ahead.

 

Scotland Women vs. France

Saturday March 7, Scotstoun, 7:45 PM

Scotland unchanged despite two opening losses

Head coach Phillip Doyle has named an unchanged side as Scotland look to bounce from opening defeats in the Women’s Six Nations.

Scotland have not played in over three weeks after their round 3 match against Italy in Rome was postponed due to concerns over the coronavirus in the country.

But Doyle has picked the same XV that would have started against Italy, with hooker Lana Skeldon set to win her 40th cap.

Scotland opened their Women’s Six Nations campaign with defeats to Ireland and England, while France are second in the table after thrashing Wales 50-0 in their last outing.

Speaking ahead of the game, Scotland captain Rachel Malcolm said the team’s rhythm had not been disrupted by the postponed Italy fixture and insisted they were ready to go.

“We’ve had a bit longer rest than we would have had, so I think we’ve got a fresh squad who are chomping at the bit to get going this week, which is a positive,” Malcolm said.

“We haven’t had that exposure to a Test match so we’ve upped the intensity in terms of contact in camp this week, which we wouldn’t always do in the build-up to a match, but the girls are firing on all cylinders and just ready to go again. So I think the break has actually done us good.”

Scotland Under-20’s vs. France

Friday 6th March, Netherdale, 8:00 PM

Frostwick the sole change as Scotland look to edge ahead of France

Scotland and France sit level on points ahead of their penultimate Six Nations match in Galashiels tonight, with one win apiece.

The young Scots are looking to build on their first victory of this year’s tournament following their 30-29 victory over Italy in Round 3 last week., after losing the opening two.

Only one change has been made to that victorious side, as Roan Frostwick replaces Kyle McGhie at scrum-half.

He has impressed for Watsonians this year in the inaugural Super6 tournament and credits time spent with Edinburgh Rugby and playing in the new competition for his step up in standard.

“I was lucky enough to be invited to pre-season with Edinburgh which kicked on really well,” he said. “I’ve trained pretty much the whole time with Edinburgh this season, and being at Watsonians has helped massively.

“There’s definitely a step up from the Premiership to Super6 and then from Super6 to this [international]. Credit to Scottish Rugby for trying to make that transition for younger players into a more professional environment. It has really worked.”

Scotland are yet to beat France at under-20 level, and Frostwick believes that attacking is the only way to pick up that elusive win.

“We had a good go at them last year – I think it’s on the cards [a first win],” he predicted.

“We are a good side, France are a good side, you can’t take that away from them.

“Against England we started well but we couldn’t hold it, and we ideally should’ve won, but if we come out the gates firing, France will be shocked and we just carry on the momentum.”

Hibernian: Ross unsurprised at McNulty ban

 

Hibernian manager Jack Ross was unsurprised at Marc McNulty’s two-match ban after the club accepted an SFA charge against the striker.

The on-loan Reading man was cited by the governing body’s compliance officer after stamping on the back of Hearts’ Sean Clare in the first half of Tuesday night’s Edinburgh Derby defeat at Easter Road.

With Hibs accepting the ban in time for the weekend, they will be without McNulty for tomorrow’s trip to Pittodrie to face Aberdeen, and against St Johnstone at home seven days later.

“I wasn’t even aware of the incident when I came to do my initial post-match interviews,” Ross said before the club accepted the ban.

“I don’t want to prejudice anything we do moving forward but when I say I’m not surprised that we’ve received a notice of complaint, I think that gives you my best indication of [his views on the incident] because the footage speaks for itself in that respect.

“You can’t get inside people’s heads, but football is a very emotive game and things happen in split seconds. But in terms of what the footage shows, it’s not great.

“If [a ban] is the outcome then it is a blow for us as we don’t have a plethora of striking options.”

With a gap now appearing in Hibs’ already thin forward line, there is a chance for young striker Jamie Gullan to make his first start for the club as Ross claimed he is now a legitimate first-team option.

The 20-year old scored his first senior goal for the Hibees in last week’s Scottish Cup quarter-final win against Inverness Caledonian Thistle and came on as a substitute against Hearts, but is yet to start a game for the club.

“He’s ready to start games,” Ross said of Gullan. “The only reason he hasn’t started is because we’ve been doing well in an attacking sense.

“He came on in difficult circumstances [against Hearts], I think we had just conceded the second goal, and I think with his first or second touch he put the ball out of the pitch.

“I look at things like that to see how players react to it, and he was good after that. He’s involved in our goal and he was bright in difficult circumstances.

“If and when he’s required, and the opportunity presents itself, I have no qualms about using him.”

Ross’ side will travel up north still without the services of midfielder Joe Newell, who hasn’t featured since an injury away to Kilmarnock last month.

Stephen Robinson trial: Partner of Motherwell boss says she is ‘not a victim’

The partner of Motherwell manager Stephen Robinson has told court that she is “not a victim” after he was accused of assaulting her.

Robinson, 45, is on trial at Edinburgh Sherriff Court after being accused of assaulting Robyn Lauchlin on December 13 last year.

The pair were returning from a day spent in the capital before Robinson was accused of grabbing, pulling and shoving Lauchlin before pinning her against a fence.

Lauchlin said that she has sent six different emails, detailing her account of what happened during the alleged assault.

In response to her efforts, during which she was not allowed contact with Robinson, she received a response from victim support.

“I am not a victim; I find it insulting,” she said. “I find it very difficult why my voice isn’t being heard.

“I have never been more disappointed in the law. There has been no thought for the innocent in this.

“I’ve begged for a response. It is extremely concerning I have not been asked for the facts.”

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Robinson has also been accused of behaving in an aggressive manner by shouting, swearing and acting aggressively.

The fourth witness David McIlduff, 25, said: “I heard a good deal of shouting. He seemed to have her pinned against the wall. His hands were around her.”

“I’m sure I heard her shout ‘get away from me’ towards him. The gentleman was raging.

“It was aggressive enough that the woman tried to move away. The gentleman used enough force to keep her against the fence.”

The trial before Sheriff John Cook will resume next week.

Cup replay between Hearts and Rangers could postpone Tuesday’s Edinburgh derby

Tuesday night’s Edinburgh Derby at Easter Road could be postponed should Hearts’ Scottish Cup quarter-final against Rangers tomorrow go to a replay.

The Scottish FA has announced that a draw at Tynecastle will result in the teams facing again on Wednesday, March 4 at Ibrox.

With Rangers playing their Europa League round of 16 tie against Bayer Leverkusen over the following two weeks and the Scottish Cup semi-finals on the weekend of April 11, next week remains the only free slot to contest a replay.

Hearts are also facing the prospect of a fixture pile-up after their crucial game away to St Mirren was postponed last week due to heavy rain.

The relegation strugglers host Rangers in Gorgie tomorrow after upsetting Steven Gerrard’s side with a 2-1 victory in January, which remains manager Daniel Stendel’s only league win with the Jambos.

Speaking to the media on Thursday, Stendel said he hopes his team can take inspiration from that January performance.

“Rangers will be more focused for this game,” Stendel said. “The cup is always a good chance for everybody to win a title, especially after the first game.

“For us it is important that we know we can win. If we play at Tynecastle then we have the support that we need against Rangers. In our situation, every game is important.

“The difference is that this is a cup game and doesn’t change anything in the league, but it can give us a positive lift for the next couple of games, especially on Tuesday night. We need better results.”

Stendel claimed that he saw a big lift after beating Rangers, however he regretted his side’s failure to capitalise on that as they only won one of their next five games – a 1-0 victory over League One Falkirk in the previous round of the cup.

This quarter-final tie gives Hearts a chance to switch their focus from Premiership duty, where they find themselves two points adrift at the foot of the table.

The St Mirren postponement has resulted in the Jambos having an extra week to prepare for tomorrow’s game, but it may have been an unwelcome break as Stendel admitted time is running out for them to turn the tide.

“All that we do in training is good. The motivation is good. The only thing that doesn’t change is the results,” he said.

“We can look to other games and other teams, but the only team that we can change is us.”

“I said to the players, ‘we cannot score three goals every week’. The other team doesn’t get a lot of chances, but every chance is a goal. Every week it costs us points. We want one goal to be enough to win a game.”

The German will be boosted by the return of striker Liam Boyce, who struck the winning goal on his debut when the teams met in January, however he is still awaiting the return of defender Toby Sibbick after illness.

Europa League: Rangers to face German side Bayer Leverkusen in round of 16 tie

Rangers have drawn Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen in the Europa League round of 16 draw, in their first trip to Germany since facing VfB Stuttgart in 2009. They were also the last Scottish team to win on German soil, having defeated the same side 2-1 in 1998.

Leverkusen sit fifth in their league and comfortably swept away Porto 5-2 on aggregate in the last round, having dropped down from the Champions League after finishing third in their group.

The Light Blues reached the last 16 of a European competition for the first time in nine years earlier in the week, beating Braga home and away in the previous round.

The Portuguese side took a two-goal lead in the first leg at Ibrox before Iannis Hagi inspired a 3-2 comeback with two strikes. Ryan Kent’s goal sealed a comfortable 1-0 win on the continent for Steven Gerrard’s side in Wednesday’s second leg.

The Rangers manager believes his side are capable of producing a similar result.

“I think the team are suited when they are in the zone and focussed,” he said. “If they have the right mentality, we can compete and show what we are about in any opposition against any teams.

“We have every right to be excited that we are still involved in the draw. From the first qualifying round, the boys deserve great credit for coming through.”

The first leg takes place at Ibrox on Thursday, March 12 with the return leg taking place seven days later – Rangers also host fierce rivals Celtic in between.

With a Scottish Cup quarter-final to come tomorrow, any further progression could see a fixture pile-up for the Gers.

Bradbury the sole change to Scotland squad named to face England

Magnus Bradbury is the only change to Gregor Townsend’s Scotland side who host England at BT Murrayfield for this weekend’s Calcutta Cup clash.

The Edinburgh back-row missed last weekend’s 19-12 defeat to Ireland in Dublin, the side’s opening game in the Six Nations, with a thigh strain.

Forward coach Danny Wilson saw promising signs in the defeat to Ireland.

“What happened for us in Dublin last week was some fine margins. One or two things went against us,” Wilson said.

“We talked about some of the positives of last week, but we lost the game. This is a home game; we have to go out there to win.”

Having been knocked out of the Rugby World Cup in the group stages last year, Wilson is hoping that Scotland take experience from the tournament into games of this size.

“We’ve learnt some lessons from the World Cup,” the assistant coach said. “International rugby is an extremely physical game, we know the physicality that will be required for us to be competitive.”

Eddie Jones’s England side may be favourites to win the competition, but they will be desperate for a win in Edinburgh after losing their opening game to France 24-17 in Paris last weekend.

The World Cup runners-up lost on their last visit to the capital in 2018 and failed to claw back the Calcutta Cup at Twickenham last year, settling for a draw.

Scotland captain Stuart Hogg is expecting a different England performance this time around.

“We can’t stand back and admire England for too long,” he said. “They’ve got some cracking individuals, they got to the World Cup final for a reason.”

“We’ve got the game plan and the players in this squad to win test matches. There’s a Calcutta cup to play for and that’s all we’re concentrating on.”

“I truly believe if we nail our jobs in attack and defence, we can turn over England.”

Scott Cummings, who will start against Eddie Jones’ side, has become a regular in the team since the World Cup in Japan. The lock told EN4 News about how the experience of the big stage has prepared him for tomorrow’s game.

Scotland trained at BT Murrayfield this morning ahead of the game. (Credit: Joe Anderson)

“That final game against Japan, in Japan, was such a tense atmosphere with everyone supporting Japan, wanting them to come through.” he said.

“Ireland away was also an amazing atmosphere but I don’t think there won’t be many better atmospheres that Scotland vs England at Murrayfield.”

“England will be looking to be dominant upfront but so will we. We know that if we win upfront we have the quality in the backs to break the game open. We’ve just really been focusing on ourselves and what we can do in the game”

Nick Haining, who gained his first cap for his country when he started in the loss to Ireland, drops to the bench in Bradbury’s place.

Meaning Bradbury will start in an all-Edinburgh back row featuring Jamie Ritchie on the blindside and Hamish Watson at openside.

An unchanged backline sees Ali Price and Adam Hastings form a familiar partnership from club level, with Sam Johnson and Huw Jones – who have both scored tries against England in 2018 and 2019 respectively – start in midfield.

Hogg captains the side in a back-three with Sean Maitland and Blair Kinghorn joining him.

Hibs sign Paul McGinn from St Mirren while Hearts capture Marcel Langer on short-term deal

Hibernian have announced the signing of defender Paul McGinn from St Mirren, who joins on an 18-month contract.

Hibs boss Jack Ross has been in the market for a versatile defender after full-back Jason Naismith was ruled out for the remainder of the season with a knee injury.

He is the older brother of former Hibs favourite John, who won the Scottish Cup with the Leith club and subsequently earned a move to Aston Villa.

McGinn was previously signed for St Mirren on the same day that his new manager Jack Ross left for Sunderland.

He could make his first appearance against the same club he left, as the Paisley outfit travel to Easter Road on Saturday.

Hearts, meanwhile, have completed the signing of German midfielder Marcel Langer from Schalke 04.

The 22-year-old joins until the end of the season and is Hearts’ fourth January signing joining Donis Avdijaj, Toby Sibbick and Liam Boyce at the Tynecastle club.

Langer is a product of the Hannover 96 academy and joined Schalke in 2018, playing predominately for their second team in the Regionalliga, Germany’s fourth tier.

The defensive midfielder will look to fill the void left by long-term absentee Peter Haring at the base of their midfield.

Jerome looking to make up for lost time in Varsity match

Edinburgh Napier Knights’ linebacker Mac Jerome has said that he has extra motivation for this weekend’s annual Varsity match, having missed the previous three years through injury.

The annual game, which takes place on Super Bowl Sunday, sees the Knights take on University of Edinburgh Predators at Meggetland Stadium after facing Glasgow University in the previous two years.

Jerome is looking to make up for lost time in this year’s clash.

He said: “I played it [Varsity] in my first year, I started and got injured in that game. I was actually stretchered off the field, and then I was injured for the next year, and last year’s game was cancelled. I’m looking to go out with a bang.”

“I can’t wait for it; it’s probably our biggest game of the season, so it’s something I’m always looking forward to. This game is almost separate from the rest of the league season. This is the game that we want to win.”

The Knights have faced off against Glasgow opposition in the previous two years (Credit: Robert Anderson)

Jerome also explained that the local rivalry will add an extra spice to the match.

“It’s definitely feistier,” the linebacker said, “We will play with more aggression, but we will have to treat it the same as any other game.”

This year is the ninth time that the MacKenzie’s Challenge trophy has been up for grabs, and Knights’ head coach Pete Laird has seen the event grow significantly during his years in charge of the side.

“We’ve attracted bigger crowds, bigger sponsors, the bar area is taking off and we have all sorts of teams and societies wanting to get involved.”

 

While the result is obviously important, the opportunity to give the sport more exposure is not lost on the coach.

“The Varsity game itself has two purposes: one is to promote the team, but the other is to give American Football a bit of a shop window.

“We appreciate most people’s exposure to the sport is through the NFL highlights and the Super Bowl, and to get people along to a real game and give them a game day experience is one of our main aims.”

All eyes may be on Miami for Sunday night’s big game between Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers, but the Edinburgh players will have only one focus.

THE BIG NEW YEAR’S WORKOUT: THE FAT-BURNER

 

The ‘Fat Burner’ is designed to get you back into shape after Christmas

 

We’ve partnered with Gregor Ridley Personal Fitness to design a four-week workout plan to burn off those pigs in blankets. Even in a packed gym full of New Years’ resolutioners, you’ll need minimum space for these workouts. All that’s required is 6ftx6ft floor space and you’re ready to go.

 

Day One

 

The goblet squat will give you a full-body burn

 

Day Two

* As many rounds as possible

 

Cossack squats will beef up your legs and thighs

Why this workout?

In order to lose weight and burn fat, you need to create a sustainable caloric deficit. These workouts make use of supersets with relatively short recoveries, as well as conditioning to maximise calorie burn.

The mountain climbers exercise will improve your cardio and work your whole body

The supersets use mainly multi joint exercises, meaning more work is done per exercise. Executing each exercise with solid technique is key.
If you find your form dipping before the end of your third set, it is possible the weight you are using is too heavy. Check the ego at the door, and make sure you complete your reps.

Of course, it’s important to remember you can’t out-train a bad diet.

Pothole revelations show £1.6m spent by Edinburgh City Council

Edinburgh City Council spent £1.62 million in the last financial year on resolving potholes issues within the city, a Freedom of Information Act request has found.

It equates to just under the total amount spent on other non-pothole related road issues, with £1.68m spent on other maintenance work.

It was reported last year that it costs £60 to repair one pothole, which equates to around 27,000 potholes being repaired in the last financial year.

That is a rise by almost 2000 repairs in the last two years, with over 25,000 being fixed in 2017.

However, the issue goes back further than 2017, with Edinburgh found to average 73 potholes per kilometre of road in April 2015.

Transport and Environment Convener Councillor Lesley Macinnes said: “It’s not surprising that around half of our revenue spend focuses on repairing potholes and other damage, as this budget is specifically allocated to maintaining our network of roads and pavements. In addition to this, revenue budget is used for a variety of improvements, including gully clearing and hard landscaping.”

“Tackling poor and damaged road surfaces is a real priority for the Council, and significant investment in the roads network has seen our road condition rating improve to its best since 2011. This is in part thanks to our proactive approach to repairs as well as an increased output in road renewals, as part of our £15m spend in such projects last year.”

“Our teams work extremely hard to make sure our streets are safe and usable by pedestrians, cyclists and drivers and as a result the vast majority of defects are made safe as quickly as possible, negating the need for the public to claim for damage.”

Edinburgh locals have taken to Twitter in recent weeks to raise their complaints about the number of road repairs needed in the city.

The FOI request was made by consumer champion Scott Dixon, who runs the Facebook page The Complaints Resolver. He told EN4 News about a pothole he spotted at Prestonfield Bank in 2017 which was “repaired” in ten minutes, and he believes that the fix was rushed and unprofessional.

Credit: Scott Nixon

A few months ago, data analysis FixMyStreet found that potholes were the top cause of council complaints in Edinburgh. With numbers rising, it seems the issue is not any closer to being fixed.

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