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.

Exclusive: Russell dismissal from Scotland camp a ‘devastating blow’, former captain Lawson says

Russell will not line-up with the Scotland team against Ireland. (Credit: EN4 News)

Former Scotland captain Rory Lawson has told EN4 News that Finn Russell’s dismissal from Scotland’s Six Nations training camp is a “devastating blow” ahead of the tournament.

Russell’s dismissal, which emerged on Thursday afternoon, has only been referred to in a short statement by the SRU in which they stated Russell had been “disciplined for a breach of team protocol during the week’s camp in Edinburgh.”

Lawson spoke about how the situation will have affected the 37 men who remain in the Scotland training camp.

“I think it’s a devastating blow,” Lawson told EN4 News. “Without knowing the ins and outs of, firstly what has happened, and secondly how it’s been dealt with, I think it’s a big challenge not only for Gregor Townsend and his coaching team but also the leadership team within the Scotland team.

“You think about Stuart Hogg – it’s his first week as Scotland captain with the rest of the squad and something like this gets thrown into the equation. It’s difficult. He doesn’t have the likes of Greig Laidlaw to lean on, who would have been one of the leaders in that decision making group previously. So, it’s stress that this Scotland squad could really do without.”

Lawson went on to discuss the issues that this situation could throw up in terms of match day team selection. The former player believes that whilst Russell is a big loss, this situation could test the depth of Townsend’s squad.

“I think, equally, the strength of any team, or any nation going in to the Six Nations, comes from the depth as well. Injuries and potential loss of players through anything to do with discipline, come within the tournament.

“It’s a blow that Scotland could ill-afford coming in to the competition. Yes Adam Hastings is in a good position, and yes there are other guys who could take that number 10 spot that are on the bench – but it’s undoubtedly a drop off in quality operators.”

Also speaking exclusively to EN4 News, fellow fly-half and former Scotland captain John Rutherford discussed his views on what has possibly gone on behind the scenes in the Scotland camp.

“It’s very difficult,” Rutherford said. “I’m now just like you, in that you’re picking up what journalists are saying or what’s going out on twitter. It sounds to me like he’s probably stepped over the line on drinking protocol. And that he’s not turned up for training.
“I think that has probably pushed Gregor [Townsend] into making the decision to discipline him for that first game.”

Rutherford acknowledged that, as of now, the details surrounding the situation and exactly what Russell’s actions have been, remain relatively unknown.

“We’re all guessing what happened. It will come out. I would have thought that over the weekend, some players will probably have spoken to friends and it will have gotten out. It’s really unfortunate – but hey, it happens all the time, in sport and business.”

What does Finn Russell’s ousting mean for Scotland’s fly-half options?

Following Thursday’s announcement that Finn Russell has been dismissed from Scotland’s preparations for their Guinness Six Nations opener against Ireland, questions have been raised about Gregor Townsend’s back-up fly-half options.

Within the remaining 37 men selected in Townsend’s squad, there are three players capable of filling the position in Russell’s absence.

Glasgow Warriors’ Adam Hastings is seen as the first choice, as half-back is his favoured position anyway, while Northampton centre Rory Hutchinson can switch to the 10 slot, as can Edinburgh’s fullback Blair Kinghorn.

Russell was expected by most to be called upon to fill the Scotland 10 jersey throughout the tournament, as his recent form with Racing 92 in the French Top 14 has been outstanding.

However, the short statement released by the SRU on Thursday stated that Russell had been instructed to return to his club “having been disciplined for a breach of team protocol during the week’s camp in Edinburgh”.

This means Russell will not travel with the team to their training camp in Portugal – due to take place at the beginning of next week – and will also miss their campaign opener against Ireland in Dublin.

It is not yet known if he will be allowed to participate in Scotland’s other four games – against England and France at home, and Italy and Wales away – but in the meantime, focus will most likely turn to Hastings, Hutchinson or Kinghorn.

Here, we take a look at what each player brings to the position:

Adam Hastings

Hastings is the most likely choice to claim Scotland’s 10 jersey following Russell’s dismissal. He fields the position week-in, week-out in the Pro14 and Champions Cup for the Glasgow Warriors and has created a tight partnership with fellow Warrior, scrum-half George Horne.

Hastings is a lover of the fast, flare-based game that Glasgow have adopted of late, but he is also more than capable at the basics, successfully kicking his 100th conversion in Glasgow’s Champions Cup meeting with Exeter at the beginning of the month. Considering this, and his partnership with Horne, Hastings will likely be fielded in the starting 15.

 

Rory Hutchinson

Hutchinson is regularly used as a centre – for both his club Northampton and in his few international caps to date – but he is also a more than capable fly-half. In 2019, Hutchinson was the top-ranking Premiership centre for clean breaks with 20, metres gained (654) and try assists (6), so he will likely look to bring a more expansive style to the game should he be dropped in at 10.

Hutchinson has not enjoyed much time at fly-half with his club due to Northampton’s ranks including Welsh 10 Dan Biggar. However, he was a standout player in the position at age-grade level for Scotland, and Townsend expressed the thinking when he named his squad that Hutchinson’s inclusion would give him both a centre and fly-half option in one.

 

Blair Kinghorn

Kinghorn is Townsend’s third valid option for filling the position while Russell is dismissed. The youngster usually finds himself in the fullback position, but he did play some of his age-grade rugby at half-back. Kinghorn charted the third-most metres made in last year’s Six Nations with 323 and has been a key figure in Edinburgh’s backline for the past couple of seasons.

His favoured jersey is 15, but following Richard Cockerill’s arrival at Edinburgh, Kinghorn has matured into a confident enough player that he could cover well at 10, as long as he has a confident nine inside of him.

 

Hearts favourites to sign striker Liam Boyce after Burton accept bid

Burton Albion have accepted a bid from Heart of Midlothian for striker Liam Boyce.

Boyce is in the process of discussing personal terms with the Edinburgh side, and they are hoping that a deal can be struck to convince the striker to return to Scotland before Rangers’ visit to Tynecastle on Sunday afternoon.

He has netted 14 times in 33 outings for Burton since joining from Ross County and is in the final six months of his contract with the club.

Hearts are the favourites to sign him as it stands, with a fee of around ÂŁ250,000 being rumoured.

However, the striker may have further ambitions to carry on his successful spell down south rather than enter a relegation battle in the Scottish Premiership, where Hearts are bottom of the table.

Edinburgh Rugby face crunch time as Six Nations approaches

Edinburgh Rugby are currently in the midst of a short, hard-earned break in their 2019/20 season. Here, Erin McRitchie takes some time to look at what is coming up in the remainder of the season for Richard Cockerill’s squad.

(Credit: EN4 News)

The loss of internationalists

With the Guinness Six Nations fast approaching, Richard Cockerill has had to wave goodbye to 16 of his Edinburgh players as they head off on international duty with Scotland, and one – Pietro Ceccarelli – with Italy.

Of all those called upon, 13 are forwards and four are from the backline, so the impact of the internationals will be felt the hardest in the forward pack.

Cockerill will really have to put a lot of faith in the depth of his squad in the scrum in the next month or so.

However, this could produce many positives, as it is in times like the Six Nations period that young players can step up and utilise all of the opportunities afforded to them throughout the competition’s run.

The Pro14

Edinburgh have three crucial games during the Six Nations, as they face Scarlets away before back-to-back fixtures at BT Murrayfield, against Connacht and Cardiff Blues.

In terms of the Conference B table, Edinburgh head into the break in pole position on 34 points, whilst their first competitors after the break – Scarlets at Parc y Scarlets – are just three points behind them in second place.

Scarlets will most likely have a clear purpose in mind when Cockerill’s men arrive in Llanelli and will be boosted by the re-signing of back Steff Evans, as well as the fact they have won all but one of their home fixtures this season.

Following that tussle between first and second place, the Scottish club will welcome Irish outfit Connacht to BT Murrayfield, who reside in fourth position, before Welshmen Cardiff Blues, currently sitting fifth, arrive in the Scottish capital just a week later.

Connacht will arrive in Edinburgh with their attention solely on pushing ahead in their Pro14 campaign having missed out on the quarter-finals of the Champions Cup through a narrow 35-29 defeat to Montpellier at the weekend.

And finally, Cardiff Blues make a trip to Edinburgh having fallen 19-11 at home to Cockerill’s team in October.

The Challenge Cup

By defeating Agen 36-0 at BT Murrayfield last weekend, Edinburgh earned their place in the quarter-finals of the Challenge Cup.

Going into the play-off stage in sixth place means that Edinburgh will face fellow pool 3 team, Bordeaux, for their chance to advance to the semi-finals of the European competition.

Thankfully for Cockerill and his team, they will not face this challenge until after the culmination of the Six Nations, as the quarter-finals take place on the weekend of April 3.

Super 6 Preview 

Since the introduction of the Super 6, the quality of rugby in Scotland has not disappointed. This weekend offers up another set of exciting fixtures in the Forsoc Super 6, including an all Edinburgh clash between Heriots Rugby and Boroughmuir Bears, Stirling County will host Watsonians, and Ayrshire Bulls welcome Southern Knights in Ayr.  

This Saturday will see a tasty fixture between Heriots Rugby and Boroughmuir. The Edinburgh sides have struggled to make an impact on the Super 6, with Heriots and Boroughmuir sitting third and fifth respectively. Regardless of that, the tie is set to be a good clash. Boroughmuir just edged Heriots the last time the sides met in November, but, with Heriots having home advantage this time around, it is going to be a tough day for the Bears. Heriots are the only side Boroughmuir have beaten this season, so they will be looking to get back to winning ways this weekend. Goldenacre has become a fortress for Heriots, and they will be seeking revenge after their 34-31 loss at Boroughmuir’s Meggetland.

Former Heriots star, Robbie Chalmers, spoke to EN4 News regarding Heriots success of recent times. “The vibe around the club has been positive all season. There is a great club atmosphere at Heriots because all the teams socialise and get on so well with each other. We have done very well so far and are sitting in a nice position towards the business end of the season. We have had a few games where we could have possibly won, but all the games are going to be tight in this league.”

Chalmers also expressed his thoughts on the tight game coming up against Boroughmuir this weekend: “I am sure the boys will go well this Saturday against Boroughmuir. We have made a few changes to the team from last week, but it is exciting that we can do this because our squad is so strong.” This will be an interesting fixture for Heriot’s this coming weekend. 

Watsonians will travel to Stirling on Saturday to face Stirling County. Although this is a top versus bottom clash, Stirling will have their eyes on a Super 6 upset. Watsonians have been thrilling to watch throughout the competition so far; their quick and expansive style of rugby has left opposition baffled on countless occasions. With just one loss this season – to Ayrshire Bulls – Watsonians are quickly becoming the team to beat, and Stirling County want to be the team to do it. After beating Boroughmuir on the first day of the season, Stirling have struggled to find form, drawing one and losing five of the following six games. This poor run of Stirling form has found the club rock bottom of the league. The last time the clubs met, Watsonians came out on top winning 34-22 at home. Regardless of the league standings, this will be a thrilling and high-scoring game of rugby. 

Sunday’s only game sees Southern Knights travel to Ayrshire to take on the Bulls. Ayrshire put the work in at Melrose to pip the Knights 29-10 the last time they met. It has been a mixed bag of results for Southern Knights, winning two, drawing one and losing four of the Super 6 games this season. On the other hand, Ayrshire will be looking for a bonus point win to put pressure on top place Watsonians. This will be a must-win game for Ayrshire, and a fixture that they will go into with bags of confidence. 

Scottish rugby fans will be hoping for high scoring, tense games of rugby in the Forsoc Super 6. No one can argue that the Super 6 has not been a roaring success; the enthralling games fans are witnessing throughout Scotland makes the Super 6 hard not to love. 

Hearts name Steven Naismith as new club captain

Heart of Midlothian manager Daniel Stendel has announced Steven Naismith as the new club captain.

The Scotland striker joined Hearts on loan from Norwich City in January 2018 before committing his long-term future to the club in the summer of 2019. He will take the armband from axed skipper Christophe Berra, who was told by the manager that he is free to find a new club.

Naismith has scored 16 goals in 41 league appearances for Hearts. He has proven to be a talisman for the Gorgie side time and again, especially in last season’s run to the Scottish Cup final. His run as captain will begin with a home tie in the cup against Airdrieonians on Saturday.

The three other candidates for the captaincy were Craig Halkett, John Souttar and Michael Smith, but Stendel has ultimately opted for the experience of Naismith to try and get Hearts back on track this season.

Despite missing out on the captaincy, Stendel made the decision to maintain John Souttar as club vice-captain.

Next week, when the league restarts following the winter break, the new skipper will be trying to chase down the five-point gap that has Hearts sitting adrift at the bottom of the table.

Rangers progress as Celtic stutter in Romania

Rangers have sealed their place in the knockout stage of the Europa League, despite a late scare against Young Boys at Ibrox. Alfredo Morelos scored his 26th goal of the season, as well as his sixth in six group games, after capitalising on a defensive mix-up in the Young Boys defence. A Borna Barisic own goal and a second yellow for Ryan Jack left Steven Gerrard’s men nervy, but the Gers held on to claim second place in the group.

Celtic suffered their first defeat of their Europa League campaign, losing 2-0 away to Cluj. Goals from Andrei Burca and Damjan Djokovic ensured that the Romanian outfit progress to the next round of the competition. Having already secured top spot in the group, Neil Lennon named a fairly weakened squad, which included youngsters Scott Robertson and Karamoko Dembele.

Manchester United scored four goals in just 11 minutes, as they thrashed AZ Alkmaar at Old Trafford. 17-year-old Mason Greenwood grabbed a brace, while an Ashley Young strike and a Juan Mata penalty ensured United top Group L comfortably.

Arsenal battled back in Belgium, drawing 2-2 with Standard Leige. With just 20 minutes left to go, Leige led through goals from Samuel Bastien and Selim Amallah. Interim head coach Freddie Ljungberg was please with the “great character” of his players, after watching Alexandre Lacazette and Bukayo Saka complete the comeback for the Gunners.

 

Hibs sign ex-Liverpool goalkeeper Adam Bogdan

Ex-Liverpool goalkeeper Adam Bogdan has signed for Hibernian on a short-term deal.

The player is on a shorterm contract that will expire on December 31.

Bogdan is the first signing of the new Hibernian manager Jack Ross. Bogdan had a successful loan period with Hibernian last season.

The 32-year-old only played two games for Liverpool’s first team and will be joining the Edinburgh side in what is a tough time for Hibernian.

Havingalso  represented Bolton and Wigan, the Hungarian international told the club’s website: “I’m really happy to be at a club that means a lot to me. My family and I really enjoyed our time here last season and when the opportunity arose to sign, it didn’t take me long to think it over.”

Ross County’s Mullin excited by season so far – Podcast

 

Copy of BREAKING NEWS-2

Flying high at the top of the Scottish Championship, Ross County have turned their fortunes around this season after last year’s relegation from the Premiership.

One of the team’s shining players this season, Josh Mullin speaks exclusively to EN4 News ahead of three matches in the next week for the title chasers.

Listen to the podcast below:

%d bloggers like this: