- Jun 25, 2010
I see Wimpie van der Walt made it into the Japan 34 as lock... they are desperate on that position.
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Scotland have declared their intention to leave nothing to chance as they unveiled plans to scour the world for qualified players, fittingly stating their intentions at a venue only a few miles from the bastion of English rugby at Twickenham.
Given the likes of England’s 2003 World Cup hero Jason Robinson, who has a Scottish mother, slipped through the net, it is understandable a country with much smaller resources than their neighbour next door should explore every avenue in their efforts to maximise their pool of available players. The new Scottish Qualified programme unveiled at the Lensbury Club in Teddington ostensibly announced that three former players, dual-code centre Alan Tait (North), back-row forward Ian Smith (Midlands) and scrum-half Rory Lawson, would take up positions as scouts and mentors for emerging talent to add to a worldwide network of such figures who have been operating on a more informal basis.
One of the triggers for the new initiative is the change in the eligibility criteria that comes into force at the turn of the year, when the three-year residency ruling will be extended to five years. Scotland reject the notion that they ever had an overt ‘project player’ policy, *although Edinburgh’s signing of South African tighthead prop WP Nel in 2012 was done with a view to him being in a position to play for Scotland at the 2015 World Cup. However, they do acknowledge that to compete at the highest level they need to boost their resources on all fronts.
“We have to look at every possible way of increasing the depth of our pool,” said Scotland head coach, Gregor Townsend, who acknowledged that one of their key areas of scrutiny is England. “Absolutely it is. We know there are three or four youngsters with Scottish qualifications in the England Under-18 *system this year. We have got to identify that sort of talent and then make them aware there are opportunities in Scotland.
“We are competing with other countries for all these sorts of players. At all these age-grade games there are agents and scouts. We have got to make sure of what we are selling and show them that the Scottish Qualified programme is something they want to be part of. It is about giving them the ability to make an informed choice when they do come to make a decision. In the past, it has been a bit random.”
Townsend referenced Robinson, who was slated to follow the English route when he switched codes in 2000 but who had another option if anyone had been moved to pursue it from the Scottish end.
The Scotland head coach also brought up the chance acquisitions of two key current internationals, centre Duncan Taylor and wing Sean Maitland, both at Saracens, who came into the Scottish orbit fortuitously.
“Duncan’s uncle just happened to email to say his nephew was playing at Bedford and was worth a look, while Sean’s connection came about through our nutritionist, who happened to be in a bar in New Zealand and got talking with someone who mentioned Sean,” said Townsend. “We are just trying to reduce the random element and invest more into that process ourselves.”
There are several strands to the programme. There has been speculation that the Scottish union might be looking at taking some sort of stake in Worcester Warriors, who are looking for investment, although they would neither confirm or deny such involvement. There is little doubt, though, that every possible angle is being explored as Scotland look to make a sustained impact on the world stage.
Scotland rose to fifth in the world rankings this year (and are now sixth) and also finished fifth in the Under-20s World Cup.
“That (the Under-20s achievement) would have been unthinkable five years ago and shows that the investment made by Scotland into the academy system is paying off,” said Townsend.
There will be no move to replicate Wales’s approach of restricting national selection to those who play in Scotland or who have 60 or more caps.
The two professional teams in Scotland, Glasgow Warriors and Edinburgh, have a certain independence in the market place, although Townsend was instrumental in his time as head coach at the Warriors from 2012-17 in bringing through Scottish talent. New Edinburgh head coach, Richard Cockerill, has also begun to instil a more Scottish flavour.
“All of this has been encouraging but we can still do more,” said Townsend. “We would be potentially missing out on a huge amount of players if we didn’t continue to look at all possibilities.
Savea to face All Blacks in BaaBaas jersey
Cape Town - The Barbarians will take on New Zealand with one of the All Blacks’ greatest-ever try scorers in their ranks.
World Cup winner Julian Savea will line up for the famous invitation club for the tour which involves the Killik Cup match at Twickenham on November 4 and the match against Tonga in Limerick on November 10.
Savea was the 2015 World Cup’s leading try scorer and has touched down 46 tries in 54 appearances, appearing at international level most recently in the final drawn Test of the British & Irish Lions series before his surprise omission from this year’s Rugby Championship.
Only Doug Howlett (49 in 62) has scored more New Zealand tries. Savea is level in second place with greats Christian Cullen and Joe Rokocoko — but none of his rivals has a better strike rate.
Savea will face the Haka for the first time at Twickenham as the Barbarians attempt to emulate their famous wins of 1973 and 2009 when one of rugby’s most famous rivalries is renewed.
He is joined by another New Zealand World Cup winner in scrumhalf Andy Ellis and five of Super Rugby’s brightest rising stars.
AUSSIE-raised Crusader prop Mike Alaalatoa has been denied clearance to play for the Barbarians against the Wallabies - and his brother Allan - on Saturday at Allianz Stadium.
The development may see the Wallabies send James Slipper across to the BaaBaas for the game, given the Queensland prop wasn’t selected in the 23-man squad.
Alaalatoa, who won a Super Rugby title with the Crusaders this year, was approached on Thursday morning by Barbarians assistant coach Brian Smith to see if was available to replace injured prop Sef Fagaase in the BaaBaas team to play Australia.
Keen to play against the Wallabies, Alaalatoa made it to Barbarians training in Bondi by midday but had to stand on the sidelines watching on as official approval was sought from the Crusaders.
But the Kiwi club this afternoon put a block on their 135kg prop playing in the game, given the very late notice.
Earlier in the day, Alaalatoa said he was interested in playing so he could face up to the Wallabies and younger brother Allan, who is the starting tighthead for Australia.
“I got the call this morning. It was all last-minute,” Alaalatoa told the Daily Telegraph.
“I am back here to see my family and I am getting married, too. If I get to play, then that’d be great.
“It is always something I wanted to do. The Barbarians is one of the most famous teams in the world.”
Allan Alaalatoa of the Brumbies and Mike Alaalatoa of the Crusaders won’t face each other when the Wallabies meet the Barbarians.
Allan Alaalatoa of the Brumbies and Mike Alaalatoa of the Crusaders won’t face each other when the Wallabies meet the Barbarians.Source: Getty Images
The 135kg giant grew up in Sydney and spent three years with the Waratahs, but unwanted by all Aussie franchises in 2015, he joined the Crusaders in 2016 and has since been talked up as a future All Black prop by Robertson and others.
Alaalatoa’s brother Allan is a current Wallaby prop and if Mike gets the green light to play, he may clash with his sibling while playing in a national jersey.
The pair have played against each other at Super Rugby level before.
“I tried to smash him but when we played this year we were only on at the same time for about 30 seconds. No scrums,” Alaalatoa said.