Tour de Scotland?

The Tour de France may be streamlining its way to Edinburgh, after The City of Edinburgh Council backed an audacious attempt to bring the event to Scotland for the first time.

Councillors approved a report outlining the commitments required in the event of a successful bid in a meeting today.

Heralded as the world’s largest annual sporting event, the Tour de France could bring £45-55m of revenue for the national economy, with Edinburgh benefiting to the tune of £24m.

Tour de France

Tour de France

Edinburgh Castle is the proposed venue for the Presentation of the Riders, with displays, cycle shows, stalls competition and a raft of cultural activities being held across the city throughout the duration.

A ‘non-race’ mode procession of the cyclists running through the city centre would precede the start of the race, which would be held elsewhere in the city, with riders racing down the spine of the UK through Scotland, England and Wales.

The event attracts global interest with no less than 100 TV channels, 400 newspapers and press agencies and 70 websites over 190 countries offering live coverage of last year’s event.

Councillor Steve Cardownie, Edinburgh Council’s Festivals & Events Champion, said: “I can think of no more dramatic backdrop than Edinburgh Castle and our historic Old Town and, of course, our residents are well used to laying on a fantastic welcome to the many millions of visitors that travel to the city each year.

“Of course, Edinburgh is no stranger to cycling success, thanks to the incredible achievements of Sir Chris Hoy, and we are already seeing the impact this is having on participation – a trend that would surely continue following a successful Grant Depart.”

The bid, led by EventScotland, has the support of the Scottish Government, British Cycling, UK Sport, the Welsh Government, plus numerous other English and Welsh authorities.

While the date has not yet been announced, it is likely to be in the next five years and could even be as soon as 2014.

Valiant Scotland bows out


By: Al Muthu

The Netherlands survived a minor scare to kill Scotland’s hopes of appearing in the 2012 Cricket World Twenty-20 championships.

Tom Cooper carried the Dutch to a vital three-wicket victory over Scotland at yesterday’s Twenty-20 qualifiers match. Abused by a smattering of injuries within the team, the Scots leaked 50 runs in the last 5 overs allowing a competitive target of 167 to be overhauled with relative ease.
Once again, Majid Haq made Scotland proud. In addition to being extremely miserly, the crafty off spinner accounted for three of the opposition’s top batsman, one of which almost swung the game Scotland’s way. He is currently the highest wicket taker for the entire tournament.
But Haq was forced to lead a lone battle as Australia-born Tom Cooper exploited Captain Kyle Coetzer’s lack of bowling resources. His belligerent 60 off a mere 32 balls included a hat-trick of sixes against second spinner Moneeb Iqbal.
Gordon Drummond, returning for this game after a side strain, teamed up with Majid Haq to cause a small stir. The duo removed three Dutch batsmen including Tom Cooper, in the space of three overs.
In a brave move, the skipper took the responsibility to capitalize on his men’s efforts, but 20 year-old Tim Gruijters smashed him for a massive six over midwicket to throw momentum back in favor of the Dutch.
In a final display of game-losing misfortune, Tom de Grooth miscued a slow bouncer, which flew over the keeper, Craigh Wallace’s head, and became the winning runs. This signalled the end of the Scottish campaign to qualify for the Cricket World T20 Championships later this year.
Scotland’s batsmen have had an impressive tournament. Openers Calum MacLeod and Richard Berrington consolidated with a blistering partnership amassing 59 runs in just 6 overs. Berrington contributed 37 off 25 balls whilst MacLeod became the tournament’s second highest run scorer in the process of notching up his second half century (57 off 42 balls, with two sixes and five fours). MacLeod also holds the record for the second highest score in an innings for his undefeated 104 against Oman.
Preston Mommsen compiled a handy 26 off 19 and Jan Stander (17 off 15) guided the tail end of the Scottish innings to reach 166/6 in their allotted 20 overs.
The Scots sorely missed Safyaan Sharif, their 20-year old hero, whose final against the Americans secured Scotland entry into the playoffs. Matthew Parker and Moneeb Iqbal, were forced to fend for themselves on the big stage and were found wanting. The Netherlands, as a team, shamed England at Lords in the 2009 Twenty-20 Championships and Pakistan in the 2007 Cricket World Cup. Scotland faces Canada today to battle for fifth place in the tournament.

Six Nations proves trying for Scotland and Ireland

By Shane de Barra

It’s game on at Twickenham in two weeks time when England and France, the only sides still able to claim a Grand Slam, clash in what has the potential to be a Six Nations title decider.

England disposed of a sorry Italy at the weekend 59-13, just a week after putting Wales to the sword in Cardiff. Rugby League convert Chris Aston was England’s star man, claiming four of his side’s eight tries and in the process becoming the first English man to score four tries in a Six Nations game.

Reigning champions France came through a much tougher in test in the battle of the last two Grand Slam winners, when they took on Ireland in Dublin in the first Championship game to take place at the new Aviva Stadium. Despite being out-scored by three tries to one, Irish indiscipline gifted the French some easy points and last gasp defence at the death was enough to see the champions home 25-22.

Wales made the journey north to Edinburgh to take on Scotland at Murrayfield and it proved to be a satisfactory trip. A first half try by winger Shane Williams set the Welsh on their way, although they did have to defend with only 13 men for ten minutes when indiscipline saw both full-back Lee Byrne and second-row Bradley Davies sin-binned.

The Scots could not take advantage however, and created nothing in a performance that has set alarm bells ringing north of the border that a return to the bad old days of recent years in nigh. The second half was a scrappy affair with both sides bereft of both imagination and direction. In the end the game was settled by a neat grubber kick by Wales centre Jonathan Thomas which Williams was again alert to, collecting to score his second try.

But there was to be no heroic Scottish comeback as they limped to a 24-6 defeat.

Diving row hits Scotland

By Phil Turnbull

The Scotland versus Wales friendly match tomorrow is threatening to be overshadowed by the continuing row over diving.

In a week where Liverpool striker David N’Gog dived to win a penalty in a Premier League game against Birmingham, the diving row has now reached the international scene.

While Scotland hitman Kevin Kyle conceded he personally would take a dive in attempt to influence the outcome of a game, national team-mate James McFadden yesterday hit back, saying: “No way, I couldn’t dive”.

faddy

James McFadden (picture credit: skysports.com)

Birmingham striker McFadden said: “You try to play as fair as you can. You can foul for tactical reasons but I don’t think you can get away with a tactical dive.”

“I would not deliberately do that and try to con a penalty or to get a benefit because in the end you look stupid.”

Earlier in the week Kilmarnock striker Kyle admitted he would dive in a match if it helped Scotland to win.

Asked if he would take a tumble in the box, Kyle said: “I probably would because you go out on a Saturday afternoon just wanting your team to win at any cost and you take every opportunity that’s available to you.”

Kyle’s views are at odds not just with McFadden, but also SFA Chief Executive Gordon Smith.

Smith has been at war with FIFA over players diving ever since Arsenal star Eduardo dived to win a penalty against Celtic in the Champions League Qualifiers, eliminating the Glasgow side in the process.

It is not known how SFA bosses will react to the conflicting points of view from their star strikers.

Meanwhile Scotland captain Darren Fletcher has been passed fit for the clash in Cardiff.

fletch

Darren Fletcher (picture credit: independent.co.uk)

The Manchester United playmaker had missed training on Wednesday, but has now been given a clean bill of health by the Scotland medical staff.

The decision will come as a relief to manager George Burley, who is already without Old Firm quartet Steven Whittaker, Kevin Thompson, Scott Brown and Shaun Maloney.

Sunderland goalkeeper Craig Gordon also misses out due to a broken arm.

Scotland’s last friendly match, against Japan in Yokohama, was dogged by call offs that entered into double figures.

While the Scots have no such problems this time round, Wales have been hit by a raft of withdrawals.

Eight players, including £14 million Manchester City star Craig Bellamy, have pulled out of the Welsh squad, forcing manager John Toshack to select Swansea City centre-half Ashley Williams as his new captain.

Williams will be Toshack’s 11th skipper used in his five-year tenure as national team manager.

Wales versus Scotland kicks off at 3pm tomorrow at the Cardiff City Stadium, and is live on Sky Sports 1 from 2.30pm.

Hadden disappointed with result

By Stewart Primrose

Listen Here:

Ireland's Brian Carney runs with the ball courtesy of irishrugby

Ireland's Brian Carney runs with the ball courtesy of irishrugby

Scotland coach Frank Hadden feels his side should have won their latest 6 nations encounter, this time going down 22-15 against Ireland.

Scotland took a half time lead and were the better of the two sides but Ireland stepped up their game, only needing the 1 try to maintain their grand slam hopes.

“We had the game by the scruff of the neck. said Hadden

“The gap between the sides should have been greater in the first half.

“In the second half, Ireland did what they do very well, which is squeeze the life out of teams.”

The pressure has been mounting on the Scottish coach who yet again only has 1 win to his name in another championship. This came over the perennial wooden spooners Italy. Many pundits believed Hadden had to at least secure 2 victories to save his job. Scotland’s last match comes at Twickenham against England.

I’ve never, ever felt that kind of pressure because it’s all about focusing on the performance and the training,” said Hadden about speculation over his post.

“But I accept the discussion is inevitably going to be there because that’s not enough matches won.”

Scotland started the brighter of the teams and took a 12-9 lead at half time thanks to 4 penalties by Chris Paterson. After the break though, Ireland rallied and Jamie Heaslip touched down with the only try of the game to give Ireland the lead, which they never surrendered. This was aided by an O’Gara conversion, drop goal and penalty.

Ireland now only need to beat reigning champions Wales in Cardiff to give them their first Grand Slam for 61 years.

Super six set for battle

By Stewart Primrose

The RBS Six Nations tournament kicks off this weekend and is set to be one of the most exciting since ever.

Rugby at this time off year captures the imaginations of millions, whether they are fans of the sport or not. Although the Tri Nations has a higher quality of player, rugby clubs throughout Western Europe will be full and the beer will be flowing. And this could be the closest championship since Italy’s inclusion back in 2000, with Europe’s elite six expecting to thrill fans across Europe.

But how will each team fare? Will Wales defend their crown and continue to sing in the Valleys, or will the Irish eyes be shinning? And what for Scotland? Can they get that elusive victory at Twickenham? Either way many of the home nation players will be looking to boost their chances of being picked for the Lions tour to South Africa this summer.

Here is a run down of each team, plus a few players to watch out for. Let the games begin…

England

Andy Goode will play ahead of Cipriani

Andy Goode will play ahead of Cipriani

Martin Johnson will be looking to improve on England’s Autumn International performance in his first Six Nations as coach, starting with dropping Danny Cipriani in favour of Andy Goode. Johnson will be going back to basics by playing a tactical and territorial game. Once their fall back tactic, this looks to be their new plan A.

He is still to shore up the midfield after Will Greenwood’s departure and the current pairing of Ricki Flutey and Mike Tindall have yet to find their feet at international level.

Anything less than three home wins will be seen as a failure for England.

Key Man
Danny Care: This is a tough one as there are no real superstars in the team. The scrum half had a good 2008 and England will need him to be on top form to have a successful Six Nations.

My Prediction – Fourth

France v Wales could be crucial

France v Wales could be crucial

France

They face a tough opening match at Croke Park, which could determine how their campaign will be fought. They have picked a more conservative squad than in recent years. With Shabal in the second row they add a lot of muscle and aggression, but weaken their lineout as a result.

Poitrenaud sums up the French team. Brilliant one day, disastrous the next. Coach Marc Lievremont will be seeking consistent performances from his squad. They will miss the mercurial talents of Freddy Michelak and the team will have to step up if there is going to be a new generation of French flair.

Key Man
Yannick Jauzion: A deadly mix of pace, balance and precision passing. He could be not only a match winner but a Grand Slam winner.

My Prediction – Third

Ireland

Inconsistency has been the main theme for the Irish in recent years. Coach Declan Kidney will have to rectify this in 2009. There are a few promising young players coming through including Rob Kearney and Luke Fitzgerald and these will add impetus to ageing stars like Brian O’Driscoll. The centre is no longer the devastating attacking force he once was, but is still strong in defence.

The Irish need to get off to a good start

The Irish need to get off to a good start

The front five remain strong and in David Wallace they have one of the best back rows in the tournament. They have a decent fixture list with England and France at home. Wales at the Millennium Stadium may prove to be a game too far for their Grand Slam hopes.

Key Man
Ronan O’Gara: Some say the stand off dominates games, others say he fails to inspire. He needs to take the ball up to the game line and throw those defence splitting passes we all know he is capable off.

My Prediction – Second

Italy

As in any year the Italians aspire to just the one win. This year they could struggle to achieve this as they have no recognised half backs. There have been several stop gaps with centre, Paz, asking coach Mallet to stop playing him out of position.

Italy do have some genuine world class players in Prop, Castrogiovanni, Sergio Parisse and Bortolami.

They may surprise Ireland in Rome, but apart from that Murrayfield may prove yet again to be their only hope of avoiding that dreaded wooden spoon.

Key Man:
Sergio Parisse: One of the best players in the tournament. If he hailed from New Zealand he would be a household name. He is a top performer for club side Stade Francais and is easily the Italian’s best player.

My Prediction – Sixth

Scotland

Scotland have 3 home matches

Scotland have 3 home matches

Scotland will be looking to improve on last year’s performance on one win, albeit against England. Scotland has still to field a backline capable of worrying an international defence since the turn of the century. However there is a degree of optimism this season with Tom Evans emerging as a genuine try scorer. There is also a new pace and creativity in the centre.

These players are untested at the highest level so it could go either way. There is still debate about the number ten jersey – Godman’s flair versus Park’s boot and reliability, but Godman could galvanise the exciting backline if he is in the starting lineup.

A key to Scotland’s success will be the powerful forward pack – a match for any team – and contains some genuine world-class players. They will have to create quick ball to allow the backline to function. Maybe then Scotland can start crossing the try line.

Key Man
Mike Blair: The IRB world player of the year nominee can make Scotland tick. His roaming runs and crisp delivery must free up the midfield runners and build on the quick ball if Scotland are to start chalking the teams off their list. The captain needs a big tournament to boost his Lions credentials and his nation’s chances.

My Prediction – Fifth

Can the Welsh make it 2 in a row?

Can the Welsh make it 2 in a row?

Wales

Without a doubt the most talented team in the competition. They were the only northern hemisphere team to beat one of the big three in the autumn, pushing South Africa close and beating Australia.

Shane Williams is back from injury which will be a massive boost for Coach Warren Gatland. Roberts and Henson will provide a good mix of muscle and skill in the midfield and both James Hook and Steven Jones are capable match winners.

Pivotal to their success is the back row trio – Martin Williams, Andy Powell and Ryan Jones all complement each other and the rest of the Welsh side.

They could sneak the Championship on points difference, but watch out for a hiccup at Murrayfield this Saturday.

Key Man
Ryan Jones: The defensive lynchpin, ball carrier and inspirational leader. He’s also tipped to lead the Lions this summer. His performance last year was awesome and the same will be required again.

My Prediction – First

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