Aristotle Armstrong

Aristotle Armstrong
The thrawn, alternative voice of Scottish Rugby

Friday, 20 April 2018

Let's Hope things Develop Properly - But, Might The SRU Still Go With Stupid 6?

LANG SYNE I sort of, reconciled myself to accepting the lack of coverage of club rugby in the mainstream media. I mean, there's no glamour any more, long gone are the days when full internationals and British Lions strutted their stuff for Hawick, Heriot's and the rest.

 British Lion Jim Renwick played regularly for his native Hawick

Nowadays, all the “good” players are with Edinburgh and Glasgow and, with budget and staff cuts, the msm cannot be bothered with the bread and butter stuff. That, of course, is one of several reasons for circulation collapse among newspapers, while BBC Shortbread's ignorance of club rugby does them no favours.

While nowadays, Hawick native and British Lion Stuart Hogg doesn't don the green

This refusal to cover some very good rugby is, by the way, one of the reasons why Stupid 6, if it ever happens, will fail. I say one of the reasons, there are many more.

I am still, however, surprised, that the Scottish msm has failed to follow-up on the story which emerged over the weekend of a planned PRO14 Development League, another reason, I feel, why Stupid 6 can only be kept alive if the Ayatollah Dodson decides, he has so-much personal prestige riding on it, he has to follow it through.

If we accept that the BT Premiership has never been fit for the purpose of developing professional rugby players – and I and many others maintain this was never intended to be its role – then the question has to be asked: why has it taken the SRU so long to do something about it?

The weekend's news from Ireland following as it does hard on the heels of news of the Welsh introducing four Regional Under-23 teams – after the WRU decided the professional player development role within their top-flight club league had not worked well enough, should have seen Stupid 6 quietly dropped. But, will it be?

I have of late been looking at the player progression from Academy to the Warriors over the past decade, and my entirely unscientific, but factual look at this has thrown-up a failing between the SRU's High Performance Department and the two pro clubs, which a PRO14 Development League might fix.

I took the 2007-2008 Glasgow Warriors squad as my starting point, and looked at the new, young Scottish players who have come in since then and what happened to them.

Rob Harley, one of the star graduates of the Academy class of 2008

That first season, Warriors listed 12 Academy players. Of these, Pat McArthur, Richie Gray and Rob Harley went on to greater things, but, while Calum Forrester would go on to amass 22 starts, plus a further 22 appearances off the bench for the club over four seasons, Alan Dymock embraced the Dark Side as a rugby journalist, while, Andy Dymock, Andy White, Richard Mills, Scott Forrest, Jamie Hunter and Ben Addison sunk without trace other than for most to become good club players in the Premiership.

Alan Dymock, demonstrating propping insight and intelligence from the press benches

The 2008-09 intake produced Ruaridh Jackson and Jon Welsh, who went on to great things, however, Chris Kinloch, Dave Whiteford, Greg Francis and Gary Strain didn't make it, although Strain has continued to pop-up and do a more than competent fill-in propping job when asked.

After this, Warriors became a bit-more selective, Messers Peter Horne and Alex Dunbar are the only Academy players listed for season 2009-2010, while 2010-11 saw Gordon Reid, Chris Fusaro, Ryan Wilson Duncan Weir Mark Bennett and Stuart Hogg arrive, along with Fin Gillies, whose hopes of a professional contract were ruined by injury, leading to a successful transition into coaching.

Nine Academy players were listed for 2011-12. Of these Adam Ashe and Rory Hughes have earned their spurs, Sean Kennedy and James Johnstone were moved over to Edinburgh, where they have flourished, while Nick Campbell and Murray McConnell after a small handful of games were released to flourish in the second tier in England. An injury-affected Callum Templeton never hit the pitch but became a Club International as did George Hunter, who managed three appearances off the bench before going to flourish with Ayr and become a Club Internationalist, before switching to play in the World Cup for the Bahamas.

Hunter, arguably a slow-burning late developer, later won a recall as World Cup cover, but, for my money, is a better prop than some imports who got game time with Glasgow. He will be playing in London next season.

Season 2012-13 was another star-sprinkled affair, with Fraser Brown Finn Russell and Jonny Gray arriving. The following season, Ali Price and D'Arcy Rae arrived along with Scotland Sevens regular Gavin Lowe, Kevin Bruce also appeared, prior to being switched to Edinburgh, but Jack Steele, an injury-hit Fergus Scott Andy Redmayne and Will Bordill didn't cut it, although Bordill impressed with one start and seven appearances off the bend, while Steele and Scott went back to the Premiership after a total of three appearances off the bench.

Andy Davidson, never got to strip for Glasgow, but, playing for Newcastle

Zander Fagerson, James Malcolm, Scott Cummings and Matt Smith were the Academy boys from the class of 201-15 who graduated. Fraser McKenzie Cammy Fenton and Glenn Bryce from that year transferred to Edinburgh, but, Tommy Spinks and Fraser Lyle failed, in a pitifully small number of appearances to convince, while Neil Herron and Andy Davidson never even got to strip, with Davidson going off to join the Newcastle Falcons Academy. He has since made his Falcons' debut in the Anglo-Welsh Cup squad.

The 2016-17 intake has proved themselves better at Sevens, with Robbie Fergusson, Mark Robertson and Nyle Godsmark all making their mark in the short game. Gregor Hunter is now a Club International while Nick Grigg from that intake has gone on to become a full cap and a valued Warrior.

The 2016-17 intake are still in the process of establishing themselves, but, it could be said Matt Fagerson, George Horne and Jamie Bhatti are already ahead of the game.

So in a decade, the SRU's system sent 72 Academy players to Glasgow; 21 of these – 29% have gone on to become full internationalists. Of the rest, 7 players, 10% of the intake, have become Sevens internationalists; 10 – 14% have become Glasgow regulars; 6 – 8% have gone across to Edinburgh while 28, or 39% of the players, have been discarded as not good enough.

George Hunter - did he and other young Scots get a fair crack in the pro ranks, and might the PRO14 Development League ensure his successors do?

But, were they given a fair crack of the whip? When you consider, each season, only around 15 players start more than half of the games, while at most, another 10 will accumulate enough appearances off the bench to feature at some point in half the games.

With Glasgow having an average of 47 players in their squad each season, an average of 12 players each season will have few chances to show what they can do. These will tend to be young Scottish players.

For them, the PRO14 Development League will be a God-send. But, it could be a nightmare for the SRU, since success for Glasgow or Edinburgh will surely lead to calls for at least a third District side to be formed.

And where will they get the money for that?Which is one worrying reason for Murrayfield favouring Stupid 6. Truly we live in Interesting Times.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting analysis AMcS.

    This is what really rips my knitting. The lack of any documentary evidence to back up Agenda 3 and super 6.
    Where is the analysis with the failings of the club game? The options that would improve things? The cost benefit of these various options? The barriers that will have to be remedied to stop them killing the new thing?

    “We can’t solve problems with the same kind of thinking we used to create them.” A Einstein