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Page last updated at 22:00 GMT, Tuesday, 2 September 2008 23:00 UK

Scots can build on good work

By Colin Moffat

Chris Paterson is back in an Edinburgh shirt this season
Chris Paterson is back in an Edinburgh shirt this season

The Magners League is up and running for season 2008/09 at the weekend and Scotland's representatives will be aiming to deliver on the promise shown last term.

Edinburgh won the bragging rights with a fourth place posting but Glasgow were hot on their heels in fifth spot and managed one more league win than their rivals.

Glasgow finished strongly, winning their last five outings, while Edinburgh rallied after their April loss at Firhill to end with three consecutive victories.

Both sides have strengthened over the summer, with Chris Paterson returning to the capital after a less than successful season with Gloucester and Scotland lock Jim Hamilton arriving from Leicester.

Glasgow welcome back two familiar faces in Tim Barker and Mark McMillan.

So, how will the sides fare this season?

Both teams have been solid on home ground over the years but all too often the Scots have been a soft touch on the road.

However, Edinburgh picked up impressive wins at Stradey Park, Liberty Stadium and The Arms Park last time, while Glasgow claimed scalps at Musgrave Park, Ravenhill and Rodney Parade.

Former England coach Andy Robinson has toughened Edinburgh up and the arrival of Hamilton, all 19st 11lbs of him, will add more power to the scrum and expertise in the line-out.

Hamilton's mauling work is also impressive and he will be a big asset if he can stay fit.

The big news for Edinburgh is Paterson's comeback, just a year after he left to try his luck in England.

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The 30-year-old became Scotland's all-time record points-scorer and most-capped player during the June Tests in Argentina and is the best penalty kicker in the world.

Paterson's versatility may have hindered him in some respects but Robinson knows he has a top-class performer whether it's at fullback, fly-half or on the wing.

The Glasgow signings are not as eye-catching but Irish lock Barker will add drive to the second row and has great speed and mobility for a man of his considerable bulk.

Former Wasps scrum-half McMillan will be the first choice for coach Sean Lineen in what has been something of a problem position over the years.

A Heineken Cup winner in 2007, McMillan has impressive hand speed and it is hoped he will form a formidable partnership with influential fly-half Dan Parks.

Flanker John Barclay is a powerhouse for Glasgow
Flanker John Barclay is a powerhouse for Glasgow

Often maligned for his performances for Scotland, Parks is a hugely important player for Glasgow. Put simply, if he is on form, then, more often that not, a victory is assured.

A great talker on the pitch, Parks, who passes well and has a good eye for a break, turned in several man-of-the-match displays last season.

Centre Graeme Morrison was a stand-out in the two summer clashes with the Pumas but Glasgow's strongest area is the back row, where they can call upon John Barclay, Kelly Brown and Johnnie Beattie. When those three click, opponents can be steamrollered into submission.

There were 10 Edinburgh players in the starting line-up when Scotland beat Argentina, with centre Ben Cairns impressive, so it's a pity injury will see him sidelined for the first month of the campaign.

Phil Godman is developing into a fine fly-half but it's new skipper Mike Blair who makes the team tick.

Robinson took the decision to demote Ally Hogg to vice-captain after Blair's impressive leadership on Scotland duty.

Voted Scotland's player of last season and into the Magners League Dream Team, Blair's inventiveness and intelligent promptings could see Edinburgh make a real challenge for the top spot.

Glasgow have improved each year under Lineen's astute guidance and he will want to overhaul his fellow Scotland assistant coach Robinson after finishing just two points shy of Edinburgh last time.

Robinson's squad shades it in terms of quality but there won't be much between the sides and Scottish rugby fans have good grounds for optimism after too many seasons in the lower reaches of the league table.


see also
Paterson relishing return north
16 Jul 08 |  Rugby Union
Barker signs for Glasgow return
23 May 08 |  Glasgow
Wasps' McMillan rejoins Glasgow
05 May 08 |  Glasgow
Paterson to return to Edinburgh
02 May 08 |  Edinburgh
Edinburgh bring in lock Hamilton
02 May 08 |  Edinburgh
Irish set to defy doom-mongers
02 Sep 08 |  Rugby Union
Rugby union positions guide
05 Feb 07 |  Laws & Equipment


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