After an exciting weekend of Scottish success, we now have a great deal to look forward to, not least because of the perceived improvement in the performances of Scotland’s national women’s team. They knew what they had to do against Ireland and did it with six tries and a display of courage that saw them come back from a first half dominated by Ireland to win comfortably at the end. I was particularly impressed by Meryl Smith and Francesca McGhie but the whole squad put it together in a way that augurs well for the future.

The women’s game in general is on the up and up as there were more than 4,000 spectators at Scotland’s game while England’s clincher against France was watched by more than 58,000 paying fans – a world record attendance for a women’s match. I look forward to the day when Murrayfield hosts a huge crowd when Scotland’s women go for a Grand Slam.

Glory be, we also have a European final looming for the first time in eight years thanks to Glasgow Warriors’ dramatic victory over Scarlets in Llanelli. In 2015 it was Edinburgh who made it to the final of the Challenge Cup, losing 13-19 to Gloucester, so now it is the Warriors’ chance to become the first Scottish team to win a European trophy in Dublin’s Aviva Stadium on May 19.

They will play Toulon who have reached four Challenge Cup finals over the years but have never won any of them. Is that a good omen for Glasgow or will it just spur the French side on to claim victory at a fifth attempt?

Last year’s runners-up – they lost to Lyon who ousted the Warriors in the quarter-finals – beat Benetton at the weekend despite playing most of the match with 14 men after Charles Ollivon was red-carded early doors for a head contact with Matteo Minozzi.

The legend that is Sergio Parisse inspired the French to a gritty win, and since he will be 40 come the World Cup it worries me that Parisse will want one last shot at glory in the final at Glasgow’s expense. They also have Dan Biggar and Cheslin Kolbe as well as a string of French internationalists so this will be a very tough assignment for the Warriors. Much may depend on whether Ollivon gets a suspension that rules him out of the final, for he is one of the best back row players in the world right now and his presence or absence might be a determining factor in whether the trophy goes to the Clyde or the Mediterranean.

I’ll preview that match in a future column, but there’s a more pressing engagement for the Warriors this weekend when Munster visit the Scotstoun Stadium for the quarter-final of the BKT United Rugby Championship, kicking off on Saturday, May 6, at 7.35pm. A full house is expected for a match that Warriors know they must win or else be accused of choking when the pressure is on – though the way they reacted to going behind to Scarlets tells me that Franco Smith’s men are no chokers.

I can assure you Munster are still smarting at their defeat by the Warriors back in March, only the third time that Glasgow have won at Thomond Park. Sione Vailanu was one of several standout performers in that match, and if he plays on Saturday I expect Munster to be more aware of the dangers that he and the likes of Jack Dempsey, Matt Fagerson and Rory Darge will pose – and how’s that for a star quartet of back rowers. The match will, as always, be won and lost up front, but if Glasgow can secure enough ball then the Warriors have the backs to punish the Irish province.

Munster coach Graham Rowntree will have an almost full squad to choose from after Munster had a rest weekend, but it looks as though Keith Earls might not make it. Tadhg Beirne is back, however, after missing most of the Guinness Six Nations, the Ireland lock picking up an ankle injury that has kept him out since the victory over France. So two squads with major strength in depth – it’s a mouthwatering prospect.

I don’t want to put my tipster’s curse on Glasgow, so let’s just say I expect a tremendous match and plenty cheers from the home fans.


I can’t close this column without paying a personal tribute to one of the stalwarts of the club game, Muir Twigg of Lismore RFC, who passed away at the weekend – condolences to Maureen and the family.

I first met Muir when we both worked for Edinburgh District Council and he persuaded me to join Lismore, a move I have never regretted.

He first played for Lismore 50 years ago and then joined the Committee, his weekly telephone calls to selected players becoming legendary. Muir was one of those gentlemen who never sought a reward for their long service to a community club, and we owe him and all such dependables a huge vote of thanks.