RWC Build-Up: The Squad

Italy were dispatched with a mixture of ease and lacklustre shape and Scotland have completed their pre-tournament run outs and home based marketing obligations. The flurry of speculation is over and the media pestering will probably cease for a few weeks.

Scotland have named their World Cup squad.

As expected Robinson and has opted for the familiar comfort of British and Irish Lions Euan Murray and Chris Cusiter, despite neither being full participants in all training or playing huge amounts of rugby, and this has gifted someone like Al Dickinson a place in the squad to cover Murray’s Sunday absences.

The biggest omissions in the squad have to be those of Laidlaw and Beattie.

Vernon has been picked over Beattie by way of being fit, playing regularly and having the most time to play in front of Robinson. Beattie will be upset with this but the truth is he would never have been the same Beattie we saw dismantle Ireland in 2010 at Croke Park and he now has a chance to get his confidence and form back in the Rabo League.

Robinson also went out of his way in the build-up to praise Strokosch and this seemed to be the writing on the wall for Beattie. After Saturday’s game the inclusion of Strokosch will also have Vernon redoubling his efforts in training because our best player (in my opinion), Kelly Brown, has no problems shifting to 8, when needed.

I feel sick for Laidlaw.

Easily the 9 with the best form coming into camp he saw Lawson play poorly against Ireland but got less than 10 minutes himself. His ability to kick goals could well be better than Jackson’s but we never got a chance to see if it held up in Test matches. He played 10 for Edinburgh but we will probably never get to see if he could for Scotland.

Even more staggering is the faith being shown to Blair and Cusiter. Now back to full fitness we have two scrum halves that have question marks over their ability to take part in a long campaign. Lawson will be in possession of the jersey now, unless Robinson and Townsend thought a charge-down try was enough to give Blair the starting shirt.

Laidlaw is said to be less than happy with the answers he got when he asked Robinson where he stands and rumours about the Head Coach actually telling some that Cusiter is so gifted he could well be his 3rd or 4th choice 10 would not help his mood. Giving him Edinburgh captaincy is a nice wee relaxer for him. It was an almost apologetic gesture when it was announced.

Of course I cannot remember the last time Scotland did not call up replacements during a World Cup to cover for injuries. That is how the likes of Dickinson got into the mix and it is not improbable that injuries will happen again. Especially when we look at Murray’s ankle, Cusiter and Blair’s ailments and the list of physical specimens we will be colliding with.

Someone at the SRU will be getting the full-time job of keeping those discarded sweet and in a good mood. We never know when they might be recalled.

Then we come to the captaincy. The predictable announcement of Kellock’s title.

People criticise Kellock. ‘Pen-knife’ I’ve heard him be called (it explains itself). I’ve also heard that he is the least gifted player in the Scotland squad or that he is the first one to be punched when there is a flair-up in training.

So what.

You can respect someone without liking them and Kellock is a necessity in the Scotland pack. He isn’t the classiest of footballers or a potent offensive option, but he hits rucks, niggles opposition players (without garnering a Hines-level of cards) and runs a lineout very well. He is also, from what I’ve heard, one of the few voices in a pack that is not fond of talking. He says the right things at the right time and may not lead by example but could very well be the needed voice of reason.

With this squad Kellock can mould the pack. He has a yard maker in the second row with him in Richie Gray. He has the machine of Kelly Brown behind him and a talented Barclay who will need a stern talking to. He has a mercurial Rennie who could be bigged-up and a front row in need of simple instructions.

Lawson, Blair or Cusiter can direct the backs and Paterson will always say the right thing to sober them after a success or a failure.

Truthfully I think the squad is 95% correct. Laidlaw should be in but I genuinely think he’ll be on a plane to New Zealand sooner rather than later. I don’t think Murray is there for anything other than reputation but Geoff Cross will start against Argentina and I don’t mind an unfit or unhinged Murray versus an unfit Sheridan. If a back row goes down Beattie will get called up before a Denton or a Harley so I’m not panicking about that.

The rest is the best we can manage, with the exception of the injured Nikki Walker.

“I want to pay tribute to the dedicated and professional approach of all those in our provisional squad,” Robinson said.

“Eight players have been unfortunate to miss out from that squad but that is because of the talent we have been able to assemble in our final 30.

“As a squad we have our values and uppermost among them is to inspire the nation by the way in which we conduct ourselves and through winning performances on the international rugby field.”

My interpretation is that winning with this squad means playing the way that got us results in the past. Expect Parks to start.

Scotland squad for the IRB Rugby World Cup 2011 in New Zealand:

Backs –

Joe Ansbro (London Irish) 7 caps, 1 try, 5 points – RWC newcomer
Mike Blair (Edinburgh) 72 caps, 6 tries, 30 points – RWC 2003 and 2007
Chris Cusiter (Glasgow Warriors) 53 caps, 3 tries, 15 points – RWC 2007
Simon Danielli (Ulster) 30 caps, 6 tries, 30 points – RWC 2003
Nick De Luca (Edinburgh) 26 caps, 1 try, 5 points – RWC newcomer
Max Evans (Castres) 20 caps, 3 tries, 5 points – RWC newcomer
Ruaridh Jackson (Glasgow Warriors) 8 caps, 1 penalty, 2 conversions, 1 drop-goal, 10 points – RWC newcomer
Rory Lamont (Toulon) 25 caps, 6 tries, 30 points – RWC 2007
Sean Lamont (Scarlets) 56 caps, 8 tries, 40 points – RWC 2007
Rory Lawson (Gloucester) 28 caps – RWC 2007
Graeme Morrison (Glasgow Warriors) 30 caps, 3 tries, 15 points – RWC newcomer
Dan Parks (Cardiff Blues) 62 caps, 4 tries, 15 conversions, 48 penalties, 14 drop-goals, 236 points – RWC 2007
Chris Paterson (Edinburgh) 105 caps, 22 tries, 163 penalties, 89 conversions, 3 drop-goals, 786 points – RWC 1999, 2003 and 2007

Forwards –

John Barclay (Glasgow Warriors) 29 caps, 2 tries, 10 points – RWC 2007
Kelly Brown (Saracens) 46 caps, 4 tries, 20 points – RWC 2007
Geoff Cross (Edinburgh) 6 caps – RWC newcomer
Alasdair Dickinson (Sale Sharks) 21 caps, 1 try, 5 points – RWC 2007
Ross Ford (Edinburgh) 49 caps, 2 tries, 10 points – RWC 2007
Richie Gray (Glasgow Warriors) 12 caps – RWC newcomer
Dougie Hall (Glasgow Warriors) 36 caps, 1 try, 5 points – RWC 2003
Jim Hamilton (Gloucester) 32 caps, 1 try, 5 points – RWC 2007
Nathan Hines (Clermont Ferrand) 73 caps, 2 tries, 10 points – RWC 2003 and 2007
Allan Jacobsen (Edinburgh) 56 caps – RWC 2003 and 2007
Alastair Kellock (Glasgow Warriors) CAPTAIN 34 caps, 1 try, 5 points – RWC newcomer
Scott Lawson (Gloucester) 28 caps, 2 tries, 10 points – RWC 2007
Moray Low (Glasgow Warriors) 15 caps – RWC newcomer
Euan Murray (Newcastle Falcons) 39 caps, 2 tries, 10 points – RWC 2007
Ross Rennie (Edinburgh) 8 caps – RWC newcomer
Alasdair Strokosch (Gloucester) 20 caps, 1 try, 5 points – RWC newcomer
Richie Vernon (Sale Sharks) 12 caps – RWC newcomer


Head coach – Andy Robinson OBE

Attack coach – Gregor Townsend MBE

Defence coach – Graham Steadman

Specialist coaches – Duncan Hodge (kicking) and Massimo Cuttitta (scrummage)

Analyst – Gavin Scott

Strength and conditioning – Neill Potts (lead) and George Petrakos

Nutritionist – Richard Chessor

Director of Performance Rugby – Graham Lowe (Who’s manning the fort at home?!!!!)

Medical – James Robson (Doctor); Paul McGinley and Stephen Mutch (physiotherapists); and Gillian Main (masseuse)

Psychologist – Richard Cox

Media – Graham Law (Scotland team media manager) and Dominic McKay (Director of Communications and Public Affairs)

Team Manager – Dougie Potter

National Team Co-ordinator – Kirsty Mackay

Kit manager – John Pennycuick

Lawyer – Bruce Caldow

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Dundonian Alan has played rugby all over the world for various teams including Dundee High School, Heriot's and the Scottish Club International. Now writing from London he covers all issues international and unreported.

13 comments on “RWC Build-Up: The Squad

  1. Big Al on

    The most striking thing is when you look at the points each of the squad has scored….it’s not great reading! Cusiter and Blair have 125 caps between them yet have only scored 9 tries…ouch!

  2. Jen on

    I share your sentiments for Greig Laidlaw – what’s the guy got to do to play? He wasn’t given much of a chance against Ireland (when Lawson wasn’t playing well) and both Cusiter and Blair get the chance when neither of them has played consistently in the last year.

  3. A.D. on

    Pen-knife: He folds easily in contact.

    On Kellock- he has to be skipper even if he isn’t our best player. No one else is beligerent enough on the park. Brown is a great player and leads from the front, and Hines mucks in but guys like Ford are really quiet. Kellock is the voice, and he has to stick to dirty work, rather than carrying.

    Laidlaw will be great for Edinburgh, but when there is an injury to a 10 or a 9 he will be called in as back-up. I know I am assuming a lot when I say “when there is an injury”.

    Points will always be our burden, but the theory is that Morrison and Ansbro/De Luca will gain enough swagger against Romania and Georgia that they may actually create enough opportunities for our wingers to finish. If it comes down to just linebreaks from the Lamonts and Evans then we will score few tries.

  4. Michael J Watt on

    I’m not so sure about Parks starting. Robinson and Townsend seem pretty wedded to the off-loading rugby concept, it’s what the squad have trained for over the last three months. It is a game plan that can produce results vs all our group opposition, provided we get our set piece correct. I expect Jackson to start, with Mossy at 15 to take the penalties. Parks will get game time, but Jackson has the shirt, in my opinion.

  5. Donald Shand on

    What are your thoughts on taking Euan Murray who does not play on Sunday’s and will only play at the most three games as he will miss the Argentina game and assuming Scotland progress will not play in any further matches as they too are also on Sundays, you mention he will be replaced by Dickinson, my only problem with this is that when Dickinson is asked to play tight head he gets stuffed, do you feel that to take Murray for three games is a waste and if so who should we have taken in his place?

  6. A.D. on

    in my interview with Dickinson (Al For One… below) he said himself he is an out and out loose head. Cross will be the go to and has been training with the team at loose head as well, so I reckon Cross will see a lot of action.
    With the exception of Cross and Low there is no other tighthead I would ever want to see play for Scotland. We just don’t have anyone else anywhere near good enough.
    This is all why it was a choice between 4 props or 5.

  7. Stuart on

    I agree with your article. Laidlaw will be disappointed, but Robinson would be taking a risk with him. He doesn’t have the experience of Cusiter, Blair and Lawson but he will and when he does he will be in front of all of them.

    I actually really enjoyed the way Parks ran the game vs Italy. He ran and passed and hardly ever kicked the ball away, except to gain huge territorial advantage. If he can play like that I’ll have him starting every game. It was his outbacks who were struggling to finish tries, but some of the team interplay was sublime.

  8. Stuart on

    BTW What was the song the Murrayfield crowd were singing after the anthems as Scotland vs Italy were kicking off?

  9. Angus on

    In the Ireland game Lawson was a major contributor to slow ball due to being late for too many breakdowns.

    The offload concept with forwards lining up off the 10 is so dated and only has a chance of working if a) It doesn’t always go to the man on the 10’s outside or often left shoulder and there are options on both sides but fast ones! (see Cooper and the Reds), b) he is also used as a dummy runner to draw the defender then give to a speedster coming from behind him c) pass goes behind him every now and again or the 10 goes himself. You simply cannot expect to break any half competent defence when you only have the one option.

    It was also proven on more than one occasion that Jackson does not know when not to throw the pass by the number of knockons and forward passes

    In both warm ups there was only ever one attacking line, off phase play, which invariably contained forwards mixed in with backs and a) puts any forward ball receiver well short of the gain line when he gets the ball and b) negates any chance of ever spreading the ball wide quickly

    Have a look at the Kiwis in any game at all levels (ITM Cup is always great) and you will see 2 options at every breakdown – a forward line of typically 3 where they are all options to receive the pass from the half back and they receive the ball just short of the gain line, while having the 2nd option of them over running and ball going to the out half and along the backs

    If the backs are not aligned then give it to the forwards for another hit up until you get 2 options in place but be making contact on or near the gain line not yards behind it or relying on the 10 to make the gain line every time

    This one dimensional style was shown to be severely lacking v Ireland who just moved forward in a line and received the Scottish runners like you would rugby league players who run straight at the man. They also showed that when a man on his own runs at 2 defenders it is dead simple to hold him up and seal the ball off until you receive the scrum.

    Yet, when for the first time in the game a single dummy runner was used, with the ball going to a man coming from behind, suddenly the overlap was created and a try scored

    Let’s hope in the first 2 games something more complex is developed but it appears as if the smash and bash approach has been decided on

    One last thing. If you are going to kick the ball in the air, at least try to do it so that a chaser can put even a hint of pressure on the receiver but preferably compete for the ball. Kicking the ball to the opposition and hoping they will kick for touch also went out the door a long time ago

    Stuart, was it Highland Cathedral you are meaning?

  10. Duncan on

    The point about Kellock, surely, is simply that he’s not one of our two best locks. He’s captained well in the past, but I thought he did badly at it on Saturday – it was a poor decision not to kick the penalty shortly before Italy scored their first try, and when the team seemed to lose their heads a bit after being pulled back to 10-7 it was the captain’s responsibility to try and settle them again. But he didn’t.

    Was very glad to see Parks back on better form though. I’d play Jackson against Romania, then Parks against Georgia (when it’ll be vital to kick every penalty and keep the scoreboard moving to avoid getting dragged into an arm wrestle), and then decide who’s first choice based on those performances.

  11. Kev on

    Aye..Jackson and Patterson v Romania and Parks & Lamont v Georgia.
    Can understand why there’s a stooshie about Laidlaw but the experience that the other half backs (and former captains) bring will be invaluable.
    Cross and Low will need a rest at some stage so why not take Murray?
    I don’t see Kellock playing Romania, Georgia and Argentina but agree with his captaincy. Straight sensible talker….and who else is there???

  12. RugbyJam on

    The interesting thing I took from the stats, is that Lamont Junior is our best try scorer, minute for minute. Everyone has a good word for Chris Paterson, but we can’t argue with that.

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