Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Rumours, Rumblings And Some Rare Robinson Speculation

You’ve heard of yin and yang, right? The Taoist notions that polar opposites give rise to one another through their mere existence, in the natural world at least? Well I never thought I’d accuse Andy Robinson of being a Taoist, but in yesterday’s squad announcement he displayed his need for yin and yang; the light and the dark; the positive and the negative; the real and the fictional. In effect he has given with one hand and taken away with the other.

There were positives there. Robinson has rewarded fine form and has even opened the door for some still finding their feet in professional rugby. For example when Paterson retired he did not revert back to the likes of Southwell or Danielli but called up Lee Jones and Stuart Hogg to flesh out his back three. He also made sure that the cult figures like Rob Harley, Greig Laidlaw and Duncan Weir got their call up. His bloated 36-man squad is one that includes players the regional fans have taken to.

Beneath the topsoil of these decisions, though, is Robinson’s grounding in uncertainty. He is a man fabled for his poor selections and whilst he has been bold here he has afforded himself that gallantness by making his squad big enough to contain contingency plans.

It is a completely negative move to have four prospective scrum-halves and four prospective stand-offs in one Six Nations squad.

It shows that he is unsure of the merits of each player and that he is prepared to play several different game plans during one circumscribed campaign. He makes a positive move by calling up both Weir and Laidlaw, the two 10s playing well for Glasgow and Edinburgh respectively. He then calls up Jackson who is publicly accepted as Robinson’s favourite project. Fair enough. However, to then call up Parks as well suggests that he is entirely prepared to regress, to shrink away from such bold new moves and play the same slow, constricted game that has served Scotland so poorly in the past.

As for his scrum-halves: the negativity of selection here could hamper Scotland’s rhythm if he does not declare one his favourite. Laidlaw is counted as the fourth in this scenario, too, but by having four scrum-halves Robinson ensures that the squad is lumbered with some competition in training but different styles during games. Perhaps this is seen as a good thing, but each 9 plays better with a different 10 and the two are tied. Pick Parks, you need a 9 who is prepared to pass behind himself and chase kicks. Pick Weir, you have to pick Cusiter. Pick Jackson, you could have a range of passes, but you are going to have to box kick. Blair and Laidlaw work well in tandem.

In short, Robinson is using up squad spaces because he won’t fully commit to a style of play. This is also why the selection of so many new faces will be good for training, and it will do those youngsters a world of good to experience that, but he is already thinking of what he wants to achieve with the group by using familiar players. It is fantastic that he has recognised form and some exciting young talents, but he wouldn’t promote without support.

With the exception of Weir, look at where the new faces have come in. Before the squad was announced the rumours being circulated were that Jones was due to get his chance and that the constant talk of a scouting network was to lay the foundation for some surprise selections. In Steve Shingler’s selection Robinson certainly shocked his support.

Now the SRU are caught bandying words with the Welsh Rugby Union over whether or not Shingler is even eligible to play for Scotland. According to the SRU the player signed no paperwork declaring himself a one Union man, but the Welsh have screamed out that this is irrelevant because Wales have no ‘A’ team and Shingler has already represented Wales’ second most prestigious team, their under20s. This will go before the IRB, and one feels that this will run and run. Yet it is impossible to shake the feeling that it is all just window dressing anyway.

Shingler is a good young player and is touted as a fantastic goal-kicker. He can play 10 or he can play 12. He is a versatile and capricious option. He is also a luxury. I have already heard that Robinson has a match day squad in mind for the opening game against the Auld Enemy. There are some surprising selections in the team I was told, which of course makes me question its authenticity, but I can understand why someone like Shingler would not be named in it.

He is a luxury because two days ago no one in Scotland would have assumed his selection. No one knew he was eligible. He is also a player with few ties to the current Scotland player pool and one unaccustomed with the style or personnel inherent to a good Scottish performance. Robinson wants to have more options and deepen that player pool. That is understandable. Of course if Shingler is declared eligible after IRB involvement then it would be fantastic, but it is doubtful that he would be thrown straight in against England. It is more likely that he would play in the Scotland ‘A’ fixture that same week, thus tying him to Scotland forever.

The Shingler affair will drag on for the next few weeks. Robinson, in his boldness, has created a distraction he may well regret as he tries to mould a slightly different squad. In the meantime he still has to name a captain, and if it is not one of his scrum-halves alone then we will be no closer to knowing how that squad will play game in, game out.

I’m heartily enthused, but I cannot help but acknowledge the lashing of yang Robinson has served up.

A Rumoured Scotland XV for the England game:


De Luca
S. Lamont



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21 Responses

  1. Denton, Brown and Stroker in the backrow? That cannot be right – all 6s and 8s but no 7. I cannot see Barclay or Rennie being left out.

    Also, playing Jackson is hardly rewarding form. Interesting to see Hogg prefered to R Lamont.

  2. I like the article and the majority of your team – and I agree that Robinson is likely to revert to old when it comes down to the nitty gritty of picking a team for the games.

    He’s a de Luca fan, but I like much of Scottish supporters cannot justify the number of caps he’s received. He struts about for Edinburgh and looks good in games where edinburgh are going well. When the pressure’s on, he’s very very poor. I’d shift Ansbro to 13 and bring in a new winger, perhaps Jones or Danielli – basically someone to keep Visser’s jersey warm.

    Jackson will probably start, but it seems like a crazy decision. He’s number two at his club – simple. Pick a first choice 10 – I’d be happy with Weir or Laidlaw, with the other on the bench. Laidlaw can cover 9, so Robinson can go with his preferred 5/2 split on the bench, and against England, we’ll need all the back up we can get in the forwards.

  3. Thats a good looking pack and a sensible looking half back pairing for such a big game. I doubt that Hogg will be thrown in at this stage, but who knows.

    My question is this (and I’m willing to have my mind changed about this)…Nick DL has 29 caps for Scotland and i cant remember him ever having a net positive contirbution on a game. Time and time again he plays well for Edinburgh and the East coast jungle drums start beating for his return to the International team. Time and time again, he lasts for one or maybe two games before he is found out and consigned to the bench or worse.

    Is the first game of a dare I say winnable 6N campaign the best time to give this guy yet another chance?

    There is always the chance that he will finally perform at international level as he apparently does for Edinburgh, but history would suggest othewise.

  4. I generally like the look of the team but 8 out of 36 are half backs? Doesn’t inspire confidence in selection.

    Really happy to see Weir in the squad he form for Glasgow has been brilliant.

    The position I’m most worried about is Hooker. Ford hasn’t had any competition for a while now and I feel his performances can be a bit lacklustre at times and his lineouts are pretty weak. I would really like to see a fresh face in there to mix things up a little and make Ford work a bit

  5. I’ll reiterate that that proposed team is one a ‘source’ gave me. Not anyone official or anyone I would be willing to name. However it is a useful tool for starting debate.

    MJW: No 7 at this stage possibly because Barclay is out of form and Rennie plays fleetingly for Edinburgh, splitting duties with Grant. Also, the wing was the iffy section, R. Lamont may still see wing action.

    Sinbad: I genuinely think De Luca has turned a corner. Unfortunately for Weir Jackson is the lesser of two evils: Parks is too negative and Weir is too green. I don’t think he is even really entertaining the idea Laidlaw at 10.

    Andy: Hogg is being pushed from those high up in the SRU. I’d stake my house on that. He should see game time. On NDL, his form is better than I’ve ever seen it, and the jungle drums are strong I’d agree, but he needs a chance because we are so week in the centres and he can pass.

    Let’s not get carried away about how we’ll fare! We are starting again, after all…

  6. MS: There simply isn’t any competition for Ford. Hall is not good enough, I don’t believe, and Lawson too prone to giving away penalties or turnovers. Ford struggles with his throwing, yes, but his bulk in the scrum and presence (without talking) is more valuable than blooding someone like MacArthur

  7. Whenever Rennie plays, he is absolutely first class. I would have him in that team in a heartbeat – England don’t have a recognised ‘fetcher’ 7, and they struggle because of it. Why should we handicap ourselves in the same way? If Rennie’s knees can deal with the pressures of a RWC, they should be able to cope with one Calcutta Cup match.

    Jackson’s form is poor and his goal kicking isn’t trustworthy enough for such a critical game. If Weir is too ‘green’, why would they give Hogg a shot? He’s played less pro games than Weir! I’d rather Weir at 10, R Lamont at 15 and Hogg on the bench.

    Has anyone ever thought that De Luca looks bad for Scotland because he’s normally got Morrison on his inside? That guy would make Conrad Smith look shit. When paired with a distributing, creative 12, De Luca looks the business. If Shingler performs well in training and in his LI games between now and international duty, then let’s put him in the team. He is a far better option than any other 12 in the squad.

  8. MJW: again, this is not my team and I’m not defending it, just looking at possible reasons. Stand off is more of a pressure situation than full-back (although it is still bloody important) and 10 and 9 dictate the whol game. Hogg is talented enough, but not experienced enough to play his natural centre position.

    If no Parks I can see why they’d put an experienced physical guy like Lamont between Jackson who struggles with kicks and De Luca yet to prove himself on that stage.

    Ok, Ok, want to know who I’d start? Hogg, Evans, De Luca, Lamont, Lamont, Weir, Cusiter, Jacobsen, Ford, Murray, Hamilton, Gray, Rennie, Brown, Denton.

    If losing at half time I’d take Hogg off, move R. Lamont to FB, S. Lamont to wing and bring on Morrison to tidy up the tackles. I’d also consider the complete swap of Blair and Laidlaw for Cusiter and Weir, because they are better defenders and Laidlaw can still kick clutch goals….

    But we never get what we want do we? I’m still waiting on my Optimus Prime toy circa Christmas ’93.

  9. Alan,

    I certainly wasn’t having a dig at you, just at the team. Yours seems far more sensible to me, though I’d still be tempted to put Hogg on the bench, R Lamont at fullback and Lee Jones on the wing. Happy with your forwards.

    I’m still not sure what to make of the Shingler decision. Does AR see him as a genuine first XV/bench contender, or as a peripheral squad member that we’ll tie to us with an ‘A’ team cap?

    My temptation would be to see him as a genuine contender, as we’re crying out for some creativity at 12. If AR is intent on playing Jackson at 10, then Shingler can play at 12 and take the kicking responsibilities from him.

    By the way, I’d never, ever put Morrison on if we’re losing, as it’s a sure way for us not to score tries. He’s defensively solid, but not the sort of chap to fling on when chasing a game.

  10. MJW: you’d throw him on if we were 3-6 points behind, though, wouldn’t you?
    With either backline, it looks like we’d still be chasing tries from a grubber or a speculative up and under. We need a 12 who can offload or throw a miss sooner rather than later. If Shingler is it, Hallelujah, but the odds against a Weir/Shingler 10 and 12 is about 2500000000/1. I fear Robinson is too cautious even for Jackson/Shingler (which sounds like a Law Firm).

  11. If Robinson had the cojones to play Denton at 8 I’d almost be happy with anything else he did. He does like the big Stroker, doesn’t he?

    I’d go with R Lamont, Evans, De Luca, Ansbro, S Lamont, Weir, Cusiter in the backs and pack same as AD’s. Shingler, Hogg and Laidlaw on the bench would give you a fair amount of options too!

  12. I’d definitely start Ansboro at 13, for me he wipes the floor with NDL.

    Halfbacks for me would be Cusiter and Weir but whoever AR chooses I’d like to see him stick with something.

    The problem area is 12 really. We’ve got no creative options.

  13. “MJW: you’d throw him on if we were 3-6 points behind, though, wouldn’t you?”

    No. If we were 3-6 points behind, I would judge that there wasn’t much between us and our competitors, and that we stood a good chance of winning the game. Bringing on Morrison would reduce our attacking threat, and our ability to win the game.

  14. Whatever happened to Alex Grove? I know he still plays at Worcester, but why has he fallen off the Scotland radar? If memory serves me correctly he didn’t disgrace himself in the Scotland jersey, and started the November win over Australia.

  15. MJW: let me rephrase that. If it was England, 15 mins left and we’re kickable position on the scoreboard, I think Morrison is more sound defensively for the team than S. Lamont. I’d put him on. We’d have to say at that point, we ain’t gonna win this with flash back play. (We wouldn’t with Lamont anyway, I think.). Pragmatism is needed sometimes. He is the back-up plan I’d take right now. Not Parks, though. That kills us at source.

  16. ASM

    I’ve been wondering the same re Groves. Came, looked good then dissappeared!!!!

    If we are absolutely committed to a physical 12 then there is no doubt in my mind that Sean Lamont more than proved himself in that role at the WC.

    If we can get a 7, 8, 9 and 13 tuned into his ability to make hard short gains we could be onto something.

  17. AD, in that specific situation perhaps you have a point. But not half time!

    And I absolutely agree with you re Parks. Let’s end that era.

  18. Morrison has been gash since coming back from injury though. (not that he inspired much confidence before…). If wed had options at 12 other than Lamont, he would never have gone to the world cup, and now that we have options at 12, he really needs to be phased out at worst, completely ditched at best. A cant pass/wont pass player is not good enough. At least Lamont can offload and punch holes in the defence.

    Im surprised James King wasnt in the squad, and even more surprised that he wasnt even mentioned by Robbo among the players who were unlucky to miss out.

  19. Saw Grovesy playing for Worcester today against Gloucester, he was looking handy and at very the least went everywhere looking for work. Wouldn’t be surprised to see him get an A Team call up for their one-off match in February.

  20. If Robinson would drop his usual conservatism, I would like to see him give this combination a run out against England…
    15; R Lamont
    14; Evans
    13; Ansbro
    12; S Lamont
    11; Jones
    10; Laidlaw
    9; Cusiter

    1; Jacobsen
    2; Ford
    3; Murray
    4; McKenzie
    5; Hamilton
    6; Brown
    7; Rennie
    8; Denton

    Bench options being something like Cross, Lawson, Gray, Stroker, Weir & Hogg.

    Barclay has not been performing (a as Glasgow supporter) for some time and is in need of a rude awakening to the fact.
    Against England the pack tends to dictate the game so Hamilton is a must and Gray’s scrummaging isn’t ideal. McKenzie is good in the loose and due an opportunity.
    If Shingler is eligible, I’d be tempted to put him on the bench instead of Weir. As Murrayfield is Laidlaw’s patch, I would start him at 10.

  21. 15) Stuart Hogg
    14) Max Evans
    13) Sean Lamont
    12) Steve Shingler
    11) Joe Ansbro
    10) Duncan Weir
    9) Chris Cusiter

    8) Dave Denton
    7) John Barclay (off form – But WC in the big game)
    6) Kelly Brown
    5) Richie Gray
    4) Big Al
    3) Euan Murray
    2) Ross Ford
    1) Chunk

    16) Geoff Cross
    17) Scott Lawson
    18) Jim Hamilton
    19) Rob Harley
    20) Greig Laidlaw
    21) NDL
    22) Rory Lamont/Lee Jones

    With the exception of Barclay, I’d say this was a form team. However, I think as he’s one of our few World Class operators and one of our leaders he has to be retained. This is necessitated by the fact that Rennie is also not in the greatest of form (not getting starts at Edinburgh, though part of that is to protect his knees). It could also be argued that as I’m playing a relative rookie at 8, the cohesion given by Brown/Barclays long standing partnership could stabilise the unit.

    In the back line, I believe you need distributors at 10/12. Therefore, I’ve moved lamont out to 13, where he would realistically get more space.

    Shingler strikes me as being a Mike Catt type player, Definitely can’t hurt to have the great man himself coaching him on a day to day basis. Thought could be given to playing Shingler and Ansbro together, as they do play together on a regular basis. But i think that Lamont’s legs aren’t what they used to be on the wing, and we could use his physicality in the midfield.

    Weir must play. Top scorer in the league. A good ball runner, capable of putting people in space, a great tackler.. and above all a fantastic kicker. Laidlaw makes a very good back up 9/10 from the bench.

    NDL comes on to exploit time and space late in the game as he flourishes when not pressurised, as does lamont.

    Hogg, Best full back in Scotland this year. Must start.

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Scottish Rugby News and Opinion