Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Bring On The Understudies?

Wales vs Scotland

Everyone likes picking their fantasy team, but at the end of the day – potential prizes aside – it means very little, so it’s easy to just pick a bunch of guys you like, or who have played for your club. The weight your team selections carry at international level is a lot greater.

How do you view the rest of the Six Nations tournament now? Do you keep scrapping for results with a team you think you can win, or do you go for a potential gubbing at the hands of the Welsh, blood some performers from the As and a team you hope can win, if they’re up to it? Show the young guns that a good performance for the A Team is not just banging your head on a Borders’ brick wall? Show the fans that we do have talent and it’s not all the “attack” coach’s fault, honest?

This is what I would do. I think.

In terms of the pack, swap out Murray for Cross (as it is a Sunday) and that’s about it. The guys that made silly errors or dropped balls won’t be doing it again this week, you would hope. The lineout functioned well, and I’m not sure the folk calling for Richie Gray’s head were watching the same game. The pack provided more than enough of a platform, and most should be rewarded with their places. You need to keep the bulk of Hamilton and Gray to aid the scrum; and have a couple of players too heavy for Bradley Davies to drop on their heads.

Greig Laidlaw should be brought in at 10 immediately. Dan Parks has been a faithful servant, but he’s not in form and has nothing at all to do with the club revolution that brought such optimism to Scottish Rugby – other than making Cardiff a bit more rubbish. If you are trying to recapture that Edinburgh spirit that set the Heineken Cup afire – and scored heaps of tries-  Mike Blair might be your man too, if only to make things easier on Laidlaw’s game management. Cusiter can do a job, but he has to play the way he does at Glasgow when the ball is quicker, and being a threat on the break himself.

Inside centre is a real problem, and Sean Lamont will not be the answer. Wales will be sporting some hefty backs that should require Sean back in his traditional home on the wing. Is Matt Scott really ready to step up? He’s the closest we have currently to a big unit – what Robbo likes – who also has some great ball skills – what we like. Robinson said his motivation for calling up Shingler was to get a ball-player in at 12 to play a different way. We can’t have Shingler, so is Scott the man? Now that the dust has settled and it’s going to be another one of those tournaments, I say stick Scott in. I’ve been impressed with him all season and he had another good game for the A team.

Nick De Luca didn’t do anything massively wrong on Saturday but his outside centre shirt may be withdrawn nonetheless, by shifting Max Evans into the centre. I like Evans on the wing for his pace but he created a bit on Saturday, so let’s let him create and someone else (hopefully) finish.

Back three I’d have Jones and the Lamonts with Hogg for cover on the bench, we’re going to need the bulk and I’m pretty sure Rory has some unfinished business with Wales (as well as Barack Obama). Jones is there for pace, but you could keep NDL and put Evans on the wing. That would be harsh on Jones who showed he can definitely operate at this level. My worry is that Robbo scours the victorious A team for, say, Simon Danielli and recalls him instead.

Why not throw Hogg in now when I have thrown Scott in? Fullback is one of those positions where your debut can define you. Look at Fofana against Italy: he had a few wobbles then settled into his game. Fullback is much less forgiving – and Hogg, while being excellent in attack for Glasgow has made mistakes under pressure. Wales are just the sort of team that would try to bully him, so in that instance I would prefer to see him eased in at this level.

Potential Scotland XV to face Wales: Rory Lamont, Jones, Evans, Scott, S Lamont, Laidlaw, Cusiter; Denton, Rennie, Strokosch, Gray, Hamilton, Cross, Ford, Jacobsen
Bench:  Lawson, Kalman/Traynor, Kellock,Vernon, Blair, Weir, Hogg

The only problem is that this team might only be able to play one way – attacking rugby.

Am I mental?

16 Responses

  1. I’d love to see that side. Is Andy Robinson brave enough? I’m sceptical. But I agree with your philosophy 100%. Let’s blood some of the guys who have performed well for club/ A team. It’s the only way we can progress.

  2. Don’t think we need to worry about Bradley Davies as he’ll be suspended. I agree with everything you have said though

  3. “The only problem is that this team might only be able to play one way – attacking rugby.”

    Fine by me. Laidlaw is a decent tactical kicker, and our defence will certainly be well drilled. Our improved defence is one of AR’s major successes as coach.

    We have to change our rugby culture a wee bit in Scotland. Often we worry about what the oppo team will do to use, and pick players and tactics to negate this. Or we are too cautious and hesitate to play younger guys. Hence the selection of Dan Parks for what feels like aeons.

    There is no problem with this approach, but it has to be used in moderation, alongside a willingness to set our team out to hurt the opposition, not just negate them. Laidlaw and Scott will play with ball in hand and present a real danger to the opposition. The defensive cover will no longer shuffle along from our 10 channel, safe in the knowledge that no threat will come from it. Our pack has plenty of boshers to make hard yards. Also, let’s face it, they are all used to covering for Dan Parks’s defensive frailty, so I don’t think Laidlaw or Scott will be showing the opposition an open door to run through. NDL is a good defender, and I think we should keep the Edinburgh 9,10,12,13 axis together.

    A backline of Blair, Laidlaw, M Evans/Jones, Scott, NDL, S Lamont and R Lamont would do me just fine.

    Cusiter, Weir and Hogg to bench.

  4. Would love to see that team run out with a couple of changes.Cusiter and Rory Lamont. I feel Stuart Hogg has been playing exceptionally well and did you see his wonder try? I just feel R.Lamont didn’t do enough retain his place in the starting XV but would definatly have him in the 22. I would also start Blair I just feel with him and Laidlaw together Scotland could be extremely deadly , I especially like how they are able to switch between 9 and 10 which generates much quicker ball. And i just feel Cusiter lost some of his form for Glasgow after the Edinburgh derby games whereas Blair has really stepped his game up.

    Scotland XV : S.Hogg, L.Jones, M.Evans, M.Scott, S.Lamont, G.Laidlaw, M.Blair, D.Denton, R.Rennie, A.Strokosch, R.Gray, J.Hamilton, G.Cross, R.Ford, A.Jacobsen

    Subs : S.Lawson, Traynor, A.Kellock, R.Grant, R.Lawson, D.Weir, R.Lamont

    1. Good team Mark, I’ve changed my mind about Hogg and would like to see him given a chance. I would play Kellock and make him captain again, he’s the best leader we have. Will Ansbro be fit? If so, I would have him in he breaks tackles and runs some good lines. If not, I’d stick with De Luca with Scott on the bench.
      We’ve got the forwards to win ball and with the changes suggested, the pace and skills in the backs to create and score tries. We must cut out the mistakes and hit the ball at pace, we must also get to the breakdown in numbers and clear it out.

  5. Good teams Rory & Mark,
    I would start Hogg on the bench for his first game, as fullback can be very exposed, especially for a first cap. I would have NDL at 13, and have the tough choice of Evans or Jones for the winger spot with SLamont. I though about dropping Strokosch and bringing in another more dynamic ball-carrier (Vernon) but in the end just did this for the bench.
    My team:
    Scotland XV : R.Lamont, M.Evans/L.Jones, N, De Luca, M.Scott, S.Lamont, G.Laidlaw, M.Blair, D.Denton, R.Rennie, A.Strokosch, R.Gray, J.Hamilton, G.Cross, R.Ford, A.Jacobsen
    Subs : S.Lawson, E.Kalman, A.Kellock, R.Vernon, C.Cusiter, D.Weir, S.Hogg

  6. I’m willing to bet a shiny pound coin that, barring injury, AR goes for the same 22.

    It’ll be a tragedy but I’ve got a horrible feeling it will happen.

    1. As for me, I’d go with the same pack minus murray for cross, and have an edinburgh 9, 10, 12, 13. Rory at 15, Sean on a wing with Max on the other.

    2. If AR does that, which would not be out of character, then he puts his own job at big risk – at least with the fans. And the fans do count in the big picture.

  7. I’d go for:


    22.A Lamont- whichever

    Go out and run the ball, if we lose, lose playing some rugby

  8. I would agree with Rory’s selection, but swap Cusiter for Blair. I’m a big fan of Cusiter (as a Glasgow supporter) however if Laidlaw is to make his first start, let’s help him out with a familiar face beside him.

    Agreed we will need S. Lamont on the wing to combat the size of North (only 19 years old – seriously!!!) &/or Cuthbert. Although NDL didn’t have his worst game for Scotland I just don’t feel like he brings anything to the test table, so yeah, give Matt Scott an opportunity with Evans in beside him.

    The pack looked good and deserve another match but is there still no competition for Jacobsen?

    Hogg and Weir on the bench please Mr Robinson.

  9. Your not mental Rory – I believe you are spot on !!!! ( apart from maybe starting Blair )

    the only fly I can see in the ointment is the influence of Mr Townsend on affairs !!!

    I am driving down to cardiff on Saturday – The above selection would raise my spirits a little after last weeks embarassment !!

  10. Unfortunately I don’t think there’s a hope in hell Scott will be brought in. There’s been no announcement about anyone else being called up to the squad so think he will pick from the same group. Fully expecting Morrison to be brought back at 12 and S Lamont moved back to wing. Robinson has some strange ideas about how to ‘inspire a nation’!

    I would pick Hogg at 15. He’ll make mistakes but my thinking is simple – who is a better rugby player? Hogg by a mile. So pick him. Who cares if he’s only 19?

    I would go for JP Swain’s 15 although with Ansbro on the wing instead of Jones if fit. If not fit then happy to stick with Jones.

  11. SLamont to wing, Evans to 13, Morrison to 12, NDL tae fuck…

    Laidlaw or Weir in for Parks, and Cross for Murray.

    Weir or Laidlaw on Bench beside Hogg.

    I don’t think we need wholesale changes, on the whole the personal are good, I just think some of them aren’t being utilised properly!

  12. It’s interesting to note that the Herald are reporting that Jim Hamilton is frustrated with the chopping and changing to the side.

    I also don’t buy this “Oh Edinburgh have made it to the HC quarters” as a reason for inclusion of players and dropping others. Well as they have done in the HC their defence was at times non-existent and they have been poor in the Pro 12. While I like Laidlaw’s play a lot a Blair / Laidlaw pairing will not suddenly put the world to rights. That said, I think AR will start with Blair and Laidlaw and have Cusiter and Weir on the Bench. If this is the case then he may well go for Morrison at 12 so that there’s someone to stop J Davies when he runs over Laidlaw. I’d keep Jones on the wing, but I think AR may put S Lamont there for his size if nothing else and bring Hogg onto the bench. So baring players not being fit through injury I’m expecting to see the following team:
    (1) Chunk, (2) Ford, (3) Cross, (4) Gray, (5) Hamilton, (6) Strockosh, (7) Rennie, (8) Denton, (9) Blair, (10) Laidlaw, (11) S. Lamont (12) Morrison, (13) NDL, (14) Evans, (15) R. Lamont. Bench (16) S Lawson, (17) Ed Kalman, (18) A Kellock, (19) J Barclay, (20) Cusiter, (21) Weir, (22) Hogg.

    Jones in my opinion has done nothing “wrong” to drop out the 22, its simply a case of horses for courses. Also its suspicious enough to have someone in the team with the surname Evans without also having a Jones, given we are playing in Wales!

    I’d like to see Kalman in the bench – but don’t think this will happen.

  13. I’m not convinced about Ford as captain. It was interesting to see that when Al Kellock came on there was a team huddle before a scrum and it was Kellock doing all the talking not Ford. Quite a few times after I noticed that whenever there was a break in play it was always Kellock doing the talking.
    I hope Ford does well as captain but I don’ think he is a natural leader.
    I would start Laidlaw, Blair and Scott with Cusiter, Weir and Hogg on the bench

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Scottish Rugby News and Opinion