Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Scotland Team to Face Ireland

Ireland vs Scotland

Andy Robinson has opted not to add Euan Murray to the starting XV to face Ireland despite it playing on a Saturday, instead sticking faithfully to the one that almost beat France a couple of weeks ago. Following Rory Lamont’s broken leg the backline has been slightly reshuffled with Sean Lamont on the wing and Nick De Luca starting in the centre.

The pack stays exactly as it is, which might come as a surprise to those of us who saw the scrum as the key weakness that allowed France to close out the game. It does however repay faith in Geoff Cross who has displayed a little more in the loose the last few Sundays than Euan Murray has been known to. It may also allow Murray and Lawson to operate as France’s bench did, hoping to get an edge in the scrums and perhaps lock down a few easy penalties late on.

Elsewhere on the bench Duncan Weir is unlucky to make way for Ruaridh Jackson, while Max Evans has recovered sufficiently from his troubles on and off field to provide utility cover. It’s quite an experienced bench now, if they are all fit.

Ireland will be without their (second) talismanic leader in Paul O’ Connell and new favourite scrum half Conor Murray, who hyper-extended his knee against France. You might hope for them to be slightly tired this weekend, given that most of the top Irish players are not used to playing back to back matches unless there is a Heineken Cup double weekend.

Tommy Bowe will be looking to continue his attempt to top Gregor Townsend’s try scoring feat by being the first to score in every Six Nations match in a tournament. Well, every one his team plays in. Young Stuart Hogg has said he is a fan of Rob Kearney, and now he gets a chance to face off against him while the Irish Lion is returning to the peak of his game. Scotland will surely be tested under the high ball, regardless of which fly-half Ireland pick.

We’re hoping for another fired up performance from Scotland in Dublin. The last time we played there, Scotland won. That day, it was recent retiree Dan Parks who grabbed the victory with a famous touchline penalty. Johnnie Beattie also scored a try in the game. Both men are absent this weekend but this team arguably has much greater attacking potential than the 2010 edition.

Can they escape the suffocating clutches of the Irish defence and cut loose though? Or do they have a kicker willing to go toe-punt to toe-punt with Sexton and O’ Gara?

Scotland Team to face Ireland: Stuart Hogg, Lee Jones, Nick De Luca, Graeme Morrison, Sean Lamont, Greig Laidlaw, Mike Blair, Allan Jacobsen, Ross Ford, Geoff Cross, Richie Gray, Jim Hamilton, John Barclay, Ross Rennie, David Denton
Scott Lawson, Euan Murray, Al Kellock, Richie Vernon, Chris Cusiter, Ruaridh Jackson, Max Evans

Ref: C Pollock (NZ) Assistants: R Poite (Fra) & G Garner (Eng) TMO: G De Santis (Ita)

Aviva Stadium, Dublin, Saturday, k.o 5pm

31 Responses

  1. If Ruaridh Jackson comes on to kick a last minute penalty to win the game, I’ll be watching it from behind my couch. I’ve no idea what he has done to deserve a bench spot ahead of Weir.

    Also concerned that the starting backrow, plus Vernon, is a little lightweight to compete with Heaslip, Ferris and SOB for the full 80 minutes. Our counterrucking will have to be absolutely top notch. I’m also not sure what more Jon Welsh has to do to earn a place in the squad.

    Other than that, no complaints #backingblue

  2. I don’t understand what Weir did to get dropped. I thought he played well when he came on. It seems incredibly harsh to me.

    Hmm, some good, some not so good

  3. I agree about Weir, I’d back him or Laidlaw for pressure kicks. If it’s tight, maybe leave Cus on the bench and move Laidlaw to 9 so he can take the Dan Parks style penalties?

  4. aye, as prior comments, Jackson is good, and well done for a return to playing , but Weir got there on merit while he was injured, and thus should only lose his spot if he has a bad day and jackson a particularly brilliant one….have seen neither yet…otherwise, leave squad as it is, and show faith in the team…it’ll come.
    As a side note, what did Alex Grove do to drop sooooooooooooooo far out of favour

    1. What happened to Alex Grove indeed? Surely he has to be brought back into the squad at some point. His defence stats are fantastic down south and he is certainly a more ‘mobile’ player than Morrison.

      I guess he just doesn’t have a face that fits.

  5. We have made steady progress so far (bar a win). To me, our progress has been linked to the number of new faces introduced, the more new faces the better the preformances so far. We have unearthed some good new talent who have shown great potential. None of these new guys have failed and most have been much better than the older bods they replaced. I can’t help but feel that AR has missed another opportunity to introduce at least one more new/fresh face (although I had hoped for more than one).

    Our main area of weakness last time out was a re-run of last years scrummaging problems. I assume he has made a calculation that the irish scrummage looked under pressure last weekend, so we should be able to hold our own?? Thats not progress to me. Neither is having Murray on the bench. Chunk’s not having his best 6N’s but would never question his commitment, that said John Welsh has shown better form than any of the selected props. I am dissapointed that he been given a chance to prove himself. Surely we need to be trying to make some positive progress in this area.

    I also worry that the irish back row forwards will be making a bee line straight at Craig Repath. Whilst he has shown good promise, his current lack of physicality is likely to be exposed (again) as it was by wales and france. Should have been Weir or Jackson for me (tackling). Dropping Weir sucks.

    I’m afraid its another cautious AR selection, and if we lose (which the odds and my head are telling me), what would we have learned from this outing?

  6. Weir’s treatment here has really disheartened me. I’ve always been a big supporter of AR but this is very poor management. I actually thought Weir might have started against Ireland, given Laidlaw’s poor defence has cost tries in subsequent matches. As a season ticket holder with the Warriors, Jackson’s kicking, both from hand and off the tee, is nowhere near good enough for an international 10. Look at the kick he missed against the Ospreys last week to deny them the losing bonus point. Absolute kick in the teeth for Duncan Weir. Very, very poor treatment of arguably the best 10 Scotland has. Gutted for the lad.

  7. Standoffalot..Weir was always Jacksons deputy as he is in Glasgow at the moment. I do not think he’s been treated badly in the cuthroat world of Test rugby. In fact you could argue that a scrum-half being selected at 10 is a bigger kick in the teeth to both Jackson and Weir.
    If we’re talking about Jacksons kicking, look at the winner he put over against Samoa in Aberdeen last year!
    I do think Weir has a future in the mix with Laidlaw, Jackson,Scott, Leonard etc but I think we got the balance right this week

  8. That’s a pretty decent bench mind. Can see Evans and Vernon adding a bit of extra pace in the closing period and Kellock and Murray bolstering the scrum. I’d like to see Ford get a full 80 minutes though. Lawson’s perfectly adequate but I’d say a tiring Ross Ford probably adds more to the game than a fresh Scott Lawson.

    In terms of the number 10 debate, I’m still undecided on Weir. I don’t think he made any impact against the French whereas Laidlaw took his chance when he came on against England. I appreciate he may be a good club player but that doesn’t mean he’ll be outstanding as an international. I like what I’ve seen of Jackson in a Scotland shirt and I think he has the ability to dictate the pace of the game.

    I’ve said it before, but it’s lovely to see competition for places and that seems to be the case accross the field with younger players pushing the established members of the squad. It was interesting to see Shaun Edwards say that this year is the first time Wales have been able to practice their srummaging 8 against 8 with good quality on both sides. Seems like there’s plenty of competition in our back 5 and emerging talent coming up to put pressure on the front 3. Don’t think it’ll be long before Scotland has 30+ players who can all stake a claim for a starting place.

  9. Kev, Weir is undoubtably Glasgows first choice at the moment. He has started all the Heinekin cup games, even when Jackson was fit. I would concede that Jackson is possibly better at getting a backline moving but Weir has been a far more rounded player this season. In Jackson’s last 3 games for Glasgow (Ospreys, Connacht and the Scarlets) his goal kicking has been average, missing some very easy kicks. Cameron, I know he converted that one kick against Samoa, but he has never been put on the spot for a whole game for Scotland as Paterson had the kicking duties. Weir has earned his spot with some outstanding displays for Glasgow and Scotland A. Some of his goal kicking has been immaculate and he is miles ahead of Jackson in terms of kicking from hand. I actually feel that Laidlaw has been lucky to keep his spot, given that his poor defence is costing us tries.

    1. I take your point in terms of kicking, but I think the last three matches have shown that we need to move away from our over reliance on the boot. Jackson just seems to offer more in his over all game than Weir. I’m not writing Weir off at all I just haven’t seen enough to have me raving about him as the future. I also get the impression that Jackson raises his games in internationals. That’s not necessarily a good thing but some players do excel at international level without sparkling when playing for their club.

      I’m not sure if it’s his build, but Weir reminds me a bit of Andy Goode, an excellent club player who wasn’t cut out for the pace of full international rugby.

    2. Andy Goode, are actually serious? How can you compare a young 20/21 year old to Andy Goode? That is absolutely ridiculous. He has been given 20 mins at international level and you are writing him off as Andy Goode. Joke. Glasgow have very little to offer in their backs and have done for a number of years with the caveat of Max and Thom Evans so to say that Weir is one dimensional on that basis is ridiculous. Did you watch the A game against England? He was man of the match and got an exciting back line moving with them scoring 4 tries. Jackson could not hit a barn door with his kicking and at international level that loses you matches. Weir has kept him out the Glasgow team all season and has done nothing to justify getting dropped for someone who has been average for Glasgow when he has played. Typical AR tho, Jackson has been a favourite for some time…

    3. I’m not writing him off at all. I’m just saying that compared with Laidlaw’s performance when he came on against England I didn’t feel that he injected any pace or creativity into the game. That doesn’t make him a bad player it just makes it difficult to tell whether he’s suited to the pace of international rugby.
      I agree he had a fantastic game for Scotland A against England A but that’s very different from full international rugby. I hope I’m wrong I really do. I hope Weir turns out to be a world class 10. I’m just offering my observation based on 20 mins of rugby. Time will tell.

    4. Exactly, 20 mins of international rugby. How can you label someone Andy Goode on 20 mins of rugby? Laidlaw came on in a game when the only thing he could do was speed it up and make an impact as the team’s performance before that had had been nothing short of abysmal. He tried a chip and chase and for that gets branded as sparking the game into life. He was obviously going to get noticed. He also had Blair inside of him who gives him a quick service and speeds things up himself. Weir had Cusiter inside him who provides a painfully slow service and makes life impossible for a 10 trying to get a back line moving. Still cannot believe you have compared him to Andy Goode, I would be utterly offended if I was Duncan Weir and saw that. He was an average club player who did nothing but kick and a very poor international player.

    5. Say what you like about Andy Goode at international level but at club level he has often been very good(e) indeed, he certainly has Worcester firing these days from what I have seen.

      I’m not sure we’ve seen enough of Weir to know either way. Certainly his kicking is better than Jackson’s, but the reason he’s been keeping Jackson out of the team this season is Jackson has been injured since the World Cup, which he was away at and Weir was not…

  10. Suspect Weir has been given a break and will find himself starting vs Italy.

    In the meantime I find all this nonsense about Weir just being a kicking 10 really gets my goat. When was the last time we saw Jackson or Laidlaw put a charging back row on their backside with a bone crunching hit? Weirs first tackle in International rugby was Dussatoir at full tilt – Weir knocked him backwards!

    When was the last time we saw Jackson or Laidlaw create a try for themselves through hard fast running, a great step and eye for the gap? Check out you tube for some of Weir’s tries!

    Weir is the most natural 10 and a better passer of the ball from that position than either Jackson or Laidlaw (who still looks like a 9 caught out of position), he gets the backline moving better (in France game – even JD commented that scottish backs seemed to be attacking with more cohesion after Weir came on), distribution is superior, he keeps his head up and plays what he sees, he’s brave and those outside him in the defensive line don’t feel they have to cover for him…but more than anything else, he’s also got oodles and oodles of self belief…which is exactly why he’ll bounce back and be first name on the team sheet by this time next year.

    I say good luck to Jackson, he deserves a break but worry that he seems to be held together with spiders webs and magic… personally I wonder if he should consider a switch to 12.

    Laidlaw I fear is going to be caught in the wilderness being neither the best 9 or 10 but potentially useful as cover for both.

  11. Well said Andy. I agree completely regarding Weir. A large part of the reason Weir is viewed as a kicking 10, is due to the poor backline we have outside him at Glasgow. I’d love to think he’ll start against Italy, but I just don’t see it. I’m afraid I’m beginning to think AR has his favourites and thats it. Great coach, poor selector anyone? The clock is ticking.

    1. There is no question that it is harder for someone to get dropped from AR’s team than it is to get picked. Jackson has done nothing of any merit recently and gets drafted right back in. Rennie should have been picked last season ahead of Barclay but wasnt and it took a very poor World Cup and season for Glasgow for Barclay to get dropped. Even then he has managed to find himself on the pitch. 2 of AR’s all time favourites

  12. Steve, How badly would a scottish prop have to play to get dropped? I would imagine very, very badly. Murray lost his place last year after two shockers, but was back in place against england this season. Must be very disheartening for our younger players.

    1. Totally agree. The only way that strength in depth is developed is by giving the younger guys a go when those currently in the shirt are playing poorly. The front row is a prime example, unless the younger guys get a chance they wont develop and wont be able to step up when AR is forced to play them. Jacobsen has been poor for the last few weeks and his place must be questioned. Wales have gone from having a fairly average front row a few years ago to now being able to competitively scrummage 8 v 8 in training. The reason being that Warren Gatland gives the players a chance. Admittedly the props for Wales have been given a chance due to injury as they have 2 show ins for the lions. However had they been playing poorly he would give them a shot, that I have no doubt.

    2. Hold on…which Tight Head are you replacing Murray or Cross with?
      We are struggling there although it’s good to see Welsh moving across. And to say give the younger players a chance …AT TEST LEVEL? Kalman did OK against Wales but got murdered against France, We need more A games to get some of these lads experience.

  13. The tighthead spot is Geoff Cross’s or Murray’s and should be between those 2. Problem is that too many matches are on a Sunday now so you need a third there. Kalman is not good enough for that level so Moray Low needs to regain some form for competition there. Loosehead is the problem position in the front row as there is nobody challenging Chunk or given a chance ahead of him. I think that you will find that most front rows will get murdered by the French one at the moment, arguably the best front row in rugby at the moment.. The Irish one certainly did at the weekend so judging performance against them is not an even comparison.

  14. AR Mr Black has not the B**** to go totally out and pick a team selection that is dangerous but has the potential of wining, it still smells of maybe we could win but not go down by many points.

    As many people have said wining counts.

    Your comments about Weir are just outrageous, you really should get out more and watch the games.

    1. I’ve already said I’m only basing my opinions on 20 minutes of international rugby. I’ve watched the A game against England too and I thought he was superb.

      My point is that there is a difference between the pace of club rugby and full international rugby (I don’t count A games in that). I’m reserving judgement is all.

      I’m hardly slagging Duncan Weir off either. I’m just offering my views on what I’ve seen so far. If he were to come accross this blog and read what I’m saying and take it to heart then 1. He’s giving my opinion far more credit than he should and 2. He’s going to struggle to cope with the media attention that comes with being an international rugby player these days.

      I’d love to see him get a chance against Italy and show that he can do for Scotland what he’s been doing for Glasgow and I’d be fully behind him if he got the chance.

  15. Why is AR so scared of taking a chance!? Showing some faith in form!? Welsh, Weir, Scott should all at least be on the bench surely.
    Agree with the majority of comments that dropping Weir is truly baffling.
    I like Laidlaw and could forgive him for being brushed off by Cuthbert (as would most mortals!) but being walked over by Trihn duc shows he’s just not defensively strong enough to play 10 (yet at least). Expect he will be Scotland SH after Blair.

    All said I still think team is strong enough to challenge the Irish. Hope NDL starts he same way he left off against the French!!

  16. Just announced that NDL is injured, Max Evans goes to 13 and Scott comes in on the bench.

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Scottish Rugby News and Opinion