Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Our Team: Props

Props. Good ones are scarce in world rugby, but not extinct. They might be soon in Scotland, though, if there is not a strategic plan to develop them in every junior club in the country. Scrummaging is woefully under coached, as are most skills.

If you’re going to rub ears with Cian Healy, Gethin Jenkins, Dan Cole or Martin Castrogiovanni – lordy let’s not even mention the French – in the Six Nations cauldron, you need to be more than just the guy first in the queue at the burger van.

Tightheads: South Africa’s World Cup winning coach Jake White once said when asked who his most important players were: “The most 
important is my tighthead and the second most important my reserve tighthead.” Edinburgh’s (for now South African) WP Nel has looked accomplished in the set-piece and is growing into his project-player role. He’s holding the shirt at Edinburgh. Glasgow’s Mike Cusack is not qualified either. So who does that leave?

Euan Murray

Scotland do have one prop who has at times been very good indeed. The only problem is that due to his beliefs he won’t play on a Sunday. Scotland play Ireland on a Sunday, but as in recent years that is unlikely to rule him out of contention even if whoever gets his shirt that day plays a blinder. On his day he can make a mess of any scrum in World Rugby. Tends to play better with Jim Hamilton behind him. As Tom has already left him out, might we leave out Murray too?

Geoff Cross

Chunk has gone, Edinburgh took a pummelling in the scrums over the seasonal double header, especially without Nel. If there won’t be too much set piece stuff he comes into contention; he’s a decent ball carrier. But we’re playing England first, and France last. Those are the key ones and they’ll require scrummaging.

Moray Low

Low had a quiet season last year with injury and found his place in the Scotland pecking order usurped slightly with the emergence of Welsh and Grant. He does have versatility on his side, although this is less key now that you can put a whole front row on the bench. Is forming a fairly handy pairing with Ryan Grant although you get the sense he’s less comfortable in the set-piece than his bearded companion.

Looseheads: With Chunk having retired, cover looks a little thin if you’re a Scotland selector. Edinburgh have John Yapp but unlike Jon Welsh he’s actually Welsh; behind him and Chunk wait untried youngsters like U20s cap Robin Hislop.

Ryan Grant

Had a fairly good time making others look miserable over the 1872 Cup and has all but stitched his name onto Chunk’s old shirt. If only for the fact he looks fairly competent and throws himself into everything in a way that endears him to Scottish rugby fans (well, maybe not Edinburgh fans). We won’t mention the L word just yet.

Jon Welsh

Jon Welsh was nearly the find of last year, having had a fairly useful Six Nations. Then he injured himself on the summer tour and grizzled assassin Grant stole all his thunder. Welsh currently lingers on the injured roster but is possibly due back by January. More likely it will be too soon but if fit his versatility could see him make the squad.

Also considered for selection: Gordie Reid, Kyle Traynor, Robin Hislop, Grant Shiells, Ed Kalman (back injury), Jon Welsh (shoulder injury)

Our Picks: Ryan Grant and Euan Murray. We should probably make it clear that a couple more good games from Low or Cross could see them become our new favourites. But it’s not a great choice of tightheads is it really? Religious reasons aside, this pair probably represent our best defence against England’s set piece.

Team so far: Ryan Grant, Euan Murray, Richie Gray, Rob Harley

13 Responses

  1. Grant, Murray and Low for the Saturday Tests.
    Grant, Low and Cross for the Sunday Tests.
    Don’t think the younger players such as Niven, Hislop are nearly ready at this level at set piece time (they don’t tend dominate in Premiership) so it’s a wee bit worrying if any front line props get hurt

  2. Grant is a shoo-in but I’d got for Low at tighthead because his workrate in the tackle and loose is way more than Murray’s.

    My team so far :- Grant, Low, Gray, Hamilton

    1. Grant Murray Gray Hamilton (v England) Low Kellock bench.

      Love this’s like being in the boozer with your mates.

  3. I hope Grant Shiells gets a start in the A international against the Saxon’s with a view to bringing him into the full squad. Murray was ahead of him at Newcastle last year but he’s been starting most games and by all accounts is having a great season in the scrum and the loose. Gave Carl Hayman a lot of trouble last season.

  4. Cross, like Dickinson, is always going to be a bit short on scrummaging power at top level.

    Has to be Grant and Murray when available.

    When is Jon Welsh back?

  5. Regular bloggers will know that I have always been an avid fan of Girth (Cross)as he always gives his all in every game he plays and is very reliable in making the hard yards in the loose.

    However, you can not help but feel that his confidence has taken a hit which is understandable given that no matter how well he plays, if Murray decides that he is available, Girth occupies the bench. If that was not bad enough, the same is now happening at Edinburgh where a clear message has been sent that the coaches do not think he is good enough with Nel being favoured.

    Granted, he is a professional rugby player and so this is just part of the competition but Cross needs some more consistency in selection to get back to the level of performance that made him a fan favourite.

    Therefore on current form I would have to agree with the posters above and go with Grant Murray and Cross on the bench. Low is begining to push again but is not there yet.

    1. Blasphemous comment Phoenix. Girth should be first name on the teamsheet. Such a crowd pleaser! I still believe in you Girth.

  6. It’s Grant first choice, Welsh back-up on the loosehead side and Murray first choice for France and England, Low first choice for Wales, Ireland and Italy on the tighthead side for me. Cross on the bench for Ireland (Sunday game) – even though he’s being annihilated in the set-piece at the moment, there really is nobody else.

    Aside from young Grant Shiells at Newcastle, the other Falcon to look out for is Scots-born (sadly English-qualified) Scott Wilson – am hearing great things about this young prospect, but sadly he’s more likely to be seen wearing an age-grade red rose

  7. I would pick Grant and Murray as well. I think that there are two props on the bench at international level now too. Therefore would have both Cross and Low on the bench. Although they are both tighthead specialists, I think they can both cover loosehead if required. Although Low went off v Treviso and I haven’t heard whether he is going to be fit or not.

    Usually I would prefer specialist loosehead cover but Welsh is injured, Dickinson is not match fit plus there are doubts about his scrummaging, Shiells is playing in the Championship, Reid is probably not ready and Traynor is just not good enough.

  8. Sorry got behind on answering these.

    My choices Grant and Murray certainly for the first game.

    Bench props would be Low and Reid (as last decent LHP standing – Kyle Traynor does not make that category).

  9. Didn’t realise that Exeter’s Hoani Tui, although Kiwi born, is Scots-qualified at grandparent level

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Scottish Rugby News and Opinion