Our Team: Scrum-Half

Mike Blair has gone, Chris Cusiter is injured. Will we see Laidlaw and Pyrgos duelling for Scotland’s 9 shirt? Who is going to put their pass at the right height nicely in front of the poor mug picked at standoff?

Greig Laidlaw

Having been moved back to scrum-half for Edinburgh this season almost as soon as Andy Robinson hit the outside of Murrayfield’s revolving door, Laidlaw hasn’t had quite the season he had last time out when he sparkled even as opposition runners tried to grind him into the dirt. Still he’s sharp, service is okay and his kicking from the tee is invaluable in the absence of, well, Dan Parks. He finds more gaps at 9 too when opposition defenders have less time to line him up, and he runs a nice support line.

Henry Pyrgos

Definitely the coming man and one of the few to emerge from the Autumn Internationals in credit. Going backwards he is already getting used to the art of the scottish scrum-half-as-last-line-of-defence play that made Mike Blair invaluable, and with a try against South Africa he has nous in attack too. As usual there is a careful balance to be selected between 9 and 10 and the requirements of a team for a decent goal-kicker. If you don’t trust Jackson to kick then you need Laidlaw. If you go with Weir or Heathcote at 10 then suddenly Pyrgos comes right back in to the reckoning. Now may not be the time but Laidlaw is not that much younger than the Cusiters and Lawsons of this world and Pyrgos will have plenty of chances as the long term future at 9.

Rory Lawson

After a fashion, Mike Blair’s replacement against Tonga, Lawson – who was ever thus really – has been plying his trade at a Newcastle team that are not setting the world on fire, but not struggling as much as say Richie Gray’s Sale side. Having made the shirt his own for a short while in recent years when he was the form man at Gloucester, Lawson could still offer a level head depending on Scott Johnson’s game plan. But is he really one for the future?

Sean Kennedy

Perhaps the surprise pick of the enlarged training squad, Kennedy hasn’t had much pro-game time and could well be in the squad for the experience. But if you have been reading Moody Blue’s reports you’ll know that he’s definitely one to watch. Would he be in the squad if Cusiter was fit? Probably not. But give him a couple of games with the A team and see how he goes. Would he be worth a reversal of his move along the M8 if a new Edinburgh coach has a clearout?

Also considered: Chris Cusiter (injured), Mark McMillan

Our pick: We complete the team with Greig Laidlaw. Still probably Scotland’s best choice of rugby brain, and a consistent goal kicker over shorter distances. Pyrgos should be the man on the bench.

The Final Team: Stuart Hogg, Sean Maitland, Sean Lamont, Matt Scott, Tim Visser, Ruaridh Jackson, Greig Laidlaw; Ryan Grant, Ross Ford, Euan Murray, Richie Gray, Rob Harley, Al Strokosch, Roddy Grant, Johnnie Beattie

A discussion on the merits of our team (which was selected by the individuals who wrote the articles) will follow soon, with reference to Monday’s squad announcement.

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7 comments on “Our Team: Scrum-Half

  1. Eoin on

    Well, I guess that with Mike Blair’s retiral, and Rory Lawson’s absence from the 6Ns squad, we are seeing a move towards those scrum halves that will be around for the 2015 RWC. Chris Cusiter will be the senior man by that stage, and in my view, quite possibly still the top dog. Laidlaw is a decent scrum-half, but there’s a reason that he was never able to displace the Blair-Cusiter-Lawson triumvirate, just as there’s a reason that he was encouraged last season to cement a move to 10 – he’s got an excellent rugby brain on him, is a talented player, but isn’t necessarily the best 9 available.

    Henry is a curate’s egg – a moment from the Ulster game last Friday summed him up perfectly for me. The referee awarded a free kick, which quite rightly Pyrgos decided to take quickly, spotting the Ulster defence in some array. Tapping the ball to himself however, he managed to shoe it over his head and lose all momentum by having to turn around to recatch the ball – a moment of top quality followed by … something else. It’s great that Henry can add tempo to any game, but his passing can be ‘interesting’ – off the ankles, step ladders required, we’re likely to see it all. Young Kennedy is really one for the future, he’s looked to have all the necessary skills in his brief outings for Glasgow, and has apparently been going great guns with Stirling County.

    Muzza McConnell is another youngster that may come thru, and who knows what position Sam Hidalgo-Clyne will settle in (spot of the Laidlaw’s about this one)

  2. David Dailly on

    I agree with all regarding Kennedy. Seen him play for Glasgow 2 or 3 times and was thrilled that we had another nippy, cheeky and fearless 9 on the way. He will probably, barring injury, be in the Scotland A camp for this 6N but I would not be surprised to see him take to the field for the full squad in the AI’s this year. If our Stand-Off situation improves, kicking and all, then he may even be given a run out on the summer tour.

    If he is to be our future 9 then he needs to leave Scotland. While we have Laidlaw, Cusiter, Pyrgos and Matawalu, there is very little chance that he will get regular pro game time. Unless it is during the 6N and HC windows.

  3. Hamish on

    Thought Laidlaw was really unlucky not to go to last RWC as a 9. Deserves a run through the 6N.

    Haven’t seen enough of Kennedy to form an opinion.

  4. Matto on

    This has been quality chat through and through, thanks for the postings. My starting 15 against England are: Hogg, Maitland, Lamont (Dunbar), Scott, Visser, Jackson, Laidlaw, Grant, Ford (hall/MacArthur), Murray,Gray, Hamilton, Brown, Fusaro (Rennie/Grant), Beattie.

    Denton and Harley as impact subs.

    Could not definitely decide on a few positions. Lamont is in to deal with the physicality of Tuilagi, though I would otherwise have him on the bench. Sort yourself out Fordy – last chance for a starting berth, if the lineout’s a mess, switch him. Happy with Fusaro, but am not sure as to the extent of his recovery from injury. Rennie would still be first choice if fully fit, but Grant is a very able replacement.

    It’s a guid team, and I like the Johnson’s chat, but trying to keep expectations in check…

  5. steph on

    Great series of articles-thanks! Just wanted to big up Newcastle a bit; they’ve won all their games in the Championship, 12 points clear at the top. They’ve even beaten Tonga!

    • Cameron Black on

      Ha! Very true. Heard Grant Shiells has been in imperious form in the scrum and the loose this year. Might try and catch the game at Leeds Carnegie in a couple of weeks if I get a chance.
      How’s Michael Tait getting on? I know he’s been unlucky with injuries but seemed to be a decent prospect.
      Here’s hoping the club maintain links with the Borders – Could be useful as an apotive third pro-team!

    • steph on

      Hope Shiells gets a Scotland A call-up and has a stormer. Last year’s game against the Saxons led to Stuart Hogg moving up to the senior team. I’d have Shiells over Dickenson, even untried at this level!

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