Our Team: Second Rows

Traditionally, Scotland have always had towering brutes in the engine room of the second row, whether it’s legendary Lion Gordon Brown, Grand Slam joker Damian Cronin, tartan-trew loving Doddie Weir or more recently Lion, Top 14 and Heineken Cup winner Nathan Hines.

Unfortunately, in my opinion, Scotland have not had a consistently world class lock forward since Mont De Marsan coach Scott Murray ruled the skies around the time of the 1999 Five Nations Triumph.

New Zealand lead the way in terms of the ideal skillset amongst the front five, and worryingly for those with a ticket to Twickers in a few weeks, England are beginning to blood a new generation of locks who possess not only power, but the pace and athleticism that is needed in the modern game.

Who should Scotland look to to underpin the front row this year?

Richie Gray

Richie Gray is nailed on to be one of Scotland’s locks for many years to come. After a barnstorming first season, he has been quieter in 2012 but still managed to stand out as one of the team’s star performers. Great athleticism along with huge physical presence should make him one of the first names on the team sheet.

Al Kellock

Kellock is no doubt an inspiring man to play alongside. The Warriors captain has served Scotland well since his debut in 2004 and his commitment never comes into question. He is undoubtedly international class as a leader of men, however, when it comes to consistency at international level Kellock has always been a bit off the pace and shown up by more mobile second rows. At 32 years old I feel, with the departure of Andy Robinson, Kellock should perhaps be one of the old guard to step aside in order to usher in a new era for Scottish Rugby.

Jim Hamilton

Another stalwart who has answered some of his critics in the last couple of seasons, Hamilton will not be an opponent many relish lining up against. He has been labelled a passenger – at times fairly – but when on top of his game he is an asset to the pack. Again he is not blessed with fantastic ball skills, but should be kept around the squad as an impact man for at least a while longer. His attitude is top notch and he provides the niggle in the absence of Kellock or Hines. Euan Murray scrummages better when Jim is in the pack too.

Rob Harley

Harley announced himself to the wider Scottish rugby public on the summer tour with a try off the bench against Samoa. Warriors fans however will know that Harley has had a fantastic first couple of seasons in the Pro12. So much so that he captained the side in Al Kellock’s absence during last year’s Rugby World Cup at the age of only 21. With a crowded back row he could be an outside choice in the second.

Tom Ryder

The Warriors forward spent his youth representing England before moving north in 2010 and joining the Scotland A set-up. Ryder made his full debut on this years summer tour, bagging two caps against Fiji and Samoa.  The 18 stone lock had a brilliant 2011/12 season, being included in the Pro12 Dream Team, and is one I would like to see really kick on and make an impact for Scotland in 2013.

Also available: Fraser McKenzie, Jonny Gray, Grant Gilchrist, Tim Swinson, Scott Macleod

My choices? I’d be bold, have a bit of a clear out for the 6 Nations and pick Richie Gray and I’d go for Rob Harley off the back of his good work in the 1872 matches, despite him playing on the flank.

What about you?

Tags: , , ,

Tom played Rugby at age grade level before injury showed him that voicing opinions from the stands would be safer. Dusts off the scrum cap socially now. Trainee Sports Journalist and Broadcaster in London. Follow Tom on Twitter @TMacSport

20 comments on “Our Team: Second Rows

  1. Doug The Prop on

    I’d stick with Gray and Hamilton, as the front row goes better when he does the unseen stuff in the scrum…would love a second row like him behind me in the scrum every day of the week. I would have Harley coming off the bench for the last 30.

  2. Rory Baldwin on

    I think McKenzie has been overlooked. I think Gray may be suffering from Ford-itis and perhaps McKenzie Hamilton would take it to the English first game out with Richie on the bench. Would be tough on Kellock who has been great these last few weeks. But we can’t always rely on him for leadership and Big Jim has been keeping his nose clean(ish) as Gloucester captain.

  3. David Dailly on

    Gray and Harley for me. I think the extra potential that Harley has could be unlocked with a call to Lock for Scotland in the 6N. Gray and Harley as the Locks with Denton, Brown or Wilson at No 8 will make for a fantastic line out as well as dynamic and brutal combination in general when combined with the 2 of the likes of Fussaro, Denton, Brown in the Flanker area. Having a highly mobile and tenacious back five forwards like that would be class!

  4. Brodie on

    Surprised to see you include Harley in the mix for second row. Someone else commented recently (might have been Ferrie in the Herald) that he was a No. 4 who could play 6, but is now a No. 6 who can play 4. Given he’s no where in the pecking order for Glasgow’s second row – James Eddie, Nick Campbell and Johnny Gray are probably ahead of him) then I can’t see him being picked at second row for Scotland. If Rennie and Barclay don’t recover from their injuries then I think Harley has a better chance of starting at 7 for Scotland than he does in the second row.

    Gilchrist has been doing well in an Edinburgh team that has been under performing which means that I expect him to make the squad and may well start alongside Gray. That would given us a rather inexperienced second row, but may be one to pick with an eye on 2015.

    Tom Ryder is not playing as well as he did last season when he was Mr Consistency for Glasgow. He needs to rediscover this form if he’s to make the Scotland squad and even then could struggle to make the match day squad.

    Hamilton is in my opinion a much improved player, particularly his mobility about the park. I agree that we scrummage better when he is on the pitch. However, the Glasgow scrum has been a force to be reckoned with this year, so I’m not sure the issue is in Kellock’s contribution to the scrum.

    For me the issue with Kellock is that he goes to ground too quickly and therefore does not make the hard yards you’d want from a lock. This has to be weighed up against his line-out skills and his leadership. If Brown is to remain as Captain then is Kellock’s leadership needed?

    Not seen enough of Gray or McKenzie to comment apart from Sale’s poor form must not be helping their self-belief.

  5. Eoin on

    Think Brodie’s comments above are pretty much spot on:
    * Gray is a certainty, as is Hamilton;
    * can’t see Harley being in the mix except in the backrow (he did well at 7 for the 1872 gane, but wouldn’t want him there vs Eng);
    * pluses and minuses against Big Al Kellock but we do need new leadership (sorry KB);
    * Ryder’s form has slipped from previous seasons, arguably Swinson is going better;
    * difficult for McKenzie to get a look-in from a Sale pack that is not going well (Gray is already established so that doesn’t count against him);
    * Gilchrist has been the pick of the Edinburgh pack for me (altho that’s not saying much);
    * the future is with guys like Johnny Gray and Nick Campbell (altho I don’t get why the latter fails to even make the bench for Glasgow).

    One player that is way under the radar is Aly Muldowney – has established himself in a pretty fearsome Exeter pack, has come on leaps and bounds since moving away from Glasgow, jumps well at 2 in the lineout (watch the recent game vs Bath for steals), never fails to make yards with ball in hand in the AP, and tackles like a demon – just a thought

  6. Steve on

    Rob Harley will not be playing 2nd row for Scotland. As someone from Glasgow who watches them regularly he is an absolute liability on the penalty front and he is well down the 2nd row pecking order as highlighted above. As for him playing 7 for Scotland, he is probably about 6th in the pecking order and under no circumstances should he be wearing that jersey against England. Barclay and Rennie are both injured and he is certainly behind Fusaro and Grant as they are both natural opensides and the best sides play natural 7s in that position. To play someone like Harley whose ball skills are not great but is a big lad would be a disaster. Scotland need to be able to slow the ball down at the breakdown and that means playing an out and out 7. He is a 6 and only a 6. Kelly Brown may end up playing 7 if he is retained as captain to accomodate for Denton and in the in form 8, Beattie.

    Richie Gray is a shoe-in given he will probably be the only Test Lion in our team. Hamilton has been captaining Gloucester so it is a toss up between him and Kellock for the other slot.

  7. David Dailly on

    Seems that my choice for Harley has be a mix of wishfull thinking and the belief that he has much much more to offer than we have seen. Thought that Johnson could get this out of him.

    Still think that Harley, Fussaro and Wilson should be on the call up from Glasgow. If Barclay is fit for the 6 Nations I would still not pick him. He has been off form and there are others who deserve the opportunity to claim the jersey. Beattie I would like to see but dont know how his form has been in France. Kelly Brown seems a shoe in but I have not seen much of him when watching the Aviva highlights….maybe I keep missing him. Denton, Beatie, Harley, Fussaro, Wilson, Brown are the crop I would chose my flankers and No 8 from. Ross Rennie is still injured.

    • The Pigeon on

      Beattie was injured for the first 4/5 weeks of the season but since then has been a regular in the Montpellier side and had a number of MOM performances. Would be idiotic to ignore a player high on confidence and playing extremely well in the most competitive league in Europe.

  8. Phoenix on

    Agree with Steve, dont really rate Harley. There is only so far a ‘workhorse’ reputation can take you. For anywhere else in the team it would probably be sufficient but Scotland have relatively good depth in second row and back row.

    First choice in the house still has to be Gray and Hamilton. Kellock may be a leader but he goes far to high into contact and is a walking penalty.

    With Barclay and Rennie out it is a great opportunity to give Fusaro or Grant a chance for the 7 shirt. Again echoing what Steve has said, there is no substitute for an out and out 7. We need to stop this mentality of preventing the opposition from playing their game. Scotland need to take their game to the opposition. Hopefully Scott Johnson recognises this.

  9. Heatzillionaire on

    Great piece. Things had gone very quiet on the blogging front but I presume there will be lots in the build up to the 6 nations? Nobody has mentioned a forgotten man. The former Leicester man Ian Nimmo. By all accounts he has been doing very well down at the Dragons

  10. Dino on

    Good point Heatzillionaire, alas I feel it is not to be. I actually caught up with Ian Nimmo (the saviour of Scottish Rugby) at Scotstoun last week. Apparently he is enjoying being unaffiliated with a country at the moment as it actually means he gets more game time. He will be nearing residency qualification quite soon so may have his eyes on the ‘bread of heaven’.

    Its times like this when you wonder how Edinburgh get away with fielding so many journeymen. Big Ian is actively avoiding a Scotland call up so that he gets more game time with the dragons. Baffeling logic there!

  11. Tom Macleod on

    Great to see a lot of debate on this, just wait until the other position debates go up here!
    My selection of Harley ahead of Hamilton is one based on giving youth a chance for once at least for the England game and maybe another, but I respect the views of Warriors fans who will have undoubtedly seen a bit more of the man this season than I have. If he isn’t up to the task, then Hamilton is there waiting- but I have the same inkling as David Dailly, given the chance to step up on an International Stage maybe Harley can find an extra gear.

    Was going to stick Gilchrist in as one of the options but I was so furious with Edinburgh being utter garbage I decided not to include any of them!

  12. Kev on

    Since it’s 2nd row we’re talking about I’d go for Gray and Hamilton v England with Kellock on the bench. Gray is an outstanding athletic lock and Hamilton knows the England game well.
    Johnny Gray will play in the 20’s , Gilchrist and Ryder in the A team (although we should try and get Nimmo back to Scotland)

  13. Hawkesy on

    Richie Gray is a nailed on certainty.
    After that its a very close call between Kellock and Hamilton.
    Hamilton is the better 2nd row in my eyes but Kellock may be essential to lead the team (Kelly Brown does not cut it) and on that basis may start. Would have Gilchrist in 23 if any of first 3 injured then Swinson. Ryder when I have seen him in last few games has been poor and would not have him near the team.

    Harley for me is not big enough for 2nd row but a definite contender for the back row as he is in excellent form.

  14. Dave on

    Did Ian Nimmo not just join Dragons this season? He’s still the best part of 3 years away from qualifying for Wales as far as I can tell.

    My view is that you should pick your best side and then choose your captain. Kellock may be a good captain but if you’re not a good enough player to be in the squad then you shouldn’t be picked. I would go with Gray, Hamilton and Gilchrist as the 3 locks in the squad. I think Muldowney could be a good shout for the A team squad.

    Richie Gray must start I reckon. He’s one of the few players we have who are world class on his day.

    • Dino on

      That is true Dave, he only moved there this season but as long as he is not tied to Scotland, I dont think he counts as a ‘foreign’ player and so can get more game time.

  15. Angus on

    I would love to see Jim Hamilton play his size with ball in hand. He can make yards but instead of looking to retain his feet and offload in the contact he surrenders his feet early and the momentum is lost. I just get the feeling that with a bit of coaching, for him and the men around him, along with an injection of confidence could see him become a huge presence in the open and a real attacking weapons

Comments are closed.