Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Our Team: The Bench & Final Thoughts

Scotland Players - (c) Scottish Rugby Blog

Having a new Scotland coach in charge looking at the players he could call in with (somewhat) fresh eyes gave us all a chance to pick through the bones of what we would like to see in the new Scotland team. It’s always hard doing things like this, as pragmatism butts up against optimisim – or possibly our own naivety – and it must be even harder for those who have a job on the line.

And so a desire for change or some sort of freshness has led us to put (for example) Harley and Grant in at 5 and 7 and Ben Cairns on the bench. Most of us agree that this is unlikely to reflect the actual team that will take the field on the 2nd February but the selections highlight broader issues – a need for dynamism in the second row, a need for a genuine openside and a ball playing outside centre – that will play a part in the real Scotland coaches’ selections, even if different solutions are adopted.

The team is not perfect; the pack lacks leadership and possibly heft. Although certainly the back division looks balanced and pacy and pretty close to what I imagine will line up against England. As to who would captain such a motley bunch it isn’t really clear, with Laidlaw and Ford the only real candidates amongst previous pro or international captains. I think for this reason the actual team Scott Johnson picks will probably have at least one of Hamilton, Kellock or Kelly Brown included.

Roddy Grant didn’t make the Scotland training squad, and the form of Hamilton and Kellock may eclipse even Richie Gray (now that would be a nuggety second row!) rather than seeing young Harley thrown into the second row. Brown would probably slot in at 6 and with the news that Chris Fusaro did make the cut he could be in line for a first cap, if fit.

Anyway, here’s who we chose and I’d also like to thank all the commenters who have expanded the debate. It has been a successful series and will definitely be repeated, in some format!

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

Bench: Cross, MacArthur, Kellock, Denton, Pyrgos, Heathcote, Cairns

If we get another slot it would likely be a prop, assuming we can find a fit loosehead.

28 Responses

  1. My Final Team (against England): Stuart Hogg, Sean Maitland, Sean Lamont, Matt Scott, Tim Visser, Ruaridh Jackson, Greig Laidlaw; Ryan Grant, Ross Ford, Euan Murray, Richie Gray, Jim Hamilton(c), David Denton, Kelly Brown, Johnnie Beattie

    Bench: MacArthur, Dickinson (nobody else), Low, Kellock, Fusaro, Pyrgos, Heathcote, Dunbar

    (for other games): Stuart Hogg, Sean Maitland, Alex Dunbar, Matt Scott, Tim Visser, Ruaridh Jackson, Greig Laidlaw; Ryan Grant, Ross Ford, Euan Murray, Richie Gray, Jim Hamilton(c), Kelly Brown, Chris Fusaro, Johnnie Beattie

    Bench: MacArthur, Dickinson (nobody else), Low, Kellock, Denton, Pyrgos, Heathcote, S Lamont

  2. Kelly Brown not in the squad? Seriously?

    I’d agree with Eoin for the England team, big pack and Lamont in to counter Manu.

    1. On reflection I’ve probably been a trifle harsh not putting KB in the back row. I was still having trouble getting over the Tonga match and some responsibility has to sit with him as captain.
      Denton probably offers more impact from the bench than KB though.
      Don’t agree with SJ not having cover at openside. KB and Denton are both OK at 6 but they’re not 7s. I think that’s why we struggled against the Tongan’s at the breakdown. You didn’t have anyone in the team with the snaffling skills the likes of Fusaro, Rennie or Grant possess. Still hoping Roddy Grant gets a late call up.

  3. We all seem to agree on the backs – this is in-itself rare – a good omen?
    I agree that Brown (6) and Hamilton should make the final team for England, with Denton on the bench.
    Grant was unlucky not to make the squad, but I like the look of a fired-up Fusaro against the English – if he does let them get to him and “boils over”.
    Maybe a bit early for Cairns – so I agree with Eoin on Dunbar for the bench.
    I would go for Hamilton (leading by example) or Laidlaw (astute tactician) – hoping for the best.
    Ford – NO Brown – not best suited (mistake by AR)

  4. Given how competetive our pack has been in recent times I find it hard to blame them for the defeat against Tonga. I think 10/12/13 for Scotland has been the problem for some time. International backs can generally kick the ball most of the length of the pitch, ours are a long way short so we lose out on any kicking battles. Beattie at 12? Haha, he has an unbelievable left boot (see youtube). Joking aside, we need to be able to clear our lines and tackle in midfield, our midfield defence was seriously exposed against South Africa, their back row regularly making 20/30 metres by running in our 10/12 channel.I’ve not seen enough of Heathcote to pass any judgement on him. Lamont at 13 while not a great passer (who is?) will at least run straight, break the gainline and fix defenders for miss passes.

  5. Ben Cairns on the bench? He’s had what, a game and a half? In 18 months. He needs to re-establish himself at embra first, the 6Ns should provide a good time to do that.

  6. Hogg


  7. I suspect that if a car crash put Rennie Barclay Brown Fusaro Denton Beattie and Strokosch out of action for the six nations Grant still wouldn’t make the Scotland squad. Leadership, skill, effort and experience clearly not a requirement of Scotland 7s.

  8. Hogg
    Dunbar (although I would like to see Hogg pair up with Scott)
    Jackson (still not entirely convinced by Jackson)

    Captain needs to be someone who will be in the team every week.
    Can’t say that I think Kellock or Brown will be in the side every week. Maybe it has to go to Laidlaw

  9. my back row would be kelly brown-6 Chris fusaro-7 beatie-8
    denton coming n as an impact sub, we have to slow the English ball down or they will have a field day with, there crash ball centers getting them over the game line

  10. Breaking news from the BBC sport website:

    ‘Leicester centre Manu Tuilagi is also a doubt for the Calcutta Cup match with a leg injury.’

    Is it bad to start feeling optimistic again?

  11. Back row for me would have strokosch, Fusaro, Beattie. It gives us in form specialists in each position. KB on the bench as he has the utility to cover anywhere in the back row should he need to. Does leave a ?mark over captaincy. One that has never been really discussed is Sean lamont, the tendency is for a forward to be captain these days, but Sean is a seasoned Scotland player who most think should/will play and he certainly isn’t short of Scottish spirit.

    1. And Fusaro has only played about 20 mins of rugby against Edinburgh in the last 2 months. Not sure how you could declare him ‘match fit’ to play against England. Looks like Brown is going to be captain from media coverage and with Beattie a must at 8, 7 could well be Rob Harley. I fear a disaster with that selection at 7

  12. Bit of a Glasgow-centric team, I know, but I’m picking on form so there is little option as such:

    Peter Murchie
    Tommy Seymour/Sean Maitland
    Stuart Hogg (Dunbar if Hogg moved to 15)
    Peter Horne
    Tim Visser
    Ruaridh Jackson
    Greig Laidlaw

    Ryan Grant
    Pat McArthur
    Euan Murray
    Richie Gray
    Al Kellock
    Dave Denton
    Chris Fusaro
    Jonnie Beattie

    Kellock would be captain if he were guaranteed a game in every match, in my team he’s picked as the most in form lock in the country, but he’d need a big performance against England to keep his place with Gilchrist and Hamilton around.

  13. Given the revised squad, it looks like we might see the following for the Calcutta Cup match:

    15. Hogg
    14. Maitland
    13. S Lamont/M Evans
    12. Scott
    11. MacVisser
    10. Jackson
    9. Laidlaw
    1. Grant
    2. Ford/MacArthur
    3. Murray
    4. Gray
    5. Hamilton/Kellock
    6. Denton/Brown(c)
    7. Brown(c)/Harley
    8. Beattie

    With a bench of MacArthur/Ford, Low, Cross, Hamilton/Kellock, Denton/Harley, Pyrgos, Horne, S Lamont/M Evans

    That leaves Hall, Strokosch, Gilchrist and Murchie missing out from the revised squad.

    England will be without Corbisero and Tuilagi for sure, but I’m hoping that won’t effect our selection or tactics. I’ve come round to the idea of S Lamont at 13, taking the ball up hard of first phase ball either in his own channel or closer in, with Scott then able to bring in the back three on second phase behind some screen runners.

  14. Stroker is away awaiting the birth of his child is he not? Disappointed to see Brown named captain as I didn’t think he played well during the Autumns and would rather he wasn’t starting against England. I prefer the lighter and more more abrasive back rowers.

    1. Jamie, He’s back again after the birth of their second child (a girl, I believe) and was added straight into the reduced squad

  15. Disappointed to see that Fusaro has dropped out of squad, I was strongly in favour of a specialist 7 as Brown and Strokosoch should really stick at 6 for me. Hopefully the A team can put a strong showing together again and Fusaro can get a chance in the rest of the games (when is Rennie back?… Beattie, Brown and Rennie is something to look forward to). Hope the back row v England is Denton / Brown / Beattie.

  16. No specialist 7 oh bugger. Well I guess we might get away with as England don’t have one but to me seems like a lost advantage….

  17. Have been pondering Kellock vs Hamilton, and for arguments sake, let’s say that the former offers lineout strength, the latter offers scrum strength. Which is going to be more important against England? I actually think it’ll be the lineout, which is where so much attacking ball generally comes from in the modern game. With Grant and Murray, I would hope that we’d have enough brute strength technique to hold our own ball at least, so I’d prefer to see us make use of Kellock’s lineout skills to secure our own ball and give us a fighting chance of disrupting England’s. Could be wrong on this one, but …

    1. Completely agree on all counts.

      One of two disagreeable selections in my book- the other being Hall ahead of McArthur, the other selection I’m nervous about is Brown at 7 but injury to Fusaro and Rennie at least accounts for that, though thought Denton might be a better option at 7.

  18. Ooooohhhh…12 out of 15!!!!!

    If it hadnt been for the bizzarre selection of Rob Harley in the 2nd row and Roddy Grant in the back row you could have been closer!!!!

    Good effort though!!

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Scottish Rugby News and Opinion