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.