5 Key Players With A Last Chance

I had a terrifying nightmare last night where I was called up to play in the Scottish front row this weekend. I kept telling people I was well short of match fitness and had never played prop before. No one would listen to me.

Thankfully in the real world I’m pretty sure I don’t stand a chance of being called up to the squad but with Scott Johnson playing fast and loose with his selections in the forwards and the bench I don’t think any of us can really rule it out.

I had started to work on a return to our regular series of “5 Key Points For Beating…” but some of Johnson’s choices and omissions so infuriated me that I was forced to go back to once again looking at which players are being given a last chance.

Of the names on last week’s list De Luca and Denton both seized the chance to show they can deliver at international level. De Luca shone and Denton played with a level of calm assurance he has never displayed before in a Scotland shirt. Euan Murray did enough to show he is still relevant, but Al Kelloch was eclipsed by Tim Swinson and, depending on how Johnny Gray gets on, only a run of injuries would see him return to the squad.

But Scott Johnson has made changes to the team that beat Japan and some of the names on the team sheet are not so much drinking in the last chance saloon as waiting outside at the taxi rank. That’s a huge gamble if not outright suicide given South Africa’s current form.

So who’s stood in the middle of the road frantically trying to catch a taxi home?

1. Ross Ford

Ford made the list last week and is back again. As usual Ford did well enough as a battering ram with ball in hand and showed some decent hands to put Dickinson in under the posts for his try. But that was it. The stats show Scotland only lost one line out but Ford’s tendency to overthrow still caused his jumpers some problems. The scrum was a complete mess and on more than one occasion the ball sat stationary in the channel with Ford making no attempt at a strike. It seems the Scottish plan was to drive the Japanese backwards and negate the need to hook but there was no plan B when this didn’t work. Scotland’s success rate at the scrum was 55.5%. South Africa will demolish us.

Despite this Ford retains his place in the Scottish front row. Pat MacArthur did extremely well when he came on but doesn’t even feature in the match day squad. Injury? Not according to the SRU website. He should feel rightly aggrieved at not being given a chance.

2. Moray Low

Low has been in and around the Scotland squad for a number years without ever really pushing to be first choice tighthead. With Euan Murray being unavailable on a Sunday it’s not like Low hasn’t had his chances. It’s a position where Scotland struggle for numbers and with fan favourite Girth looking on from the bench this could be Low’s last chance to step up. If not then Scott Johnson must do something radical to solve the crisis at tighthead before 2015. The as yet unproven Jon Welsh is waiting in the wings and Edinburgh’s WP Nel will be eligible by then but Scotland need more options. There is no sterner front row test in world rugby than the South Africans and Low must rise to the challenge if he is to have any future in a Scotland jersey.

3. Chris Cusiter

This may seem a slightly controversial choice but with Laidlaw, Pyrgos and even Sean Kennedy all vying for a place in team it may be time to ask whether there is space in the squad for Cusiter. He is well used to such competition having fought with Mike Blair and Rory Lawson for most of his career but while they have gracefully stepped aside to allow the young bucks to step up Cusiter has taken the decision to stay and fight. Whilst that’s admirable both Laidlaw and Pyrgos have added pace to Scotland’s game that wasn’t present during the Cusblairson years and Cusiter’s selection feels like a step backwards. However some say Cus is in the throws of a Sean Lamont style rennaisances so he may still have something to add to the cause.

4. Max Evans

Max Evans is the Transformers movie. An extremely exciting prospect on paper but incredibly disappointing when you actually sit down to watch it. This hasn’t been helped by coaches struggling to understand whether he should play at centre or on the wing. Scotland now have depth in the back division and Evans no longer benefits from being the pick of a mediocre bunch. He was omitted from the Summer Tour and was hardly missed but showed a little of what he can do when he came on against France in the Spring. Barring injury this is likely to be Evans last chance.

 5. Scott Lawson

 Scott Lawson?

Tags: , , , ,

Born a Souter but brought up just south of the Border in Berwick where he played for Berwick RFC as a kid any any position where cover was needed.
Follow Cammy on twitter @CammyBlack

6 comments on “5 Key Players With A Last Chance

  1. Eoin on

    Great stuff, Cammy, really enjoying the material that you and Jamie (amongst others) are putting out.

    On your list, I find Ross Ford just the most frustrating player ever – with all the physical attributes, and lauded for his potential by some of the best hookers ever to play the game, I just don’t understand why he hasn’t been delivering for the last couple of years. But perhaps his biggest crime is that he simply doesn’t look passionate about pulling on the navy blue (I’m sure that he is, btw, it’s just that he doesn’t look it!). Pat MacArthur must be spitting feathers!

    I think Cus and Pyrgos offer something different coming off the bench, both behind Laidlaw – Henry has the ability (the sublime to his ridiculous, which he is capable of in equal measure) to up the tempo of a the game when he comes on, whereas I’d prefer Cus if the game required a steadying hand. Both have a role to play thru to RWC 2015.

    Max Evans is a trickier one – for years he was the lone creative option in a backline that wasn’t exactly brimming over with spark, but he’s certainly been guilty of getting isolated and not looking for support in that past, so has his critics. With Visser, Lamont, Maitland and Seymour, I’m not sure that he’d be able to get any game time but for injuries.

    Can anyone explain what is going on with the whole Moray Low/Jon Welsh loosehead/tighthead thing – have they switched over, or haven’t they? If they have, why are they not being given time to cement their positions? The days of the single prop sub on the bench are long gone, and I’d like to see these guys knuckle down to one position – both seem capable of making a shirt their own, if they just get some time!

    I’d keep De Luca on your list, he’s far from out of the woods yet in my view – he did some good things last weekend, but a significant number of missed tackles (I couldn’t 5 altho espn only reported 3) meant that he hasn’t escaped the chop yet for me. I think that if Matt Scott had not been injured we might have seen a Scott-Bennett partnership against the Bokke, and I think it’s that pairing which will offer us the most and take us thru 2015 and beyond.

    • Cameron Black on

      Thought De Luca did enough to earn a reprieve this week. I’m not above sticking him back on next week though.
      I like Max Evans and Chris Cusiter. Both are excellent players. Evans is going to have to put in a stellar performance in order to stay in the frame. Cusiter may have suffered from tactical instructions from past coaches and it’ll be interesting to see him play now with Scotland recycling the ball a hell or a lot faster. Of course given the opposition we might revert back to ways of old but that cost us last Autumn and it was only the introduction of Pyrgos that saw us threaten and cross the Boks line.
      I’ve always been a fan of Ross Ford but can’t understand why Pat MacArthur isn’t even on the bench. Like I said Scott Lawson?

  2. FF on

    I think what Ford has really lacked is competition so when he has been playing badly he hasn’t been sent away to work on his faults. MacArthur is probably being scheduled to start the OZ game as Ford adds bulk to a small frontrow. Lawson is probably just benching so he gets an opportunity and he played well in the summer. AT least that is what I hope as MacArthur is so obviously the man for the future and should be the man for now.

    Low needs a big game the most out of the players on your list. Nel and Cusack are going to go straight into the squad when they qualify, at least if the latter opts to play for Scotland.

    I don’t think we have a really convincing back up to Laidlaw; Cus is injury prone and not the player he once was despite his current form and Prygos just isn’t test standard. We badly need Hidalgo-Clyne or Sean Kennedy to make progress fast and shake it up a little bit.

    Max Evans won’t make it to the world cup. In fact if Taylor plays well he might not even make it to the 6N with Scott, NDL, Dunbar, Bennett and now Taylor all able to play in the centre and most of those in both positions.

    Scotland don’t have huge stocks of convincing wingers but Evans has never had the killer instinct to make it as a top wing. Speaking of which, what has happened to Jamie Farndale – is he stranded back in club rugby. I thought he had huge potential but since his broken leg you don’t hear much about him.

  3. Fraser on

    I’d say Scott Lawson is included after his performance against South Africa in the summer, after only being called up due to injuries I was surprised with what he produced in that game. Johnson is probably giving him a chance to show that he can play like that against top opposition again and it wasn’t just a one off

  4. Angus on

    What I find strange is using the Autumn Internationals to give people “last chances” opposed to up and comers the chance to “show their value”

    Numerous players put their hands up on the SA tour while established players were unavailable for one reason or another and they showed they could well be the future. My tendency in this Autumn series would be to give them the chance to show their form wasn’t flash in the pan

    That’s another of my different mental approaches

    Maybe someone can compare the starting side and squad who ran the Boks close in Nelspruit with this one and at the same compare the SA squads of then and now

  5. John Ellis on

    Moray Low proved yesterday that he can anchor a scrum even against the best SA had to offer. The “fabled” Beast couldn’t make a dent in him even coming on fresh after Moray had soaked up all SA had to offer for 50 minutes. I think Moray suffers from not being an extrovert like the guitar playing bible basher that anchors the scrum but does bugger all else around the park. Moray deserves his caps because he is a grafter in the old fashioned way and amen to that.

Comments are closed.