When tasked with picking the back three for this series of articles there was some semblance of competition and you’d struggle to see past Visser, Maitland and Hogg leading the charge.
That was about 3 weeks or more ago, and it’s safe to say that those options have dwindled to the point that eyes are now looking across the broader back division to see where the some support can be drafted in from.
The loss of Hogg for these games is a big blow. Dynamic and fleet of foot, his time with the Lions over the summer with have hopefully helped his development and he would normally be a first pick for a Scotland. Whilst the team coped with his absence in the summer you have to think his absence will be felt.
Visser is also gone and already looks like the 6 Nations may come too quick for him also. He hit the international scene with a bang and whilst he has more rough edges than a dirty penny he gives the side pure finishing power. Similarly the loss of Saracens Duncan Taylor from the squad hits the depth and whilst he may not have started he surely would have been given the chance to make an impact from the bench. With all the talk of this being the start of the prep for 2015 it’s vital that Taylor gets as much exposure to the international game in advance of this tournament.
So, who does this leave? Firstly, as a winger playing lower league pub rugby I was gutted to not get my call up – every team needs and old, wheezy, out of shape, slow winger! In my absence, the choice of starting back three is pretty straight forward for me.
Fullback – Greig Tonks
It’s his natural position, he runs fairly hard and straight, can spot a gap and has a decent boot on him. If we are truly looking to build for 2015 we need to give second string players a shot at their preferred position when the first choice (in this case Hogg) are not available. He played out in South Africa and should be given the chance to developed further in these next set of games.
Also considered: Jack Cuthbert
Wings – Sean Maitland and Tommy Seymour
Sean Maitland hasn’t set the heather on fire at 15 for Glasgow; perhaps playing fullback for Glasgow is a different kettle of fish to doing it for Canterbury. I’m convinced he’s most effective out in the wing, and if he has one weakness it’s under the high ball and he may get a bit more protection on the wing. He’s had a summer with the Lions and has made a good impression since landing on these shores. He’s got pace to burn and a good change of direction – he’s just a very clever rugby player. With no Visser and Hogg, Scotland will be looking to Maitland to provide the X-factor and a bit of cutting edge, provided off-pitch issues do not intervene.
Tommy Seymour played in the Summer tour and has been a consistent performer for Glasgow. Another speed demon I’ve always been impressed by his sheer speed at taking the ball, not afraid of contact and has a knack for picking incisive lines…he just needs the support on the shoulder. These series of games present a big opportunity to nail down a wing spot for the national team – if he can put in three solid performances, in both attack and defence, he can put himself in prime position for a start come the 6 Nations.
Outside of these three the cupboard is fairly bare. Lamont obviously has form on the wing and has looked in great shape lately however I’d imagine he’ll be used in the centres as the battering ram. He does at least provide cover in case of injuries. If he is to move out to wing I’d expect this to be at Tonks expense, with Maitland dropping back to full back. Similarly the other main option is the potential re-inclusion of Max Evans, however he missed the South Africa tour and you can’t escape the fact that he’s perhaps been overtaken in the pecking order. With Taylor and Visser missing it opens up a slot on the bench and it may be here that Max Evans is able to make an appearance.
Also considered: Nikki Walker and Lee Jones are both absent from the squad.
Our team so far: 15. Tonks, 14. Maitland, 11, Seymour, 10. Heathcote, 9. Laidlaw, 8. Beattie, 7. Fusaro, 6. Strokosch, 5. R Gray, 4. Swinson, 3. Cross, 2. MacArthur, 1. Grant
Bench: Dickinson, Ford, Welsh, Hamilton, Brown, Cusiter, Weir, Lamont