Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Scotland Team To Face Ireland in Dublin

Jim Hamilton on the charge - pic © Al Ross
Jim Hamilton on the charge - pic © Al Ross
Scotland have made four changes to their starting XV and a further positional switch in their team to open the 2014 RBS 6 Nations Championship away to Ireland on Sunday.
British & Irish Lion Stuart Hogg returns at full-back having missed the Autumn Tests through injury, while other alterations from the team that lined-up against Australia see Alex Dunbar preferred to Nick De Luca in the centre; Tim Swinson win the nod over Grant Gilchrist in the second-row; and a fourth Glasgow Warrior, Ryan Wilson, chosen at blindside flanker instead of Johnnie Beattie.
For Dunbar, Swinson and Wilson it is their first RBS 6 Nations start and the same goes for Duncan Taylor at inside centre who continues as Matt Scott’s replacement while the undoubtedly prefferred choice at 12 sits on the bench hoping to play his way to form and fitness. Sean Maitland, who scored on his first outing in the Championship in the opening game last season, moves to the wing to accommodate Hogg in the 15 jersey having failed to set the heather on fire in the autumn as much as he did this time last year.
Scotland will be captained by Kelly Brown, who will be winning his 61st cap, thus equalling Doddie Weir’s record as the most-capped product of the Melrose club. He’s still played out of position as is Glasgow Number 8 Ryan Wilson, who may be a controversial inclusion for some given either his recent legal troubles or the fact that many would prefer to see Brown, Strokosch or possibly Harley in the 6 shirt…
Head coach Scott Johnson acknowledged that it had been a tough selection.  “The forwards especially were a hard pick but we’re happy. We believe we’ve got a good combination to go in against formidable opposition,” he told
Johnson reflected that Scotland’s back-row selection increased their lineout options and hailed the inclusion of 24-year-old Wilson, for the additional athleticism he can bring.
In the engine-room, the head coach is savouring the chance to reunite Swinson with Jim Hamilton.  The pair made a considerable impact in Scotland’s Test against South Africa in Nelspruit last summer and injury to Swinson deprived them of rekindling that partnership in the autumn.
The front row will surely be a worry with the Irish pack in fine form and Scotland hoping Grant and Ford can find a little sparkle from somewhere, given referee’s fondness for penalising the team they assume is inferior. That’s us, by the way.
Some reassurance may come in the form of a strong and experienced bench including the aforementioned Scott as well as Johnnie Beattie, Richie Gray and Chris Cusiter.
Johnson will be acutely aware that Scotland have not won their first game in the Championship since France were defeated at Murrayfield in 2006 and believes this selection can end that sequence and get us off to a flyer.
Scotland team to play Ireland at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin on Sunday 2 February in the RBS 6 Nations Championship, kick-off 3pm :
15 Stuart Hogg (Glasgow Warriors) 15 caps, 3 tries, 15 points
14 Sean Maitland (Glasgow Warriors) 8 caps, 1 try, 5 points
13 Alex Dunbar (Glasgow Warriors) 3 caps, 1 try, 5 points
12 Duncan Taylor (Saracens) 6 caps
11 Sean Lamont (Glasgow Warriors) 82 caps, 12 tries, 60 points
 10 Duncan Weir (Glasgow Warriors) 8 caps, 1 try, 2 conversions, 9 points
9 Greig Laidlaw (Edinburgh Rugby) 24 caps, 3 tries, 23 conversions, 54 penalties, 223 points
 1 Ryan Grant (Glasgow Warriors) 13 caps
2 Ross Ford (Edinburgh Rugby) 71 caps, 2 tries, 10 points
3 Moray Low (Glasgow Warriors) 23 caps
4 Tim Swinson (Glasgow Warriors) 3 caps
5 Jim Hamilton (Montpellier) 50 caps, 1 try, 5 points
6 Ryan Wilson (Glasgow Warriors) 4 caps
7 Kelly Brown (Saracens) CAPTAIN 60 caps, 4 tries, 20 points
8 David Denton (Edinburgh Rugby) 17 caps
16 Pat MacArthur (Glasgow Warriors) 3 caps
17 Alasdair Dickinson (Edinburgh Rugby) 30 caps, 2 tries, 10 points
18 Geoff Cross (Edinburgh Rugby) 23 caps, 1 try, 5 points
19 Richie Gray (Castres) 33 caps, 1 try, 5 points
20 Johnnie Beattie (Montpellier) 26 caps, 3 tries, 15 points
21 Chris Cusiter (Glasgow Warriors) 64 caps, 3 tries, 15 points
22 Matt Scott (Edinburgh Rugby) 16 caps, 3 tries, 15 points
23 Max Evans (Castres) 37 caps, 3 tries, 15 points
Referee:  Craig Joubert (South Africa). Assistant referees: Jaco Peyper (South Africa) and Mike Fraser (New Zealand).  TMO: Carlo Damasco (Italy)

28 Responses

  1. Interesting selection from SJ. Especially with starting Weir and no sign of Ruaridh Jackson. Maybe a sign that he really wants Tonks to have a blinder for the A team? If that is the case, then I am surprised that he has not included Tonks in the match day squad. Weir’s recent appearance against Toulon did not inspire confidence.

    Also, no sign of Fusaro or Rennie in either squad? Does he really hate 7s?

    Still, it seems that SJ is true to his word and is hoping that Scotland are still in the mix after 60 minutes. There is potential for some serious impact from the bench. I am of course referring exclusively to Girth. Though Matt Scott, Ritchie Gray and Beattie will also be good cameos. #ingirthwetrust

  2. Not sure what to make of the team tbh. The backrow mix isn’t great but we knew Brown would be starting at 7. Rate Beattie above the other 2. Tonks is a few games at 10 short of getting thrown straight in so fingers crossed he goes well on Fri as I just don’t think the other pair have int class (yet sadly all we have to pick from!). Not seen much of Taylor…is he performing well for Sarries? Good to see Dunbar in but feel he is potentially more suited for 12. As much as I want to see a barnstorming display from Girth the fact is that we are weak in front row options in quality. I predict a negative game plan of kicking possession when in own half and using one or two out runners in opposition half

  3. Disbelief at that back row and not quite sure what games SJ has been watching to select Wilson. Yes, he played quite well against Toulon but other than that he has been a non-event this year. Other than frequenting a particular kebab shop on Great Western Road and indulging in a spot of boxing and on those grounds he would not have even made my initial squad. The same could be said of Grant or Maitland, however there is a reason he has already appeared before a court and the other two have not.

    There was never going to be a genuine 7 in this match day squad from the training squad selection and for that reason I fear the worst on Sunday. O’Brien is missing which is a plus for us but I think we may get murdered at the breakdown.

    Interesting call with Taylor but Scott has played no rugby so hopefully we will see him for England as he has grown into one of our best. Not convinced by Weir at 10 but gone are the days where we could rely on Parksy. Cometh the hour, cometh Parksy. Hopefully we will see a repeat of 4 years ago when Beattie scored and Parksy banged over kick after kick, however I have a feeling we may get dominated in the front row and our back row wont be up to the breakdown battle. Big 20 mins from Girth

    1. It does appear that SJ is aiming for a ‘kick to the corners approach’. Duncan Weir does not have the natural charisma and flair of Parksy in this department (see Toulon). Hopefully big Dan will have a word in his ear and a well accelerated palm to ass before game day. Agree, Beattie over the top of O’Connell would be good to see again!

    2. Parks should be given an “international duty” contract by the SRU to boost morale. Water boy duties whilst ass patting and then a demon on the skite afterwards.

  4. Apparently Beattie, Seymour and Scott have all been struggling to be fit for Sunday. Not a great balance in the back row. Denton is not international class, poor defensively and always looks for contact rather than assessing his options, and Wilson is a an 8 moved to 6. Personally prefer Brown and would’ve liked Barclay at 7. What has Barclay done wrong, does anyone know? Also Harley and Strokosch can feel hard done by. Think Weir and Jackson have been poor for Glasgow this season and hopefully Tonks can son make the step up. Good to see both Dunbar and Swinson starting. Scott and Dunbar can hopefully be our centre pairing for years to come. All that said I am cautiously optimistic for Sunday!!

    1. Totally agree (apart from the optimism), think Brown, Barclay Denton or Killer Bs has a better balance and you’d lose very little even in the lineout.

  5. This is a travesty. When will it be Girth’s shot on the SRU’s rotation policy conveyer belt to be handed a starting spot. Has Moray Low ever knocked himself out on his debut for the team? No. His Moray Low ever taken a yellow on the stretcher for the team?? No. Has Moray Low ever single handily changed the momentum of the game with one earth shattering leg drive? NO!! Has Moray Low ever intercepted a Dan Carter pass, sprinted the length of Murrayfield to score a try v the All Blacks*? NOOOO!!!!!

    Huge last 20 minutes required from Girth but he can do it.

    Front row aside, and now that I have calmed down, we look pretty vulnerable if Weir goes down early and the back row needs a 7. Why can’t any of the coaches see this? It should not take us losing the first few games and being out of the tournament before the coaches start rewarding form with some new players. Looking forward to seeing the centre combo with Matt Scott coming on early and Hogg back on form. Getting excited now…

    *(this is how I remember it, pretty sure Visser got most of the credit for some reason)

    1. This is what gets me: every tournament we go in with a chance and every tournament we end with the right players in the right positions, but in between a duff selection or two and you’re two games down. It shouldn’t take media/fan pressure to secure the blindingly obvious…

    2. All very well having Hogg back in form but his options of ball in hand in an attacking situation will be limited. Laidlaw to box kick at every opportunity in his own half. Weir to kick for corners at every opportunity. Weir our first choice 10 has been distinctly average this season. However there are sadly no real alternatives

  6. While it’s good to see Dunbar and Taylor getting a chance, it’s a pity Scott’s not quite ready to play alongside either one of them. Like other posters I just don’t understand the back row who all seem to be playing out of position, although Denton should probably play at 8 all the time. I like Ryan Wilson but I think he is an 8 and I believe Beattie is the best 8 we’ve got. Why oh why don’t we play an established 7? Disappointed to see Ross and Hamilton still in, I’d rather have seen MacArthur and Gray. Still, I hope I am wrong and this is a team that can beat Ireland.

  7. If Scott, Beattie or anyone else isn’t fit enough to start they shouldn’t be on the bench. We should have a replacement FH (presumably Laidlaw is emergency cover?). The back row is frankly bonkers.

    In my opinion we have a more talented squad than for over 10 years so I’m a bit shocked at how poor this lineup looks. It’s all over the place.

  8. Extremely disappointed with the team selection this week. What has SJ been smoking?

    I struggle to see where tries are going to come from. Has he watched Edinburgh vs Munster and decided we can’t beat an Irish team away from home by playing rugby?

    Opting for a one dimensional back row, an uninspiring 9,10,12 combination and a play the percentages approach*. A potent back three yes, but not on the back foot against a formidable Irish defence. Damage limitation im my opinion.

    I agree with all the front row/back row sentiment. My other concern is with 9,10,12. Laidlaw’s service is slow and offers little attacking threat. Granted his kicking is world class and he knows how to play rugby hence his repeated selection. Weir possesses a strong kicking game but his distribution is not good enough seldom creating opportunities for his outside backs and taking the ball into contact himself all too often. I have not seen much of Taylor but thought he looked uninspiring in the autumn (happy to stand corrected on that).

    Each year we seem to start the competition with the same conservative selection only to ring the changes in the last game (as u say Rory), giving the new picks a snowballs chance in hell of making an impact. Play your best team from the start and win lose or draw you will start to see things come together as the tournament progresses.

    I predict a convincing Irish victory and vast changes in week 2 (Girth, Mcarthur, Gray, Beattie, Tonks & Scott).

    Bookies have Scotland +11 at evens. At least someone is optomistic..


    * I have also heard that some of the match day squad are recovering from a virus which may explain some of the selections

  9. Wilson at 6 is a bit of a worry I would think. He’s an 8 and that’s it I would say, I hope to be proved wrong though. Surely this is Ford’s last chance? If the first game is disappointing MacArthur has to start. Also think that Hamilton shouldn’t be anywhere near the starting line up. Quality player on his day but if we’re looking to the future we need to be pushing the Gray brothers, Swinson and Gilchrist through.
    Can’t help but think with Laidlaw starting we’re going to be playing a negative style. When we have backs with pace and attack I can’t understand why Cusiter wasn’t selected ahead of Laidlaw. Good to see Matt Scott on the bench this weekend. The sooner we can get him starting again the better. With no 10 cover on the bench I hope that Hogg is given a chance. Laidlaw or Scott could be an option but I think Hogg needs to be given an opportunity. What do we have to lose? Not that much just now!
    Very excited for the 6nations to start. Come on Scotland!

    1. Agree completely regarding Hogg. I thought last season after playing 10 a few times for Glasgow that that was were his future lay. We’re never going to develop the national team without a decent 10. Chris Paterson’s career didn’t fulfill it’s potential when he was taken out of the 10 jersey. I worry that this Scotland team will not fulfill its potential unless Hogg is put in at fly half!

  10. I actually think Ford has been playing quite well recently and deserves his place. We have an abundance of quality second rows but for me, Gilchrist still ranks near the bottom. Not been convinced by him as he often seams to dissappear during games.

    The real annoying thing is that it will take us losing the first two games before the coaches shake it up and pick the likes of Cusiter and Tonks (and Girth) when we have nothing left to lose. We always start the tournament with a negative selection. Since no pundits really expect anything from Scotland (we are always mentioned as an after thought to make sure the BBC covers its bases), it would be good to see a coach say ‘fuck it’ and really go for an all out attacking performance. Win win in my book.

    1. Agree with you Pheonix with regards to taking a risk in selection. The backrow balance and 9,10,12 combination does not overly inspire. I do not however agree with your comment regarding Gilchrist. He is Edin no 1 second row and currently sits mnear the top of the Heineken cup tackles made stats alongside Grant and Du Preez. Think the reason you may not see much of him is that he does a lot of the hard grunt work. I cannot comment on R Gray’s form as haven’t seen him but seems to have suffered from the “not playing in Scotland not playing well policy” Johnson has adopted. Beattie, Barclay, Evans, Mckenzie, Hogg, Parks….in the same boat. Jonny Gray great prospect but not quite there yet. Swinson and Hamilton I believe scrum very well which is to make up for a weak front row. I imagine gray will come on alongside Girth for impact

  11. I just wish people would get some facts correct namely

    Parks started 9 Rabo games and 3 on from bench 68 points

    Weir started 4 but I think has playe some from bench 42 points????

    Please think again!

    1. What is your point? That Weir has only played 4 times this season and has been picked for Scotland?

  12. Am interested by all the Girth calls – has he not had a grand total of 7 seconds of rugby for Edinburgh so far this season, and spends the vast majority of his time picking splinters out of his harris? Is that the right preparation for international rugby these days?

    1. Apologies for the delay, I have just this minute calmed down and I may have fractured a knuckle on my hand from punching the wall in fury. After doing 10 laps of the office for a cooling off period, I have articulated the following measured response…

      I will concede that Girth does not have a lot of rugby under his belt this season. However, this is just the latest in a pattern of mistreatment by the SRU. We have all heard about the SRU rotation policy for resting players, but for some reason, this does not apply to Girth. In fact, I would guess that he may be on his way out at the end of the season as he is clearly not a popular choice with Solomons. I would wager that he will go off to France division two or something similar.

      Girth has also been mistreated at an international level. He has stepped up every Sunday when asked and put in commendable performances only to be relegated straight back to the bench the following Saturday to make way for Euan Murray, regardless of the result of the performance. This seems unfair and it is not difficult to understand how a player’s confidence can be affected by such treatment.

      However, even with this all going on in the background, every time the camera pans on to our hero Geoffrey, he just looks happy to be there and be involved. All teams have their fan favourites and their dark horses, and as far as Scotland are concerned, mine is Girth. So please, have your own opinion but please also respect mine. Those earth shattering leg drives are the highlight of any game and I cannot wait to see some on Saturday. Do not listen to the haters Girth, we believe in you. Come on Scotland!

    2. Also just ready this in the Scotsman about Tim Swinson which I think sums it up perfectly:

      ‘Swinson is even working on the look, sporting a new scar at yesterday’s team announcement. “Ah,” he said, almost apologetically. “Geoff Cross headbutted me in training last week’


    3. Isn’t Girth’s real problem – with the SRU and Solomons – that he is shit in the scrum. Fine player in all other regards but that is a pretty huge flaw in an international prop.

  13. Agree with HOGG at flyhalf.

    DENTON is not up to much, he will cost Scotland ball in our on half with mindless runs.

    HAMILTON? for real. Surely not.

    And then I see DICKINSON on the bench.

    This looks like a step backwards but lets hope not.
    Will be watching from NZ in the middle of the night, come on Scotland.

  14. Heat zillionaire? Have you any experience of front row play or is it you like Cross because he runs a lot? Has he been man of the match in an international, Low has, against Fiji, no mean feat for a tighthead . Thank God Low hasn’t been yellow carded losing a prop arguably has a bigger effect on a teams dynamic. Low tends to do the tighthead duties better than Cross, so against a strong Irish front row he is needed. I would be more worried about muscleman Ford being selected if I were you

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