Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Scotland Training Squad Announced

Scotland Training in Fiji - pic Courtesy of SRU

Scott Johnson today announced his Scotland training squad ahead of the Six Nations and there was the usual mix of “meh”, “yup no surprises” and “wtf?”!

In form opensides Roddy Grant and John Barclay have been neglected in favour of the as yet uncapped Chris Fusaro – who is at least getting game time, but seemingly unbeloved of Scott Johnson – and the currently-playing-for-Accies Ross Rennie who has little in the way or form or fitness but arrives based on a solid pedigree and a dollop of faith. Which suggests that Fusaro is there to provide a training tool should Scotland face a team who actually bother to play a tenacious fetcher at 7, and the most likely openside will be Kelly Brown, who isn’t really one.

Greig Tonks makes the squad with a hint that he could be considered in the 10 shirt he has held for Edinburgh these last few weeks and the question asked is this: did Laidlaw begin his run at 10 for Scotland with any more in the way of experience? More likely is that it will revert to a duel between Weir and Jackson, with neither making a persuasive case to hold down the Glasgow 10 shirt recently, let alone the Scotland one.

It looks like a squad designed to appear risky and forward thinking with a few wildcards and young players, but actually when the fringe players are filtered out it will result in the sort of Scotland team most fans could pick in their sleep.

Luckily there is at least one new face in the form of Dougie Fife, who has been rewarded for his recent spate of tries with spot on the squad. Whether he can do enough to impress Scott Johnson and unseat old stagers Sean Lamont or Max Evans for a bench or even starting spot remains to be seen.

Johnson made clear the squad announced today is for next week’s training which will take place primarily at the Heriot Watt University campus on the western outskirts of Edinburgh.

“We will announce an A squad next week for the match against England Saxons at Scotstoun at the end of the month and, as I see it, a number of players could yet force their way into the senior squad during the Six Nations,” he explained.

Such players could include Jack Cuthbert, Henry Pyrgos, Barclay – who has featured heavily for Scarlets since his move there –  Grant – who has kept the returning Ross Rennie out of the Edinburgh team – and Glasgow prop Jon Welsh. At least a couple of them are in good enough form to merit a place in the senior squad at this point, and if that continues during the A game and sporadic Rabo fixtures afterwards, they should at least be given the opportunity to challenge for test places.

Scotland squad for training camp 19-22 January ahead of RBS 6 Nations Championship:

Forwards: John Beattie (Montpellier), Kelly Brown (Saracens), Geoff Cross, David Denton, Alasdair Dickinson, Ross Ford (all Edinburgh Rugby), Chris Fusaro (Glasgow Warriors), Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh Rugby), Ryan Grant, Jonny Gray (both Glasgow Warriors), Richie Gray (Castres), Jim Hamilton (Montpellier), Robert Harley (Glasgow Warriors), Scott Lawson (Newcastle Falcons), Kieran Low (London Irish), Moray Low, Pat MacArthur (both Glasgow Warriors), Ross Rennie (Edinburgh Rugby) Alasdair Strokosch (Perpignan), Tim Swinson and Ryan Wilson (both Glasgow Warriors).

Backs: Chris Cusiter (Glasgow Warriors), Nick De Luca (Edinburgh Rugby), Alex Dunbar (Glasgow Warriors), Max Evans (Castres), Dougie Fife (Edinburgh Rugby), Stuart Hogg, Ruaridh Jackson, Sean Lamont (all Glasgow Warriors), Greig Laidlaw (Edinburgh Rugby), Sean Maitland (Glasgow Warriors), Matt Scott (Edinburgh Rugby), Tommy Seymour (Glasgow Warriors), Duncan Taylor (Saracens), Greig Tonks (Edinburgh Rugby) and Duncan Weir (Glasgow Warriors).

Not considered due to injury: Alastair Kellock (Glasgow Warriors), Euan Murray (Worcester Warriors), Peter Horne (Glasgow Warriors) and Tim Visser (Edinburgh Rugby).

Notable names left out: John Barclay (Scarlets), Jack Cuthbert, Roddy Grant (Edinburgh), Dougie Hall, Henry Pyrgos, Jon Welsh (Glasgow)

31 Responses

  1. Thank god we wont have to put up with SJ for much longer. He’s managed to contradict every founding principle he outlined when he took the rains. Good effort SJ, truly blinding remarkable.
    No wonder the Welsh will have nothing to do with him any more.

  2. Hmm, not sure that I would go that far, Dom. Of the notable absentees (not thru injury), John Barclay has been in decent form for Scarlets but is perhaps suffering from ‘out-of-sight, out-of-mind’-itis and would likely be behind Kelly Brown (not a 7, but that’s where SJ seems to like him and where he’s been playing for Sarries) and Ross Rennie (perhaps the most natural openside of this generation). Jack Cuthbert shouldn’t be on the list, I’d replace him either with Greig Tonks who has been decent at 10 for Edinbokke or Mark Bennett, Roddy Grant (on good form, but is he truly international standard?) who is perhaps unlucky to lose out to Fusaro, Dougie Hall (again on ok form, but Lawson has been doing well at Falcons and he’s got the best darts of the three chosen), Pyrgos (pls no, never) and Welsh (still suffering the hangover of being moved to tighthead, then back to loosehead, then … you get the idea) – so not too many mistakes there tbh, it’s certainly not a Robinson-esque selection

  3. Who are your notables selections/omissions then Dom? I feel for Roddy Grant who has been outstanding. How will we find out if he’s international standard unless he gets a chance to prove himself? He’s done all that’s required at club level to deserve the chance imo.

  4. Watched the scarlets game on friday night and genuinely couldn’t find Barclay at all, saw him at the odd lineout, but otherwise he was conspicuous by his absence around the park….

  5. Fortunately for all of us fans, the strict SRU rotation policy means that Girth is very well rested and raring to go…

  6. Really don’t think it is a very controversial selection. The only odd thing is that there is a bit of a dearth of natural 7’s (only Rennie and Fusaro – likely Johnson intends to stick with Brown as first choice).

    So, maybe Grant should be in for Harley or Low (don’t know too much about him). Other than that not much to object to.

    It’s a shame Bennett hasn’t forced himself into contention at this moment but frankly there has been such a clamour to anoint him as the second coming I think it’s a good thing he isn’t being thrown to the wolves and the inevitable Scottish fan backlash. De Luca and Dunbar are both good options at OC and there is no need to rush him in until he’s ready. I hope he gets some game time during the 6N but if not, big deal, he’ll feature on tour, I’m sure Cotter knows who he is and he’ll break through next season with a little more experience under his belt.

    1. Good point regarding Bennett not being rushed but I’m still struggling to understand his ommission. Based on performances during the tour of SA, I think SJ would have Scott and Dunbar as 1st choice centres but I still cant get my head round why Bennett wasn’t in ahead of either (both) NDL or Evans.

  7. Also what is the score re: Wilson/Maitland and the court case?

    It seemed to take ages for Max Evans case to be resolved but hasn’t Wilson already appeared to hear his charge?

  8. Definite lack of props in that squad. Its the one position that can lose you a game before you have even started if you dont have the strength in depth there. Welsh will undoubtedly be added to that squad. Girth will be itching to get some game time as well and I would be amazed if SJ has not been in someone’s ear for him to play this weekend and get more than 20 mins.

    Expect Brown to play ay 7 on that selection. Fusaro hasnt played particularly well for Glasgow this season and warranted a cap a season ago so I cant see him getting the nod. And Rennie, well his 70 mins for Accies is as much rugby as he has played in the last few months even though he has been available for Edinburgh since the Autumn tests.

    Was shocked to see Wilson in that squad as there is cover at 8. Both Ryan Grant and Maitland are British Lions so there is no way they wouldnt get picked which is unfortunate as all three are an embarassment for Scottish rugby. Any other line of employment and each of them would have been sacked.

    1. Re: Grant, Maitland and Wilson, aren’t you rather presuming the result of the trial? Or is there more known then people are letting on? Do you actually have any verifiable knowledge of what happened or just guessing from hearsay? I don’t have any axe to grind but the same things were said about Max Evans before he was found not guilty. I have absolutely no idea what will happen at the trial except a lit of people making anonymous comments that they are certain to face prison sentences. Seems unlikely that the SRU would include them if that was the case IMO. Also, not sure it would be legal to fire someone because they had been accused of assault but not yet tried, that would go straight to an employment tribunal.

  9. Going on this training squad, the A team is going to be a strong one. Grant, Bennett, Cuthbert, Pyrgos, and Welsh are omissions that spring to mind. Grant will get his chance, Ryan Wilson captained Scotland A last year and made it into the six nations. Johnson has said that he sees Kelly Brown as only a 7 now so there’s no possibility of him playing anywhere else however his place in the team isn’t certain. There’s the possibility of a strong team in there, Tonks on the bench in place of Jackson, Scott and Dunbar in the centres, and Lamont somewhere in the team please

  10. I’m slightly mystified by the back row. I would have said 6 is between Brown/Stroker, 8 Denton/Beattie, 7 Rennie/Barclay/Fusaro/Grant. Personally I would have Grant at 7 to see what he can do at test level and then it would be a toss up for 6 and 8. The question for me is – why does SJ see Brown as an openside? Is it purely because he thinks he is very good there (admittedly he has covered the position admirably, even if I personally prefer him at 6)or is it because he really wants to keep 6 for another player (Stroker)? As for Bennett – only had a game for Ayr since recovering from injury, so probably undercooked for a first test…

  11. Just read on the Scotsman site that Rennie has been dealing with the recent death of his mother which I’d guess is the reason for him not featuring for Edinburgh recently. He may be short on game time but he must be fully fit.
    Thoughts are with him and his family

  12. I really do not understand SJ’s comments about Brown only being a 7. Even if he feels that way, why announce it? Brown has only recently been playing at 7 for Saracens. The most balanced back row Scotland have had in recent years was Barclay, Brown and Beattie. IMO Brown is another 6/7 player and a true out and out 7 is a must in any effective backrow.

    The front concerns me. Only 2 scrum halves also seems odd.

  13. A decent team can be made of this squad

    1. Grant
    2. Ford
    3. Low
    4. Hamilton
    5. Swinson
    6. Brown
    7. Fusaro
    8. Beattie
    9. Cusiter
    10. Tonks
    11. Maitland
    12. Dunbar
    13. Taylor/De Luca
    14. Fife
    15. Hogg

    The front row’s weak, and the back row won’t be picked like this at all, but at least now we’ve got the players and are waiting the coach that will select them.

    1. Like this team, I am sure Jackson and Laidlaw will find there way in there somehow though.

  14. feel a bit sorry for Brown, granted he’s a 7 a saracens but how many out and out opensides does he come up against in the premiership… watched the HK game vs toulouse and they were badly beaten at the breakdown, but thats a whole pack thing and not one man

  15. If it’s Tonks at 10, surely it needs to be Laidlaw at 9 Gordon? I know Hogg can kick, but I’m not sure his stats are test standard yet.

  16. Brown is fundamentally a 6; he’s largely been playing 7 at Sarries due to the injuries to Burger and Fraser. Scotland would certainly be a stronger proposition with an outright 7 alongside Brown at 6. That said, unless Rennie gets back to full fitness, not sure if there’s anyone of sufficient quality to play there.

    Grant may be in form but that’s only in recent months and one wonders if he’s merely a strong club player who lacks the necessary oomph for test rugby – let’s see how he goes for the ‘A’ team first. As for Fusaro, I’ve been a big fan of his in the past but his form has not been great this season and he was blown away against Toulon.

    And then there’s the “forgotten man” Barclay who again isn’t in sparkling form and has lost that bit of zip with all the injuries over the years. Unfortunately, very much looks like Strokosch at 6 and Brown at 7.

    Above all though, must remember that the breakdown is now very much a team effort and not just the responsibility of the openside (Brown has done an admirable job there, often all by himself). The top sides have an athletic front five (England have improved immeasurably here) who hit rucks with force; Scotland on the other hand just have leaden lumps who offer little in this regard. Scotland’s front row is a real concern, not only in the set piece, but around the contact area where they need to do far, far more.

    On a different note, the calls for Cuthbert are frankly ludicrous. In-form he may be but he’s certainly nothing more than a solid club player. At test level, fleetness of foot (and mind) is vital and he has the turning circle of a drunk yeti – not known as the poor man’s Banahan at Bath for nothing.

    1. Hi Quiff, haven’t seen you on AoD much lately. Hope all is well with the nipper.

      Agree entirely with your post.

  17. This to me looks like a pretty strong squad. I do think Roddy Grant should have been included but its good to see Greig Tonks in. I would give him a shot in the team at 10 with Weir on the bench, but I don’t imagine that will happen for a second. At the end of the day its down to SJ and the gang and we’ll just have to get behind whatever team he decides to field.

  18. Ross Rennie’s absence has been explained but where has Nikki Walker went? He made it into the A side this time last year but it seems he’s been playing for Hawick after his few appearances for Edinburgh, bit of a mystifying move considering his experience

  19. Just watched the Scotsman interview with SJ and encouragingly it sounds like if Rennie is fit and approaching form he is the first choice 7. Still hope for a Rennie, Brown, Beattie backrow.

    Great comments Macquiff. Hoping Ross Ford can continue his improvement in form and a Swinson, Gray (either) 2nd row is pretty athletic and Mr Cross can be counted on to put in a good effort in the loose. My main concern is the scrum, please hook!!!

  20. Is it Scott Wilson at Newcastle thats scots qualified?, if so then he’s just been named in the saxons squad!

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Scottish Rugby News and Opinion