We Pick Our Scotland XV for the Six Nations

A cold frost settles over the land. A black smoke rises from Scottish Rugby Blog towers. Yes, we’re all watching the new Game of Thrones trailer.

Soon after though, we emerged blinking into the sunlight, having picked a Scotland team while we were at it.

Scottish Rugby Blog XV: 15. Hogg, 14. Maitland, 13. Dunbar, 12. Scott, 11. Lamont, 10. Weir, 9. Laidlaw; 1. Grant, 2. Ford, 3. Welsh, 4. Swinson, 5. Hamilton, 6. Strokosch, 7. Barclay, 8. Denton.

Rory Baldwin (RB): So there’s the team selected by popular vote, ie us. Are we really all picking Ross Ford, after everything said in the Autumn?
Brodie Smithers (BS): I’m afraid so. No other viable option really. Yet.
Jamie Lyall (JL): MacArthur hasn’t been given much game time at Test level; something most of us (Cameron in particular) were crying out for in November. Wasn’t rotation and squad expansion Johnson’s main focus for the autumn tests anyway?
Cameron Black (CB): I really don’t see what MacArthur has done wrong. Couple of duff throws – but if we’re judging our hookers on their throwing we’d have no bugger left. Lawson is a step backwards and so is Hall. Create proper competition between MacArthur and Ford and make them push each other. That sort of competition has worked well for England with Youngs and Hartley. Currently Ford is under no pressure and no consistency in selections of others to push him.
JL: Pre RWC 11, Robinson actually had Dickinson training at hooker to try and put something of a rocket up [Ford’s] arse. I actually think Dickinson would be pretty well suited to hooker, to be honest.
Barry John (BJ): There’s a fine line between blooding up & comers and playing known quantities until they retire and if the coaches aren’t careful then it blows up in your face, a la the England Cricket team.
Alan Dymock (AD): How’s the McInally experiment going?
Gav Harper (GH): Well apparently, according to those at the game he was very good for Accies vs London Scottish on Saturday.
RB: And now he’s off to Bristol.
JL: In fairness to Ford, he’s played reasonably well for Edinburgh recently, though still far from his best form.

RB: Matt Scott is barely fit, Dunbar not long back. Yet we’ve all gone for the pair of them in the centre. Is that a sign of confidence or desperation?
BJ: I picked Hoggy at 13 actually.
JL: Bit of both. We know what Scott’s capable of, and we know how short we are of quality in depth in the midfield – especially at 12.
RB: Scott failed a late fitness test last weekend and isn’t listed this weekend so he’s going to be pretty short of game time going into the squad. If he’s not fit do we stick with Taylor or look to Dunbar at 12 and someone else at 13?
BJ: Is Taylor getting game time? Not that I’m watching lots of Sarries games. I’ll blame Ashton & Farrell for that.
CB: To a certain extent form can be irrelevant. For good or bad players tend to turn it on in internationals. Also with us only a handful of games away from World Cup we need to stick with a core squad that understands each other.
BS: Wildcard – Richie Vernon.
RB: Scott is undoubtedly class on his day. Let’s hope he’s fresh rather than undercooked.
BS: I was joking.

RB: We’ve gone for Lamont and Maitland on the wing. Will Evans, Seymour (currently injured) or Fife get a look in?
RB: Dougie Fife scored for Edinburgh vs Perpignan and he’s been notching them up of late. But Maitland and Lamont got on the score sheet too.
BJ: Is Cuthbert fit? His form lately at 15 must put him in with a shout of match day squad.
RB: I think he warrants a spot on the bench on current form.
BS: Lamont proved during the Autumn tests that he has the heart for Scotland but not the pace for an international winger. Switch him to 13 and let a winger play wing.

RB: The half backs – Jackson was on form against Exeter, but he hasn’t picked up a vote from us (Tonks got 2). The choices at 9 have their critics. Would you let Hoggy kick the goals to allow us to shake up things at 9 and 10?
JL: The devil in me says Tonks, but I’d like to see him get a few more Edinburgh games under his belt. Laidlaw still gets my vote at 9, very smart rugby player, and Weir at 10. Pyrgos and Jackson have been largely disappointing of late, and I’m not convinced Hogg is a Test goal-kicker.
RB: Greig is a very smart rugby player when he’s having a good game. But he’s sleepwalked through a few others this season and for me Cusiter’s service is sharper. It’s the spring, that’s when you freshen things up.
Christie Lester (CL): In theory yes, but if it were me in charge I would shake things up during the autumn so that we can see what works ahead of the 6 Nations. Hoggy’s kicking is too wayward to place complete faith in it in these games. I fancy I will get some stick for saying this, but with Paterson’s retirement Scotland has lost a consumate place kicker which needs to be addressed in the face of the Owen Farrells, Leigh Halfpennys and Jonathan Sextons of this world.
BJ: I’d say Tonks at 10 for the A game against the Saxons then see where you go from there. I think you need to give Hoggy a go at place kicking so we’ve as many options as possible going forward.
RB: He did it for the lions. With mixed results.
BJ: If you play Jackson at 10 you need someone else to take the place kick. To be honest there’s some scary distance kickers in the other nations coming through and Laidlaw, Jackson aren’t good or long enough compared to the likes of Daly and Patchell amongst others.
BS: Laidlaw and Weir for me. Reluctantly, but Jackson’s performance against South Africa put years on me. Cusiter has never been my kind of nine. Pyrgos should be on the bench. Tonks? Not yet.
RB: Laidlaw is a handy replacement in the kicking stakes, but too many off games and he’s in danger of becoming a Mossy-a-like in for his place kicking.
JL: No arguments re Cusiter’s service – it’s a good deal slicker than Laidlaw’s. But I do feel Laidlaw’s game management and general intelligence is important in big games, especially if we’re going for a 10 like Weir who is still cutting his Test match teeth. Don’t think he’s in the Mossy category by a long stretch, and agree with Barry that he’s not the ever-reliable, booming kicker some make him out to be. Sub-40m, you back him, but anything over that distance and you’re pushing it. If Weir could find some form off the tee, he’d be the pick of the place-kickers for me.
RB: I bet Tonks can kick.
CB: Think the speed Laidlaw delivered ball from rucks in Autumn owed more to tactics than anything else. The game plan seems to have reverted to keeping ball at all costs which is a shame given what we learned against Italy and Ireland last year. Of course it might be that Laidlaw lacks an ounce of confidence in fly halves and who can blame him. Scotland haven’t had a settled first choice 10 in almost a decade. Look at England and Farrell. He’s been inconsistent but Lancaster has kept faith and given him chance to develop. For me we should have stuck with Jackson for last few years and given him time to develop. Weir works well as impact sub though. Heathcote is still an option but he should have moved north in the summer.
RB: I hear he doesn’t fancy it.
CB: Scotland fans should be careful what they wish for though. Phil Godman is doing a job of sorts at Newcastle. Johnson’s just mad enough to make that happen.

RB: Who’s the captain of this motely lot?
CB: Laidlaw.
BJ: Laidlaw, as Cusiter didn’t make the cut.
GH: Johnson said in the press conference announcement that Brown is his 7 so he will captain the side…
RB: Brown didn’t make our team!
GH: Then Laidlaw is the man.
RB: Agreed, for this team. Good rugby brain on him. Johnson can’t see past Brown at the moment, despite there perhaps being better choices at 7. Many of whom didn’t make the squad or won’t make the team.
Alan Kerr (AK): Why is it I see the Scotland squad and square pegs and round holes spring to mind!

RB: We haven’t even had time to talk about why we picked Welsh and Barclay and Scott Johnson won’t!
AK: I am sure our faithful readers will have an opinion…
CB: By the way, if Dean Ryan is reading this, I write my critiques from the front room in my own house. Never written from my Mum’s bedroom as can’t get wi-fi signal.

Just to round things off, who do we think will actually be in the Scotland team to play Ireland on the 2nd?

Probable Scotland XV: 15. Hogg, 14. Maitland, 13. Dunbar, 12. Scott, 11. Lamont, 10. Jackson, 9. Laidlaw; 1. Grant, 2. Ford, 3. Low, 4. Swinson, 5. Gray, 6. Strokosch, 7. Brown, 8. Denton.

18 comments on “We Pick Our Scotland XV for the Six Nations

  1. Scot95 on

    With the centre and kicker problem a solution could be shifting Hogg to 13, Dunbar to 12 and Cuthbert in at 15. He showed in the game against Gloucester that’s he’s accurate and from a greater distance than Laidlaw as well. That allows the halfback pairing to be switched about without having to include Laidlaw as the reliable kicker.

  2. Toddy Williams on

    Can you guys explain picking Denton ahead of Beattie?

    Thought Gray put in a good shift for Castres tonight

  3. FF on

    I like Strokosch and his attitude, but feel we need more from a 6. He tackles and that’s about it. I’d prefer either Brown or Denton there.

  4. Gordon on

    Scott is too much of a risk to be in the starting XV, especially when Dunbar’s very good form since his return (at 12) is taken into account. Taylor could be a choice at 13, as could de Luca.

    As for Laidlaw at 9, he’s just too slow. His place kicking isn’t god enough to make up for his very poor service at 9 for a lot of games, with Hogg and Weir on the team there shouldn’t be an argument over Cusiter starting and captaining the team (which also leaves 7 possibly open to be taken by Barclay/Rennie/another).

    I also think Fife should start at wing, it’s time for some new blood, and he’s shown a nose for the try line in recent weeks. Scotland need finishers more than they need dependable lumps like Lamont.

    • FF on

      Don’t think Taylor did his chances much good with his first appearances in the AIs. In the absence of Scott I’d be happier with Dunbar and De Luca. Good call for Fife on he wing, Inlike Lamont but he just isn’t a natural finisher. I’d be more inclined to have him on the bench covering midfield and wing, with Tonks covering FH and fullback.

      I’m in two minds over Laidlaw, when he plays well he is excellent, incisive and provides great leadership to a callow team. When Scotland are struggling at the breakdown he does become very laboured. Cusiter has had exactly the same criticisms levelled at him in the past, as did Blair. I think it is more to do with the forward platform than simply the SH.

    • Gordon on

      FF, I’ll have to disagree, I think De Luca hasn’t performed well enough at test level to deserve a spot as 2nd choice 13, and Taylor played decently well against Connacht this weekend in his more natural position (rather than being thrown in with unfamiliar players in an unfamiliar position).

  5. Warrior4 on

    We have some quality backs (Hogg, Scott, Maitland) but without quick ball there isn’t enough opportunity for them to make something happen. Without a doubt I would give Cusiter the nod at scrum half and possibly captain. Tonks deserves a shot at fly half. He is the in form 10 by an absolute mile and let’s be honest what do we have to lose in that position?! Let Hogg take the kicking responsibility. At least he can kick from far out. If Scott isn’t match fit I’d also like to see Hogg partner up with Dunbar in the centre. I think that Lamont needs to be on the bench with Dougie Fife starting. We need pace and Lamont doesn’t have enough anymore and he could cover centre and wing.
    As far as the forwards go I think it needs to be MacArthur from now on. He needs to be give. More games and does well enough for Glasgow. Still can’t understand Roddy Grant not getting picked for the squad again. Especially when we tend not to play a genuine 7.
    It’s quite obvious though that Johnson has his favourites and there is no chance he’s going to change!
    Id like to know others opinions?

  6. kiwi scot on

    Like to see Hamilton and Lamont gone. Laidlaw is a weak link, you place him at 9 or 10 and all will get is 3 points here and there. Whether it international or club he decides on horrible box kicks or when there is an advantage kicks it away to take the penalty. Coming from the southern hemisphere, when there is a penalty advantage this is the best time to give try a go.

    Beattie should be placed in front of Denton for sure. Beattie has X Factor about him were as Denton is predictable and has 50/50 hands.

    This is a team chosen by a Southern Hemisphere brain.

    15.Hogg 14.Maitland 13.Dunbar 12.Scott 11.Fife 10.Tonks 9.Cussiter
    8.Beattie 7.Barclay 6.Strokosch 5.No idea, NOT HAMILTON! 4.Swinson and the front 3 is an unknown because nothing to date has worked.

    Lets play to win for once, not to kick box kicks all day and hope for a penalty. And please when your 5 meters out from the try line, score the damn try.

  7. Matto on

    Some tough calls to make here, which is good. There are multiple permutations in the second and back row that I would be happy with. Swinson, Gray snr, Gilchrist, Hamilton all good (‘wee’ Gray when he’s fit too). The back row is very tricky. I really think Fusaro has earned a start this time (and Roddy Grant also deserved a shot). I would probably go Brown, Fusaro, Denton on current form (though have to admit I’ve not seen Beattie play much recently, but I do rate him highly). 9: I’d be happy with Cusiter, but can see the rationale for Laidlaw too. Actually I’d go Cusiter. Hogg to do the kicking. Dunc Weir unfortunately had a shocker on Saturday. I like him and I’m sure he will get better, but on current form it’s Tonks and then Jackson for me (pretty sure Johnson will stick with RJ though). I would have Fife (on form finisher), Maitland and Hogg as the back three. Not sure about the centres. Probably Dunbar, Taylor (he did a fine job for Sarries at 13 at the weekend) if Scott hasn’t recovered. So back line of Cusiter, Tonks, Fife, Dunbar (Scott), Taylor (Dunbar), Maitland, Hogg. Which I actually think could trouble a few if the forwards can provide a decent platform.

  8. Phoenix on

    Roddy Grant not even in the A squad?! Must have done something to really upset SJ. Any truth to the rumour that he interrupted Johnson’s rendition of ‘Bat out of Hell’ therefore preventing him from reaching his crescendo during the last squad karaoke night out?

  9. Borderer on

    My team: Hogg, Maitland, Dunbar, Scott, Fife, Weir, Laidlaw, Grant, MacArthur, Low, Swinson, Gray, Brown, Fusaro, Beattie
    The selectors, however, will play De Luca, Lamont, Ross, Denton at 6 and Brown at 7, they are predictable and will, as usual, stick with experience. For some reason they see Brown as a 7, I would like to see Rennie back at 7 as soon as he is fit.

  10. Borderer on

    I forgot to add Hamilton for Swinson in the selector’s team in my last post. Another player we should be replacing now.

  11. Tommo on

    My prediction for team v Ireland
    Gray R
    Evans (Seymour if fit)
    Dunbar (Scott if fit)
    Lamont (Dunbar if Scott fit with Lamont on bench)

  12. David Flak on

    Numerous complaints about Laidlaw, but no better altneratives being put forward. 8 years ago I was Chris Cusiters biggest fan, but thats the problem, he’s not a step forward. Our issue is at 10, we all know this. Sadly none of the front runners are a not strong options. (I would have said all this before the Ireland game by the way)Lamont is great impact layer, its like having a flanker on the wing, and thats why he’ll keep his place. Now Maitland is out Hoog will have to remain as our out and out 15, keep an eye on him taking over some kicking duties.

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