Scottish Rugby Blog

Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Cotter Announces Scotland Squad for November Tests

Johnnie Beattie and Richie Gray - pic © Al Ross
Johnnie Beattie and Richie Gray - pic © Al Ross

Head coach Vern Cotter today named Edinburgh Rugby lock Grant Gilchrist as captain of a 33-man Scotland squad selected for the 2014 viagogo Autumn Tests.

The honour represents a return for the 24-year-old product of Alloa and Stirling County rugby clubs, who led Scotland twice during the summer tour, including a 21-19 victory over Argentina in Cordoba.

He will return to the role against the same opposition when the Tests get underway at BT Murrayfield next month, when Scotland face the Pumas on Saturday 8 November (kick-off 5.30pm), before facing Rugby Championship winners New Zealand, at the same venue (15 November), followed by Tonga at Rugby Park, Kilmarnock (22 November).

Scotland head coach, Vern Cotter, said: “The most important thing for us, other than showing improvements in key areas, is developing an attack that will give us opportunities to score tries or earn points through teams being forced to infringe.

“We want to develop, and impose, our style, will, and strategy on our opposition.

“We want to play well, and enjoy playing in front of our home crowd.”


Front Rows: Fraser Brown (Glasgow Warriors), Geoff Cross (both London Irish), Alasdair Dickinson, Ross Ford (both Edinburgh Rugby), Scott Lawson (Newcastle Falcons),  Euan Murray, Gordon Reid (both Glasgow Warriors). Invited to train: Allan Dell (Edinburgh Rugby), Zander Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors).

No spots for Moray Low, Jon Welsh or Ryan Grant, although only Low is uninjured. A fair cross section of the usual suspects, although the absence of Pat MacArthur is notable. Fraser Brown swaps out for Kevin Bryce, and although he has impressed in the loose it looks like the traditional trade-off between Ford and Lawson. Reid and Dickinson offer different things to the loosehead berth and Murray’s decent form for Glasgow may push him back equal or ahead of Geoff Cross who all but made the tighthead berth his own last year.

Second Rows: Grant Gilchrist CAPTAIN (Edinburgh Rugby), Jonny Gray (both Glasgow Warriors), Richie Gray (Castres), Kieran Low (London Irish), Tim Swinson (Glasgow Warriors).

With Big Jim still battling for fitness and Al Kellock possibly having unofficially passed on his mantle to Gray Jr, it’s an interesting mix especially when you consider that Gilchrist has been anointed the captain despite few appearances for Edinburgh this season. Leaving aside the notion of the captaincy, the Gray brothers could well line up together. Taking the captaincy into consideration, do we really want to throw him in rusty against the All Blacks?

Back Rows: Adam Ashe (Glasgow Warriors), Johnnie Beattie (Castres), Blair Cowan (London Irish), Chris Fusaro, Robert Harley (both Glasgow Warriors), Alasdair Strokosch (Perpignan). Invited to train: Hamish Watson

The big miss from this list is Kelly Brown, not on the injury list. The good news is it may put paid to the idea of shoehorning him in at openside. The bad news is that Scotland will miss one of its key leaders in the pack as well as a cornerstone of the defence. Kieran Low is also a possibility for inclusion in this group. Considering that, it looks like straight shootouts between Harley/Strokosch, Cowan/Fusaro and Ashe/Beattie for the 6, 7 and 8 shirts. With Denton out injured it’s a clear chance for Beattie to cement his place, or perhaps for Ashe to continue a rapid rise. Speaking of which, an injury to one of the sevens could see a chance for Edinburgh’s heavily in form Hamish Watson, currently only present for training experience.

Scrum Halves: Chris Cusiter (Sale Sharks), Greig Laidlaw (Gloucester), Henry Pyrgos (Glasgow Warriors).

The club names may be different but the suspects are the usual ones. If Cusiter has maintained his form of last season he should be starting, but word reaches us that Laidlaw is in fine form for Gloucester and has sped up the pace and accuracy of his service to the men outside him. Pyrgos, previously a fill-in were either of the older men injured, showed last weekend for Glasgow that he should now be taken seriously as an option at international level.

Fly Halves: Tom Heathcote (Edinburgh Rugby), Finn Russell, Duncan Weir (both Glasgow Warriors).

The one factor stopping Russell from being anointed the saviour of Scottish rugby is ironically Gregor Townsend’s selection policy, responsible for his rise in the first place. He hasn’t featured as much as he might have liked at ten yet this season, although he has had game time. Heathcote is finally getting more time in front of Scottish fans and selectors and has looked good for Edinburgh but is fighting with some non-Scots for a place in his club team. Weir may well be viewed as the incumbent just by way of playing more at ten than the other two – he is less versatile in that regard – but there will be a clamour for Russell to play from many quarters, especially should Weir slip up, even facing the best team in the world.

Centres: Mark Bennett (Glasgow Warriors), Alex Dunbar (Glasgow Warriors), Duncan Taylor (Saracens).

The lack of numbers in this group suggests that either Russell or Lamont may be asked to fill in at centre. 21-year-old outside-centre Mark Bennett, who scored twice in Glasgow Warriors’ five-try win over Bath in the European Rugby Champions Cup on Saturday, is the only uncapped player in the squad but is closer than ever to a first cap. The big miss from this group is Matt Scott, with Saracens Taylor in decent enough form to suggest he could be a useful understudy. Sean Lamont may also be under consideration. The most inspiring looking partnership would be to shift Dunbar in to 12 and pair him with Bennett.

Outside Backs: Dougie Fife, (Edinburgh Rugby), Stuart Hogg (Glasgow Warriors), Sean Lamont, Sean Maitland, Tommy Seymour (all Glasgow Warriors), Tim Visser (Edinburgh Rugby).

With the Glasgow back three of Seymour, Maitland and Hogg on tremendous form, it seems almost pointless to split them up. Visser’s continual try scoring even in a fairly dismal Edinburgh side means he’s always worthy of consideration. But Maitland and Seymour now seem to have shored up their defensive issues – ones Visser still has. Lamont will likely feature somewhere, if only for the attitude that held the squad together through last years cruddy Six Nations campaign.

So, who makes your team?

Not considered through injury: David Denton (returning from injury, Edinburgh Rugby), Ryan Grant (returning from injury, Glasgow Warriors), Ruaridh Jackson (knee, London Wasps), Ross Rennie (knee, Bristol Rugby), Matt Scott (shoulder, Edinburgh Rugby), Jon Welsh, Ryan Wilson (both returning from injury, Glasgow Warriors).

Saturday 8 November: Scotland v Argentina, BT Murrayfield Stadium, kick-off 5.30pm
Saturday 15 November: Scotland v New Zealand, BT Murrayfield Stadium, kick-off 5.30pm
Saturday 22 November: Scotland v Tonga, Rugby Park, kick-off 2.30pm

22 Responses

  1. No one had that squad that’s for sure. Can see Cowan getting a BR jersey and Beattie the no 8, so that leaves us guessing if he’ll play Cowan at 6 or 7

  2. I think this squad is refreshing, rather than the usual announcements that leave most people thinking “why are they in the squad again?” Cotter has went with form in most positions, although the exclusion of John Barclay again is frustrating. My dad’s response to the lack of experienced back rowers was to put Richie Gray in at 8, something he’s said for quite a while now. His combination of pace, agility, handling skills and bulk could be effective at 8 and allows the junior Gray his place alongside the captain. 10 is still a bit of problem although that is now because there are now three creditable Scottish fly halves. My main area of indecision is where Sean Lamont is to be included, his work rate and experience may be needed this November and he has been in good form for the past couple of seasons but there isn’t much place for him in the starting lineup now that Bennett is surely in line for the 13 shirt, Lamont could shore up a leaky defence or provide some assurance from the bench.

    My team would be:
    1. Reid
    2. Brown (it’ll probably be Ford)
    3. Murray
    4. Gray Jr
    5. Gilchrist
    6. Harley
    7. Fusaro
    8. Beattie (although Richie Gray could be a worthwhile experiment)
    9. Cusiter
    10. Russell
    11. Seymour
    12. Dunbar
    13. Bennett
    14. Maitland
    15. Hogg

    Bench: Ford, Dickinson, Cross, Gray, Cowan (can cover whole back row), Pyrgos, Weir, Lamont

  3. I love this squad. Yes its sad not having Brown in but I really don’t think we’ve seen the last of him in a Scotland shirt. I think the selection of the likes of Low, Cowan and Ashe suggest Cotter wants to play a very mobile game, the likes of which Hamilton would be uncomfortable playing. Slightly disappointed Hamish Watson has only been drafted in for training. His form has been exceptional for Edinburgh.
    I like the backs selection for the most part and I’m encouraged by the fact we have left out some quality players such as Tonks and Murchie and still have our best player Matt Scott to come back in. I’m encouraged by Heathcote’s form, always looking to attack the line and is a genuine threat with ball in hand. I think he and Russell should fight it out for the 10 shirt.
    My only negative is the selection of Lamont (bangs head on desk). How many times do we have to select this one dimensional battering ram? His skill set is so limited it makes me cry. If he’s in for cover in the centers and wing then I argue that Dougie Fife offers far more.
    Team for Argies:
    1. Dickinson 2. Ford 3. Murray
    4. Gilchrist 5. J Gray
    6. Strokosch 7. Cowan 8. Beattie

    9. Cusiter (Laidlaw back to his best) 10. Heathcote/Russell
    11. Seymour 12. Dunbar (Taylor in great form) 13. Bennett 14. Maitland 15. Hogg

    1. Lamont gets slated by too many Scotland fans. OK, his skills may be limited but his performances in a Scotland shirt have often been exceptional when the team around him was crumbling. I expect he is in the squad as he provides leadership and will mentor the young backs around him. Unlike so many pros he is playing better than ever before at the twilight of his career so he obviously has that hunger that so many of Scotland’s big names seem to have lacked. He’ll be a valuable squad member at the world cup and the schedule means the whole squad is going to get used extensively.

      Also, what skills does Duncan Taylor have that Lamont lacks? I’d have had Horne in for Taylor personally as the latter has had a few caps and not really done anything positive.

      1. Might they be thinking the centre pairings are Taylor/Dunbar as the 12s and Bennett/Hogg as the 13s, allowing a back three of Seymour Visser Maitland? Too loco? If you look throughout the squad the pairings are often of similar style players eg Beattie/Ashe, allowing for a consistent game plan across the team hence the reason for that particular thought.

        Overall the flavour of the squad certainly seems to indicate a faster paced game. For me in terms of raw talent our most gifted ball players would seem to be Hogg, Bennett and Maitland so I’d be inclined to play a game designed to give them maximum opportunity rather than the usual game designed for maximum damage limitation?

      2. I sincerely hope they aren’t thinking of playing Hogg at 13. He is an outstanding 15 primarily because of his broken field running. Whilst he might be able to convert to a very effective 13 he doesn’t play there now and it would be a waste for him to be turned into an understudy for our most promising player.

        I hope the plan is to start Dunbar at 12 and Bennett at 13 for all three AI matches. Taylor is the bench option as he covers centre and wing but he is a stop gap until Scott returns from injury when we should have an all mighty ding dong for the centre berths. Taylor/Lamont will be squad cover and play in the RWC games v the USA/Japan, most likely at 13.

      3. That would be my preferred pairing too in the absence of Scott, when he comes back it could be quite interesting though as all three could be excellent centres…

  4. Initially I had a bit of a knee jerk reaction to some of the notable inclusions/exclusions (notably roddy grant/barclay), however, on discussing the squad with my wife, I came to the conclusion that perhaps Cotter just wants to rate a few more lads before the 6N or get a better idea, at the very least.

    1. I understand your point but Cotter hasn’t involved Barclay in any squads as far as I’m aware. Considering Cotter hasn’t worked with Barclay at all, I’d be surprised he’s foregone his inclusion to have a look at someone else. Especially since he worked with Fusaro and Cowan over the summer tour. Barclay’s omission is the biggest surprise for me. Especially following performance against Toulon at the weekend.

  5. I’m sure Vern knows what he is doing but my own view that he would have been better off fielding 95 percent Glasgow players with an odd one or two from other clubs. Glasgow have done so well this year I feel they would be a match for club side. Furthermore,these players are used to winning and to playing as part of a team. If I was to pick the side it would be the entire Glasgow team plus Ritchie Gray. Still lets see what happens.

  6. While I understand Vern moving the squad forward and selecting with his brand of rugby in mind I am still left confused. If what I am led to believe is correct that he is looking to play a fast offloading game then how can Strokosch be in the squad and not KB. While I rate Strokosch for his defensive capabilities I dont see how he fits this mould of rugby. I am not suggesting KB is staggering in this department but certainly he is better while as other comments have highlighted I would put other areas of his game ahead (turnovers etc). I know you look for balance in a team but to my mind this doesnt make sense and equally I would question whether Fusaro is too light weight for international rugby especially when you have Barclay available (so not lacking another option). Finally, he surely can’t pick Denton when fit if he is looking to play an offloading game (which given what Glasgow are doing I agree with) as I can’t remember the last time I saw him offload rather than take contact.

  7. Cotter seems to have picked two similar 6’s who are there for tackling and pretty much nothing else. That isn’t really an issue and at least it points to the potential to select a balanced back row for the first time since the halcyon days of the Killer B’s. He is obviously continuing the policy of not looking at Brown as a 6 – I don’t know why but the coaching team obviously don’t rate Brown there. Maybe he is just too much of an all rounder without being really outstanding at one thing?

    What will be more interesting is when Denton returns and Strauss is qualified whether they stick with the traditional back row. Both these guys are big, fast and can carry the ball well. Whether they make enough of a nuisance of themselves in the loose is debatable. I can’t wait to see Strauss in a Scotland shirt, but Denton has a lot more to prove if he is to get back into the 6N/RWC squad.

  8. While I really like the squad, I do think Cotter’s a little uninspired putting Taylor and Lamont in. Lamont’s been a great servant during a time when there was really nothing much going well for Scotland but he’s too slow to play on the wing now (do you really want to see him up against Savea?) and has never looked properly comfortable at centre internationally. Taylor on the other hand is not international-class and can only be seen as a stop-gap until Scott comes back. Maybe Greig Tonks who’s looked quite bright for Edinburgh without properly shining (although who has in that team?). Only other complaint is Ford (again? *sigh*).

    Really excited to see Bennett and J Gray get some game time for Scotland and can’t wait to see if some of Glasgow’s confidence and flair finally breaks through to the international team.

  9. I don’t why you are so down on Taylor he is holding his own in a strong Saracens squad. To me he is getting better all the time and I would put him ahead of Scott.I would rather play people from clubs doing well who have confidence and belief above players playing in a poor team but look good. Who is actually international class on a par with New Zealand and the Boks from the Scotland squad????

    1. Scott has looked like Scotland’s most influential back in his short career, especially in tandem with Dunbar on the SA tour when we narrowly lost. He has real potential to be one of the NH outstanding 12s. Taylor is a bosher and hasn’t shown anything yet to suggest he can hire at test level. I really can’t see any comparison between the two players on their own merits, forget the clubs they play for…

    2. Have you seen the size of the Argentinian centres like Bosch? Putting up Taylor and Dunbar to take the sting out of them, then putting on the classier runners like Scott and Bennett as impact players sounds good to me.

  10. Why is Ross Ford still in the squad? Has his form for Edinburgh merited another cap or are we just desperate?

    1. He must know where the SRU ‘bodies are buried’, as there is no other reason for him being in the squad, let alone the team.
      If he can’t throw or hook, what’s he doing there? He only seems to be there as ballast in the scrum. Scotland will make no progress as long as Ross Ford is there to arrest any forward momentum. 5 metre line-out to Scotland, squint throw, possession over. Sound familiar?

  11. A few things became apparent during Warriors’ great win over Montpellier.Glasgow certainly own the template for the grit and distinctive style of play which Scotland need to aspire to as one absent for too long.The Glasgow spirit and execution is Cotter’s task to nurture within the Scotland game plan, something Robinson failed to do.No reason why he cannot succeed and won’t we all be cheering when the old cutting edge is restored and we are seen as an attacking threat.Likely not happen overnight however with Glasgow players the mainstay of squad for AIs there is good reason for us to be optimistic that we have the nucleus for a winning side.
    Some concerns over the form of Hogg as agree he is best as 15 in team but looked ring rusty yesterday, poor kicking from hand, passing and general decision making dodgy.He is still recovering from a below par season post-Lions tour and needs more club games,think Maitland the better option at the moment as proven is comfortable there.
    Like Weir’s kicking game but his 2nd half moments showed his lack of vision, wayward pass so nearly intercepted, he is not the platform for our offensive ambitions as Russell promises with abundance.
    Cotter is a shrewd operator and sees Gilchrist as captain material, my only concern is he is not part of a winning culture with Edinburgh, without sounding parochial.Hope he proves me wrong but feel this is the time for Kelly or Big Al type to be at the helm.
    Ford remains a scary prospect at line-out time which unlikely to change,pity about McArthur,but hopeful Brown will challenge strongly and enable us all to be weaned off our heart pills when ball is kicked into touch!

  12. Is Beattie getting a game for Castres? He is my preferred choice at 8 but I am slightly wary if he is not playing for his club

  13. I don’t think Johnie Beattie has had a game for Castres since the first Top 14 game, in which he was sent off and had a three week ban. The 3 weeks are well and truly over, but no sign of him since.
    He might be on the naughty step!

You might also like these:

Stuart got in touch to tell us about the alternative reality that Saturday's game forced him into. So here it is, the Six Nations Table where Scotland won. To be continued...
Give us your thoughts on the game as Scotland welcome England to Murrayfield.
Gregor Townsend has made three adjustments to the team for the upcoming Six Nations clash against England at Murrayfield.
Blair Kinghorn and Magnus Bradbury return to the Scotland squad which also has 100% more Mish.

Scottish Rugby News and Opinion