Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Scotland Team To Face Argentina

Mark Bennett
Mark Bennett - pic courtesy SRU

As predicted by you the Scottish Rugby Blog readers, second-row brothers Richie and Jonny Gray will play their first game of test rugby together this Saturday, following their selection to start for Scotland against Argentina at BT Murrayfield Stadium (8 November, kick-off 5.30pm).

Selection represents a second start for the younger Gray, 20, who will make his sixth appearance for his country alongside his 39-times capped, 25-year-old, British & Irish Lions sibling.

Gray is not the only promising young player to earn the right to start the nation’s opening viagogo Autumn Test, with 21-year-old Glasgow Warriors Mark Bennett and Adam Ashe set to make their first and second appearances at outside-centre and number 8 respectively.

Head coach Vern Cotter, said: “We’ve been studying these players since the start of the season and have selected a group we believe can do the job in this Saturday’s Test match against Argentina.

“We have several performance-related themes, and have looked for people who have the ability to control games, take initiative, can pick up the ball and run with it, who like physical confrontation and can keep the ball alive.

“These are things that we have prioritised in our selection and we’re now all looking forward to getting out there and putting in a good performance in front of the Scottish people on Saturday.”

On debutant Mark Bennett, Cotter added: “I really appreciate what Mark has done because he has been very patient and has been developing his performances week in, week out for Glasgow Warriors.

“Patience and working hard is what you want from your players.

“You can see his determination in the way he breaks the line and scores tries. I’m really pleased he’s developed that over the last couple of years and will now make his debut for his country, which is a very special achievement.”

The Gray brothers will pack down behind an experienced front-row trio of Alasdair Dickinson, Ross Ford and Euan Murray, who share a total of 173 caps going into the game.

The forwards are then completed by a new-look, back-row combination, with flankers Rob Harley and Blair Cowan forming a unit with Ashe for the first time.

In the backs, all but one player – captain Greig Laidlaw – have been picked from Glasgow Warriors’ attacking stable, with Finn Russell the half-back partner at stand-off, and Alex Dunbar starting alongside Bennett in midfield.

An exciting back-three completes the side, with Stuart Hogg, Sean Maitland and Tommy Seymour in the wide channels seeking to bring their club’s prolific form onto the international stage.

With one debutant, Bennett, among four – Ashe, Cowan and Russell – preparing to make their first appearance on home soil, Cotter reaffirmed his willingness to empower his men’s attack.

He added: “There is a genuine desire for this squad and those selected for the Test to play well for the jersey.

“When the players run out they’ll do it with a lot of pride and a lot of respect.

“There will be a common cause to have the confidence to attack and take the initiative against Argentina, which is arguably the most improved country in the world.

“We’ll try and put a cohesive effort out there technically and tactically, but I can assure you the players are, emotionally, very attached and are working extra hard to put in a good performance.

“So let’s be strong, let’s be passionate as we always are; play for the people that come to the stadium and the Scots in this country and around the world.”

Tickets for the match are still available.

Scotland team to play Argentina in the opening viagogo Autumn Test
Saturday (4 November, kick-off 5.30pm)15 Stuart Hogg (Glasgow Warriors)
14 Sean Maitland (Glasgow Warriors)
13 Mark Bennett (Glasgow Warriors)
12 Alex Dunbar (Glasgow Warriors)
11 Tommy Seymour (Glasgow Warriors)
10 Finn Russell (Glasgow Warriors)
9 Greig Laidlaw CAPTAIN (Gloucester)
1 Alasdair Dickinson (Edinburgh Rugby)
2 Ross Ford (Edinburgh Rugby)
3 Euan Murray (Glasgow Warriors)
4 Richie Gray (Castres)
5 Jonny Gray (Glasgow Warriors)
6 Rob Harley (Glasgow Warriors)
7 Blair Cowan (London Irish)
8 Adam Ashe (Glasgow Warriors)
16 Scott Lawson (Newcastle)
17 Gordon Reid (Glasgow Warriors)
18 Geoff Cross (London Irish)
19 Jim Hamilton (Saracens)
20 Alasdair Strokosch (Perpignan)
21 Henry Pyrgos (Glasgow Warriors)
22 Duncan Weir (Glasgow Warriors)
23 Sean Lamont (Glasgow Warriors)
Referee: Wayne Barnes (RFU)
Assistant referees: George Clancy (IRFU), Marius Mitrea (FIR)
TMO: Eric Gauzins (FFR)

23 Responses

  1. Somewhat surprised at Beattie’s omission, despite lack of game time for Castres, but Ashe was magnificent against Bath so has earned his place. Reid maybe for Dickinson, but overall a good team. I’ve watched Laidlaw a few times for Gloucester and he’s been decent, I just hope he can provide quick ball for Russell and co to do their thing. Pyrgos is a good replacement off the bench. I have my usual cautiously optimistic hat on for Saturday………

    1. I agree, if Laidlaw can get the quick ball, then that backline could be deadly with every member being a strong attacker. Also, playing together for Glasgow (apart from Laidlaw) means that they can hopefully still play in the same style as Glasgow have been this season. With all of the reserve backs in the Warriors team, then they will be able to keep their shape and hopefully score a few more tries than usual! I think Scotland could have a chance, but can’t afford to give the Argentinians anything to build on early on in the game…

    2. The hooker always gets blamed when the lineout struggles even though it is often the whole unit that has failed.

      Similarly, the scrum half always gets blamed for slow service when the pack aren’t winning quick ball at the breakdown. This accusation is thrown at every scrum half at some point when they are playing behind a struggling pack, then miraculously their service improves when their pack is getting over the gainline and presenting the ball cleanly. Laidlaw will be fine if we do well at the breakdown. Not the best pass out of his rivals but he is far from the only person who has been responsible for the deathly slow ball to our backs. Remember the game v SA during the lions tour? He can do it.

  2. You have to hand it to Cotter – he has been fearless at weeding out the old guard who are used to failure and promoting youthful promise.

    Ford is the only one who really sticks out – the management obviously don’t rate MacArthur and don’t think brown is ready. If ford has a stinker I’m sure Cotter won’t hang on to him much longer. Laidlaw is probably lucky too as he may have benefitted from Gilchrist’s injury but fair play to him, you can never accuse him of not fighting for the cause whatever his shortcomings.

    Can’t wait, I hope we see some fearless youth!

  3. I’d have picked Laidlaw. You can argue for all 3 but on balance if you were going to pick 2 from 3 of Russell (2 starts), Bennett (debut) and Pyrgos (2 starts) there’s more upside from Russell & Bennett and if Laidlaw is in form that’s certainly preferable to starting Taylor in the centre or another fly half.

    We could give all 3 the run out against Tonga of course.

    Who do people think will call the line-out? Gray junior?

    Think the defence looks solid in the pack with Harley, J Gray, Murray and Ford there, all of whom I rate.

    1. I would have imagined that had Chris Cusiter been fit to play, he would have got the nod over Laidlaw. He is able to balance quick, attacking play with control and stability when needed. However, as I said, I’m looking forward to seeing whether Laidlaw has put the disaster of last season behind him and now is really playing to his potential, like it has been reported at Gloucester…

    2. Delighted Dunbar is fit – Taylor has really not impressed in his appearances so far. Like a poor man’s Sean Lamont.

      Will be interesting what happens when Scott is fit, he might not even make the bench as he can’t cover FH or wing. Good to know that come RWC time when we play USA and Japan in 7 days we can put out two new midfields with ball players in them instead of the usual lumps. Horne is good too, I wonder if Scott might move out to 13 for Scotland as well.

  4. Not a bad side although I would have played Lawson and Reid upfront. I’m assuming Beattie isn’t match fit but good luck to Ashe. Great to see young players like Bennett, Russell, Gray and Ashe being given a chance. I’m surprised to see Lamont in there, surely another opportunity for Taylor to gain more international experience. Injured players apart, I hope Cotter settles on his team/match day squad very quickly as we need to get continuity and experienced players in the Scotland team.

  5. Agree with FF ,some good selection issues in midfield.Cusiter for me is still our best 9,anyone any views on Scott Steele at London Irish.from what I have seen he cannot be far away.

  6. Nice to see the combinations picked,hopefully Jonny will bring out the best in Richie who has had a quiet couple of years.Need better linkage between forwards and backs so key pair along with new breakaways,Ashe and Cowan,hence Cotter’s aims for a more fluid game plan.

    Bennett a great pick alongside Dunbar and the prospect along with Russell of a real attacking threat at 10,12 and 13,long awaited.
    We have to secure enough front foot ball firstly and with Argentina scrum in trenchant form over the summer Murray a welcome presence, Dickinson more doubtful.Overall exciting times ahead, please.

  7. I agree laid law has been fortunate although his form has been better this year.Cusiter is still our best option,anyone been watching Scott Steele at London Irish,he has been getting a lot of game time and looks the part – must be on the radar.
    Great to see some selection issues for the coach amongst the back line ,let’s hope we see them playing with the same confidence we see at glasgow.

    1. Not heard much of Steele, looks like we need a London Irish reporter! Could do with some young 9s coming through, the Edinburgh pair have yet to convince…

      1. Steele was with Leceister Tigers before moving to Irish where he seems to have nailed down selection.Highly thought of young 9 who is now England qualified!!!!!!!!!!

  8. Looks like Dickinson in for his mobility. He’s not as strong a scrummager as Reid, so hope this tactic works. We’ll be under pressure at scrum time, so need to avoid scrums or make them as quick as possible. Channel 1 ball please. We could of course cheat, It seems to work for the Welsh!
    That leaves the line out and Ross Fords throwing. I only hope he has one of his better games.
    Interesting back row.Hoping Harley annoys them enough to lash out and receive a few yellows.
    Really looking forward to seeing whether the Glasgow back line can fire at international level.

  9. Who is currently on the coaching team? Obviously Cotter is the main media spokesperson and you occasionally hear from Cuittitta (scrum) and Matt Taylor (defence/assistant coach)but not from Jonathan Humphrys any more. Is he still on the coaching team?

    He was brought in as an expert at the breakdown but with a reputation for ruining the Ospreys lineout. Under Humphrys our breakdown work didn’t get much better but our set piece disintegrated. I hope Cotter has taken over this area personally as it was where we needed the most attention.

  10. I agree with FF regarding Humphreys effect on our forward play/set piece. It did seem like it all went to pot when he took over. Talking of the breakdown, a mate of mine asked who most Scotland supporters thought was the better back row :Cowan, Harley and Ashe or the Killer B’s? Two good units, made for a rather interesting discussion!

    I’m disappointed though that Hamilton is on the bench as opposed to Swinson. Hamilton has had his day and gives away far too many penalties, whereas Swinson is far more mobile and equally as abrasive. I would have liked to have seen him given a bit of game time off the bench.

    1. Problem with the Killer B’s was that at test level they only sporadically played to their potential. Barclay might be basking in a growing reputation now but didn’t really live up to his early promise; Beattie’s form struggled to recover after his shoulder injury and sometimes seems a little averse to the dirty grafting work; Brown was probably the most consistent outstanding performer but I think has suffered latterly from being moved around the back row to accommodate others and being too much of an all-rounder rather than a guy who is superb at one thing in particular.

      Openside is our weakest point in the backrow and I hope Cowan nails down a place. We actually have decent competition for the other spots and lots of guys who can play 6 and 8 – we have Beattie to get match fit, Denton to return (hopefully Cotter can teach him to offload), Strauss to qualify – getting the best blend should help the guys show they can excel at test level.

      I hope by RWC time we might be seeing a Strauss/Beattie/Cowan line up as it’ll give us serious carrying ability.

      1. I also tend to think that we do need a shake up in the back row. I would have liked Barclay in there but Cowan has done well for Irish so has earned a crack at the 7 jersey. For me, the pick of the back row is undoubtedly Harley, he tackles everything that moves and gets about the park well. If anything he maybe needs to bulk up a little and work on his ball carrying but he’s been outstanding for Glasgow for some time now. Strauss for me is a shoe in when he becomes available.

      2. Agree with standoffalot about Harley. He hs that streak of nastiness you need in a top back row. Last seen in Finlay Calder/whiteshark in 90’s, and going back to David Leslie in the 80’s.

  11. Note all the comment about the Scotland team selection but what about the officiials? Wayne Barnes and George Clancy at the same time. One would have been bad enough but both of them. What a pair.

    1. I’m just glad that it isn’t Nigel Owen. My family aren’t used to that kind of language from me.
      Who refereed the game against Wales last year? Wasn’t it Jerome Garcez? That would have been much worse.

  12. from what ive read, it does seem like humphreys was a bit of a disaster, especially when arguably the best break down coach in the world, richie gray, is a scotsman working for the SA! He has single handedly revolutionised the Saffers break down work, surely the sru should be constantly offering him a return home to work with cotter?

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Scottish Rugby News and Opinion