Cotter’s winds of change begin to gust

You could keep Britney Spears in caffeine for a month with the sheer volume of coffee spat out in shock and indignation by Scotland supporters scanning the lunchtime bulletins in search of Vern Cotter’s Six Nations squad announcement.

‘Hugh Blake?!’ they spluttered, ‘Ben Toolis?! There must be some mistake.’

The autumn omissions of the fans’ favourites, the old guard – who really aren’t terribly old – were met with raised eyebrows rather than sullen gripes by most. November is a time for rotation, the trial of new blood in the Test arena.

We could manage without Kelly Brown, John Barclay and their vintage. They’d be back in February; around for the serious stuff.

Only they aren’t. And the likelihood of either back-row, Chris Cusiter, or even Johnnie Beattie claiming a spot in Cotter’s World Cup party grows slimmer by the match.

This is not a coach who shirks tough decisions. Andy Robinson’s selections took on a jaded and ineffectual feel near the end of his reign. Scott Johnson produced plenty of head-scratchers. Cotter has a definitive plan for Scotland, and so far, that plan is working.

For most Scots, 22-year-old Blake is an unknown quantity – footage of his provincial play in New Zealand is certainly encouraging, but isn’t it always?

Joining Edinburgh from the Highlanders in December, with Scottish heritage and undoubted pedigree as a New Zealand Under-20 international, he was identified as a Test prospect, though injuries to Chris Fusaro and Tyrone Holmes, coupled with the retirement of Ross Rennie may well have accelerated his inclusion in a training squad.

Blake is raw. He has yet to play a minute in black and red, let alone navy blue. But one can only deduce he must be very good indeed – or at least have the potential to be – to be deemed a better option than Barclay, who remains relentlessly excellent for the Scarlets.

‘He’s a very good openside flanker and offers us genuine speed to the breakdown. He’s a very good offloader and can give us continuity to our game,’ ESPNScrum quotes Cotter as saying of Blake.

‘He’s a very skillful player and generally gets two to three turnovers a game. If we can change the course of a match positively by winning the ball and making destructive tackles then that is great.

‘Hugh offers us a profile that we don’t have. He brings that specialist seven role over from New Zealand and an ability to change games. He’s played against Richie McCaw and the best players in the world – and he’s available for Scotland.’

Remove the rookie’s moniker and the reference to New Zealand – who else might he have been describing?

The Kiwi has not lost his marbles. As much as we might regard Brown, Barclay and co with great fondness, their exclusion – as bizarre as it may appear – does not in the blink of an eye render Cotter a poor coach.

Adam Ashe found himself facing a baptism of fire in South Africa in June, with no professional starts under his belt. He has since flourished, excelling from number eight for Glasgow Warriors and for Scotland against Argentina and New Zealand.

Blair Cowan is older, but he too soon justified his selection that came seemingly out of the blue.

Blake is another part of Cotter’s blueprint for a refreshed, new-look Scotland – the established figures deemed surplus to requirements are cast aside without mercy. Poring over the quotes and soundbites from this afternoon’s press conference, the words ‘develop’ and ‘developing’ are conspicuous constants.

The key question then is this: is a Six Nations Championship, climaxing as it does just five months before this year’s all-important World Cup really the time for development?

Should it not instead mark a period for fine-tuning, tweaking line-ups and tactics and combinations until the best possible XV has been pinpointed and played to grow comfortable in each other’s company?

The theme continues. Tim Swinson, outshone over the past two seasons only by Jonny Gray in the second-row, is ousted in favour of Toolis – a younger, more athletic model in a similar all-action mould.

Cusiter, seventy caps to his name, is out too – 21-year-old Sam Hidalgo-Clyne earns a call-up in his place – while Dave Denton can consider himself fortunate Ashe is presently sidelined.

In his short tenure at the Murrayfield helm, Cotter has made his mark upon Scotland indelibly. His relative success to date should not cloud our critical eye, but only the ferocious tournament ahead will put his vision of development to the test, and judge with aplomb whether Scotland’s tentative revival under his tutelage bears substance.

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133 comments on “Cotter’s winds of change begin to gust

  1. John on

    All the talk about Blake has taken the shine away from the fact that it’s the first time Hamish Watson has been called up; a player capable of winning 50+ caps over the next 10 years and a player that’s come through the age grades/sevens/EDP.

    If Harley’s not fit, wouldn’t be surprised to see Cowan moved to 6 and Watson at 7 against France.

  2. Paul on

    Interesting article……BUT how has Strokosch survived the culling of the old guard? I’ve been a huge fan of his and think we’ve really benefitted from his NAE nonsense attitude and abrasiveness but he is now paying 2nd tier French rugby.

  3. Majestic83 on

    If Blake is as good as cotter is making out then why did he not play super rugby or why did the NZRU try and keep him in NZ?
    He hasn’t played any top level rugby having never played for Edinburgh, he never played a competition game with the Highlanders and has only played for Otago in the itm where they haven’t been successful recently.
    I have nothing against Blake but the coaches aren’t sending out the right message to other players. Cotter has said he will pick on form but this obviously isn’t the case!
    Mention of Adam Ashe flourishing against Argentina and New Zealand is a little premature. He looked promising but is not international standard….yet. In the autumn he looked underpowered and was knocked back by about a metre in a fair few tackles .
    Cotter has started off fairly well but has not faced a full strength opposition test team yet so will have a lot to prove over the next couple months.

    • FF on

      He only turned 22 in September and he was included in the Highlanders Super 15 training squad in the autumn before coming north. I have no idea how good he is but there is no doubt he would make it as a Super rugby player as he was well on his way to doing so.

      From reports, the Highlanders were expecting him to return after his stint with Edinburgh and regardless, NZ let talent go all the time as so many tes quality players can’t get to the head of the queue. Just look at Anscombe for Wales. I don’t think it was wise to rush him not the team though.

      Oh and Cotter faced the full Argentina and Tonga test sides so it isn’t quite fair to say he hasn’t faced full strength opposition, the 6N will be a whole other level though.

      • Majestic83 on

        He was actually included in their wider training squad in 2013 but never made an appearance. Otago and not the highlanders were expecting him to return after his stint at edinburgh. Otago is a completely different team to the highlanders! He was quite far down the pecking order at the highlanders for openside flanks behind guys like john hardie and Shane christie.
        Fair play to Blake coming to scotland to further his career and it isn’t his fault the coaches have picked him so early. It is wrong though as players in the same position are in superb form.

        Not sure what you know about argentine rugby FF but the teams scotland faced in June and November were far from Argentinas strongest. Same goes with the Tonga team who were missing a lot of their top players who were playing in France and Japan.

      • FF on

        Majestic – the Argentinian team Scotland faced in June was without most of their European players (except Sanchez and two others). The team Scotland faced in The AI was the Rugby Championship squad. There were only 4/5 changes from the XXIII that defeated Australia and most of those were due to injuries. Eg. Lobbe, Leguizamon.

      • Neil on

        I cant believe it but I find myself agreeing with FF. The Arentinian squad that Scotland faced in the autumn was indeed pretty much their top squad minus a few injuries. Our team also came close to toppling the all Blacks- admitedly the All Blacks did fioeld a weakened team but it was still full of seasoned internations such as Dan Carter. The only game we have been completely turned over in was an away fixture to SA over the summer. Scotland were truely GUFF in that game but I blame Scott Johnson and the SRU for that. Cotter had only just taken over as coach and needed some time to assess the players, how rubbish they were and what he needed to do to improve the squad. I thought our team played very well in all of the Autumn internationals and feel, if we play to our potential, we can give almost any team a run for their money, except perhaps SA and NZ who are in a league of their own.

        I’m just a bit hesistant to predict exactly where we will finish in the 6 nations as we have had a good Autumn series in previous years but this has invairably been followed by a wooden spoon contest with Italy in the following 6 nations. I think it would be prgress if we could get a top 3 finish in the 6 nations and that is what we must aim for. To be honest I’m really sick of these dog fight 5th/6th contests with Italy on the final game of the season. I’m even more sickened by the fact that most fans are quite haapy about that. I may come over as being angry but it is based on the fact that I used to attend games and watch all of our away games from 1978-1999 and remember our teams playing really well. Of course we lost games during that period but it was very rare to watch us lose by more than 15 points in a 6 nations game. Even when we lost we normally played well and the team was a joy to watch. For some reason the year 2000 marked a complete change (I blame Italy- only joking) from good to crap. The management was poor, the SRU made rubbish decisions and, for the most part, the players could not be bothered to even try. The supporters became accustomed to this and, in my opinion, even seemed to accept that we were poor.

        I really don’t want to go back to that and that is why I feel so passionately about our game. I know that we can achieve as much as we did in the 80s and 90s and probably more.

  4. Andy McCall on

    I think Cotter has had a promising start but the true test lies ahead. I’m still a bit baffled by the previous appointment of Gilchrist as captain? Good player but if he was fit I don’t see him starting in front of the Gray brothers. Bit gutted for Brown & Barclay…..

    • Neil on

      As for Kelly Brown. he was a great player about 4 or 5 years ago and, along with Chris Paterson and Chis Cussiter, they were the only players to shine in a Scotland squad that played more like a pub team than a serious international one. However, when I have watched him over the last 18 months or so he has been a shadow of his former self and is definately yesterdays man. I think Cotter is probably right to leave him out on this occassion and look to the future. He has the world cup in mind and needs to test/blood some of the younger and fitter guys for that.

  5. pragmatic optomist on

    I did a lot of apopleptic spluttering when the AI squad was announced.
    BVG proved me wrong in regard to Ford, Laidlaw and Ashe. A hooker who can’t hook, a scrum half with the pace of Long John Silver, and a no 8 who had only played a couple of matches as substitute for Glasgow.

    I do love being proved wrong, but there are some serious inconsistencies in the selections here, and I’m not sure if the correct members of the ‘old guard’ have been culled.
    Jim ‘penalty to opposition’ Hamilton and Alistair ‘black belt’ Strokosch are in, while Barclay and Beattie are out.
    Just because BVC has done well so far, doesn’t mean that the best players in particular positions should be retired.

    The main point in your article is asking “should we experimenting this late before a world cup”?
    The answer is clearly yes for the Scottish management. A clear indication that they’re not happy with the players they have.
    It’s usually the experienced teams that win games and titles, so I do hope BVG is a visionary with a plan.

  6. Neil on

    The inclusion of Jim Hamilton could be a problem. he is a big guy but doesnt really use his size and obvious strength to his advantage. he should really try to intimidate the opposition in the way that Wade Dooley and Martin Johnson used to do for England. Instead he is more like the Honey monster. On recent occassions he also seems to lack pace and fitness so I would definately levae him out. Regarding the penalty count, thats less of a problem as other players in the squad have been guilty of similar offences in the past. We need to be thinking more in terms of a Matrin Johnson type player and less in terms of Jim Hamilton. Big Jim is yesterdays man- probably still OK at club level but no good at international level.

  7. Neil on

    In my opinion, Cotter should have left Jim Hamilton out of the squad and I also dissagree with the New Zealand pseudo Scot Blake being in the squad. He is obviously not good enough to play for the All Blacks and I assume he joined Edinburgh because he was marginal to requirements at his club in New Zealand. Or perhaps he realised he could never play for the All Blacks so fancied his chances for another team- I wish he had gone to Italy. Anyway, most of you know that I bitterly oppase the inclusion of such players in the SCOTLAND squad.

    Just ask yourlselves this- how can we expect to beat SA, NZ and OZ if we put their second rate cast offs in our squad? Answers please.

    Other than that, I think Cotter has got the selections right and it does not bother me that Barclay and Brown are not included. Barclay is nothing special and Brown is yesterdays man.

  8. Grahame on

    To me the only surprising selections in the squad are Stroks and Blake. Stroks I would presume is only in because Ashe is not fit and Josh Strauss is not quite qualified. Those two will come into the squad for the WC. Blake is a slightly different prospect as we just don’t know how good or otherwise he actually is, but every coach is entitled to pick a left field bolter. I am prepared to be pleasantly surprised. He is probably 3rd in line for a cap at open side at the moment, so still has a way to go. Hamilton I think is only in as Gilchrist is still injured and I would be surprised to see him in the WC squad unless we have more injuries, which we will. No-one should throw their toys out of the pram yet, still a long way to go till the WC kicks off.

  9. Cammy on

    I’ll guess we just need to see what the performances are like. To be honest, the inclusion of such a young and ‘untried’ (in front of our eyes at least) player in Blake might be because, as we have said so many times before, we don’t have a good 7 that is Scottish. I feel sorry for Grant because I think he’s great but he obviously isn’t the man for whatever reason.

    As for Barclay, he’s alright. I don’t remember him being incredible apart from the 4 matches which lead to the annointment of ‘The Killer B’s’ . In fact, I remember many people arguing he should be dropped due to poor performance.

    I’m pleased we have continued to clear the decks. Brown aside, there isn’t one of the old guard that aquitted themselves well enough at international level to be regarded as huge losses to this squad. They proved themselves, again and again to be able to get almost to the point of winning then falling back. Whether that’s a failure in the last 10 minutes or a complete collapse in performance from match to match. They seriously cannot be surprised that they are being left behind? It’s not like they can advise our young lads on how to win games.

    Stroker is in because I think he might be the only human that Cotter is scared of. I wouldn’t want to tell him he’s dropped. Plus, in terms of game management, if you want a guy to be involved in a gutsy, try-line stand with 10 to go, you’d like him to be beside you.

  10. FF on

    Scottish fans were crying out for a credible coach with a proven track record and we finally got it with Cotter. I don’t believe for a second that a coach with the stature of Cotter would accept Scott Johnson dictating the squad to him. He is developing the squad to play rugby the way he wants to and so far it has met with success.

    Still a little shocked about Blake but I welcome the radical character of Cotter’s approach. Let’s face it, win in France and all the furore around who isn’t in the squad will disappear. I actually can’t wait and looking forward to my trip to Murrayfield to watch us smash Wales.

    • Mike on

      I so so SO want us to smash Wales! Nothing against Wales per se but after the borefest kickathon last time they came to Murrayfield and played for penalties at the scrum stuck in my throat!

      • FF on

        That was my last game for Murrayfield after I got tickets for my brother’s birthday. Jesus Christ that was rugby at its worst.

        The last minute defeat in Cardiff in 2010 and the thrashing in Cardiff last year mean that I want us to beat Wales more than any other side. They don’t rate us(for pretty good reason). Even England have 1990 scarred into their psyche about not underestimating us. Wales just think we are useless.

      • Allan on

        Hear hear!

        They conned Craig Joubert at the scrum and ground their way to a penalty kick inspired win. Wales are a team that seem to be actually better than the sum of their parts whereas scotland have been the exact opposite for a few years now. We can and should be beating them at home. Other than Halfpenny and George North, i am struggling to think of any of their players i would want in my Scotland team (i dont rate Warburton at all, massively overrated)

      • Mike on

        Allan – I feel the same. They have a good crop of young props coming through and Rhys Webbs a tidy player but that’s it.

  11. John on

    I raised an eyebrow at Cowan, Ashe, k-low, gilchrist, Dickinson etc being included in the autumn. BVC Pretty much proved himself right then. I raise an eyebrow at the omission of the Bs, grant and Cus now along with the inclusion of Blake (the mystery man).

    I’ll withhold judgement I think.

    In BVC we trust. For now.

    With regard to the other Edinburgh newbies, anyone who has been watching them wouldn’t be surprised at their call up.

  12. Matto on

    I can’t help but feel for Roddy Grant. Consistently top performances week in week out. Highly rated by his club coach and supporters, but just can’t get a look in. A far less experienced and proven player jets over and straight in to the 6N squad. A hell of a kick in the teeth.
    That aside, looking at the squad I predict Toolis and Watson to pick up caps this 6N. I think Toolis will be on the bench ahead of Hamilton, as he has performed very well indeed for Edinburgh this season. Awesome in the lineout against Connacht. Watson’s chance will depend on Harley’s fitness. If Harley, doesn’t make it to the 23 against France, then Watson on the bench where he’ll almost certainly get to play. SHC’s chance may have to wait for an injury to Laidlaw or Pyrgos, though I wouldn’t be surprised if he was on the bench for the Italy game. I don’t think Blake will get capped (unless BVC does a Heathcote…).
    Of course I fully expect to be proved wrong, as is usually the case.

    • Ronald Adam on

      What has happened to Heathcote. He played very well at the start of the season and was awarded MofM on two occasions. His distribution is excellent and is surely the best goal kicker in Scotland. He hasn’t figured in Edinburgh sides not even on the bench for the last month. I think he is on a one year contract so I suppose he will be heading south at the end of the season. What a waste of a great talent. There must be a story to tell

  13. DouglasH on

    Is this the squad that is going to win the World Cup? The SRU and VC obviously think so. We were told there had been a building of an experienced squad for 2015 but yet again a new coach starts again. I think the dumping of experienced players who are playing well at the top level just before the World Cup is a high risk game. 6N better be good or where do we go from there? Yes we have been here before!

    • FF on

      When the Killer B’s were in their pomp (2010), how well did we do? We beat Ireland on the last weekend and drew with England in a dire match of rugby. Even SJ surpassed that record in his first year in charge.

      It might be a high risk game but we have nothing to lose really, just the reputation for being the worst team in the 6N except Italy.

      • Ruairidh Campbell on

        Erm, in 2010 Scotland also beat South Africa and rose to their highest ever position in the world rankings of 6th.

        I do, however, agree that it is maybe worth the risk because if the tactic does fail, then these experienced players can still be brought in and then the younger players will at least provide some depth to the squad. Hopefully, this plan does pay off, but I just hope Scott Johnson can be kept well away from team selections… When does his contract run out?

      • FF on

        The 6N is our bread and butter tournament and our success should be measured against it more than the RWC or tours.

        In 2010 we came 5th and lost to Italy.
        In 2011 we came 5th but beat Italy.
        In between we beat SA and Samoa but lost to NZ by 43 pts.
        Then we got knocked out of the RWC at the group stage.

        So the fact that we rose to 6th in the world rankings off the back of one fortunate ambush of SA should not obscure the fact that in this period we were absolutely dire.

        Do you really think that Cotter wouldn’t have the balls to tell SJ to stuff it if he thought a player wasn’t good enough for selection or was so good he couldn’t be left out even if he bedded SJs mother?

    • Standoffalot on

      My problem with the sweeping changes in terms of personnel is that it seems to be one rule for some, and a different rule for others. Barclay, Brown and Cusiter are out, yet the penalty and lineout liability that is Jim Hamilton is in the squad. Also what has Swinson done wrong? Arguably the second best lock behind J Gray. When we were getting pumped in the 2014 6N it was because we were prepping these guys for the WC. Was Cotter not involved in those selections? I just fail to see the need for such sweeping changes in the 6N before a WC, it’s fair enough after it. For me, that is the time to blood these guys. As for Blakegate, well it really sends out the wrong signals to aspiring Scottish youngsters. Still I hope I’m proved wrong in my views, and it is a decent first 15 if everyone is match fit. Here’s hoping.

      • FF on

        I’m not sure the changes are so sweeping, more an evolution of the squad Cotter picked in the AIs.

        After all, Barclay hasn’t played for Scotland since autumn of 2013 against Japan (I think…), Brown wasn’t included in the AIs, Cusiter didn’t play or bench in the AI 2014, Ashe was preferred to Beattie in the AI 2014 and reports are that Beattie’s form is the issue.

        Most of the guys left out were either already on the outside or not first choice anyway. If you look at the starting team, injuries apart there is a huge amount of consistency since the autumn.

        I do agree that it is odd that Hamilton retains his place and I would prefer Swinson but the starting line up is clearly Gray/Gray, Gilchrist will be in when he is fit, Toolis is the young guy with form behind him so I’m guessing Hamilton is not going to be around for much longer.

        3 of those new caps are totally justified on form and role in the squad (ie. none of them are coming straight into the starting line up and may not play at all during the 6N). If it wasn’t for the Blake selection there would not be much fuss at all.

      • Standoffalot on

        Hard to argue with your logic, although the Hamilton over Swinson does really annoy me. Big Jim has had his chance and then some. Cusiter, Barclay and Brown for me are all class acts and I believe should be part of the squad on current form. I think my biggest disappointment in that regard is the fact that we may never see what they would be capable of in a Scotland jersey under BVC. That said, like big Jim they have had umpteen chances, so maybe a clean broom is what is required and new blood does freshen things up. The starting 15 if everyone is fit will not be terribly different from the AIs and no one can really argue with those performances. Time will tell.

      • FF on

        Interesting to note the different reactions to the squad announcement from Barclay and Brown. No one has been treated more shabbily than Brown under Johnson, but he gave an interview saying he had a ‘good’ conversation with Cotter, knows what he needs to improve on and is aiming to win back his place for the RWC. Barclay sent then deleted a sarcastic tweet.

      • Standoffalot on

        In fairness Brown actually has more right to be aggrieved having been involved in the squad fairly recently. Brown has also always conducted himself with dignity. I still believe there’s more to the Barclay story we don’t know. He has gone on record to say that he didn’t want to leave Glasgow. Has he upset someone on high? Although I agree that I really can’t see BVC being dictated to by the SRU. I do love a good conspiracy theory ;-)

  14. scot95 on

    After seeing Ross Ford come to life in the autumn I hope BVC can do the same with Denton. He has so much potential but we haven’t seen him realise it since 2012 when he was supposedly a certain Lion. Cotter seems to have a knack for well balanced selections and selections that aren’t afraid to give new guys a go at the expense of the old guard. For me, that’s better than Robinson’s blind faith in the same team that failed consistently and Scott Johnson’s absolutely bizarre calls (dropping players every second game, Ryan Wilson at 6?!?). I’m very optimistic about this years 6 nations and it was interesting to hear Brian O’Driscoll touting Scotland as dark horses on Rugby Tonight.

  15. scot95 on

    To be fair to Hugh Blake he didn’t come over here expecting a cap so soon, he’s only on trial with Edinburgh. That doesn’t mean that his club don’t want him, they were probably expecting him to come back at some point. He’s been playing in New Zealand’s domestic competition which let’s face it will be much tougher and have provided better opposition than most Pro12 or even Aviva Premiership sides. Blair Cowan, Kieran Low, Duncan Taylor and Tom Heathcote had never played for a Scottish club before their caps but were included in squads without much furore and only Heathcote was actually born here. Give the guy a chance, he’s been playing rugby abroad just like the other exiles, he’s match fit and will probably get a game with Edinburgh and Scotland A before he’s in the full Scotland team. Then he can be subject to the bizarre ranting and moaning from supporters that all Scottish players experience after they make a wee mistake.

    • Standoffalot on

      Scot95, I agree with your comments regarding Denton. He certainly has the physicality to be a top player, but his ball handling skills are anonymous and he fades in and out of games too much for my liking. Hopefully BVC can bring out the best in him. As for Hugh Blake I don’t think any of the criticism of the situation is unwarranted. It isn’t personnal. I’m all for, if someone is eligible to play for Scotland and wants to do so, bring them in if they’re good enough. The problem is he’s never played a Pro12 match for Edinburgh, so no one knows if he’s good enough at that level, never mind international rugby. I’d also take issue with your comment that NZ domestic rugby is superior to the Aviva or Pro12, having seen a fair bit of it when I lived there, and having been a Glasgow season ticket holder for several years now. It’s a fair old kick in the teeth for someone like Roddy Grant who’s worked very hard at his game and probably deserves a chance. As for BODs comments on Rugby Tonight, I think he’s been excellent on that programme, a breath of fresh air, and throughout BTs coverage of the ECC. He consistently talks us (Glasgow) up and is very generous when discussing Scotland. I do agree that Scotland supporters (myself included and sometimes more than most) can rant and moan on these boards regarding Scotland players and selections, but I would say most folk are just frustrated because we feel the players are not playing to their capabilities. BVC might just be the man to do that.

      • scot95 on

        I was as disappointed as everyone else when Barclay/Grant didn’t make it as I do think they deserve a place in the squad, perhaps Grant will just have to wait for an injury crisis before he can show the Scotland coaches what he’s got. New Zealand’s domestic competition may not be far superior but the style of play, fast paced and more suited to what BVC is after will have counted towards Blake’s selection. There is also more competition for places in the Southern Hemisphere so for Blake to have even made the training squad for the Highlanders highlights how good he is, I’d say there wouldn’t be too many players in Scotland who could achieve that feat. Obviously it would be good to see guys who have shown their commitment and hard work by playing in Scotland but the SRU are just taking advantage of having a good player who is scottish qualified.

      • Neil on

        Don’t know so much about Grant but I’ve yet to watch Barclay play exceptionally well Whenever I have watched him he has been distinctly average at best. The inclusion of Blake is crazy but I better close at that before my message becomes a rant.

      • FF on

        Do you rate any Scottish players from the last 15 years Neil?

        It is easy to forget how much potential Barclay showed at the start of his career – he was in Scotland’s extended training squad at 18, he debuted against the ABs just before he turned 21 and turned in a brilliant display and for a short time he looked destined to be a future British Lion. Sadly he didn’t really fulfill his promise but no one really doubts his quality at his best.

      • Neil on

        To be honest there are very few Scottish players I have rated over the last 15 years. I almost felt is if I could play for Scotland at times. The players were mediocre at best and absolutely diabolical at worse. However, there were a few exceptions including Cusiter, Paterson and yes Kelly Brown. I’m really struggling to thing of any other player that I would rate. I’m sure there would have been one or two others if I thought hard enough but most were of a pub team/Sunday Special category. Can you think of even 8 semi decent players that turned out for our country from 2000-2013?

    • FF on

      Neil – off the top of my head:

      Mike Blair
      Jason White
      Nathan Hines
      Scott Murray
      Simon Taylor
      Martin Leslie
      Glenn Metcalfe
      Gregor Townshend
      Tom Smith
      Gordon Bulloch
      Euan Murray

      I’m not disputing that during this period our squads were dreadful, particularly in the backs. Or that some of these players owe their reputations to success at the tail end of the 90s. But your desire to run down all Scottish players by association is tiring. All those guys above were at some point in their career considered amongst the best in their position in the NH.

  16. Doug on

    I think the best prospect player should be invited to train with the 6 nations squad, it’s got to be a gamble worth taking. If they show well you blood them a year early, if not there’s no pressure they weren’t expected to make the squads for the games anyway so they’ll only be encouraged if dropped in a few weeks. If that’s Blake that’s fine, better he take the spot than Brown or Barclay feel like squad member 33 who scraped in.

    When people say “he’s not played for Edinburgh yet”, he could be injured this time next year and then be 2 years older before we has a go at getting in the team for this tournament. It’s not worth the risk just to be able to say everyone followed the same path to the team, the payoff for doing this when you get the chance means it’s worth it.

    Besides… I think Harley, Cowan, Strauss & Ashe are more or less a lock right now for the world cup squad in back row. If Denton shows up in the 6N he’s next on the plane too, I think he’s hoping to produce another jackal-type 7 from Watson/Blake and to pick 3 from that 6.

    And maybe Strokosch, Hamilton’s faces just fit as squad/impact players, it’s 2 months the team is together so you need the right make-up for those guys.

  17. Thistledhubme on

    How many times have we looked at the squad containing the “Killer B’s” and then looked at the result afterwards and said that Scotland have been very poor. “We need more new blood” is often the cry – well it is happening, so live with it. Also the baby is not being thrown out with the bathwater, there are a few veterans in the side, as there should be. Essentially Vern has picked a squad who can play his way, not the old way. I thought his selection of Ross Ford previously was really poor, and guess what? he got it right. The day I have more knowledge than the Scotland manager is never going to happen, i suspect we are all the same. Forget it all and back the coach. #backingblue #asone

    • aligator on

      Well said Thistledhubme!!!
      Lets get our support behind Cotter, his refresh ideas and plans for the 6N/RWC squads.

  18. Neil on

    Remember that you don’t always need the very best players in the squad but ones that play well together as a team and play in a way that our coach requires. Remember the England football team of 66- several big name players were left out of the squad such as Greives but they won the WC because they had a group of players that could play together as a team.

    There is some logic to favouring players of the Edinburgh and Glasgow squads as they are used to playing either with or against each other. They have an intimate knowledge of each others game, strengths and weaknesses. That has got to be advantageous at international level. Scottish players playing in England and France should not be completely ignored but should only be included in the squad if they are exceptional. I think Cotter has the squad pretty much right. Barclay is nothing special and should be omitted while I feel that Kelly Brown is a shadow of the player he was 5 years ago. The only two mistakes are the inclusions of Hamilton and Blake. Hamilton is a big guy who prances around the pitch like a honey monster when he should be using his size and strength to intimidate the opposition. He is also slow and does not play the game at the required level of intensity. Blake is the new kid on the block but I’m not in favour of fielding someone from another country who happens to have a best mate or best mates mate who is Scottish. Its rather pathetic that he has been included in the squad but I have made my thoughts known about the inclusion of pseudo scots in previous messages so I will leave it there.

    In Summary, I think Cotter has picked a good group of players with these two notable exceptions. For the first time in the last 15 years I think a top 3 finish in the 6 nations is definitely a possibility.

    • Angus on

      I completely agree that none of us know what VC has in mind. A coach selects the players he believes are the best fit to his game plan and style of play.

      That is what he is employed for. While I personally a few selections and omissions interesting I am not going to pass judgement until I see VCs team play

      • Andy Fairbairn on

        I agree with this up to a point but I also think part of our recent failings (say since 2000) have been a succession of coaches who arrive with a “philosophy” and try and make the players fit it.

        Perhaps, and VC has alluded to this, the coach should look at the players and skills at his disposal and come up with a game-plan to exploit the strenghts and negate the weknesses.

      • Angus on

        As a coach you have a philosophy and style you are comfortable with and believe in.

        You then look at the existing playing group and see which of those players you believe will suit it

        You also look at the player s who don’t suit it and you look to find replacements for them

        As far as I can tell that is exactly what he is doing

        Simply cos a previous coach or coaches selected a player or players because they believed them to be the best for their plan doesn’t mean the new coach has to

    • Ruairidh Campbell on

      Only problem, however, is that article is from the Telegraph (it says at the bottom). Even still, I do completely agree with the points raised – if you play for one country’s U20 side you should have to stick with them. The residency age also has to be increased to 5 years and I would question counting grandparents as close enough to allow them to go straight into the squad. Maybe if you have grandparents from one country but have never lived there, you should spend 2 or 3 years there first before playing? Just an idea…

    • aligator on

      A pity we can’t just use passport nationality.
      If you have more than one passport (like me) at a time you get to choose just one.
      But then that requires Scottish & Welsh votes for independence!!!

    • Neil on

      Angus,

      I really like this article and I agree with all of it. I don’t blame the coaches for picking the best players available to them or the players who want to better themselves. However, the nationality selection criteria are a joke at present and it is morally wrong for a player to turn out for Scotland as a result of having grandparents from that country, when he has not even spent 6 months in our country or played at club level. Se my earlier messages for the criteria I think should be used to decide nationality. World rugby need to look into this as almost all 6 nation teams are guilty of fielding players with questionable nationalities/allegiances.

      • FF on

        I think there is a broad consensus among supporters that world rugby should extend the residency qualifications to 5 years, I’d certainly agree with that. However, beyond that there isn’t really any popular desire to change the eligibility criteria. Interesting to note that Neil’s views, so closely expressed by the DT columnist, were roundly rubbished even by commentators BTL on that paper which is pretty notorious for its right wing and anti foreigner views.

      • Cammy on

        The day Northern Henisphere rugby is justifiably lectured on residency rules and eligible players by any Southern Hemisphere team is the day Samoa, Fiji, Tonga and Zimbabwe suddenly turn into world powers.

        Am I alone in being kind of proud that we get our scattered sons back to play for a country that their families left generations ago? Canadian, Kiwi, Aussie, South African, even Welsh. I welcome them all.

        Worth mentioning that if the rules are genuinely tightened to discount grandparents then Scottish rugby better get used to a two tier European international competition and yearly relegation/promotion between them both. Rngland at home one year and Georgia away the next.

      • Neil on

        The trouble is that when these guys now nothing about our country, culture or game it is a bit farcical that they can be part of our national team.

  19. Angus on

    I have seen some references to an “incident” that some believe has led to one or more players not being considered for Scotland. Can anyone shed some light on this?

    Who selects the Scotland squad and who selects the match day 23? Is if purely VC or is there a committee?

    • aligator on

      Incident – Barbeque King (Glasgow) assault case.

      Until the courts have decided on this case (presently in court) I think its best that Ryan Grant and Ryan Wilson are not part of the Scottish squad. If and when they are cleared then OK.

      • Neil on

        Lets operate on the basis of not guilty until proved otherwise. At that point a decision should be reached on whether the players are eligible to play at international level and not before.

      • FF on

        Robinson has said he will probably add a back row forward to the squad. I would assume that because the players availability for training and playing will not necessarily be known at the moment, given that the trial is currently in session, they are probably being kept out of selection to avoid disruption to the squad by removing and adding players. So, it is probably due to practical rather than ethical considerations. No one has suggested the players are not eligible for selection.

  20. Standoffalot on

    I noted today that Maitland is going to London Irish. I’ll be sorry to see him leave Glasgow but he is probably behind Hogg,DTH and Seymour in the pecking order just now. Can’t decide if it’s a step up or down mind you. Still it’ll hopefully free up some playing time for another Scots qualified winger. Glasgows signings for next season will be interesting. Matawalu and Maitlands departures should free up a significant part of the budget. The Glasgow squad could benefit from some high profile signings.

    • Neil on

      So instead of spending this money on another SH signing, how about spending it on youth development and then coaching these guys to make them as good or better than the SH second raters. You could train about 5-10 players to that standard or spend the same money on two disloyal SH second raters who will only be too happy to leave the club after a couple of seasons (unless they want to play for Scotland in which case they will have to stay for 3 years)

      • Standoffalot on

        I would argue that the money should really be spent on players who will raise the standard of the squad. Glasgow need match winners, particularly in replacing Matawalu, I don’t really care where they’re from as long as they’re good enough. Glasgow have a lot of Scottish players and training with better players, regardless of where they’re from, will only improve them. Success breeds success, and Scottish players playing in a winning team will transfer that winning mentality to the national team. Matawalu, Nakawara, DTH, Strauss and Maitland aren’t Scottish but have helped raise Glasgow’s level, and the fact that both Strauss (soon to be) and Maitland are Scots qualified is a bonus. I agree flooding Glasgow or Edinburgh with second rate imports is no use when a Scottish player could be playing. However it’s about balance. Look at the successful Irish provinces who have had a combination of quality overseas players along with talented Irish lads. You only get better as you learn from playing and training alongside quality players regardless of whether they’re Scottish or not. The SRU has just put a lot of money from Murrayfield’s naming rights into youth development but that will take time.

      • Neil on

        The SRU has a lot to answer for but I feel our pro clubs should be thinking to the future where we may field the occasional foreign player but with 90% of the squad or more being derived from local talent. Hiring lots of foreigners will bring short term success but I prefer to look to the long term future. It is an expensive business to field foreign SH players when the money could be spent in other places. Perhaps the best solution would be for each club to employ a maximum of 5 or 6 foreign players and that should be enforced by law. Spending the money on a small number of high quality foreigners is much better than spending the same on 15 has beens or never weres from NZ. You mention the Irish model but what about the NZ one which is the best- their club teams field the odd player from other countries but rely mostly on home grown talent.

      • Neil on

        That may be the case but it is an important debate that goes to the very core of the national squad. I just se so many examples of foreigners taking over our game at all levels. It gets a bit depressing.

      • Standoffalot on

        You do come across as particularly blinkered to everyone who isn’t 110% tartan Neil. Both Glasgow and Edinburgh have a large contingent of Scottish players in their first XVs, you only have to look at the teamsheets for the 1872 Cup. There is a case for a third Pro team but the money, and maybe the demand, isn’t there.

      • Mike on

        Yes, but its a debate that’s been done to death. You’ve made your views very clear. Great. But you don’t need to constantly bring it up. Sorry but I come here to discuss rugby matters not quantify national identity or the changing dynamics in social migration.

      • Neil on

        Mike,

        Of course nobody is forced to read my texts. Its a free country with freedom of speech and if it offends people so much they can just ignore my messages. the fact is that this issue is very important and topical, hence the reason I have made several comments. I make no appologies for being a bit repetitive at times.

      • Mike on

        Fair enough pal. You’re obviously a really passionate fan which I respect but people will engage your more if you reel it a bit in and mix it up, that’s what I like about these forums the engagement with other Scottish rugby fans. You don’t want people ignoring you cause they can already predict what your going to say! : )

  21. Frazer on

    Yes it is a surprise to see Hugh Blake included, but BVC is one of the most respected coaches in the World, so I’m sure he sees something in Blake that merits inclusion.

    This is shaping up to be a decent squad, and we are beginning to get a bit of depth, although our front row still gives me the fear at scrum time.

    It sounds like an obvious statement, but our opening game in Paris is crucial – win that and we could be in with a shot of winning the whole thing as we should win the opening 3 fixtures, followed by a crucial trip to Twickenham.

    Clearly I would love us to win the Grand Slam (aiming high), but the game I want to win above all is Wales! The last minute defeat in 2010 was heartbreaking, last year was almost as bad, and it’s about time we put some manners on them!

    • pragmatic optomist on

      Couldn’t agree more Frazer. If I had a choice to win one match this year,it would be Wales. 2010 is bad memory, and I haven’t forgiven the referee (loosely called, as the crowd were reffing at that point) Two yellow cards, the first soft, the last one entirely bogus)
      With that and the humiliation of last year, there should be no shortage of motivation.

  22. Neil on

    Paris could be a tricky one as will Twickenham. I think we can come close to these teams but our away records against England and France make depressing reading, even in the 80’s and 90’s when we had decent squads. However, I fancy our chances to beat the three other nations. Wales have rode their luck against us on a couple of occasions and whitewashed us last year so it would be good to get one over on them. The Irish could also do with a jolly good hiding and I hope we beat Italy as I feel they are imposters who should not even be in the competition. Scotland had a good team until Italy entered the 6 nations. Come to think about it, I don’t like England of France much either so I hope we beat them.

    Please be aware that I’m not at all Xenophobic but just feel very passionately about Scottish rugby. On moral ground, and definitely not based on talent, we deserve our chance to challenge for top honours. The fans have waited for long enough.

  23. FF on

    So…

    Glasgow putting out a horribly makeshift backrow against Bath at the Rec. Have they got the slightest hope in hell? I fear this could get ugly but at least with Bennett back they might be more dangerous than recently if they can get their hands on the ball. I think our best chance is if Bath come out wanting to fling the ball around; they did that against Exeter and so coughed up lots of turnover ball which Exeter pounced on only losing when Bath turned to a tight game after 50-60 minutes.

    Is Glasgow’s pro-12 campaign going to go down the drain due to losses to the 6N squad and injury? They have an easyish run during the 6N but a tough run in to the end of the season. Drop many points in the next four games and they might be in danger of missing out on the play off positions altogether. Looks like they’ll be relying on Connor Braid returning from London Scottish to play FH.

    • pragmatic optomist on

      Could be damage limitation tomorrow, even though it appears to be ‘winner takes all’ game.
      I’m not sure that a difficult away game (possibly Clermont ot Toulon) as a reward for winning, is in any way enticing.
      I really hop I’m wrong, but I don’t fancy their chances without a first choice back row.
      How about a top open side and a tight head as replacements for Matawalu and Maitland?

    • Bananaman on

      Is the Fraser Brown picked at openside the hooker? If so we have a second-row, a hooker and a centre starting at 6, 7 and 8 with Sean Lamont on the bench as cover.

      Are the injuries really that bad?

      • Ruairidh Campbell on

        Yes it is…

        I’m not sure it is all about injuries as James Eddie (a proper open-side) remains on the bench. Obviously Townsend thinks that this plan may work, although I am slightly sceptical about this one…

      • FF on

        Elsewhere it is suggested that Eddie may also be covering lock from the bench. Bath have the aggressive and sizeable Dave Atwood to come on so we may need reinforcements in that area ourselves. Lamont may be covering backrow which seems ridiculous but he is good at the breakdown and in extremis could cover open side….

        It’s all a bit desperate really. Obviously this is a crisis of unusual proportions but we really should have more backrow cover (incidentally, at pro-12 level we could field Bordill or Spinks but because it is HC you must name a squad at the start of the season and then have only 2 injury transfers I think).

      • Standoffalot on

        Fraser Brown did play a large part of his career at flanker (not sure if blind or open) so thats obviously affected the thinking. Still a bit harsh on Eddie who has never let Glasgow down.

  24. FF on

    Also, sorry ScottishRugbyBlog but can’t wait for a match report: well done to Edinburgh on qualifying for Challenge Cup QFs. It looks like an away tie with Exeter looking like the most formidable opponents.

    The much derided Solomons set three targets for the season, QFs challenge Cup, winning the 1882 Cup and qualifying for the Champions Cup.

    He’s already achieved the first two and the away win over Connacht has got Edinburgh roaring back into contention for the last. To add icing to the cake, 3 of the uncapped players called up to the Scotland squad are young guys Solomons has brought through the Edinburgh ranks who all joined as EDPs. His scorecard is looking remarkably better than it did after the first half dozen games of the season.

    Finally, to prematurely look ahead to next season, Bradbury and Ritchie have signed Edinburgh contracts and look certain to step up to the match day squad, Farndale is finally recovered from his second broken leg and has a chance to take the position that Visser may leave open if he moves on, Hoyland is playing well for the 7s and looks certain to step up as well. All we need is Colin Deans to fulfil some of his promise and take the 13 berth behind Scott and we’ll have a substantial number of Edinburgh players brought through the club ranks as well as the repatriation of Dickinson, Mackenzie etc. Looks like Solomons plan may have some substance after all and if Edinburgh are competing for play off positions next year and are in the RCC his detractors will be served a considerable portion of humble pie, that of course is still a long and uncertain way off :)

    • Standoffalot on

      Last night I thought Edinburgh were particularly impressive. SHC showed why he’s in the Scotland squad and that’s the best I’ve seen Dougie Fyfe play. I was also really impressed with Burleigh and Toolis, whilst Ford and Dickinson continued their good form. Solomons may finally be bringing it all together. I just hope they can squeeze that final ECC place in the Pro12. On current form I see no reason why not. The only downside for me was Denton. He’s still too myopic, always seeking the contact when their are better options outside, and his attempt at a pass in the first half, with the try line gaping, was woeful for a professional rugby player. As the only number 8 in the Scotland squad it is a worry. Mind you, maybe BVC will help with that. That said, when that is my only gripe, it says it all about the progression Edinburgh have made. That was a very good Bordeaux side. Now to watch Sunday’s match through the cracks in my fingers………

  25. Neil on

    Great result for Edinburgh but lets not get too carried away. Only three months ago their team was rubbish and could not get a win for love or money. They are going through a purple patch at the moment but that may not last for ever. For me, Glasgow are a far better team.

    • Mike on

      I agree that a full strength Glasgow may well have the edge but 3 months ago Edinburgh had horrific injury problems so that period cant be considered imo. Glasgow are further ahead in there development,but also play a different game – high tempo, off loading. Where as Edinburgh’s is built on solid defence and set piece dominance. To the average fan Glasgow’s is the most pleasing on the eye ergo many people view it as far superior, which I don’t think they are. Edinburgh have also blooded young Scots players this season with more to come next season – Ritchie, Bradbury, Dean, Hoyland etc. If the 1872 cup was played again next week my money would still be on Edinburgh to win.

    • FF on

      Neil – the point is that Scotland needs two strong pro teams and Edinburgh are making really good progress. Solomons took over a team that had been a basket case for two years or more, last year was hard and disappointing but they have now won 10 of their last 14 games and survived a crippling injury list early on in the season. Any rugby fan in Scotland should be cheering their improvement. Let’s hope the qualify for the ECC next year.

      It seems to me that people should equally not get carried away when things are tough. People were calling for Solomons resignation earlier in the season which would have caused huge disruption. Instead, we are finally seeing the fruits of a lot of hard work. That deserves recognition.

      • Neil on

        FF- I’m only to happy to see both of our pro teams do well and, as you know, I wish we had at least another pro team if not two. I just wonder how Solomons improved this Edinburgh team. Was it down to improved coaching/training techniques, youth development etc- in which case I applaud him. Or was it soleley down to bringing in a bunch of non-Scots who could not get a game for toffee in NZ, OZ or SA? If the latter is true, then its not much of an achievement- its all down to spending money which any idiot can do.

        That said,recent results have been good so I am pleased at that. I also wish Glagow all the best today.

  26. Allan on

    I see Adam Jones has retired from test rugby. Probably because of his driving ban (well overdue based on his orevious convictions) he couldnt get to training to listen to Gatlands crash ball rugby coaching sessions! One less overrated cheating Welsh prop to worry about!

  27. Neil on

    Just a thought about the format of the 6 nations. I feel that, as there is no relgation, the bottom teams, namely Italy and Scotland in recent years, do not feel the need to try as hard as they should. Both teams have fans who, for the most part, just accept mediocrity and often the players could not care less whether their team wins, loses or draws. Would it not be a better idea to scrap the 6 nations altogether an introduce a new two teir Europen league. There could be 6 nations in each league with the top league two and bottom placed league 1 team automatically promoted and relegated respectively. Furthermore, the second placed league 2 and second botton league 1 teams could have a play off match, with the winner staying/being promoted to the to tier in the following season. That system would probably encourage the poorer teams to try a bit harder as there would be financial impications for the teams that are relegated. Furthermore, it wouold encourage teams such as Spain and Romania to try that bit harder as they wouold have a clear goal to aim for. At the moment I feel their is little insentive for non 6 nation European teams to try an improve themselves while the botton placed 6 nation teams really have it far too easy. Up until this Autumn, Scotland have been an absolute DISGRACE and an embarassment for the last 14 years (it got so bad in 2012 that I was ashamed to call myself Scottish. I only watched the first half of 6 nation games over the last 2-3 seasons as we were so garbage that I flet I could have played in the team myself) and relegation to a lower league may have resulted in the team pulling their socks up and actually trying to improve themselves. Unfortunatley, fans, players, managers and the SRU just accepted this mediocrity when they should have ben taken to task over it. For example, relegation to a lower league may have meant that we got rid of poor coaches such as Frank Hadden and Scott Johnson at an earlier stage and introduced a decent coach of the calliber of Cotter. It could have also encouraged the manager to drop the no hopers such as Hugo Southwell and Laney (instead of picking the same old trash year after year). I would be interested to hear your views on this.

  28. Mike on

    ‘Try a bit harder’? Do you think they like getting thrashed 51-3 in front of 80000 welsh fans? Effort has not been the problem. Plus the six nations is too much of a money spinner. Changing it at this stage would not be in anyone’s intrests. Do you think Scotland would sell out Murrayfield if they played Spain, Romania over England or Ireland? SRU rely on the money generated through the six nations. Also Scotland may be a ‘disgrace’ as you eloquently put it, but we’re still far head of Georgia, Romania & Spain to make any competition meaningful. A better question would be how to we help those countries grow so that eventually they may compete with the six nations.

    • FF on

      Mike, this is a blatant troll. Recycling a crap idea that usually only gets floated below the line of the daily telegraph by little Englanders who used to call for England and France to play with the tri-nations and are now forced to ‘champion’ the cause of Georgia to assert their superiority, a side that wins the European Champions Cup almost every year but have only one win over a top tier nation (a one point home win against samoa).

      Personally I think you are very generous describing Neil as a passionate supporter.

  29. Neil on

    So if we are that good then we would not have a problem with this 2 league European system as we would never face relegation. Would wouold expect to, at the very least, finish above Italy in league one and beat the second placed league 2 team by a country mile. Or are you worried that we would not be good enough, in which case we ought to be playing in league 2. I just feel there are two issues:

    1. Spain Romania etc rarely get the chance to play at the highest level. However, if they have something to aim for then their standards will improve with time

    2. The poorer teams in the 6 nations would have to pull thier socks up in order to compete.

    League systems work in football and almost every other sport. They also work in rugby at the club level so why not introduce such a system at international level.

    Sure noboday wants to see their club lose by 51 points and, I’m sure Romania would suffer in their first two or three seasons but they would learn alot from the experience and improve with time.

    If Scotland, Italy or any other nation are good enough then they will not worry about relegation and should be aiming for a top 3 finish in any case. Perhaps the exact format of such a league would have to be thought out in detail- maybe have 7 or 8 clubs in the top flight instead of 6, but the basic principal of relegation/promotion I think is a good one. I remember reading on one occassion several years ago (forgive me if the details are incorrect) there was no such thing as promotion/relegation in Norwegian football in the 70s and 80’s. They then introduced a proper league system (with promotion/relgation) and their club sides fourished. Their national team also improved as a result of this.

    FYI- this is not a troll, I dont read the daily telegraph, I don’t think France and England should play in the tri-nations and I am certainly not English.

    • Mike on

      Yes you’re right they’re your views Neil. And yes you right they’re not accepted. But you’re frustrating everyone with your views which are SO wide of the mark,borderline xenophobic, hypocritical and insulting to the lads that have pulled on the Scotland jersey past and present. Nobody should be subjected to personal abuse in forums so I’m sorry for you on that respect but I’m afraid I’m going to take your advice and give your comments a miss from now. Now, I’m off to hide behind the sofa and watch Bath v Glasgow.

      • Neil on

        Most of the lads who pulled on the jersey between 200 and 2014 were not worthy of it. The embarrassed the hard working fans who dished out well earned money to watch them. I don’t mind if we lose a close game and played well in the process but most of the time we were just really poor. I hated the fact that a lot of the players just did not try. So yes that may be insulting but these guys deserved to be insulted.

        However, my view on the league system is entirely separate as I think it would be more fair to other European teams. If they were not good enough then they would never make it to the top league but I feel it would give them an incentive to improve. What on earth are you afraid off?

        I’ve also thought of another idea- the B teams of the top 6 European teams could play against the A teams of league 2 in a separate lower league. I think this would benefit every team.

        My views may be slightly off the mark but the same could have been said of Charles Darwin and co. At the time the were laughed at but look at what they achieved. Sometimes modern consensus has to be challenged.

  30. Neil on

    If you want to see real evidence of bad behaviour on the internet just look at the reply Red Clyde sent to me a few weeks ago. I have no idea who this guy is (nor do I care to find out) but his reply to me was personally abusive. He was also sad enough to find out personal information about me on facebook/linkdin and then include this in his reply. The information was not of a scandalous nature but it is sad that someone feels the need to do this. As far as I am aware, this site is simply to allow debate and viewpoints on Scottish rugby. I know that my views are not universally accepted but they are what they are- my views.

  31. Neil on

    Glasgow got unlucky at the Recreation Ground but I’m still really proud of our lads. The team has come on in leaps and bounds and they must be one of the favourites to win the pro-12. What I like is that they always give games their best shot- unlike the Scotland team from 2000 to 2014. They remind me of watching Scotland in the 80s and 90s until we started to field no hopers. I just hope that Scotland can play with the same level of commitment in the 6 nations. If they do then they must expect a minimum of a top 3 finish. Its no more than the fans deserve after forking out obscene amounts of cash to watch a bunch of wasters over the years.

  32. pragmatic optomist on

    Just watched the Bath v Glasgow game and I’m left dissapointed again this year. Don’t get me wrong, Glasgow played very well today and it was a cracking match, but Glasgow should have been in the QF’s this year, and I get a sinking feeling that they blew it.
    They lost it against Toulouse rather than Bath I fear. Being sucked into an arm wrestle and being unable to break out is dispiriting. A lot of ‘if only’s’ this year.

    Given the current injury situation, it was a great performance at Bath. I didn’t see the back row scarcity coming, but it certainly happened. Fraser Brown, who in my book is only the 2nd best hooker at Glasgow, had an absolute blinder at open side. A great performance against Francois Loew, who is the best open side in world rugby in my opinion. Top marks to Bennett, Macarthur, Gray, Dunbar, and Seymour. Ecven Sean Maitland stirred himself today.
    I’m not sure what happened to the scrum which was in reverse most of the game. Haven’t seen Glasgow lose the scrum battle as convincingly as that for many years. All other aspects of the game were good, but to lose 2 x penalty tries to a side they’ve outplayed in open field must be hard to tke. Is the scrum a critical flaw that needs to be addressed for next year?

    • Mike on

      Maitland played well. Apparently one of the main reasons of his move to London Irish was his desire to play in his favoured position, fullback. With Hogg injured Maitland will take the 15 spot v France.

      • Standoffalot on

        Maitland was a fullback before he came to Glasgow and IMO is better there than on the wing. He had a really good game yesterday, as did most of the Glasgow three quarter line. In the forwards I thought Pat McArthur and Fraser Brown were immense. What a difference Pyrgos makes, much more organised, and Russell gets much quicker ball. The annihilation in the scrum ultimately killed us as it killed any momentum we had. There is no disgrace in that, as the Bath scrum destroyed Toulouse’s much heavier pack the week before. Thought Lacey also gave some rather soft penalty decisions that really didn’t help us.

        I agree regarding the Toulouse games being what cost us. We really should have won at home despite playing poorly, and should have picked up a losing bonus point away. Even our failure to take maximum points at Montpellier, these are the small margins that are ultimately killing us in Europe. Still it’s a young talented squad who will hopefully learn from it. I feared we would get horsed right before the 6N, but the lads can take enormous pride and look forward to the internationals to come.

      • FF on

        Standoffalot – Pat MacArthur is a fine player but that scrum performance should put the frighteners up Glasgow. Glasgow will not make an impression in Europe if their scrum does not hold up. Now, there were a number of reasons for such a capitulation as the pack were missing half their starters. But the front row was more or less full strength. MacArthur is continuously overlooked by Scotland because he is (supposedly) too small, whereas Ford is a big lump in the front row. Might they have a point? Is this also why Brown is preferred to MacArthur by Scotland, because he gives the front row a bit more heft?

        Either way, Glasgow need to address this issue or it will keep costing them. They should recruit a top-class tight head prop as they are not going to develop one overnight, they should hire a dedicated scrum coach instead of borrowing Massimo Cuttitta from Scotland and they should give Brown more starts at Hooker.

      • Standoffalot on

        FF – I do agree regarding McArthur’s size counting against him, and I also agree that in today’s game size is a massive part of it. It does count against him, definitely. It’s a shame as in every other aspect of his play he is superb, but he is just too small, particularly at international level. The size issue is also, to my mind, why Hamilton is continually selected for Scotland. Ross Ford is a very good rugby player, especially in the loose and it’s good to see he seems to have sorted his darts. I didn’t agree when he retained the international 2 jersey when his form was poor but he’s definitely turned it around. On current form he has to be Scotland number one.

        Back to Glasgow, our scrum was under the cosh from the outset and never got going. Paul James had Cusack in his back pocket. People have said to me if Murray and Grant had been available it would have been different, I’m not so sure. Glasgow’s scrum has on occasion been our achilles heel (although not as much as our inability to defend a driving maul) but I’ve never seen it taken apart so easily. I personally think we need two high class props to come in on both sides. To be fair, as I said in the previous post, Bath have a very impressive scrum, and what a bench to bring on!

        On another note, I was reading more about John Hardie’s potential move to Glasgow and then Scotland representation, and it does seem to be a go. Mind you, after Fraser Brown’s performance yesterday maybe we don’t need him! Talking of hookers, what’s the script at Edinburgh regarding Stuart McInally? I always liked him as a player, he made the switch, and I’ve never heard of him since.

  33. Mike on

    More injuries for England, although I don’t really rate Farrell. As long as we keep everyone fit (that in itself is a big ask)..could we beat them at Twickenham?

    • Neil on

      Mike,

      You may not wish to hear from me but I have a view on the England match that may interst you and some of the other readers. I think we probably have the ability to beatr England at Twickenham but there is a massive pshychological barrier to overcome. Since the early 80s I often felt that we had a team capable of grindin out a win on that ground and we have come close on one or two occassions. i just wonmder if there is a much deeper psychological challeng to overcome. If the players are constantly being told that they cannot win at theat ground by the media, fellow players etc then it becomes a self fullfilling profecy. Sure, england have had a beeter team than us in recent years but that was not the case from 1983-2000 when we were stillunable to get a win there. It cant be easy, faced with a stadium packed with 70,000 hostile fans but, if engalnd can manage to win at Murryfield then I think Scotland should be able to do the same at Twickers. We just need to find a way of getting through the psychological barrier.

      • Mike on

        Decent comment Neil. You can do it! You’re right maybe a bit more self belief is whats required. I fear we will get bullied in the pack. We’re facing them after a couple of games so hopefully we wouldnt have picked up any bad injuries. At full strength (or close too) I think we have a shout.

      • Neil on

        I think both teams will suffer through injuries so it could be a fair contest though I worry that we dont have enough strength in depth and lack players to call on when this happens. However, if we play to our potential I think we could sneak a win and this is the first time in ages that I have a genuine belief that we can upset the odds this year.

  34. Angus on

    Neil I have tried to interact and have a dialogue with you in the hope you could move on and provide constructive input. Clearly that is impossible because you continue to troll this blog in every thread and it is just too much

    You say people don’t have to read your ramblings if they don’t want to, well that is basically saying ignore my posts because even if I say something constructive you won’t have read it anyway because you must ignore my drivel on sight

    In that case stop posting and I say to everyone else here please stop feeding the fire by biting every time neil has a rant

    If he doesn’t have people responding hopefully he will drift away

    Very sad because all opinions are welcome but the same drum being beaten to death and the now insulting posts about Scotland teams and players are for me the last straw

    So everyone else I ask you to please stop replying to his posts or referring to them

    • Neil on

      Angus, The last part of your text is below the belt. You do not have the right to ask any of the readers to respond/not respond to my messages. It is entirely up to them in a free society with freedom of speech. You should not try to sway them in a particular direction just because you disagree with something I have written.

      It takes about a minute or less to read my messages and I know that some of them are highly topical and have stimulated interesting debate. With one noteable exception, I have not taken offence and accept that this is a simple blog with persons free to vent opinions. As long as it does not become personal (on one occassion it did) then I dont mind if people agree or disagree with me. Isnt it great that we live in an open society where that is acceptable. Think about this one- when you read a book you may enjoy parts of it but not others but that will not necessarily stop you from reading to the end.

      I am truely sorry if I have caused offence to any of the readers as that was not my intention. I have taken note of your comments and will make a concerted effort not to go over old ground again but I will not stop posting messages.

    • Andy on

      Just a thought about the format of this blog. I feel that, as there is no relgation from the blog, the worst bloggers (no names to protect the guilty)in recent weeks do not feel the need to try as hard as they should.

      This blog has fans who, for the most part, just accept mediocrity and often the bloggers could not care less whether their argument wins, loses or draws. Would it not be a better idea to scrap the blog altogether an introduce a new two teir Europen blog? There could be 6 bloggers in each blog with the top bloggers from league two and bottom placed blogger in league 1 automatically promoted and relegated respectively. Furthermore, the second placed league 2 blogger and second bottom league 1 blogger could have a rant off match, with the winner staying/being promoted the following season. That system would probably encourage the poorer bloggers to try a bit harder and we could have financial impications for the bloggers that are relegated. Furthermore, it wouold encourage bloggers such as Neil to try that bit harder as they wouold have a clear goal to aim for. At the moment I feel their (I’m tired amending the typos) is little insentive for poor bloggers like Neil to to try an improve themselves while the other bloggers really have it far too easy. Since this Autumn, some of Neil’s blogs have been an absolute DISGRACE and an embarassment(it got so bad in 20:12 last night, that I was ashamed to call myself Neil. I only read the first half of 6 comments over the last 2-3 blogs as they were so garbage that I flet I could have written them myself) and relegation to a lower blog league may have resulted in Neil pulling his socks up and actually trying to improve himself. Unfortunatley, fans, players, managers and the SRU just accepted this mediocrity from Neil when he should have ben taken to task over it. For example, relegation to a lower blog league may have meant that we got rid of poor bloggers at an earlier stage and introduced a decent blogger of higher calliber. It could have also encouraged the Administrator to drop the no hopers such as Neil instead of allowing him to spout the same old trash year after year. I would be interested to hear your views on this….

  35. Neil on

    OK point taken- I agree that my latest post probably turned into a rant but I think the league system is a good one- that is a constructive point (in hinesight I should have stressed that more as the other stuff was of less relevance) that I have not made in previous post and would be happy to discuss this without going over old ground.

    However, I have to take you to task over my so called ramblings- freedom of speech is an important thing to everyone. We all have different viewpoints but as soon as you lose freedom of speech you lose everything. I have never asked anyone to read or respond to my messages and, in a free society, they have the freedom to respond or not. Please accept my personal freedom to make comments. After all, you have the frreedom to igore or to respond and I accept that.

  36. FF on

    I see Beattie has been called up to the Scotland squad. Presumably Cotter saw Denton’s pass in the opening quarter of the Bordeaux match and thought giving Beattie anther chance might be a good idea.

  37. Mike on

    Apparently he was always going to call up another back row forward but was waiting for the Euro weekend to be over. Castres got pumped (again) but at least Beattie scored! Few injuries picked up, Maitland (Shoulder), Scott (Shoulder), Dunbar (concussion). Hopefully not to bad and they can recover in time. What are the concussion protocols again?

      • FF on

        Luther Burrell was also concussed on the weekend and according to the DT he is returning to light training on Friday in line with the graduated recovery protocols. Quicker than I thought was allowable but it might mean Dunbar is available. Fortunately he has a established partnership with Russell and Bennett so no need to take part in all the contact training prior to the match.

  38. stevomc on

    Interesting that Brendan McKibbin has signed for London Irish. Another Scots Qualified Southern Hemisphere player, and one who has played a lot of Super Rugby. Don’t think he ever ended up getting capped by Australia?

    Even if he was selected, I don’t see him getting ahead of Greig Laidlaw or Sam H-C on current form.

    • FF on

      Don’t forget about Pyrgos. In my opinion he is coming on leaps and bounds every season and should start moving from being competent at test level to bossing it.

      • Mike on

        Mmmm..Mckibbins 29yr old. Ok Blair Cowan’s a late bloomer at 27 but I think it would be a step back. We’re well served at the mo with Pygros, SHC, Laidlaw and Cusiter. Scott Steele is getting game time at London Irish too, he’s come through the Scotland age group set up so I would prefer him to McKibbin.

    • Angus on

      There was talk 2 or 3 years ago about Kibbo being looked at by Scotland and surprisingly enough Deans immediately took him on the Quallabies tour to the UK. He was on the bench for the Wales game but I don’t think he went on. I have had a look and can’t see a record of him having a cap but does the bench tie you to a country or do you have to get onto the field?

      • Stevomc on

        I don’t think you can be tied for not playing – that wouldn’t make sense. But then neither does the residency rule. I get excited seeing these guys come over, it mixes things up a bit, and brings something different. But very often they are not better than our home grown players – and that’s good validation of their quality too.

      • Angus on

        Well on this occasion McKibbon has just been part of the NSW Super Rugby Championship side

        Not sure what good all these guys are doing themselves going to London Irish but they are certainly spending up big with their imports for next year

  39. Stevomc on

    Yes, agree. Thought Pyrgos played well yesterday too. Think Cusiters time has probably gone now, if McKibbin brings something different I think it would be worth a shout.

    • Neil on

      It would be a real shame if Cusiter’s time had gone. He was one of the players that really shone in what has been a particualrly poor squad up until the Autumn serier. Not only dioes he possess great skill and speed but he also reads the game very well and, whenever i have watched him, he gives 100%. I guess nothing lasts for ever and there will be a time when he is no longer so good but I think it would be a big mistake to drop him from the squad as he has so much experience. I wouold sauggest keeping until the WC at the very least.

  40. Scot95 on

    After realising that the World Cup squads have to be cut to 30 players I realised how many good players Scotland have in a lot of positions. Some big calls are going to have to be made, I’m looking forward to the outrage and arguments on here after that squad announcement

  41. FF on

    Maitland and Denton now confirmed injured for at least the France game. No one else yet been called up to replace them.

    Is Hogg definitely injured for this game? If not, and with Tonks still on the treatment table they’re going to need to call up a specialist fullback, presumably Murchie. If Hogg is fit, no worries, Visser scores far more freely than Maitland anyway.

    Denton’s injury is more problematic as Strokosch is still receiving treatment as well and Harley is definitely missing the opening game at least. That means we have no number 6 and backrow on the bench, so either Cotter pulls a rabbit out of a hat and puts Watson/Blake (!) there or he calls up Brown.

    So it could be:
    6. Watson
    7. Cowan
    8. Beattie
    Bench: Blake

    Or

    6. Brown
    7. Cowan
    8. Beattie
    Bench: Watson

    Of course Strokosch could recover and it’ll be all fine.

  42. Frazer on

    So there are injuries to Denton and Maitland (so far). Not to be ucharitable to those two players but it’s not that much of a loss – certainly if Dunbar fails to recover I’ll be much more upset. It would make sense for Murchie to be called up as there seems to be doubts over Hogg’s fitness (and, in my opinion, form), but Beattie now has a chance to show BVC he still has what it takes to bring some dynamism to the back row. It’s just a shame that Ashe is out!

  43. Andy on

    If BVC and Co can move on from thinking that Brown is an openside, then I think we could do a lot worse than bring Brown back in at 6. I think Cowan will get the openside slot after a steady AI performance, but I’d love to see Watson get the nod – he looks a great prospect. JB is an obvious shoe in for number 8 – I reckon Brown, Watson and Beattie would be a nice balance.

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