Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Shug Blake & Regulation 8

A big year next year: the World Cup beckons...

The inclusion of Hugh Blake in the Scotland 6 Nations squad reignited the debate about eligibility rules in international rugby. With the possible exception of Wales, no other country seems to agonise about where their players were born quite as much as Scotland. The All Blacks and Wallabies have regularly selected a succession of Tongans, Samoans and Fijians without anyone batting an eyelid (apart, perhaps for Tonga, Samoa and Fiji). England have also taken advantage of the current eligibility rules without anything approaching the amount of prickliness displayed on social media sites north of the border last week.

Regulation 8 which sets out World Rugby’s eligibility rules is fairly straightforward (if you ignore rules that apply to the 2016 Olympics). A player may represent a national side if:

  • They were born in that country;
  • One parent or grandparent was born in that country (in the case of adopted children this does not apply to adoptive grandparents);
  • They have lived in the country for 36 consecutive months (3 years) immediately prior to playing.

A player is bound to a country if they have played in a senior XV’s match or senior “A” XV’s match or senior 7’s match. The line between an “A” side and U-20 side can be a little blurred which caught Steven Shingler on the hop.

Part of the objections to Hugh Blake’s selection are understandable. He has never turned out for Edinburgh in a competitive match and there are plenty of players performing week in week out for their clubs who ought to be selected ahead of him. Roddy Grant and John Barclay may have justifiable gripes in being overlooked by Vern Cotter and questions were quite rightly asked of Scotland’s head coach at the press conference.

On the evidence so far we have no reason to doubt Big Vern’s decision making and we must assume that he has at least watched video footage of Blake or watched him train and seen something that suggests he has something more to offer than Barclay and Grant. Those who have seen Blake play for Melrose have been impressed without being blown away but then first tier domestic rugby in Scotland is perhaps not the ideal place to assess a player’s international credentials. Rugby is after all a team game and the performance of a single player is only as good as that of those around them.

There is a more sinister element amongst the objections to Blake’s selection which is that he is somehow not Scottish enough to play for the national side. When you look at the substance of those objections more closely they very quickly unravel in a mess of xenophobia and selective memories.

We live in world where national borders are becoming more of an administrative than a cultural barrier. People move from country to country for work, love, family or even just for the hell of it. Cultural heritage and self identity have little to do with where a person is born and much more to do with the way a person is brought up, the places they have lived and people they associate with. We know, for example, that Sean Maitland was brought up on Scotch Pies and woken up in the middle of the night to watch Scotland play. We have no right to question Hugh Blake’s motivation and it’s unlikely he’s uprooted himself and moved half way around the world on a whim.

Some have argued that the selection of players like Blake sends the wrong message to young players in Scotland hoping to break through. The argument goes that players will become discouraged if they see “foreign” players being parachuted into the national side ahead of them. It’s a worn out argument as old as time and a dangerous one at that. Racist undertones aside, the counter argument is that those young players should see it more as a challenge than a hindrance. Sam Warburton said that Warren Gatland once chastised him for saying he wanted to be as good as the best Welsh opensides that had gone before him. Gatland left him in no doubt that he should be aiming to be as good if not better than the best players in the world.

The likes of Dan Parks and Brendan Laney were treated abominably by sections of Scottish fans because somehow they weren’t Scottish enough. Both served Scotland well and were arguably the best options available at the time. However for every Dan Parks or Brendan Laney there is an Ian McGeechan or Tommy Seymour or Tim Visser whose background is conveniently overlooked by the naysayers. If anyone has any doubt about a foreign born player’s passion they should read about McGeechan’s team talk prior to the 1990 Calcutta Cup in Tom English’s “The Grudge”.

The World Rugby regulations might not be to everyone’s liking but they are fair and allow for the fact we live in a globalised society where cultural identity is not as clear cut as it might have been in the distant past. Fans must accept that. There are plenty of Scots born players who have been found wanting at international level and plenty of foreign born players who have been credit to the shirt. Hopefully the SRU Press Officer will have briefed Blake on what to expect when his name was announced. We must also hope that he has the mental strength to rise above those who question his right to represent Scotland.

225 Responses

  1. Why is this any different to someone born in England and plays in England. I’m sure Kieran Low never played a game in Scotland but he never got the derision that Blake has received.

      1. If we did a list of Scottish Internationals from the last 30 years who never played club rugby in Scotland it would be long and probably surprising – couple that immediately spring to mind are Damien Cronin and Paul Burnell

    1. I think the problem that some have had is that he has yet to play for Edinburgh with Roddy Grant (receiver of a number of Man of the Match awards) being left out. His last game of professional rugby was back in October in the ITM Cup and since arriving in Scotland has only played a few games for Melrose in the Premiership as well as one Edinburgh A game. No more Edinburgh games till the middle of the 6N so will be interesting to see if he gets an opportunity then.

  2. Unusually for the SRU, I genuinely feel that we should take the Blake situation at face value. BVC has been absolutely clear on this – there is a talented young rugby player who he feels might have what it takes to be the genuine article at international level and he might want to play for Scotland.

    Lets not kid ourselves, Scotland is a team in transition – work in progress if you like – and expectations are low compared to the likes of the All Blacks so we have scope to take a bit of a gamble because in the big scheme of things, we have less to lose.

    I don’t think for a minute Blake will get anywhere near to the matchday squad unless he rises to the challenge that BVC has set him, and if he does then I can’t wait to see him get a run out.

    There’s been a lot of bleating about overlooking young Scottish talent – but young Scottish talent is already Scottish, so we have the luxury of giving them longer to mature. I think we also need to consider the fact that we’re talking about openside rugby here – these guys are totally different animals and need to have a screw loose (perhaps more than 1) – like it or not, countries like New Zealand produce more of these type of players than we do. Having coached schools rugby in New Zealand and in Scotland, you simply don’t see the same number of hard nosed, fully commited, hard tackling, rugby daft players in the junior ranks here as you do in NZ – if we get maybe one or two guys like that in a training group of 30 kids over here then they absolutely stand out head and shoulders from the rest of the kids – but in NZ, it was almost the norm.

    We need to relax a bit and be proud that some very talented rugby players who potentially have their whole career ahead of them choose to commit to Scottish Rugby and some of the pundits and former players need to be mindful that many of our greatest teams from the past were full of guys who were not Scottish by birth, but who nevertheless became ruthless and passionate Scotland rugby players.

    1. It looks like Cotter is counting on Harley or Strokosch being fit for Paris despite currently being listed as injured. If neither do and no cover is called up then Blake will be on the bench by virtue of being last man standing.

      I think Blake is eligible so should be called up if good enough. However, Paris would be a baptism of fire for a very inexperienced player. I think he deserves the chance to get his feet under the table before being thrown into a test match.

      It was not announced but pictures published in a Scotsman article showed Josh Strauss was training with the squad in advance of becoming eligible right at the start of the World Cup. Glad to see Cotter isn’t squeamish about chucking him in, probably at the expense of Denton.

      1. I agree with the sentiment – big Josh should be chucked in…but I saw that pic as well and I think that was Cross – case of mistaken bearded identity – big Josh is crocked at the moment.

  3. From a personal point of view I have no issue over Blake whatsoever, nor have I in the past had issue with Laney, Parks, the Leslies, Metcalfe, Lineen, or any of the other “non-Scottish” players who have graced the dark blue.

    If the rules allow for us to play these guys, and if they genuinely want to represent Scotland, then I welcome them with open arms. If Blake, Maitland, Cowan, or Josh Strauss want to put their bodies on the line for Scotland then they have earned their place as far as I am concerned!

  4. For once a blog is up where Neil can legitimately bang his tedious drum and he’s missing his big chance. Neil – your time is now!

    1. FF- dont worry I have and I will but thanks for the invite anyway. I know that Angus is fed up with me and did not want me to post any more messages. I have taken note of his comments and will try not to be quite so confronatational, repetitive or antagonistic. However, as you know i have strong views on our game and this topic is of particular importance to me. I hope you find my new messages interesting.

      1. Nope. Same I’ll-informed, factually inaccurate, logically weak BS you have been trotting out for months.

        After this thread has died, maybe we can draw a line under it and actually talk about rugby during the 6N?

      2. FF- we sure can draw a line under it after this thread. i know that many people dont agree with my comments but it is more common than you realise that one or two individuals can be right and a nationfull of people wronmg. Its all down to psychology- we want to think as a pack and attack anyone who does not conform to the status quo. few people want to challenmge it. Thats why Hitler was so popular in Germany in the 1930s. It is not PC to question the 3 year residency rule so woe betide anyone who does even though, deep down you must know that it is morally wrong. As for me, I dont give a damn about the status quo and form my own opinions regardless. I just wonder how many individuals can say the same thing.

        My advice for you is to form you own opinions and not what you think everyone want to hear- this is only a blog after all and you wont exactly commit a crime by being thuthfull and honest. You may upset the odd person from time to time but, as long as it does not become personal, then it does not matter.

      3. FF- do you actually read my messages or just assume that the are full of ill informed BS as you put it. Exactly what parts of my messages in this thread are BS are in your opinion as I would be interested to know.

      4. I see your understanding of the rise of Hitler is as sophisticated as your understanding of the development of rugby in Scotland over the past 25 years.

        My advice to you is stop living in the past and actually watch some pro-rugby instead of just declaring yourself a passionate supporter and then parading your ignorance on the Internet.

      5. FF again, your reply lacks detail. You make the sweeping statement but you dont actually mention items that I raised that you feel were either inaccurate or BS- perhaps because I dissapointed you and that there is nothing BS about what I have written!

        Cameron and FF- it has been a really intersting debate and, as usual, everone has their own unique take on things. Maybe there is no right answere but just a group of opinions- who really knows for sure. I disagree alot with FF but I still respect the fact that he has a great knowledge of the game (even though some of his viesw are a bit strange) and that the argument is about rugby does not become personal. Thats what I like about this blog.

      6. Neil, I’m not going to reply to each of your points because it would take far too much time. Instead, I’ll restrict myself to making a couple of points which demonstrate that your views are indeed ill-thought out and factually incorrect.

        To summarise your view, the SRU began recruiting foreign born players in 2000, this coincided with Scotland’s decline in international competitiveness and the cause is the SRU choosing to recruit abroad rather than develop Scottish-based talent.

        Below is a list of all foreign born players who debuted for Scotland between 1995 when rugby became professional and the 2011 world cup (I have excluded English born players because so does Neil):

        *Shaun Longstaff (debut 1998 6N, born NZ, 15 caps)
        *Matthew Proudfoot (debut 1998 summer tour, born SA, 4 caps)
        *Glenn Metcalfe (debut summer tour 1998, born NZ, 40 caps)
        *Gordon Simpson (debut summer tour 1998, born NZ, 15 caps)
        *John Leslie (debut autumn tests 1998, born NZ, 23 caps)
        *Martin Leslie (debut autumn tests 1998, born NZ, 37 caps)
        ***Scotland win the 1999 5N***
        *Robbie Russell (debut summer tests 1999, born Aus, 27 caps)
        *Cameron Mather (debut summer tests 1999, born NZ, 11 caps)
        *Nathan Hines (debut summer tests 2000, born Aus, 77 caps)
        *Roland Reid (debut autumn tests 2001, born SA, 2 caps)
        *Brendan Laney (debut autumn tests 2001, born NZ, 20 caps)
        *Dan Parks (debut 6N 2004, born Aus, 66 caps)
        *Matt Mustchin (debut summer tour 2008, born NZ, 5 caps)

        What you should notice is that almost exactly half of those foreign born players debuted for Scotland before we won our last 5 nations championship. You should also recognise their names because they were absolutely fundamental to how well Scotland performed. The policy to recruit foreign born players led directly to the last success Scotland enjoyed at test level.

        Why did Scotland begin recruiting foreign born players in increasing numbers from 1998?

        The answer is simple – in Scotland rugby was amateur prior to 1995. Elsewhere (NZ, France etc.) so-called ‘shamateurism’ had existed for years and many players were essentially professional already. In other countries like England, individual benefactors were willing to start pumping money into their clubs to create professional environments. The unions in these countries were prepared for the introduction of professionalism and unlike in Scotland the clubs did not resist it.

        Scotland’s transition to professionalism was disastrous and there was no infrastructure to develop professional standard players. The first forays of Scottish clubs and then regions into cross-national competition showed how far behind Scotland were. Scotland began recruiting abroad to increase the competitiveness of our squad and it initially worked. However, as the last generation of Scotland’s amateur players retired, there were not enough home grown players of sufficient standard to replace them and Scotland became increasingly uncompetitive. The SRU was burdened with debt and struggling to fund four regions and bring through young players.

        The recruitment of foreign born players was not the cause of Scotland’s decline but was a symptom of it. The cause was Scotland’s disastrous transition to professionalism, the legacy of which is only recently being overcome.

        You have made your facts fit a narrative that is based on a prejudice.

      7. FF if you had read my messages carefully, I stated that this was not the only reason for our decline but it was a contributing factor. About half of the on scots made commence playing for Scotland before 2000 but most were still playing after that time so by 2000-2001 we had a glutten on non scots playing for Scotland. We won the then 5 nations in 1999 and had a decent side but remember we won the 5 nations not the grand slam and our team was still inferior to that of 1984 and 1990. Also remember their was a very big drop in 2000- I cant recall where we finished that year but I’m pretty sue it was well down the table. After that we were rubbish. I agree that we did not handle professionalism well but I still think fielding lots of non scots was a contributing factor to our decline.

  5. Ha! Tell us what you think Neil! : ) I’m torn..on one hand I cant wait fir Josh Strauss to play for us, on the other hand im uncomfortable with the ‘project player’ scenario. At least Blake et al have Scots blood in them. But other teams do it, France im looking at you!, so what the heck!!

    1. Yep, England and France being the most prolific offenders. It has been rather galling to read that Blake and Anscombe’s call up has called the eligibility criteria into question, according to the Daily Telegraph last week, and this week the same paper has been salivating at Nathan Hughes impending eligibility for England, a monster number 8 with Fijian/Samoan background.

      Basically, until world rugby changes residency laws we are damned if we do and damned if we don’t. I haven’t got a problem so long as it is reasonable, but Strauss will be only the second player to qualify by the residency route and I can live with that. If we suddenly had a team half full of players not otherwise qualified to play for Scotland then it would of course be an issue.

      If we do play someone qualified through residency we should at least make sure it plugs a useful position, like prop. And I certainly don’t mean Nel.

      1. Mmmm..yeah I agree. We could really do with a tighthead or two coming through. Rae, Fagerson and McQuillan seem to be the prospects but none seem to have shown much progress, Rae had a month at Treviso and Fagerson was hooked 30mins in against Scarlets, McQuillans not had any pro game time I think? Still props mature late so there’s hope.

  6. I am more curious as to why he hasn’t played for Edinburgh yet rather than debating his Scottish eligibility?

  7. All these players mentioned and not one of you names Simon Cross.

    Not born in Scotland, nor was his mother (his father is English), nor was his maternal grandfather or great grandfather with them all being born overseas in British Military Hospitals. Took an IRB ruling to allow him to represent Scotland.

    As for Blake surely there’s no problem as he was playing for the SRU’s 3rd Pro Team and their feeder teams?

  8. Scotland captain Budge Poutney had a grandmother from the channel isles – as a crown dependency channel islanders can represent any home nation, so Budge claimed eligibility for Scotland through her.

    1. Crazy- and has wasnt even that good a player- however he arrived at a time when Scoptland were poor and would have probably fielded anyone, maybe even his grandmother from the Channel Islands.

  9. “xenophobia and selective memories.”
    I think you are way off the mark here. The vast majority of fans are objecting to Blakes call up because he has not even made an Edinburgh match day squad and never made a Highlanders match day squad in NZ. He clearly is qualified to play for Scotland so I hope he is as good as VC suggests but until he has proven it at the top club level (Edinburgh or Highlanders in his case) he should not be in the squad when we have John Barclay and Roddy Grant available. When John Hardie arrives to play for Edinburgh or Glasgow and goes straight into the Scotland squad then at least he will have an impressive CV to back him up.

    1. Like I said I acknowledge the fact his lack of game time has caused legitimate concerns. However unlike his predecessors Cotter has given us no reason to doubt his judgement to date so we must wait and see what happens

    2. Billy – might this phrase be referring to some of the comments previously left on this very blog?

      Cammy – good blog by the way and well timed, with Blake being quoted across the press today as asking the Scottish public to give him a chance and be open minded. I’m looking forward to seeing him in action for Edinburgh or Scotland soon.

    3. If Blake come in and does a fantastic job then he will probably be forgiven, though I still dont think it is right that he shooudl be playing for us (see my other messages for my views on the subject). the problem is that we have been fielding particularly average imports for years and these guys have not been giving it 100% eitherher. it is only natural for fans to oppose the policy of fielding foreigners when most have been pretty poor and have not been fully committed to the task of playeing for our national team.

      1. Dan Parks and bernard Laney for a start. Tim Visser is OK but interestingly does not really perform as well for Scotland as for edinburgh. Now I would like to here back from you- what non scots have made serious impact to out team iin the last 15 years? I just cant think of any.
        I agree with one part of your article though- Scotland have fielded their fair share of mediocre non-scots over the years but at least they were our rubbish and not anyone elses.

      2. Nathan Hines, Ian McGeechan, Blair Cowan, Tommy Seymour, Tim Visser, Tim Swinson, Jim Hamilton, Budge Poutney, Glenn Metcalf, John Leslie, Gavin Kerr, David Denton, Henry Pyrgos, Sean Maitland, Tom Evans, Max Evans… That’s just for starters

      3. Tim Visser:
        7 tries in 15 tests (Scotland)
        65 tries in 118 games (Edinburgh)

        Not much in it really.

      4. The players that you have listed are/were mostly OK but thats all I could say about them. Very few, if any, really set the world on fire in my opinion. So here is a follow up question. Do you think any of these players would have made it to the teams of ZN or SA?- I think not and that is why i dont rate them that highly.

      5. A further couple of points about some of the players you do not rate.

        John Leslie was a key member of the most effective Scottish attack in history. In 1999, Scotland scored 16 tries. In 1990, Scotland scored 6 and in 1984, Scotland scored 9. The Leslie-Tait centre partnership is probably the best Scottish midfield in our history and yet you think Leslie was merely “ok”.

        You have dismissed Nathan Hines on this thread and on previous threads. This is a British Lion who has played for two of the biggest clubs in Europe, including winning the Heineken Cup with Leinster and being recruited to Clermont Auvergne by your great white hope, Vern Cotter. It seems the best coaches in the NH rate Hines yet you think he is average.

        You have also ridiculed Dan Parks as ‘rubbish’. Now, Dan Parks may have been very limited and played in his fair share of howlers but he was easily the best Scottish fly-half of the era and remains a legend at Glasgow Warriors. He was chosen as Glasgow’s player of the season in 2006-7 and 2009-10, he was included in the Magners League ‘dream team’ in 2009-10, he remains the highest all-time scorer in the Magners/Rabo/Guinness pro-12, he was voted by his peers as Scotland’s player of the world cup in 2007, he won 3 consecutive man of the match awards out of four games in the 2010 6N and scored all 21 points in Scotland’s 21-17 victory over SA in 2010.

        He was chosen as Scotland’s FH by 3 consecutive coaches. He was the best FH in Scotland. Who do you think was better? Gordon Ross?

        The fact is he had a poor Scotland backline outside him, maybe if he had BOD and Gordon Darcy he would have looked more like Ronan O’Gara. But he didn’t and he never deserved the opprobrium some ‘fans’ gave him.

  10. What would the reaction be to a Scottish born and bred player having been named in this squad who had played 5 tests for Scotland under 20s but not been capped by one of the pro teams yet?

    1. I rest my case then. Give the bloke a go for god’s sake I mean he uproots form NZ comes to Scotland on spec and the national coach rates him for the future and takes the opportunity to expose him to the National squad. Pretty damn normal in my view

      1. “comes to Scotland on spec” he came to Scotland at the invitation of the SRU with a contract already agreed so not quite sure how that is on spec?

    2. Angus- that would not be a problem if he is Scottish he can play for any club in the world and still turn out for our national team. The fact is that if he is Scottish he should know all about our history/culture, the importance of the game of rugby and what it means to pull on the blue shirt. That is what being Scottish is all about. I look in the mirror each morning and thank the Lord that I am Scottish. I wonder if someone who only spend 3 years in the country can do the same thing.

      1. ‘History and Culture’? What exactly do you mean by that? I’ve not lived in Scotland for 27 years apart from visiting regualry to see family. I got married in a kilt, like whisky and my dad plays the bagpipes. Thats as much of the culture as i’ve been exposed to. And as for Scottish history..well I wasnt schooled in Scotland but if I went on to the street of Glasgow and Edinburgh now and question 15 year olds on the highland clearances and The Scottish Enlightenment period would they be able to give me a detailed answer of what these entailed?

      2. Mike- this is now a bigger issue relating to education and the foley of youth. However, ask any 15 year old boy if he aspires to playing rugby or football for our national squad and what answer do you think you wouold get? Would the same individual want to play for France or Wales- probably not and why?- Because they are Scottish. Being Scottish is not just about knowledge or our history but it goes much deeper. Kids of 16 years old know how important our rugby and football teams are to us and they aspitre to play for them one day. I just feel thaat outsiders do not ca\rry the same level of passion because they dont know our history, dont know our culture and have no idea how important rugby is to our nation psyche.

        Take my situation- I was brought up in the glory days of the 80’s and 90’s when our teams really did put up a challenge and sometimes won the then 5 nations. I was really proud of them but have felt massive dissapointment from 2000-2014. Thats where my passion comes from. An outsider cannot possibly experience these emotions or understand their importance.

  11. Well, if Billy is right, then the reaction would be more or less the same as the cad & bounder would also be jumping Roddy Grant and John Barclay.

    Incidentally, Cameron Black’s article about this is really good – very reasonable and balanced unlike some of the comment there has been, some of which has been unfairly directed at Blake himself. He didn’t select himself any more than the Reverend Murray does.

    1. No it would not be the same because John Hardie has played over 40 times for the Highlanders. I hope Hugh Blake turns out to be a great player but if he was already a great player he would have played for the Highlanders or Edinburgh by now.

      1. Ah, there may be a bit of confusion here – I wasn’t referring to Hardie. I had replied to Angus above about reaction to a Scottish player. My answer was originally immediately after his and has shunted down since.

  12. I’ve been waiting for this thread for ages so thanks for puting this thread out as it was needed. I’ve posted many messages about the Scottishness issue so I dont want to go over old ground (FF, Mike and Angus in particualr will probably hate me for it, though FF did invite me into this discussion) so I will try to summarise my thoughts in as a polite way as possibe, which are as follows:

    1. I think the people who are selected to play for our national squad need to be aware of our game, history and culture. 3 years is not enough residency time to achieve that.

    2. I think the grandparent criteria shouold be dropped- the fact that children could spend all their life in Australia and then manage to play for Scotland having never actually been there is crazy.

    3. Having Scottish parents should allow the person to play for Scotland as, presumably, the parents will have taught the kid about Scotland and our unique culture. However, I would still insist on the person spending at least 6 years in the country before they can turn out for our team as they still need to experience the histore, rugby culture etc at first hand. They need to know how much it means to pull on the dark blue jersy and how much it means to the fans. I wouold suggest that some of the imports have not been aware of this over the last 15 years.

    4. It is mentioned in the article that Dan Parks and Bernard Laney recieved a hard time from fans but I think that had more to do with the fact that they were rubbish players than anything else- nationallity was less important though I do think we could have selected far beter players from within our own ranks at the time. Hugo Southwell is Scottish but I hated his selection just as much as the Park’s and Lanaye’s as all three were ‘average’ at best and should not have been selected to represent our national team.

    4. It is true that this is probably more of an issue in Scotalnd than in other countries but it is more down to the fact that, with a few exceptions such as sean Lineen, our imports have been quite poor and really didnt deserve to be picked for the team when there were better players who were Scots born. By contrast, the other teams mentioned such as England, NZ and OZ field the odd foreign player from time to time but these are exceptional players- far better than the cast off that we have.

    5. Make no mistake, the players that come to Scotland and turn out for our national team only do so because they are not good enough to play for their host country. The point I made in previous messages is that we cannot hope to beat OZ, NZ or SA is we take their cast offs. The exception is Tim Visser, who came from Holland to plae for a far better team than in his homeland. I dont blame these players for wanting to turn out for Scotland but I dont think it is morally right.

    6. I dont blame Cotter for picking these guys- he has an important job to do and must pick the best players he has available to him. However, it cant be morally right to pick someone who has only spent 3 years in Scotland, does not even know our national anthem and has no affinities with the place. I have been living in Saudi Arabia for the last 3 years but wouold not expect to represent this country at any sport and consider myself to be Scottish through and through.

    Before anyone accusues me of being Xenophobic I am not but I do think the Scottish team should be Scottish, the Welsh team welsh and the English team English etc. I expect people to moan about me repeating the same message again but this time it is 100% related to the thread so I make no appologies for this. No doubt some readers may disagree and I dont have a problem with that either but I have very strong view about who should/should not play for our national team.

    1. We’ll let you off for this article Neill : ) Laney scored over 140 points for Scotland in 20 games, that’s a decent return if you ask me. The interview with Blake was interesting, he’s adamant we wanted to play for Scotland, was brought up on Scottish rugby, still has family in Scotland, only played at under 20 for NZ for development and put him on the map for Scottish selection and that’s why he’s come over at 22. Could be lip service but who are we to judge a person on how Scottish they feel. Plus people might say he’s not been good enough for the highlanders but Cotter states that’s there’s nobody in sScotland with Blakes skill set. In cotter we trust.

    2. Appreciate your strong views Neil but they are pretty discrimanatory. There’s plenty of Scottish folk who know nothing about Scottish history or culture and plenty of people with Scottish heritage who know a hell of a lot more (been schooled by plenty of Americans in my time).
      The view you and many others are pushing forward is that the SRU should only be selecting pure Scots and that’s quite a dangerous argument. How far do you go? Do we just pick people with red hair?
      I think it’s quite narrow minded to suppose that someone can’t support two national teams based on their family heritage. There’s not reason to suppose that Blake isn’t as passionate about Scotland as he is about the ABs. We are all children of the world Neil and cultural identity has less and less to do with where you were born. In some ways Hugh Blake is more Scottish than say Tom Heathcote.
      As a last point you also expose the hypocracy of your own argument by saying your OK with Tim Visser turning out because Holland aren’t good at rugby. I can’t allow you that point Neil. Please be consistent with your arguments. If you’re going to get upset with Hugh Blake being called up at least have the decency to hate Tim Visser too.

      1. Cameron- i apreciate your reply. In fact the Scots are derived from several different nations- Iris, viking, Anles, Saxons and I’m sure that theer are others. So what is a true Scot. However, the key thing for me is someone who a) knows about our history and culture, b) wouold prefer to live in Scotland than anywhere else (even though they may have had to leave to find work etc), c) takes realy pride in wearing the Scottish Jersy and wouold never swap alegiences d) looks in the mirror each morning and reminds themselves of how luccky and propud they are to be Scottish, and e) would almost rather die than let the suporters down who have forked out alot of money to watch you play rugby.

        Of course someone whio was born in Scotland and grew up therre is going to have been brought up wiht our culture and is much more likely to fit the abaove criteria. Having Scottish parents will also giove the person a sence of indentity/awareness but I would say that person should still live in Scotland for at least 6 years before they can be call to the national team. Having Scottish grandparents does not really work for me as they are less likely (though not always) to have the same level of contact with the kids and pass on their knowledge of our great country. Likewise, I think it is somewhat pathetic that someone can spend 3 years in Scotland before repretsenting us at international level.

  13. Mike,

    I dont know exactly how many points Laney scored, against exactly what opposition and over what time period but whenever I watched him play he made loads of errors. One that particualrly spings to mind was towards the end of a game against Italy when his kick to clear was charged down and the Italians scored. He basically cost us the game, as he did in other matches. Lets face it, he was hardly a Dan Carter.

    Blakes- I dont know much about him but would take him to task over this Scottishness thing. The key question would be this one- if he had a free choice to play for the All Blacks or Scotland which would he chose and why? That would be the killer question and I suspect he would always favor the All Blacks. That being the case, he cannot call himself Scottish and should not be selected for our team.
    Personally, I would always chose to play for Scotland over the All Blacks despite the gulf in talent between the teams. Andy why would I make this choice? Because I am Scottish. I wonder if Blake feels so passionately?

      1. Finn Russell is infinately better than Laney ever was. I cant believe anyone would actually place them in the same ball park. Sure he has been chased down a couple of times but his ‘overall’ performances at club and international level have been excellent. For me, he is a exciting young player to watch and I hope that he has a glittering career ahead of him.

  14. I really feel the whole nationality debate needs to be examained by World Rugby. Its all very well debating the issue in Scotland but it really needs to be resolved on an international scale. The fact is that Scotland lose out. We cannot tempt the best internationl players to our club or national teams but other nations such as England and France can do this as as they carry much more financial ‘clout’ than we do. SA, NZ and OZ are always going to attract the best players from Fiji, Samoa, Tonga as SA, OZ and NZ are seen as the best teams in the world that players want to be a part of. In Scotland we lack the rugby playing reputation and the financial resources at both club and international level to attract the best. If you step back and see the bigger long term future is does not look good in that regard as we will always be fielding cast offs such as Laney and Parks when other teams can field the likes of Dan Carter. The result = big losses of 40 points or more to the top 5 sides in the World.

    The solution- develop our own talent but I think I will rest my case at that.

    1. At least we can agree on something – apart from the comments about parks and laney.. But frankly, the Scottishness tests that you want to see in place – culture, heritage etc – are nonsense. You can’t define someone else’s scottishness for them. You can’t claim knowledge of heritage as a defining factor in what someone else feels or believes.

  15. Had Blake been selected in a position where we are “weak” so to speak, the masses might have been less incensed.

  16. Blake played NZ under 20’s. Be hard to find a Scottish player at the moment that would have been up to that.

    Relax a little and let him play. Ive watched Scotland for over 20 years now. We are not in a place to be picky.

    Get over it and get on with it.

    Scotland should be more upset about Jim Hamilton still being in the team.

    1. To be honest I’m pretty pissed off about both. Haliton should not be in the squad because he is rubbish. Blake should not be in the squad because he is not Scottish.

      I have the perfect solution- send Hamilton to the New Zealand All Blacks. We can keep Blake as long as he can put on a Scottish accent and paint his face blue!

  17. I dont wish any ill fate on Blake. I’m sure he is a nice guy who is only trying to do his best in what is a short career. However, if he cant even get a game for his club side in New Zealand and has not played a copmpetitive game in months, this is a bit of a gamble. Even Dan carter showed signs of rustiness after he was out injured for much of 2014. I fear that, if if is fielded in the 6 nations, he could be fairly mediocre to begin with and than may damage the rest of his career.

    For moral reasons, I dont think he should be put in our national squad at all but, if we must, then at least give the guy some tiome to aclimatise. play rugby for his club etc.

  18. I would love to know what readers think based on one of my earlier messages- do you think the way nationality is decided in World rugby benefits England, France, NZ, OZ, Sa and, to a lesser extent Wales, over Scotland, given that these nations can attract a higher quality non national player?

    If this is accepted, do you also accept that currelt legislation could actually spell disaster for our national team in the long term?

    1. The current eligibility criteria benefits two groups of countries:

      1. Those with a large number of wealthy professional clubs (Eng/Fra) because they can chose from a large number of players who qualify on residency.

      2. Countries with large diasporas in countries with competitive rugby environments (Sco/Samoa to a lesser extent Ireland and Wales etc.)

      The countries it most disadvantages are those with competitive rugby environments but weaker economies (basically, SA, Fiji, Tonga etc.) because their players are lured away to richer countries with established professional leagues.

      Some countries are on both sides of the ledger. Samoa/Fiji/Tonga have huge diasporas who live in NZ, the most competitive rugby environment on the planet. Samoa’s squad in the 2011 world cup was nearly 50% NZ-born players of Samoan heritage. On the other hand, many of their best players leave to make money in Europe and end up playing for NH sides like France and England.

      Ireland are an interesting case. They have a large diaspora and have recruited players form the SH but these have mainly not made a huge impression. However, they also have a project player programme to target SA players such as CJ Stander, who captained the Baby Boks before being signed as a 20 year old by Munster in order to qualify for Ireland.

      SA are the big losers of the current criteria. They have probably the second most competitive rugby environment in the world but they can only include about 40 guys in the Springbok squad each year. Anyone who doesn’t make the squad knows they can leave for a NH club and make a lot of money and also maybe play test rugby. SA could fill three or four squads of test players in some positions like back row. Their economy is weak so their super rugby clubs cannot afford to retain their top talent. This is hugely damaging to their domestic scene and consequently SA have made their u-20 team their offical A-side to try to tie more young players to SA for their whole career.

      Scotland benefits from the current criteria. The professional infrastructure in Scotland is weak and there is relatively little money in the game below test level here. This means our national side can only choose from approximately 100 professional players and many of those are not playing at the top level or are simply reserves for our two pro-teams. This is why we end of giving debuts to guys like Ashe and Brown before they have played pro-rugby – because we ran out of players on tours. However, because of the heritage qualification, we suddenly have access to players that were developed in competitive professional environments (NZ, Aus but most importantly England) but we did not have to pay to develop them. This is a huge boon to Scottish rugby.

  19. Read an article somewhere that intimated that John Hardie (might have been the Herald) is likely to be included in the World Cup squad.

  20. I personally don’t think the culture/history argument holds much sway. You can know/feel little about a nation but be a phenomenal sportsman at the top of your game. Take men who have grown up as nomads living in multiple countries through childhood to parents of differing nationalities with little care for any nation. Would you say that this mans or his parents birthplace marks them worthy of a national cap? In my humble opinion, nationality is something derived within, whether that be through upbringing within family or geography, or a love for a country that has taken you in and a place you now call home. To play for a nation, Scotland or whomever, does portray a sense of pride but that should not be so limited as some supporters would have. It is a small minded argument, I know too many people that have moved from one country to another and adopted it as their own, 3yrs or 30yrs a length of time can’t prove devotion.
    As for Blake, in terms of lack of experience or proving himself, Adam Ashe had a similar background in the Summer and from his further showings in the Autumn I would hazard to say Cotter’s decision to blood him early was vindicated.
    Think what you like about the eligibility rules, but lay off Blake in that argument, he is merely a footnote on a larger debate.
    The debate of Blake ahead of Barclay/Grant holds sway and I feel for the two of them who have put in the hards yards and proven themselves. However I am not a rugby coach, avid supporter, yes, but seeing players for 80mins a week (less with squad rotation) does not provide enough evidence that our opinions on squad selection should be taken above professional coaches and scouts.
    Give the lad, Cotter and the SRU a chance. Yes 15 years of doldrums is painful, but naysaying breeds naysayers. How do you expect to encourage supporters to turn up when the atmosphere is eternally negative (if you hadn’t guessed I am one of those unapologetic optimists who always believe Scotland has a chance).
    Neil, I have noted that one of your points also alludes to the high prices supporters pay to see Scotland play, I would like to point out that prices on all levels of tickets at Murrayfield are substantially cheaper and more accessible than those found at the other grounds (not sure about Italy).

    I understand this debate is strongly felt by some, but please don’t let it tarnish the first cap of young lads when they are called up, likely the proudest day of their and their families lives. Something to be cheered and performances to be relished at the exciting prospects these young lads could potentially become.

    I say, well done Blake, now show us what you can do.
    Strauss, Visser, Maitland et al I welcome you, thank you for your support and welcome all those who feel playing for Scotland rather than any other country would be the pinnacle of their career.

  21. Michael,

    I think we just have to agree to disagree on this one. The criteria for nationality is controversial but I really dont think 3 years is a long enough time to have any affinity with a particular country. I spent 8 years living in England and 10 in Wales but still consider myself to bve Scottish.

    Regarding Blake, yes we should give him a break and he should not be shunned for wanting to better himself. however, i think is is morally wrong for him to be selected in the first instance.

    Regarding the high prices, I know that they are lowere than at most other grounds but if I am to pay money to watch a game then I expect the players to at least give it 100%. they are professionals after all.

    Of course, we all support our boys even if they are non-scots but it still should not retract from the fact that there should be a greater emphasis on fielding true Scots in the future.

  22. Neil,
    I think if you said to any club or national rugby player that you were unimpressed that they hadn’t given 100% you would be in trouble… Its pretty unfair to say they haven’t put in the effort. Its plain to see over the past 10 years that we were simply not good enough to compete with the other teams. Whether that is our shortcomings or the superior ability abroad, its unfair to think the guys have genet on the field and not even tried their hardest (even if that wasn’t good enough to win).
    I have been just as frustrated as the rest of the crowd when our team puts in an abject performance, but its hard to justify the sweeping statement that scottish players haven’t put in 100% for the past decade.

  23. Interesting that the Scottish team seemed to become poor in the early 2000’s- about the time we changed our policy to include lots of non Scottish born players. Of course that wast the sole reason for us becoming rubbish but it certainly played a part. I just wonder how many of our players could have looked themselves in the mirror and be proud of their performances. The fact is that many, though by no means all, of our players did not give the team 100% during these games. By the way did tyou watch th games against SA and Wales last year- we were rubbish in both and our players certainly did not give it their best shot. We lost games in the 80’s and 90’s but, in general, these were close games and I didn’t mind so much as I felt that our boys had at least tried. Even when we got the woodem spoon in 1985 we lost most of these games by only around 5 points and I don’t recall any team putting 40 or 50 points past us in the 5 nations.

    You can blame lots of things for our poor performance- lack of players to chose from, poor coaching etc but lack of an effort put in by second raters from the SH certainly played a part. Can you really think of more than two or three SH players who have turned out for Scotland and have been any good?

    The fact is that we always attract the second rates. We get Dan Parks instead of Dan Carter, while the creame of the crop either play for their respective countries of head to England, France or Wales. The selection policy will be a disaster for Scottih rugby in the long term for two reasons:

    1. We only seem to attract second rate players
    2. This will be seen as a quick fix instead of developing our own home born talent- a much less expensive and more fulfilling option.
    3. Like it or not, these players generally don’t give 100% for their new adopted nation.

    Nobody has answered this question- is Blake was given a free choice of playing for Scotland of NZ what do you think he would do? I wonder if he would feel so Scottish then.

    1. Not sure about Scotland changing their policy in the early 2000’s , have the SRU not always adhered to the IRB regs the same as other nations?
      The last Scotland team to win the 5/6 nations contained the Leslie brothers and Glenn Metcalfe , all very good players and they arrived in 97/98.
      Also not sure Englands record is any better in relation to quality of import. They have capped the likes of Shontayne Hape , Thomas Waldron and Mouritz Botha in recent years.

  24. Billy,

    There was no official change in policy but it seemed to mark a time when we started to field more non-Scots. I agree that England are also guilty of this but they nearly always attract better quality imports- they have more money and, lets face it, the attractions of playing in Scotland are not great. So they get Dan Carter playing for one of their clubs, we get Dan Parks. We would be better off with Desperate Dan from the Dandy. We just cant attract the best imports so why not try to develop our own talent instead.
    I remember the Leslie brothers- they were meant to be the best thing in sliced cheese when they arrived in our country but failed to live up to this reputation. Metcalf was a bit better but hardly exceptional and distinctly average by 6 nation standards. By contrast the imports that have turned out for England and Wales have been the crème of the crop- another reason why we have fallen below these teams in the rankings.

    1. Your comment regarding the Leslies are ludicrous.

      I have been watching Rugby since I was 15 so that is over 33 years, John Leslie was part of the best back line I ever seen play in the Scottish Dark Blue.
      Martin Leslie was one of the most popular and respected in the Scottish squads in which he played.

      Read Talk of the Toon by Townsend to get his view on how good John Leslie was.

      Your continued put down of players who you deem not Scottish enough and therefore not good enough only highlights 1) Your very poor understanding of rugby or 2) Blinkered and biased thought process.

      1. Well I remember watching the Leslie brothers. They were OK but, for me, they did not really set the world on fire in a way that I was expecting them to. The players that have done that include the Hastings brothers, Tony Stanger, Finlay Calder, Jogn Calder, John Jeffries, Gary Armstrong, Damian Cronin and a few others. The Lesley brothers were OK, showed flashes of brilliance from time to time but, compared with players from the SH, England and France at that time there were not as good. Leaving the nationality issue asside, do you really think the Leslie brothers would have been good enough to be selected for England, France, OZ or SA at the time, let alone New Zealand- I think not and that is why I place them in the ‘average’ category. The players i have mentioned in my hall of fame could have played for any team and made a big impact. What do you think?

      2. Is that the same Damian Cronin that was born in Germany, educated in Bath and spent his entire professional career outside of Scotland?

  25. I have a vision for the future- one in which we only field Scottish players in the Scotland Rugby Team. we could then send the players who haven’t quite made it to New Zealand and England. You may think I’m crazy by why not think big.

  26. Neil, All sides, including the southern hemisphere sides trawl everywhere for players to improve their national teams. NZ and Australia have been poaching South Sea Island boys for decades.
    (Michael Jones- one of the best open sides ever should have played for Samoa) England have their saffers going back to Mike Catt.
    Recently Rokoduguni who’s a winger for Bath decided he would play for England. Because he’ds a serving soldier in the Scots Guards, he could equally have chosen to play for Scotland. ( No, I’ve no idea how that works)
    The point is, the only country who don’t pick up ‘extra’ talent appears to be South Africa.
    Your indentity testing is much too narrow for me, or for the 21st century.
    You are what you want to be in many cases.

    If you are only complaining because the players chosen are not as good as the Tuigamala’s of the world, then the targeting opf project players needs a boost.

    1. Pragmatic optimist- what can I say- we live in the world of rugby where we need to compete but I think it is very sad that international rugby is going down the road of club rugby. If it continues then is there any real point in holding international. The match programs will read as follows in the future:

      Scotland, New Zealand, Australia and Holland vs. England, USA, Samoa, New Zealand and Australia

      Cant you see how ridiculous it is becoming. The All Blacks do field the odd foreigner but they don’t rely on these players who are very much in the minority. You cant really compare their situation with ours. The two best teams in the world are NZ ad SA. Both rely almost exclusively on home grown talent. They have been the best 2 teams in the world for the last 10 years or more. Tells you something doesn’t it.

      I see a very bleak future for Scottish rugby. The best players will always gravitate to the best clubs leaving us with the drivel. Because we don’t place enough emphasis on developing our own talent we will be forced to accept the second raters from the SH. Expect 51:3 scorelines against us on a regular basis in 6 nation and WC matches against the better teams. I wish you could see the bigger long term future- its not nice but that will be the reality without a doubt unless the rules are changed.

    2. SA have fielded foreign imports,just less so due to their geographic location. Mwatwarira (Beast) is he not born and bred Zimbabwe?

  27. Neil, I’ve got good news for you. Your vision is already being delivered. We currently only select Scottish players for the Scotland Rugby team.

    You can’t decide for other people wherher they are Scottish or not.

    1. I think you already know my thoughts on the criteria for being Scottish. I cant change the rule but I do have an opinion on it. 3 years in Scotland and youre Scottish- you cant be serious.

    2. Stevomc – you have hit the nail on the head with this comment:
      “You can’t decide for other people whether they are Scottish or not.”

      1. True but it should not stop you having an opinion on it. That’s what this blog is all about- opinions

      2. Fine – my opinion is you are not really Scottish Neil. No true Scot would opt to work outside of Scotland, particularly in Saudi Arabia where a truly born and bred Scottish complexion would be too easily burned. Being Scottish is really about staying in the country and working to build it up and sheltering under our cloudy sky from the sun’s harmful rays.

        In my opinion you are pseudo-Scottish, you are an expat and have lost the right to call yourself Scottish. You only hark back to Scotland of 25 years ago because you have no idea what Scotland is like anymore. My opinion is you are not a Scottish person, not like Tim Visser.

      3. FF- I recon I must be more Scottish than you. I haven’t lived there for a while but all the best scots end up going abroad at some time (e.g. Adam Smith, Andrew Carnegie) Pseudo scot- I’ll give you pseudo! Tim Visser has only spent a few years in our country so how can you call him Scottish. If you ever met me you would realise that I am probably the most Scottish person you had ever met.

      4. FF- you seemed to enjoy the period 2000-2014 and hold admiration for the players in that period. We basically fielded a bunch of Jessies who got thrashed in almost every game. Are you a Jessie or do you simply like watching a bunch of them play?

        By the way, I own a kilt and wore it at a Burns Night Supper last weekend so I must be a true Scot.

      5. Come on Neil, that is borderline homophobic, not cool man. However, it does look like you’ve absorbed more Saudi Arabian culture than you like to admit.

      6. FF- sorry matey. I was only kidding of course but couldnt resist the wined up after your dig about me being a pseudo Scot. If you canr laugh then what have you got. You have to remember that we don’t have a circus or even a cinema where I live. I don’t have many people I can talk to about rugby so that’s why I spend so much time on this blog. The one thing I really miss is watching a game of rugby and then discussing the game in the bar afterwards. I guess that will just have to wait for a few years. The nearest I get at the moment is playing touch rugby on Monday evenings. I guess you have the advantage of being able to watch the pantomime that is Scottish rugby.

      7. Oh dear, this exchange is getting a little silly. The one claiming he is more Scottish than the other! One thing I do know, speaking from personal experience of being a 10-year expat, is that living with other (especially British) expats you end up being even more Scottish – at times, some people become pantomime (since you mention the word further below, Neil) Scots and enter a realm of unreality and do ‘Scottish’ things they probably never did when they lived here! Furthermore, they have a slightly warped sense of identity. Hello Neil.

        Btw, re your comment about not knowing Saudi culture after three years of being there, I’m sure you realise that, living in a high security expat compound in KSA, you will never understand Saudi culture.

      8. sure some scots become more Scottish when they have lived abrad for a while but I woul liked to think that is not me. I left Scotland at age 27 (I am now 44) and have lived in England, Wales and now Saudi Arabia. In all that time I have maintained my Scottish identity but I generally don’t make a big thing of it. I do go out of the secure compound on a frequent basis but I doubt if I would ever consider myself Saudi Arabia even if I lived here for 30 years. You just have to feel a draw and affinity to a place and that cannot be achieved in 3 years. In reality, it probably could not be achieved in 6 but after living in Scotland for 6 years one would hope that an understanding of our history, culture, identity and importance of rugby would be achieved.

      9. Why can’t it be achieved in 3 years? What tests must you achieve? Is there a culture/identity/history test or checklist? Are you telepathic? Are you a mind reader? Do you inherently know or understand what people think or feel? Are you basing all of this on your experiences? I have an English friend who went to Aberdeen University for 3 years. Came back with a Scottish accent…he was mortified!

      10. Mike, Its based on my experience and the experience of many people I know. I know lots of people who have moved to different countries and it normally takes them at least 6 years to feel part of their new culture and to have any affinity with the place they are living in. And yes I think a Scottishness test after that period would be no bad thing either. Sure some people assimilate quicker than others but I don’t know of anyone that can do it in 3 years.

  28. Ultimately..its a game. We all love rugby but that’s what it is, a sport to provide entertainment and exercise, where as Neil thinks its the founding basis for some kind of Scottish Crusade. Believe what you want Neil, nothing is going to change your opinion it seems and that’s your perogative. But your opinions are extremely blinkered and out of date. You look too much to the past, little in the present and nothing to the future. You want to live in a hollywood version of Brigadoon but you’ll just end up disappointed im afraid. I feel you’ll get very little joy out of watching Scotland with your attitudes, which is a shame as you come across as a fan, who in his own way wants the best for Scotland no matter how flawed.

    1. Mike- I do indeed want the best for Scotland and our rugby team. I think we have a useful team that has tuened a corner but I just worry about our long term future. Things are good mainly because of the efforts of Vern Cotter but he wont be around forever.

      In an interview, Wyne Gretsky, the famous ice hocley player once said “I never skate to the puck but to where the puck will be.” My point is that we need to think of the future. Vern will not be arrouf forever and probably only to the next WC. Fielding lots of foreigners will only result in failure in the long term unless the rules on nationality change and/or we can somehow develop our own talent. I don’t think developing our own talent is such an out of date philosophy.
      I will close by asking you this question- would you feel more proud of a team that was Scottish or one with the lable of Scottish but actually comprising about 3 Scots and 12 jolly foreigners?

  29. Just a thought- if a foreign national wants UK citizenship and a UK passport this is not a straightforward process from what I understand. It takes a lot of years and there are very strict criteria based on understanding of the English language, educational qualifications, work experience, time spent in country etc. From my understanding it is a points system, as it is in other countries. There are very good reasons for this such as we need people we do not have in abundance such as heart surgeons etc. We don’t have the resources to accept any Tom, Dick or Harry. Simply staying in the UK for 3 years does not qualify you for a UK passport automatically. Why does this ruling not hold true in rugby- after all it is a job like any other. I would be interested to hear what readers think of this.

    1. If you were resident in scotland and from anywhere in the UK or Commonwealth you could vote in the recent referendum on independence – eeek I just mentioned it, and I didn’t want to! All you needed was enough time in the country to get registered to vote, about a month.

      So you could vote for the future of a country, but not play for its national sports teams. Which is more important? I think the idea of nationality is rapidly changing and will change further, and so will the idea of countries sports teams and what they mean. In the professional era players have a career, it’s a job and they play for money. Hopefully they play entertaining and exciting rugby and at the same time don’t get seriously injured. When they play for Scotland, the passions rise, we shout and bawl and think of the hills / whisky / tony stanger / what it means to be the perennial underdog / insert your own theme here…… And we hope the players feel that same passion too.

      But they are only representing Scotland. You can still feel all those things, and they can represent them, but they don’t need to be them in my opinion. Would I like it if they all came through the local system – absolutely. Does it matter – no. Does it help if they have a strong connection to Scotland – definitely, otherwise what is the point of international rugby. That’s where the three year rule helps – three years in what will be at best a 15 year career is a significant commitment. But whoever they are, they put their necks on the line to represent Scotland, and if you do that, it’s good enough for me – because international rugby these days is a tough, physical game, and these guys are risking their health for the purposes of entertainment!

      1. Being a born and bred Scot and having spent 27 years in the country did not entitle me to vote in the referendum but someone spending 6 months in the country could- sounds just as crazy as someone spending 3 years in our country and then representing our national team.
        You mention that the players have to have a strong connection to Scotland otherwise what is the point of international rugby. That is my point precisely. How can someone spend 3 years in a coubntry and then claim to have a strong connection to it and stronger than ther connection to their homeland?
        How can a player such as Blake play for our country when he has grandparents who happen to be Scottish but has only spent a few months in Scotland and not even played for one of our club sides? Does he have a stronger connection to scotland or to New Zealand? For me the individuals should have a much stronger connection to Scotland than to any other country. The only way to ensure this is to have very strict criteria on nationality.

        What no reader has really responded to me about is whether they feel the national teams would be worse of in the long term if we fill our squad with imports.

      2. One criticism you have made Neil of Scottish-born rugby players is that some move away, abandoning their original Scottish clubs. The reason they do this is because they can normally earn more and play in a stronger tournament in England or France. Now, I don’t want this to sound like a personal attack on you, however, I remember you saying in a previous post that you left the Scottish oil industry because you could command a higher wage in a foreign country. Does this not seem a bit hypocritical? Just like some of the foreign-born players that come to live and play for Scotland, they are doing what they personally believe is best for them and their family. Therefore, if they are better than the pure Scottish alternative in a position, then I welcome them with open arms to improve our team! Josh Strauss is someone who probably could have played for South Africa (one of the best in super rugby before he left) yet he decided to choose Scotland. Some, like you, will not be too happy about it, however, when he comes onto the pitch for Scotland, he will be welcomed by (almost) all. Compared to other countries, we do not have an issue with having too many foreign-born players, so right now it is not worth complaining about it. I personally don’t think that the SRU will go overboard in their “project player” plan, after all, it was only short term to help bring some stability to the Scottish game.

  30. Mike- you have one point I totally agree with- it is only a game and there are more important things but it always keeps my spirits up when I see our team win.

  31. Thought for the day- I guess we are just stuck with the present situation. In order to compete we have to use the rules to our advantage and field individauls who are not Scottish and have little connection to the place. The coach has the responsibility to field the best players he has available to him and, because we are thin on talent, that often means a second or third rater from the SH. As you will know by now, I dont agree with any of this but, until the rules are changed there is nothing that we can do about it. I live in hope that international rugby does not become club rugby, with the better players descending going to national teams based on financial considerations or simply for the glory (England counld become like Man City, Scotland more like Glasgow Rangers) but, unless the rules change, that is going to happen without a doubt. Lets just hope that the rules change in the future and that the Scottish team remains Scottish. there are alot of good brains in World Rugby and lets hope that they will see the error of their ways.

    In the meantime I will still be supporting our boys in blue and wish them all the best for the upcoming 6 nations that the world cup.

    1. Neil – perhaps that means we should drop Rob Harley? And keep John Barclay out of the squad? They don’t seem to pass your criteria for being Scottish!

  32. Anyway, on matters actually related to the upcoming 6N, it looks like Uini Atonio (NZ born of Samoan heritage) is likely to make his French debut at prop against us in Paris.

    He is 23 stone.

    I think it is clear what approach PSA will be asking him team to follow.

    1. Wow!! He must turn like the titanic though. Hopefully we can move him around the pitch and he’ll be breathing out his a**e after 15 mins!

    2. Having said that he’s clearly a southern hemisphere second-rater cast off who probably wont try cause he’s not French…nothing to worry about.

      1. He plays for La Rochelle who aren’t exactly one of the bug French glamour clubs so really have no idea about his reputation except for being a massive lump. I agree, if we play a fast game and avoid getting sucked in to set piece slogs he’ll be out on his feet soon enough. If not…he could hold up our whole front row by himself.

        If Steffon Armitage had followed through on trying to defect to France using the 7s route, and with Basteraud in the centres, France could have had easily the most obese professional sports team to have taken the pitch, possibly ever.

  33. Its always useful to have a big guy in your side when it comes to loose rucks and scrums and that is probably the main reason why the Scotland squad did not do so well against England, even when we did have useful squads in the late 80’s and early 90s. However, you also need these big guys to be able to run and use their weight to their advantage. I often felt that the SH teams were miles ahead of us because they had big guys that could run. Home nation teams had big guys that couldn’t. We have our own giant- Jim Hamilton. But he cant run, is not aggressive enough and does not use his obvious weight and strength advantage to his potential. That is why he is now marginal to requirements and, in my opinion, should be overlooked. Trust me on this one- if this big guy was any good he would be playing for NZ and not France. So don’t worry unless you happen to pick a fight with him. If you do then I would suggest getting on the next flight to Outer Mongolia.

    1. Remember that he played for Samoa at U20 then, when just going to France to get game time at a club, soon developed as a player and although he could have bee good enough to play for Samoa 2 years or so ago, he decided to stick with playing for France.

      1. I’m sure he could have probably played for Samoa but I very much doubt he could have made it to New Zealand- they would have fielded him already if he was.

  34. Neil – Genuine question as I am interested to hear your view on this particular subject.

    Lets say hypothetically, you continue to be based in Saudi Arabia to the point where you have your own family, a son with a keen interest in rugby. You raise your son to be Scottish and tell him about the glory days in the homeland. He grows up to be a very talented and enthusiastic rugby player but due to his father’s work, continues to live in Saudi Arabia. He plays at the best level availible to him and makes the Saudi Arabia U20s team. Finally, when he is old enough at the age of 20, he decides that he wants to make it as a rugby player with a dream of representing Scotland and moves over to Edinburgh under a professional contract (as he is now old enough to go out on his own). Under your proposed ruling, your own son would then need to live and play in Scotland for 6 years before he is eligible for the national team as he is not Scottish enough (despite his own parents raising him to be so). Finally, at the age of 26, he is eligble for the Scotland. However, unfortunately for your son, Hamish McTavish is on the scene, a 22 year old born in Scotland but who moved to NZ at the age of 5 (He is one hell of a player). Your son struggles to break in to the team and retires from the sport age 29. Does your own 6 year residency rule seam a bit redundent in this scenario?

    My point being, every case is different and so we can not judge with a sweeping statement. I know that you are not attacking Hugh Blake personally, but his circumstances may be excatly as set out in my hypothetical scenario above. Can you blame him for wanting to play at the top level availible to him? Indeed, much like you have moved to Saudi Arabia so that you can work at the top level of your own chosen field?

  35. In answer to toyr question, I would still expect my sob to live in Scotland for 6 years before reporesenting our team at international level. I have a daughter who was born in Wales and lived there for 2 years before we moved to the Middle East. If she wanted to represent Scotland at any sport, I would expect her to live in the country for 6 years regardless. Sure I can tell her all about the country but she really has to experience it at first hand before he can truly call herself Scottish. 3 years is simply not long enough. I have lived in Saudi Arabia for almost 3 years and I have only received a very basic flavor of their culture, values etc. I certainly would not consider myself to be Saudi Arabian after such a short period. Every case is different but you cant have one rule for one, one for another. I genuinely wish Blake all the best but I don’t think it is morally right that he should be playing for us.

    1. Thanks Neil. My point being that your daughter may not feel Saudi Arabian either due to her parents proud heritage and may therefore by extension affiliate herself with Scotland.

      In my scenario, your rugby playing son is not able to move to Scotland until the age of 20 and is then disadvantaged to other players his age as he needs to integrate himself for 6 years before he is eligible despite never having any interest in playing for Saudi Arabia. By definition putting himself 6 years behind his peers in development.

      I recall stories about Sean Maitland getting up at 3am to watch Scotland games and his twitter bio described him as helf Scottish half Kiwi. Whether or not this is true, should players like this be disadvantaged because of where their parents choose to live?

    2. ” I have lived in Saudi Arabia for almost 3 years and I have only received a very basic flavor of their culture, values etc.”

      You live in a compound !!!!!

      1. True i live on a compound but still travel outside that compoubnd (its a compound not a prison) to go shopping, visit the beach etc. i also mingkle with Saudia in the work environment on a daily basis. But even after 3 years I only have a vary basic idea of what Saudi cluture is all about and would not consisder myself to be Saudi arabian. Similraly, how is it possible to live in Scotland for 3 years and become fully aware of our history, cluture etc in short a short timeframe. On another note, I spend my time living in England and wales from 1997-2012 but would never consider myself to be either Welsh or English.

  36. Pheonix,

    Thanks for the reply. I think we have to separate what is roight for an individual on a personal level with what is morally right for the game of rugby as a whole. I doubt that my daughter would ever feel Saudi Arabian but there is no ruling that would suit everyone. Sure some poor individuals would lose out but comparatively few. Most kids living in Saudi leave to go to high school or university abroad between the ages of 13 and 17. If they were so keen to play for Scotland then that would leave plenty time to do so. I admit the kid arriving at 20 years old would find it more difficult, though not necessarily impossible. The fact is that no ruling would suit everyone but you have to draw the line somewhere. What would your criteria be for selection?

  37. In many ways I agree with you (except for Dan Parks, big fan of Dan Parks). Not a big fan of the granny rule or the three year rule. However, I think parents are fair enough regardless of where you are. Many people move around these days (such as yourself) and their families are brought up feeling affiliated with their parents despite their present location.

    Maybe the way to sort it out is have each proffesional player declare their nation of choice when given a contract. This way, guys like Hugh Blake, who may always have wanted to play for Scotland, can do so but there is a limit to older guys who see Scotland as an easy route to an international cap?

    The difficulty is that other nations are doing it so openly and Scotland cannot afford to be proud in this area. I am looking forward to Josh Strauss being qualified as he is a great player and will benefit the team. However, I agree that my preferred position would be for there to be a family link of some sort. 5 years may be a better test for residency as it spans two world cups and therefore shows proper commitment.

  38. Neil, you need to clear the airways for others who want to talk in this forum about Scottish rugby. I’m fed up with you clogging this and other threads. Start your own forum.

    All I want say ( to others as well as you, Neil) is that I was lucky enough to be in Stade de France in April 1999 to watch a brilliant Scotland team dismantle France. I was then even luckier the next day to find myself in a pub in Putney, surrounded by Engerland fans, watching Wales hand us the honour of being the last ever 5N champions.

    I have been at every Scotland game in Paris since 1999, and have seen some good but losing performances and also some bad ones. I really feel that this time we have a squad that can do the French over on their home ground. Vive L’Ecosse!

    1. There is plenty of space on this forum for your opinions believe me. That fact is that the last decent performance in the 5/6 nations was in 1999- about 15 years ago. We have been really poor since that time. The Autumn internationals were good for us but that will mean nothing if we finish 5th or 6th in the 6 nations. Weve been there before- a good autumn internationals series followed by a crap showing in the 6 nations. That’s why I’m a bit sceptical. I feel that we have psychological issues to deal with in away fixtures to England and France. We can beat these teams bit rarely do away from home. Ireland and Wales could be close and I expect us to trounce Italy. My point is we could just as easily win the 6 nations as finish 5th. I think we are probably the 7th or 8th best team in the world but we are behind England and France, Oz, NZ and SA. If I had to bet my house on it I would say that we will finish 3rd in the 6 nations followed by a quarter final place in the WC. After that Cotter will leave and we will descend into mediocrity.

      1. Neil’s Scotland team pure raised and born in Scotland ken!

        1. Dickinson
        2. Ford
        3. Murray
        4. Gray
        5. Gray
        6. Ashe
        7. Fusaro
        8. Beattie
        9. Laidlaw
        10. Russell
        11. Brown
        12. Dunbar
        13. Bennett
        14. Fife
        15. Hogg

        16. MacArthur
        17. Welsh
        18. Cross
        19. Gilchrist
        20. Eddie
        21. Cusiter
        22. Weir
        23. Scott

        Last scottish qualified player by Neil’s standard please turn out the lights. And hope we don’t get any injuries.

      2. Dunc- I like this and thats what a ‘true’ Scottish team should look like. I just wish that was the case and that other teams would follow the same criteria for national selection because at the moment it is a joke.

  39. I know I am goign to go straight to hell for what I am about to say but Neil raised an interesting point earlier that got me thinking :(

    Can someone represent a country under the 3 year rule without ever being a citizen of that country?

    1. Angus,

      As far as i know, you dont have to be born in Scotland or even have Scottish parents or grandparents to play for Scotland. All you need to do is be a resident of Scoptland for 3 years and that qualifies you. Regardless of what you think of me and my comments, you must agree that this ruling is ridiculous and makes a mockery of the selection criteria for national teams.

      1. Here’s a question for you Neil. how many players have played for Scotland under the 3 year residency rule since 1995?

      2. FF- to be honest i really dont know but I fear for the future as I’m sure thais trend will increase. At the moment we dont have a great deal of top scots0born and bred players to chose from and we only have two pro teams. My point is that it is possible to find a second rate New Zealander who is nowhere near good enough to make it to the All Blacks but would still make an impact at pro-12 level. That player would then be eligible to play fopr Scotland regardless of any other criteria. so it is possible there will come a day when there is not a single Scots born player on our nation team and that day may come sooner that you would dare to think. Given that we have failed to adress what we do at grass routes, dont seem interested in setting up more pro teams and do not seem to question the national selection criteria, I feel that this is almost bound to happen.
        If you want an analogy- just look at Ice hockey where most of the GB players are from North America. The team goes nowhere because these are not the top North Americans in the game but are usually cast offs who can only reach college level. Neverthelss, they are still better than the local GB born players who find it difficult to break into the countries top teams. The result = GB are rubbish at ice hockey at both club and international level. Do you want the same thing to happen to Scottish rugby.

      3. It’s two Neil – David Hilton qualified according to residency after he’d already fallen foul of the Grannygate scandal and Tim Visser. Come the World Cup, presumably Josh Strauss will be added to that very short list.

  40. Ive just thought of something- I know its ridiculous but please read on. In less than 6 months, I will have completed a 3 year stint of continuous living/working in Saudi Arbia. That means that I would be eligible to play for the Saudi Arabian national rugby team (I dont even know if they have one but please read on). I speak about 3 words of Arabia, have a very basic understanding of their history and culture, only play rugby once a week with other ex-pats, dont know what the national strip looks like, dont know where the national stadium is located, dont know the words or even the tune to their national anthem. But who cares because according to World Rugby I could play for Saudi Arabia.

    Is this ridiculous or what? Is it equally ridiculous that someone could travel from the Netherlands to Scotland and become “Scottish” in 3 years. Or is it even more ridiculaous that a player, who can bearly get into his local club in New Zealand, suddenly develops a desire to be Scottish, having not even visited the place before, let alone played for one of our club teams. He turns up at Edinburgh and is almost immediately picked for our national squad. Come on- its taking the and everone has to know it.

    Am I the only person that thinks the criteria for chosing nationality is ridiculous. In the future, national teams will be just like club sides. You might as well have Bath, Ospreys and Glasgow representing England, Wales and Scotland respectively (regardless of the nationality of the players) as national identity will mean nothing.

    1. Yet again you are showing how I’ll-informed you are. Hugh Blake’s ‘local club’ is Dundedin, for whom he played as a teenager before appearing in the JWC. Blake played 10 games for Otago in the ITM Cup, the provincial championship in NZ and the highest domestic tournament. That is a complete season at provincial level. Off the back of that he won a place in the Highlanders Super 15 training squad before the previous season but was injured and failed to win a place in a match day squad later in the season. He left Highlanders before the beginning of this year’s preseason.

      Far from barely being able to get a game at his local club, Blake was in the NZ u-20s and excelled enough as a young player at provincial level to get into the Super 15 squad. He only turned 22 in September. It is stupid to write him off as he actually comes with some pedigree at a young age.

      1. Yet again, you didnt read my message propoerly. I didnt actiually mention Blake.

        As we are on the subject, however, it does beg the question as to why he would leave New Zealand if he was that good. Why not try for a place in the All Blacks. Or maybe he isnt actually that great after all. Who knows but regardlesss of whether he is good bad or indifferent, you have to ask the question- is it morally right for someone to bull on the blue jersy after spending such little time in our country. In my opinion it is not (that is the piont I was focusing on in my last message).

      2. That’s total bollocks Neil. Your hypothetical situation is exactly how you frame Blake’s selection which you have been banging on about. Just because you didn’t mention his name in that post doesn’t mean it isn’t completely clear who you are referring to. Especially as you sign off your post with ‘it’s taking the piss and everyone has to know it’. How can that be interpreted other than a comment on the actual selection of Blake rather than your supposed hypothetical situation? I have no problem with the comprehension of your posts, even though they are rambling nonsense for the most part.

        Why would he have left NZ barely turned 22? Well I think you can only get the answer from him (which he has actually spoke about in I ter Jews and you obviously choose not to believe), I don’t think you can actually deduce someone’s motivations by a couple of biographical facts. When you do, all that happens is you project your prejudices.

        Is it morally right? Yes. It is within the rules. Some people agree with the grandparent rule, some people don’t. On balance I do and Blake is eligible so if the coach thinks he is good enough he should pick him.

        What I find very inconsistent is that you always bang on about the small number of Kiwis in the Scotland squad. However, most players who play for Scotland who aren’t born and bred Scots are English-born and qualify through parents/grandparents.

      3. Just like to add that my IPad has corrected ‘interviews’ to read I ter Jews. This is not some kind of cryptic bigotry.

      4. FF- for the record I dont agree with English players playing for Scotland any more than I do New Zealanders playing for our country. As you know, I feels that the Scottish team should be Scottish and not comprise foreigners of any nationality. I guess I only mention New Zealand because the Blake situation is the current topic of conversation.

        It may be in the rules that all you have to have is a grandparent that it Scottish or stay in Scotland for 3 years but I happen to think that these rules are crazy and make a mockery of the nationality selection process. I’m sure that Scotland may benefit from the rulling to a small extent in the short term. However, I also think it could be a disaster for our game in the medium-long term for reasons I have mentioned in previous messages.

  41. To follow on form my last comment- it would be great if I could play rugby for Saudi Arabia against Scotland. I would then be able to teach the second rate psedo Scots that represent our national squad a lesson or two on how to play the game and what it really mens to represent Scotland.

      1. Given the standard of player that has been turning out for Scotland over the last 14 years up until the Autumn series, I think I probably could make the team, even if I am 44 years old, overweight and quite unfit. The team have played like a proper bunch of nancy boys up until recently and I dont think I could have done much worse.

      2. Hmmm Jason White, Simon Taylor, Nathan Hines are nancy boys?

        You’re just a keyboard warrior Neil, no achievement in rugby or even really much of a supporter – what on earth could you teach these guys except how to talk shit on the Internet.

      3. Well- having watched almost all of the Scotland games over that period, its honestly hard to imagine myself doing any worse. We were truely awful over that period and, though I’m not a professional rugby player, at least I would give it 100%, which is more than the majority of our boys did over that time period.

        The good news is that I think we may have turned a corner and lets just hope that we never go back to the bad old days.

  42. Just had a thought- most western nations (in fact most nations I know) do not let any old Tom Dick or Harry in. They insist that there are no home grown persons that can do the same job. Companies have to prove that no such person exists before they employ a foreign national. That person then has to pass various tests before they can apply for citizenship. It takes a long time and there are no certainties that the individual will achieve their goal of citizenship. Why not introduce a similar test in World rugby. I don’t know of any civilised western nation that would allow any non-national to get citizenship by spending only 3 years in that country- do you?

  43. I know its a but early and we have no team announcement or injury updates but predictions for France v Scotland? I see a similar outcome to Bath V Glasgow, we’ll play the rugby but bullied in the pack and France will just edge it I fear.

  44. Hard to call without knowing our lineup, but I read elsewhere that PSA is trying to gee up the squad by asking for a big performance as a sort of act of unity following the terror attacks in Paris. It’s giving me the heebie jeebies a bit. We all know the various facets of the French team and I would prefer not to meet them when they are revved up with chests swelling and tails up. Hopefully the boys get well stuck in and burst their bubble good and early.
    I’m not convinced that the Scotland set piece will get shoved around like that of Glasgow. Edinburgh’s scrum has been solid and I expect we will take 2/3 of that front row. The Gray’s in the boiler room pack a lot of power, and our likely back row is also strong. That aside, if France come to play I don’t think we will cope with them, though I think we have all the components to give them a very hard time.

    My key players in the Scotland Scotland lineup are: Ford, J Gray, Harley and Dunbar. I know that we have very able replacements for at least two of them, but I think these guys in particular define the momentum of the team on the pitch defending through the gain line and driving the opponents back whilst they’re attacking.

    If we can get: Hogg, Visser, Bennett, Dunbar, Seymour, Russell, Laidlaw, Dickinson, Ford, Cross, Gray, Gray, Harley, Cowan, Beattie – on (and properly fit) as a starting 15, then I will have a heavier dose than usual of my blinkered optimism. I am really worried about injuries though. We do have some other quality options (e.g. Matty Scott) but I think we will drop in quality fairly quickly with a handful of injuries. All the more concerning given Wales are going in with almost all of their first choice players available, and I REALLY want to beat them!

    1. Like you, Matto, I have a feeling we won’t get bossed in the scrum either. And if we get at least parity there, then even allowing for injuries, we will have enough power, speed and game nous to make a serious game of this. As I said on an earlier post, Vern has assembled and drilled a squad that gives us the best chance since 1999 of rolling over France in Paris. Allez, l’Ecosse!

  45. France were bloody awful last year and it was only Duncan Weir’s I’ll-judged miss pass that meant one of the worst Scotland teams in memory didn’t win at Murrayfield. They really are a shambles under PSA.

    I know he’s been speaking about using the recent tragedy in France as motivation but I think that shows how desperate he has become. Judging by his comments at the 6N launch he doesn’t think Scotland will offer much of a threat, judging by the lumps he has selected in his pack he is going to try to dominate us up front and win brought set piece control. Probably because France have looked list trying to do anything else for the last few years.

    So I expect France to be complacent, predictable and unimaginative. If Scotland can put out a strong team after injuries we’ll rush into a lead and then get pegged back by Frenhc power. We’ll probably lose after leading for 40-50 minutes but we could well hang on for an unlikely triumph.

    Finn Russell needs to keep his head – this is his 6N debut and it is a hostile environment but if we get quick ball and he plays flat and fast I think Dunbar and (I hope Bennett) can get us on the front foot. The key for us will be to play at pace and recycle the ball quickly but to reign in our ambition until we are settled into the game. The first half against Tonga showed that when we we were trying to play off number 10 right on the gain line we could put ourselves under unnecessary pressure.

    1. FF- you dont know much about French rugby. Their players are highly skilled but tend to blow hot and cold. Noboday knows what French time is likely to take to the field. Remember, it wasnt so long ago that they contested the final of the WC, only losing narowly to NZ. you can never write this team of and we havent won in France for over a decade.

      1. Well done Neil. You’ve successfully recycled a tired cliche from the Blagger’s Guide to Rugby. However, you missed out on bonus points by not referring to French Flair.

        1. I never said their players were not highly skilled. However, it has been reported over and over again by UK players who have played in France that their previously outstanding attacking patterns and counter attacking verve came from obsessive practice and repetition on the training field so every player knew exactly where to run to be available for a pass multiple passes ahead and multiple phases in advance. Successive France coaches have undermined this style of preparation by compulsively changing their line ups and key combinations. Added to this, France have less preparation time than any other 6N side because of the lack of cooperation with the Top-14. It is no wonder that their attacking ability has stagnated for years. French sides in Europe really offer no greater skill or attacking dynamism than sides from any other country. They only play badly so often at test level because PSA is a terrible coach and they are underprepared and badly coached – not because of some perceived ‘Frenchness’.

        2. French rugby culture is based in the mentality of southern French villages playing rugby as an excuse to batter hell out of each other. To this day, winning at home and maintaining local pride is paramount, so H/A records in the T-14 are hopelessly unbalanced. This means French rugby has always tended towards brute strength first and finesse second (people remember the dazzling back moves but forget the pack strength and violence). As money has flooded into the T-14 it has primarily been spent on making sure every side has a pack of behemoths. T-14 rugby is attritional and the season is long and the modern French instinct is always to win via set piece dominance. This is how PSAs teams play and it is unsurprising that France, who have been struggling at test level for years because of their war with the clubs, do the same despite having such an array of talents in the backs.

        3. France got to a world cup final without ever playing well. They lost to Tonga, played well for about 40mins against a poor England, squeaked past a 14 man Wales (almost losing) and found themselves in a final they barely deserved to be at. Two things happened: as with most RWC finals, the game tightened up suiting the shambolic French; NZ choked and put in their most restricted display for years. And NZ still won, the France that turned up was able to tackle like maniacs and not much else even though the game was there for the taking. They also clearly decided to try to rough up the ABs (remember Rougerie’s gouge on McCaw?) because they were going to their safe space of pride and violence (usually within acceptable bounds). Under PSA, they have barely had a notable game. They are no more unpredictable than any other national side, who sometimes play well and sometimes play poorly. What we can be sure of is that if Scotland match their pack, France will run out of ideas.

        4. I did not predict Scotland to win. In fact, I think we will lose because the French pack will get on top of us. I would not be shocked if we concede from 5 metre line out drives or scrum penalty tries. Sure, France might score through the backs but they will not be pursuing an open game using the width of the pitch.

  46. A very difficult one to call. The problem is that you just dont know what French team will turn up and, whats worse, they dont know either. However, the French shoudl never be underestimated. remember in the last WC they lost to Tonga but still ended up making it to the final.

    Another problem with have with playing games in Paris and Twickenham is one of psychology. Sure, England anf France have been much bettwr than us in recent years but that was not always the case in the 80’s and 90’s whwn we oftent came close to beeting these teams away from home but very rarely managed it. Were we scare to win it, was there a psychological issue to deal with. Who knows for sure but, if I had to bet my house on it, I would predict a narrow win for France. Lets just hope that I am wrong- I know we have the team to beat them but whether our players have enough confidence in their own abilities is another matter.

  47. Well I sure hope you’re right FF. I would agree that we have failed in the recent past to put flaky French teams to the sword when presented with the chance.

    Hopefully we can contain and tire the fatties, without getting caught out on a break by their back three. Need to ensure our accuracy and breakdown work is top notch to avoid scrums resulting from knock ons, or getting trapped in rucks.

  48. Half the problem with Scottish teams both past and present is that we have a habit of making stupid mistakes such as ball handling errors, giving away penalties in our own 22 etc. Even when we had good teams in the 80’s and 90’s we still had a bad habit of making these errors that would cost us in close games. We also have a bad habit of kicking Garry Owens- I believe such a kick is a waste of time as, 9 times out of 10, it goes straight into the oppositions hands. If you mentioned to the player before making such a kick that his team would only gain 10 yards but the ball would go straight to the opposition, I wonder if he would opt for that kick. Fortunately, other 6 nation teams also adopt this tactic which gives our boys a chance to get back into the game. Note how rare it is to witness Garry Owen kicks performed by SA or NZ. They just run the ball and go through the phases- a much better way to gain results in my opinion.

    1. ‘Stupid mistakes’ are failures of skill under intense pressure. We lost close games because we had consistently worse skills than our opposition not because we were consistently unfortunate.

      All teams use garryowens because they are trying to win penalties by forcing the opposition to hold on on the ground or force a knock on. It is an essentially negative tactic but is effective when done well because you have a better chance at contesting possession than kicking to the line (lineouts have very high success rates) or kicking deep (give the opposition clean ball and a chance to attack). But most teams do it poorly and only do so because they are not confident at executing their other exit strategies or moving the ball and retaining possession. That is why you most often see it being done between your own 22 and the half way line, it is seen as a ‘safe’ way to move the ball out of the danger zone but not concede possession softly.

      1. FF- I never said we were unfortunate but I did say that we were guilty of making stupid mistakes. The Garry Owen is very rarely performed by NZ and SA for a very good reason- it nearly always gives the ball straight back to the opposition. I always look to these two nations to see how they do things differently to ours. After all they have been the top two rugby nations over that last 10-15 years so they must be doing something right.

      2. Well you should know that the current obsession with the garryowen was pioneered by the SA world cup winners of 2007 who mastered turning the kickchase into an offensive weapon, the garryowen being chief among their repertoire of kicks. The difference was their kicking was high quality, they achieved length and height and always contested the ball and had two wingers who were very good in the air. My impression is that now too few SHs can box kick well and full backs and wingers are generally comfortable under the high ball. But I don’t think SA box kick less than other sides, certainly when Morne Steyn was FH until last 4N.

        I’m not sure if the ABs do box kick less than other sides either. They use a range of kicking tactics and statistically (going by previous stats from the last world cup and previous rugby championships) kick more than most nations. Again the difference is they kick well and with variety. Their objective is to put the opposition under pressure with the ball, turn it over and move it quickly from the site of the turnover where the opposition’s focus will be. The vast majority of their tries are scored off turnover ball and their kicking game contributes to that.

        It is also worth pointing out that the box kick has replaced the garryowen in general. Garryowens used to be primarily when you were in the opposition half and you wanted to pepper the 22-yard line or 5m line hoping to catch a loose ball. This very rarely happens nowadays where the cross kick is usually utilised in this area of the field. Instead, box kicks are done from between your own 22 and the half way line and is used as an exit strategy from defence.

      3. This is quite interesting but I still feel that just retaining possession and going through the phases is far better. The opposition cant score if they don’t have the ball. It may take longer to get a score but who cares. Now I don’t have the stats on NZ but, whenever I have watched them they don’t really do so many Gary Owens.
        When I was a school kid our team was taught to kick to the corners and that seemed to bring us a lot of joy. Its probably not so applicable at international level but I wonder.

      4. This is another rugby truism that doesn’t really apply any more. Possession rugby has gone out of fashion because the lawmakers have changed interpretations to ensure there is always a contest for possession. This means that teams don’t want to go through the phases in their own half because of the danger of conceding possession in your own territory, particularly penalties given for holding on.

        Teams reguarly win games now with 40% possession, particularly the ABs. As mentioned before, the ABs prefer to attack off turnover ball when the opposition defence is disorganised. When these opportunities are available the ABs attack from anywhere on the field. Otherwise, the ABs kick almost all their own ball in their own half. In their opponents half very few teams would choose to box kick anyway, at least with any regularity and against England in the AIs and Ireland last autumn the ABs showed they are masters at retaining possession and going through the phases when they need to, they just rarely choose to.

      5. FF you may be right and I wish I had the official statistics. I guess the AB dont spend so much time pinned into their own half so you dont realy notice it when they do kick balls out of their own 22. I’ve also noticed that lose racks are stopped at an earlier stage than they ever used to be- in the 80’s and 90’s they seemed to go on for ever. I’m going to try and get hold of official statistics in games between the top nations and I’m sure that you would be very surprised at how little you see the AB do Garryowen type kicks- I’m not refering to clearing your own lines when you are in your own 22- I’m simply referring to up and under Garryowens which I dont often see the AB do whenever I have watched them. However, I accept that I don’t have the official stats so the jury is out.
        One thing I will say about the AB, however, is that they are very good at closing teams down and do the basics very well. They are also superbly fit and that is probably the main reason why they win games. How often are 6 nation teams almost level with them up until 60 mins. In the last 20 mins they always seem to stride forward. Are they particualrly fit or are our boys unft- who knows but it seems to be a common theme.

  49. Guys, great to see the debate continuing and thanks for keeping it civil. I would like to add that all views are welcome, so please do not ask other readers to go elsewhere! If you wish to complain about something, drop us an email.

    We’re working on a survey to find out more about how you like to use the site as we’re keen for discussions to stick reasonably closely to the topic of their post, and obviously that doesn’t always happen if you are ready to talk about things before we post anything up so we are thinking of ways around this. Team announcement coming this week!

    1. Rory

      I totaly agree with your comment- some readers have asked me to go elsewhere when they have not agreed with my comments. I would say as long as the debate is about rugby and does not go down the route of personal insults then everyones viewpoint should be accepted. Unless the readers actually set up and/or own the site then I feel very strongly that they do not have the right to do this.

      I have had only one deeply negative experience on this site when someone managed to find my Linkdin page and then relay information on that to this site. He was obviously a gutless coward as he entered my Linkdin site anonymously- I only know it was him as there is no other way that he could have known the information that he posted about me. Other readers have strongly disagreed with my views but that does not bother me as it is a free world and everyone is entitled to their point of view. The key thing is that it is all about rugby. After all nobody is forced to read anyone’s message.

      Regarding the threads, I often feel they digress into other subjects- Just a thought but when you or your colleagues realise this is happening, why not create a separate thread.

      Anyway, I better close now but I really like this blog.

  50. Rory,

    Apologies for occasionally going off on topic tangents. Just a wee lack of patience symptomatic of the proximity of the 6N in this case. If we can all generally abide to keep things on thread (and not twisting every thread to try and make a particular point) I would agree that it should help maintain the diversity of the blog. Luckily we now have a thread on Blake and the question of ‘Scottishness’, so all future comments on this topic can be directed here :-)

  51. I respect everyone’s right to express their opinion but not over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again in every single thread and multiple times in the same thread

    1. OK you make a valid point and I assume you are refering to me. The problem is that it can be very difficult not to go over old ground when different people question your thoughts at different times. At the end of the day everyone has a right to free speach except where:

      1. The message becomes very personally insulting to the recipient and has nothing to do with rugby or this blog
      2. The message includes racist or sexist comments.

      Everyting else, rugby related can be discussed in my opinion. Another thing I have mentioned before is that nobody is forced to read a message- not ever. If you are offended by the content of a television program you can switch off the TV or change channel. If you start to become offended or bored by reading a message then just stop reading it. I strongly object to anyone telling anyone else to stop posting messages unless they actually own/manaage the blog. Its similar to a man going into a bar and asking a random person to leave because he doesnt like the colour of the other gentlemens shoes.

  52. To Neil
    You seem like a nice guy but I think you’re confused. Being Scottish or indeed any nationality is based on blood and choice. For rugby blood means grandparents and choice means 3 years living here. Then there’s the small matter of being prepared to work hard enough to be a professional player. You keep commenting on whether someone is Scottish. As if you or others should be the authority on who can be Scottish. You mention living here for 6 years to understand history and culture. Ludicrous. Let’s put the eligibility criteria to one side. Who are you to say if someone feels Scottish. You realise your regime would have ruled out a succession of highly committed Scottish rugby players including Sean Lineen who qualified through grandparents but leaves us free to pick well meaning time wasters like Phil Godman. Nicely done. Success for Scotland is to use every tool at our disposal. If you qualify, if you are committed and if you are good enough then you can play. Don’t care where you’re born. Scottishness is about being inclusive.

    1. JK and Angus,

      I have a couple of questions for both of you:

      1. So where would you draw the line on who should/should not play for our country- after 6 months, 1 year or what? what would be your criteria?

      2. If we were faced with a scenario whereby there was not a single Scots born player in the side would you be happy?

      3. Do you accept the fact that this is a short term fix to a long term problem (i.e. lack of Scots born rugby playes) and that it will be disasterous in the long term (mainly because the best SH players will either stay at home or gravitate to England and Wales, leaving us with the trash that nobody wants)?

      Sure everyone wants short term success for our squad but, leaving the moral issue aside, I think the policay of fielding SH players will be disasterous in the long term. It wasnt a problem in the early 90’s when Sean Lineen was the only player in that category to play for Scotland but then we started to field more and more in the late 90’s-early 00’s and who know where it will end. I can see a day, possibley in the next 10 years or even less, when we no longer field Scottish born player in the team and that is the day that I will stop supporting our squad and probably take up another sport such as bowls.

  53. Good luck to you neil. Enjoy your bowls. I hope the players are Scottish enough for you. Might want to check they’ve all lived in Scotland for 6 years and have a satisfactory grasp of our history before you commit :)

    1. Also I should have said the day will never come when there isn’t a scots born player in the team so you can keep enjoying your rugby.

      1. JK- dont be so sure about that and never say never. In Scotland we only have 2 pro clubs (the SRU have no plans to introduce more pro teams), both of which hire their fair share of non-Scots, particularly Edinburgh. Our youth teams are poor for the most part and we do not believe in developing youth players (the SRU and pro teams do approximately SFA in this regard) – at least not to any great extent. Instead of hiring promising young Scottish players, I predict our two pro clubs will continue on the policy of shortermism by fielding second raters from the SH and elsewhere. I say second raters because if they were any good they would stay at home or go for money or glory in England or France. However, these second raters will still be better than the home grown players who will never get the chance to be coached at the highest level or play with/against the best players in the world. Can’t you see where this is going? The scotland team will become full of non- Scots (just look at our GB Ice Hockey team if you want an annalogy). Our national team will still be able to take on Italy, Samoa and Tong but will never be a match for the top 6 teams as we would be fielding theor cast offs- nowhere near as good as the players that they would be competing against.

        Is it only me that can see this future?

    2. Great comment JK. However I notice that neither yourself nor Angus were prepared to answer any of my three questions. What are youa ffraid off?- perhaps agreeing with me!

  54. I did answer 2. It won’t happen anyway but it’s also irrelevant and narrow minded to suggest born in Scotland is the goal. 1 is up to the governing body and I think there’s definitely a question about where you draw the line on resudency as different sports do different thing there. On 3 youth development is key but here’s the problem with your born in Scotland approach which is that we need to pursue every avenue of talent. Sam Hidalgo-Clyne was born in Spain but educated in Scotland and has come through every level of our youth system so a great example of how the system should work. Anyway I’m clearly not going to change your mind so please enjoy the 6 nations and we can both agree that we want Scotland to win. All the best.

    1. JK- so what would your rule be for nationality selection if you were in charge of World rugby? Many readers either criticise me or the current system but I challenge you and others to come up with the best list of criteria.

  55. Neil in response to your pro clubs comment. The warriors are bringing on some amazing young Scottish talent. Agreed we have the pacific Islander contingent and I will miss Matawalu. But so much of our home bred National side has been grown by Gregor Townsend and his team. They put on training camps on regular occasions to aid the youngsters in the area. What more do you want. All the players to train as PE teachers on the side? The Grays, Hoggy, Finn Russell, Vernon, Pyrgos, the beloved Barclay..all Warriors had work. And more to come

    1. There are longstanding issues in Scottish rugby principally related to the transition to professionalism. But I really can’t remember a more positive time for Scottish rugby since 1999; the EDP programme is producing a constant stream of talented young players, the new academies should increase the flow of young talent who can compete at pro-level, falling participation numbers have been arrested and are showing signs of improvement, we have a pro-side that is consistently competing with the best in the pro-12 and beginning to make an impression in Europe, if Edinburgh continue their improvement we’ll have two competitive pro-sides for the first time in our history, we have quality coaches at both pro-sides and at the national team and our financial situation is stable and for the first time in ages we are seeing actual investment in the infrastructure that underpins the whole of Scottish rugby. Now, I agree that the health of Scottish rugby is still fragile. But we have been taken off the critical ward and are showing signs of recovery.

      What we need is success on the field. I think a lot rides on the France game. A cliche I don’t think has been worn out is that the 6N is all about momentum. If we upset France, we will head back home confident and fully capable of opening the 6N with 3 wins. If we lose, we will struggle to register more than 1 or at a push 2 wins in the championship. On our side is that no one rates us and both PSA and Gatland have publicly dismissed our challenge. They will also not really know what to expect from us. So conditions are ripe for an upset.

      I am now giving myself up entirely to Scottish optimism syndrome and I expect Scotland to go to Twickenham with 3 wins under their belt.

      1. I agree that Glasgow are doing some great things but that is almost entirely down to the efforts of Townsend. If he were to leave it could be a different story. Just look at Edinburgh- they are filled with non-scots. The trouble is, with only two pro teams, only one of which places any emphasis on developing our home bred talent, it means that there is always going to be a shortage of talent, when compared to France, England, Wales and Ireland.
        Anyway, my predictions are that we will probably lose closely fought contests against England and France. I also predict us to beat Italy by 20 points or more and narrow wins over Ireland and Wales. However, for the first time in 14 years I have felt we can compete with the other nations and have a chance of beating them. If we can just beat Wales and Italy I would be happy but I’m hoping for so much more. There really isn’t much between the teams this year, though I think England will win the 6 nations, with places 2-5 up for grabs. It is a foregone conclusion that Italy will take the wooden spoon this year. If you want to see a model of how not to do things, just look at Italy or the GB ice hockey team.

      2. Neil, you’re SO SO SO frustrating its untrue. Edinburgh is NOT filled with non Scots, the first 15 they regulary play is predominantly Scottish. Fact, not opinion but FACT. They have blooded young players this season, again not opinion but FACT. Next year Solomons has stated that there will be more young players of which Magnus Bradbury (No 8), Jamie Ritchie (blindside), Damien Hoyland (winger) and Chris Dean (centre) ALL born in Scotland will be at the forefront, its a long term project. The “foreign born second raters” are on short term contracts while the young players get up to speed. Glasgow did NOT turn into the side they are now overnight. Also its not just down to Gregor Townsend. Thats insulting to the hard work Matt Taylor (an aussie) and Shade Munro have put in over the years.

      3. Of course, Glasgow were totally rubbish before Townshend was parachuted in by the SRU to hoots of derision from the down-with-the-SRU bridgade.

        Oh wait, no they weren’t, they qualified for the play-offs in 2009/10 and 2011/12 under Lineen (Townshend joined at the beginning of the 2012 season). How you can disregard the efforts of Lineen, Matt Taylor and all those players that have dragged the Warriors up the league table over a decade is beyond me.

        Just more evidence that you know nothing about Scottish rugby and are barely even a supporter.

      4. Neil, you are a total wind up merchant. Your comments regarding Glasgow show your total ignorance. Are you actually serious or just someone trying to push other people’s buttons? Are you actually Scottish?

      5. Get your facts straight for a start. I NEVER said Glasgow were rubbish before Townsend took over. Another fact- Edinburgh employ many more non scots and what I call pseudo scots with questionable ties (e.g. grandmother, Scottish best mate, 3 year residency etc) to Scotland than Glasgow do- THIS IS A FACT. I did some research on this myself about a month ago and included the statistics in a previous message. I also NEVER said that our two teams do not blood youngsters. My opinion is that they just dont do enough of it and are too reliant on bringing in foreign nationals. I NEVER mentioned that others in the Glasgow team do not put in hard work and have not contributed to the team. I just feel that the recent successes of the Scotland team are mainly down to two individuals- Vern Cotter (probably the best coach our team has ever had) and Gregor Townsend. Both men are vissionaries and great coaches. Thats NOT to say that the players have not done their part either. I’m a big fan of Finn Russell, Laidlaw, Cussiter and others.

        So when you do criticise me, I would suggest actualy reading what I have written and not just making up some nonsense that I did not state.

      6. I’m also puting my faith in Peters statistics. If this is corerct, there are only 4 players in the current squad (or 11%) that would not be there if my rules were to be adpoted (I dont agree with the grandparent connection or the residency rule). Doesnt seem too bad so if it stays at that level than most fans wont be too concerned. However, I dont think it will and that is my concern=- there are a lot of foreign nationals playing for our two pro teams, many of wich will qualify to play for the Scotland team under the 3 year residency rule, so I fully expect the number of non Scots in our squad to rocket in years to come. I dont have a probalem with drawing a comparison with other sports as they could easitly be a direct analogy to what will happen in our sport. I really hope I am wrong.

      7. I think Glasgow has got the right balance when it comes to signing foreign players. It has definitely been quality over quantity. I have had concerns about Edinburgh’s signing policy over the last couple of years. We have definitely signed a few gems but there has been a lot of mediocrity. Good news is that Edinburgh are starting to find some form and we can hope that some youngsters will start being introduced into the matchday 23.

    2. Standofalot- For the reocord I was born in Scotland and lived there for 27 years, I was educated at School/university in Scotland. No I live abraooad but continue to support outr rugby and football teams and visit family/friends in Scotland on a frequent basis. So yes i ma Scottish and I suspect more Scottish than you.

      1. I quite like a good WUM Neil, most forums have at least one. You just seem to be very narrow minded and xenophobic and you really don’t know when to give it a rest. Most of these boards discuss difference of opinions on players abilities, selections etc and people generally agree and disagree, that’s why its a discussion. However you have managed to unite EVERYONE who comments on here against your views. Not one person agrees with you. Tell you something? Actually well played, your trolling is having the desired effect.

  56. Let’s look at the current 34 man squad (percentages rounded to nearest whole number):
    21 born in Scotland (62%)
    9 born to Scottish parent(s) (27%)
    3 born to Scottish grandparent(s) (9%)
    1 qualified through residency (3%)

    1. Peter- it doesn’t seem to bad at the moment and I guess most fans are not too concerned about the odd kilted Kiwi being in the team but, when I look at ice hockey, I see a GB team in dire straights and relying on second or third raters from North America. I just hope that the same is not going to happen to rugby.

  57. Help ma boab. Neil, you have an amazing ability to breeze over facts that completely undermine your sustained and intense focus on a single issue, which isn’t really an issue. When presented with compelling quantitative evidence that 89% of the current squad (I’m putting my faith in your numbers here Peter)are either Scottish born, or have Scottish parents (conditions that most fans from most nations would agree are acceptable, and which I suspect compares favourably with the majority of other top ten nations) you switch your tack to some ‘what if’ comparison with ice hockey. Total baws. Give up!

    1. For completeness. Should be accurate, but correct me if I’m wrong.
      Scottish parent(s): Cowan, Denton, Hamilton, Harley, Hidalgo-Clyne, Tonks, Toolis, Seymour
      Scottish grandparent(s): Blake, Maitland, Watson
      Residency: Visser
      Rest were born in Scotland.

      1. Looks correct to me. It is also worth pointing out that Harley and Hidalgo-Clyne were born abroad but raised in Scotland from childhood.

  58. Neil, I appreciate you have strong and fervent views and clearly love banging the drum of those opinions. Which you are more than entitled to do. I think what winds up many of us is that it’s not so much the repetition but your comments persist even when others detail the flaws in your arguments. Now that’s notnto say everything you say isn’t valid because I agree on some points (would be great if Scotland could resurrect the Reivers or the Reds). Would be great if when the threads are getting chatty, as is usual these days, you could comment on something more positive or constructive or things you may be excited to see. Obviously we are all Scotland supporters here and hope they win, but I know in myself I love it when people get into detailed analysis about the players illustrating both their strengths and weaknesses etc. this can be extrapolated across any topic of discussion rather than simply further derision. That’s just me though, I understand others tend to be more pessimistic and love a good moan, fair play to you, just not my cup of tea.

  59. We need to get over this whole topic and focus on supporting our side now. As mentioned before Scotland sides have always included a few overseas players and it is now the norm. That not to saying that Scotland,or any side will field a completely foreign born team, there are probably IRB regulations against it. Harping on about about the team GB hockey team is irrelevant. A sport with that small a bootprint at international level will always struggle. The void between rugby,poofball and the other sports in Britain is vast, be that right or wrong.
    As for Blake, lets just see. His lack of pro matches are a concern, but Vern is clearly a great coach with an eye. I remember reading scathing predictions of Blair Cowan, who for me was a standout player during the AIs. The old guard are being phased out with a view to the future clearly. I for one am bloody excited by this new stable of young blood.

  60. David- I’m also excited about the new look team but you are wrong about two things- the Scotland rugby team did not always field non scots. Going back to the days before 1995 this was a rarity. The first kilted Kiwi I can remember was Sean Lineen, though I am sure there may have been an odd Anglo Scot top play for us in the 70’s and 80’s. There just seemend to be an increase in the number of on scots in the late 90’s- early 00’s.

    You are wrong aboput the comparisson between Ice Hockey and rugby. Sure, Ice Hockey is not as popular as Rugby but there is a direct comparisson. The top ice Hockey teams rely heavily on imports and do not develop or coach their home bred players to the extent that they should. The result is that the imports stay in our county for a few years and then end up representing team GB in internationals. Of course there is no way that we can beat Canada or the USA as we only have their second or third rate imports in the first instance. the best we can hope for is to compete on level terms with Belgium. Does this not sound a buit like rugby? Scotland not being able to compete with the SH teams but holding ur own against Italy? At present the situation is no where near as bad as Ice Hockey but this could be the start of a very slippery road.

    Dont even get me started about Blake.

  61. And you miss the point. Ice Hockey is not a national sport, it is an import. Therefore the amount of money injected is minimal, hence the lack of coaching etc. Also who cares about bloody ice hockey. As for overseas players I give you Chick Henderson. born in Johannesburg 1931, played for Scotland 1951 with a Scottish grandmother. So yes we have always had overseas players.

    1. David, like FF and other you have a tendency to misquote me. I did not say that we never had foreign players playing for us. What I did say is that they were a rarety before 1995. Ice hockey is, in fact, a national sport. We were world champions in 1936- something we have never achieved in rugby and have never really come close to it. lets not beat about the bush either- rugby is on the verge of being a minority sport in Scotland, mainly due to stupid actions and inactions on the part of the SRU, both in the past and at present. However, that should be the subject of another thread so I wont discuss that one at any more lenghth here. Think about it- we only have 2 pro teams- even Italy have more. Though I believe both of our teams are improving they are still not as good as the best teams in England and France. We have averaged one win in the 6 nations since 2005 and normally contest the wooden spoon with Italy on an annual basis. We consistently lose to SH teams. The attendances at our two pro teams are pathetic compared with Bath, Toulon Leicester etc. There is a lack of talent at youth level and our youth teams are CRAP in capitals- they are consistently poor when facing other 6 nation teams, except possibly against Italy. Our womens rugby team is also very poor, again nearly always finish bottom or second bottom in the 6 nations.

      And after all this, you think rugby is not a minority sport in Scotland. Sure we did quite well in the Autumn internationals and we have a geat coach but dont get too carried away. We have been there before rememebr- we beat OZ and SA in successive years in the Autumn but the following perfomances in the 6 nations were, for the most part, diabolical. The same may happen this time arround. Remember, we cant seem to win in Paris or at Twickenham for lover or money so it is almost a cast iron guarantee that we will lose these games. I feel we are on a par with Wales and Ireland but these games could go any way. The only guarantee I can give you is that we will beat Italy. Please bear this in mind- we could just as easily finish second as second bottom in the six nations. Optimism is a good thing but it has to be married with common sense.

      1. Neil – have you ever attended a UK ice hockey game? I have (Edinburgh Capitols!) and there is simply no comparison between ice hockey in the UK and rugby. Not its popularity, money in the game, national exposure, participation, nothing. It is merely a curiosity. Alluding to it is simply grasping at straws.

        p.s. I haven;t misquoted you at all. The meaning of what you have written is plain. Take above for example, you say Glasgow are doing great things and it is “almost entirely down to the efforts of Townsend”. Bollocks it is. I pointed out that Townshend had taken a steadily improving team that was already a play-off contender to become a team that had reached one Pro-12 final. This is because Glasgow were already a well coached side under Lineen, Taylor and Munro, who were impressive in defence and uncompromising at the breakdown. Townshend built on an already cohesive team ethic and core of players that had begun Glasgow’s journey. Your statement was completely and utterly wrong.

      2. Also, rugby is already a minority sport. It always has been in Scotland and probably always will as football reigns supreme.

        However, as David said, rugby is nevertheless a national sport. I doubt there is a town in Scotland that doesn’t have a rugby team of some description. I doubt whether many Scots could even name the Scottish teams in the UK ice hockey league. Not for lack of good reason – they receive no tv coverage, barely a mention in national or local press and are funded by private benefactors who regularly pull funding (Capitols are no more for this reason). In what way is this comparable to rugby?

    2. I’m actually a big fan of Ice Hockey and Fife Flyers in particular. I used to go to all of their games. They were always more popular than the local rugby team in Kirkcaldy. I believe both rugby and ice hockey are minority sports in Scotland- I just hope that rugby does not follow the ice hockey model but this could happen quite easily.

  62. Neil – you are also maddeningly inconsistent and imprecise. Sometimes you are moaning about SH imports and kilted Kiwis, sometimes you are complaining about all non-Scottish born players, sometimes only born-and-bred Scots will do. Frankly you just shift the goalposts as it suits you.

    As Peter demonstrated above, if your gripe is limited to players who qualify through the grandparent route or through the 3-year residency qualification as adults, the issue is being massively overblown. Your ‘thin-end-of-the-wedge’ type argument is a logical fallacy as you have no reason to believe that the scenario you warn against will actually happen. Of all the foreign born players at Edinburgh and Glasgow only Josh Strauss is likely to become a Scotland player through residency. WP Nel was signed as a project player but it seems unlikely he will win a place in the squad on current form. No other players have contracts longer than 2 years.

    Not only that but many people including me recognise that many people in the world have more than one identity and it is perfectly valid that many people will value their Scottish heritage and have a real affinity for Scotland and desire to represent us. This is in no way mutually exclusive to wanting to play for the land of their birth growing up. If you doubt that, just read interviews with Seilala Mapusua, a NZ of Samoan heritage who became Samoa’s captain and outspoken advocate. I have no problem with players qualifying through the grandparent route. I don’t believe rugby players need to be dyed in the wool patriots, just have an affinity with Scotland and take pride in representing us.

    Regardless, I agree with David that we can draw a line under this discussion when this thread dies. I hope we hear no more of it, at least until after the 6N when we can debate whether we would have won our fourth grandslam without the help of our Anglo and Kiwi-Scots.

    1. If I had made it I could have played for Scotland or Australia. Dual residency exists for such occasions.
      Players choose to wear the dark blue that makes them a Scot. If they are will to put their bodies on the line in recognition of the shirt, then that makes them Scots. End of the matter

      1. David,

        I would be intereated to know- if you had a completely free choice to play for Scotland or OZ which would you have chosen and why?

        How about this scenario- you consider yourself to be scottish but you have dual OZ-Scottish nationality. However, OZ are playing in the WC finals and Scotland have been eliminated from the competition. You then recieve a call up from both teams. Which one do you choose? (and dont sit on the fence as FF is inclined to do and say it depends on who calls me first- assume that you get the calls at exactly the same time).Do you choose Scotland because you feel a greater affinity with the place or OZ because you want the glory of winning the WC, something that you would never achieve with Scotland. Please answer my two questions as honestly as you can.

    2. Yep- I think we just have to agree to dissagree on this one. I wont change your mind anymore than you will mine. The only thing we can agree on is that we wish our boys the very best in the 6 nations and hope that they will get the grand slam. If that happens then who cares about anything else. It will be accomplished by a scots team with only one or two pseudo guys. I dont like it but am prepared to accept it.

      1. WTF is this supposed to mean “dont sit on the fence as FF is inclined to do”? I’ve been very forthright and clear in my opinions.

        Personally, I would be eligible for Scotland and England and would always choose Scotland. However, what you fail to grasp is that not everyone thinks or feels the same way you do. You can’t extrapolate from personal feelings what other people think or feel, that is called projection. To say that someone doesn’t take sufficient pride in their heritage and should not represent Scotland because they weren’t born and brought up in Scotland like you were is profoundly ignorant. To refer to Scottish players as pseudo-Scots is disrespectful and offensive. To assume that all Scottish fans want our national team to be some kind of jingoistic affirmation is just flat out wrong.

      2. As arrogant and ridiculous as it sounds I have mused more about this more than joining up. I’ve played rugby in both countries and I love the way Aussies play. But I would always play for Scotland. Not just because its the land of my birth but the history of the game played.
        Its a sentiment many have shared down the years. Pride will always outweigh glory, because glory is never a constant. Even the mighty all blacks lose but wearing the shirt is for life.
        That and I hate yellow.

      3. FF- so are you English-I did wonder if you were Scottish, English or a pseudo dude. Anyway, the debate about Scottishness will never end. I have made my view perfectly clear on what I believe the criteria should be for selection to our national team and I stand by that. I don’t know where you get the idea that I am shifting the goalposts. I am just as much against an English player playing for Scotland as I am a kilted Kiwi.Ultimately I believe our team should be truely Scottish.

  63. French team is out:

    15 Scott Spedding
    14 Yoann Huget
    13 Mathieu Bastareaud
    12 Wesley Fofana
    11 Teddy Thomas
    10 Camile Lopez
    9 Rory Kockott
    7 Bernard Le Roux
    8 Damien Chouly
    6 Thierry Dusautoir
    5 Yoann Maestri
    4 Pascal Pape
    3 Rabah Silmani
    2 Guilhem Guirado
    1 Alexandre Menini

    It’s going to be really tough, that’s a really strong team. We’re not running through that lot! Hopefully Cotter has a plan but I’m fearful : /

    1. Scrum will struggle. Run through them no, round them however? Bastaeraud is great when he gets up to pace, but I fancy Alex Dunbar to best him. Surprise back row. and Huget will fall over half the time

      1. I genuinely fancy us on Saturday. It’s a very strong looking French team but having watching the French against Argentina I fancy our chances, particularly if Hogg and Harley are fit as is expected. Both Glasgow and Edinburgh going well, we have good players, just need to keep it tight from the start, nothing silly or flash, keep playing our own game and it will come. That said, I’m always filled with optimism pre 6N!

    2. Interesting team. Only 41 caps across the front row and none of the household names that terrorised opposition before the scrum engagement rule changes.

      Kockott, Lopez, Thomas and Spedding are all talented but very inexperienced at test level. Thomas is lightning quick but is appalling in defense.

      Back row lacking some big names in Picamoles and Nyanga. Locks are big overrated lumps I would back all both Grays and Toolis to best.

      Lots of gamebreakers but obvious weaknesses too and far from the most powerful French packs we’ve seen. This is a team that we could turn over in my opinion.

      Three South Africans starting!

    3. Also I hope Bennett starts as I think his footwork could provide problems for Bastareaud, who often seems to lurch between irresistible and comical within the same game.

      1. Big surprise with no picamoles. Cotter knows French rugby better than anyone and he knows that thats a classic battering ram French side. One to bully and dominate the breakdowns. Don’t expect much flair. We have to play like we did against Argentina. Secure ball as quick as possible and move the lumps around the park, exploiting the gaps as we do.

      2. Picamoles picked up a thigh injury at their pre-6N training camp. I think even PSA isn’t mad enough to leave him out, he is a genuinely scary human being (on the rugby field at least).

      3. I’m ecstatic that Picamoles isn’t playing. He’s one of these freaks of nature we always struggle against.
        French front row is new, back row also, so there could be lots of ‘disconnects’ within that lot. Beginning to fancy chances.

    4. I love Bastardeaud- with a name like that it can only go from bad to worse. Kockott isnt much better but lets leave it there.

      1. I like Bastareuad too, but he is 1 dimensional. Cotter will know this. bully the 10, shut down the centres.

  64. Quite well? 2 out of 3 wins, the only loss to the best side in the world? We battered the Pumas with the best team performance in recent memory. The score line not reflecting that sadly.
    If we had played Australia we would have won. I would have put money on it.
    Our youth teams are not crap at all, and I’d urge you to watch these boys at club level before making that kind of a judgement. In player development, results only count for so much. I played at under 23’s level for the Navy and although we lost more than we won, it is a savage time to play. I you survive then you will be a great player.
    By the way every sport we have won at world level we’d best start investing heavily in Elephant polo. Ice Hockey is filled with players from the US and Canada who couldn’t cut it in the NHL, and if you walk down Princes Street or Buchanan street asking which sport people favour out of the 2, I’m confident of the answer.
    Our pro teams are not crap either. I was at both European games against Bath and in the home leg, we made them look bloody average. and the second, at the notoriously tough Rec, took them to the whistle. We missed out on qualification by meters. Toulon have so much money, of course they are good, and have you even watched the Tigers this year? I watch the Aviva regularly and the Warriors would fear no side, not even Saints.
    And stop blaming the SRU, getting boring now. There are so many grass roots programmes in Scotland right now I’ve lost count, and as for SJ, he took us to our best result since Hadden. These are truths you can#t argue or ignore….but I bet you will.

  65. Grass routes- if outr youth teams are so good why do they lose by a country mile all the time. I’m talking about internation level, not the clubs. If we had played OZ we wouold have won- nopt necesasarily. Dont get carried away as the NZ team we played were good but that was not their top squad.
    I never eluded to the fact that our pro teams are crap (anothe missquote). all i said is that they were inferiror to the best teams in England anfd France, recent result would suggest that i am right. The reasons for that are manyfold.

    as for SJ- he was useless but, as nopbody wants me to go over old ground, i will refer you to my previous messages on why i believe that was/is the case. Same for SRU.
    So SJ took as to a good result- we finnished only 3rd in the 6 nations- not exactly bloody brilliant so what on earth are you on about. A brilliant result is when you win the competition of get a grand salm and/or tripple crown. Or do you prefer the every kid gets a prize/its the taking part that count philosophy?

    1. Third for a side repeatedly finishing 5th or 6th is a huge result. Especially beating a grand slam winning side in the process.
      Our club sides are not inferior, maybe go to a couple of games and see them in full flow. The void was huge, now it isn’t.

  66. Really good 6N preview in today’s Herald, with a great article about the history and relationship between Schmidt and Cotter. Worth a read. Looking at the squad again and still shaking my head at Big Jim’s inclusion……

  67. Not a bad French side, although I don’t know much about Camile Lopez. There are weaknesses though, and they are not as good as they hve been in previous visits to Paris

    As I am every year I am filled with optimism for the tournament, but once again the first game is crucial. If we win in Paris I would back us to beat Wales, unless they stuff England. If we win in Paris and Wales lose to England then I expect we will beat Wales easily. If we lose in Paris then Wales will be a lot tougher.

    The way I see it, if we beat the French then we will go up against England still undefeated and, whisper it quietly, still in with a shout of the Grand Slam!!

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