Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Gilchrist Out For Rest Of Season

Grant Gilchrist - pic © Al Ross
Grant Gilchrist - pic © Al Ross

Scotland’s presumptive rugby captain-in-waiting Grant Gilchrist has been ruled out for the rest of the season (this means the end of May in SRU-speak) having been required to undergo further surgery for the broken forearm he sustained in October’s European Cup fixture against Lyon.

The decision for revision surgery was taken after consultation with upper limb specialist Mr Doug Campbell at Spire Hospital Leeds. Following a period of rest, Grant will continue his rehabilitation under the care of the Edinburgh Rugby and Scotland medical teams.

This leaves Vern with a tricky choice ahead of the Rugby World Cup that will see his annointed first choice as captain almost completely without form going into the tournament warm-ups and unlikely to play his way in to the sort of form he’ll need to get past Jonny Gray in time.

Who then as captain? If Hidalgo-Clyne keeps improving at the rate he is, Laidlaw won’t be certain of his place. Unless of course he is the only option in a team that keeps getting younger.

Players almost certain to be on the team sheet (if in any sort of form and not banned):

  • Alex Dunbar
  • Stuart Hogg
  • Tommy Seymour
  • Jonny Gray
  • Rob Harley
  • Finn Russell

For me the clear candidates would be Dunbar, Gray or Harley. Your perfect captain in the backs would be someone like Sean Lamont but he’s not guaranteed a place in the team once Maitland is fully fit. Dunbar probably has enough to do running the defence so that leaves the two forwards. While currently a cert, Harley could come under threat if Josh Strauss, Ashe or Beattie all hit form at the same time so that leaves Gray, who also has to call the lineout.  It is a like for like swap if Gilchrist does get fit.

It has been good enough for scrum half captains so why not second rows?

21 Responses

  1. Not an easy one this and I expect Laidlaw will be captain through the World Cup (not to mention he is a proven test kicker). Jonny is future captain material for sure but at this stage of his career I’d be worried it would weigh him down.

    Dunbar is the first centre on the teamsheet, leads by example and has a little more experience than his young peers. I don’t know if he has the character to be a captain and is a little injury prone but is a good candidate.

    For a bit of a curveball, how about Hogg? I admit it would be either triumph or disaster but I think his experiences have matured him, his form is electric and he doesn’t want for confidence. Fullback might not be an ideal position to captain from and he might not have lost his hotheadedness but I like the idea of having a captain who is desperate to win at all costs and totally convinced of their ability to beat anyone.

  2. I agree with FF as I would expect Laidlaw to continue in the captaincy for the World Cup. If however, as many of us hope, a new much more dynamic SH such as SHC or Pyrgos is introduced, my choice would be Johnny Gray. I get that he’s young but he’s already calling the line out, leads by example and has the perfect mentor in Big Al Kellock.

    Personally I would let Hogg just play as I think he has enough on his plate, but I do find myself also thinking it could just be the making of him. My curveball would be Josh Strauss. I can’t see him not starting once available as he is exactly what we need at 8, captains the Glasgow boys regular and again will lead by example. I understand the arguments against, he’s not really Scottish etc but personally if he wants to play for Scotland and he gives 100%, that’s alright by me.

    1. I agree with you Standoffalot, Johnny Gray would be my pick. Aye, he’s young but so was Sam Warbuton when he was made captain and Chris Robshaw to a lesser degree and they’ve both grown into it pretty well. The other name I’d chuck in there would be Rob Harley, but I’d hand it to Gray sooner rather than later.

      As you say, he’s calling the line outs and has a great mentor in Kellock (as well as Strauss), plus if he’s fit, he starts. I was chatting to a mate about this morning and he’s become, in my opinion anyway, a real focal point of this team, even if it seems he slips under the radar a bit at times. It’s crazy to think he’s so young but he appears to be taking it all in his stride. Plus, if it gives Richie a bit of a boot up the backside to up his game then even better.

      I think with Gray and Harley, you’re looking at 2 guys who would lead more by example than anything which, personally, is what I like in a captain.

      Again, I agree re; Hogg. I’d let him just focus on his game and play to his strengths. Not saying he couldn’t do it, but he’s been our most dangerous weapon recently so I’d let him concentrate on that.

      1. My only worry is like FF said; if Johnny is made captain it might weigh him down a bit when he already has so much on his plate. If you look at Warburton (and Robshore) they both needed a period to settle with Warburton even giving back the captaincy (then getting given the lions captaincy haha good one Gatland).

        My worry is do we have this time to settle him into this position when he is already so important with his line-out calling.

      2. Yeah fair point about the line out calls, but for some reason, he strikes me as the kind of guy who’d relish the extra challenge. Could be wrong of course.

        Also, I’m not strictly saying Warbuton and Robshaw are great captains! More just that it has been giving to younger guys before. It’s a tricky one, post-WC I imagine there will be a lot of guys who won’t feature much for Scotland again – Hamilton, Murray, Lamont, maybe Ford, so in a lot of senses you’re losing a huge amount of leadership.

        I can see Vern appointing a couple of the younger boys as vice-captains or pod-leaders for the WC and see how they go there. I can’t see Laidlaw dropping out for the rest of the 6N now in all honesty.

  3. Brings back memories of the last world cup with Big Al K was named as captain then never started a single game. Is there a jinks on second rows being named as captain in advance of WCs?

  4. I can’t see BVC dropping Laidlaw, and I would imagine that if he stays, then it will also be as captain. That’s not to say that he’s been a particularly good captain imo – I haven’t seen him ‘managing’ the referee as much as other successful captains do – but I can see BVC remaining loyal. So let’s hope that Laidlaw recovers his AI form when his service looked sharper and he’d largely consigned the box kick to the bin.

    Were BVC to astound me and drop Laidlaw, then I agree with those above that young Jonny is the natural successor, even if it is perhaps slightly ahead of his development. It’s unlucky for Gilchrist, altho he’d have to be playing immensely to get past JG on current form, but his particular captaincy ship has likely sailed. Ginger Bob would be another option – I don’t see his position under threat at all from Strauss’ arrival, as he is central to Organised Chaos (TM) – but I’m not sure he’s yet had sufficient experience at the Weege

  5. All the right names being thrown up here. I think Gray and Harley are good options because they lead by example and come across as fairly intelligent. I think Hogg has matured massively in the last year when the headiness of the Lions combined with frustrating losses seemed to bring out the inner f@nny a bit. He’s got a fair few caps under his belt now, comes across as much wiser on the pitch and in interview now, is an excellent competitor and fricken loves playing for Scotland – I would actually say he comes across as captain material more than the other backs listed. Overall though I would go with Johnny Gray. Paul O’Connell and Al Kellock have demonstrated that you can effectively captain and call lineouts. Gray has met any challenge presented so far. If SHC and Russell keep their kicking stats up and SHC has a strong end of season with Edinburgh, this could put a lot of pressure on Laidlaw and turn out to be a really tricky decision for Cotter.

  6. Does anyone know how many warm up Tests there will be before the RWC starts? That’s when we will see what Vern’s post-6N thinking is around captaincy options. I think that Laidlaw has to put in three really strong performances in the rest of the 6N just to keep the starting slot, let alone remain captain for the RWC. And if he doesn’t do enough to keep his place then we’ll see the results of Vern’s captaincy thinking sooner rather than later. I agree with those who think that Gray, J. has the potential to be skipper. He has made an excellent start to Test rugby and, although I have no access to any knowledge from inside the squad, it does come across that he is really respected by his team-mates. Hoggy? I agree with others – best left to concentrate on aiming to be one of the best running FBs in world rugby.

  7. The fountain of knowledge that is the Scottish Sun have reported this morning that Vern is preparing to make Johnny his captain for the next two tests. Not sure how much truth is in that, it is the Sun after all,but if substantiated then Laidlaw is presumably out.

    1. If he does, it will confirm Cotter as having very large balls indeed.

      Pretty sure Jonny Gray has second highest tackle count in this year’s 6N behind Chris Robshaw, but I can’t remember where I read it to confirm. He certainly leads from the front.

      My only concern would be whether we will have the on field composure and leadership to weather situations like the last 10minutes versus Italy, or when we went down to ten men versus Wales and needed to keep it tight for as long as possible. In both situations we needed to calm down and be focused on what we needed to achieve in each situation. Instead we panicked and shot ourselves in the foot, not that Laidlaw has done anything to help Scotland keep our heads, but where else can we get this composure from? Does Jonny Gray really have the experience to bring it to the team? He has been on the pitch for all our calamities so far – shouldn’t he have done these things anyway, regardless of whether he was captain? I’ve no idea but he can’t be any worse. I suspect he’ll need some support from other leaders around him whether they have 30 caps or 5, we need guys to step up and show character.

      1. FF – you’re right about the tackle count after the 1st 2 games but I don’t know how the latest round of matches affected that. I imagine he’ll be up there however.

        Favaro’s hits on Saturday probably should have counted double. Bosh! Looking forward to him at Glasgow next year…

    2. Could do worse than Jonny Gray as captain. He’s one of the few in the squad who is, by a long way, first choice in his position. Who else is there that we can claim that for? Dickinson maybe, but Grant
      Is a fine player too. Cowan probably has a safe jersey. Hogg too, but not for captain. Everyone else has hardly made the jersey their own.

      Point being, your captain should be someone that always performs and is undroppable because you’re never given a reason to drop them (hint: not Laidlaw). As far as I’m concerned, Gray’s work rate has been immense.

      If it’s a long term option it may work, much like Robshaw has: he was given the England captaincy on 1 cap and grew into the role. I do fancy J Gray as a future POC, (just to do the Scotland rugby fan classic and put unrealistic ambition into one player)

      Although I worry if it might be too soon? The lad is only 20, and I wouldn’t want to mess up his very promising development. Maybe he should start regularly captaining Glasgow first…

      This was reported in the Sun, so it might all be nonsense. But if Laidlaw is actually dropped for England (as most on this blog want), then I don’t see who the next natural option for captain outside of Gray. Maybe Ford or Lamont… But there’s a solid argument to drop them for Brown and Maitland anyway.

      Kelly Brown anyone?

      1. Yeah, I mean don’t get me wrong it is the Sun so is all very likely nonsense (they once linked Ronaldinho with Glasgow Rangers…) but the fact it’s been mentioned in a mainstream outlet is telling in my opinion.

        As for Gray being captain, to give a bit of comparison, Laidlaw has been subbed in all 3 matches thus far. Dusautoir and Warbuton have been subbed once apiece due to injury and then their teams had the likes of Alun Wyn Jones and Morgan Parra – amongst others to take over. The other captains are ever presents. I appreciate they’re all back rowers/locks and Laidlaw isn’t. Johnny is the only forward, asides from Cowan, who is guaranteed a whole game in my eyes. As Cross’s Beard rightly states, Robshaw was given it on cap 1 and Warburton on cap 10 or so. Pretty sure McCaw waited slightly longer, but post 2003 WC he hasn’t given it up.

        It’s also worth noting that both Robshaw and Warbuton made some pretty high profile howlers in their first few games but were given the time to grow into it – I see no reason why Jonny can’t be afforded the same.

        My only concern is all the others mentioned had a wealth of experience within the squad to draw on. Our highest cap forwards, Murray and Ford, are struggling for form and indeed, Ford lost the captaincy previously. Jonny would be doing it very much himself.

        My personal suggestion? Bring Al Kellock in. Not strictly as a player, but to provide some leadership around the training area and get him to speak extensively with Johnny, Dunbar, Cowan and Hogg. I still think he could offer something on the field, but that ship has sailed IMO, but his experience and communication skills are invaluable, plus he knows a lot of the players very well already. He was captain during the successful Argentina tour I think?

        I’d love Brown to return, but I can’t see it happen. I’m also pretty sure Barclay called a few of the blazers out and subsequently burned his bridges…

  8. If Laidlaw is dropped I wonder who would start in his place? If it’s Cusiter then he brings a wise head and leadership right into the heart of things. We really need leaders throughout the team, players with a few smarts that aren’t afraid to speak up. You can see that Hogg, Seymour and Russell are all fairly communicative on the pitch. I’m not so sure about the forwards, particularly the front and back rows. I know Fordy was captain for a while, but I really didn’t feel that the role suited him. You can look at some of the other teams and they are spoiled in this regard e.g. Ireland.

    1. If Laidlaw is binned then Vern might as well go for broke and start SH-C at 9 with Cusiter on the bench. You never know, the youngster might just surprise the England back row with his pace, and his service looks snappy. If it doesn’t quite come off, then you could do a lot worse than have Cus in reserve. What have we got to lose here as we go through the various combinations in a World Cup year in the middle of a 6N where it would be very nice to at least avoid the wooden spoon?

  9. Once again I feel blame for this situation lies with the coaching and management staff. Having the right captain is essential and should be well planned. The sru have completely shot themselves in the foot by dropping Barclay and brown. I can understand if there is players better than them, bigger than them etc but a good captain is must. South Africa carried john smit for years even tho bismark du P was twice as good. I don’t know what options we have now everyone just seems to inexperienced that it will be hard for them to influence the refs. And as it’s been said if there was any captains in the making they should have let themselves be known lat sat.

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Scottish Rugby News and Opinion