Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Scotland 10-40 Ireland

A packed and sunny BT Murrayfield set the perfect scene for running rugby and the end of Scotland’s Six Nations, with Ireland needing a win and a points difference of 21 after Wales ran riot in the second half against Italy.

Ireland had a clear cut chance early on after Russell shot out of the line too quickly and Hogg had to make a try-saving tackle. The spirited defence (led by the blonde mop of Dave Denton) only lasted so long until Paul O’ Connell steamed over, aided a little by a block on Jim Hamilton,

Slow start; so far, so much the same.

Sexton showed Scotland how to play the high ball game, with a perfectly positioned, high up and under right into the sun and down into the in-goal area. Hogg did brilliantly to take it but Sexton was playing the penalty advantage and duly took the three instead to make a fine start for the visitors.

After an injury break where both Euan Murray and Dougie Fife went off with bloody noses – Murray would not return – Scotland had a chance with some possession of their own, featuring a semi-successful attempt at a maul which ended with Visser bundled into touch as the ball went wide, but at least they didn’t look too panicked.

It was concerning that every time Scott or Denton took Scotland into the 22, Ireland managed to turn the ball over in a ruck (perhaps they were only really concentrating after that point), but Garces saw it our way on 17 minutes and Laidlaw got Scotland on the board.

Once Fife’s nose was fixed and the spritely Visser had gone off, Ireland resumed the targeting of that wing channel but only last gasp snaffles by Hogg and Fife himself held Ireland out. The same couldn’t be said seconds later when Fife, popping up in the midfield, missed a tackle that led to Ireland’s second try, again converted. He looked groggy and perhaps the blood injury was not the whole tale.

The period after that was end to end stuff as both sides focused a bit more on entertainment than tackling and even Big Jim Hamilton found himself in a bit of daylight, ball in hand, but was unable to find his supporting men.

Scotland were looking incredibly keen to carry ball though and persistence paid off on the half hour mark, when steady pressure following a great counter-attack from Stuart Hogg saw Hogg (again) and Ashe combine to send Finn Russell over, who was canny enough to dot the ball under the posts for an easy 7 points.

Ireland came straight back with a Sexton penalty from a collapsed scrum to keep the gap at ten points but Scotland didn’t lie down and kept pressing, and more importantly weren’t kicking away all their possession. Matt Scott and Finn Russell were at the heart of it all and were making good ground and cutting nice lines. So many moves were a last pass away from a score, not least the Scotland “knock on” that looked like Conor Murray had ripped the ball backwards, meaning Hogg was well within his rights to touch the try down as he did. Garces sadly didn’t see it that way and Ireland went in at half time looking pretty comfortable.

Half Time: Scotland 10-20 Ireland

As per usual, Scotland came out in the second half looking sleepy which is just what Ireland would have wanted, fluffing the restart and looking wary under another of Sexton’s pinpoint kicks into the sun. Ireland went hunting a try – and the extra 11 points they needed to top the tournament table – early on, but Scotland were perhaps lucky to restrict them to just 3.

Scotland were making little niggling mistakes though, and when the try Ireland wanted came with half an hour to play, it was down to poor first up tackling. Matt Scott moved sideways to tackle someone already covered and left a gap for Payne to run through. A further penalty put Ireland in touching distance of their goal and then Scotland’s old nemesis, a kick off the posts, re-appeared. This time they dealt with it reasonably sensibly.

With 25mins to play, two things happened: Sam Hidalgo-Clyne came on for Laidlaw and the pace went up, and Geoff Cross was sent to the bin for another breakdown offence.

Sexton missed that kick too, much to the surprise of the assembled masses. Perhaps another reprieve was the move to uncontested scrums with Cross off, Scotland having struggled at that set-piece since the early departure of Murray.

Sexton finally slotted one to ease the points difference up to Ireland’s desired 21+ but they showed no signs of slackening off at 10-33 up.

The crowd continued to roar Scotland on as they attacked with 14 men, but Denton knocked on in the tackle from Kearney, desperate to keep the ball alive. The next attack was similarly frantic, but Ireland were able to wait until Scotland tried some sort of chip kick (rather than trusting themselves to change direction), gather possession and put Scotland right back into their own half.

As usual, the opposition were being clinical and right where they wanted to be and Scotland couldn’t impose themselves enough to get closer on the scoreboard. This was illustrated perfectly by Sexton who bounced back from his penalty misses with a series of 2 or 3 touch finders pinning Scotland in their own 22. They retained their lineouts well, but it wasn’t going to get them any points stuck in the corner.

It was a tactically astute second half from Ireland and while there were things to admire in the heart of Scotland’s performance, it became pretty clear that they weren’t at the races in terms of intensity, discipline or gameplan in the last 20 minutes with a makeshift backline of Hidalgo-Clyne, Russell, Tonks, Fife, Visser, Seymour and Hogg in no particular order.

Hogg almost had a try but knocked on in the act of scoring much to the delight of the Ireland fans protecting their precious points difference, and it was agonising for the home fans who are waiting – still waiting – for this team to click.

The last time Ireland came calling it was a scrappy game that Scotland edged, but this was a far more entertaining game despite the result. The crowd never gave up and the players (Hogg in particular) never gave up, but in many areas this was the frustrating return to the drawing board we feared it might be.

SRBlog Man of the Match: Dave Denton carried strongly and tried to will the attack into shape at times. Strong in defence and a welcome return to form just as things are hotting up in the back row. An extremely honourable mention goes to Stuart Hogg, by some measure Scotland’s player of the tournament.

146 Responses

  1. Anybody got the match stats on how many penalties were given to Ireland? Back up around the 15 mark I suspect.

    Players I believe need to come into that squad (when fit in most cases) ASAP: Gilchrist, R Gray, Fusaro, Pyrgos, Dunbar, Maitland, L Jones, Welsh, Strauss (eventually), Weir, MacArthur.

    Out: Ford, Cross, Hamilton, Swinson, Denton (unless he stops coughing it up in the tackle), Laidlaw, Fife, Dickinson.

      1. Not good enough even though I would probably have given a couple more against the Irish for offside, not rolling away or coming in from the side.

  2. Very easy to blame coaches and/or players but if we have limited resource to start and then lose our “better” players we have no chance. R Gray, Reid, Welsh, Dunbar,Maitland even Weir and Jackson. Add in the Barclaygate however I think that Cotter must be allowed to bring in his own staff. Set Piece, Attack, Kicking coaches must go. We must review our defence (Taylor does very well at Glasgow so whats the difference?) But we need MORE rugby players throughout the country both grassroots and pro. If there is a lack of cash cut costs..Scott Johnson et al must go or take pay cuts. Go and get a sponsor, GET A 3rd PRO TEAM

    1. Third team equals extra eight million quid. Don’t think even SJ earns that much salary you can cut.

      1. Here’s a thought. Keep the wages of all employees realistic and results driven (not just winning either). Performance on and off field, community coaching etc. At same time help the younger players with career choices outside the game as a “top up”

    2. Yes indeed, a Scottish club structure that operates an effective feeder system quickly moving young talented players on to more high intensity games could be part financed by slimimg down a top heavy SRU payroll. More rugby players, fewer managers.

      1. How much money will that cost and where does it go? Clubs, pro sides, districts? Am
        trying not to be a doomsayer but even cutting a few big salaries at the top, how many players will that support and where do they play?

        Under 20s finished with three from five this year so the youngsters are there, but where do they play once they mature? A third pro team is essential but we are probably a cash injection from a Sky Sports Six Nations TV deal away from that so 2018 at the earliest!

  3. Lots of penalties but I thought (correctly as it turned out) we were in for a long afternoon with the ref when he failed to give what is crystal clear in the rules (as we know only too well) a yellow card to Jared Payne. But that would’ve spoilt the grand wave of Wales, Ireland, England. Instead Cross goes off for some innocuous offence midfield. Failed to police the Irish ruck (do they extend to 2m beyond the ball?).

    Anyway, it would’ve helped if Scotland had turned up to play like they had said they would.

    However, onwards and ever sideways. Time to build to the WC and welcome some players back and certain others new in. Can’t wait for them.

    Meantime, back to the business of the Pro12!

  4. There’s little point trying to sugarcoat our performance today, we were mince. Another promising autumn followed by a bleak spring. A false dawn indeed.

    Ireland are truly in a different class. Imagine we had a player of O’Brien’s aggression?

    I saw a stat post-game: Scotland have scored a total of 16 points in the second halves of the 5 games. That is dreadful. We lack players who can see out a game properly. They look disinterested and lacking any hunger when we’re up against it.

    The difference between us and other nations is that we don’t make 80 minute players. Outside of Hogg, all of our players switch off after the halftime oranges.

    There’s more work to do, and I am unsure that Cotter will stay around for much longer. His Clermont team would have trounced us. As said, the SRU must allow him the freedom to pick his own staff and players.

    The RWC could be painful if we don’t improve in our hunger, decision making and physicality

    1. I love a good moan , like the best of them. As you all know.

      So lets get them out and make them as harsh as you can. We need to get over the despair and move our energy into positive recovery.

      Most of our players did not go out yesterday to do a bad job. They just did the best they could do.

      Ok Lets get some real positive discussion going about what we are going to do about this? Lets try and get some real perspective.

      *The structure of the SRU and its prejudices: It will have many hangers on , we need it to be shaped fit for purpose for the modern era. If you add nothing , you should have no job. No old mates stuff either.

      *How many people play in Scotland? I have hear 12000 however not sure if that is an official number (will probably include schoolboys and women’s rugby). 20 years ago there were less than 10,000 (including schoolboys) however the SRU would not publish the numbers. In the late 70’s, 80’s I believe there were 30,000 playing.

      * Borders – Heart of Scottish rugby ? Yes it is and it has always been. What great players they have produced. Where is the population ? Answer : Glasgow and the west. We need to change the culture in the west. We have a sleeping giant in our midst.

      *Warriors are doing well, however , Edinburgh has been the home of rugby for years. (first internationals played in Glasgow as I recall)

      * When Scotland won grand slams , there were west of Scotland sides in Division one and they were competing.

      * Private Schools. Under pressure to convert from Rugby to Football in the west. Parents scared of serious injury.

      * At one time comprehensive schools played rugby however the teachers strike of the 80’s killed that. Rugby was available to all , not just those who’s parents were willing to take them to the rugby club for mini rugby.

      * With those kids who lost out playing the game due to the teachers strike , now being parents themselves, what likelihood is there of them taking their kids to the rugby club for mini rugby? I have heard mini rugby is doing well, however my point remains, who is reaching those who have no inbred rugby genes. Some of our greats (some real characters of rugby) have come from such backgrounds, I will not name names but can substantiate that.

      *The SRU is looking at setting up national academy’s which is great news. We now need to fill them with kids from all backgrounds.

      *with Scotland’s poor weather and other things for kids to do than play sport, we have a bigger challenge on our hands.

      Oh I have lived on both sides of the country and the west is wet and dismal. Gavin Hastings open his book with a proposal to change to summer rugby. Same as rugby league.

      If we look at this , it will take years to recover, other nations may be racing ahead , however if we have a structure that is right we will make up the ground and will maintain top 8 status, however this is going to take years. In light of this shocking six nations we must check this is the correct structure for the future ?

      Yes there are less children around than there were back then post the baby boom of the 50’s and 60’s. However that just means we need to get to what is available even more aggressively.

      What we are seeing today , is the result of a fundamental change in the 80s which is now being cascaded down.

      My challenge is , is simple do we have a structure to take us forward? Do we have enough evangelical zealots who are supporting the structure?

      1. Bulldog, I agree entirely with summer rugby, especially for the minis.
        I’ve taken my boys to mini rugby on many a Sunday morning, and it’s had to be cancelled many times due to the caprice of the weather.
        It’s no fun for the kids when they can’t feel their hands and they’re blue with the cold. I’ve seen whole teams of them in tears on very cold tournament days.
        All age groups between U6 and U12 could easily play between March and October, so missing the worst of the winter.
        It would alsdo be good for their handling skills on better pitches.
        I’m not sure about the other age groups as they have to dovetail with competitions in other countries etc.
        I’ve always thought it’ was a great idea, but the traditionalists just sh*t on the ides from a great height.

  5. Terribly, terribly disappointed after this match.
    The improvement I’d seen previously was not in evidence at all today.
    After the first half we needed to put in a good first 5-10 minutes in the second half to avoid a slide. It didn’t happen, Scotland continued to make silly personal errors to re-apply pressure on themselves.
    Not many players received pass marks today. Hogg, Bennett, Russell, Denton. The rest all lost there battles against their opposite numbers.
    Lack of intensity and cohesion against a much more expreienced side. They looked like (and acted like) boys against men today.
    The breakdown was hopeless and our backrow were far too slow to avoid turnover after turnover.
    I also think the performance today was tactically poor. Joe Scmidt clearly won the tactical battle today. I’d like to hear what Vern Cotter has tp say about this game.

    A parting shot. Why was Payne not given at least a yellow? He did jump up, but took the player in the air when he saw he wasn’t getting the ball. Another ludicrous decision.

  6. Sorry Allan, but that will make no difference. The players in scotland are simply not good enough, the ones that storm it in the pro12 for edinburgh and Glasgow don’t look that good at international level. Rugby now is all about who has the biggest players, with a smattering of really skilful ones. We don’t have the player pool and so won’t ever be able to compete. Even our one off wins in recent seasons are starting to look like distant heroic triumphs!

  7. Physically weak. Little boys. Get yourselves in the gym little boys. Too angry to even formulate a critique.

  8. I wonder if a promotion/relegation system will be on the cards in the future? I bet you Georgia are raring to go! Hopefully that will scare the SRU.
    I do agree though that the players in Scotland simply are’nt good enough. Like i’ve commented before; disinterest = mediocre national team.

  9. I’m a self-confessed expat Scot and supporter, in perfidious Albion and getting up for one game of each 6N. Professionally, I’m a statistician (of which, more later).

    Sadly, I have to admit that today we were appalling. Every other game we’ve played in this 6N we could be said to have been unlucky in not getting the win (even against the Auld Enemy at Twickenham) but today was almost like a different team playing. Had someone from the IFRU spiked the Kool-Aid in the Scotland dressing room?

    There’s an obvious observation from these games and it’s that in the second half of games, we fall apart. It was the same in the Wales game, the Italy game and today.

    I’m tempted to ask SRU if I can get hold of the data to run some analysis on the performance of the Scotland players to see if there’s anything there that can be derived therefrom: does anyone think I might get it?

  10. In another thread I said France beware as it looks as though the refs have been told to favour the three title challenging teams.I think the first half at twickenham bears that out.Yes the French got a dubious try after the TMO tried his best to disallow it but Courtney Laws tackle might have been timed well but he drove the French fly halfs head and neck into the ground which should have been a red card.Then it took about ten looks before finding one angle which let him allow a try with a man offside

  11. Was listening on the radio for first half but apparently Scots players were sniggering during the anthem?! If that’s true that’s appalling professionalism. Also there were far to many smiles on Scots players, Russell especially,at the final whistle, I hope they all feel terrible. Just throw us out the 6 nations, who would argue.
    ? Predictions for RWC based in this 6 Nations:
    Sco 26 – 16 Jap
    Sco 21 – 12 USA
    Sco 6 – 46 SA
    Sco 14 – 20 Samoa

    1. I agree with most of this but do you think we could even beat USA based on the last 5 performances?

  12. Dire. Before this game I genuinely thought we weren’t too far away. Now it’s clear we are some distance away and I’ve been dreaming. A third pro team is a financial impossibility so where do we go from here? Change the coaching set up and get BVC to bring in his own men? Apparently this is on the cards so here’s hoping. We need a change at scrum half and of captain. Laidlaw simply isn’t good enough, delivery is way too slow and evidently has zero influence on the referee. Dougie Fife is nowhere near international class. Not his fault, he’s a trier, but miles off being anywhere near it. Cowan’s poorest game to date unfortunately today. He’s been ok this 6N but he was poor today. We got murdered at the breakdown, Barclay and Brown have to be brought back into the fold, if only to see if they can do better. I don’t know that Vern will stick around if the players keep serving up this guff. Maybe we just accept we’re crap, but I do still genuinely believe this team can come good, but we’ve got a hell of a lot of work to do. Special mention to Stuart Hogg who has been excellent this 6N, and also Johnny Gray who while not at his best today, has been a colossus and will surely go on to greater things. Dunbar and Bennett also deserve praise.

  13. John C,
    If you manage to conclude anything from the data, please let me know. I am a mathematician by trade, and think that this type of might be the best way to find out “what the hell happened”.

  14. I think the game was over after the first try with Wales getting a cricket score Ireland new what they had to do and professionally went about it.Scotland just played out the 80 mins no real game plan, no desire to get off the bottom of the table.
    We all know with the professional era Scotland just don’t produce the players, we cant afford more teams so until we can afford to bring in two new teams or some company or individual comes to the fore and ploughs money into a club we will continue to play for second bottom place at best for a long long time.
    We do have a good coach in place but he can only work with whats put before him if the players aren’t good enough, have the desire fitness or discipline… no matter how much try to in still your way and approach you are fighting a loosing battle.
    The thing I don’t get is how many times we seem to make basic mistakes or our disciple lets us done…. ref says don’t touch the ball what do we do touch it…. it beggers belief.
    I will always watch the games and keep believing we will turn that corner but is it wish full thinking like winning the lottery.

    1. It is about money, yes. How we use it is my concern. BT have just given money and I am encouraged to see it is going to national academy’s.

  15. Two things. Ireland’s first try in under four minutes comes from a scrum given away from a maul position where our ball was under control. Don’t know if it was Laidlaw’s or Ashe’s fault, but we knocked on safe ball. Ireland scrum and, guess what?, we muck up our midfield defensive alignment and allow the break that leads to the O’Connell try.
    Second thing, how do we start the second half, when all of us know we’ve been starting the second forty poorly? We don’t secure from kick-off, we then muck up a second chance to gain possession a few seconds later, and after that it’s back foot for the rest of the half from there.
    Lots of rubbish in between as well but these two incidents just come across as symbolic of our inability to match it at critical points with our opponents throughout this entire 6N.

    Sick as a pig, because like many others I was hoping for more this 6N.

  16. I know that it’s not quantifiable, but I think that our attitude to our team still makes allowances for them which were perhaps appropriate in the ‘amateur’ era, but which are just not hard-nosed enough in respect of professional performance. It’s their job! If they’re not doing it well enough we need to say so, not through a mist of expletives and personal abuse, but in a measured constructive way. It’s not ‘a pity’ that Hogg knocked on when he was over the line; he should have scored, regardless of the attendance of Heaslip! Russell makes a lot of mistakes in among the good bits. We seem to give away a lot of pens – it surely can’t be the ref’s fault all the time! Finally, and, on perhaps a related issue, Andy Nicol said today that the Six Nations was the best annual rugby tournament in the world. Aye, right, Andy!

    1. DTR- We spent years forgiving players who would just’knock on’ at the end of good moves, to spoil the all the blood sweat and tears shed by their teammates to get into that position.
      I realise the current psychology is that you don’t shout at them, but they’ve always needed a kick in the arse in my view, albeit metophorical, rather than a hug.
      You are right. We’re much too lenient with those kind of failures.
      I’ve always thought that they’re professional rugby players, they should be able to hold on to or catch a bloody ball!

  17. Fitness also appears to be a problem. Does anyone know how our S&C differs from the Welsh and Irish?

    1. It differs in that it’s woefully inadequate. Some absolutely feeble defence out there and we were done after an hour. There’s too many in the team that are miles behind their counterparts from Ireland etc.

      International rugby has moved onto a whole new level of physicality and athleticism in the past 2 years and again Scotland are the slowest to react and deal with it.

      Coaching clear out required.

  18. Six nations may be a good tournament but only if your in the top 3 getting good results. I did think Andy was going to breakdown in that studio after that Scots display… it must be a hard job trying to be objective and not too down beat going over the same results year after year in this great tournament. But I do remember a time in the late 80 early 90s when it was always the Irish and Welsh who played out games for the wooden spoon….be interesting to see how there Countries react to a long spell not competing in the pro era

  19. Dire. Dire. Dire. At this rate will struggle to see off Japan. Worse still, Japan would win on this showing but no one would call it an upset ! Inconsistent application of laws by referees. Yellow card should havebeen given today. Still I’m sure the citing officer will step up to the plate NOT !!

    1. Agreed. There is something off here and has been off over the last decade of 6N…a strong pattern can be seen – demonstrative even – just what is going on with refereeing body/citation org? It’s like they are all following the same direction with regards to Scotland…harshest penalties for Scotland (carded) even though technically correct, anyone watching can tell the Scottish player meant no malice vs other teams getting away with a simple penalty when obstructing crucial breakaway moments for Scotland…moments that could easily have changed the tide of so many many games.

      Oh how would I feel realizing that the ref was against you from the outset (and you known that means that you are not on even ground with your opposition)? It would be demoralizing and energy sapping…how do Scotland escalate this pattern without bring disrepute to the 6N?

  20. So so sad! Reckon we were all looking forward to more from Scotland after the autumn series. I do think there is improvement under Cotter…. reckon too many injuries and not enough strength in depth, but we are always going to have that problem in a country where the round ball game has all the attraction and financial allure.

    Positives? Hogg is world class, has proven he has a defensive talent as well as undoubted attacking prowess.

    I also reckon with our full strength back line we will trouble defenses.

    negatives…. We need a captain, a talisman figure who works his arse off and doesn’t get taken off after an hour- I do rate him as à scrum half though.

    We also need a ferocious, ankle biting, abrasive back row who can win at the breakdown but not give penalties away.

    Generally I think to many refereeing decisions are taken against the under dogs, and too many to benefit the “better” teams – this had been apparent today, and most notably against Wales.

    Anyway. Disappointed, and fed up. As an ex-pat who has lived in England and now Wales, it gets boring to be always the cannon fodder…..

    1. Bob, Pragmatic post, I actually think we need a stable front 5 , back rows will shine if the scrum is stable and the scrum half breaks and can be supported by them. The pack has shown stability in the latter internationals when Euan Murray was back. We need a dynamic hooker, who can throw in perfectly and depth at tighthead. I actually think our Second rows hold their own albeit only J Gray is dynamic.

  21. Also with setting up new clubs reading on BBC sport Laidlaws article about borders rugby was interesting. We have lost the beating heart of Scottish rugby which was the borders and we need to get that back.
    When it comes to professional wages we cant compete with the top flight but surely we can learn lessons from some of the championship clubs in Scottish football on how to run clubs on a shoe string!If we had players on 30 grand a year I am sure they would work hard to develop and get noticed by top flight clubs for big time money…. but even 30k for say a squad of players and coach etc still brings you toward 1 Mill a lot of money to find

    1. 30 grand a year ? They have clearly taken a big hit in wages since the start of the professional era if that is the current basic. They were also on a win bonus scheme. I will not go into numbers on a public site, however you need to up your assessment considerably.

      The BT deal has brought money, however I wonder where that is going ? How many staff are at the SRU ? What do they do ? How many company cars etc.

      I would imagine looking at how Rugby League is organised and fed would be a good place to start in terms of how to manage a development structure. Much closer to home (arguably) and has UK wide appeal (unlike Scottish football)

    1. Not all that 20 mil goes to Edinburgh and glasgow. I would guess about twenty percent goes to the national side coaching and support staff and the sevens team (does ireland play sevens?). However, The SRU do pay massively inflated salaries to players in an effort to keep them in Scotland but it would be better if those players did go south as it would free up places for others. Three into 18 million equals 6 mil per team rather than the 9 mil per team we pay put at the mo. Reduce costs at each of glasgow and edinburgh by 20% and it then wouldnt take much more to top off the budget and, boom, you have a third pro side.

      I dont care what anybody says, selling the six nations to Sky would be the saviour of Scootish rugby as it would bring in that much needed extra revenue to fund a third pro side.

      1. Ireland look like they will be starting a 7s but not sure if thats for Olympics in future.
        I agree with cutting costs etc to fund a 3rd pro team but the problem is if we lose our best players from Glasgow & Edinburgh we could be out of the prize monies at the season end. The Irish have made a fair bit of cash from “Celtic League” wins and Heinekin Cup wins over the seasons.
        The 7s though is definitely a luxury now.

      2. Allan, if the English salary ceiling is £5.4m, we appear to spend more on salaries than they do, which would be surprising.
        I’ve heard that the player budget at one particular French club is equivalent of £16.2m (Toulon).
        I agree with you that any top Scottish players on big salaries should be allowed to move away from Scotland without ruining their chances with the national team.
        We’ve been through the ‘you must play in Scotland’ during the Matt Williams era, and it was never going to work.

      3. I would imagine the SRU figures include on-costs such as ground and training pitches rent, equipment, kit, transportation, medical bills, insurance costs, stewarding at games, policing, etc etc. I dont know what percentage is for player salaries but if we go with around 4 million, the average player salary at Glasgow and Edinburgh would equate to about 90 grand. Notwithstanding, i do recall reading an article somewhere that showed that the IRFU doesnt pay anywhere near the salaries to players that the SRU and WRU pay. What they do have is a strong sense of loyalty from the players.

        I would hope that Dodson and co have managed to streamline the SRU costs to some extent but i am sure more could be done but without access to the accounts in full, will we ever know? Once again though, its left to folks like us on blogs to ask these questions rather than the journos at th Herald, Scotsman etc who are deferential to the point of sycophancy when it comes to asking the hard questions of the SRU. Old fashioned investigative journalism is dead in scottish sport.

    2. Not Like with Like-Just look at the crowds they attract compared with Scottish clubs even Connacht RFC

  22. Defence to narrow and with no Maitland who is strong defensively, Fife and Visser have struggled. Lamont not quick enough for the highest level joe I feel. Forward back needs more go forward, so Strauss, Denton and Ashe need to be available. The work Gray Jnr puts in by the others so Gray Snr needs to up his all round game, or Gilchrist will be in. He constantly is making himself available for work. Now the thorny issue of tight head, Murray is probably still our strongest scrummaging 3 but I see Nel as our next best all round when he is available. I am not sure where else we turn. Now the tricky question do we have enough players playing at the highest level week in week out? I am sorry to say the answer is no. Scott comes in at12 but plays all his rugby at 13, and Eedinburgh have to many non Scots in the centre. If we are to employ non Scots then they must be of the highest standards and be qualified or qualifying for Scotland. Only the beginning of the change I feel is needed.

  23. Yes I feel sorry for Scotland you had a real go in the first 4 games and you was unlucky,but today you let yourselves down and Wales!

  24. What a mess. Yet another case of one step forward, twenty steps backward. Its becoming more and more clear that there is something fundamentally wrong with Scottish rugby. One win in our last 12 6N games makes my head and heart ache. Our defence, despite all the praise it recieved early in the tournament, has been technically awful. Half the time it feels like we’re a man down in the backline, opposition just strolls through. Every man in the squad needs to have a long hard think about his individual contribution.

    Btw, after Laidlaw came off, who was captain? I could hear the ref taking to someone, but it was during the replays.

  25. What about getting rid of the sevens team and putting that money and players towards a third pro team. Can’t be cheap to send these lads jet setting, and let’s face it there results are usually average. I know the game was invented in Scotland but so was many things. Let’s concentrate in getting the 15 a side game right.

    1. Interesting call, but I am hesitant on it. Like it or lump it, 7s is a much more exciting game to watch than 15s for the average member of the public.

      BBC Scotland know this – the fact that they show the Melrose 7s every year on BBC1, yet Glasgow and Edinburgh games get coverage in a language spoken by 1% of population tells you a lot.

      We had 171,000 people at Ibrox for the Commonwealth Games 7s. I accept that the games were a bit different, and that our team had many ‘stars’ in it (Hogg, Lamont etc), and of course not every crowd member was Scottish.

      But still – watching pacy, skilful players is more fun for your average Scot than watching penalty, kick to the corner, rolling maul, collapsed maul, knock on, collapsed scrum over and over.

      My point is that if we are to grow the game in Scotland by getting kids involved and more of the non-rugby watching population interested; then 7s is the best place to start.

      In my opinion, the SRU should be lobbying the IRB tirelessly to bring the Scottish leg of the 7s circuit back. Because when I was 8 years old, all I wanted to do was run with the ball and try and outpace my man on the outside. I wasn’t interested in intricate lineout moves or body positions in the scrum one jot*.

      *Incidentally, now as a second row with the pace of an asthmatic snail that’s all I do!

      1. In defence of the Gaelic commentary, they always sound enthusiastic. I’d rather get that kind of build up in a language I don’t understand than listen to John Beattie and Scott Hastings analyse the game with no real enthusiasm on the red button… Maybe just me though!

      2. Not just you – Hugh Dan’s “Matawalu furra liinnnne!” gets me every time! I’d take that over the dull musings of Beattie and Hastings any day.

        More just illustrating a point about BBC priorities.

      3. 7s is also an excellent way to introduce rugby to schools that do not have the numbers, interest or coaching capacity to support full 15-a-side squads at different age groups. We should use it as a hook to get kids into rugby who attend schools where rugby is not traditionally played; much like tag or touch rugby 7s should be considered a ‘gateway’ code.

        Also, as an English speaker I love Gaelic commentary and am indebted to BBC Alba’s support for Scottish rugby which has meant I’ve seen dozens of games BBC Scotland couldn’t give a f*** about.

      4. BBC Scotlands sports dept, which seems to consist solely of Middle aged weegie wendyball fanatics, only has eyes for two gangs of squabbling bigots. BBC Alba has been a godsend. Living in England it’s the only link I have to watching Scots rugby.

      5. Indeed about BBC Alba, the commentry is very enthusiastic and in all honesty (when they speak English) unbiased.

        With some of the games now on BBC2 Scotland I can only watch them on my smart TV (in England) and can’t record them which is annoying as getting the wife to sit through two hours of Gaelic on a Friday night is a challenge.

      6. I’m based over in Holland and watch the BBC Alba/BBC2 games on my laptop through IPlayer. I usually just plug my laptop into the TV with an HDMI cable.

        I don’t know if Smart TV’s would allow you to switch setting to BBC Scotland on Iplayer, might be automatically set to your location?

        As for catch up, on Iplayer at the moment they’ve got the full Edinburgh vs Treviso/Blues and Glasgow vs Zebre games from earlier in the month available.

      7. All good comments in here, including the excitement, public appeal and training angle of sevens. Perhaps it has its place in the big picture however I cannot see it.

        Consider the following:

        We play because we love it, we play initially with close friends. The majority of players in Scotland are not professionals but blokes out for an afternoons sport, with their friends. It is them that keep rugby alive, not the professional showpiece. Spectators play a vital part of the modern equation, however our current issues are not spectators but players.

        I would rather see our nation focus on a game that encourages 15 men rather than a game than gets 7 on the pitch.

        Unlike most sports , rugby is a game for all shapes and sizes. We should celebrate the diversity of our game. This aspect is one of the qualities that differentiate rugby from most sports.

        The late Bill Mclaren was once in a debate with a famous international prop on the introduction of wing forwards. The prop said ‘I would not play them’, to which Bill said,’but H****E, 2 men would not be getting a game , would you not prefer see those lads getting stripped and joining us on the pitch? ‘

        Bill embraced the spirit of our game like no other.

        Perhaps 7’s has its place , but right now our 15 man game is in crisis. We need to get our great game out to the masses, get the numbers playing increased, and have a credible strategy to protect our top eight place at international level.

        If It came to it, I would rather see cash being channeled in the right direction and make sure we have 15 men getting stripped on a Saturday and an international team that represents them at the highest level.

  26. Total humiliation in the end with no wins and some very poor play in at least 3 games. The loss to Italy was inexcusable ! Yet another false dawn.

    The big gulf in class, experience and physical dominence with the others sides (excl Italy) was often on view. Slow slow slow in almost everything we did that really madea difference. Not clear where Vern Cotter can go from here for the RWC, but the bar is getting higer in Intl rugby and we are slipping backwards. There was some encouraging play and real promise in passages, but I am clutching at straws here. Forwards need to show real collectivel aggression and drive, as well as ball retention – many “solo” culrpits here. The team played better in the Autumn Intls.

    Vern Cotter may need to change some of his coaching team, as well as find a new captain to lead more aggressively from the front. The SRU also may need to look at widening the professional playing base in Scotland and linking this better to the top clubs and the new academies. Also the skills and rugby “nous” of those comming though from the lower levels needs to change materially – some signs of this aleady from this years under 18 and under 20 teams (thanks to Sean Lineen and others).

    The loss of Ritchie Gray & Alex Dunbar, as well as unavailablity of Sean Maitland, Duncan Taylor, Henry Pyrgos, Chris Fusaro, Duncan Weir & Grant Gilchrist (some of our best players) had a big impact, with such a small group of available players.

    Bennett, Hogg, Dunbar, Cowan, Ashe, Denton, Murray & J Gray all stood out at times in a poor team.
    Some guys contributions were “well below expected”, including Visser, Lamont, Fife, Tonks, Laidlaw, Beattie, Harley, Swinson, Cross, Dickinson & Ford.
    Russell looks good but need more experience.
    H-Clyne looks ready to step up to a bigger role.
    Ashe also made the grade in a poor team

    1. Italy only have 2 professional teams and both are the whipping boys of the league. Both our teams are mid and top of the table. Italy have limited players to chose from. (It is a laughable by the way but they have 2 scots in the team). Two lads that have been overlooked by us have found places in an Italian side that beat us. They must be doing something right , what are we missing ?

  27. A day later, and I’ve calmed down a little.
    Looking at the performance of Vern Cotter, I think his strategy needs to be questioned yesterday.
    It’a all very well steaming into the players as many of the posters on this blog are doing, but he seems to be escaping any criticism.
    He doesn’t understand what he;s let himself in for, as the players are rubbish seems to be a popular refrain. Not good enough!
    As head coach it’s his role to prepare and motivate the players, and ensure they are ready for battle.
    It hasn’t been working and they looked undercooked again yesterday.
    I think his player selections need questioned.
    We needed some leadership and experience, and better players than the incumbents are being ignored. Why?

    At Clermont, he bought and found the biggest pack he could, and had enough talent in the backs with Rougerie and Fofana to be successful.
    He can’t buy size with Scotland and a different strategy is needed.

    1. I also think that cotter has made some tactical blunders, however you need to give him time to settle into the job. Look at what he has to work with. Minimum player pool, an idiot for director of rugby, no leaders, seasoned players with no interest anymore. He has to be given time to settle in and hopefully he’ll be able to tweek his coaching team and put some pressure on the management to find the money to run third pro team

      1. We are not the only side with problems , France have underperformed for some years now, however I feel optimistic they will recover. However when you put it like that, we have some deep seated issues. The BT deal must have been brokered by someone and they must have seen some hope for Scotland to make the investment.

    2. Yes VC needs also to be challenged on what HE has achieved. Experienced though he is, he is still learning about Scottish rugby and the International “level”. Mistakes in selection or tactics are OK in the first year or so, but this is a RWC year and we need him to be smart and ruthless in extracting the best he can from those he selects.

      On the other hand, players need to be able and willing to follow his plan to win for 80m minutes on the pitch. For now its only in patches and then they seem to slip back to type. Its no good saying to the press what a great coach he is if you don’t then do what he says during the game.

    3. Sadly, many more performances like yesterdays and the game against Italy, may see Vern go his own way. I suspect that there is a fair bit going on behind the scenes that isn’t being aired in public. I don’t want to jump to conclusions yet about VC’s tenure but the presence of the previous back room coaches is slightly odd to me. You would have thought that he would have brought in one or two of his specialist coaches, and got some of Johnson’s mates out of the way.

      I appreciate that SJ is a bit of pantomine villian as far as scotland fans are concerned but being based in South Wales I can honestly say that he wasn’t well respected down here. Skills coach yes, head coach or anything higher (like director of rugby) no chance. Most of his coaching buddies wouldn’t get a job down here either.

      My welsh brother in law knocked the nail on the head for me yesterday, “the scots are soft especially up front. yes you have some skillful backs but you’re a soft touch up front and have been all season. No hard men that can stand toe to toe to any of the 6N packs including Italy”. I can’t say I disagree with him worst luck!

      I can’t understand why VC can’t see that we have a serious lack of leadship and aggression. One or two older heads may have to come back i.e brown and barclay. I would even had let Al Kellock have 50 minutes. He is still the leader at glasgow even from the sidelines carrying the water bottles but at least you know he cares and rallies the boys. He does have good deputies at glasgow with straus and the like. Scotland are way off the mark when its comes to attitude and aggression and leadership. Team chemistry is just not there at the moment. Pretty depressing all round.

      1. Kellock would have been a good presence on the touch line and in the dressing room. Laidlaw is utterly ineffective as a captain and Ford, as a senior pro, is anonymous on the pitch. A great leader can haul an average team up to a level where they can compete. We saw it when Hastings captained scotland. He might not have been the best tactician but his passion came through and motivated the players. He also led by example, unlike our current incumbent who is only any good behind a pack going forward, which Scotland’s very rarely does. Scrum half is the most important position in the pitch and he is not pulling his weight at all. George Gregan turned crap ball into good ball for Australia behind a pack that was pretty ordinary. We need a 9 who can do this for us.

        Cotter will earn respect if he bins Ford, Laidlaw, Fife, Hamilton and Cross. Five of our worst performing players. If he doesn’t do this then he will have to take as much blame as the players should the world cup be the disaster I foresee.

      2. another mike ..I totally agree with the hardness angle, but with limited resource it’s not a case of King of the Jungle, it’s he’s a prop and he’s a lock so pick him. Also Warriors are doing very well however could this be that the majority of the team are test players and therefore just that bit better than the opposition? They also have a very good club coach in Townsend who will one day be the Scottish coach. I am concerned on the S&C as well and I said this at the last RWC. We looked average compared to the other top 10 teams and it appears that we have the same coach. I see Wales and Ireland have really upped their game here.
        Do Glasgow & Edinburgh & Scottish S&C share ideas?

  28. Well then, another year of little to no progress for top level Scottish rugby. Funnily enough, I still believe we are a couple of steps away from ‘clicking’ – although I’ve been saying that for around a decade now! At least we can go into the RWC with no expectations (unless you are the SRU or Denton, who think we’re going to win it!).

    There is still, unfortunately, a sizeable gulf between us and other nations. In terms of the physicality, execution and game management, we’re quite far behind.

    ‘Organised Chaos’ is a great tactic, provided that it fulfils both of those things. Our 6Ns can only be defined by the latter. We didn’t do ‘organised’.

    As has been said a million times now, Laidlaw can’t compete with Warburton, Robshaw and POC. My main worry is though, that none of the other 22 candidates in the matchday squad have convinced me that they can either.

    That demonstrates our main weakness. If Warburton goes, then AWJ or Bigger can confidently step up and nobody asks questions. If POC goes, step up Sexton or Heaslip. Robshaw goes, say hello to Haskell or Marler.

    Our options? Well first of all, nobody even knows who our vice-captain is. Ford, J Gray or Cowan? Our lack of leadership across the pitch shows through into our play. Nobody is really willing to say ‘right lads, follow me’. And if they did, I am not convinced that the players have the confidence in each other to do it.

    Because the fact is this. Fans from all over Scotland travelled many miles and paid good money to watch their national team play. And excuse me, but the service simply isn’t good enough. When I see our player sniggering pre-game, looking disinterested, smiling after heavy losses and not engaging with the fans; then I don’t have any time for any of the PR nonsense that follows.

    Hearing about how we’re “building a squad” and how we “didn’t apply pressure” is all well and good, but I would rather hear coaches and players say “sorry. We didn’t play well at all, and never looked like we were going to. We are paid a lot of money to do this, and we don’t act as if we should earn it.”

    I want to see Scotland’s best 23 players in the squad, and not just the ones who please the SRU blazers. If the pinnacle of Scottish Rugby would rather lose games than lose face, then I make no apologies for not oozing in confidence in them.

    At things stand, I am slowly becoming a bigger Glasgow fan than a Scotland fan. Not because of any glory hunting, but because when they play they look as if they want to. They engage with the fans, they trust each other and most importantly – they look as if they enjoy their job. And I would rather spend my hard earned money watching that than what our national team has offered recently.

      1. Agree with Beard. Don’t see a focused team before the game – more focused on checking for their friends or family in the stands.

        For twenty minutes before they leave the dressing room they should be fully focused on the game and their specific role. The laughing and sniggering after the game is also not acceptable. Be accountable.

        In another forum, the writer suggested that players of Scottish ancestry should be approached and in a recent Super 15 game there were a number of Macs in a NZ team. They may not all be eligible but they can’t all play for the AB’s and the chance to play international rugby may be attractive. The current crop of local players are not the best so do we want to be picky ? The Stormers in S A have a Scottish born centre on their squad and he is playing off the bench behind two Springboks. Hugh Jones – born in Edinburgh.
        Anyone heard of him ?

      1. Unfortunately mistaken identity Stand Off. Although I do think I know who you refer to – unfortunately my own beard has a long way to go before it reaches that level!

    1. Really good assessment of what is happening in Scottish Rugby right now…I know from experience, as I have supported Wales for 60 years. Like Scotland we seem to have a really good team come along every 15/20!years, in between it’s a damage limitation exercise. It’s hard for Wales having only four Pro teams, it must be near downright impossible for Scotland with only two!!.
      For the last ten or so years we have been attracting more youngsters to the game at grass roots and the results show it’s paying off. Maybe that’s the answer for Scotland, but it will still take a lot of patience to see it come to fruition.
      I feel for all my friends I have made over the years in the Borders, ie. Melrose, Gala and Kelso. The Borders is the spiritual home of Scottish rugby, and it must hurt them not having a Pronteam based there.
      Anyway, enough from a Welshman, just want to add my best wishes for a revival in fortunes of Scottish rugby….the sooner the better.

  29. What’s wrong with Scottish rugby?
    Since its widely acknowledged that this is the best group of players since the start of the 6 nations then we have to look at coaching management.
    We have an English CEO , an Australian DoR , a NZ coach , an Italian scrum coach , a Welsh forwards coach , an Australian(SQ) defence coach and Duncan Hodge!! This group is clearly not working.
    If Cotter is you Head Coach then let him bring in his own assistants and lets exclude the farcical situation where his boss is also one of his assistants.
    Maybe we also need to change the half time team talks , in the 5 games this year we went in to H.T. ahead in 2 games and 1 point behind in another. We managed to score a grand total of 16 points in the 5 second half’s , 13 of which were in the Wales game and scored 0 in 3. Something not right there , whether its fitness or bad substitutions it needs sorted!!
    And finally why don’t we pick our best team with the best players (with a small group to pick from its more important to Scotland than most) , leaving out Cusiter , Brown , Barclay etc is nuts.

  30. I’m sure this stat has already been shared but if not here it go’s….

    In the 15 years of six nations (sigh), we have played 75.
    Won 19, drawn 2 and lost 54…

    Happy Sunday folks

  31. Does anyone know who the citing commissioner was at the match yesterday?
    I thought we might hear from him today about the Payne challenge. Clearly not. Is it because it was an Irishman who made the dangerous challenge rather than a Scot?

    1. I thought that decision was pretty farcical, as was the second yellow for Masi against Italy, as was the decision not to send of Haskell for a sliding tackle on a player about to make a break and ease past him into open space (a deliberate, dangerous act of foul play). To me, there seemed a strong tendency among the officials to promote a spectacle by helping the chasing teams pursue the scores they needed. I am not suggesting any bias but effectively all the chasing teams got home town refs – I think ‘sympathetic’ refereeing is the term.

      1. I bet not a single Scottish rugby journalist has bothered to picked up the phone to John Jeffrey at World Rugby and asked him, as Refs supervisor or whatever title it is, why Payne wasn’t yellowed and hasn’t subsequently been cited. Or why Dan Cole wasn’t yellowed last week, or why Garces allowed Murray to feed their scrum and Best to have his foot up all game. Or the appalling second half display by Pollock in the Wales Italy game.

        Tom English is the only journo worth reading. The bum lickers at the Hootsman are a disgrace to their profession.

    2. The Payne challenge was poor. The response was not consistent with what we have seen this season. We keep hearing rugby is a game of small margins. Poor call by the ref.

      I find it difficult to be critical of referees. How many of us would prefer to referee over playing.

  32. Funnily enough I was actually thinking what the Beard said out loud, that I genuinely am more concerned about Glasgow now than Scotland. Which is worrying in itself as I’ve never really felt like that. Which then got me thinking, with all players being fit and well, would I take any Edinburgh players for Glasgow if given the choice? Who plays for Edinburgh that I think is better than their Glasgow equivalent? And the answer is no one. The only one that came close is SHC versus Pyrgos, but I would still rather have Pyrgos. I feel his game management is better simply due to having more experience. Now I understand Edinburgh won the 1872 cup, and I appreciate that I am biased but I still stick by my opinion. I am also genuinely interested to hear what others on here think. However this only goes to highlight just how little strength in depth we have in Scottish rugby, and we really need to see more focus being put into making Edinburgh a real force in the Pro12.

    1. In my opinion during the autumn internationals, Scotland’s best periods of play were when we had a quorum of Glasgow players on the pitch. They actually played better in the second half than we have seen in the 6N.

      If you watch Glasgow play they have the confidence to bring on some of their best players for that last 30 minutes. For me one of the major strengths of the Glasgow squad is depth and fitness. They are a fit side capable of more than 80 minutes hard rugby.

      Scotland have suffered in the second half in the 6N. We have just recently witnessed Edinburgh lose to 13 man Ulster in the last 10 minutes of the match. Is that signiicant? are the observations on fitness made here relevant ?

      I do not think our issues are because we need a third professional team , that would just dilute the issue, I do not believe we are making the most of what we already have.

      Conversely , If I were the Glasgow management, I would be angry that they have been left bereft of players, injured in the 6N when they have their fan base to satisfy and a league to win. Complex issues indeed.

      1. There is a strong case for creating a rational season in the NH, like in the SH, where the season progresses from domestic leagues to European rugby to test rugby to improve player welfare and continuity of competitions. Until that happens, Glasgow and Edinburgh are always going to play second fiddle to the national side.

        I think we also have to be honest about where Glasgow are. They are one of the best teams in the Pro-12 but when it comes to the biggest games (previous pro-12 semi-finals and last year’s final, European games against Toulon and Toulouse) when they have to find a way to win, their inexperience of the top level has been shown up by more streetwise opponents, particularly those with huge packs. It shouldn’t be a surprise that these same players have struggled to exert the same control when they have been exposed to the intense pressure of 6N rugby. They are a young group though and more exposure to this level with Glasgow and Scotland will give them the opportunity to learn and improve and hopefully the next generation of players will be brought into a capable, confident team instead of stepping up en masse with few old heads to guide them.

      2. FF – The problem with Glasgow is as you say, they are a bit short on the physical side of things. Toulouse, and Bath at their bit dominated us physically. We’ve been caught out and missed the start of the explosion in athleticism and size of players in Rugby. The next generation need to have it drummed into them from the age of 18-19 that they need to compete physically first and foremost.

      3. Glasgow have just announced the signing of Kieran Low from London Irish in the summer and Hugh Blake is joining for the rest of the season from Edinburgh.

      4. Surprised that Nasi Manu has gone to Edinburgh as all the rumours were that he would end up at Glasgow. The SRU have been hunting John Hardie’s signature for years now but if he comes, looks like pot luck where he’ll end up. Personally, I think Glasgow need some top class back row reinforcement for next year – Hugh Blake might come good but he’s just a young lad.

      5. Not sure about the signing of Low to be honest. Decent enough without being outstanding. Personally I’d just have brought Richie Vernon back into the forwards where he belongs. I can’t help but feel Glasgow need some marquee signings to replace some of our best players who are leaving, and to take us to the next level. I understand the need for Scots qualified players but we need better than what we already have.

      6. Yep, Glasgow need – and deserve – a couple of marquee signings. However, I think Favaro, Low, Hart and Blake (until the end of this season) are being brought in to fill out the squad and replace positions where people have left or we have had injury issues. As such, they are pretty good. Low is versatile (lock and back row), big and not a bad player at all and he is only 24. Hart is a much better scrum half than Nico and will challenge Pyrgos for the jersey. Favaro brings test match experience and will push Fusaro for a starting position.

        They still need an outside back and maybe a real beast of a forward, preferably in the front row. However, I think Glasgow desperately need guys that aren’t Scottish qualified and so will be there inside the test windows when Glasgow have had to patch together a team. A flying Fijian from somewhere would do nicely.

      7. To be honest I can’t believe Edinburgh let Hart go. I think he’s a great signing, and after watching Favaro against Scotland I’m looking forward to seeing him. I would also hope to hang onto Blake and hope he develops with us. I agree regarding the need for a big forward, we could really do with a Nick Williams type to make the hard yards. The wings are where I really feel we need cover. Lamont hasn’t long left, Rory Hughes is still developing and Lee Jones is good but not maybe international class (but still better than Fife). That leaves us really with only Tommy Seymour who is a class act. Losing DTH particularly irks me as I really don’t understand it, the Scarlets is surely a backards step.

      8. I think Visser is pretty much nailed on to go to Harlequins based on a host of articles doing the rounds last week. Ugo Monye has also just announced his retirement this morning so presume he’s replacing him there?

    2. I’d like Hamish Watson and Visser at Glasgow, unlikely as it sounds.As a kicking fly half I thought Tom Heathcote might have been a decent shout.

      1. Shame Heathcote didn’t seem to fit in at Edinburgh. He is young and has the talent to bounce back but he needs game time to get his confidence back. I always thought he looked pretty composed, not sure why it didn’t work out for him. He is much better than Te Rure who is incredibly raw.

      2. Word has it that Visser is off to Sale Sharks to replace Mark Cuato. Glasgow do however need to sign a winger after the departure of Maitland and DTHVDM. Perhaps a Southern Hemisphere A-lister after the World Cup? Seems unlikely but it would be brilliant. Imagine Israel Folau in a warriors jearsey, with Hogg and Seymour beside him. Extrememly wishful thinking but a lot of these players have expressed interest in moves up north.

        I’m very excited to see Favaro play for Glasgow, he was electric against Scotland. Blake too, Glasgow will help with his development. Watson and Blake at Glasgow would be overkill.

  33. Also Tom English’s article on BBC website is excellent. Basically says what we are all thinking.

    1. And yet the silence from the SRU president on what fundamental changes he intends to bring in continues. Dodson is in the job to make the SRU run on what little cash it has. He has done well as far as I can see what with the deal with BT. The president and the Board are supposed to be in charge of the new ideas etc but are doing eff all as far as I can see. Love him or hate him, Johnson is our Director of Rugby but can we trust the Blazers to agree to any changes he might propose?

      I would be interested to know who sits at the top table of the SRU board and what their grand strategy for Scottish Rigby actually is.

      1. The previous strategic review led up to the current strategy which was published in December 2013 ‘The Way Forward: 2016 and beyond’ and is available on the Scottish Rugby website (go to the footer and it is linked to under Updates – the Way Forward).

        In my opinion it isn’t a high quality document and suffers from a lack of detail, regardless of your opinion on its actual policies. I don’t know how much more information was presented to the AGM when it was published, but it does at least sketch out the SRU’s direction.

        Some of it is sensible and has been implemented (the creation of the academies, which I think has actually been done ahead of schedule due to the injection of the BT funds), some of it was opposed by the clubs and so has not been implemented at all (the creation of a semi-professional tier out of the Premiership – at this point it was not funded but had clearly been drawn up with the BT deal in the process of being negotiated) and some of it has almost no detail but has subsequently been developed (Frank Hadden published his review of the school structure with proposals for a new national competition a couple of months ago to a widespread lack of interest).

        I think a key weakness is that the pro-sides are entirely absent from these policy intiatives. If they are to become true regional teams they should be integrated with the club and school structures in the areas they represent. There is little sense from this document that there is a unified vision for what Scottish rugby should look like – not surprising considering that historically the SRU has found it almost impossible to get the clubs and private schools to cooperate with whatever initiatives it proposes, that confidence in its ability is low and that until recently it never had any money to grease the wheels with.

        However, searching for positives I still think that we are moving in the right direction. Our crop of young players will take time to find their feet at test level but we are producing talent, our age-grade teams are becoming more competitive and our pro-sides are enjoying better results. Most importantly, the financial situation is better than it has been for a hell of a long time. I really hope we don;t react to a desperately disappointing 6N by calling for a revolution and wholesale change. We need to build on what we’re doing well, pull the different parts of Scottish rugby together and heading in the same direction and build up our professional base sustainably. It isn’t going to happen overnight because there isn’t a magic bullet to solve our problems, no matter how much some of us might think SJ deserves to face a firing squad.

    2. Indeed, a number of those stats have in fact improved (though it’s painful to take the positives out of a less negative points difference), and I don’t think any have got worse. U20s and 7s markedly improved and, despite the wooden spoon, the 6Ns wasn’t last year’s apocalypse.

  34. Did anyone see the 6N review programme on BBC2 Scot last night with John Beattie, Tom English and Dan Parks?
    TE chose a WC starting 15 of (from memory) Dickinson, Ford, Nel, Gray, Gray, Brown, Barclay, Strauss, SHC, Russell, Seymour, Scott(assuming AD injured), Bennett, Maitland, Hogg. I saw that and thought – aye, that would do. I like all of our back row players individually, and think that they should all be retained in the squad (with the potential exception of J Beattie)but I also just felt that we were bullied and dominated in every game at the breakdown. Our other perennial ailments were discipline, leadership and decision making. I can’t help but feel that TE’s backrow would improve all of these factors, as well as providing potential captains (creating more competition at SH). He admitted that Nel was an experimental choice.

    1. Tom English has fast become my favourite rugby writer. However, Nel is at best a punt. He can be great in the loose but I would really be wary about his scrummaging at test level unless he is available for the warm up games and can prove his mettle.

    2. I enjoyed the programme last night. Tom English pretty much reiterated everything he wrote in his latest BBC article. He definitely talks a lot of sense. I also really like the look of that team, but agree with FF, with the exception of Nel who has yet to convince me. BVC seemed to think there’s a chance Dunbar may be fit so here’s hoping. I’m also hopeful Ryan Grant can get a bit of form back. The main concern is having 4 WC warm up games. We struggle enough with injuries as it is.

      1. Ooft – unfortunately that sounds very tight. So best case scenario he gets in a couple of games for Glasgow and maybe a half against Japan and USA before we get into SA and Samoa? However, having him as an option would still be vastly preferable to the alternative.

        I agree with Standoffalot that 4 warm ups is a lot. I can see the rationale in trying to give more time for the team to gel, but it’s a massive injury risk. As happens in every tournament (particularly the 6N) we do not have the depth to deal with the attritional scheduling and playing 3 matches within a month of the RWC commencing makes me fear for who will be left by the time we meet Samoa.

      2. Has everyone forgotten about Moray Low as a potential tighthead option?
        He’s going great guns at Exeter and appear to have bulked up a fair bit.
        A definate scrum option, although not exactly Billy Whizz in the loose.

  35. On another note. Walking to Murrayfield with the usual sense of hope/dread I said to my better half – “I’m not sure if I can do another season of this” (we had the season pass). She said that the team had definitely improved since last year and we have to keep supporting them, and she’s right. At the start we all agreed that our best chances of getting points would be the first three games and that England away and Ireland on current form were each a step to far. So it proved. As was brought home again in the article last night – the first three games were each lost by a score. At the risk of sounding like a bad loser we were actually robbed in the Wales game. A legitimate try struck off. France could have gone either way, and it was Italy where we really let ourselves down. We gave England the best we’ve managed in a number of years and we were comprehensively outplayed by the tournament winners (full of experience and Lions), third best in the World, who had their best performance of the season.
    Don’t get me wrong, I hate scrabbling for the positives out of a wooden spoon, but we have actually improved. Ireland was a bit of a tanking, but we also had two disallowed tries. We weren’t shown up in any of the other games. As I said above, our breakdown needs some serious attention (more power) and hopefully VC will see that we at least need to try some other combos (or he must really hope to work some magic in the next few months with the Harley, Cowan, Ashe combo). Hogg and Gray deserve medals for unrewarded service to Scottish Rugby. Great to see Mark Bennett making his mark (he was unlucky not to get another try or two). Those calling for heads to roll need to be more specific. Who exactly, and why? I’m not saying there shouldn’t be changes, but to make such demands requires some form of evidence, linking individuals to particular decisions or outcomes. The establishment of the rugby academies and BT deal are big positive recent achievements. Attendances are up and the pricing structure has improved (e.g. the season pass). Is it reasonable to call for a clear out when things appear to be moving in a more positive direction. Finally, we just need to win the World Cup and then everything will be ok ;-)

    1. The seeds of recovery are in the ground as the U20 team showed. I hope the U20 World Cup is on telly this June as our lads could finally finish higher than 9th based on current form.

      Cotter was hamstrung a bit by having, by my reckoning 12 players out with injuries at one time or another. Some of those who played on Sat may never play for Scotland again once these injuries clear up.

  36. There is a definite correlation between fitness and injuries. Even All Black players get injured. They are the fittest side on the planet, but 12 of their players would never be out at the same time – not being able to replace them with 12 equally good players shows our lack in depth. (And that the team is unfit!)

    Hopefully Sean Lineen’s boys will shine at the Junior Champs – maybe we should send them to the World Cup?

    1. Case in point is Hugh Blake – who wasn’t actually match fit – coming into the Scotland training camp and beating everyone at the bleep test. Imagine he was match fit? It would have been a rout and he would have put the rest of the team to shame.

  37. That was shocking, will live long in the memory. When watching Italy get hammered the BBC quickly spun up how this would be a points chase and I was thinking “hmm, bit dismissive of us here” but proved completely right.

    For what it’s worth here’s a few thoughts…

    I don’t think there’s much point keeping the captaincy from J Gray now. Like Warburton a few years back he looks a natural, he’s good enough you know we’re likely to pick him almost regardless of form. You might as well give him it now and form a leadership group around him.

    The breakdown was as one sided as I can remember, the Irish absolutely butchered us. I think it’s down to the fact all their back row plus Best contribute and their technique is first class. In our team you feel Cowan just about has the right level, but none of the other options in Denton, Ashe, Beattie, Harley are. Add to that the fact Murray weighs in a little but the other candidates on Sat: Ford, Dickinson, Bennett, Scott are not a threat, never mind the likes of Fife and Visser. Dunbar is and we missed him slowing ball down in the wider channels.

    It might be worth including Brown if he is seen as having this in his arsenal.

    It’s certainly tempting in a world cup year to stick with Laidlaw but like most others I’d try Cussiter and Hidalgo-Clyne. We can’t/wouldn’t change Russell, Hogg or Denton so it’s little more than keeping fingers crossed not to change one of the play-maker positions. We won’t though, you can tell the management value the place kicking above the rest and there’s certainly sense in that when Laidlaw has this amount of test experience. He might also feel a bit freer without the headache of captaining a team going backwards.

    Other than that you just need to bring Brown and Barclay in for the world cup camps and take it from there, albeit along with Blake and Watson. To be found out like this 6 months out means it’s crazy not to be including those 2.

    1. I think that Josh Strauss will be qualify for Scotland for the WC and he does have the maturity to captain. I thought Ashe looked effective in the early breakdowns however, not sure how much potential is in there, time will tell.

      For me we need a natural scrum half who can pass, break and kick effectively. I am beginning to feel for Laidlaw, he is giving his all, trying to be all things , but he lacks edge and the ability to deploy the options at the base. Did he not play standoff at Edinburgh ? I wonder how he will look back on these days.

  38. Small consolation this season was the U20’s performances (France aside) and 3 wins and finishing third in the championship. Sean Lineen is clearly showing his influence and has instilled a never say die attitude in his lads. Watched the game against England and after tonking in the second quarter, they just kept going and never gave up and came away with a respectable score. Wish the grown up’s had the same spirit!

    1. Also bear in mind that on average our side was a year younger than our English counterparts, partly explaining the huge gulf in size. It was a very respectable showing.

  39. Caught a bit of the U20s v wales and when I heard they had been like 20pts down at one time I was beyond impressed!

  40. The current player should be made to watch the U20s victory over Ireland to see a team that plays with desire and passion- both of which were missing.

  41. It’s excellent to see our U20s do so well. Reviewing the lineups from the Ireland game, the disparity in experience is very marked indeed. Other than the front 4 (where our ‘elder statesmen’ are in a similar boat to the Irish) we are about half a decade younger. I think they only had one player younger than 25 (Robbie Henshaw, 21)and most of them are closer to 30. In our backs we have Seymour and Maitland that are 26; Dunbar (24), Scott (24), Bennett (22), Russell (22), Hogg (22), SHC (21), all of these players will be around the age (or younger) than the current Irish lads come RWC 2020 and they are all quality (when was the last time we could say that?). Similarly, between 5 – 8 the only player with parity is Cowan, the rest being a fair bit younger than their opposite number. This is a good group of very young players to be moving forward with. What is key is that this squad is fortified by a conveyor belt of younger talent – hopefully the current generation of U20s and EDPs – so when they have grown wiser and harder (and hopefully become the leaders that we are currently lacking) there will be another generation at the level of this group to fit in to the chain. I agree with Tom English that we have probably tried to move to the next generation too quickly, overlooking the quality experienced players that we had and losing leadership within the squad as a result. Chalk and cheese with the Ireland set up.

  42. Highlights of the u20 game versus Ireland are on Vimeo if anyone is interested. George Horne looks sparky at 9 and it was incredible to see a Scottish pack absolutely destroy the Irish at the set piece and breakdown. Hope they make an impression at the World Cup.

    1. I assume Zander Fagerson was playing? He’s a real one to watch, gets better every game, in a few years he could be the answer at tighthead.

      1. The good thing about Fagerson is that he’s already been exposed to first team rugby at Pro 12 level at the age of 18/19. Likewise D’Arcy Rae albeit on loan. We are starting to do better at making sure the best talents are given exposure as early as possible. Too long were we sedning out 24/25 year old rookies onto the International field, now by the time they are 25, our best young players (Gray x 2, Hogg, Bennett, Russell, Scott and hopefully the above mentioned two, SHC and Ashe) will have over 30 caps a piece.

        What worries me is the ridiculous size of the Glasgow squad maybe limiting the chances of a few players. It needs trimmed by at least 1 hooker, 2 LH, 1 TH and 2 flankers.

      2. Did you post this before Welsh left for Newcastle and Dougie Hall retired? Bad luck if so.

        Disagree about need to trim back row – we’ve been desperately short of cover at times this year. It isn’t ideal for Brown and Vernon to train in other positions and be press ganged into back row duty in our biggest game of the year. Bradbury and Ritchie are two other u20s who’ve had appearances this year – chances will come and I think both Townshend and Solomons are committed to bringing through young players.

    2. Watched the Vimeo highlights myself. The Scotland pack seemed absolutely ferocious. Some learnings there for the big boys….

  43. I chose my user name carefully. I am not going to attempt to suggest what the fix is. I was never that good a player/coach to think I could try and influence those in charge, but as a fan, I can say that I do feel I have spent a lot of emotional treasure (and a pile of hard earned cash) trying to keep faith with this team and retain hope for improvement but am yet again scrabbling to find positives. I have just received my e mail from the SRU thanking me for my support, and when I read it, my first thought was to unsubscribe and stop giving my support. I don’t doubt the players are trying, but they just don’t seem to be capable of coping with international rugby. I refuse to get optimistic about RWC15, because I do not want to feel that, horrible crushing feeling when, once again it ends up that we are just not good enough. Cardiff last year was horrific, but every game this year has been just as bad, with the last game being the worst. A Welshman said to me last year to cheer up its only a game, I tried but couldn’t. Last Saturday, an Irishman, without being malicious, actually said to me that he thought we showed great guts to keep the score down. I really don’t know, how I can continue to hope we do better.

    1. The problem is that the players do not try hard enough. I have only been impressed by 3 or 4 of them in this tournament and I think you could drop the rest. The only encouraging thing is that the U20 team are playing quite well and one or two of these guys may make it into the full squad over the coming years. Lets hope so as the current crop are a bunch of overpaid idiots. I watched some of them in the srums and loose rucks- they did not even attempt to compete. I will never know why VC persists with Laidlaw as he is useless. The biggest problem is with the forward pack- with the exception of the Gray brothers and possible Euan Murray, the others are mediocre and should be dropped. Cross and Ford have been particularly disappointing this year. Hamilton has improved but, for a big guy, he doesn’t use is obvious strength and weight to his full potential. The others are just pathetic. Bring on the U20 squad or one or two non-scots in the forwards- we certainly need them.

  44. A dismal performance on Saturday, without question, but I’m glad that I waited a few days to post my thoughts if only coz time soothes pain! We are clearly a side bereft of leadership, with the chosen leader himself unable to engage in the full-on referee management that is such an important part of the modern game. Elsewhere, our only other captaincy experience is Fordy, quieter than the proverbial church mouse, and a player, for all that he is a star in the making, has just turned 21 – step forward young Gray. When you look at the youth of the back line, perhaps we should not be surprised that we have a leadership deficit, but the good news is that time can fix this problem, as well as one or two returnees/newly qualifieds – if Strauss gains eligibility in Sept, is there any reason that he could not pick up the captaincy? Would that also simplify the scrum half selection?

    On a different tack, I do think we’ve been incredibly unlucky with officiating this year’s 6Ns – in isolation, none of the incidents that follow might add up to match, but I think that at this level, collectively they will make a difference, particularly to the psyche of a team – Dan Cole’s non YC for a blatant offside on his own line would have earned a 10 min rest under any other reasonable ref; had it not been Garces, would another official have viewed Payne’s take out of Ashe in the air so leniently, was he simply trying to make amends for his decision on the same player last season in Uls vs GloboGym which stirred such controversy? And I haven’t even begun on glen Jackson’s performance yet – Finnocent aside, his failure to consult the TMO for Bennett’s non-try, a default option for modern officials, his inability to reach in his pocket despite numerous second half Welsh offences in their own 22, and his appalling time management – all these things make a difference to the momentum of games, and Scotland have been struggling to regain that since the start.

    But as others have said, it’s not all bad news, the U20s and U18s have put in credible showings this year, and several of the u20s will still qualify next year (Fagerson, McCallum). There’s more youth coming thru than we’ve had for a long time. A quarter final in the RWC this autumn is eminently doable, and by the time that Tokyo comes around, we could have an experienced and highly skilled back line, with a bruising and mobile pack to match – watch this space!

    1. As previously stated, I don’t think I have the moral high ground to comment on players ability or commitment, tempting as it is. I do think I can comment on your take on refereeing decisions. First of all if we end up looking for refereeing errors then we have already lost the argument. A decent side will accept decisions, get them explained and learn to adapt their game to match the refs take. On two particular incidents you mention, I disagree somewhat. Firstly on Cole, I felt he was entitled to go for the ball. A ruck is formed when one or more players from each side is in contact over the ball on the ground. As I recall it, the only scot anywhere near the breakdown was GL who was not in contact so no contact no ruck and the ball is in open play. That said, if the ref had declared a ruck then no matter what I or Cole might think, it was a ruck and should be played as such. As for Paynes’ ‘take out’ in the air. I felt it was a competition for the ball and at worst a penalty. There is an inconsistency at the moment with the Interpretation of this aspect of play. Russels ‘offence’ against Wales was, in my opinion, a penalty, for not being able to reverse instinct, but a Yellow? How the citing commission called it a red I don’t know,. Bottom line is that the officials need to bring some clarity and consistency to this and other controversial areas (scrummages, ‘deliberate’ knock ons when attempting intercept to name but two). I would hope that our coaches are trying to get our players to learn the refs traits and to get on his side. Even so there will always be decisions that we disagree with. Understand, learn, adopt, move on.

      1. Deflated – I agree with you on principle but disagree on fact.

        I think the evidence of the 6N shows that decent sides can complain about refereeing decisions that might be made before the game begins, harangue the referee during the game, lobby furiously behind the scenes and call into question decisions via the press. Step forward Gatland and take a bow for services to the values of rugby.

      2. Deflated, FF

        Scotland are miles behind the rest when it comes to playing the referee. Ireland are the absolute masters of cheating at the breakdown and know exactly how to push it to the limits of the ref of the day, Munster have been the kings of Europe for it and now Ireland have adopted in internationally. We are very naive.

      3. A few days to mull over our 6N car crash and am questioning why I am feeling worse than after the trouncing in Wales last year.
        A one-sided match following red card episode was expected and somewhat forgivable then,however even allowing for Hogg’s prodigal son act in being back to his best this season besides our try scoring ability on the rise we have nothing to show for it results-wise, even against Italy. The other home nations thrilling over their teams is another painful reminder of our underachieving and cannon fodder status.
        The turning point in our fortunes and the absence of the organised chaos and progress exhibited in AIs and Paris, seem to have its origins during the Wales match. The Russell yellow card and the disallowed Bennett try without TMO assistance did more damage than we should have expected. More mature teams would have regrouped but it created fragility and what appeared a sense of apathy and counting chickens when confronted by Italy,followed by a new trend no points and lame shows in 2nd half against England and Ireland.

        Strong leadership a necessity now to plot our course through RWC from BVC,Jonny Gray should be groomed for captaincy with Kellock an ideal mentor near at hand,
        well at least he should be part of backroom staff.
        Time also to put some faith in Brown and Barclay to bolster an inexperienced squad and some other folk to swallow their pride.

    2. I think there is an unconcious bias towards us at times,… we are percieved to be the weaker team so naturally anything we’ve worked hard at, rucks etc,… there must be cheating involved.

  45. Some interesting developments at the Warriors, with Shade Munro not having his contract renewed. Change in tack for both the Warriors and Scotland? Surprised Jon Welsh is leaving for Newcastle mind you but seems like he just wants a change of scene. Dougie Hall to retire as well, it’s like a revolving door at Glasgow just now!!

    1. I’m surprised at the sheer amount of activity in the last week or two to be honest. Whilst it’s heartening to hear about additions – and I’m happy with Low and Favaro – I’m hoping it doesn’t turn into a bit of a distraction. Some seriously massive games coming up, I’d prefer more of the focus to be on that than who’s coming and going.

      Anyway, best of luck to them all. I presume Welsh is off to join up with Blair and Hogg at Newcastle.

      1. A lot of activity but again Townsend seems obsessed by building an obscenely large squad. The new recruits won’t displace the existing first choices so the loss of Niko, Maitland and DTH will be a stinger.

      2. Hart has replaced Nico. We need 1/2 outside backs for sure. We also need a large squad – look how threadbare the side has looked during test windows and even before that when we were away to Bath.

      3. Andy, I don’t think Townsend is obsessed by building a large squad at all.

        Glasgow currently have (not including recent transfer activity)26 forwards and 20 backs listed in their squad, with 15 others listed as elite development players. Edinburgh are pretty much the same with 26 forwards and 22 backs with 9 elite development players.

        Toulon carry 23 forwards and 18 backs. Bath have 20 forwards and 16 backs with 13 Academy players. Glasgow’s Pro12 rivals Ulster, have 26 forwards, 19 backs and 18 Academy players listed.

        Glasgow lost their first choice back line during test windows well as a clutch of 1st choice forwards, so they need the size of squad in order to compete. All the Irish provinces carry similar size squads to Glasgow for the same reason – Leinster had 19 players called up to Ireland for example.

        Finally, Glasgow want to make serious inroads in Europe. In order to compete on that front you need a larger squad. And I do agree the loss of Maitland and DTH is a kicker but good luck to them. Maybe guys like Lee Jones (who’s away with the 7’s at the moment I believe) or Rory Hughes won’t kick on and develop further now space has opened up?

      4. I would almost argue that our squad isn’t big enough. We saw how stretched we were during the 6N. So much so that we had to draft in replacements from Edinburgh. The good thing about Townsend’s squad rotation policy is that the majority of the players get reasonable game time.

    2. Standoff – It seems like one big revolving door at the moment. The old saying about babies and bathwater springs to mind.
      I hope it’s just a ‘refresh’ rather than some full scale cull.

      That’s DTH, Welsh and Maitland who would have been 1st team regulars had they stayed. Nico and Dougie leaving the club doesn’t create quote such a gap.
      Any idea about why Shade Munro is leaving? Is he simply retiring and does Kenny Murray take that role?
      All have been good servants to Glasgow, so I wish them well.

      I realise that things change contractually at the end of each year, it just seems that this is more large scale.

      Newcastle have a very good front row, so it should push John Welsh a bit. (It hasn’t done Moray Low any harm at Exeter)

      Are there any other contractual discussions you’re aware of?

      1. Apparently it was Townsend’s decision not to renew Shade’s contract. I’m not sure who takes over. I do wonder about it mind you. Townsend has never shied away from controversial decisions, and maybe a change is necessary. In my opinion Glasgow suffer the same problems as Scotland (no surprises really given the number of Glasgow players in the Scotland squad), namely an inability to defend a driving maul, we defenitely need to improve our scrum and to be honest we can sometimes be a wee bit ‘soft’ up front and not ‘cute’ enough. So perhaps Townsend feels a change is necessary if Glasgow are to win the Pro12 make an impact on Europe.

        Like most others on here I agree that we desperately need some high calibre backs, but I have heard nothing of anyone coming in.

  46. Any rumours about replacements for DTH or Maitland?

    Although I like Lee Jones and Hughes, they’re both squad players for me and, although I hesitate to say it, don’t seem to be of the same calibre as the outgoing boys. (happy if they prove me wrong)

    1. Hughes has time on his side and deserves a chance of establishing himself. Lee Jones I’m not so sure of. Hit a purple patch for a season but hasn’t done much since then. A good runner but his small size means he’s a better 7’s man.

  47. One final piece of recruitment in time for the world cup is to secure the return of Ritchie Gray – not the giant lock, rather the breakdown specialist who is currently plyin his trade in South Africa

    1. I hear this all over the place but is there any realistic chance of prizing him away from SA just before the world cup? It doesn’t seem credible to me.

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