Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


The Theory of Everything

Jim Hamilton - pic © Al Ross
Jim Hamilton - pic © Al Ross

With the Auld Enemy clash looming, I’m now in danger of lapsing into unfounded and frankly blind optimism that Scotland could pull off a result. Sound logic and basic common sense would throw up the equation that Scotland + England x Twickenham = Large England Victory. It’s not exactly Stephen Hawking-esque in its complexity, I know, but then I did watch the Theory of Everything over the weekend.  So, where do I find such hope?

The pressure is off Scotland.

After our frankly terrible result against Italy most fans and journalists have inscribed the wooden spoon with our name and written off our chances of causing any upsets in the process. However, sport is littered with giant killing episodes (Italy beating Scotland at home, for example…ahem.) One of the main reasons – inexcusable as it is – that Scotland imploded against Italy was pressure. I wrote in a previous article that Vern Cotter will have learned a lot about his players from that 80 minutes but also, those players will surely have learned from such a chastising experience. We’ve proven in the last 12 months that when the pressure is off, then we can compete well with the bigger teams. Cut out the silly errors and lapses in concentration we displayed against France and Wales and we have a chance.

Euan Murray is angry. You won’t like him when he’s angry.

In a recent interview, Euan Murray spoke well about the loss to Italy and the desire to “administer the killer punch” in games. Yes, it’s easy to talk but Murray, if he plays, will be integral on Saturday in what may be his final 6 Nations away day. His experience and scrummaging ability should prove essential in what is going to be a difficult afternoon at the office against Marler, Hartley and co. Plus, with Ross Ford a doubt for the game and uncertainty of who gets the loose-head shirt, we can’t afford to not have his knowhow in such a critical position.

Finally, it may be 7 years ago but I like to think Murray still has the ability in him that once saw him destroy Tendai “The Beast” Mtawarira and have Victor Matfield and co quaking in their boots at the thought of seeing him again. Halcyon days indeed.

Guess who’s back? Back again?

Everybody’s favourite stone mason, dancer and maverick fly-half Finn Russell will almost certainly slip back into the team on Saturday. Would he have made the difference against Italy?  Yes, and that’s perhaps unfortunate for Peter Horne who was solid, if unspectacular. But therein lies the crux of the matter. Russell, with his quick thinking, heads up style of rugby allows the back line to get involved and start firing. Russell loads the chambers, Dunbar, Hogg, Seymour and co fire the shots.

That isn’t to say he’s perfect, nor indeed a world class player, but he gets you off your seat and tries something. Sure, he’s made a couple of mistakes with his kicking choices and ran some pretty dodgy lines in the past but has he looked shaken or out of his depth? No, he’s chipped and chiseled away at opposition defenses in an attempt to find the breakthrough we need and against the Azzurri, that was sorely lacking.

Russell can also take some comfort from the way his opposite number, George Ford, was cowed by Jonny Sexton last weekend. I appreciate we’re talking about the best no 10 in the Northern Hemisphere (perhaps the world) but Ford only sparked to life after Sexton left the field. Does Russell possess both the personality and talent to dominate his opposite number in such a fashion? He certainly isn’t shy or intimidated by confrontation but the jury is out on whether his big game management is sufficient.

Returning absentees provide hope.

With the aforementioned Russell free from suspension and Sean Maitland being added to the squad, we could feasibly see Scotland’s first choice back line in action on Saturday for the first time this tournament. This is a back-line that in the autumn had us all purring more than George Galloway ever did at a bowl of milk, and one which certainly has tries in it.

The pack is, of course, still a cause for concern but the prospect of seeing our back-line using that big old paddock at Twickenham to stretch their legs is an exciting prospect and let’s not forget, in Stuart Hogg we possess the player with the most meters made and defenders beaten stats thus far and in Jonny Gray one of the most effective tacklers. We have good players too you know…

Some bookmakers are putting the odds at 8/1 for a Scotland victory, so it’s apparent we’re underdogs but if we don’t have a little hope, we may as well give up.

Finally, there was a quote in the movie I mentioned at the start of this piece that struck me as relevant;  “There should be no boundaries to human endeavor. We are all different. However bad life may seem, there is always something you can do, and succeed at. While there’s life, there is hope.”

Let’s just hope our boys share that ethos on Saturday.

13 Responses

  1. Well ,your article is full of optimism but i’m afraid mine evaporated round about the 75th minute of the Italy match when Horne missed touch.It showed,as you rightly said,that we cannot cope with sustained pressure, one thing that is guaranteed to come our way in bucketloads at Twickenham.
    In my mind what will happen is England will get a couple of early penalty kicks over to settle them and then the usual arrogance will surface and they will kick to the corners.The question in can we stop the driving mauls,if we can’t,I think we are in for a long evening.Scotland have sent better teams down in the last four decades to play against worse England teams and come away with nothing but one draw.
    Once again with Scotland you hope for the best and fear the worst

    1. To be fair tee cee, that was one win in 40 years that we achieved in 1983 – not that it undermines your point about the magnitude of the task.

      No one expects Scotland to win and the problem is the same as it always is; their pack will squeeze the life out of us. I’m not convinced we’ll take the humping some are predicting though as England’s defence is more porous than usual – it all depends on whether we can establish something close to set piece parity and be competitive at the breakdown. The former will probably see Hamilton return to shore up the scrum, mall and line out. Unfortunately for the latter we’re probably relying on a wing and a prayer.

  2. Team up:
    1. Dickinson
    2. Ford
    3. Murray
    4. Hamilton
    5. Gray
    6. Harley
    7. Cowan
    8. Denton
    9. Laidlaw
    10. Russell
    11. Seymour
    12. Scott
    13. Bennett
    14. Seymour
    15. Hogg

    16. Brown
    17. Grant
    18. Cross
    19. Swinson
    20. Beattie
    21. Ashe
    22. Hidalgo-Clyne
    23. Tonks

    Some surprises – no Dunbar, choice of only 2 backs on the bench
    Some disappointment – Maitland obviously hasn’t recovered
    Some worries – Fife is a weak link, Ashe lacks game time, Beattie is in the squad

    Looks like a team put together to put a bit more spine in the pack.

      1. Rumors on Twitter (I can’t find them) and Glasgow forum saying Dunbar is out for the season and could miss the world cup!!!! I really hope thats just social media hysetria!

      2. Dougie Fife, heaven help us. I’d even have Visser ahead of him, and Lee Jones ahead of both. Obviously Maitland isn’t quite ready. Dunbar is a massive blow, although Matt Scott played well against Treviso, but isn’t as strong defensively as Dunbar. No real surprises. Pack as most of us on here thought. Squeaky bum time for Laidlaw. Service and game management needs to improve tenfold. Really, really worried about Saturday.

      3. Only information released by the SRU was he injured his knee in training this morning and was taken straight off for a scan. There should be announcement relatively soon so hopefully it’s just social media white noise!

  3. sorry should have remembered 1983 as I was present at the grand slam winning game against the might of France the following year.I have just been online reminissing about it and was struck by the amount of leaders we had during that campaign.Rutherford,Beattie,Calder,Leslie.All led by example and exemplified by captain Jim Aitken who new when to galvanise a group and make them far better than the sum of their parts.Where is that leadership now ?Seems to me that as mentioned in other threads,that is the missing link in the present Scottish team that takes a team from being good to great

    1. I share the reminiscing as we had leaders across the team in those heady times and you can add Sole,Hastings,F.Calder and Armstrong from the 90s glory days. Only difference being none of them amazingly won at Twickenham unlike predecessors.
      Though a scarcity of such inspirational figures now some solace for us being that England lack them too on the evidence from Dublin.Like us they are a young team finding their feet in international rugby.

      Hope the rocket up the arse from BVC brings out a big game from the team and the much pilloried Laidlaw.Some irony as uncle Roy was relieved of the captaincy for the ’83 match and then went on to play a blinder with a solo try in the last win.Much for Greg to live up to…

  4. We’ve not had much luck with injuries this season. Dunbar is a big miss for us. They obviously expect the pack to get banged up which leaves us short in replacement backs. That said I’m not sure who else they could have added as a replacement back? definitely worried, but a bit of heart and fight would be welcomed.

  5. I have no faith in this group of players. A few exceptional individuals aside, Seymour, J Gray, Russell and Hogg. I can only see a pasting, especially with ‘ruck lobster’ Laidlaw in charge, his crustacean style of running sideways and underwater speed of delivery will ensure we consistently go backwards in attack until we lose the ball.

    40-10 if we’re lucky. But I can see this going as badly as SA last summer…

  6. Not good , not good at all. Scott has lost his sparkle, Fyfe will never have it, Denton over rated but worth a chance. I foresee more injuries on Saturday while the others make up for the inadequacies. Lets just bring it on, we might get a break with the referee.

  7. Oh how negative …hardest hurdle is to learn to win.. here’s hoping we pass that test tomorrow

You might also like these:

Craig is joined by Rory and Iain to look at the latest news including Scotland's win over Canada and the upcoming test against the USA.
Gregor Townsend has picked the strongest XV possible from his touring squad for the visit to Washington DC to play the USA, writes Rory.
Gregor Townsend has named his team to face Canada in the first match of the Skyscanner Americas Tour with 10 players given the opportunity to make their Scotland debut.
Craig is joined by Iain, Jonny and Rory to discuss Glasgow's momentous win in the final of the 2024 URC

Scottish Rugby News and Opinion