Scotland’s World Cup Squad – Runners and Riders

The team at Scottish Rugby Blog Towers have been working hard at unpicking Vern Cotter’s extended World Cup squad. As with every Scotland squad announcement since the year dot there were as many surprise call ups as there were ommissions.

In 2011 Andy Robinson’s decision to include David Denton, Ryan Grant, Rob Harley and Jack Cuthbert in his extended squad raised a few eyebrows. None made the final squad although three out of the four have gone on to become familiar names on team sheets post-2011. Cuthbert’s progress was stalled by the emergence of Stuart Hogg.

We’ve gone through each position and player to look at which players are likely to make the final cut and who’s there to make up the numbers.

Props
Mike Cusack (Glasgow Warriors) fought back brilliantly from illness to be part of Glasgow’s title win, and may well go if Cotter opts for a sixth prop. Limited about the park, but very good in the tight. May just miss out on a place in the squad.
Allan Dell (Edinburgh Rugby) – Almost unheard of until his arrival at Edinburgh a year ago, injury has prevented Dell from playing much this season. Would need an exceptional summer to force his way into the squad
Alasdair Dickinson (Edinburgh Rugby) – A strong season for the former Gloucester & Sale man, who has established himself as Cotter’s first choice loosehead. Will be part of the final 31, barring injury.
Ryan Grant (Glasgow Warriors) – Has struggled for parts of this season, but expect him to be among Cotter’s final squad. Experience at tighthead against Tonga in November could be crucial.
Willem Nel (Edinburgh Rugby) Nel’s eligibility will vacate the hole left by Euan Murray’s retirement. The Edinburgh prop has had a quiet campaign, but has improved on his work-rate and set-piece, making him a valuable asset to Cotter’s 31.
Gordon Reid (Glasgow Warriors) – Barnstorming in the Pro12 final, offers himself in the loose and has proven to be a good scrummager. A shoe in for the final squad.
Jon Welsh (Newcastle Falcons) – The Newcastle-bound Warrior has impressed on the club stage this season, and deserves his chance. Most likely to make the squad as back-up.

Hookers
Fraser Brown (Glasgow Warriors) – Lineout woes cost him a place in Glasgow’s starting XV for the Pro12 final, and Brown will go as back-up to experienced Ford. In the squad, but game time will be limited.
Ross Ford (Edinburgh Rugby) – All-but certain to be Cotter’s first choice hooker, experience will be crucial. A third World Cup beckons for the Kelso man.
Stuart McInally (Edinburgh Rugby) – A surprise inclusion over the likes of MacArthur and Cochrane, but ‘Rambo’ offers versatility having played in the back-row. He will travel, but might only see action against the USA and Japan.

Secondrow
Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh Rugby) – Still firmly in contention, understandably with Cotter rating his leadership skills. His line out ability and general physicality would make him a useful replacement if he can return to any level of form.
Jonny Gray (Glasgow Warriors) Guaranteed to start let alone a place in the squad, the young man is one of Europe’s best, and unlucky not to be Warriors’ player of the year.
Richie Gray (Castres) Made comeback for Castres as a replacement on final day of season. If he rediscovers his form it will be a much needed boost to the line out and good platform to return to his potential. Likely pick.
Jim Hamilton (Saracens)The most experienced second row, curious to see if he is brought in as an advisor. Strong line out but indiscipline and lack of go forward has sent him rightly down the pecking order.
Robert Harley (Glasgow Warriors) His versatility means he’s a certain for a squad place. Needs to develop his carrying, but his ability to be a nuisance at the breakdown and general defensive play cannot be underestimated.
Tim Swinson (Glasgow Warriors) – Underestimated by many, but his performances for the Warriors deserve some credit. Brings a lot of much needed grunt. Touch and go for a spot in the final 31.

Backrow
Adam Ashe (Glasgow Warriors) – Young upstart has bullied his way into the Scotland number 8 shirt. Had some injury concerns but seems to have caught coaches eye and likely to make the cut.
John Barclay (Scarlets) – In from the cold. Earned plaudits of late and poaching instincts could prove invaluable. Has been playing at 8 for Scarlets so versatility could see him make final squad if bridges have truely been mended.
Hugh Blake (Glasgow Warriors) – This year’s Denton. Still to convince many after average performances at club level. May benefit from move to Glasgow which may suit style of play. Very unlikely to feature at any stage.
Blair Cowan (London Irish) – Stand out player in this years 6 Nations with high turn over rate. Will compete with Barclay for starting bearth. Can play across back row and in boiler house.
David Denton (Edinburgh Rugby) – Some concern over ongoing concussion issues. Big ball carrier for Scotland and likely to make final squad if concerns about his health are allayed. Can cover 6 & 8.
Josh Strauss (Glasgow Warriors) – Exciting prospect. Step up to international level unlikely to phase him however only becomes eligible once tournament starts so will have to hit ground running. Performances for Glasgow and ability to play 6 & 8 mean likely to make final squad. Touted as possible captain by Cotter.
Alasdair Strokosch (Perpignan) – Old war horse likely to be usurped by young upstarts. Useful cover should Harley or Strauss be injured. Unlikely to make final squad otherwise. Experience will prove invaluble in camp.
Ryan Wilson (Glasgow Warriors)  – Put in some good performances for Glasgow after returning from suspension. Will only make final squad if Denton fails to recover from concussion concerns. Likely to get run out in warm ups due to Strauss’s ineligibility.
Hamish Watson (Edinburgh Rugby) – Here for experience. Had good season for Edinburgh but hard to see him picked ahead of more versatile Blair and Barclay. May feature from bench in warm up games.

Scrumhalf
Chris Cusiter (Sale Sharks) Most experienced in squad but emergence of Hidalgo-Clyne and Pyrgos’s recovery from injury may be too much for former stalwart to overcome. Will only make final squad if others are injured or Laidlaw considered for fly half cover and all four scrum halves selected.
Sam Hidalgo-Clyne (Edinburgh Rugby) – Has shown he can translate Edinburgh form to international stage. Not here to make up the numbers and likely to be pushing for starting bearth. Reliable boot too.
Greig Laidlaw (Gloucester) – Off the boil after an exciting Autumn series. Kicking ability of Hidalgo-Clyne and Russell and other options for captaincy may mean his position as incumbent 9 is under threat. Will make final squad.
Henry Pyrgos (Glasgow Warriors) – Back from injury and superb form for Glasgow. Will make final squad and will push Laidlaw and Hidalgo-Clyne for starting spot but only if Russell is entrusted with kicking duties.

Standoff 
Ruaridh Jackson (Wasps) – Started brightly at Wasps before injury. Been out for a long time. Perhaps too long. But Scotland need cover at 10 and no one has put hand up other than those selected in the squad. May lose out if Laidlaw, Horne and/or Tonks considered as cover.
Finn Russell (Glasgow Warriors) – Growing in stature with each game. Now reliable kicker under pressure as well. Game management skills improving and now performing stand up and karaoke during matches apparently.  Bampot. Nailed on to start.
Duncan Weir (Glasgow Warriors) – Unlucky with injuries and until emergence of Russell was looking like best option for Scotland at 10. Likely to compete with Jackson for place on bench.

Centres
Mark Bennett (Glasgow Warriors) – Arguably the star of the season, and definitely so in the backs. Likely to go as Cotter’s first-choice outside centre, despite injury concerns.
Alex Dunbar (Glasgow Warriors) – A certain starter if he can get fit, but that’s the biggest question – if he does make a quicker-than-expected recovery, expect him to be in the squad, but it may be just too soon.
Peter Horne (Glasgow Warriors) – A strong end to the season pushes Horne back into contention after a difficult showing at stand-off in the Italian debacle. Offers the option of a second playmaker and versatility may be useful in a squad of just 31.
Matt Scott (Edinburgh Rugby) – Should go to the World Cup providing he gets over his injury woes of the last 12 months, and a real threat with ball in hand. Scott’s played most of his Edinburgh rugby this season at outside centre, but has never featured there for the national side.
Duncan Taylor (Saracens) – Has come back strongly with Saracens after missing much of the season. Kept Marcelo Bosch out the Premiership final team. Highly-rated by Sarries but yet to shine for Scotland. An outside bet for the squad. Chances may depend on injuries.
Richie Vernon (Glasgow Warriors) – Offers a hard-carrying option in midfield, and would offer Cotter another option as he can cover number eight. Featured during the last World Cup, but perhaps another outsider this time around. May feature in the warm up games.

Backthree
Stuart Hogg (Glasgow Warriors) – Looking to build on an impressive Six Nations and Pro 12 run in, his is likely to be one of the first names on the team sheet and will be a key player.
Damien Hoyland (Edinburgh Rugby) – Played just 70 minutes of professional XV’s but is picked ahead of Dougie Fife. An opportunity to build experience but a final squad place seems highly unlikely although Cotter may be tempted to give him a run from the bench in the warm up games.
Rory Hughes (Glasgow Warriors) – Looked decent with his limited domestic opportunities and pips Lee Jones to a place in the sqaud. Finds himself in a similar position to Hoyland. Unlikely to make the cut.
Sean Lamont (Glasgow Warriors) – The only back three player with World Cup experience. Looking to break the 100 cap barrier. Provides stability and can cover at centre. Solid option from the bench.
Sean Maitland (London Irish) – Returning from long-term injury and needs game time. Will be battling with Lamont for a starting berth and offers decent cover should anything happen to Hogg.
Tommy Seymour (Glasgow Warriors) – In great form for Glasgow, he’s all but guaranteed a final squad place with his strong attacking game favouring Cotter’s tactics.
Greig Tonks (Edinburgh Rugby) – Struggled for form in the latter half of the season but he offers essential versatility and some good performances in the warm up games should see him named in the final squad.
Tim Visser (Harlequins) – Knows his way to the try line but defensive skills remain questionable. Seems likely he’ll sneak into the squad but lack of versatility may see him struggle to even make the bench.

SRB predicted final 31 man squad:  

Dickinson, Grant, Nel, Reid, Welsh, Brown, Ford, McInally, Harley, J. Gray, R. Gray, Gilchrist, Ashe, Barclay, Cowan, Denton, Strauss, Hildago-Clyne, Laidlaw, Pyrgos, Russell, Weir, Bennett, Dunbar, Scott, Hogg, Seymour, Maitland, Lamont, Visser, Tonks

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Created using the combined powers of the Scottish Rugby Blog team.

72 comments on “Scotland’s World Cup Squad – Runners and Riders

  1. PJ on

    Horne is too good not to be in the squad. Will likely get in over Tonks with Maitland covering fullback, and will start at 12 if Dunbar fails to recover in time. Imo Visser has overcome his defensive woes and could be in for a start over Maitland

  2. aligator on

    Agree with PJ. Otherwise an excellent analysis by committee.

    I would clearly prefer Horne over Tonks. He brings options at 10, 12 and eventually 15. Think he is over critised for a bad kick at the end of the Italy match. He has been core in GW game play and combines so well with the other GW backs.
    FB coverage could come from Maitland, Seymour or (even) Horne. BUT if Maitland is not fit then Tonks.

  3. aligator on

    Don’t think they will need Hamilton as an advisor, if VC already has Nathan Hines in that role.

  4. Bulldog on

    Good analysis thanks for this , sets it out very well. As I have posted before , Nel needs to step up a bit for me. Stability at 3 is imperative, leave the loose play to the others. The big battle will be in the back five and I can see this blog being well lively as we get near the time.I have my preferences , however there is not a lot between them. I say back 5 as I can see room for men playing out of position dependant on the game.

  5. Kev on

    If it is a 17/14 split
    17 Forwards
    LH)Dickinson Reid
    H)Brown Ford McInally
    TH)Nel Welsh
    L)Gilchrist Gray Gray Harley
    8)Ashe Strauss
    BR)Barclay Cowan Denton Wilson
    13 Backs
    SH)Cusiter Hidalgo-Clyne Pyrgos
    SO)Horne Jackson Russell
    C)Bennett Dunbar Scott Taylor
    W)Seymour Visser
    FB)Hogg Maitland

    • FF on

      Cotter said in press conference he expected to pick a 18-13 split.

      Which position he takes that extra man from depends on how versatile the remaining players are. He could pick a squad with Horne and Tonks covering FH but neither convince at test level so I’m sure he’ll pick at least one of Weir or Jackson.

      That means either dropping a SH or a centre from your squad. Visser is clearly the guy who’d get the chop as Taylor or even Lamont can cover centre and wing. Alternatively you drop a SH but this is one of the most specialised positions in the squad so it is a risk.

  6. David on

    Good article, and I by and large agree with the picks. I feel VC values versatility, so would expect the likes of Vernon, Lamont and Rambo to travel, despite none of them being realistic first picks in their respective positions. Likewise, the places of Cowan, Harley, Barclay etc., who are more likely first picks, are further cemented by their versatility.

    I have to say, this is the first time in a while that I have started to feel comfortable about our options at prop over the next few years. I had worried that Prop was going to be the new problem area for us, after we seem to have finally solved the midfield. However, Grant, Nel, ,Reid and Welsh are all in the 28/29 bracket, which suggests they should soon reach their peak and may even make the next World Cup. Dickinson is clearly playing some of the best rugby of his career, and at 31/32 has a few more years in him yet. The likes of Sutherland, Dell, Allan, D’Arcy Rae and of course the hugely exciting Zander Fagerson give hope that another batch are on the cusp of breaking through.

    • FF on

      RE: props

      I’ve read a lot of chat recently about Magnus Bradbury’s younger brother who is still at school and in the U-18 squad. He is 18 but clocks in at 133kg (almost 21 st) and is 1.94m! Apprently that is not a typo on the SRU website.

  7. Eoin on

    SRB predicted final 31 man squad:

    Dickinson, Grant, Nel, Reid, Welsh, Brown, Ford, McInally, Harley, J. Gray, R. Gray, Gilchrist, Ashe, Barclay, Cowan, Denton, Strauss, Hildago-Clyne, Laidlaw, Pyrgos, Russell, Weir, Bennett, Dunbar, Scott, Hogg, Seymour, Maitland, Lamont, Visser, Tonks

    My predicted final 31 man squad:

    Dickinson, Grant, Nel, Reid, Welsh, Brown, Ford, McInally, Harley, J. Gray, R. Gray, Gilchrist, Ashe, Barclay, Cowan, Denton, Strauss, Hildago-Clyne, Laidlaw, Pyrgos, Russell, Weir, Horne, Bennett, Dunbar, Scott, Hogg, Seymour, Maitland, Lamont, MacVisser

    Differences to SRB:
    Just Horne in for Tonks, which is really down to game plan for me – I hope that BVC has Scotland playing Glasgow’s offloading game, with limited breakdowns – if that happens, the former has shown himself comfortable with this system and his defence (see Ulster and Munster games) is massively improved.

    Not sold on MacVisser, but against Japan and the U.S. he could show his usefulness – defence still suspect tho imo

  8. Scafell on

    Just cannot see Dunbar being fit in time. Rushing back from an ACL injury could have long term consequences. He’s only 25, he has another world cup if not two in him. If he is back at least Glasgow may be able to call on him while the RWC is on.

    • bulldog on

      I could not agree more,build the team around fit players. It is a big jump between 9 months of nothing to playing the key position in an International.

      He will be the primary target for the opposition. Once injured (again) the team momentum is broken.

      Craig Chalmers was never the same post being injured and with regret, the CS we remember, is the one that was always looking over his shoulder.

      For his sake, take a long term approach and let him to return to the game , before he returns to the international Jersey.

  9. By the Beard of Cross on

    My 31 changes a lot, but at present the 18/13 split is:

    Dickinson, Grant, Reid
    Ford, MacInally, Brown
    Nel, Cusack, Welsh
    J Gray, R Gray, Gilchrist, Harley
    Ashe, Strauss, Cowan, Barclay, Wilson

    SHC, Laidlaw, Cusiter
    Rusell, Weir
    Dunbar, Bennett, Horne, Taylor
    Maitland, Seymour, Lamont, Hogg

    So no Denton, Pyrgos, Scott, Visser or Tonks are my differences from SRB.

    • Standoffalot on

      Agree with every one of those selections except for Pyrgos, who IMO should be first choice nine. Especially in light of his performance in the Pro12 final and given the fact that he plays regularly with Russell, who is undoubtedly our first choice ten.

      • By the Beard of Cross on

        Coincidentally, Pyrgos and Cusiter are the two I keep going back and forth on! My preference is for Cusiter for the experience, leadership and calming influence, which I feel is rather sparse in the back division.

        Having said that, BVC singled Pyrgos out the other day for his leadership qualities, so perhaps he’s leaning that way.

  10. Badger69 on

    Interesting article and pretty much agree with the ‘findings. While reading about Jonny Gray being a shoe in to start I was reminded of an article I read on the Scotsman website a while back. May have been by Alan Massie. The article was talking about the fact that, while we’ve often spoken about Scotland lacking strength in depth, the truly great teams were those that almost picked themselves.

    As an example the article discussed the 1990 Grand Slam team and the fact that more than half of the team sheet didn’t need to be discussed. Sole, Milne, Fin, JJ, Armstrong, Chalmers, Hastings etc.

    Are we suddenly finding ourselves in a similar position? Not suggesting we’re about to win the GS next year but a team that picks itself will grow together very well. I think we have ‘no discussion’ decisions in almost every area of the park. My picks for those would be:
    FR: Dickinson
    Lock: J Gray
    BR: Strauss
    SH: ??
    SO: Russell
    IC: Dunbar
    OC: Bennett
    W: Seymour
    FB: Hogg

    What do you guys think? Is there anyone there that, if fit, would be open to debate?

    • AMW on

      Good point badger69.
      I think that Pyrgos is beginning to lift himself into that territory. I would be hugely dissapointed if I did not see his name on the team sheet, what’s more so would Strauss and Russell, and this is the axis on which a large proportion of Scotland attack play will originate. Add in the relationships with Tommy cutting angles off the wing into midfield and Hoggy’s counter attacks (and knowing Henry will support) then VC will surely have these senior players making his case.
      He gives us front foot ball, distribution excellent as well as smart kicking ….

    • Bulldog on

      Hooker is a key role for me and I notice you have omitted it? I think there is a reason and there is no easy answer there. Ross Ford, should have it all, yet, after 85 scottish caps, we (including me) have no confidence in him. He has bulked up to what we would call ‘a big lump of a lad’ yet his skills have stood still , arguably they have gone.

      Pyrgos is the right one for me. SHC or Cusiter is a harder one as the latter gives you skills, experience and leadership. SHC is too good to be nowhere.

      Can I be open , I have never understood the Gilchrist as captain choice , where did that come from ? and is he capable of a place in this side ?

      Bar Dickinson, your core team is all Glasgow? Which does not surprise me. I just hope the Warriors are not left with a pile of crocks and that the financial compensation to the club is sufficient.

      • FF on

        All professional players in Scotland are contracted to the SRU. Not only that but almost all the income for the pro-sides also comes from the SRU. They own the ‘clubs’ and players so the idea of compensation is totally alien to the Scottish system.

        Glasgow are also being handsomely rewarded for their success as it is an open secret they are now preferentially funded compared to Edinburgh, in order to help them achieve further success in Europe. Good – the SRU are backing their success. Naiyarovo is not coming cheap you know. My point being Glasgow have no grounds for complaint that their players are forming half the Scotland squad and I’ve never heard a peep of complaint from Glasgow’s administrators.

      • Bulldog on

        Great – and so they should , though I have no idea what an open secret is. I can tell you one thing, I know a bit about the wages at Glasgow, so that story does not stack for me. Far from it . Some evidence can be taken from the defections at Glasgow, which were easy pickings for other clubs. Particulalry fans favourite Matawalu . Edinburgh must be playing for the love of the game.

        Glasgow did well to get through the season with injurys inflicted while playing for Scotland.

        So now we have established that Glasgow will end up with a load of crocs, but they are really Scotland’s crocs (Fan loyalty must also be an alien concept to the SRU) No one would have anything to complain about if they picked mainly Glasgow players for the team?

      • FF on

        Naiyarovoro is on £175,000 a year for three years according to reports which is an extraordinary amount for an uncapped player. Glasgow aren’t losing players because they can’t afford them.

      • Angus on

        I agree Bulldog. I have no problems with which club the players selected play for. We are all united in seeing the best Scottish team take the field

        Having said that, there are a few variables that will come into play. The main 2 being:

        1. that different coaches see different things in players and have different game plans that will mean selecting a player on the basis of them being the best suited to fulfil that role in the bigger plan

        2. The players playing around a player. You can have a lad playing in a less successful team than Glasgow who is not being given the opportunity to play to their full potential due to the man/men inside or beside them and also the style of play that team uses

        A random example is a middle row who on the face of it isn’t setting the world on fire in the lineout but the underlying cause is his lifter(s) or hooker. Another is a prop whi is apparently fighting to hold his own in scrums where the underlying cause is his hooker. Another is a fullback who does little in attack because his team don’t encourage him to join the line and have him run lines off midfield

        There are situations like this that can cause a players light to be hidden under a bushel at club level but can result in them shining at international level

        This can work in exactly the same way in reverse where a player who shines at club level disappears in the international side for example a winger who runs a lot of lines off the out half and has a good understanding with them but when paired with a different out half or style of play becomes anonymous

        This is where national coaches earn their money, by identifying the players who can step up when given the opportunity within the national structure and squad and raise or maintain their club form

  11. Kev on

    What would be the best team inc bench to play v Samoa in the match that will determine us winning the pool 4 from 4?

  12. Bulldog on

    FF – It would not be appropriate to go into wage details on a public site. We just need to agree to disagree. So I can not take that further with you. The Naiyaravoro wage may just be paper talk, which is what I suspect you will be told if you asked them about that directly however If he is uncapped he could off course play for Scotland as a citizen in the future and that could be seen as value therefore a capped player for any other nation may have less value.

      • Bulldog on

        Angus- Not really sure on your point? Without prejudice to whether the wage quoted in the public domain is accurate or not, It may or may not be’an extraordinary amount for an uncapped player’.

        Gnerally speaking the conditions of contracts of employement set out entitlements and If he remains eligible to play for Scotland that may well be his wage. If he elects to play international rugby for another nation he is restricting his services to his employer and as such will have a set of terms to accomodate that. This is all working in teh shadows as we have no idea on who his contract willbe with – As FF points out the SRU own them all.

        All of this does not diffuse my earlier points .

      • Angus on

        Hi Bulldog. My post was I relation to his potential availabilty for Scotland it was not in reference to his estimated salary which in Oz has been posted as $1.5 million. Divide by 2 for £. I don’t believe that figure is anywhere near the real one btw and I really don’t care.

        When he was signed by the SRU some 6 months ago he was an unknown at top level union apart from showing promise in the 2014 NRC. It is possible he was being considered as a project player but even if oz or Fiji cap him I am sure the Warriors will c him for at least a year and good luck to them!!

      • Bulldog on

        Thanks Angus – Like I said I cannot see that one working unless he is available to play for Scotland.

        Back to the point which is according to the article and subsequent blogs the key players will be Glasgow. That is not great news for Glasgow fans. Even Strauss will now be in the international setup.

    • Angus on

      The thing was he was talent spotted and signed by the SRU before he started to do all the good things for NSW. Catch 22 really. If he hadn’t played so well this year he wouldn’t have been such a great signing and because he has he is at risk of not being Scottish eligible lol

  13. Neil on

    My own feeling is that part of the problem we have is getting the players to gell. For that reason, I think the vast majority should be picked from the Glasgow squad. There should be one or two exceptions (e.g. Gray brothers) but these players should be exceptional if they are to take to the field. I can see no reason to pick Laidlaw at all and some of the others currently playing for teams in England and France (e.g. Visser) should be dropped. I even questing whether Jackson is really up to the task. There is little point in fielding players from diffrent clubs who do not know each others style of play, weaknesses, strenghths etc. Better just picking players from Glasgow in my view.
    I mainly blame our poor perfomance in the 6 nations on Laidlaw’s poor decision making and kicking and on the fact that Jim Hamilton was as motivated as a cold trout. Both need to be dropped from the squad as they will cost us games, particularly if the score is close going into the last quarter.

    • FF on

      Will you ever tire of scapegoating a few individuals you don’t like Neil? Russell got sin binned against Wales when we were comfortably on top and returned to us trailing. Horne kicked the penalty against Italy which failed to find touch and led to their winning try. Change those key turning points and our season looks very different.

      Even admirable players make mistakes and rugby is a team game where you succeed or fail together. It is really tiresome to hear you comment that all of Scotland’s failings result from one or two players. It is nonsense.

      • bulldog on

        If I recall those were not the only key moments in those games. Ultimately Italy was lost when the forwards could not handle the maul and we had two yellow cards (Watson and Toolis) which culminated in the Penalty try . The kick was a howler, you are dead right there however the resultant offences were no better.

        Neil – How could you? FF is right you know, you have us all at it now. I blame you .

      • FF on

        Bulldog – I actually just meant to demonstrate that there were influential errors by other individuals that had far more bearing on the results than the performances of Laidlaw (or Hamilton) so it’s ridiculous to keep singling him out. I agree, there were plenty of errors in every game, and the blame for those losses must be collective. I don’t think Laidlaw played particularly well and would replace him (probably with Pyrgos) if I was picking the team. But Neil goes to lengths to always lay the blame at Laidlaw’s door and it lets the collective team off the hook.

      • Bulldog on

        FF- I understand and agree , laidlaw has been vilified much too often. At the end of the day , he never picked himself.

        I am really just having a bit of fun, because we all do it, to a greater or lesser extent, and yes some more than others I would agree.

        None of this is to be taken too seriously.

        I have left the debacle of the 6N behind and relect on what our pro sides have given us since then, against all the odds. My hopes are in PRO12 success, hence my concern, in particular, for Glasgow.

        Now to get back to the fun.I predict before the end of this blog there will be a protest that we could pick from a wider pool if we could run a third proteam. Right now I feel sure someone , somewhere, is working on the startegy. I feel sure it will be tabled before first light tomorrow.

        Sleep tight.

  14. Neil on

    Bulldog, FF- of course there are more players to blame for the poor performances in the 6 nations than just Laidlaw, though I do feel he has one of the most responsible positions in the field and, had he performed to his full potential, we may still have won at least two of the games, albeit by a small margin. What I really mean is that we should not be picking players that score OG’s against us and Laidlaw definately comes under that category. By kicking pointless Garryowens and box kicks to the opposition he put our team under enormous pressure. By retaining posession and going through the phases it at least gives our team a chance. Unfortunately, he cannot seem to understand that concept so he has to be dropped. He doesnt seem to be much of a leader either.
    However there are other ‘OG players’ such as Hamilton who does not seem to pull his weight and has disiplinary issues which also really hurt the team. I also think Jackson is overrated and should be dropped- never seems to do anything special in a Scotland top. Also, what has Maitland really done in a Scotland top?- I could be wrong but I only ever remember him being a utility type player. Most of our forwards are poor and lack strenght, fitness and determination. Just look at how they were bossede by Italy and Ireland for instance. In my opinion the only exceptions are the Gray brothers and the now retired Euan Murray who are outstanding. The others are just pushed arround and bullied by any team they play. Unfortunatley, I dont think they even care.

    So there you go, its not just Laidlaw that is at fault but the fact that he plays in probably the most important position on the park means that we have to look for alternatives. Cussiter may be an option though I havent seen him play recently. If Scotland cant find anyone else then I will volunteer myself. I may by only moderately fit and in my 40’s but I would play with a determination to win, a level of commitment that is sadly lacking in the team and would not make stupid choices such as kicking Garryowens that gain us 5 yards but hand the ball back to the opposition. Go on BVC, you know I can do a better job than some of the buffoons that pull on the blue jersey.

    • FF on

      Jackson hasn’t played for Scotland since Nov 2013.

      Maitland is far and away our best winger after Seymour. It is a shame he missed all of this year’s 6N with injury because Dougie Fife just isn’t a test standard player.

      Hamilton does have disciplinary issues and does sometimes cost Scotland games. However, he only played half of Scotland’s games this year and I think we may have averted a collapse against Italy if we had him to come on against Italy instead of a debutant (Toolis). Hamilton’s big strength is his set piece and our line out, scrum and maul defence is better with him on the field – we desperately needed someone who could break up the Italian mail without being penalised. I don’t think it necessarily compensates for his weaknesses when we have a full squad but he is much better than you give him credit for.

      Murray has been a good servant of Scottish rugby but this year was a season too far for him and I’m not surprised he’s chosen to retire.

      So really the other guys you mention played collectively 2 and a half games during the 6N. Hmmm

      You are right our forwards continue to perform badly but it is nothing to do with strength, fitness or determination. They simply have bad technique at the breakdown, both in defence and their contact skills in presenting clean ball. Set piece is also just down to poor technique. Possibly because Scotland haven’t had a worthwhile forwards coach since Robinson retired.

      • Neil on

        Jackson has not played since 2103 but is now in the squad. Is there not a good reason why he has not played since that time? er because he cant play for tofee. I have never watched him play well for Scotland, have you?

        Hamilton is a big guy so why does he not use his bulk to his/our advantage. He just seems toi float arround the park airie fairie when we really need high tempo impact players who are prepared to give 100%. He may look OK against some of the poorer teams but has no chance against the top 6 teams- too easily pushed off the ball, bullied by lesser men etc. He also has disciplinary issues that can cost us dear.

        I’m really dissapointed that Murray has decided to quit as he was one of the few Scotland players that could be described as world class. He has a massive influece on players arround him and could have played a major role in the upcoming WC. However, I understand the reasons why he has quit.

        As for Maitland- probably not a bad player but hardly world class and I dont recall him doing much in a Scotland top.

        As for our forwards- they need to learn the game, get proper coaching and a rocket up their backsides as they nearly always seem demotivated. They need to spend more time in the gymn and less time in the pub. Without a good set of forwards we will never get enough posession to score tries, even againt some of the lesser teams.

  15. Bulldog on

    A lot to take in there, So it looks like we have Scrum Half covered , one way or another. Is captain not still an issue ? With all these guys just not trying we need an insporational leader. Got to rush.

    • Neil on

      Has to be either Pyrogs of Cussiter. Both are not excatly world class but are decent. I don’t see any other options. This is arguably the most important position of the entire squad. A sub standard player in this position will be a major handicap.

  16. pragmatic optomist on

    I’m not getting involved in any more Laidlaw debate, as my views are probably widely known to regulars of this blog.
    I have question for the props out there. What are the front row options open to us?
    I wasn’t impressed by our scrummaging in the 6N, and so the current incumbents are suspect in my view. We were either being shoved back or were under serious pressure in most games.
    That said, reading the blogs in the Hootsman, there are a lot of people who seem to think that the introduction of WP Nel, and hey presto, we’ll have a strong scrum.
    I’m not convinced.
    My views on Ford are also on record ( can’t throw or hook, can’t break a tackle, not dynamic, faster than a spent bullet). We’re playing 3 x props when he’s in the team and it doesn’t work.
    Would Reid, McInally and Cusack give us a better balance, or are there better options?

  17. Scafell on

    Well I’m not a prop but I’ll have a go. It’s a pretty green team at the moment so despite Ford not setting the heather alight I would still start him in the big games for his experience, like Laidlaw he was superb against Argentina and has been part of a decent Edinburgh pack that hasn’t been bullied in the loose or Scrum in the Pro 12 so hopefully he can get some of that sparkle back for what will probably be his last world cup. McInally and Brown have their strengths (Brown at the breakdown and McInally for this ball carrying). As for the props, loose head I think Dickenson and Reid are pretty solid so I’m not too worried. Again at tighthead Cusack is returning from injury and is strong in the scrum but not known for this fleet footedness around the pitch. Welsh and Nel will solidify the scrum without doing any spectacular. Japan and USA, while improved, are not known for their scrummaging. Samoa for all their units again I don’t think are a scrummaging powerhouse, although feel free to correct me. South Africa…well we all know about South Africa. At the end of the day we’re low on depth so Cotter has to work with what he has. Fagerson is showing promise and hopefully Berghan can get more game time next year so hopefully we will have more options in the future. Against SA I would play the Edinburgh Front row Dickenson, Ford and Nel.

    • Scafell on

      Sorry pragmatic Optomist, reading it back my answer was a bit long winded without answering your question!!!

  18. pragmatic optomist on

    You tried Scafell. Can’t ask for more.
    You do seem to have gone for the Hootsman front row, or the existing front row plus Nel\Welsh.
    I’m sure the pack will cope with Japan and USA, although the yanks have large units.
    SA will exert pressure at scrum time and we’ll need strategies for avoiding scrums and getting the ball out quickly when we have them.
    I’m not sure about Samoa.
    They probably had the biggest front row in rugby when Uni Antonio played for them. I believe he switched allegiance to France and he gave Scotland lots of trouble in the 6N.
    With loosehead Otta Iona (135 kilos) being dwarfed by the tighhead, Uni Antonio (162 k), it would have been savage trying to deal with them. I’m not sure who the current tighthead is.

    I expect Scotlands performance in the world cup will depend on 1) how the front row hold up and 2) whether returning backs can hit form quickly after injury.

  19. Michael on

    With this announcement I think we have the strongest back line Scotland has produced in a decade, when fit, we have strong competition throughout the line. I dont like the term ‘world class’, realistically we are a team that ranks anywhere from 7-10 in the world depending on when its taken. You dont expect to be world class when operating at that level. What I do think is that with this group, we have the opportunity to push on to be a higher level team than we have historically been. Whether you agree or disagree with some of the specific picks, the squad as a whole is looking good.
    SH is a debated area, but all 3 options are more than capable and bring differing expertise depending on the opposition, thats the main reason for squad depth. I agree Laidlaw has been poor internationally, but his experience will bring a level head with the opp to bring on SHC or Pyrgos off the bench should we require a ‘spark’. 10-15 is looking exciting, our 2nd & back row has a blend of experience, grit and youthful determination while our front row really needs to be tested to show how it will blend together during the friendlies.
    As a true Scotsman, I am getting excited at the prospect that our underdog team will outperform the pundits predictions and play to the level I hope they can. Fingers crossed they will do it this time, I’ve been let down too many times before by this lot!

  20. Neil on

    Michael,

    If it had been just one poor game out of 5 then I would agree that it was a one off but the fact is that we played poorly in all 5 games and learned absolutely nothing from our defeats. The team seemed to lack motivation which is my biggest concern. I agree that Glasgow have played very well this season and maybe this is a lesson to be learned- if we chose player from that team only and maye add a few others (but not too many and certainly not Laidlaw or Hamilton) then we may have a chnace as the players will know each others pattern of play, strenghths, weaknesses etc. However, even with that we will struggle as we dont really have strong motivated forwrds to take on teams up front. Some of our backs are talented but we need to get ball to them in the fist place in order to crreate chances. If our forwards are not strong enough to take on other packs then we will have no chance.

    Also- although Glasgow had a great season they fell short in Europe, as they have done in previous years. Does this tell us that they are good compared with other club sides from Ireland, Wales and Itally but average compared with England and France.
    I’m trying not to be pessimistic but BVC always plays Laidlaw and a group of forwards lackig in strenghth and motivation so I ask the following questions:

    a. How are we going to get enough posession to score tries?
    b. how are we going to defend against roling mauls when are forwards are incapable of it? Remember that other teams recognise this as a weakness in our play and will exploit it. Just look at how Italy exploited this in the 6 nations.
    c. How can we possibly beat one of the top 6 teams when Laidlaw continues to make massive mistakes, playes pointless box kicks and garryowens that give the ball straight bak to the opposition. he is the biggest de-motivator of the entire squad. The teams works hard to create chances and he fluffs them.

    These are the key reasons why I feel we will struggle in the WC. I think even the USA and Samoa could prove difficult matches for scotland, never mind SA.

    • Michael on

      Neil, up until 2014 Scotland were known as the team that retained possession but did nothing with it, even in the oppo 22. That went on for about 5 years with many of the same players we have now. A few bits of tinkering, with BVC now fully established at the helm I’m sure he will get them firing.
      In answer to your questions:
      a) even if you discount our forwards then our backs can play disjointed counter attacking rugby very well as that has been Glasgow MO all season, the line is mainly those players
      b) Rolling mauls wasnt identified as a particular weakness, I think you forget that Italy’s rolling maul is their strongest asset, of course they are going to employ that technique against us and all other nations they play
      c) Stop banging on about Laidlaw, it’s getting boring

      I think you need to realise that many areas of the field may not neccessarily be weaknesses on our part but rather strengths of our opposition. It’s not all about having excellent areas all across the pitch, it’s about identifying the areas we are good at we think we can compete against our next opponents. That’s why the manager changes the team around and doesnt necessarily play the fans favourites each week.
      You are far over simplifying things and it is becoming demoralising. If you are so negative, go and do so, but please stop spouting such negativity as a constant here (i know it is your right to do so), be hopeful, look at the positives, look at where we can compete, look at where the oppo’s weaknesses can be exploited by our own pods of forwards and backs. Progressive dialogue on this blog is the best fun, harping on about the same thing is not.

      • Neil on

        Michael, I was just being honest/realistic and trying not to see the world through rose colored specs. I really dont fancy our chances in either the WC or the next 6 nations. I have to take you to task about two things:

        a. We were never a side that retained posession very well so I dont know where you got that idea from. I agree that we had a problem creating tries or even try scoring opportunities up until 2014 but retaining posession was never one of our great strenghths. It just makes my blood boil every time I see one of our players performing a box or garryowen kick- a pointless tactic that gets us nowhere. I watched the first half of the U20 Oz vs SA match last night and did not see one Garryowen by the SA team. They just reatained posession and went throught the phases- thats why they were thumping OZ (didnt see the second hald I’m affraid). Unfortunately we play this tactic all the time.
        b. We cannot defend against the rolling maul. Its not just Italy that realised this. Ireland also played this tactic and ran our forwards to the ground. Unless we can find a way of dealing with this then other teams know that this is a wakness and will exploit it at every opportunity

        It is my right to be either pessimistic or optimistic in my viewpoint but I prefer to be realistic. Our record in the 6 nations since 2001 has been abismal. More often that not we are either in a dogfight with Italy for the wooden spoon, finishing either 5th or 6th- its pathetic and even you must agree. On a positive note, we have a great coach in BVC who is trying to change things but with such a poor pool of talent to pick from I really dont envy his job.
        I would love to think that we could challenge for the WC or at least get into the semis and then finish in the top 3 in the 6 nations but I really cant see that happening.

  21. Bulldog on

    This is easily solved.We could just run a ‘talk them up’ campaign. lets PELT the boo boys with postive comments. The rule is just one comment per post, you can come back and post another time however just one per post and do not be greedy, leave a feel good comment for a fellow blogger. Neil – You may struggle with this but we are having a few days of positivity.

    I will start..

    Scotlands two pro sides have been in finals last season, one of them won, the other came second.

    Come on you regular posters , lets talk them up…

  22. Michael on

    Neil – ‘Take me to task’, in order to do that you need to be right.
    Official stats suggest otherwise:
    2008-3rd highest possession; 2010-1st in possession; 2011-2nd in possession; 2012-2nd in possession; 2013-3rd in possession.
    4 out of 5 years prior to 2014 we had excellent possession statistics, but dreadful try scoring stats. These are taken from the IRB Statistical Analysis.

    And a couple of fun stats to lift for no reason other than they are interesting :
    2015 – we had the 2nd best lineout stats (there’s a strength Neil)
    But a big issue in 2015 (and 2013 incidentally) Scotland had the worst performing scrum…

    • FF on

      It is practically a law of nature that Neil has to include at least one factual error in every post.

      Anyway, I agree with you, the Robinson years were the white line fever years where we regularly ‘won’ on possession and territory and lost on the scoreboard.

    • Neil on

      I’m surprised by these stats as I watched all of our 6 nation games in 2012 and 2013 and we were guff- even more guff than we are now. Were we playing in our own 22 or was posession of the ball related to the social events in the pub both before and after the game? I agree on one point though- we could not score a try for toffee. I also agree that our lineout and kicking for goal have been reasonable. Our scrum has been poor and loose ruck very poor. I just feel that we need more strenghth in our forward pack.

  23. Merlot on

    Neil – you may be trying to be “realistic” but all it comes over as is putting a downer on our boys. Let’s be honest, we were all devastated at the 6N showing, but the 2014/15 season wasn’t all bad.
    Everyone was full of hope after the Autumn tests beating Tonga and Argentina and forcing NZ to the wire. We were unlucky against France (away, 1st game) and then again against Wales (even my Welsh friends said they’d got away with that one). Against Italy we should have put them away before Horne had that shocker of a kick. Even against England we had chances but at Twickenham its tough to keep the English in their box. So really, IMO the only game we capitulated was against Ireland, and everyone has a bad day at the office, especially after a losing streak.
    I agree with the stats in that our scrum needs shoring up, but with Nel, Cusack & Reid now in the squad (and seemingly performing well, albeit at club level) I am hopeful that this crucial part of the game we are at least at parity.
    Reasons to be cheerful
    1. Back 3 – tryscorers all and can compete with the best
    2. Centres – finally!!! we have some that aren’t converted wingers, flankers or anything else. They are proper centres who can defend and attack.
    3. Fly half – Finn is a revelation, with an experienced backup in Weir who knows how to close out games.
    4. Scrumhalf – never a problem for Scotland, and if Greig fails to find his form we have 2 or 3 who can step up to the plate.
    5. Backrow – enough strength in depth to have a pick’n’mix approach to each game – scavengers, carriers, tacklers, offloaders – just let VC get the balance right.
    6. Front 5 – at least 2 players who pick themselves (Johnny and Al) means we just need to get this balance right too.
    7. Lineout – Ross has finally been practising throwing in, so is almost as good as the other hookers. Even then, we’ve had a good lineout for some time.
    8. Kicking for posts – not many sides will be able to put out 3 or 4 test-class penalty takers, each with their own strengths (and weaknesses, but I’m ignoring those!!).

    • Neil on

      Mrlot,

      If the team gels together and players give it 100% and play to their potential I agree that we can be a forbidable outfit. The problem is- how many times have you really seen that happen?

  24. FiferMitchell on

    Firstly, Neil, please, please please stop being so repetitive and negative. The 6N was bad and will historically be remembered as a whitewash and another wooden spoon, but the advancements that the team took were there to be seen. We now have a clear game plan which fives us an identity as a rugby nation, BVC’s registered trademark “organised chaos rugby”. This plays to our strengths massively, with amobile second and back row, which has a tendency to allow the opposition to turn the ball over when playing tight one-up rugby, it means we can avoid breakdown battles which we usually struggle at especially against big packs, like glasgow did against toulouse, and edinburgh have done a few times this season. Not only does it play to our strengths, it is a hugely exciting brand of rugby, which could and already has a little, lead to us becoming everyones second team, we’re that exciting to watch with our offloading, fast recycling and high tempo to the game. I agree with neil, i dont think laidlaw suits that style of play. Granted he played well in the autumn when the runners off nine were a plenty, and russell was still finding his feet, but we saw when the pressure came on he reverted to type and decides to go for kick chases, something the outside backs either werent expecting, havent trained for or arent very effective at. This along with what i believe to be poor captaincy skills, means that he has to be dropped for someone who is going to continually give russell a quick, high quality service of ball to play with, as well as being a threat around the fringes, and i feel any of the other 9’s offer that. Cusiter has a similar role to play for salewirh cipriani the clear quality in the team and cusiters job is to give it to him. Pyrgos has developed a good understanding with russell the rest of the glasgow boys and is an obvious choice, and SHC has the ability to be outstanding, maybe a bit early for him though. So, a lttle long winded, sorryfor that. Ill be in newcastle for the SA game and possibly twickers for the QF. Also hoping to go to ireland in the 6N but i cant find any info on when tickets go on sale/where to get tickets/if we can even get them, any help would be appreciated :)

      • Paul on

        Neil. First up, I find the term ‘Nancy boy’ offensive and backwards. I really hope you don’t actually use that term in every day use. Secondly I find it laughable that you can sit behind a keyboard and claim Scotland players are ‘weak and pathetic’. These guys put their bodies on the line on an almost basis and keep on coming back for more. I have been as frustrated as any by the Scotland performances in the past 20 years but the players that put on the jersey are THE BEST WE HAVE. Scotland has completely and utterly failed to get a grip on professional rugby and has let our elite players down since the game became professional. Please think about this when spouting your nonsense abhorrent ignorant opinions on Scottish rugby in future

      • Neil on

        Paul, I have evry right to have a rant and I know the problems in Scottish rugby can be fixed. I have stated numerous factors behind the demise of our game and on how the rot can be reversed in previous threds so I wont go over old ground. I’m sorry that you find the term “Nancy boys” offensive but it is just the best way I can describe our forward pack when they took on Ireland and Italy. In fact I would normally be far more offensive but I have curbed by language on this blog. The fact is that these guys are paid professionals- they need to act like it. I dont mind if we play well and lose but I object to players not even trying and that is exactly what happened in both of these games.

      • Neil on

        FF- I never mentioned the Juniors- what has that got to do with anything? The juniors have their own set of problems but they seem to play with a bit more determination and spitit than our senior squad.

        I think you should re-examine the word professionalism. Is it professional not to try hard at your job, just to give up when you feel like it etc. These are professional players and need to act like such. In the days of amature rugby the players seemed to try much harder than they do now. These were guys who had a day job and just played at the weekend for the love fo the sport. They were absolutlely 100% commited to whatever team they played for and took real priode in representing our country.

        I just wonder if the same could be said of the current group of players. I’m sure it holds true for some but just look at our forwards- I rest my case.

      • FF on

        Neil – in your post replying to Angus you said you wished you had killed yourself following the 6N and “especially after watching the schoolboy performances against Italy and Ireland”.

        Now in the 6N we beat both Italy and Ireland in the u20s. In the RWC we didn’t play Italy. It is just another example of how you express a great deal of anger and indignation but always get the facts wrong.

        If you don’t think our pros try hard you’re an idiot. Being a professional rugby player takes and extraordinary level of commitment and sacrifice. Back in the amateur era the life of a international rugby player was much easier.

  25. Paul on

    Neil. If ‘Nancy boy’ is the only term you can come up with need to have a look at a dictionary. Ranting is one thing but using homophobic terms and questioning players professionalism is another. I’m a big fan of this blog and the contributions below the line but you’re either a troll or a tube (THAT’S curbed language). The major problem with rugby in scotland is its small participation rate. I’d like to see you take a rugby ball and a coaching manual into Castlemilk High School and ‘fix the problems in our game’.

  26. Paul on

    Neil. Troll or tube…. I am genuinely baffled. You do not back up any of your lack of professionalism claims with facts and are talking mince. I usually do have to read through your mince to get to the interesting informative comments but in future please refrain from casual homophobic slights. I’m not wasting the rest of my Sunday arguing the professionalism of our players. You are just wrong

    • Neil on

      Paul, Did you actually watch the Ireland and Italy games in the 6 nations? If you had, then you would know exactly what I am on about as most readers who watched the games will understand. Just look at how easy it was for both teams to boss our forward pack and look at how little effort our boys put into both games. It was almost as if they had given up before the games had even begun. I really hope we dont see a repeat of that in the WC.
      As for homophobic comments- get a life. I mentioned that they played like nancy boys not that the were nancy boys. I thought I was actually being quite kind given how dreadful they played.

  27. FiferMitchell on

    Neil- im not sure if you actually watched the italy game properly, but to use a derogatory term to describe our forwards is simply pathetic and wrong. Looking at accenture, Our basic all roind defence was very good, looking at accenture, they made far less metres almost half, they had only one clean break, andthey only beat one tackler. We turned over italian ball 14 times, We only missed 9 tackles out of 97. Pin the set piece, we only lost two lineouts on our put in, but stole two of theirs.We won 100% of our scrums and won two of their 8 scrums. To me that says excellent defence, and i havent mentioned the attack in whoch we had much more possession of the ball. Our only bad points in that italian game wasour maul defence. Our technique was poor, our leadership was almost non-existant and the italians are one of the best around at setting up the maul. Nothing to do with effort. All of their tries came from the italians maul and our failings to deal with it. Penalties racked up and wehad two players in the sin bin. However, the hugesuperiority in the maul still wouldnt have won them the game if peter horne had found touch with his penalty kick, and he was injured at the time of him taking the kick remember. So to sum up, scotlands forwards are excellent at most aspects of the game, maul defence needs work. But with a very long training camp, youd think that the team would be able to instill a game plan to deal with the maul come the world cup. Also, ill second paul’s use of the word tube, when describing neil. Hoepfully these stats will get it through that the effort is excellent, and the use of such a derogatory term is unacceptable.

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