Guess Who’s Going to Italy & Who’s Going to the World Cup?

With Grant Gilchrist putting in a performance against Ireland at the weekend Vern Cotter has wasted no time in restoring him to the captaincy he was destined to take before injury struck.

Scotland have named the squad that will travel to Italy which features 11 changes with Adam Ashe, John Hardie, Alasdair Strokosch and Hamish Watson coming in for Barclay, Blake, Cowan and Denton. It will be interesting to see if Cotter continues to press ahead with playing two opensides. Playing two opensides is, afterall, the new black in international rugby.

The five remaining changes up front sees Kevin Bryce, Alasdair Dickinson, Richie Gray, Stuart McInally and Willem Nel come in for Fraser Brown (hamstring), Allan Dell, Ryan Grant (ankle, not broken), Rob Harley, and Jon Welsh (concussion). Conversely, the backs are relatively unchanged, with uncapped duo Damien Hoyland and Rory Hughes joining the group in place of Dougie Fife and Tim Visser.

Scotland squad (sponsor BT) to face Italy at the Stadio Olimpico, Turin, this Saturday 22 August (kick-off 7pm BST) – live on BT Sport.

Backs: Sam Hidalgo-Clyne (Edinburgh Rugby), Peter Horne (Glasgow Warriors), Damien Hoyland (Edinburgh Rugby), Rory Hughes (Glasgow Warriors), Ruaridh Jackson (Wasps), Sean Lamont, Henry Pyrgos (both Glasgow Warriors), Matt Scott, Greig Tonks (both Edinburgh Rugby), Richie Vernon, Duncan Weir (both Glasgow Warriors),

Forwards: Adam Ashe, Kevin Bryce, Mike Cusack (all Glasgow Warriors), Alasdair Dickinson, Ross Ford, Grant Gilchrist CAPTAIN (all Edinburgh Rugby), Richie Gray (Castres), Jim Hamilton (Saracens), John Hardie (unattached), Stuart McInally, Willem Nel (both Edinburgh Rugby), Gordon Reid (Glasgow Warriors), Alasdair Strokosch (Perpigan), Hamish Watson (Edinburgh Rugby).

Scotland have to name the final 31-man squad for Rugby World Cup 2015 before the warm up game against France in Paris on Saturday 5 September. Based on our previous predictions, the game against Ireland and this week’s squad we’ve tried to predict who might make the final 31. We should stress that we are trying to predict Vern Cotter’s final squad rather than our dream team.

Scottish Rugby Blog predicted final 31 man squad (changes in bold):

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

Awf the bus

John BarclayBarclay did nothing wrong against Ireland and came into the wider squad off the back of a terrific season in the Pro 12. However since drawing up our predicted final 31 man squad Big Vern threw a curveball and called up John Hardie. Our feeling is that Hardie could be Cotter’s wildcard and may well edge Barclay out of a squad bursting with decent openside prospects. That said Barclay remains just an injury or drop in form away from the starting XV such is the depth of talent Scotland have in this area.

Matt ScottCame through a 12 minute cameo without doing an awful lot. Scott made our original predicted squad over Peter Horne due the latter’s struggles against Italy in the Six Nations. However Horne put in a blistering performance against Ireland and his versatility and kicking skills see him take Scott’s seat on the bus. Scott may have another chance to impress this weekend having been named in the squad that will travel to Italy.

Alex DunbarBear with us here. Richie Vernon put in an outstanding performance on Saturday and whilst Dunbar remains hopeful of regaining fitness in time for the World Cup it may be too late in Vern Cotter’s eye. Whilst not known for his conservatism, Cotter may decide to pick a player in rare form over one who is just returning from a long layoff.

Greig TonksAs with the others coming off the bus, Tonks’ omission from the final squad has nothing to do with his performance and everything to do with the performance of another. We originally discounted Ruaridh Jackson due to his long layoff with injury. However his performance on Saturday put any fears regarding fitness to bed and he put in an assured performance at full back putting him on a par with Tonks in terms of versatility. However Jackson edges ahead in terms of his ability to spot a gap and break forward. Whilst that may have frustrated those around him in years gone by it now fits with the style of rugby Scotland are trying to play.

Still clinging oan

Hugh BlakeWe originally had Blake pinned as a complete no hoper for the final squad thanks to the lack of game time in the Pro 12. There is no doubt that he struggled at times with the pace of the game in the early stages but his tackling rate was as good as any around him and he showed a keen attacking sense. Scotland are not lacking in the back row but based on Saturday we can’t rule out the possibility that Vern Cotter might name his young compatriot in the final squad.

Mike CusackInjuries to Grant and Welsh showed just how fragile the Scottish front row is in terms of depth although neither injury was as severe as first thought. Whilst Cusack hardly set the world on fire on his debut Scotland have a further three warm up games to get through between now and the World Cup. It seems almost inevitable that Cusack will make the final 31 due to the misfortune of another.

Kevin Bryce – Called up to cover for Fraser Brown who has “mild hamstring discomfort”. Scotland struggled with the line out so this may hand Bryce an opportunity to force his way in as third hooker. Stuart McInally was due to start against Ireland before being hit by a stomach bug and Ross Ford has been named in this week’s squad too. Bryce is unlikely to get an opportunity this weekend but is in a better position than other late call ups.

Watchin on the (council) tele

Allan Dell – Only an injury crisis in the front row will improve the untested Dell’s chances of making the World Cup.

Jim Hamilton Nowhere near the tackling rate of Gilchrist on Saturday and well down the pecking order in terms of other options which include the versatile Harley and Cowan. Named in the squad that will travel to Italy but you get the impression this will be his last chance to show he has something to contribute.

Tim Swinson Injured and not expected to return in time for World Cup.

Ben Toolis – A replacement for Tim Swinson and as such not profiled in our original run down of the wider training squad. Has shown promise at club level but Gilchrist’s return to form and the mere existence of the Grays mean he’s not a contender this time around.

Alasdair Strokosch – Sadly the sun has set on Strokosch’s time in a Scotland shirt. Seems unlikely to pass younger models. Named in this weekend’s squad but it’s hard to see him breaking into the final 31.

Ryan Wilson – Denton’s recovery from the long term effects of a concussion as well as his performance against Ireland pushes Wilson out of contention. May well come back should injury befall another and is likely to feature in the warm ups if only to fill in until Strauss is eligibile.

Hamish Watson – Will be frustrated to see former team mate Blake getting a starting berth despite a lack of game time. However Blake’s performance and Hardie’s addition to the squad push Watson out of contention. Named in this weekend’s squad but will need a blistering performance to force his way into contention.

Chris Cusiter Not currently training with the squad at his own request but still waiting in the wings. Seems to have accepted that his time has come although still not a bad proposition should injury strike those ahead of him.

Duncan TaylorInjured and not expected to return in time for World Cup.

Damien Hoyland & Rory Hughes – Named in the squad for this weekend but it would take a monumental performance or significant injury for either to surpass the incumbents.

Dougie Fife – Not profiled in our original piece on the wider squad as he was a late addition to cover for Duncan Taylor. Didn’t feature against Ireland despite travelling with the squad. Hoyland and Hughes make this week’s squad ahead of him so he’s likely to struggle to make the final 31.

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Born a Souter but brought up just south of the Border in Berwick where he played for Berwick RFC as a kid any any position where cover was needed.
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36 comments on “Guess Who’s Going to Italy & Who’s Going to the World Cup?

  1. FiferMitchell on

    So, although its early in the week and we’re still digesting and analysing the irish game, im interested to know how people predict this weekends line up to look. I feel the front row will be completely changed, dickinson is still first choice for me, and with grant looking like he could miss a while, i feel it will be reid to start, and dell may get a look in at the bench, to see how he goes. Mcinally if he’s not still ill will probably start at hooker, with ford on the bench again? Welsh and cusack had decent runouts, but is it time for nel to get a start under his belt? I think so. In the row, richie and toolis need an opportunity, but i dont think they can play together, and with gilchrist needing game time, he’ll partner one of the mentioned. The back row is anyones guess, blake surely wont play again, although he didn’t disgrace himself. Will cotter continue with 2 7s, perhaps hardie and barclay, or will he go with 2 8s to smash italy? Im not sure, although id like to see wilson at 6 with dents or ashe at 8, and i also want to see hardie get a game. At 9 im not sure, does he give shc a start, or does he go with a controller, laidlaw or pyrgos? At 10, i feel weir will get a start, we dont want to risk russell too soon, and tonks didnt convince as the back up. In the centre, its a question of fitness, do horne and vernon continue, despite playing most of the game last weekend? Do we risk an undercooked bennett or scott? I feel vernon and horne will continue again. On the wing, if seymour is available he plays i think, we need more challengers for the highball, and then its anyones guess again. Maitland, visser or lamont, im not sure. At full back, i dont want hogg risked at this stage. Does tonks shift to 15 to see if hes to be the replacement 15, does maitland have a run at 15 to see what options that gives? Personally id like to see jackson continue, i thought he played very well in attack in particular, and think he looks like our second best 15 and like gilchrist, needs the game time afrer his layoff.
    Im just curious about the politics that could be in play for this back to back mini series v italy. I heard a few months back, it may have been on rugby tonight on bt, that England and france play weakened teams in the away ties of their back to back in order to allow them to test their strongest teams at home. I didnt watch or see the lineups at twickenham, but ive been wondering for the whole summer if scotland and italy would have a similar agreement? Anyway, im hoping for a good game, and lookin forward to going to murrayfield next weekend.

    • FiferMitchell on

      Also, i was just proof reading this, hopefully i didnt miss anything haha, when i scrolled up only to be met with the england kit being advertised at the top of the page! Whats going on! Haha

    • FiferMitchell on

      Well, with the squad announced for the italy game, i thought id compare what infelt would be the starting xv before and after the announcement. From this squad and based on the fact that players are still needing opportunities, i feel then xv will be
      1 Reid- he’ll get an hour to show what he can do from the start
      2 McInally- competing with brown so will get a similar length of time
      3- Cusack- same as reid
      4- Gilchrist- he’s the captain, he going to start
      5- R.Gray- will compliment gilchrist i feel
      6- Strokosch- im not sure about hardie, but dont feel watson could play 6 so there’ll be no double openside this match i feel
      7- Hardie- he needs to get familiar with the scottish game
      8- Ashe- the only 8 so will play
      9- SHC- competing with pyrgos for the sub spot it seems, so roles will be reversed from last weekend
      10- Weir- similar to 9, weir is competing with tonks
      11- Hoyland- toss up between him and hughes, although hoyland is probably slightly more hyped albeit slightly less experienced
      12- Scott- needs a full game to show his form
      13- Vernon- unless lamont plays 13, hes the only 13 in the squad, i dont like Scott there
      14- Lamont- needs to show the Irish performance is his standard level of performance
      15- Jackson- needs game time, and like lamont, needs to show the irish game wasnt a one off
      Overall, a pretty balanced side i feel, with the likes of watson, horne and hughes coming off the bench, a bit of flair can be brought on, and with the likes of strokosh, hamilton, lamont and ford in the squad, there’s experience too. Looking at last weekends xv, im excited. Ashe needs to reach dentons level, interesting and exciting to see hardie at last, weir needs a decent performance only to overtake tonks, vernon needs as much time in the 13 jersey if hes going to be in the final squad, and the young backs including Hoyland hughes and shc will be exciting too, a glimpse at the future. Also gray needs a big performance and to reach gilchrists work rate levels.

  2. Eoin on

    Dickinson, Cusack, Nel, Reid, Welsh, Brown, Ford, McInally, Harley, J. Gray, R. Gray, Gilchrist, Ashe, Hardie, Cowan, Denton, Strauss, Hildago-Clyne, Laidlaw, Pyrgos, Russell, Weir, Bennett, Dunbar(Vernon), Horne, Hogg, Seymour, Maitland, Lamont, Visser, Jackson(Scott)

    Still holding out for Dunbar! Reckon Cusack leaps Grant, and Scott needs a stormer to displace Jackson. But I like the look of either 31!

  3. PJ on

    At this rate, Josh Strauss is looking like a luxury selection. Yes he is a quality player but there’s no guarantee he can replicate that form in the World Cup, so taking him in the final 31 without so much as an appearance off the bench is a big gamble. Denton laid down a marker on Saturday that if Ashe can match, I feel Strauss may lose out in place of another specialist lock to allow Harley to play 6.

    • pragmatic optomist on

      I’m sure you said that with ‘tongue very firmly in cheek’ PJ.
      Strauss isn’t available until September and is in a different league to Denton as a no 8. Neither is it any kind of a gamble if you’d seen Strauss play this year.
      Denton had a good game last Saturday, but don’t be deluded about who’s the best 8 available.

      • PJ on

        I’m almost certain that Strauss will make the final 31, as I agree he is an excellent player. Though I do feel there is a certain risk in taking a player to the World Cup squad, in a highly contested position, who is completely untested at international leve, even after a brilliant season at Glasgow l. I certainly hope that he performs and I’m almost sure sure he will, but I can’t help but feel a little paranoid. I also don’t like the idea of only three specialist locks in the squad.

    • Michael on

      Have to agree with pragmatic optimist here PJ. Strauss, if playing as well on the training ground is a shoe in for the 8 jersey. There is no way Ashe will take it from his more senior glasgow colleague. And Denton’s faults (albeit shrinking) are well established on this thread. Strauss has been a monster for Glasgow, and I for one cant wait for a new ‘Kilted Safa’ to don the blue

  4. Pete on

    Surely it would it would be more balanced to chose either Weir or Jackson with the latter doing his credentials no harm by also appyling himself well at FB so allowing an extra cente (Scott or Dunbar). If there is an injury crisis Horne could also play fly half. If Hogg gets injured then Maitland (and possibly Jackson) can cover with other options available on the wing.

  5. 1.8T on

    I’m confident we have good cover and reasonable depth in the backs. I think Weir’s coat is on a shoogely peg. I’m assuming Russel will be the starting 10, you then have Jackson, Horne and even Hogg who can play there, all of whom can play other positions. I didn’t see the game at the weekend but I belive Jackson really put his hand up. At fullback you have Hogg and Maitland with Jackson as injury cover, Maitland able to cover the wing as well. On the wings I would have Seymour and Visser with Lamont as cover. I know Visser is a devisive character and there’s just no defending his lack of defence skills but he can score tries for fun if given the ball in space. Given the performance of Glasgow’s centres all season it would be foolish not to keep those pairings. Dunbar and Bennett performed well in the 6N but are they fully fit? When they got injured I thought Glasgows season was over but Horne and Vernon were superb, Vernon’s breakdown skills are useful to have out wide too. I have disliked Laidlaw in recent seasons but hope that being relieved of the captaincy will allow him to focus on being a scrum half again because he is undoubtedly good.

    Forward I’m less sure, the front row could be our undoing if injury hits, it’s more or less a case of picking whoevers fit. Second row, J Gray and Gilchrist should start IMO. R Gray has not impressed me for some time now, where’s the soft handed bulldozer that burst onto the scene a few years ago, he’s a powder puff now. I like big Jim, he adds much needed bulk and power to the scrum, his discipline has been better of late but he’s a tricky one, I would take all 4 of the above, not a fan of playing back rows in the second row, apart from big Jim none of them are exactly donkeys in the skills department.

    We seem to be blessed with some depth in the back row. I’m less sure about strength, when I see names like Harley, Cowan, Ashe and Wilson I see people that have never really stood out, average at best. I have been a long standing critic of Denton but if the reports from the Ireland game are correct he has learnt how to pass and there never been any doubting his ball carrying. For some time now we have lacked bite at the breakdown, Barclay was a master before his exile, has he still got it? I’m guessing Kelly Brown doesn’t have a hope? Infuriating really that Scott Johnson ruined the international careers of two of our most talented players.

    Well I’m full of the usual optimism, on paper I think out backs should be able to mix it up with some of the best, but rugby isn’t played on paper unfortunately. the pack worries me slightly, I just can’t see anyone in there capable of taking a game by the scruff of the neck.

  6. Henry on

    Interesting picks but definitely don’t think that Weir and Jackson will both go.

    Personally I think it will be Jackson given his strong performance against Ireland and that he’s more of a like for like with Russell. That would free up a spot for Dunbar and have Horne and possibly Hogg as emergency fly-half cover.

    In terms of the forwards, the front-row is anyone’s guess with most likely whoever’s fit going. I’d love to fit Barclay into the squad somewhere as he’s a genuine seven with experience and leadership qualities, but looks like he might miss out should Hardie live up to the hype.

    Anyone have any idea who’s going to be squad captain as I don’t see any natural leader with a nailed down spot in the starting team yet?

  7. Matto on

    Wrote out my predicted 31 and then realised it was the same as the SRblog… doh. It’s a pretty decent squad and if we can actually get to the tournament with a squad of 31 that closely resembles that I will be both happy and optimistic.

  8. MJW on

    Vern would be mad to leave Scott behind, as doing so would mean only taking three proper centres. Weir doesn’t look like he’s flavour of the month, so I imagine he’ll be dropped and Scott will go.

    • FF on

      If Dunbar is fit he goes.

      Scott could get squeezed out as he is living off his reputation at the moment, unlike Horne or Vernon who have great form and a settled partnership behind them.

      All told it is a pretty bizarre situation for a Scotland fan to be in.

      • Cameron Black on

        Interesting comments on Weir. I’ll bear them in mind come next week depending on what happens at the weekend. Had Lamont down as cover for centre should one of the three we’ve chosen be injured. Worth bearing in mind that Russell can cover at centre should centres be completely decimated.

  9. Alta on

    I can only hope that the guys selected put in a big shift and get a hell of a good result, because I’ve postponed my wedding anniversary dinner to watch it live, and the missus is not best pleased!

  10. Standoffalot on

    So many permutations, it’s been a long time since we’ve said that about a Scotland squad! I think people are going a little overboard about Jackson. I was the first to praise him for his performance on Saturday, but full back is a far easier position to play than 10, and it would be interesting to see he and Tonks swapped about. Jackson’s kicking, both at goal and from hand, is flakey at best, and Weir is better in this department than both of them. In the centres, Dunbar, Horne and Bennett are certain to go if fit. Dunbar and Bennett are a level above the others, and Horne is in the form of his life. Scott has ground to make up here. Vernon has had a magnificent season but might just lack the gas for an international centre (eg when Zebo skinned him on Saturday), it really depends on how BVC decides to go with the make up of the squad.

    Delighted with Denton on Saturday, a fantastic performance. However as per he refused to pass when we had one glaring overlap and he’s still miles behind Strauss, who again is a cut above. Denton’s good form however could squeeze him ahead of both Wilson and Ashe for the 6 jersey. Second row will be interesting. J Gray is the outstanding candidate and it’s really just who will partner him. Richie for me has to improve, as he’s nowhere near the levels we know he is capable of. That said the scrum and line out are much more secure with him on the park, so for me he starts. Harley is in there as utility forward so it’s either big Jim or Gilchrist. Personally I just don’t see it with Gilchrist. A decent player, but I’ve yet to see him have a great game either for Scotland or Edinburgh. Solid yes, and I appreciate the fact he’s been out a long time, but I just don’t get it. I’d have Toolis in there ahead of him, and even penalty machine Jim, as we tend to be a tiny bit better at the scrum (sheer bulk) and defending rolling mauls, which I just think we’re rubbish at period. BVC obviously sees something though and he’s a better judge than I. I hope!

  11. Robbie on

    Despite his decent performance, I still don’t think Jackson is up to scratch – He didn’t once claim a high ball – they had to have Denton take all of them and his kicking game was fairly absent. They should really try Horne at 15 as the back-up. He’s useful in the air and his support lines make him ideally poised to run off Bennett, Dunbar, Scott or Seymour’s breaks. For me he is the utility player Cotter is looking for with this Tonks/Jackson experiment.

    Really hope Hardie can perform big – as much for his own sake as Scotland’s, as he’s effectively abandoned his career back home to be here and these matches are basically an audition for NH rugby.

    Hope Hoyland copes okay as he looked positionally lost in his one game against Ospreys 2nds though that probably had something to do with the 24hr flight and the fact he’d been playing 7s all year. Would be a bad mistake to have a promising player’s debut be a nightmare cause they’ve chucked him in without professional experience of 15s.

    A “pie-in-the-sky” idea – put Vernon in at seven but use him as an extra centre in attack with six man line-outs. Have Bennett and Vernon up front with Horne and Hogg running a second line in behind and Seymour coming off the blind wing. I actually think this could be pretty effective against Samoa who we have to keep on the back foot.

  12. David majsterek on

    Think for the final 31 man squad it’s a fight between Reid & grant for a spot as one of the props. Think they will take 2 specialist loosehead props and 3 tight heads.i think they will go with that because one of the tight heads will be jon Welsh who can also play loose head if needed.
    If they take Dickinson, grant and Reid then there is no real flexibility if one of the tight heads has a minor injury.
    I think the props for that reason will be Dickinson, Reid, nel, cusack & Welsh.

  13. aligator on

    Best analysis and commentary I have seen so far. Well done. Of course I don’t agree with everything! But why now and not after Saturday’s game?
    BACKS
    Jackson has only had 1 game back since injury last Sept – so too early to know. Lets see how he does on Saturday.
    On Scott fair comment – its up to him on Saturday to earn his place on the bus.
    Weir also needs to justify his place (as Horne & Vernon have already done), otherwise…
    FORWARDS
    I think we need Cusack, at the risk of leaving Grant behind.
    Hardie has not been seen, and so Saturday will be a first opportunity for him (and us) to see what he might bring to the table.

    • Bulldog on

      I think we are really struggling in the front row. Plenty of choice but we just do not seem to have it. How about this for a contraversial decision.Move Ross Ford to prop?

      • neil on

        I agree that we are struggling in the forward pack. We lack skill and strength and that could cost us dear if e come up against teams like England or France with big guys who can steamroller our pack and dominate possession. I know that Hamilton is hardly a great player but it may be a good idea to field him but only if we play one of these teams.
        If only we could bring back Jeffries, Cronin, Calder et al, then we would have a real chance. The current crop of players are distinctly average by comparrison.

      • Mike on

        Spot on Neil. Love to have those amateur era guys playing against Samu Manoa and Duane Vermulen..then we’d show the world what we’re made of. I think the SRU should invest in cloning..we would be able to bring back Robert the Bruce and William Wallace too Wouldn’t that be something eh? Anyway, I don’t think Grant will make it due to injury. The World under 20s showed we have some front row talent coming through though so the long term future looks good.

      • bulldog on

        I doubt they are available for selection and as I recall they were light (er) in weight than this pack.Next caller please.

      • Bulldog on

        Nice one Mike – I doubt the point will get through mind you, and if it does , the recommendation will be to clone them and re-enstate the Border Reivers Pro Team to accomodate them. Ever watched the film ‘Ground Hog Day’?

  14. neil on

    Any idea why Cussiter has withdrawn from training? is he injured? Given his experience and level head I think he should be included in the squad even though he be be past his best.

    • FF on

      Cusiter withdrew himself from the squad to spend time with his newborn child and wife. Makes sense really given that the squad were away at training camps for weeks at a time.

  15. pragmatic optomist on

    Sorry for adding a fashion note in the wrong blog.
    Having just looked at the new Edinburgh and Glasgow kit for this year, I think it’s a knockout victory for Edinburgh.
    Their camoflage away top is stupendous. I’m not sure about the cranes in the Glasgow top. A bit too cliched for my tastes.
    Not sure who does the choosing, but Edinburghs is much more imaginative.Even the home top looks like chain mail.
    If they didn’t make them so bloody tight fitting I might even have worn one myself!!!?

    • FiferMitchell on

      I agree and disagree, i love the Edinburgh home kit, looove the chain mail, and its not too much id say. Not too sure about the camo though. The glasgow kits, whilst more simple, i love the fact that they are incorporating the city skyline in to the kit. Classy from macron, very imoressed by their latest batch of kits including the scottish ones.

  16. Andy N on

    so, team announcement day….

    Front Row: I think we’ll see all Edinburgh front row, with Nel and Dickinson up front with McInally. VC will want to see Nel up against a tough international front row and Dickinson needs a hit out. McInally to be given a chance to stake his claim – a hooker who could cover back row could be a prudent selection for final squad.

    Second Row: I think we’ll see Richie G partner Gilchrist in a towering second row. Richie needs the game time – simple as that.

    Back Row: I wouldn’t be surprised to see VC take the same approach as last week and start both Hardie and Watson, with Ashe at 8. A solid game from Watson should keep him ahead of Blake in the pecking order – Hardie is a proven nutjob and will do well – Expect to see Hardie and Watson both in the final squad.

    Half Back:SHC to start is obvious, and I think Weir needs an opportunity to put his hand up – so SHC and Weir to start for me. We know what Jackson brings to 10 and it’s seldom been pretty. Horne to move to 10 after 60 mins.

    Centres: Tough call – do we stick with same partnership as last week or does Scott get a chance to prove his fitness with a run from the start….personally, if these tests are truly just warm ups, then I think Scott needs to start with Richie outside. Might see Lamont at 13 if VC fancies trying out his contingency plans, but don’t think he’d do it from the start.

    Wings: Really want to see more depth here, particularly Hoyland get a run – so my heart says Hoyland and Hughes, but in reality, I think Lamont will be on one wing and hopefully Hoyland on the other.

    FB: I think Jackson will get another run at Fullback to see if last week was a fluke.

    15. Jackson
    14. Lamont
    13. Vernon
    12. Scott
    11. Hoyland
    10. Weir
    9. SHC
    8. Ashe
    7. Watson
    6. Hardie
    5. Gray
    4. Gilchrist
    3. Nel
    2. McInally
    1. Dickinson

  17. Jimmy Bond on

    Great comments and analysis folks. I have being playing a lot of rugby with some Kiwis lately and they say Hardie is the real deal. Apparently he is ferocious for club and only injury has hampered his all black chances. Hopefully he proves us right this weekend, what a bonus it would be to have another string to our bow in the forwards.

    Very excited about our backs. I predict Finn Russell to be the star of the campaign. The first scottish 10 in 15 years to have the magic x-factor! Mon’ Scotland!

  18. whyte john on

    Confirmed on the bus

    John Hardie (looks the best of a good bunch at 7)
    Ritchie Vernon (doing everything well)
    Peter Horne (maybe our best attacking back for now)
    Ruaridh Jackson (we need him and he has the talent)

    Climbing back on the bus

    Matt Scott (coming good slowly)

    Clinging on, but need a big game

    Hamish Watson (fighting it out with Hardie)
    Rory Hughes (wing replacement if…)
    Adam Ashe
    Ryan Grant
    Rob Harley

    Awf the bus

    Greg Tonks (tries hard but just not up to it)
    Duncan Weir (does not bring enough)
    Hugh Blake (Hardie & Watson just better, for now)
    John Barclay (others better, unfortunately for him)
    Mike Cusack (seems out of his depth)

  19. Martin Young on

    If it was a 36 man squad I think the decisions would already have been made. As it is you have to have a squad with enough flexibility and depth to go through the tournament with 31 players So based on what I have seen, inherent bias and amateurish analytical skills my 31 is below:

    Ford, McInally, Brown, Dickinson, Reid, Nel, Grant, Welsh, J.Gray, R.Gray, Gilchrist, Harley, Strauss, Denton, Hardie, Cowan, Wilson, Laidlaw, Pyrgos, HDC, Russell, Weir, Horne, Bennett, Dunbar, Lamont, Maitland, Visser, Seymour, Hogg, Jackson

    I still feel we are a tighthead short, also personally I would go Barclay over Cowan and am just picking Wilson ahead of Ashe because of end of seasons momentum and hardie gets the shout in front of Watson based on the previously mentioned bias ! In the backs Jackson gets the pick as I feel he offers us ‘Russell-lite’ if needed and Weir offers us a better version of the structured game Tonks brings to 10. Also as nice as it seems to have Harley able to cover the locks, I do still feel that a dedicated lock in the 4th spot might be needed the further we go in the comp. Especially as Brown and McInally can do a job in the backrow if needed….

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