Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Scotland Squad for Opening Warm Up Test

Sam Hidalgo Clyne - pic © Al Ross
Sam Hidalgo Clyne - pic © Al Ross

The Scotland squad for the first warm-up match against Ireland on Saturday has been announced and shows us not much other than big Vern Cotter is keeping his powder dry.

The presence of several late/recent admissions and some faces returning from the cold after longer spells than Richard Burton point to this being an experimental side designed to fill out the cover required for a long tournament campaign and work on backup combinations. While the front-running likes of Finn Russell, Stuart Hogg and the Gray boys are sitting this one out, there are a lot of players who will be competing for the number 2 or 3 spot in their position, some even potentially going head to head for a shirt like John Barclay and Blair Cowan.

Midfield watchers will also note the absence of any of our three injured musketeers: Matt Scott, Mark Bennett or Alex Dunbar although the latter was admittedly an outside shot at this stage.

The final squad is set to be announced before the 5th September match in Paris so it may not be until then (and Josh Strauss qualifies) that we see a closer view of the team that will take part in the Rugby World Cup but it will certainly be an interesting next 4 weeks.

The remaining 22 in the training squad will continue pre-season separate from this squad and the starting XV will be announced on Thursday at lunchtime.

Scotland Squad to face Ireland at the Aviva Stadium, Saturday 15 Aug, k.o 5pm (live on Sky Sports)

Backs: Dougie Fife, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, Peter Horne, Ruaridh Jackson, Sean Lamont, Henry Pyrgos CAPTAIN, Tommy Seymour, Greig Tonks, Richie Vernon, Tim Visser, Duncan Weir.

Forwards: John Barclay, Hugh Blake, Fraser Brown, Blair Cowan, Mike Cusack, David Denton, Allan Dell, Grant Gilchrist, Ryan Grant, Jim Hamilton, Rob Harley, Stuart McInally, Gordon Reid, Jon Welsh.

Possible Scotland XV from this lot:

Tonks, Seymour, Vernon, Horne, Visser, Weir, Pyrgos (c); Grant, Brown, Welsh, Hamilton, Gilchrist, Harley, Barclay, Denton


Here’s the finalised team announcement, you’ll notice that Matt Scott has slipped into the bench lineup for Tommy Seymour who sprained a hip in training and Ross Ford comes in for Stuart McInally who has a stomach bug.

Scotland: Ruaridh Jackson, Sean Lamont, Richie Vernon, Pete Horne, Tim Visser, Greig Tonks, Henry Pyrgos (captain); Ryan Grant, Fraser Brown, Jon Welsh, Jim Hamilton, Grant Gilchrist, Blair Cowan, Hugh Blake, David Denton.

Replacements: Ross Ford, Gordy Reid, Mike Cusack, Rob Harley, John Barclay, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, Duncan Weir, Matt Scott.


Here’s the Ireland team. Gulp.

Ireland: Simon Zebo, Tommy Bowe, Jared Payne, Gordon D’Arcy, Luke Fitzgerald, Ian Madigan, Issac Boss, Dave Kilcoyne, Sean Cronin, Mike Ross, Devin Toner, Dan Tuohy, Jack Conan, Chris Henry, Sean O’Brien.

Replacements: Richardt Strauss, Michael Bent, Nathan White, Paul O’Connell, Jordi Murphy, Eoin Reddan, Paddy Jackson, Dave Kearney.

33 Responses

  1. If we compare the selection to Wales and Ireland last Saturday, it does make you think whether these are being considered as back up players. I wonder if they’ll go for 2 opensides – a strategy that worked for Australia against the All Blacks.

    1. Strange we are even considering this after so recently playing 2 6s due a lack of a single 7 lol

  2. Hmmm, I would say the only guaranteed first xv among this squad is Seymour, so no question that VC is mainly leaving his definites out at this stage and testing the depth and possible contenders for those positions that are not nailed down. Think we could be in for a going over, but looking forward to seeing some rugby!

  3. Interesting article on the guardian sport website about Chris Cusiters non involvement.

  4. I have a few thoughts on this squad, ill go through the squad position by position:
    1- i feel dickinson is the starter, and that we will only take 2 LHs, so grant and reid are fighting for one squad place, but both are similar in quality so its just about form i reckon.
    2- ford is probably the first choice, unless brown or mcinally can have a stormer or two in the warm ups, but we’ll take 3 hookers so its a shootout for the replacement berth.
    3- all three will go i think, especially with welsh covering both props, im not sure who will start so will expect all three will get plenty of opportunities in these warm ups.
    4/5- the grays are definitely starting arent they? So its between these two for the replacement spot, although im disappointed toolis isnt in this squad, especially with no replacements. Denton and harley will cover the row wont they?
    6- harley is the obvious one, but id like to see denton at 6 when strauss is playing, obviously thats not going to happen for a wee while yet. Alternatively, we could see cowan at 6 and barclay 7, or even denton 6 and cowan 8, but harley i feel will start.
    7- between Barclay and cowan, blake wont make the squad. I thought hardie might play this game, perhaps he’s been given more time to learn his teammates, the squad ethos and the plays (maybe even the national anthem).
    8- denton obviously, or maybe cowan or barclay as ive said.
    9- pyrgos and shc are sadly, it seems, fighting it out for the back up place to laidlaw, which is unfortunate as i reckon both offer more, as well as something different, hopefully one or both have such a good warm up series that they are undroppable.
    10- weir and jackson both need game time, as well as a chance to show their worth to the back up 10 slot. In my 31, id go for russell as the only 10 and horne and tonks, and laidlaw at a push, as the utility cover, leaving russell with the confidence (and pressure) to go and play, but maybe thats too risky.
    12/13- unless lamont has played like sonny bill williams in training, the midfield is obvious, horne and vernon.
    11/14- i dont think fife will make the final cut, so visser and seymour will start surely, with lamont on the bench covering most of the backs.
    15- almost definitely tonks, perhaps some really strange experimenting could go on with seymour at 15, but i dont see it.
    Ive not seen the wales ireland game yet, but i have it recorded, so might tonight, so im not sure how well Ireland played, or how easy wales made it for them. Ireland may put out an entirely different squad this weekend though, so it might be pointless to speculate. Im just hoping for a good level of performance from a squad made up mostly of second choice players, mostly to set a level for the first choicers to reach and exceed. I am very excited though, our world cup starts here!

  5. Wouldn’t argue much with the above possible XV, although I doubt Seymour will start as he’s undoubtedly our number one winger and this is an experimental squad. More likely Visser and big Sean on the wings. Back row I think could also see Cowan at 8 with Denton at 6 and Barclay at 7, as BVC knows what Harley brings to the table. I like the choice of Pyrgos as captain, as after his display in the Pro12 final he’s got to be in with a shout of making the match day squad come crunch time. IMO he should be first choice but I’m pretty certain that will be Laidlaw.

  6. So if this is clearly an experimental exercise, when are we likely to see the first choice squad out? Italy at home for the fans?

    1. Hey Angus,
      In order to watch in Australia:
      All the home games for Wales, Ireland and Scotland in the warm up matches will be shown by BeIn sports online. I signed up to it as its AUS$17 per month and you can watch online or via the pay-per-view TV Foxtel.
      However the Scottish away match in Italy wont be shown.
      If you are meaning free view, then sorry I dont know. Casino’s tend to be open all night and you should be able to ask them to put it on.

  7. Riedy hasn’t had a start since Canada so I reckon he’ll take the 1 shirt for this game. I’d like to see McInally start at hooker, IMO he’s one of the best ball carriers in the squad, but Brown has earned his chance to prove himself at test level and is more solid at the lineout. Looking at the squad there seems to only be two specialist locks, so seemingly Harley will wear 19 on the bench. By that logic, Cowan will start at 6, with Barclay at 7 (yay!) and Denton at 8. Blake will take the 20 shirt. Backs are fairly obvious though with the back three there is a sense of caution. Visser, Fife and Lamont all need to prove themselves after poor and average showings at the Six Nations. But Cotter can’t afford to not pick Seymour, the most dangerous attacking player in this 25.

    My predicted 23:
    1 – Ried, 2 – Brown, 3 – Welsh, 4 – Gilchrist, 5 – Hamilton, 6 – Cowan, 7 – Barclay, 8 – Denton

    9 – Pyrgos, 10 – Wier, 11 – Visser, 12 – Horne, 13 – Vernon, 14 – Seymour, 15 – Tonks

    16 – McInally, 17 – Grant, 18 – Cusack, 19 – Harley, 20 – Blake, 21 – Hidalgo-Clyne, 22 – Jackson, 23 – Lamont

      1. I’d like to see Denton at 6 but I don’t think Cotter sees him that way. I had never seen Adam Ashe play 6 before the Ireland game in the Six Nations, where he was moved there to accommodate Denton at 6. Beattie has also played 6 to accommodate him before.

      2. That would presumably mean Barclay is up against the other 8’s (Ashe & Wilson) for a starting place that is presuming Strauss is considered at 6 as well as Denton (if he does end of playing their against Ireland). You then put Hardie in at 7 (or possibly Cowan) and it soundly sounds like quite a unit in the backrow: Strauss, Hardie & Barclay!

  8. Interesting to note that this Matchday Squad has potentially 4 Fly-Half’s – Weir & Jackson as specialists but also Horne as back up and Tonks had made it known that he is vying for that shirt too. May be interesting to see if BVC uses any alternate combinations in certain plays throughout the game

  9. If we put out a competitive pack we’ll do ok. The individuals in the forwards are all fine but the issue is getting them to gel as there aren’t too many settled combos there. I hope they front up as we should have a decent backline if Pyrgos-Jackson-Visser-Horne-Vernon-Seymour-Tonks is selected (although personally I wouldn’t risk Seymour at this stage and select Lamont as he’ll be playing for his place). That line up would certainly be good enough to take the game to the Irish seconds that played Wales.

    The centre battle is intriguing if we assume Dunbar will be fit. Vernon is a much closer like for like replacement for Dunbar as he’s strong, athletic, direct, great defensively and at the breakdown. Horne meanwhile is cover as the third FH. Both had absolutely storming ends to the season and Horne was probably Glasgow’s player of the year. Meanwhile Scott hasn’t played a good game of rugby absolutely ages – I could see him getting squeezed out of the squad unless depending on how these warm up games go.

    Finally, rival watch:

    (Samoa squad)


    Ole Avei (Bordeaux Begles), Manu Leiataua (Aurillac), Motu Matu’u (Wellington Hurricanes), Viliamu Afatia (Agen), Jake Grey (Samoa Scopa), Logovi’i Mulipola (Leicester Tigers), Anthony Perenise (Bristol), Sakaria Taulafo (Stade Francais), Fa’atiga Lemalu (Bourgoin), Filo Paulo (Benetton Treviso), Joe Tekori (Toulouse), Kane Thompson (Newcastle Falcons), Maurie Fa’asavalu (Oyonnax), Alafoti Faosiliva (Bath), Jack Lam (Bristol), Ofisa Treviranus (capt, London Irish), TJ Ioane (Sale Sharks), Sanele Vavae Tuilagi (Carcassonne)


    Vavao Afemai (Samoa Vaiala), Kahn Fotuali’i (Northampton Saints), Patrick Fa’apale (Samoa Vaiala), Tusi Pisi (Suntory Sungoliath), Michael Stanley (unattached), Rey Lee-Lo (Cardiff Blues), Johnny Leota (Sale Sharks), Paul Perez (Coastal Sharks), George Pisi (Northampton Saints), Fa’atoina Autagavaia (Nevers), Ken Pisi (Northampton Saints), Alesana Tuilagi (Newcastle Falcons), Tim Nanai-Williams (Ricoh Black Rams)

    It’s worth pointing out that injuries aside, the only notable absentees from the Samoa squad are Census Johnstone and Dan Leo. So, Leo’s complaints in the press that Samoa faced losing 13 players from their squad were unfounded and it is only C. Johnstone who has opted for a bumper pay day.

  10. I’ve been twiddling my thumbs since Glasgow’s Pro12 win, waiting for more Scottish Rugby to get stuck into. We’re here!

    As long as we perform better than Wales did against Ireland last weekend, all is well. I trust that BVC has been actually getting the players to play rugby recently – the Wales team, while fit, looked as if they had never seen each other before.

    The SRBlog team prediction looks about right – does anyone know when the actual matchday team is announced? Thursday? I’d suggest that Harley will probably be wearing 19, and we’ll see three from Barclay/Cowan/Blake/Denton across the back row. I actually hope Blake does start (and plays a solid 60+ mins), so we can either: a. put the hype to bed, or b. get overly excited that we have unearthed a McCaw, Pocock and Hooper hybrid all rolled into one Scottish granny. Probably the former…

    Although we have 3 more warm-up games, I think it’s fairly evident that this is the ‘Possibles’ team, not the ‘Probables’.

    Omissions of Dickinson, Ford, Nel, Gray bros, Laidlaw, Russell, Maitland, Hogg, and indeed our injured centre triumvirate are the only ones who are 99% guaranteed a place in the 31. While not qualified yet, I suspect the only nailed on backrower is Strauss.

    Apart from probably Seymour, there is nobody named in this squad that is guaranteed a spot in the 31. Which means all the players this weekend are competing to be in the 31. Grand!

  11. Interesting and disappointing to read that Cusiter hasn’t actually been training with the squad after being granted paternity leave, and has been doing his pre season with Sale since. Means that the 3 scrum half berths, along with hooker are pretty much nailed down. I had hoped against hope that he may have taken Laidlaw’s place, but deep down I knew it was never going to happen……

  12. Interesting update on the IRB ranking following weekends matches. (As much as you can legitimately consider these rankings accurate)
    South Africa, Samoa and Scotland all ranked as the biggest fallers (SA from 2 to 5) (Samoa 9 to 11) and us 11th to 12th… According to IRB Scotland are currently worse than all the Pacific Nations (Samoa, Fiji & Tonga). How depressing… But on the flip side it turns our group into the (on the face of it) least worthy Pool of the RWC haha

    1. Personally I think the rankings work as well as they can but suffer from three main drawbacks: competitions don’t coincide so teams go ahead and fall behind at different times largely due to their rivals not playing; teams don’t have equal games against sides above and below them; and the rankings are unable to take account of nations putting out weakened sides in capped test matches.

      Scotland have fallen so far because we didn’t have any June tests due to the world cup, we lost all our 6N games against sides ranked higher (plus Italy) but haven’t played any weaker sides since the autumn. Samoa put out a very weakened side into the PNC which meant Fiji and Tonga picked up ranking points against them they may not have done otherwise.

      As a result we’ve been overtaken by Tonga, a team we thrashed less than a year ago, because Tonga got a draw against Samoa and beat USA, Canada and a weakened Japan. And also Fiji, who beat and drew with Samoa, a side who gave Fiji lots of ranking points because they were already ranked above them. Tonga overtook Samoa despite Samoa getting to the PNC final because Tonga picked up ranking points by winning games against lower ranked opposition (this is a reminder that Wales fell in the rankings following the last world cup because they beat Ireland in the QF but lost to SA, France and Australia so lost points overall).

      The only way you can get a good idea of team’s strength using the rankings is looking at performance over time. We generally fluctuate between 8-10. We are more or less equal with Samoa and Argentina are slightly ahead. Fiji might upset that if they put in a good showing at the RWC but Fiji have regularly put out very strong squads and failed to turn potential into consistent performances. They have a scary backline but a pretty ordinary pack, Nakarawa aside.

  13. The team for the weekend has been announced:

    15. R.Jackson
    14. S.Lamont
    13. R.Vernon
    12. P.Horne
    11. MacVIsser
    10. G.Tonks
    9. H.Pyrgos (c)

    8. D.Denton
    7. H.Blake
    6. B.Cowan
    5. G.Gilchrist
    4. Big.Jim
    3. J.Welsh
    2. F.Brown
    1. R.Grant

    Subs: Ford, Reid, Cusack, Harley, Barclay, SHC, Weir, Scott.

    Interesting line up, I think trying at Jackson at 15 is a bold idea. He is certainly not in the same league as Pat Lambie, but, I think a similar skill set is lurking in there, if he can turn in a competent performance against what we assume will be a barrage of high balls from the Irish it could really improve his chances of getting into the RWC squad and giving it a bit more balance. It will also be interesting to see if Jackson & Tonks share first receiver duties at set pieces.

    Does anybody know what happened to McInally? Was hoping he would get a bench spot at the least, assume he was injured in training and Ford called up to the weekend squad as cover?

    1. The announcement listed McInally and Seymour as unavailable due to stomach illness and strained hip respectively.

      The starting XV is clearly an audition for those on the fringes of selection, with the exception of Pyrgos. I think they’ll want to see if Tonks can actually play FH at something approaching test level, Jackson is probably just in for a run around. We have two FBs nailed on in Hogg and Maitland. Jackson will be desperate for match practice after being injured for so long.

      Big call is Blake but we have a lot of 7s to look at (Barclay, Hardie, Cowan, Blake) and he is bottom of the list – the starting lineups will get progressively less experimental over the next 3 weeks. It’ll be interesting to see Blake, I just hope he isn’t totally out of his depth. The coaches must see something in him to even let him on the field?

      1. I am interetsed to see how Blake performs. I’ve seen him in a couple of Edinburgh games, and while he is solid there has been little to suggest that we’ve unearthed the next Richie McCaw. Would be happy to be proved wrong though!

  14. I think it’s a reasonable team, not quite as handy as Ireland’s but from 1 to 9 we’re on solid ground (apart from 7 where Blake is an unknown quantity really) and there’s plenty of ability dotted about outside that if the pack can get any sort of momentum and everyone is sharp. A win in Dublin would be a big ask though.

    I’m thinking we may see a slightly more “probable” team next time out, possibly including Nel and Hardie (if he’s injury-free). I wonder if Vern will do a Gats and drop the past heroes (after he gave them a “chance” in the first game) to narrow focus.

    1. I think our front five should be pretty competitive but Ireland have selected a very strong backrow. Considering this is where we have struggled most for the past three seasons, it’ll be a bit of an acid test for Cotter. If he’s been able to achieve much improvement in training and we get any joy at all with a pretty experimental line-up, it’ll pay off in spades at the world cup.

  15. Lots of interesting talking points in this selection. Jacko at 15 is a surprise (though well called by Rory). I wonder if it’s an audition for the ‘utility back’ bench role? Front five and centres should be fine, though 6 – 10 and the back three may be a bit disjointed. Ireland squad looks pretty mean to me. Looking forward to seeing how it all plays out and who really sticks their hand up.

  16. Joe Schmitt, as I expected, has selected his gigantic conspicuous secret weapons, Mike Ross and Devin Toner. Toner has most likely been selected to combat our lineout, which has arguably been our biggest strength (Ford missed one in the autumn, don’t think Brown missed any). Ross is there to guarantee Ireland a strong platform for their backs. I feel like Cotter saw this coming which is why he selected Grant, who on his day is our best attacking scrimmager, to put Ross under pressure. Across the board we seem to have strong breakdown players and good defenders, apart from perhaps Visser and Jackson. Ireland know they can target us at the breakdown, so hopefully this stronger group can smother Ireland’s tactics and grind out a result.

  17. Ok, initial reaction.

    Had a good day – Denton, Gilchrist, Cowan, Horne, Lamont, Pyrgos

    Had a shocker – no one in particular

    Going backwards in relative terms – Barclay (needs more game time), Hamilton, Jackson (showed up well, not a threat at full back like hogg)

    One for the future – cusack at his ripe age and Blake had a good game but lacked turnovers a la Cowan

  18. My current Dream Team
    1. Dickinson
    2. Ford
    3. Nel
    4. J Gray
    5. Gilchrist ©
    6. Cowan
    7. Barclay
    8. Strauss
    9. Pyrgos
    10. Russell
    11. Seymour
    12. Dunbar
    13. Bennett
    14. Maitland
    16. Brown
    17. Reid
    18. Welsh
    19. R Gray
    20. Hardie
    21. Vernon
    22. Jackson
    23. Hidalgo-Clyne

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Scottish Rugby News and Opinion