Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Scotland v Italy Player Ratings

Finn Russell - pic © Al Ross
Finn Russell - pic © Al Ross

Stuart Hogg – Looked very pumped up from the off. This could either mean a potential hat-trick or a sending off. Managed to do neither but still lit up the crowd on numerous occasions with some jinking runs and quick breaks. Came off for Jackson on 70 minutes. 8.5/10

Sean Lamont – Scored two tries, looked fit, keen and hungry. Looking like he’s discovered some vintage form at exactly the right time for Scotland. Found a new lease of life and a new role as a much welcome reliable old head in this young Scottish backline. 9/10

Mark Bennett – As expected he ran hard and tackled well and whilst these assets should not be taken for granted he could do with finding an offloading game to elevate him to a real worldclass threat. Had a good if unspectacular game until his last minute, long-distance interception try. 8/10

Peter Horne – Combining on auto-pilot with his direct running Glasgow team mate Bennett but it was his distribution in midfield that caught the eye. Executed his role in backs moves with precision and simplicity. Came off injured after fifty minutes. 7/10

Tim Visser – Juggled the ball before Campagnero took it off him and scored. Juggled the ball at the start of the second half with the line begging. However, managed to catch Russell’s looping pass and dot his try down to gain a form of redemption and then sealed things with an interception try from inside his own 22. 7.5/10

Finn Russell – Tougher than he looks, as proven with some big hits and the apsorbtion of some rough treatment. Super crisp passing and some incisive breaks. Looks to be one of our sole sources of innovation and creativity. Valuable. 9/10

Greig Laidlaw – Managed the speed of distribution and the referee well. Kicked his goals with a Pattersonesque metronomic reliability. In a good place under Vern Cotter. Replaced by Pyrgos on 65 minutes. 8/10

Alisdair Dickinson – Looks in great physical shape and put Castrogiovanni under huge pressure in the opening scrums before the wild man eventually got the measure of him. Stuck to his tasks and put in a solid all round performance. Replaced by Reid on 65 minutes. 8/10

Ross Ford – Part of an impressive front row which performed a first half demolition job on the uncharacteristically undercooked Italian forwards. Hit his line outs well and has well to ride out the storm of criticism that once dogged his career. 7/10

Willem Nel – Early penalties won in the scrum set down a marker. Didn’t have too many opportunities in the loose but defended competently and cleared out his rucks well. Good home debut for the rotund tighthead.Replaced by Welsh on 65 minutes. 7/10

Grant Gilchrist – Direct and industrious. Did the enforcer bit very well and kept the lineout ticking over to provide a platform for the Scottish performance. Off for Harley on the hour mark. 7/10

Jonny Gray – Discipline is exemplary, as was his defence. Seemed to be tasked with disrupting the Italian lineout and found relative success in doing so. Quietly efficient and must be a pain to play against. Will be a vital part of this pack for years to come. 8/10

Ryan Wilson – Pedestrian at times in attack, ponderous also at times in defence and gave away a collapsed maul which led to the first Italian try. Did some good work however, especially in the lineout. Still got some work to do to cement a first choice place. 6.5/10

John Barclay – Classy display from the once forgotten man. Scored a try, menaced on the deck and provided a good option at the line out. Chopped down anything in front of him too. Came off on the hour mark. 8/10

David Denton – Maintained the bulldozing element to his game but added some offloading in attack for a change too. Fits BVCs system like a huge Zimbabwean glove. More of this sort of stuff will be needed at the World Cup. 8/10


Stuart McNally – Came on 55 minutes for his Murrayfield debut and second cap. Did no wrong. 6/10

Gordon Reid – Introduced on 65 for Dicko. Got shoed by two different Italians in a ruck. 6/10

Jon Welsh – Came on to replace Nel on 65 minutes. Held a steady scrum. 6/10

Robert Harley – Took over second row duties from Gilchrist after 60 minutes. Looks strange in the row. 6/10

Blair Cowan – On for Barclay after an hour or so. Maintained his good work. 6.5/10

Henry Pyrgos – Replaced his captain after 65 minutes. Was no great improvement on Greig but a decent deputy. 6.5/10

Ruaridh Jackson – Came on fro Hoggy at fullback. Looked out of place, had a kick charged down but got away with it thanks to Bennett. 5/10

Matt Scott – Came on for Horne after fifty odd minutes. Added some direct running . Looks sharp and in form. 7/10

26 Responses

  1. What a great performance from Scotland! Rarely have I seen such a dominant display. Surely this will be close to the final line-up for the WC? Barclay must have secured a place in the final 31; he was excellent. I thought that Laidlaw played well and fortunately dispatched only a few clear-out box kicks. I can’t see Pyrgos ousting his SH first-choice position now. Lamont was impressive. I’ve always rated him highly despite the occasional bad press that he attracts but his work-rate, power and consistency deserve credit. Can’t wait for next week’s game and a win in Paris isn’t so unthinkable?

    1. DJB- what planet are you on. Pyrgos is the best SH we have by a country mile. The scary thing is that I dot think we stand a chance agsint one of the beter teams unless he plays. SHC is a second choice but not really in the same class and I think I’ve criticised Laidlaw enough already.

      I think the game against France will be a good test as their forwards are really impressive. It will be interesting to see how we cope with that- probably a similar type of game we will play when we take on SA. If I had to bet the house on it I would go for a 5-10 point win by France. However, I’m not a betting man so who knows.

      1. Neil, I didn’t say that I agreed that Pyrgos would not oust Laidlaw but I just think that it is now unlikely. I’ve watched Pyrgos a lot over the last 2-3 years (Glasgow and Internationals) and I think that particularly in the last year, he’s really improved. I suspect that he may be in 15 for USA and Japan games but barring injury, I suspect that Laidlaw will play Samoa and SA. I don’t see SHC featuring except off the bench; he’s just too inexperienced for this level of rugby. Having said that he could be superb in a year or two.

  2. Visser was 6 out of 10 at best here. Too many mistakes and went one handed at the ball that was chipped through when it needed secured.

    1. I Think we seen the best and worst of Tim Visser yesterday. Mind you there is at least one critic in here who will tell me it could get worse.

    2. You can’t argue with Visser’s scoring rate. He scores roughly every other game for Scotland and is starting to look back on the form which made him the pro-12 leading try scorer four years in a row. Considering wing is a position of relative weakness for us, I honk we just have to bring him. He could be a real handful for the Japanese and American defences.

  3. A fair assessment Mr Smithers, although your marking of Ryan WIlson is on the low side. He’s one of these players who always makes yards and you don’t know how sometimes. Thought the back row were excellent in a good pack, and not sure why Denton and Barclays are 8’s against a 6.5 for Wilson.
    Same for the front row who were very good. I’m absolutely not a fan of Ross Ford, but apart from a couple of pinched line out throws, he deserved an 8 as much as the props.

    1. I agree on your thoughts re ryan wilson.i wasn’t his biggest fan prior to the run in last season but he chased and chop tackled with menace today and he and Barclay seemed to combine very well at the breakdown.part of the reason why laidlaw looked much better today is because the Scottish backrow (and the whole team actually) were clearing rucks efficiently and it looks like BVC has really worked with the players on ball presentation. Much less need for box kicks when the defence hasn’t reset and there’s space for backs to run amok.

  4. Tell you the best selection. Replace Greig Laidlaw with his uncle Roy and bring back Damian Cronnin, Sean Lineen, Gary Armstrong, Gavin Hastings, Finlay Calder, Scott Hastings, Jeffries, John Calder. Oh blast sorry- I just woke up from my dream. I guess we just have to work with the players we have.

  5. So Laidlaw had a really strong game. I wonder if BVC is tempted now to only take 2 scrum halves to the WC. I personally think that Laidlaw and Pygros have it wrapped up, leaving an extra space for a forward or a utility back. We will find out soon enough!

    Russell – at the heart of almost everything good that happened on Saturday. A genuine playmaker, doing so much behind the scenes and dangerous every time he is on the ball. Watching over the game again I was so impressed with his (and everyone else’s for that matter) work rate.

    What areas do you lads think need improved for this week?

    1. I think taking two scrum halves is more about managing risk of injury. If a SH is injured within 48 hrs of a game, you won’t have a specialist SH on the bench. Then you are one injury/cramp away from disaster – there’s no way we could execute our ‘organised chaos’ without a specialist SH on the field. The sides who are only taking 2 SHs usually have someone else identified for the role. Australia have Matt Giteau for example who has played there before. But you are right, Laidlaw and Pyrgos are nailed on for the SH slots and I doubt very much Cotter won’t start with Laidlaw, who played very well.

    2. Oh and next week I just want to see our levels of execution improved again. We played well but made a lot of unforced errors, which is natural given how many players were appearing for the first time or in new combinations. But all the areas of concern showed a lot of progress (breakdown, scrum). We’ll get less possession against France and need to make more of it.

    3. I agree with you on the 2 x scrum halves. Injury is much more likely in the other forward positions and it would allow us an extra back row.
      Mark Bennett played scrum half in the 7’s at the commonwealth games, and could do a stint if required.
      Too many fears of injury and ‘what if’ scenarios turn the selections into a negative emphasis.

  6. I agree that unforced errors are much more likely to be severely punished by France. I would like to see our pack get into a true test of skill and strength in SdF with their opponents – we were outmuscled and outthought in the second half of our 6N there this year so here’s a chance to atone for that.
    But I do wonder now, with the opening RWC games so near, whether both coaches might introduce a degree of caution into their selections. To protect a few really key players and on the basis that with three warm ups already under belts, coaches really should be very close to knowing their ideal starting XVs. Still, playing France in SdF or indeed anywhere else is always a battle for us, whether warm up Test, 6N or RWC. Looking forward to it – that is if my wife agrees to lend me her I-Pad so I can try to find some way of watching it from Menorca!

  7. Decent performance against an under performing Italy but you can only beat what’s in front of you, and on the whole we’ve got to be very happy with Saturday. Stand outs were undoubtedly the entire pack, particularly for me, Barclay and Dickinson. Edinburgh front row were solid. Laidlaw was decent in all aspects bar those two woeful box kicks. Hopefully he will take confidence from his performance. Russell and Lamont shone in the backs, although the try we lost was farcical and Visser should have taken control of the situation. I still think his jacket may be on a shoogly peg, despite his tries. Now who’s going to drop out? Just about impossible to predict, but for me Jackson, Tonks, Blake, Hamilton Visser, Cowan and Harley all have cause to worry. After that it’s a lottery.

  8. Looking forward to the selection today and the team announcement for Saturday.
    Thinking of Saturday, we need to ‘take care of’ Bastereax and Picamoles, so centre and no 8 choices will need some thought.
    Shame Josh Strauss isn’t available yet as I’d have liked to see him up against Picamoles. Think Vernon could be the best against Bastereax, but he might not even be in the squad by then.
    Standoff – I’m surprised you think Cowan and Visser should be concerned about not making 31. Thought Cowan particularly was a shoo in’.

    1. I’m probably in the minority but I’m not really a fan of Cowan, and if I was to pick two opensides it would be Hardie and Barclay. I would say Hardie is a shoe in, and after Saturday I don’t think you can leave Barclay out.

      1. Cowan has generally played well for Scotland but an on-form Barclay and Hardie are both a cut above. Tough choice but I hope Cotter picks them both as outstanding opensides, it’ll help us weather the Japan-USA 4 day turnaround and SA-Samoa 7 day turnaround if we can rest a few players in each unit without a drop off in quality.

  9. Like quite a few of us I have just watched the game again and a couple of things really stood out:
    Laidlaw again – not 2 kicks as mentioned above but 4 kicks that were badly executed and simply gave away possession, one which resulted in an Italian penalty which would have been an easy 3. Sorry guys he is a high risk kicking ball out of hand and should be told not to kick – at the moment it’s that bad.
    Our back line is executing really well, decoys and timings were spot on. Direct and dangerous and creating real opportunities. Is it Hodge the backs coach? Whoever it is is earning their corn.
    Line out was good but we won zero on the Italians throw and did not threaten at all.
    Hines’ influence is coming through on the mauls both defensively and attack. Big improvement.

  10. Agree pretty much with Brodie’s selection. Would go with two SHs and two FHs with Horne or Tonks as cover for both centre and FH.
    In the absence of Dunbar, I would go with a first XV of Hogg, Maitland, Scott, Bennett, Seymour, Laidlaw, Russell, Dickinson, Ford, Nel, J Gray, Gilchrist, Hardie, Denton and Strauss.

  11. Jim I agree with this starting XV but only if Maitland is fully fit AND on form if not then Lamont also Horne to start 12 ahead of Scott. For the French match take out Strauss put Denton at 8 and Wilson at 6.

    1. Maitland passed full contact testing almost 2 weeks ago so there should b no question about his fitness. As for form well he hadn’t played in quite a while so I think he is entitled to a wee bit of slack while he plays himself into form

      Let’s not forget this game is a preparation for the World Cup not the play off for the 6 nations. Perspective please as there seems to b a more than a few people thinking this requires our top side and a win at all costs approach

      1. Having said that about selection I have just seen the team for the weekend and damn! This is starting to get real. One hell of a selection and still not our no 1. I wish to hell it wasn’t being player at 5am here and not on TV ?

  12. Oh and a proviso on Laidlaw: any continued rubbish pointless kicking out of hand then he gets pulled off. He needs a rocket up his arse as he has had years to get this right and still – up to and including the Last Italy match- can’t execute what is bread and butter for a SH. Trouble is Vern has painted himself into a corner with a continued over reliance on him in terms of leadership status. The players, it also has to said, also see him as the team captain.. Pyrgos would be No 1 were it not for this

    If only Gilchrist had not injured himself before the last 6N maybe we would not be fielding a SH with such a glaring weakness and the slowest pass of the three we are taking. Still it is what it is and he does have his moments like the last Italy match behind a dominant scrum when he marshals the game well, snipes effectively and plays well but he is telegraphic most of the time and the opposition read him easily.

  13. That’s very close to our strongest available team, Hogg, Strauss and a couple of 50/50s aside. This will be a real test of where we’re at.

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Scottish Rugby News and Opinion