Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


The Rugby World Cup Bus Is Leaving

Matt Scott powers through a tackle - pic © Al Ross
Matt Scott powers through a tackle - pic © Al Ross

The final squad for the World Cup – or at least the first version until injuries strike – will be announced tomorrow. Here is our take on it:

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

Forwards (17):
Dickinson, Grant, Nel, Reid, Welsh, Brown, Ford, McInally, Harley, J. Gray, R. Gray, Gilchrist, Barclay, Hardie, Cowan, Denton, Strauss

Backs (14):
Hildago-Clyne, Laidlaw, Pyrgos, Russell, Jackson, Bennett, Scott, Dunbar, Horne, Hogg, Seymour, Maitland, Lamont, Visser.

Sneaking Oan The Bus

Matt Scott – Half an hour for Scott showed the extra power/heft he brings in attack. That’s definitely something the Scotland management are looking for and with Horne tweaking a knee and Scott looking sharper with each game, he’s snuck in. Confusion over Dunbar undoubtedly helps.

John Barclay – He had a stormer, scoring a try, nicking a penalty turnover and generally throwing himself about. Given he could play anywhere across the back row and the question mark was perhaps form or ability to fit in, his case for inclusion is now very strong indeed.

Mebbies Aye, Mebbies Naw

Jim Hamilton – Depending on the second row/back row mix selected. Jim’s the fourth second row but Vern might only take 3 with Rob Harley as cover. Given the maul problems we’ve had there’s a definite case for a specialist second row, especially as there could be two hookers (and a centre) that could also cover back row.

Al Strokosch – if there is an 18/13 split instead of the one we’ve predicted, Big Jim or the Stroker are most likely to come in, with out-and-out blindsides largely absent from the party. Ryan Wilson is a definite possibility also.

Greig Tonks – If Vern opts for just 2 scrum halves and doesn’t want another forward, Tonks is the most likely beneficiary as a utility back.

Richie Vernon – Could still get a look in depending on the Dunbar injury situation and would probably be the unluckiest if he does miss out.

Sean Maitland – Still a big question mark over his fitness and form but unlike Dunbar, short of the latter since the 2013 Lions tour. If he does go, he’ll need to play in Paris to avoid developing a mysterious “injury” that ends his campaign before it begins as surely the squad can’t carry two such players.

Awf the bus

Adam Ashe  Ashe didn’t play, John Barclay had a stormer. Strauss went well enough for Glasgow over in Canada and Dave Denton offloaded. Twice. The management are looking for players to step up; some have, and some haven’t.

Duncan Weir – When you see the high tempo, zippy attacking line stuff that Bennett Hogg and Horne run outside Russell, Weir just doesn’t seem like an option. Despite offering a second way if things get tight, Horne or Jackson would prove more suitable stand-in stand-offs for Vern’s plan A, and bring versatility also.

Hugh Blake – Still no more game time. Still no massive sense he’s for the chop. We’d be very surprised if he made the final squad now though with Wilson and Barclay both putting their cases strongly on Saturday while Blake watched from the stands.

Additional reporting by Cameron Black

14 Responses

  1. Good team and calls.
    With the ability of McInally and Harley to cover other roles (with some skill) in the forwards I think the 17/14 split is the right one. Unlike some other countries.

    Taking Hardie, Cowan & Barclay plays to where our strength is and could give us a platform for a fast attacking game in the first 2 matches. Tough on Wilson who could be just as good as these 3.

    I really hope both Maitland and Dunbar make it – Maitland at least needs to play next Saturday if he is to be in the squad. We can only carry one back i.e. Dunbar.

  2. I don’t think you’ll be far out with those choices.
    Personally, I’d prefer an 18-13 split, with Ryan Wilson in place of Hidalgo Clyne, but I may be in a minority on that one.
    I really don’t see why we will need 3 x scrum halfs, whereas I’m fairly certain that we will need and WILL USE 4 x back rowers plus 2 x No 8’s.
    Not sure who would be included if Maitland is still injured.

  3. Agree with the forwards but have a feeling Wilson will get the nod over Barclay. In the backs I don’t Dunbar is going to make it unfortunately. And I’d pick Tonks or Weir over Jackson. Tuesday will be interesting!

  4. I would take 2 scrum halves and 2 hookers. Any injuries can be catered for by a phone call and a taxi ride to England.
    That would allow Wilson and Dunbar to get in

  5. For me, Cowan out, Harley out, Barclay in, Hamilton in, Ashe out, Wilson in.

    Gives an interesting option of Strauss, Hardie, Barclay as back troe

    I still like Blake for his “top of the ground” game, unfortunate to be up against SOB v Ireland, maybe not his time tomorrow though

  6. What’s the deal with calling up people in the event of injuries? I know you have to allow 48hrs but does calling up someone mean having to drop someone etc?

    It would be risky to take 2 scrumhalfs and hookers but some good players are going to miss out if we take 3 of each. The second and back rows are pretty well covered with guys who could play old positions or out of position if the push came to the shove. Same for 10 – 15 but the front row in particular could be a problem if we get injuries (very likely). I would probably go for 3 hookers and 2 scrumhalfs.

    Not sure what is best to do about Dunbar, we know how good he can be when fit and on form but neither can be proven at the moment. Bennett has came back well and from what I gather had a solid partnership with Scott at the weekend, Horne is also playing well and Vernon would be very unlucky to miss a place, especially given he can emergency cover in the back row. Five centres would be overkill IMO, 6 I suppose if you include Lamont. Who is the spare fullback if Maitland doesn’t make it? Not sure about Maitland either, he was short on form before getting injured, I would take Seymour, Lamont and probably Visser before him at the moment anyway. I have always been an advocate of Visser, it depends how you want to play the game, if you want to win by stopping the other team from scoring then he is not a good idea, if you wan’t to win by scoring yourself then he is a great idea. He has a Shane Williams type ability to score tries from no where. I think he should play against the “weaker teams” to cut them up and try to run up large scores, it can all come down to points difference, something we are usually a bit short on. Play Lamont for the more physical matches, he is the opposite to Visser, seems to be everywhere doing everything but rarely scores (weekend aside, he seems to have improved his catching, I remember at the 07 world cup he dropped high balls so much he actually got a cheer when he caught one!).

    If I were Cowan I would be a little afraid of Barclay, Cowan has never to my knowledge done much wrong but I just sense a spark with Barclay, he is a man that can make things happen, touted as a future Scotland captain when he first arrived on the scene he has been criminally overlooked, I hope Kelly Brown doesn’t get the same treatment, what has happened to him by the way?

  7. Dunbar is not fit and if he is fit, he has no game time , huge risk for him and Scotland, I think VC is a practical guy and will vote with his head and not the Heart.

    I can only see no basis for picking Sean Maitland on much the same basis , however as regular bloggers will know, I have always seen him as a man who has failed to reach the high on which he arrived. No current form on which to make a judgement, so with regret, I have no reason to change my opinion.

    I hope one day he will prove me wrong .

  8. Not sure if anyone else has read the rumours about the squad. According to the Mail today Tim Swinson is in the squad with no Harley or Hamilton which seems odd given his lack of game time. In the back row “apparently” Blake, Barclay & Cowan miss out with Wilson in alongside Hardie, Denton, Strauss. Also Dunbar hasnt recovered in time. I don’t trust the Mail but hope they are living up to expectation!

    1. Ah, that is a bit more flesh on the rumours that have popped up elsewhere.

      Wilson, Hardie, Denton, Strauss still leaves us short – maybe Ashe? I’ll be gutted if Barclay misses out, I think we need two specialist opensides not to mention Barclay’s experience.

      Swinson did play against Canada last weekend so is match fit. I guess Cotter could see the writing on the wall for Hamilton and wasn’t convinced by Harley’s ability to cover lock. Does kind of beg the question, what was wrong with Ben Toolis?

      Dunbar can go back to Glasgow and get fit in the pro-12. If any backs drop out I’m sure he’ll be ready by the final if necessary!

  9. The BBC is suggesting that we will only take two hookers with the back row options of Blair Cowan, Ryan Wilson, John Barclay, John Hardie, David Denton and Josh Strauss, as well as including Harley in the second row. In addition, they are putting Duncy Wier as the second-choice fly-half and are happy with the thought that the only cover at fullback is the hovering question mark of fitness that it Maitland.

    Maybe SJ used to allow the media to pick his squads which is why they were sometimes a bit odd.

    Hopefully, BVC will pick according to a clear plan as he has set out and explain, a bit, his choices. Looking forward to it, mild optimism is ebbing away and being replace by misplaced confidence!

    1. I think you’re referring to Tom English’s column – I don’t think he is saying he has inside knowledge of Cotter’s selections, just that is what he thinks he will go for. The Scottish Daily Mail is claiming they have a scoop (presumably from a player?)

  10. Big Jim in: good to have an enforcer. Great to see Lamont at the top of his game. He’d be on my bus but I might leave Visser. Maitland yes!

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