Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Scotland World Cup Squad Announcement – Live

Scotland line up for the anthems - pic © Al Ross
Scotland line up for the anthems - pic © Al Ross

Uncle Vern has already handed in his final 31 man squad to World Rugby but not content with a simple tweet the SRU have decided to go Hollywood and will unveil the players at a special ceremony in Edinburgh this afternoon.

No other team has announced the squad in such an audatious manner and the delay has meant that some rumours have already started to seep out into the media. We at Scottish Rugby Blog Towers deal with cold hard facts rather than idle tittle tattle so you won’t be getting any spoilers from us. However it seems likely that there’ll be a few surprises when the glitter cannons* go off at 2:15pm UK time this afternoon.

You can watch the SRU live stream here and join us for some debate in the comments. We’ll post the full squad announcement and our reaction once its had time to sink in.

* Glitter canons not guaranteed

Here’s the squad:

Laidlaw (capt), SHC, Pyrgos, Russell, Weir, Horne, Bennett, Scott, Vernon, Seymour, Lamont, Maitland, Visser, Hogg

Dickinson, Reid, Welsh, Nel, Grant, Ford, Brown, McInally, Gray, Gray, Gilchrist, Swinson, Strokosch, Hardie, Strauss, Denton, Wilson


97 Responses

  1. Personally, I have no problems with the selections and omissions I know of and why they were made. Of course I don’t expect that to b everyone’s reaction lol

    1. The fallout from Barclay’s exclusion (if true) will be on an epic scale. We have to trust the man that’s earned his strips as a coach and has seen these guys day in day out for the past few months.

      1. If by epic scale you mean quite a lot of people will whinge on the internet, yes, the fall out will be epic. If you mean have any tangible impact on Scotland’s success at the RWC, who knows? If Scotland get out the group, Cotter will have done his job. If they don’t, it’ll be a failure but probably not because John Hardie wasn’t good enough.

        I would definitely include Barclay in my world cup squad by the way but I doubt it’ll make or break our world cup.

    2. That’s it exactly. The coaches have a vision and have been trusted to realise it. They know the traits they r looking for in players and they see every training session not only live but on video afterwards. They are also involved one on one day and night
      We just see a couple of games with no idea what directions players were given individually and as a team
      I for one am right behind BVC and his coaches. Have you seen the new structure in attack and the big step up in defence? This improvement is what only extended time together pre World Cup can bring.

      Yup I’m excited and seeing how long I can resist the urge to jump on the plane and cross the world to b at the cup lol

      End rant ?

    3. Matt Taylor said they were looking for players with power. As soon as he said that I pictured Barclay being stopped on the gainline at one point vs Italy and thought “they won’t pick him”.

  2. Rumour has it Wilson, Swinson and Stroker are in, Harely and Hamilton are out. Hardie the only specialist 7 in the squad, meaning Wilson could be cover. This also leaves the question of who will start at 6 if this rumoured squad is true. Stroker isn’t good enough to start so perhaps we’ll see dual 8s with Denton and Strauss sharing responsibility.

    1. Strauss has played a bit at 6 hasn’t he? I don’t think Denton would work at 6 but then I would prefer Strauss at 8. It’s complicated ?

      1. Denton, Strauss and Wilson can all play 6. Strokosch should be nowhere near the squad. Very disappointing if that is the case.

      2. Denton played 6 in his early career but Strauss has been known to play there consistently when Ashe has played 8 for Glasgow, and has even played 7 for the Lions in South Africa. Maybe he could come off the bench in the first game to see where he fits in best?

      3. In South Africa they (saffers) have the 6 as open / the fetcher and 7 as blind but I am not aware of any visiting team doing the same cos they were playing there

      4. Right Rory gotcha. It’s like the Aussies and cricket back to front with 7 for 34 instead to 34 for 7

    1. Good performance in the pro 12 final and came off the bench for Fusaro in the semi but not much else to my knowlage.

    2. Played for Scotland at 7 in the 2013 summer tournament when we’d lost every other open side we had, even Kelly Brown and Roddy Grant were injured. Strokosch ended up starting the game vs Italy at 7

  3. I’d like to sound positive, but I’m not a ‘happy hector’ at the moment.
    A seriously conservative and alarmingly ‘sizest’ squad.
    Forwards picked for power/size rather than skill or what playmaking they bring to the party. Same as at Clermont I reckon.
    Strokosch over Barclay and Cowan?
    Dissapointed for both of them. The inclusion of Swinson is a bit odd as well.

  4. Despite the Daily Heil’s leak, still disappointed for Harley and Barclay in particular, think that Swinson and Strokosch can count themselves v fortunate – can’t entirely be a size thing, else Hamilton and Ashe would have been in? Shame that Dunbar hasn’t made it, but best not to risk him if there was any doubt. Glad that NoMaits and Seymour are deemed fit enough

    1. Dunbar will get a couple of games in for Glasgow and I’ll b surprised if he isn’t in the squad by the SA match

  5. Baffled and disappointed with the inclusion of swinson, he is average at best, and crap if I’m being honest, has never had a good game jn a Scotland shirt, he surely has to be 4th choice? No Cowan and no Barclay leaves us short on 7s IMO. No surprises in the backs, I’m guessing SHC will get dropped for Dunbar if he proves his fitness in the coming weeks. Good to see Vernon he deserves his place and will be useful muscle in the centre against some of the big hitters, Barclay will be rightfully peed off he’s been robbed. I think strokosh has probably had his day and is very lucky. Other than that pretty happy. Then again the coaches obviously see things in training that we don’t.

    1. No player can be dropped from the squad. Dunbar can only be included if a player is injured and has to leave the squad.

      1. I can’t see us going through 3 internationals without an injury in the backs. This is how I see him coming into the squad

    2. Swinson never had a good game in a Scotland shirt? Man of the Match against Japan, who happened to be in our pool for the RWC.

  6. Not too surprised at Barclays omission, even though I (and a lot of other armchair pundits) would of taken him, especially after this last weekends performance.
    I am massively surprised at Strokers inclusion though, and at the expense of Cowan, who appeared to be the chosen one at 7 in the last year, whilst not my favourite he was doing pretty well there.

  7. Wow! Bit baffled by Stroker but trust that BVC can tune him in to his wavelength. Thrilled for Willson, Strauss and Vernon. Feel blindsided by Swinson as he exscaped my thoughts untill i seen him trotting out. Delighted to see Horne and never thought that BVC would drop both Cowan and Barclay

  8. I’m disappointed for Barclay and Cowan (and Harley, although I thought it was a bit of a gamble not taking 4 recognised locks).
    Delighted for Stroker and Swinson – they won’t let anyone down. Think they’ve been picked specifically to play against USA (4 days after Japan). As I can see BVC picking Gray, Gilchrist, Hardie, Denton, Strauss as first choice with Gray and Wilson benching.
    Similarly Vernon and Visser won’t play apart from the US match, with the first choice being Scott, Bennett, Lamont, Seymour, Hogg with Maitland or Horne on the bench (or both).

  9. Of course we could have a raft of injuries against France this weekend that dictate wholesale change to this lineup.

  10. Backs are pretty much spot on.

    The forwards selection seems to be that Vern has lost the plot a bit.
    Swinson, Strokosh & Wilson over Harley/Hamilton, Cowan & Barclay is laughable.
    Cowan & Barclay both performed well during the warm up games and are the type of flankers that suit the Scottish style of play. Skillful, athletic & quick and very good at the breakdown. Strokosh is none of those things these days.
    Hardie played well in his game against Italy and I have no problem with him going. The only thing is that he is the only openside going and with his injury record we could run into problems.

  11. Very disappointed in the back row selection. Biggest surprise however is inclusion of Swinson. Otherwise as expected really. Strokosch has been a great servant to Scotland but he’s a shadow of the player he was. Barclay not going is the most disappointing but no real surprise, Cowan however must be crushed. Heart goes out to him as he’s not done much wrong.

    1. I think you underestimate the additional qualities Strokosch brings – experience, leadership, versatility. You also forget that BVC is picking “horses for courses”. If you’ve got an out and out 7 like Hardie, you don’t need another – you need someone on the bench that can cover the back row or someone that plays a little differently. Strokosch is more of a defensive flanker, I’ll admit, but in some games that’s exactly what you need – tackling hard, slowing ball down etc.

      1. Playing tier 2 rugby means a huge step up to international level though. Have any other top tier nations (if we are still top tier) got anyone playing outside of a top division?

      2. Stroks is experienced, I’ll give you that Merlot.
        What versatility does he bring? He’s to slow for a 6 and not big enough for an 8.
        Is it that he can hit people a hundred different ways, being a black belt?

      3. Perpignan may be in the French second division but could still compete pretty well if they were playing in the premiership or pro12, wouldn’t discredit Strokosch for playing for a well established French team.

  12. Well, going back through this, the only real stand out surprises are Stroker and Swinson. I think Swinson was off most of us keyboard warrior’s radar, in fact so was Stroker…
    It could also be argued that Wilson did not play himself into the squad ahead of Barclay on Saturday. Vern obviously doesn’t want to see us bullied, and various combinations of the back rows picked should help with that. I guess I would go Denton/Wilson, Strauss and Hardie (he’s the only 7 anyway).
    Presume we’ll see Seymour and Maitland against France…

    Back three: Hogg, Seymour, Lamont/Visser (depending on how Maitland gets on)
    Centre: Horne/Scott, Bennett
    Standoff: Russell
    Scrummy: Laidlaw (he’s captain, so he’ll start)

    Front row: Dicko, Ford, Nel
    Locks: Gray, Gray
    Backrow: Denton, Strauss, Hardie

    It’s a decent lineup.

    Dickinson, Ford, Nel

    1. Shame Toolis didn’t get much of a crack. Cotter obviously doesn’t think he is ready but I reckon by the next world cup he’ll be superb.

      1. Yep, he was fantastic for Edinburgh last season – great hands and very athletic. Cotter cut him pretty quick, so indeed obviously thinks he’s not there yet. One for the future for sure. Very happy to be going in with Gray, Gray and Gilchrist, as the first choice three through.

      2. He was only added to the training group after Swinson was injured so I think was there for experience more than anything.

  13. First choice 15 is a good team. My worry is what happens if Hardie gets injured? Who goes to 7? We’ve experimented playing before without a proper fetcher and it doesn’t work. There’s no one there who can move to 7 during a match if Hardie gets injured.

    1. My guess would be Wilson, who I seem to recall has played at 7 a bit for Glasgow, which also points to him being the bench option. I agree that none of the others look likely options to cover 7. In hindsight it looks like Wilson perhaps won a “can cover all of the back row” shoot out with Barclay and Cowan.

    2. I’m with you stand off.
      Wilson is good, but is never quick enough for a proper open side and Roussow or Francois Loew would make short work of him.
      Size is one thing, but there is just no substitute for pace in that role. I only hope that Hardies injury record improves.

      1. Broussow hasn’t been included in the SA squad bizarrely enough. Louw is in but is currently injured – so at least we’re not the only fans puzzling over our coaches back row picks!

      2. SA havent selected Coetzee in the back row either! And he is probably their best after Vermeulen at the moment. So it’s definitely an area where most countries are confused about.

  14. A very conservative selection, although that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Only two surprises out of 31 selections. Swinson obviously in because Hamilton was dire and clearly Harley failed to impress at lock. That makes sense when we may have to rely on second choice locks to play the USA, a deeply mediocre team with a hugely powerful and athletic back 5. Probably best not to cede success at the set piece by playing a converted 6.

    Strokosch in – well I don’t understand. With only 5 backrows it was probably Ashe’s to lose and he lost it. Glad Hardie is in but would have gone for Barclay myself. Nevertheless, an on-form Denton, Wilson, Strauss, Hardie gives us a couple of selections that are better than any of the rubbish we fielded in the 6N.

  15. Weir ahead of either Jackson and Tonks was a surprise as well. What happened to the ‘organised chaos’ style of play?

    1. He must also have seen Weir playing FH?
      Just not Weirs style of play. He’s an option for a different game plan maybe?

    2. I don’t think jackson’s chaos was very organised in the warm up games. He wasn’t seen as one of the first choice 10s and failed as cover for 15

    3. Russell and Horne fit the organised chaos game plan, Weir can come off the bench if that plan’s not working

  16. swinson and strokosch, and to a lesser extent, wilson and weir are my bug surprises. Perhaps swinson is in because vern wasnt happy with harley’s locking abilities, or with hamilton’s discipline/work rate, whatever his reasons, i now dont see swinson playing very much, and some combination of the the grays and gilchrist being played every match. Strokosch just doesnt seem to offer very much other than leadership and work rate, but barclay and cowan offer both and more. With wilson, its easy to see why hes been picked. If you look at verns clermont teams, they always has a huge back row, without a proper fetching seven, so he must prefer having big powerful players in his back row, such as denton, strauss and wilson. Im still disappointed both cowan and barclay arent in. With weir, i thought jackson or tonks would go, as they offer flexibility, but perhaps russell will have a game off here and there, so weir is probably the best of the rest in controlling a game from 10. That does mean that hogg could end up playing every game, unless maitland is going to have the odd game at full back.

    1. I reckon Maitland will have a fair bit of time at full back, possibly starting from this weekend and carrying into the first two rounds. Hoggy is guaranteed to start against SA and Samoa.

  17. Cowan must be gutted as he’s barely put a foot wrong for Scotland although I don’t really mind Wilson being picked ahead of him

    Like most others here I’m shocked by the selection of Stroker over Barclay which completely negates everything Cotter’s been saying about a fast game, “organised chaos”, etc
    Not thrilled about Weir (but must admit he’s proved adept at winning tight games for Scotland) and Laidlaw as squad captain is irritating (but not totally unexpected)

    Very happy that Vernon, SHC, Mcinally and Wilson are all going and that Seymour and Maitland are fit and, to be honest, we can complain all we like but this is probably the freshest and best Scotland squad we’ve seen in years

    1. Totally right that this is the best Scotland RWC squad for some time. Even ’99 had quite a few stars but a hell of a lot of filler too. The calibre of player Scotland has left out should make us happy that there is finally really competition in lots of areas, even if we scratch our heads how Strokosch won that competition.

  18. Definitely a few I would have picked differently, but there is a reason Vern Cotter is manager and not me.
    I feel I’ve got to trust in his decision.

    Come on Scotland! Do us proud!

  19. Gutted for Rob Harley, he’s exactly the kind of versatile player who you need for a squad like this. Harley & Barclay for Swinson & Strokosh is a no brainer and then we wouldn’t be dependent on only one recognised 7 who has one cap.

    With Harley dropped the crazy decision to not consider Ben Toolis really comes back to bite us. Swinson is a decent club player but he’s not international class, we will really suffer if we have to use him in a big game.

  20. Barclay missing out is no real surprise (having read a newspaper in the last few days), although I think he would (clearly) have been a popular choice and would have put in a shift every chance he got. Disappointed neither Ashe nor Harley made it but their time will come again. The real surprise is without doubt the inclusion of Swinson and Strokes – just what is the thinking behind that?? Anyway Big Vern has put his cards on the table and it’s time to get behind the team so…GO ON SCOTLAND!!

    p.s there was a previous post that made the astute observation that even though it’s not what most people were expecting/ wanted, it’s still stronger than the last WC squad by a country mile!

    p.p.s …GO ON SCOTLAND!!

  21. Hi, this is the first time I have posted. So here goes.
    I like most people on here have been surprised by the inclusion of Strokosch. However I am sure the main reason is that for the first two weeks of the preseason training in France all the squad did was work on the breakdown area. Where during the 6N we lost the contest.
    I was impressed by the team that played Ireland in the first warm up match and would say that S O’Brien did not get it all his own way that day.
    This is more likely to be the thinking of Mr Cotter and his staff as you cannot have organised chaos without winning the battle at the ruck.

  22. What we are seeing is BVC’s version of “organised chaos” which is conservative organised chaos. I think we have been flung a lot of red herrings by Vern and his coaching team over the last three games:

    FB cover firstly – I thought Jackson had this nailed on and Tonks as a maybe. But no it’s Maitland who we can only trust will be fit and healthy. Problem is he is 14 first.

    If we are going for power that Taylor is advocating is a perquisite then Swinson is not that person. When he drives with ball in hand he is consistently stopped however I like his aggression and mobility and not a current fan of Hamilton. Me I would have taken Toolis.

    Strockosh – Vern must have been really impressed with him in France while coaching at Clermont because I don’t get it. Denton, Wilson, and Strauss can all play 6 and well. This is odd but in Vern we trust.

    Barclay was never a serious option as he came nowhere close to selection in the 6N whereas Cowan was the starting 7 and doesn’t appear to have done much wrong since. I would have taken Blake personally as this guy will be a huge talent once he is playing regularly and a couple of games in the World Cup would have been superb for him.

    OK so now for the French game and a much better indication of where we truly are in terms of preparation and realistic optimism.

  23. So some surprises in that they’re not bombshells as we have a relatively limited squad. A focus for me though is the back row. Look at the back rowers we used in the six nations:


    World Cup back rowers are:


    How can a small country like ours, from Spring to Autumn, have such a turnaround where five of the seven used in Feb-Mar are now deemed not good enough?

    1. Eh? 3 of 5 selected weren’t available in the 6N. If they were, they would have been selected. Of the others, Beattie’s performances were so bad in the 6N they’ve ended his test career and Watson only played 10minutes at the end of the Italian disaster. It’s a shame Harley, Cowan and Ashe didn’t make it but I have no doubt all will win further caps for Scotland.

      Look, if Scotland hadn’t been whitewashed in the 6N and been proper rank at the breakdown maybe such drastic changes wouldn’t have been warranted, but we were and they are if the manager thinks they’ll improve our team’s chance of success at the World Cup.

  24. I’ll try not to repeat myself or bore anyone about some of the back row choices.
    A suggestion as team for France game:-

    15 Maitland
    14 Seymour
    13 Scott
    12 Vernon (if up against Basteraux)
    11 Visser
    10 Russell
    9 Laidlaw
    1 Dickenson
    2 Ford
    3 Nel
    4 J Gray
    5 Gilchrist
    6 Strokosch
    7 Hardie
    8 Denton (up against Picamoles. Ouch!)

    Quite a few interesting battles with the front row looking especially
    juicy. If our front row cam deal with 25 stone Antonio, it’d be an improvement from the 6N.
    Denton v Picamoles should also be entertaining.

    1. While France present our biggest challenge so far I don’t see that it necessarily means we will field our first choice 15. Especially not from the start

  25. JohnW said:
    Whilst I may not agree with all the selections I trust Cotter and other coaches to make the best decisions based on what they have seen at training camps and pre tournament matches.
    What I do despair about is it no longer appears to be a necessity to be a Scotsman with real pride in the shirt And the country to be picked. If you aren’t good enough for the All Blacks or S Africa etc you shouldn’t be allowed to go hunting international caps elsewhere. Nothing against Hardie as an individual or Nel or Visscher but they are not true Scots, remember the Leslie’s and many others who returned to their native lands as soon as they had finished their rugby careers, the only honourable exception being Lineen who actually repayed his dues.
    Please let the Scottish side be Scottish and not full of imports.

  26. I am no great expert but this squad selection could be the creation of the Scottish Clermont. The stand out factor in BVC teams is their physicality, no backward step taken epitomised by the likes of Cudmore and Hines. I can imagine the likes of Strauss , Wilson and Denton hammering into the opposition time and time again. Hardie plays that game better than either Cowan or Barclay. The work rate of Gilchrist and Gray Jnr is again an aspect of Cotters sides. An immovable front row is the final plank of a team from Cotter. With these things achieved the backs will be given a licence to play. But they will again be expected to work hard and defend like never before. If Russell can push and prod the opposition and have big strong runners of him then space will be found, and Hogg will exploit that space along with Horne and Bennett.

  27. I do not see how Weir is a professional sportsman, let alone a fly half. Typifies the willingness to accept low standards in Scottish sport. To a slightly lesser degree, I feel the same way about Laidlaw, cue the embarrassing photos and joint interviews with the captains of the other home nations when they think the mascot has turned up. Even against Italy his passes were slow. No other home nation would let either of them near their squad. If it is about combinations pick HP and FR, or talent, SHC and FR. And Jackson should be there as back up, a fast, skilful player that was out and out first choice before injuries, and has returned looking sharp from. He can tackle too and cover FB. All this garbage about seeing them in training day every day is just that – garbage. Coaches get too close to personalities. Bottom line: if a lad is slow, small and unskillful he should not be there at this level. That gives us one more space for Cowan. Drop the third hooker and bring in Harley for energy. Done. Paycheck in the post please.

    1. Hi “not rocket science” & “Specs”… I’ve deleted your little to and fro as the language doesn’t meet our commentor guidelines. Don’t mind a bit of humour but personal comments and derogatory language is out. Lets keep to the rugby eh?

  28. Let’s stop for a minute and look at Strokosch’s performance against Italy. He stepped up as captain on short notice and lead the side to a win. It may not have been glamorous but it was needed. He made 16 tackles and missed one. 8 carries for 16 meters, getting over the gain line consistently. He didn’t set the world alight with his carrying like Denton has done (27 carries for 95 meters) but he provided the hard yards in a slow game. Yes there are others like Cowan and Barclay who made a case for selection and are unlucky to miss out, but there’s no denying that Strokosch played well and did what Vern required of him. Vern seems to want just that, players to fit the needs of his plans, hence only one 7 and one fullback. Strokosch is there to do what Strokosh does best, see out the hard games. The others are unlucky but Strokosh was there just for the sake of it, surely Hamilton would be there as well?

  29. Judging from press comments Maitland will start or at least be on the bench for the French game. Not sure about Seymour but I expect to see him as well.
    We should put our strongest pack out to start the match so we can truly see where we are and provide real confidence and more momentum. Hardie, Denton and Wilson to start in the back row. Give this side 60 to take it to the French along with a strong back line. 2nd choices on to protect key players from injury ,see the game out, get some strong game time.
    A strong performance is essential.

  30. In light of big Jim Hamilton’s retirement from International rugby who does that make as first and second cabs off the rank in the event of injuries? I can only assume Jim was told he wouldn’t b called upon no matter what and hence the retirement

  31. Now had a day to consider the team. There were a couple of key points made after the six nations which were always going to be top of VCs mind.
    1. lacked leadership through the team with players prepared to take decisions
    2. we were bullied up front and couldn’t get the ball quickly enough to the backs
    I think this squad plays to those two points. Stroker is a leader and we have the spine of the team full of leaders now – to a greater or lesser degree. Ford, Gilchrist, Strauss, (Stroker), Laidlaw/Pyrgos, Russell, Hogg.
    We also have a team that wont be bullied and Stroker, Wilson Strauss, Hardie should not let that happen, and I think Swinson will outperform Harley in that regard.
    Really excited about this squad (even Weir selection for me is better than a risky Jackson). Bring on the French!

    1. I think you can add big Sean into a couple of these categories as well. He seems to have found a completely new level, which I am both surprised by and enjoying. Very useful to have around for those physical encounters. Otherwise I agree on your two point analysis of the 6N, and Barclay-gate aside, Cotter looks like he’s setting up a side that will not suffer from these primary weaknesses. Quite exciting really. I’m looking forward to this tournament. Have no idea what to expect as we have promise, but have failed to deliver on that time after time over the last few years. We need to actually get those results (RWC QF, 6N top half) before we can really say – aye, we’re actually nae bad.

  32. Totally agree with Sean – a revelation in these tests.
    I keep asking myself if this is another false dawn, but am encouraged by the selection of this team that there are no real weak links. I worry a bit about Reid’s technique and Visser’s defence but I think these can be compensated by what they bring.
    I am hugely curious about how VC is working on the collective psych – moving us from plucky under dogs to never concede defeat winners. We have winners through the team now and I am hoping that ‘team’ is at the centre of the psych – do it for your team mates. Jonny Wilkinson spoke very eloquently about how teams transcend the ordinary, by having a collective desire to win for each other – self being secondary. Are we there yet – don’t know. The great thing is most of them know each other well.

  33. I think almost all of us on the blog are both encouraged by what we have seen so far and optimistic but let’s keep this optimism in check for a couple more days. The Ireland result was a big achievement and I said before laid a marker down for the squad in these warm up games. We have beaten Italy twice, no mean feat but guys it was Italy. The French in Paris Is another Ireland test. Come through this with heads held up – not nessasarily a win – then we have real cause for optimism. All us Scots have had far too many false dawns with our beloved rugby team, so just tempering things a little here but as ever can’t wait for the match to start – and yes as optimistic as ever!!!

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