We decided to split up the discussion on Scotland’s players of the tournament into forwards and backs, so without further ado here is our shortlist for Scottish forward of the tournament.
You can vote for your choice below, or indeed let us know who you think has been tragically omitted in the comments section.
WP Nel broke pretty much every scrum put in front of him. Whether he got the rub of the referee, or his slight stature makes him hard for the modern large prop to get under/through, a succession of looseheads – including Scott Sio who made mincemeat of England and Wales in the scrum – came and went while WP stayed standing.
His partnership with Al Dickinson could become truly great if they could find a hooker who could match them in the loose as Ford does in the scrum, and the drop off in scrum performance when Nel wasn’t playing was noticeable. It was also a valuable source of penalties and reliable possession, which when allied with a boot like Greig Laidlaw’s kept Scotland close in games where they were losing tries.
He had a great tournament in the loose too, something that will be no surprise to Edinburgh fans where he regularly pops up on the score sheet. Not bad for a man earning his 3rd – 8th caps, he took to test rugby in exactly the manner Scotland fans hoped.
WP Nel Stats: Games played: 5 | Tries: 1 | Turnovers: 3 | Carries over gainline: 15 | Metres Carried: 36m | Tackles: 41 | Tackle success rate: 77% | Scrum penalties conceded: 0
The 2013 British and Irish Lion returned to his best form at the World Cup, and his partnership with younger brother Jonny is one that is beginning to flourish for Vern Cotter’s side. The 26-year-old was an ever-present during the campaign, impressing particularly in the pool win over Samoa in Newcastle and quarter final against Australia.
Richie has taken a back seat in pundit’s admiration stakes since his brother’s arrival on the international scene, often accused of a lesser work-rate – he’s easy to spot whatever he is or isn’t doing – but Gray senior looked back to his best. He carried powerfully with his hands on the ball and disruptive at the line-out. He also put in a power of defensive work, ending up in the top ten tacklers (okay, he’s still behind Jonny) and only missing 2% of tackles throughout his tournament (that one he’s better than Jonny). Grant Gilchrist and younger brother may both be earmarked as potential future Scotland skippers, but when big Vern comes to selecting his side for the Six Nations opener, Richie Gray’s name will certainly be on the team sheet.
Richie Gray Stats: Games played: 5 | Minutes played: 350 | Carries over Gainline: 10 | Carries metres: 26m | Tackles: 55 | Tackle success rate: 98%
The reaction by some to John Hardie’s call up was abhorrent. It’s all well and good having a debate about World Rugby regulations but using words like “immoral” in relation to sports administration is going too far. This was a guy who weeks before just missed out on being a super Rugby finalist due to injury, and was highly thought of in his native Otago.
Hardie more than justified Vern Cotter’s faith in him and then some. His tackling was ferocious and the awareness for his try against Japan was refreshing. Hardie’s stats are comparable to Richie McCaw with the All Black captain having played an extra game, and his absence was noticeable in the games against USA and South Africa. We can only wonder what might have happened if Cowan and Hardie (Hardwan?) had been unleashed against the Springboks. You wait ages for a Scotland coach to select a proper openside then he selects two at once.
Given his performance at the World Cup it’s a little surprising Hardie has ended up at Edinburgh rather than an English or French club. Given his late arrival in the Northern Hemisphere it may be the case that most clubs had already committed financially to the new season, however being in close proximity to his Scottish colleagues can only be a good thing for the national team as well as the development of Hamish Watson: it’s hard to see anyone taking the seven shirt from him, meaning others will be forced to up their game if they want to challenge for a starting berth.
John Hardie Stats: Games played: 3 | Tries: 2 | Turnovers: 2 | Carries over gainline: 7 | Metres Carried: 40m | Tackles: 35 | Tackle success rate: 88% | Penalties conceded killing ruck: 0
The barnstorming Edinburgh back-rower returned to top form with a bang during the tournament, and topped Scotland’s carries with 45 from his four appearances.
The 25-year-old was in formidable form throughout the warms ups and first game against Japan – he did enough to earn a rest against the USA when many were asked to ‘double up’ – but it was his quarter-final performance that caught the eye.
He powered through a mightily talented Australian back-row, making 57 metres and seven tackles. Fault should not lie with him for the line-out debacle at the end that cost Cotter’s men a place in the last four.
For many, the introduction of Josh Strauss prior to the World Cup will have raised questions over where best to utilise ‘Dents’ – but in adding some passing to his skillset he’s done enough to suggest he’s in control of the number 8 shirt again now.