Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Scotland vs South Africa – Player Ratings

Where's Dougie Donnelly? - See Episode 108 of the Podcast

Watching Scotland play South Africa is tough, but not as tough as having to run endlessly into a line of Springbok shirts for very little gain. How did they do in the 16-34 smash up?

15. Stuart Hogg – made a hash of a couple of passes after doing great work to find some space behind the miserly South African defence. Secure under the high ball but given very little room to breathe. And then there’s this:

Silly in the extreme. Still a key part of the team and we hope he’s fit for next week. 5/10

14. Tommy Seymour – had almost nothing to do first half as South Africa were concentrating on Visser’s wing as the weak point defensively. Both wingers popped up exactly as supposed to for Scotland’s try and was more visible in the improved second half. 5/10

13. Richie Vernon – cult figure and former correspondent of this site he may be, but had so few chances with ball in hand that he forced a couple early on, one of which was nearly an interception. Better second half but probably not enough to keep Bennett out next week. 4/10

12. Matt Scott – Little to do all game apart from tackle and will not have enjoyed the minimal amount of time he had on the ball, nor the lack of ground he gained when he got it. 4/10

11. Tim Visser – nearly gave away a try with one of those inept shoulder-barge tackles of his but the scramble defence saved his blushes. Almost had a chance for a breakout after grabbing a South African cross-kick well but was quiet after that until his part in the try. His wing was definitely where the Boks went hunting early on. 4/10

10. Duncan Weir – tactical kicking was poor in the first half and didn’t get the backline firing. His lungbursting interception break so nearly transformed the game and led to his and Scotland’s strongest period. Almost made as many tackles as the midfield combined which while suggesting where South Africa were targeting their runners, also shows he didn’t shirk in defence. 7.5/10

9. Greig Laidlaw – kept a lively pace on the rare occasions Scotland had the ball early on. Later in the game distribution picked out Richie Gray and Gordy Reid far too often for a team supposedly with an attacking mentality. Missed a crucial kick at goal when Scotland were creeping back up the scoreboard and then his rash yellow card was the nail in the coffin. As captain, should also shoulder responsibility for slow starts –  even if he started better than he finished. 3.5/10

1. Gordon Reid – put in some huge hits, was right in the faces of the South Africans from the start and did the ball carrying that was asked of him. Looked tired by half time but carried it on well into the second half until replaced. 6.5/10

2. Fraser Brown – there were lineout hiccups all throughout the game whether Brown or Ford were throwing in which can also be blamed on the jumpers, but Brown showed what he offered in the loose with much more effective ball carrying. Worth his place next week. 6.5/10

3. WP Nel – didn’t have the triumphant faceoff with the Beast he might have hoped but did make some big hits. 4.5/10

4. Richie Gray – put in a huge amount of work with some 21 tackles and Scotland’s only lineout steal (so much for cracking the codes). Popped up at first receiver a little too often but Scotland’s attack was under huge pressure and never took its true shape. 6/10

5. Jonny Gray – genuinely outworked by his brother for the first time in a Scotland shirt. Took about 35 minutes to really settle into the game and was quiet with ball in hand. Possibly his poorest Scotland outing in terms of visible effect on the game but is too classy a prospect to let that last very long. 5/10

6. Josh Strauss – struggled against his compatriots who were wise to his threat but was still one of the few Scotland players who gained a few extra inches each time. Not quite found his feet at this level but then he is 3-4 weeks behind Nel who looks right at home… 4.5/10

7. Blair Cowan – put in a massive tackle count (21, equal to Richie Gray), but one turnover from our only turnover specialist reflects poorly on an afternoon where we were second best at almost every breakdown regardless of who had the ball. Should focus more on breakdown 5.5/10

8. David Denton – huge enthusiasm and work rate but battered back almost every time by the Springboks. Visible throughout but not least when coughing up two soft penalties just before Laidlaw’s card, at a point where Scotland had just inched into touching distance. Scotland have miraculously kept their penalty count in single figures; Denton was responsible for 50% of them yesterday. 4/10

Following the match, an injury update has been released by the Scotland camp with Hogg looking like cramp and not thought to be serious, more worrying is Ford and Scott who both required head injury assessments and will now follow return to play protocols, while Jonny Gray and Richie Vernon had leg knocks both classed as minor (dead leg/knee strain).

There was also an update on John Hardie and Finn Russell. The former continues in the graduated return-to-play protocol while Russell continues to make good progress on his ankle. So there is a chance they will both be fit to play in the do-or-die clash with Samoa next Saturday.

If Scotland win they will face the winner of Wales v Australia in the quarter finals, it’s that simple.

112 Responses

  1. Sorry but you are being over generous. Backs scores are accurate but I wouldn’t give any of our forwards more than 2/10. They were rubbish and were pushed around the park like a bunch of schoolkids playing men. Boys vs Men sums it up. They are big but have no strength at all. Were we watching the same game? Or have you been spending time with Bulldog?

    1. Yup, was an absolute disgrace being dominated by a bunch of lightweights like Du Plessis x 2, Burger, Vermullen et all. It’s not as if the Springboks are the most physical side in world rugby or anything. De Jager and Etzebeth are tiny men, we should have destroyed them.


      1. Right on Andy. The Springbok minnows…known throughout the world for being utter lightweights. Neil has proven us wrong time and again with expert evidence based analysis and hugely impressive skills in objective reasoning.

      1. Nope. It is trolling. Very clever trolling it has to be said, just enough to toe the line. But the remarks from said individual are designed to provoke an emotional response and start arguments with other readers.

    2. To be fair to Neil (oh the horror) our pack was only 5 kilos or so lighter than theirs. This squad was apparently picked for it’s physicality, something that was clearly lacking on Saturday.

      1. I think the telling part was that this is a grizzled bunch of seasoned pro’s. Not only are the Saffer’s big, they are hard. We don’t have that quite yet and it’s something that we will n doubt be focussed on.

        I’m not accepting of the fact that our pack was bullied a little but I do understand that perhaps they have learnt a little bit more about what it is to really try to physically dominate your opposition.

      2. Our pack was picked for its physicality- you must be joking. There’s more physicality in my thumb. The SA pack is big and strong but look how easy it was for even USA to push us around. In the 6 nations and warm ups the packs of every single team pushed us around the park. That suggests that our pack is not very physical at all.

      3. Our pack was pushed around in the 6 nations, but there have been fairly substantial changes, which looked designed largely to improve that. e.g. a back row of Harley, Ashe, Cowan versus the current choice of Strauss, Denton, Hardie. Our first choice front row is rarely dominated. There are not really many other options available for the second row (many would argue Gray x 2 is our best combo anyway) so the whole – sack them all argument is pointless.
        I would agree that the SA pack (and most of the rest of the team) are just very hard. I’ve spent a fair bit of time out there and they are generally hard. It’s really in the culture. They are one of, if not the hardest team going and that is what they base their game around. We are improving, but you have to move up through the rungs. You don’t go from tit for tat with Italy, failing against most of the top 8, to out playing the top teams in the World at their own game. It’s incremental and a long road. Scotland are at their best when they adopt a Glasgow-esque game, based on solid defence and rapd offloading (organised chaos) that creates gaps and finds space. I think Vern didn’t see that as an option against the Saffers. Their defence is like a very hard hitting net. It swallows you up before there is time to think or create. I think Vern’s strategy was more or less to try and live with SA at their own game and see if we could generate opportunities in the second half once the game opened up. To some extent that is what happened, but not too the extent that could bring us success. The experience of dealing with that level of physicality is good training for the lads, but we have one or two missing components to being able to bring our natural game against the most physical sides. The same thing happens with Glasgow in ERC when they come up against the real monsters of Europe.

      4. In a sencse I agree that playing the Glasgow way would be good but, whatever way we play, we have got to get parity in the forward pack. You mentioned that we have improved but we were pushed arround by Italy and France in the warm up games and by USA in a group stage match.

        I agree that we cant change things now for this WC. we have to accept our forwards are poor but we need quick ball out of rucks and scrums in order to compete. I’m niot sure if Laidlaw can really do that.

        Long term we have to adopt a more physical game plan in ordewr to compete with the top 5 nations.

      5. This forward pack continues to get better. They got blitzed at the weekend by the hardest team in the competition, one that has something like an average of 50 caps per person. You don’t get up to that number without being a little streetwise, never mind that we didn’t have our best team out.

        The by-word for this RWC is ‘work in progress’ and that’s what we have to accept. If you look, the forward pack has gone from being a serious, serious concern at scrum and line out time to become much more solid. The addition of a proper 7 has meant we are more mobile and doing better work at the break down. Over time, this will all reap the reward as we will have a pack that has gotten older and more grizzled together.

        For what it is worth, I don’t think many teams in the world have a pack capable of competing with the SA lot when they are playing with their backs to the wall.

        Also worth mentioning that Laidlaw is slow at getting the ball away often because he’s trying to organise the backline, as he is clearly being instructed to. If you watch him play with better 10s (like he does at Gloucester and is able to with Russell to an extent) then he thrives on quick ball. I’m not saying he’s perfect but he’s far better than Pyrgos and suits the way we play much better than SHC. Given that Russell is potentially a serious talent but maybe needs to learn the ropes a bit more (Russell at 23 is very young for an international 10) I think Laidlaw still take on responsibility for a lot of the organisational work to let Russell ensure his back line is ready when he wants. For other examples of this, see Sexton being allowed to bed in with Stringer there, Wilkinson who had Bracken/Dawson, and Dan Carter who was allowed to learn the 10 position by playing inside centre beside Carlos Spencer and Mehrtens for his first couple of years.

      6. Far better than Pyrgos?! Hardly. Pyrgos like the rest of the team against the USA wasn’t at his best, but you can’t write him off after one game. I’m not one for bashing Laidlaw but his dithering let Habana catch him out and led to the subsequent SA try. Equally his brain fart moment of a yellow card is not something I expect from a Scotland captain. Equally, Laidlaw plays with better tens at Gloucester! Who? James Hook? Sorry but the current Glasgow team is light years ahead of the Gloucester side Laidlaw plays for. Duncan Weir was also one of our better players on Saturday lest we forget. Equally Pyrgos distribution, box kicking and support lines are way ahead of Laidlaw’s. Laidlaw is in the team predominantly for his goal kicking and the lack of leadership elsewhere in the side. I like Laidlaw, he gives his all but your sweeping statement of him being far better than Pyrgos is ill informed and quite simply not true.

      7. I’m not sure how it is that I’m writing Pyrgos off after 1 game? He’s had 17 caps for Scotland. I’m also not saying he’s absolutely garbage, just that he’s not as good as Laidlaw. That’s not writing him off.

        As for Hook, he is, in my opinion better than Weir, particularly in marshalling his back line which is the exact point I’m making. In terms of talent, perhaps Russell might be more talented but, I’d imagine that Hook takes on much more of the responsibility for managing his back line rather than with Scotland where that appears to be resting more on Laidlaw. Again, I’ll refer you to my comments but to lay them out more plainly, I think Cotter and the SRU are trying to blood Russell in gently, with Laidlaw taking more of the reigns in order to get Finn more comfortable with calling selected back moves and getting his line in order. Perhaps that’s why it’s been announced that it’s pretty much always going to be the person playing scrum half is captain.

        I think if you read my post without wanting to have a reason to chip off, you’ll realise that I’m making points based on things I’ve observed rather than it merely being an ill informed sweeping statement.

        Glasgow being light years better than Gloucester. Now that’s a sweeping statement.

      8. Cameron, I don’t think we can say that 23 is young these days. Look at the likes of Pollard – 21 years old and 16 caps already, George Ford (22 / 16), Barrett (24 / 32) etc.

        I think the things that we need to do to close the gap is to play more International Matches and start trusting the youngsters when they hit 19/20/21 years old more, e.g. Michael Hooper is not yet 24 and already has played nearly 50 times for the Wallabies. We should as part of the Autumn series, play a couple more games, against the likes of Geoprgia etc. to gain more experience.

      9. I completely agree Andy. One of the frustrating things about Scottish rugby (and football it’s worth mentioning) is that it takes a long time for us to cap talented youths. Often seems like a 23/4 year old has to be playing well for 2/3 years before they are ‘trusted’ with a call up when a much less talented incumbent of 28-32 fills a shirt doing nothing but their stoic best. That has changed in recent years which has been to the better.

        23 isn’t that young, you’re right but I think this will be the 3rd season Russell has playing professional, first class rugby which is the point I’m making about him. Perhaps, being slightly protected from the big decision making calls that he will eventually be expected to make, we think he will get to grow into the massively high pressure role of an international 10.

        In the example you have given of Ford, I’d argue that he, as an incredibly talented 10, has been broken in the last few months by playing umpteen different combinations outside him. Hard for him to go from being brought in to involve players like Twelvetrees who look to pass, then being told he’s getting battering rams off his shoulder instead. Similarly, I’d suggest that not a little of Pollard’s success has been that he’s is literally surrounded by world class, extremely experienced players. Du Preez inside you at 9 and De Villiers takes a little pressure off you and allows you to grow into the role.

        In short, I’m saying Laidlaw suffers from having to take on more than he normally would because it’s expected of him to protect our best playmaker. That said, I’m looking forward to when we can allow Russell to lead his back division and get a scrum half with genuinely excellent service in at 9. One that can just concentrate on being ‘chippy’ to the ref and much bigger guys as well as pinging the ball at speed to wherever it is that his 10 is directing him. That person is, I still think, a Laidlaw that is allowed to just play the role of 9.

      10. Physicality is more than just size and strength (and passion) – it’s experience. The “grizzliness” aspect of enforcers such as we had with Hines, Hamilton and the like. That only comes with internationals under the belt. The SA pack had an average of over 50 caps each. The Scottish pack had an average of about 14 with not one on more than 50 caps. You cannot force experience and this squad will benefit hugely from this tournament, especially as the majority will still be around in 4 years time.
        As for Neil’s contention that “every single team push us around” I would much rather support a team (a pack) which has more than just “bosh it up the middle” mentality, irrespective of how good they are at it! Even then we have held our own against almost every pack this year.
        With the playing base as it is in Scotland (don’t mention that we only have 2 pro teams Neil!) we’ve never had a huge, grizzled pack which dominates and have always had to find a quick game – pick and drive, offloading etc – to succeed.

      11. Ok so you’re not writing him off but to say one player is far better than another is quite a statement Cameron, and I’m hardly being chippy just because I disagree with your opinion. I accept you feel Laidlaw is a better player, however I would dispute this having watched Pyrgos regularly at Scotstoun, and Laidlaw during his televised games for Gloucester. Townsend has allowed Russell the responsibilty to run the back line at Glasgow, and Laidlaw doesn’t take this over for Scotland other than pre planned moves off a lineout etc, Matt Scott runs the defensive line, so I don’t see how this comes into it. Laidlaw is responsible, like most scrum halves, for organising the forwards, a job he does relatively well. As for Glasgow being well ahead of Gloucester, I accept light years is a bit strong, however one side are the Pro12 winners and one finished 9th in the Aviva Premiership. Ok Gloucester won the European challenge Cup but the standard of that competition is well below the Champions Cup, and they only just beat a misfiring Edinburgh, struggled against Connacht, and were in a very easy qualifying pool. I’m not someone who looks for a reason to chip off, I have posted on this site for a long time, but I do think Pyrgos is at the very least on a par with Laidlaw, and Laidlaw is not ‘far better’ than him as you put it.

      12. You’re right Merlot. The South African pack know how to out fight people for the ball. In the same way that the ‘Scottish’ way of playing has always been to cause trouble and break fast, the South African way is to pulverise the opposition with your fierce forwards and then release your (almost as hard) backs to do the damage. Our forward pack, as they get older, will learn this.

      13. Cameron, if you think Laidlaw a better player than Pyrgos, you’ve clearly been ‘up the Amazon’and out of touch for the last 2 years? However, you’re in a very important minority though. There is you, Vern Cotter and the Laidlaw family. To make these kind of phlegmatic statements, and then accuse others of making sweeping generalisations,is just too ridiculous to take seriously.

  2. SA played like a team who knew they couldn’t lose. They defended brilliantly and heaped massive pressure on us all over the park. I think with the Scottish selections, Scotland’s players knew they had second chance and produced their typical slow start, 17 points down at half time against SA and the games pretty much over.

    Ratings look fair enough to me, although lower marks for the backs because they didn’t have any decent ball seems a bit unfair. We live to fight another day, and now we can’t afford to lose, hopefully we’ll bring our A game and respond like SA did against us. I’m hopeful especially if Finn is back.

    1. I share the same thoughts and look forward to our meeting with Samoa with some level of expectation and hope the boys will play with great purpose and determination (from here on in)…

      Is it me or does anyone else share a niggling concern that Samoa may well smash our players very very hard indeed before they finally bow out?

  3. I’d give laidlaw a minus 5 for his unbelievable slow service. That boy is the opposite to what every other nation has! It’s so bad the forwards have no idea how to time runs off him. I don’t know how the backs haven’t punched him yet

    1. I totally agree with this but the blog have asked my not to pass further comment on this player.

      1. then dont mention him and as for the fullback, Serge Blanco was regularly out of position and was by far better than the pair of them so , what, is, you, point ?

    2. Couldn’t agree more….the speed on ball to 10 is so slow….I recall one ball not even making the distance to 10. The 2-3yard passes to hit up forwards is poor as you say. It goes to the player they have to check before taking the hit…..ball in front please. That said he does marshal the forwards well and has a cool head on him (bar his yellow – still blame weir for a poor pass!) – plus he’s there for his goal kicking! I wouldn’t replacement but just frustrating as speed of passing is basics

      1. I’ve not been the biggest fan of Laidlaw, but I don’t think any of the scrum halfs would have been any better behind a pack with no go forward or quick ball. Thankless task when you’re being pounded up front. That said the yellow card was pretty stupid.

      2. Scrum half is one position that we have struggled with for the last 5 years. I liked Cussiter as a player but he hasnt featured for a while. Laidlaw is mediocre at best, SHC too inexperienced and Pyrgos is distinctly average. Its a real problem but I don’t know what the solution is. Unfortunately the two most important positions are SH and FB. Thank god we have options in the latter.

      3. A full back out of position will leak tries. They are the very last line of defense and must have speed and absolutely no fear going in for the tackle. They also have to be good at kicking and initiating an attack. Pretty important position if you ask me. Gavin Hastings got it right, Andy Irvine did not. He scored his fair share of tries but he cost as more by being out of position.

      4. In my opinion, positions more important than full back in no particular order:

        Fly half
        Scrum half (as you said)
        Tight head prop
        Open side flanker
        Number 8

  4. Looking at it more positively, we could be back to a full squad with only one injury replacement going into the final group game. We’ve been tested playing against a potential finalist with an understrength team using a full squad so can now select our best team on form. Our penalty count is low and we will qualify 2nd which gives us a better run in the tournament. Even VC is cracking jokes.

    1. I too am looking forward to the selection of our best possible XV for the Samoa match. Vern has been fairly canny so far with his combinations. Time now to send out our very best side – not just, I hope, to secure the win and a QF slot, but to do so in a manner that would start to get our QF opponents worrying about how to play against us. Instead of the other way round.
      Whatever, I’m looking forward to taking my place amongst thousands of other Scots at St James’s Park on Saturday.

  5. Laidlaw was pitiful. 3.5 is massively generous. Why is he kicking when he can’t reach the posts from the 10-metre line? He’s just so slow on the ball as well, it’s ridiculous. The only reason he’s selected is because he’s experienced and the coaches don’t have the balls to throw someone else in. Really poor management of the squad, they should have an experienced alternative at the very least. S H-C should have had the game time, or Cussiter should have been picked.

    1. Cusiter made himself unavailable due to the birth of a child. SHC’s breakthrough season was this year – and he got experience playing in the 6N. Pyrgos is the experienced option and he didn’t look much more impressive than Laidlaw against the USA. Laidlaw obviously splits opinion, but which option is really going to be better at this World Cup?

      1. Maybe, but when Laidlaw is having a poor game (admittedly behind a retreating pack) he’s kept on for as long as possible, SHC should have come on earlier. I just cannot believe the coaches watching from the sidelines just cant see it. Must have much more going for him on the training pitch and behind the scenes. I feel for him, he seems like a honest, nice guy but he really needs a rocket up his a*se. From his Argentina performance he’s got it in him.

      2. Cussiter would (surely) have played if he’d known he was going to be first choice, which he should be as he’s a decent solid scrum-half at international level, whereas Laidlaw is not. It’s a hangover from when we had absolutely no creative ability in our backline at all (three years ago), meaning Laidlaw’s very faint an occasional glimmers of talent were hugely over-hyped and relied on, hence his current inflated status.

        Our main goal-kicker needs to be able to reach the posts from the 10-yard line as well, that was ridiculous on Sat (Laidlaw coming up short in the first half). That having been said he seems like a good bloke.

  6. Had the benefit of just watching it again Rory, generous on Hogg’s score and harsh on Strauss and Cowan, who along with Brown were our best forwards.
    My team for Saturday, if all fit, would be:
    Hogg, Seymour, Bennett, Scott, Maitland, Russell, Laidlaw, Dickinson, Brown, Nel, Gray, Gray, Wilson, Hardie and Strauss – Reid, Ford, Welsh, Swinson, Cowan, Pyrgos, Weir, Horne.
    Hogg needs to sort out his passing, otherwise his brilliant breaks are only giving possession away, Brown is far more mobile than Ford and does everything else just as well, Denton still gives away too many penalties in the big games, Wilson has looked impressive in the tackle and on the ball when he’s played. We must start well and when we do kick off let’s put them under pressure.

    1. I am inclined to start with Swinston and bring Richie Gray on to close. The Samoans will come out hard. Not sure the same applies at Hooker so good choice.

  7. I see it didn’t take long for Gatland to start his usual crap. 4th place Fiji would qualify for QF in another couple of groups. Taking it France/Ireland safe so basically saying they would beat us & Argentina. Think Wales should be respected for staying with England and taking the lead late but let’s hold on. England gave it away and Australia were better in every facet of the game against England. I expect Wales to be beaten by 20pts in their next 2 games and we will be in the tournament longer. Might be just a day but still longer.

    1. Gatland is best ignored. He’s a major factor in why so many people can’t stand the Welsh team and most of their fans.

      1. Gatland is OK and I dont mind the Welsh. What I object to is the fact the, when we play them, they always get the rub of the green, dodgy referee decisions in their favor, our players sent off etc.

      2. ‘Gatland is ok’…of all the thinks you’ve said this is the worst…and theres been some crackers.

    2. To be fair I reckon Fiji would give us a pretty tough test. I think we’d beat them, but I’m not sure how comfortably. They are, without doubt in a group far tougher than ours. To give Gatland the benefit of the doubt I suspect it was meant more as a compliment to the spirit of Fiji than a disrespect to other teams………. I’d like to think…… Maybe…….

  8. Nel, that was by a distance the crassest words I’ve seen posted on here. Show some respect, please, for gutsy and talented guys playing for their country under the auspices of an impoverished national RU federation. Some of the Samoan team are full-time pros actually. And if the others have jobs outside rugby to provide for their families, then I salute them for having the skill and determination to be able to compete at this level as amateur players.

    I think you have crossed a line here and you should withdraw your insulting remarks and apologise for them. It wasn’t so long ago, remember, that our own national players depended for their livelihoods on outside jobs of all kinds.

    Come to think of it, your words were so crass I think this may be some sort of wind-up.

  9. Have you ever considered a career in motivational speaking?
    Always nice to show some respect to the opposition…. According to the official RWC site, 26 of the 31 man Samoan squad play in top leagues overseas. I’m not sure where the other 5 play, but your ‘etc’ was a bit lazy, since you’d already covered 4 with the part timer, milkman, sausage salesman (do you mean butcher?) and the window cleaner. Could your razor sharp insight and exhaustive research not ascertain the vocation of number 5?

  10. Of course Kahn Fotuali’i, Census Johnson, Tim Nanai-Williams et al are basically sausage salesmen and part timers. Of course. Good grief, the reprehensible brainlessness of this comment.
    Samoa have had well-documented problems off the field before this tournament (as John Mc is alluding to) but have a good squad. Quite a few of their players would make it into our squad if they were Scottish. They are capable of shocking us if our team turn up with an attitude as arrogant as that of whoever posted this. Is Nel some kind of cunning alias for Neil?

  11. Let’s get back to Neil’s main point, if we can’t beat Samoa then we should give up….totally agree and another match that will show if we are actually improving or not. If we can’t beat them then chaps it is seriously back to minus square one which is why this won’t happen.

    1. I think the point is right – if we don’t beat Samoa our World Cup will have been a failure because we won’t get out of the group. I’m confident we will beat Samoa. I just object to the arrogance behind Nel’s comment about Samoa being a bunch of part-timers when they patently aren’t. Most of us get annoyed when fans of other teams sneer at us, we shouldn’t do the same.

    2. It’s a particularly negative perspective that doesn’t contribute to the discussion in any way. The bit about Samoa is just totally disrespectful and inaccurate, not that Nelly is one to ever let facts get in the way of an outburst.

      1. Guys, let’s just give our old friend Neil the benefit of the doubt for now. It was a post from ‘Nel’, not ‘Neil’, and maybe the moderators will be able to help here.
        Much as I hate to admit it, the opening line was correct. If we can’t beat Samoa it will be a serious setback for us – worse than this year’s 6N wooden spoon, where at least under the surface of the results there some very positive signs of a revival under Vern.

        BTW, and without in any way counting chickens, tickets for the Group A winners and Group B runners up QF are piling onto Viagogo, starting at a bargain £120 a go. I won’t mention this again until, I hope, about 4.15 this Saturday in Newcastle.

      2. Why do we not just ignore this post. Time enough to discuss this if it happens.

        It feels like Neil BTW.

        He is having a terrible world cup. Scotland have won two from three pool games and played a team that could never win against SA. He has been banned from ranting about the smallest man in the squad.

        Now what team does not need that kind of supporter?

      3. Clearly not enough times and not for long enough because now half this thread is about the #@$@#$ he has been trolling – can we not get rid of him and talk about only rugby ?

  12. Was just looking again at the try Seymour scored. I thought Weir did really well but then a bit shocked when you look at JP Pietersen’s tackle on him. Can anyone explain why he wasn’t yellow carded and why he wasn’t cited after the game. Not to mention all the other head high action in the game. Nigel Owens clearly didn’t get the memo about dangerous tackles. I think JJ needs to have a word!

    1. Did you see the high tackle on the Georgina chap by Namibian 23? Straight yellow card. Nothing really different in the two examples unless anyone can put some light on it? Indeed nothing different from many high tackles throughout the South African game and I’ve no idea why it was allowed to continue. Can anyone help me out?

  13. I’m a big fan of Hogg but someone needs to have a word. I think he’s trying too hard and getting frustrated. He’s thrown more rubbish passes in the last 2 games than the whole of last season for Glasgow. Is Toony available for a bit of mentoring this week?

    1. That’s a good thought. Yes, we’d all hoped those days (of cheap shots/dives etc.) were behind him. He’s already shown he can respond positively to the right kind of guidance. At risk of sounding like an amateur psychologist, I think you might be right that he’s just a bit too tight/wound up and it triggers reduced motor skills and possibly life skills under pressure and at high speed. No arguing with the quality of his line breaks though!

  14. Team v Samoa
    1 Dickinson
    2 Brown
    3 Nel
    4 Gray
    5 Gray
    6 Strauss
    7 Hardie
    8 Denton
    9 Laidlaw
    12 Scott
    13 Bennett
    16 Bryce
    17 Reid
    18 Welsh
    19 Swinson
    20 Cowan
    21 Pyrgos
    22 Horne
    23 Lamont

    1. I think you are right in the backs. Fancy Lamont to come on for 100th cap! Wouldn’t be surprised if he started though with Maitland on the bench to cover the back 3. I’m not sure about the blend in the back row. I think Denton might be rested from the starting 15 with Strauss at 8 and Wilson at 6. Hopefully Hardie is back. I think that’s our fastest back row combination and best chance of getting quick ball and making early links with the backs. Awfully tempted to start with Pyrgos.

    2. Hogg’s had 3 starts already. He was cramping up badly at the end of the last game, and there were the amateur dramatics. I reckon Maitland will start at 15 with Hogg on the bench.

    3. Good call but I don’t think Ford will be dropped from the squad – it’s too important a match. I also think Lamont will start, not for sentimental reasons but I think his experience was missed last weekend. Hogg will be rested/dropped.
      I would go for:
      Dickinson, Brown, Nel;
      Gray, Gray;
      Wilson, Hardie, Denton;
      Laidlaw, Russell;
      Lamont, Scott, Bennett, Seymour;
      Ford, Reid, Welsh, Swinson, Strauss, Pyrgos, Weir, Horne.

      1. Ford might have no choice if he doesn’t pass the concussion tests. Hardie and Russell are fit apparently.

      2. According to who? That would be great news if true!

        Ford is the least important as we have a good replacement, Hardie is a class above his rivals and without Russell we are basically screwed.

  15. Difficult to argue with your starting XV, except you have Sean Lamont on the bench, I would start him instead of Maitland (expect some giant collisions early), and have him lead the side out – 100 caps, if that doesn’t gee their ginger to play the first quarter on the money, nothing will. Maitland can come on later, he arguably provides better cover than Lamont.

    1. 100th cap is a rare honour. You’d really like to lead the team out at Murrayfield for that one. He’s been a great servant to the team and delivered all he could. Hope it goes better than Chris Paterson’s 100th cap game.

  16. Is there a shift in the odds for the Wales Australia game? With Hooper out and other top choices injured for Australia, a Wales win now seems less unlikely. A rested Wales with the carrot of a QF against Scotland or Japan could see themselves going deep into the tournament if they beat Australia. Do we agree that we would prefer to meet Wales than Australia IF we beat Samoa?

    (And I stress, one game at a time and absolutely no presumption on my part that we’ll beat Samoa – on current form we should beat them, and probably by more than one score, but there’s such talent in their side, it could get really tough if they ‘click’ and/or if we don’t turn up fully. If we don’t win, I think Japan might think they have a chance against Wales, too…)

    1. Also, no presumption or disrespect to the USA, who might beat Japan in their final match (which would mean Scotland go through regardless of our result against Samoa), although it’s a tough ask so soon after their SA game.

      A BBC article has all the many permutations laid out more clearly than I could manage.

  17. Can anyone with more understanding and knowledge than me tell me why Scotland didn’t go with a Japan type game plan by going wide quickly and backing up the breakdown to get much quicker ball? It seems futile to not use our strengths and try to match up against the best at the muscle game. why can’t we sack the maul at luneout time like south africa did. We were punished for our basic mistakes no doubt but some of the pens given away were criminal. Being told countless times to not touch the ball and doing it anyway. It did seem he had a legitimate claim bein the tackler but once the ref says u don’t u’ve got to listen. (Denton). Laidlaw was petulant but usually a bad pass like weirs goes straight out so u still have territory so unlucky. However we are the only team to have to play against 14 men in this world cup twice and lose the ten minutes by atleast 7 points. why?

    1. Agreed – it was criminal how we couldn’t make the extra man count. I think a combination of frustration and pushing the game, along with having to put in as many tackles in the first half as is usual for a whole match.
      To my mind the whole game was lost because we didn’t protect the ball enough – not enough close support for the runners which may have stopped them being driven back every contact!

      1. Not against Japan he wasn’t and when they had a yellow he was on the pitch. We had good chances when we were down to 14 men. During the Japan game, He missed the kick from the penalty and then we gave away a penalty and then they stayed in our half for the rest of the 10 mins. Most of the time I’d say take the points but that was a key moment to put pressure on them from an attacking line-out and maybe get a penalty. If not then take the easy three points from another penalty. At least we would’t have had to spend the whole 10 mins without ball defending our line.

      2. Sure, it is easy with the benefit of hindsight but Laidlaw took the right choice. It was a kickable penalty that would have moved us to two scores ahead (8pts) – one of the reasons SA lost to Japan is because they never killed them off by leaving points on the table and not building a cushion – to then receive the kick off and have almost the full sin-bin time to add another score. It was Laidlaw’s fault he missed the kick, but it was Hogg that dropped an uncontested clearing kick and it was a scrum penalty that followed. That can’t fairly be blamed on Laidlaw’s game management. If we had kicked for the lineout we could just as easily have not scored at all and lamented the fact that we didn’t take the points when they were on offer.

      3. I understand what ur saying and the others errors aren’t his fault. Sometimes there is an instinct and when we got the penalty I was disappointed with going for goal. It is amazing how often we compound a knock on or missed restart with a penalty or lose 80 yards with two quick penalties. It has improved but even with only 8 pens on Sat at least half had this effect of losing vast amounts of territory. I like Laidlaw a bit slow at breakdown but a good player. He went from motm to a Turkey next game mainly due to the pack. It seems that’s the way for a SH

  18. Does anyone know how many interception tries Scotland have managed in recent years and especially the last 12 months? It seems that we have a real knack of doing this now. It can’t just be luck. Are Scotland better than this than most other teams?

    1. I’m not sure about the stats, but guessing it’s a reflection of a) our quick press defense; b) how much time we spend defending valiantly and usually effectively (i.e. if teams are spreading the ball repeatedly over many phases in attack, there’s a higher likelihood they’ll misjudge one of those passes); c) a few high-class poachers, Seymour being the best.

      Does anyone know if the players ‘practice’ interceptions?

      1. Based on an interview with Visser during (I think) the 6 Nations, they do practice interceptions, or at least it is a tactic they focus on in preparation.

      2. It’s the best/most terrifying thing to see. I’m always absolutely bricking it that when they rush out, it’s opening up such a big gap!

        I think part of it is that so many other countries basically eradicate it from their game plan because they want solid, stoic tackling in order to force a turn over. Perhaps it’s part of the Cotter ‘organised chaos’ mantra that we try to do it because nothing makes a try more likely than a stolen pass.

  19. More interesting than average (it’s a game of two halves blah blah) interview with Fraser Brown on the SRU website, includes a training clip with Finn Russell looking fit and well, not even any obvious strapping on the ankle.

      1. I couldn’t find it when I first looked for it as well – but that’s because I was on the Society of Radiologists in Ultrasound website…bizarrely, Fraser Brown is not a recognized authority in this field.

  20. He’s been banned now folks. He’ll likely pop on again as there’s only so much we can do. Will try our best to keep an eye out. Thanks for pulling him up on it.

  21. Neil/Nel… Please stop commenting now. You’ve been given sufficient warnings. The comments you made were not light hearted. They were offensive and you’ve been banned for making such comments before.

  22. A comment about Neil – let’s not get too wound up about his comments, he is spot on about Laidlaw most of the time, he is right about the fact two Pro teams is a bit of a joke and that we should beat Samoa. However not just on these subjects but I a m sure others he does not articulate his strong views well enough. He is not a troll just a passionate Scots rugby supporter that says what he thinks without properly thinking it through first which gets up people’s backs. So hopefully you get back on soon Neil but please just think before posting.

  23. Just watching the first half of the saffer,s v usa.It strikes me that rugby is doing itself no favours with the blatant bias towards the so called rugby elite.
    I was incenced after watching brian habanna,s assault on the usa full back,which if committed by a” lesser “team would have resulted in a red card.Quite how the ref and tmo could say that habanna was anything other than reckless I dont know.In the first minute a saffer player nearly pulled a yanks head off.o.k says the ref.In the Scotland match a scots player is dumped on his head.not malicious says the ref.
    You could go on and on ,Rugby should be turning people on not getting them so p#×&ed off they will turn it off.Come on give the other nations a fair crack of the whip. Ps Do you think the saffer sh could put a straight ball into the scrum if he tried ?

    1. A Romanian player was binned for a less dangerous collision with an airborne Canadian player. The refereeing inconsistencies are a joke.

  24. Some good news, with Tuilagi of Samoa being banned for 5 weeks.
    I don’t know what he did or was supposed to have done, but I’m hoping Lamont isn’t carried off on a stretcher on the oaccasion of his 100th cap. Much less chance now.

    1. Tuilagi, knee to head. He can have no regrets. Big Sean, why wait for a cap that might never come to lead side out at Murrayfield. The time is NOW, cometh the hour, cometh the man!!!!!!

      Not the most gifted player who ever pulled the shirt on, but it would be a challenge to find one so committed, especially with some of the dross who played inside him.

    2. There is no way that Tuilagi (Alesandro) should have been banned for that. If anything it was more head to knee – the defender went low for a dangerous “chop” tackle, put his head on the wrong side, and came off second best.
      I would much rather we beat a full strength Samoa than get through on a “bye”.

      1. Hmm I don’t know Merlot, when I first saw it I thought it was very harsh but the more I watch it the more deliberate it looks, watch his knee, he is running away, half stumbling admittedly then he pulls his knee right up as he goes in. I agree that the Japanese guy was not best positioned. I still think the length of the ban is a bit harsh but to me it was deliberate and should incur some sort of repercussion.

        As a devils advocate to my own statement, its no worse than the players who go flying up for a high ball with knees out, studs showing and absolutely clatter someone but get off with it because they got the ball. Wales are a particular perpetrator of this tactic, probably why they are so good in the air everyones scared of them.

      2. The difference is that there are guidelines (around the laws) about tackling people in the air and kneeing people in the head when they are in a ruck. I agree that the “knees out, studs showing” type of catch is dangerous and the RFU should look at it. Equally kneeing somebody in the head that is caught at the bottom of a ruck should be severely dealt with.
        The worst I can say about the Tuilagi incident is that it could be construed as jumping the tackle, but it’s more the Japanese players fault for putting himself in that position. If it was the shoulder shrugging off the tackler nobody would have mentioned it, and Tuilagi obviously tried that but the tackler was round his ankles by then!

  25. I’ve done a little research of all the Interception tries throughout Vern Cotter’s being in charge. It’s pretty inpressive. I’m sure there are more over the last few years. Stuart Hogg against Italy and Tim Visser against New Zealand with Mark Scott’s interception to name two.

    Here are the 9 Interception Tries since Vern took over:

    Argentina 8/11/14 Interception 5th Try Tommy Seymour
    New Zealand 15/11/14 Interception 1st Try Tommy Seymour
    Tonga 22/11/14 Interception Through Tackle by Finn Russell 2nd Try Stuart Hogg
    Italy 28/2/15 Interception 1st Try Mark Bennet
    Italy 29/8/15 Interception 4th Try Sean Lamont
    Italy 29/8/15 Interception 5th Try Tim Visser
    Italy 29/8/15 Interception 6th Try Mark Bennet
    Japan 23/9/15 Interception 3rd Try Tommy Seymour
    South Africa 3/10/15 Interception Duncan Weir 1st Try Tommy Seymour

    Not sure any other team can rival this list really although we do like to defend more than most countries.

    Tommy Seymour 4 Interception Tries
    Mark Bennett 2 Interception Tries
    Stuart Hogg 1 Interception Try
    Tim Visser 1 Interception Try
    Sean Lamont 1 Interception Try

    1. Thanks for that post Laurie. Tommy S really is the interception king. Offers far more defensively and in intelligent attacking lines than Visser for me so it needs to be Seymour and Maitland IMO.

      1. Yeah on first instinct from my memory I would have said Visser was the man for interceptions mainly cos of the nearly interception last year against New Zealand (or was that France in six nations?) and the one a few years back and Italy this year but clearly the stats show Tommy is well ahead. Interesting though Maitland the only one of the wingers/full backs currently in the squad not to have one. But it’s not all about interceptions and there is no doubt Seymour, Lamont and Maitland well ahead of Visser defensively. He is improving though but why is such a big and fast man not as good as the others?

  26. Just saw the line up for Samoa. Was at the RSA game. laidlaw should be on the bench. Give Lamont a start and make him captain. He may not be the most skillful but he wears his heart on his sleeve.
    Read the Scotsman blogs on the RSA game. Universally and specifically critical of Laidlaw, far too slow, very indecisive tactically (for a captain)and yellow card simply ludicrous. Add to that, only being able to kick mid range ( some of the time) constantly challenging and telling to referees what they should do and you dont have what should amount to captain material. Clyne was a breath of fresh air, far faster feed and faster recycling for 2nd phase and sped up all of the play Scotland then made. As for the number 2 slot ,can we not find a hooker who can hook, throw in accurately and shove. Even from the amateur sides like Ayr,Stirling County,Hawick or wherever?

You might also like these:

Craig is joined by Jonny and Rory to look back at the disappointing end to Edinburgh's season and Glasgow's march towards the semi finals.
Gregor Townsend has named a largely experimental squad for the summer tour of the Americas. It's not a question of who misses out, but rather who is actually going, writes Rory.
Iain is joined by Jonny and John to discuss the penultimate round of URC fixtures as well as the recent Scottish Rugby Writers' Awards
Craig is joined by John on the injured reserve list to have a wee look at the URC action from the weekend.

Scottish Rugby News and Opinion