Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Scotland Six Nations Squad Announced

The Scotland pack march on - pic © Al Ross
The Scotland pack march on - pic © Al Ross

Vern Cotter today announced the first Scotland squad for the 2016 RBS Six Nations, and it was largely a mix of the tried and tested from the World Cup with a few extras rewarded on form, in particular young props Rory Sutherland (23) and Zander Fagerson (who turns just 20 tomorrow), and returnees Moray Low, John Barclay and in form Saracens man Duncan Taylor.

Ruaridh Jackson is included as full-back cover here and also returns on form, and his versatility might see him get the nod ahead of Duncan Weir – Jackson was injured during the World Cup – on occasions where Cotter feels the pack needs more heft on the bench.

Tim Swinson is included despite his recent citing, while Ryan Wilson is not.

Forwards: Ross Ford, Pat MacArthur, Stuart McInally, Al Dickinson, Zander Fagerson, Moray Low, WP Nel, Gordon Reid, Rory Sutherland, Jonny Gray, Richie Gray, Tim Swinson, Ben Toolis, Adam Ashe, John Barclay, Blair Cowan, David Denton, Chris Fusaro, John Hardie, Josh Strauss

Backs: Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, Greig Laidlaw, Finn Russell, Duncan Weir, Mark Bennett, Alex Dunbar, Pete Horne, Matt Scott, Duncan Taylor, Sean Lamont, Sean Maitland, Tommy Seymour, Tim Visser, Stuart Hogg, Ruaridh Jackson

Grant Gilchrist (groin) and Henry Pyrgos (wrist) will train with the squad in camp while Fraser Brown, Jon Welsh and Richie Vernon were leftovers from the previous squad missing due to injury. There are injuries within the squad too (Bennett, Horne, Seymour and Visser), with Cotter saying: “There’s half a dozen players in the squad that, if the game was this week, they wouldn’t make the squad.”


28 Responses

  1. Squad is announced, seems we are going with the in vogue option of two scrummies!

    Anyone else surprised at Fraser Browns omission? Great to see Ashe, Barclay and Fagerson in there though as well as Dunbar, Bennet and Visser being deemed fit enough!

  2. A very solid squad.

    Wouldn’t have minded Watson being included, but his time will come. Good stuff for Sutherland and Fagerson. Lamont ahead of Hoyland or Hughes is a fairly inspired shout, but there’s life in the old dog yet.

    Also, what a huge fall from grace from Ryan Grant! 3 years ago he was one of the best LHs in the Northern Hemisphere, now he gets taken apart on every second scrum.

    While there’s huge question marks as to who is actually fit, what a position we’re in with our centres. BVC could take any two from Bennett, Dunbar, Horne, Scott or Taylor and I’d have great confidence in any of them.

    Although it’s nigh impossible to say, I’d suggests this as my matchday 23, if everyone is fit (which they won’t be):

    Dickinson, Ford, Nel, Gray, Gray, Barclay, Hardie, Denton
    Laidlaw, Russell, Seymour, Dunbar, Bennett, Maitland, Hogg

    Subs: McInally, Reid, Fagerson, Toolis, Strauss, SHC, Jackson, Taylor.

    1. Agree broadly with what you have said and would have thought Hoyland must be close. I would expect Scott at 12 against England as I think Dunbar will be a little short on game time. The upside of Dunbar is his breakdown work which I think is one area from the WC that can be improved. Finally for the England game it wouldn’t surprise me if VC goes for a little more bulk in the back row and therefore Strauss ahead of Barclay.

  3. Well all being well my ‘standard’ (if unimaginative) starting 15 are all there: Hogg, Seymour, Bennett, Dunbar, Maitland, Russell, Laidlaw, Dicko, Ford, Nel, Gray, Gray, Strauss, Hardie, Denton.

    However, all is not well with injuries and form. I think I would also be relatively happy with any of 12 Scott/Horne/Taylor, 13 Bennett/Dunbar, so hopefully at least three of them (most importantly one of Bennett and Dunbar) are fit. Dunbar’s lack of game time is a worry though.

    In the back three both Hogg and Seymour seem to have had a drop in form. I’ve not seen much of Maitland of late (though noticed he got a try a couple of weeks ago) and Visser is injured, though was flying for Harlequins prior to that. All that being the case our incisive back three looks much less of a threat. I’m guessing the bench will be SHC, Weir and Jackson/Taylor/Lamont depending on which centres are fit. I suppose Jacko and Horne both cover a number of positions, which may threaten Weir’s place.

    If Ford and Dicko don’t recover fitness then it’s going to be a long tournament. Good to see the youth coming through on the bench, but I’d rather see them used as replacements, rather than starters. I’ve heard Low has being going well for Exeter, but again lose track of how much game time players such as Moray are getting south of the border.

    Gray/Gray has served us well. Hopefully Richie hasn’t spent too much time sitting on the bench at Castres. I like Ben Toolis though.

    On the back of the RWC Denton and Hardie are the starters in the back row. I’d be happy with Cowan at 6, or Strauss at 8 and Denton at 6. Would also be happy to see Barclay in and things shifted around accordingly. All good there really.

    So aye, if this was immediately off the back of the RWC and all these players were fit and up to speed I’d be happy. As it is, a lot of them are not match fit and form at Glasgow has been a bit tepid. Also, England and France may have a flourish under new coaches, Ireland are wounded, Wales will be Wales and who knows with Italy. Not confident. Fail = 1 win or less; Alright = Italy and one other (big bonus if it’s the Calcutta Cup and a chance to upset Jones’ cart before it gets rolling); Good = 3 wins; Feckin awesome = anything more.

    1. Glass half empty kind of guy then ? Personally I am going for Scotland to win the Six Nations. My cup runneth over !

      1. Ha ha ha, no not at all, I would be DELIGHTED if we won, but just burned too many times! If it all fell into place I would back these players to go all the way. We went beyond expectations in the RWC, but we had a very large proportion of our first choices fit and on form. I don’t feel it’s the same at the moment, and I also think that the 6N is a more challenging competition for us than the RWC. Few opportunities to build confidence before hitting big games. We also have the mental hurdles of a very poor run to overcome against all teams other than Italy. I’m not out to burst anyone’s bubble, or talk the players down; on paper it’s the best 6N squad we’ve had for a looong time. I’m just trying to look at it objectively. See, now you’re starting to get my hopes up. The unqualified optimism that puts me through the emotional wringer at this time every year, leaving me discarded in a heap of mangled hope, marked with the indelible mental stains of false dawn upon false dawn!

  4. 4 opensides in the squad and Hamish Watson isn’t one of them. That’s disappointing. Looks like there could be an element of horses for courses and we go with 2 7’s for certain games. For England it will be the heaviest pack we can go for.

    Hopefully the borderline ones regain fitness in the next week or so.

  5. Very, very happy with this squad. Few things that immediately caught my eye: 2 9’s, but its not too risky with injury cover being able to be called upon easily, be it from Price, Cusiter or Steele; 4 7’s and no 6’s is unusual but also exciting i reckon, surprised by Fusaro’s inclusion over Watson, but i suppose Fusaro has played more rugby recently and Watson’s time will definitely come; surprised but very happy with Barclay’s inclusion, hopefully he’s ahead of Fusaro in the pecking order and he and Cowan are fighting it out to be the 4 back row player behind Dents, Hardie and Strauss; very happy with the inclusion of Sutherland over Grant and with the selection of Fagerson.
    Some of my post world cup enthusiasm has drained due to the familiar feeling of false dawns, the form of some of the key players and the slightly suspect fitness of others. However, that being said, i have genuine belief that this squad of players under this coaching set up can achieve. We have players who look like world class players (Dickinson and Nel are some of the best scrummagers in the 6N i believe; the Gray combo is as good as any locking partnership; Russell is a game changer on his day; Laidlaw and Bennett had nominations for world rugby accolades; Hogg on form is electric and to be feared) there are also winners in this squad (Taylor with Sarries; Hardie with the Highlanders; the Glasgow squad; the Lions tourists).
    I see people saying that we should pick the biggest pack possible for the England opener. I disagree. Jones has picked only 1 recognised 7 in his squad, Kvesic, who it has been noted is a replacement for Dave Ewers, which suggests to me that he will have a fairly limited opportunity. With 4 7’s in our squad, I would go with 2 starting, probably Hardie and Cowan, and target England’s ball all day, maybe even stick Barclay on the bench so as to not let up on the breakdown.
    My team would be…
    Dickinson Ford Nel
    Gray Gray
    Cowan Denton Hardie
    Laidlaw Russell
    Seymour Scott Bennett Maitland
    McInally, Reid, Fagerson, Toolis, Barclay, Strauss, Hidalgo-Clyne, Jackson.
    Its a bit out there, but Jackson, as noted in the article, gives versatility from the bench, and Scott, Bennett, Maitland, Seymour and Hogg can all play multiple positions, so why not give a bit of extra ballast to the pack from the bench and let the forwards outrun the English pack and still have plenty of cover from he bench?
    Im doing it again, getting carried away with myself! Setting myself up for the all too familiar fall. Oh well, to Murrayfield I go again, lets just beat the English and see what happens from there eh? COME ON SCOTLAND!

      1. Also, off topic but did anyone see exeter’s game at the weekend? i hear byron mcguigon had a very good game in a losing exeter performance. just worth keeping an eye on perhaps? still only 26.

      2. Played well and worth keeping an eye on. Not sure about Lamont as I think he is way past his prime.

  6. Really excited by this squad and despite the fears of strength in depth, it feels as though we have a lot more than in years past. If the first choice front row remains fit and firing (particularly Nel) then we have every chance. Excited to have Barclay back in the mix and the options in both the back row and at centre (with Taylor and Dunbar in) now present some tough choices!
    My team:
    Dickinson Ford Nel Gray Gray Strauss Denton Hardie Laidlaw Russell Seymour Scott Bennett Maitland Hogg.
    Ask me again tomorrow though and I could put Dunbar (or even Taylor) in at the expense of Matt Scott. Also Barclay for Strauss. Maybe even Taylor on the wing at the expense of Maitland or Seymour…
    My cautiousness is that a lot of the squad are as per 6N2015 and we know how that went. A lot rests on the shoulders of Nel and Hardie who both made a massive difference for the World Cup (along with Laidlaw stepping up). Just hope that Russell and Hogg show their best and that increased competition will help (Jackson).

  7. The squad looks awesome. Best I have seen in ages. I am genuinely concerned by form though. Glasgow have been a shadow of their former selves, making me wonder if the absence of the firecracker Matawalu has really stung their tempo. If the form of key players comes back then we are on for one!

    The area that I am most heartened at (providing they are fit) is centre. We have 4 class centres vying for the 2 spots. I have been watching Duncan Taylor really closely and I think he definitely has the edge over Scott. He is a big physical player with some serious pace and some lovely hands. I would almost go as far as saying start him, but then again I would wince at putting him out in front of Bennett and Dunbar who if fit can do some real damage.

    I totally agree with above post regarding key players like Russell and Hogg to fulfil their potential. It could be the key. Anyway, mon the blues. Is 16 years of heartache going to come to an end? I will never forget the moment Scott Gibbs jumped, skipped and hopped through the English 22 and touched down with Jenkins adding the extras to deny England and gift us the trophy. Let’s make it a little less stressful this time!

  8. Serious concerns about the wingers where we have no depth at all. Visser is injured, Lamonts legs have gone, Seymour is off-form, and Maitland doesn’t want to play on the wing. Who does that leave exactly?
    Er……. no one up to the required standard, or a centre playing out of position.

  9. Hogg, Seymour, Bennett, Dunbar, Visser, Russell, Laidlaw
    Denton, Hardie, Barclay, Gray, Gray, Nel, Ford, Dickinson
    Scott, Jackson, SHC, Strauss, Toolis, Fagarson, McInally, Reid

    Need the 3 back replacements given the injuries to the centres, Jackson’s versatility gets him the nod over Weir/Maitland.

  10. I think that this is the first time for a while that we have a forward pack that can compete with just about anyone. These days test matches are often one or lost at the scrum and rolling maul. Strangely our area of strength in recent years looks a little fragile – the backs. Good to see Dunbar return to some form but has some way to go to reach the level of before his knee injury. Bennett will be vital for line breaks. Maitland has been off form for some time now as has Seymour.
    Regarding Glasgow’s poor form, their performance against Northampton at the weekend was close to their best. Although they lost, they were arguably the better team. Hogg was excellent.
    I’m cautiously optimistic for the England game.

  11. Looks like BVC is trying to keep the squad from the world cup together as much as possible, while making a couple of adjustments to shore up the 2nd-line front row. Counting on the unity and established structures within the squad to carry them through against the likes of England, France and Italy, who are likely to have more disjointed teams (I hope!).

    Pragmatic for sure but seems a little conservative. We’re starting to feel a little tired outwide – Lamont – 35! Visser – 29 Seymour and Maitland – 27. Introducing Hoyland into the mix would certainly have livened things up and pushed the likes of Seymour and Maitland to up their game. We also really need to start blooding the next generation – Hoyland, Robbins, Nairn and Howarth are all good prospects.

    Other disappointments are Watson, Price and Eadie. For me the combination of Watson, Hardie and Denton would be so dynamic – with the two Grays in the row, you need a fast paced back row to get wide. Price has been superb of late and had it not been for early season persistence with Hart, I think he would have made the cut. With Eadie, I think he could be what we’ve been looking for at 6 for a while – Strauss doesn’t work at 6: the way he carries, he needs to get his pace up before contact, which an 8 has the opportunity to do, but a 6 tends not to. If Bristol finally get promoted this year, I think he’ll be given the shout.

    I think chat of a dip in form has been slightly exaggerated. The Glasgow backs have been starved of clean, quick ball all season as Glasgow have adjusted to the implementation of new systems and struggled to get anything close to a solid scrum. Add to that the rolling injuries and the introduction of Naiyarovoro has left them grossly imbalanced. Too often they’re trying to cut out the middle men.

    1. Yeah, given the importance of preparation and getting some solid, full contact sessions under the belt in advance of the first game, I wouldn’t be surprised if all of those on the injury list are ruled out of the England game at least, so what looks like a really strong squad suddenly comes paper thin. I think we’re looking at a likely starting line-up against England of:

      15. Hogg;
      14. Lamont
      13. Dunbar
      12. Scott
      11. Taylor
      10. Russell
      9. Laidlaw
      8. Denton
      7. Hardie
      6. Barclay
      5. Gray
      4. Gray
      3. Nel
      2. McArthur
      1. Reid


  12. I think we should be optimistic- Some of the prospective England lineups I have seen have numerous out of form or out of position players. What worries me is the lack of proper alternatives in a few key positions-especially 2nd row and Lamont to me is no longer fast enough for his position and there are plenty of other options available in the centre. I know Russell has been relatively poor recently but a lot of that is because Glasgow are a bit of a shambles compared to last season- I do wonder if maybe Bennett, if fit, should be on the wing rather than Maitland with Taylor at outside centre who is in excellent form and Dunbar at 12
    Barclay at 6 for me in the first game .

  13. Relieved the ban for Wilson didn’t come off, and Swinson only got a week?
    I find it strange though that a punch to the head gets a week but grabbing a bunch gets you twelve if proven?

    1. A punch to the face is honourable manly confrontation. Grabbing of balls is underhand, dirty, disgusting behaviour which should be most highly frowned upon. So fair enough in my book.

  14. if we can repeat some kinda form from the last few games of the world cup we could do well. 6 nations is wide open i think this year wales don’t have as many injury issues as in the world cup so favs, England squad is practically new so who knows what they will be like. France and Ireland have points to prove. italy well anything could happen they came so close to wins last year. Scotland i would like to think we have the confidence to come out fighting from the start and manage to beat England,Ireland or France. and mabey if we repeat our heroics from the world cup against wales who knows. but that prob’s getting carried away lol

  15. A sense of deja vu with this England game.
    It doesn’t seem like 4 years since Lancaster arrived for his first game in charge. A tight game which England won, but Scotland ‘butchered’ the best chances. (Ross Rennie making a clean break but looking for support far too early. )
    If Scotland can somehow win this game, it would give them momentum for the rest of the series. It’s just so important to win the first game.
    I can’t remember when we last won our first game in the 6N, which is worrying.

    1. We last won our first game in the 6N in 2006. At home to France. In fact that was the only time we’ve won the first game in the six nations!
      Even in 1999 when we won the old five nations we lost our first game (away at Twickenham). However we did win our first home game in 1996 so it looks like it’s every ten years… and this is the year!! haha.
      Can’t believe Eddie is saying we’re favourites – The bookies don’t agree.

  16. No, that was the second game in 1999. We won the first against Wales including John Leslie’s first minute try. I watched it on TV in Pakistan!!!!

  17. Interesting article by Eddie Butler in today’s Observer. Familiar themes in there around the strong need to build on the relative success of the last RWC and reflection on what generally has tended to happen in the past when we get ourselves into high optimism mode before a 6N. It’s a sympathetic but not patronising piece, from a commentator and sportswriter I have a lot of time for.
    Who knows what kind of team, tactics and mindsets Eddie Jones is going to present to us on the pitch next Saturday? All I’d say without beginning to disappear down the optimism drain is that England’s likely back row looks a little slow and out of position at least for Test match rugby. Come on, Scotland!

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