Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Scotland Teams to Face France

Josh Strauss - pic © Al Ross/Novantae Photography
Josh Strauss - pic © Al Ross/Novantae Photography

Alex Dunbar and Josh Strauss have been brought into Vern Cotter’s Scotland squad to try and match the physicality of the French runners, with Strauss set to make his debut in a Scotland shirt at Murrayfield. Ryan Wilson, who impressed against Italy, moves to the bench.

In the midfield, Dunbar will start at 12 with Duncan Taylor moving to 13. It represents a hard-running midfield with two fairly similar styles but also the two in-form players – although Dunbars form streak is pretty short having just come back from injury.

So we may see little change of tactic from the main attacking lines coming from Finn Russell linking directly to the back three. Mark Bennett, having been arguably the least impressive Scotland back of the tournament so far, has made way altogether with Pete Horne offering the zip from the bench.

There’s no space on the bench for Henry Pyrgos to offer Cotter a more tried-and-tested (or trusted?) replacement for Laidlaw so we’re probably also going to see the likes of Greig and WP Nel playing for close to the full 80 as they have before.

Elsewhere the team is unchanged with the players who tasted success against Italy keen to do the same in front of a BT Murrayfield crowd.

15. Stuart Hogg (Glasgow Warriors) – 41 caps; 9 tries, 2 pens, 51 points
14. Tommy Seymour (Glasgow Warriors) – 25 caps; 13 tries, 65 points
13. Duncan Taylor (Saracens) – 15 caps; 1 try, 5 points
12. Alex Dunbar (Glasgow Warriors) – 14 caps; 4 tries, 20 points
11. Tim Visser (Harlequins) – 24 caps; 10 tries, 50 points
10. Finn Russell (Glasgow Warriors) – 18 caps; 2 tries, 3 cons, 1 pen, 19 points
9. Greig Laidlaw CAPTAIN (Gloucester) – 49 caps; 4 tries, 61 cons, 115 pens, 487 points
1. Alasdair Dickinson (Edinburgh Rugby) – 55 caps; 2 tries, 10 points
2. Ross Ford (Edinburgh Rugby) – 97 caps; 2 tries, 10 points
3. Willem Nel (Edinburgh Rugby) – 11 caps; 1 try, 5 points
4. Richie Gray (Castres) – 54 caps; 2 tries, 10 points
5. Jonny Gray (Glasgow Warriors) – 22 caps; 1 try, 5 points
6. John Barclay (Scarlets) – 48 caps; 4 tries, 20 points
7. John Hardie (Edinburgh Rugby) – 8 caps; 3 tries, 15 points
8. Josh Strauss (Glasgow Warriors) – 6 caps

16. Stuart McInally (Edinburgh Rugby) – 5 caps
17. Rory Sutherland (Edinburgh Rugby) – uncapped
18. Moray Low (Exeter Chiefs) – 30 caps
19. Tim Swinson (Glasgow Warriors) – 20 caps
20. Ryan Wilson (Glasgow Warriors) – 16 caps
21. Sam Hidalgo-Clyne (Edinburgh Rugby) – 9 caps
22. Pete Horne (Glasgow Warriors) – 16 caps; 2 tries, 1 con, 1 pen, 15 points
23. Sean Lamont (Glasgow Warriors) – 103 caps; 14 caps, 70 points

UPDATE: here’s the French team, which is unfortunately the strongest they’ve fielded so far:

France: Scott Spedding, Wesley Fofana, Gael Fickou, Maxime Mermoz, Virimi Vakatawa, Francois Trinh-Duc, Maxime Machenaud; Jefferson Poirot, Guilhem Guirado (capt), Rabah Slimani, Alexandre Flanquart, Yoann Maestri, Wenceslas Lauret, Yacouba Camara, Damien Chouly
Replacements: Camille Chat, Uini Antonio, Vincent Pelo, Sebastien Vehaamahina, Loann Goujon, Sebastien Bezy, Jules Plisson, Maxime Medard

Meanwhile Scotland Under 20s head coach John Dalziel has made six changes to his team as they prepare to face their French counterparts at Broadwood this Friday (kick-off 8pm) – coverage provided live on – possibly a live stream. Zander Fagerson joins a seasoned core with professional experience that illustrate just how far the academies and Exiles system have brought our age-grade sides – it’s not too difficult to recall a time when a lot of the the clubs listed were schools whereas now there are a much higher proportion in pro academies, sevens caps and now Fagerson has a full international cap. Were it not for the selection travesty against Wales that saw a squad depleted by pro-call ups fall off in the second half, these boys could be on a Grand Slam challenge.

15. Ruairi Howarth (Gala), 14. Ben Robbins (Currie), 13. Rory Hutchinson (Northampton Saints), 12. Tom Galbraith (Melrose), 11. Darcy Graham (Hawick), 10. Adam Hastings (Bath Rugby), 9. Hugh Fraser (Heriot’s); 1. Murray McCallum (Heriot’s), 2. Jake Kerr (Boroughmuir), 3. Zander Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors), 4. Callum Hunter-Hill (Stirling County), 5. Scott Cummings CAPTAIN (Glasgow Hawks), 6. Andrew Davidson (Glasgow Hawks), 7. Matt Smith (Glasgow Hawks), 8. Ally Miller (Melrose)

Replacements: 16. Lewis Anderson (Ayr), 17. George Thornton (Bishop Burton College), 18. Callum Sheldon (Leeds Beckett University), 19. Stephen Ainslie (Currie), 20. Scott Burnside (Boroughmuir), 21. Ruaridh Dawson (Newcastle Falcons), 22. George Taylor (Melrose), 23. Robbie Nairn (Harlequins)

A live stream via Scottish Rugby website youtube will appear here:

41 Responses

  1. For the first time this tournament I think we can just about call that as our strongest starting XV possible (Gilchrist possibly aside). I think Dunbar for Bennett would get majority agreement. Big call to start Strauss over Wilson but again I feel it is the right call (Wilson physicality later in the game could be very useful in what is sure to be a bruising encounter). The rest pretty much picks itself at the moment. Not one for predictions but I really fancy us to win and, (dare I say it), win well. I can see us having (at least) parity in the pack and we can certainly create space and opportunities in the backs. As ever, being clinical when opportunity arises will be the key (and cutting out errors, particularly re-starts and line-outs). Sounds familiar doesn’t it?

  2. Good team, well done Vern. Indifferent over Strauss / Wilson starting. Perhaps Wilsons speed will be useful later in the game, also less chance for him to get sent off! Bennett has been the least effective back and it is the right decision to drop him, an outright dropping is a bit harsh but Horne offers more cover from the bench and deserves his chance too.

    Its all down to the guys now. I really think we have the potential in the backline to cut the French to ribbons but we will really need to front up. The breakdown has been a big area of improvement for us over the last year (Hardie coming in and Barclay coming back has certainly helped) but this will be a big test.

    I can’t wait for this weekend, Wales / England should be a cracker, I see Eddie WUM Jones is already stirring the pot about Wales scrummaging. A few years ago it was the opposite, they weren’t taking the hit and getting the other team penalised for going early, I seem to remember us being on the receiving end of that strategy despite much complaining to the ref!

  3. Can’t really argue with that considering that was the team we were all hoping for prior to the Italy game. Wilson unlucky to be dropped after his first half performance but think Strauss’s carrying game will be key in fronting up against the French pack. Bennett has been off form so Dunbar rightly takes his shirt. We could be in a whole world of trouble if one of our front row, particularly Nel goes down with an injury early on. I think we can put a couple of tries past France though – cautiously optimistic.

    1. Agreed on best team to start
      Hope for great impact from Wilson and Horne in 2 nd half

  4. Cracking starting XV, but shame there is no devil on the bench in the form of Bennett or Jackson for Lamont. Fagerson in the U20s at least. I suppose Pyrgos is only one game back and both Strauss and Dunbar had to wait a few.

  5. I know Pyrgos is just back, but still think I’d have him on the bench ahead of SHC. Feel a bit for Bennett. Just one (allbeit terrible) moment away from a real return to form game for Warriors last week. Guess dem’s the onions though. Other than Pyrgos (and understandable lack of cover for front row) I’m pretty happy with the team.

  6. Looks like a good team to put our.

    Maybe personally difficult for Bennet to get dropped right out of the squad but it’s clear he’s (part of) the future for Scotland. He’s not looked great so perhaps some time at home playing back into form with Glasgow will be good for him. He’s got lots of caps to collect in the future and lots of competition so this might give him the time to go away and get himself back on an even keel after his injury which I think we rushed him back for.

    Nice to be able to decide that dropping one of our best players for reasons of form is actually something we can do. Aside from the Cusiter/Blair/Lawson conundrum we had at 9 for a while, cannot remember us being in that position for a long time.

    1. Has he been dropped because Horne/Lamont are more versatile? It seems harsh for him to be completely out of the squad, presuming it’s because Horne can cover 10, while Lamont can do 15, wing and centre

      1. MRAK. I think you’ve called it. Lamont can cover centre, wing or FB and Horne FH centre and, at a push, wing. Bennet is an out and out centre (possibly fill in at wing). So I think the call is right and this should also answer Not Rocket Sciences comment regarding dropping out Lamont for Bennet. If all were on form then it would be a right teaser to decide the centre partnership between Dunbar, Bennet, Taylor, Horne and Scott with back up from Lamont, Vernon and a host of new faces coming on to the scene. Its been a while since we have been in such a good position.

  7. Made my prediction on the last article, and although I had a slightly different XV predicted I’m still very happy with this team. Still feel that Dunbar and Taylor could be too similar but the idea that we are matching the French’s size it makes sense, and unlike previous years, we are adapting to opponents but without losing sight of our own strengths and game plan. Also, the thought that we’re playing two natural 7’s and Dunbar and Taylor in the centres, we should be reaching pretty high figures in turn overs, an area which we typically struggle with, at both international and club level against the big french packs.
    Disappointed again with the over-looking of Toolis as an option, but oh well. Hope Wilson can bring some impact, I’m still not convinced he’s got the quality of our other options, but I’m willing to be proved wrong. I’d still have Jackson over Horne on the bench, but not so much that I’d make a big deal out of it. I’d also have Maitland over Lamont, but Lamont never lets you down.
    So overall as it has been said, this team pretty much picks itself and is playing so well that there is little to complain about, not sure if thats a good thing or not with the amount we like to moan haha

    1. I have a feeling that Maitland (and Cowan) are in the naughty corner. I found it strange that they both called of injured for the Italy game, but were able to play for LI the day after and, apparently they are now out in the states for LIs premiership showcase game. I suspect there is a loyalty question being asked and think it may be a while before they are back on VCs radar.

      1. I suspect there is a bit of politics here . Based on form we do not need either of them IMO. London Irish are sitting firmly at the bottom of the premiership and need all their elite players to change that. So who declared them injured , why and do we need them enough to make an issue of it ? Lets hope their form improves and we can optimise our investment in their contracts.They need the game time and we need them to be in much better form. Win / win for me.

  8. France team announced, and I fully fancy our chances. Poirot retains the loosehead shirt which is probably good news for our scrum. They’ve made the right call of dropping incumbent lump Jonathan Danty for Mermoz but have bafflingly started Fofana on the wing and dropped Medard for Spedding, Medard having been one of there best (most sane) players. Vakatawa remains which is strange. Despite all his natural talent either France are totally using him wrong, or he has no idea how 15s works still. Never seen a winger with so many pick and goes. Over all, our chances are good. If we can let our attacking energy out then France’s typical lethargy shouldn’t dampen us like it did to Italy and Wales.

    1. I think France have a total lack of wingers at the moment, which is why Vakatawa is starting with Fofana on the other wing. Also Spedding isn’t great attacking but decent defensively. They announced their team after us so maybe a sign of respect they’re putting more defensive players in?

    2. Agree , the French backs look a bit unbalanced and Medard seemed to be involved in everything remotely threatening 2 weeks ago. I for one will be holding my breath when he comes off the bench. I think TD can conduct any orchestra and get a decent tune so we need to starve them of the ball and stop them getting into any stride. I just hope Glen Jackson is a firm and consistent ref.

  9. I feel for Bennett, but agree he loses out to the versatility of Horne and Lamont. Be interesting to see when those boys come on. Barring injuries, if it’s an early Horne (excuse the pun) then Big Vern is going for the jugular. If it’s Lamont then that’s trying to close the game out.
    It’s great to see we have a settled team with options in midfield – I cannot remember the last time I could say that!

  10. Yes, this looks a good selection. As someone else said, it’s good to have genuine competition now for places among high quality players even though it’s a shame some will inevitably lose out. I too was puzzled by Fofana’s selection on the wing – but he is a truly class act, capable of producing something from nothing moments. Come on, Scotland!

  11. No matter what France bring to the match I think we have a team that can win regardless if we stick to our strengths, which is a good place to be. We are on the verge of being annual contenders for the 6N over the coming years if we can get these vital wins and create the right mentality. Our resources are less than that of the other 6N but we are also there or there abouts in most games, if we can mentally win the game before we play On Sunday I believe we can win well on the pitch. I’d happily chip in to a crowd funded campaign for sports psychologists to get us over the mental aspect! Feel confident about Sunday though

  12. Toolis & Pygros over Swinson & SHC on bench would be the only 2 changes I’d have made. Little option otherwise.

  13. I’m sure Fofana played on the wing a couple of years ago and looked utterly out of position – he’s still dangerous but I’d rather seem him there than in the midfield (famous last words). Mermoz is very good but defensively, Dunbar and Taylor should be strong. Spedding must be in for his long range penalties Medard very unlucky and usually plays well against us.

    Team and bench looks balanced and I hope Strauss gets some good carries!
    Succumbing to optimism again!

  14. A very nice looking lineup. Agree with Rory that this is a selection picked to deal with France’s physicality, but there is still plenty of verve and creativity there to play our own game. Just caught the Glasgow Cardiff game on iplayer last night and thought Bennett actually had a really good game, the one incident aside. If this game opens up it could have really suited him, but all in all the strategy here looks decent. If/when France tire bringing on Horne, who can spark a bit of magic, could be inspired indeed. I think Wilson has the bench as he covers more positions that Strauss and we’ll want Jock’s carrying to even up the bosh factor for the main part. I also just caught the Edinburgh game last night. Still failing to fully convince all round, but am loving the understanding between big Cornell and Hoyland. Noticing more and more effective moves where they switch between provider and finisher. Finally… I am not as despondent about our back three depth as others – Jones, Brown, Hoyland and Hughes are all playing well and offer back up for the 4 test wingers.

    1. don’t really see Brown, Jones and Hughes as international quality yet – Hoyland and Kinghorn are more in that bracket

      1. I’m talking from the perspective of 5th choice winger and below. It would never be ideal to have none of the first 3 or 4 unavailable, but the situation is not desperate in my eyes. I agree that Hoyland (and Kinghorn at 15) probably has the most potential.

  15. If ever there was a time for Strauss to deliver on his promise Sunday is it :-)

    I’d prefer to see Pyrgos over SHC but BVC may think its too soon for him to come back. I think Lamont is on the bench instead of Bennett (or Horne if he wasn’t starting) for his versatility as has already been mentioned but also maybe because of his bulk? Its no secret that the French have been smashing their way through games and it just feels that Taylor and Dunbar have been picked for extra grunt and perhaps Lamont has as well.

  16. Will be great to see Dunbar back in a Scotland jersey. I regard him as one of the, if not the best, centres in NH rugby.

  17. As I’ve said earlier Dunbar would be my Lions 12 (Roberts is a great player but Dunbar has more to his game).
    The only way Bennett would have joined the 23 would’ve been if BVC thought Hogg could/can play 10 (which he obviously doesn’t).
    Lacking a wee bit in the back 3.

    France have been terrible in this 6N & could/should been winless so far.

    If Scotland lose BVC will be saying/thinking AGAIN “Its hard to get a handle on this team” TOO BLOODY TRUE VERN

    1. Jocky. Sorry but “lacking a wee bit in the back three”? Hogg Seymour and Visser? Lacking what exactly? The only doubt is whether their on their game. If they are, it is a frightening (for the opposition) back three. Hogg has the x factor and can make something from nothing, solid defensively and with an excellent boot. Seymour is electric going forward, safe under the high ball (England game aside) and a strong tackler, Visser is a try machine and despite being ‘shaky’ defensively the last couple of years he has massively improved in that aspect of his game since moving South. So I think your comment is slightly off.

  18. Delighted that Dunbar has got a start. He offers attacking flair added to solid defence but he’s also like another 7 (and we’ve got 2 of those already). So expect lots of quick turnovers. Shame for Wilson who played so well 2 weeks ago but I hear that he has a sprained ankle so would be risky as a starter. Strauss has earned a start given his recent Glasgow form.

  19. Fairly pleased that Picamoles and Huget are both injured. Particularly Huget who has won recent games against us almost single handed.
    Shame that Trin Doch is playing, as he’s a class act and a much better player than Plesset who played in the last three.
    The Scotland team looks to have been picked on form for a change and is strong in the centre.
    Think some of you boys need to take the blinkers off. McCosker of Ulster has been the form centre all year, and Dunbar would need to get back to best form to get in front of him. I’d prefer Dunbar/McCosker than other options.

    1. McCloskey is very good. Sure to feature heavily for Ireland in the future. Saying that, I think he’s had a relatively injury free season, so it’s hard to make fair comparisons.

      1. McCLoskey is a good player but he has won one cap for Ireland and then been dropped for fit-again Jared Payne. No way he’d be chosen at the moment as he’s virtually untested at the top level in a position of strength for the Lions.

      2. Yes really. Roberts is a one trick pony. It’s a strong trick, but battering ram rugby is all it is.

  20. Deflated

    Back three cover……..

    Hogg, Seymour & Visser are excellent but one of them (heaven forbid Hogg) goes off & Lamont comes on & much less threat.

    Interesting to read elsewhere in this site about Ben Robbins, watched the you tube highlights & I know the level he was playing but he’s got real pace

  21. This match is a chance for a real turning point for this team and in the last three matches against the French we have had our chances and threw them away no more so than last time the French played at Murrayfield with Duncan Weir panicking and throwing an interception try to Huget. I believe this team is far more mature now, more belief, yet need to take that step. They’ll be on top at some stage probably near the beginning and we need to be calm, cool and break their spirits. Visser, Hogg are due tries and Seymour’s score record is second to none right now. I think Scotland will score at least three tries today the question is can we keep them out. Our discipline should be good but Scotland need to not get hit with the cheap shots today. An aside is that a Scotland win today will hand England the championship on a plate, this win is so important that this is a necessary evil for a team that needs to win, clear and simple.

    I hope the referee has a good game and Glen Jackson will have more experience than he did when he did his first Six nations Game at Murrayfield last year. He was too quick to blow the whistle when SHC broke and Bennet touched down and missed the yellow card for the high tackle to stop the try. That killed the game as a contest and we have to hope that either a big decision doesn’t go against Scotland or we are too far away for it to effect the team. I am quietly confident but that is always a worrying place to be. Let this finally be the time we don’t have that awful empty feeling of what could have been?

    1. I’m afraid to say that the entire group of officials have track records of bias (perception or otherwise) against Scotland. Jackson was awful last year, Barnes after-dinner shtick includes several snide gags at our expense and Ben Skeen the TMO is also one who has screwed us over. Scotland will be playing against more than just a French side who will be itching to bury us. Still, where there’s life, there’s hope….

      1. Re: the officials, the West Stand Linesman was at it all game, every France kick for touch was boosted by 5 metres, every one of ours by 5 metres back towards our own line. All game.

  22. I,be seen continuos steady improvement over last seasons six nations, the world schampionships and so far in this seasons six nations. I can only congratulate Vern Cottar and all the players. They have put it all together with their hard work and dedication. Nothing comes easy. They had a good World Cup but let things slip at the start of the Six Nations but have turned things around step by step. VC is the panacea. There is more to come. Believe it.


  23. I have to say something more. I would give man of the match to Peter Horne. Without a doubt he came on after a few minutes and fitted in seamlesly. He doesn’t normally play ten. Magnificent.

    1. Horne was tremendous. Having him attacking the line made holes and fixed the defence. Tremendous work by him and an welcome selection quandry for the Irish game

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