Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Scotland v France Player Ratings

John Barclay - pic © Al Ross
John Barclay - pic © Al Ross

Stuart Hogg – Under pressure to take over touch kicking duties from Russell and hit a few wayward ones but improved as the game progressed. Showed his now-reliable finisher’s instinct for the first try. Hoofed a penalty kick from inside his own half in the second half to give Scotland vital breathing space and his overhead pass for Visser’s try was genius too. 9/10

Tommy Seymour – Quiet game due to the French not electing to play an aerial game, also didn’t get a lot of service from inside either. Ever willing and very conscientious in defence. Part of a backline that didn’t get rattled despite Russell’s early departure. 7/10

Duncan Taylor – Important work in defence early on helped set the platform for a good all round game. Made some lovely breaks, none more so than for his first-half try (which was ludicrously sent to the TMO for clarity). A prominent part of the creativity and ruthlessness being developed by Vern Cotter. 8/10

Alex Dunbar – His centre-pairing with Taylor looked a little disjointed at times. That said he marshalled the defensive line well and contributed at the breakdown when needed. Not quite the dynamic presence pre-injury but a solid showing that will improve with time. 7/10

Tim Visser – Yet to reproduce his early season form at Harlequins in a Scotland shirt. That saying his all-round game has improved, meaning he’s no longer cause for heart palpitations in defence or in the air. Took his eleventh try for his country with aplomb on seventy minutes and had an overall good performance. 6/10

Finn Russell – Off after 5 minutes with a head injury assessment. Presumably wasn’t able to recall his name or any of the Scotland backs moves (clue: they’re written on your wrist tape Finn…) Replaced by Horne. n/a

Greig Laidlaw – Abrasive, inspirational to those around him, influential with the referee, solid decision making as captain and metronomically accurate with his goal kicking. Okay, his service may not be as urgent as other scrum halves but Laidlaw’s other qualities make him arguably our most consistently important player. 8.5/10

Josh Strauss – His trademark ‘low-centre-of-gravity-yet-alarmingly-quite-upright-carries’ were a frequent sight and was at times a go-to player in attack. Solid at the breakdown but could do with offering more from the base of the scrum for Scotland. Subbed off for Wilson on the hour mark. 7.5/10

John Hardie – Seemed to be quite anonymous for large swathes of the game but as he tends to play most of his rugby less than one foot off the ground it is often difficult to see his workmanship in action from the stand. Made a hugely important tackle and turnover when the French were camped on the Scottish try line on the hour mark. 7.5/10

John Barclay – Part of an effective back-row unit that scavenged and disrupted all day. Uncharacteristically involved in several heated exchanges off the ball but stuck to his tasks admirably. Provided an option in the lineout too and was, on the whole, a competent and important player for Scotland. 8/10

Jonny Gray – Total warrior in defence and the set pieces. Quietly and unassumingly now a key player for Scotland under Vern Cotter. Takes pride in disrupting opposition mauls and appears completely unintimidated despite facing off against a player with the pedigree and experience of Maestri. 8.5/10

Richie Gray – Industrious and reliable these days as opposed to his former dynamic yet risky self. Had a few barging short-range breaks but really made his mark on this game in the set pieces. He and his brother give such a solid base to scrummage off. Great in the lineouts in both defence and attack as well. Virtually crawled off the pitch on seventy five minutes to be replaced by Tim Swinson. 8/10

Willem Nel – Those regular viewers of Edinburgh Rugby games have seen Nel doing this for a long time. He destroys his opposite number in the scrum. Absolutely destroys them. Around the park he is perfunctory in his duties without standing out. At fault for France’s try before half time but a superb scrummaging display. Replaced by Low on seventy minutes. 8/10

Ross Ford – A couple of shaky early lineouts smoothed themselves out as Scotland took a grip on the game. Part of an immense front row effort. Showed unbelievably good hands to scuttle a low pass at one point and put in some big thumps (including a concussive hit on French replacement prop Pelo which led to him leaving the field minutes after arriving). Replaced by McNally after sixty five minutes. 7.5/10

Alisdair Dickinson – Vital part of Scotland’s world-class front row. Had the French props on toast in the majority of the set pieces. Consistently awesome in defence too. Like the proverbial vintage wine Dicko has matured over time and is now a true world class prop. Made the fabled French ‘scrum kings’ buckle. Outstanding. 9/10


Stuart McNally – On with fifteen minutes to go. Very good in the set pieces and in defence. 6.5/10

Rory Sutherland – Didn’t get on…again. One day, Sudsy, one day… n/a.

Moray Low – Renaissance man Low came on for Nel on seventy minutes and immediately helped win a penalty in the scrum that took the scoreline beyond France. 6.5/10

Tim Swinson – Came on with seventy five minutes gone with France camped on the hosts line. Had a power of work to do and coped well. 6/10

Ryan Wilson – Must have been disappointed to be dropped after his best performance yet for his country in Rome two weeks ago. Came on with twenty minutes left and aided the cause. 6.5/10

Sam Hildago-Clyne – not used. n/a

Peter Horne – Thrown into the mix way earlier than Cotter would have liked. Nice break and offload in the build up to Hoggy’s try. Controlled his backline reasonably well but lacks Russell’s propensity for creative risk taking. Solid display that settled a few nerves. 7/10

Sean Lamont – not used. n/a

33 Responses

  1. These are my player ratings from the great win

    Dickinson 7/10 great in the scrum however ball placement at the breakdown could be improved.
    Ford 7/10 Better today in openplay (that pickup) however lineout still not great and a hook would be great in the scrum.
    Nel 8.5/10 what a player tore the scrum apart and was a wreaking ball in open play
    R Gray 8/10 best game for a while did well to not offload in the buildup to visser’s try
    J Gray 7.5/10 nothing spectacular but still so solid, does so much unseen work
    Barclay 7.5/10 no stand out moments but he certainly helps with the brakdown
    Hardie 7.5/10 Not his best game however some of his hits…ouch
    Strauss 8.5/10 really solid, made meters with every carry, went lower than usual which was good to atop him being held up

    Laidlaw 6.5/10 improved as the game went on but surly pyrgos would offer so much more, also kicking unusually off
    Horne 8.5/10 really stepped up made many half breaks constantly a threat
    Visser 7.5/10 took his try well enough but delayed his tackle on Vakatawa in the build up to the first try
    Dunbar 7.5/10 solid made meters evertime just a class player
    Taylor 8.5/10 oh hows he improved, what a try and solid allround we now have a bit of a dilema with centre choices
    Seymour 7/10 didnt have much to do but everthing he did was brilliant, one brilliant take in the air
    Hogg 9.5/10 No need to comment, just pure talent

    1. Kind of blown away that you’re doubting Laidlaw’s place in the team. He is so important to this side.

      Not to say that Pyrgos isn’t good too and deserves another shot on the Japan tour, but Laidlaw’s is well worth his place and captaincy.

      1. I’m with you FF. I think his leadership has been exceptional. As has been said elsewhere his delivery isn’t the quickest but he brings so much more to the team.

      2. He has certainly got a lot better although if we had another reliable kicker would he still play

      3. Laidlaw gets a lot of hate here but no 9 can make something out of nothing. Note that we all say he has a good game when our forwards get parity with the opposition and provide him with good quality ball. Pyrgos has definitely got parts of his game that are better than Laidlaw but he is the only real challenger for me as SHC, Price and Hart are all a bit young and inexperienced to take over his mantle.

    2. Seriously? Hardie was exceptional and Laidlaw (still 6N top point scorer thus far?) provided a masterclass in the little general 9 philosophy.

  2. Great to see the positive comments. I thought Horne was a stand out today, he made breaks at the right time and he reads play so well. For the Taylor try he was the player on the shoulder offering support because he had the anticipation. And his passing is sharp, low and quick which gets the backs moving slightly quicker than Russell. On today’s showing I think he offers more in run / pass, less when it comes to kicking – if Hogg improves his kicking I could see Horne as a preference at 10.

  3. Actually, a bit invidious to give individual rankings. It was a huge collective effort. We saw nothing really of the French battering ram, on the contrary they came to run the ball. After the first 20 ish they reverted to what is now their type.

    Horne really stepped up – major contribution from him.

    It is a pleasure to watch our games now, even Brian Moore enjoys them.

    We can, and do, score tries, mostly well crafted ones.

    Duncan Taylor, outstanding again. When did we last have a choice of centres as we have now?

  4. Really pleased and proud of Scotland’s performance today. Hogg was really good even if he missed a tackle that let in the French hooker. Great work from the forwards. Taylor where have you been ? I really think we can beat the Irish next week. Good luck boys

  5. Personally I think these scores could be a little higher in many cases! Particularly Hardie. Perhaps (in just a few months) some Scotland fans have become so used to his superb performances that it’s being taken for granted! Thought Strauss was a massive improvement on Denton and clearly the 8 shirt is his to lose now (whilst recognising that Wilson was good in Rome). I was pleased with Dunbar. Also thought JG and RG were superb. Not that the scores above aren’t good – but if the likes of JG are only given 8.5 it makes me wonder how he can get a 9 or 9.5 or 10!

  6. People may not like this but I actually think the ratings are a bit high. Although I think the individual player ratings should be a bit lower, the team performance for me was an 8 or 9. I cannot remember the last time we beat one of the top 4 (England, Wales, Ireland and France) convincingly? This to me is the big step up for Scotland who have in the past relied too heavily on a couple of players playing well.

    This result has to be backed up (hopefully next week but definitely next 6N) if Scotland want to show they have really turned a corner. Ireland will be full of confidence after they smashed Italy – but they are still there for the taking.

    Anyway ratings.

    Hogg – 8.5 – Would have been a 9.5 but missed a tackle which lead to a try and missed a kick to touch which could have been costly. I always wondered why he was not used to kick to touch instead of Russell? He always makes so much more ground!
    Seymour – 6 – can’t say I remember him doing much? Took a couple of high balls well. Class player but just one of those games when he didn’t see much.
    Taylor – 8.5 – Brilliant. It is going to take a lot to shift him from the team. Think the move to 13 got the best out of him. Bit of confidence there as well – not many other players, except the captain, would have taken a quick tap from a penalty. Looks like he is running slowly but is actually quite rapid.
    Dunbar – 6 – good in defence didn’t see much of him in attack. May be close between him an Bennet for next week but I think Cotter will stick with the winning team.
    Visser – 6.5 – did what he is in the team to do – finish. Made his tackles but generally a quiet day for both wingers.
    Horne – 8 – thought he stepped in brilliantly. Don’t think he made a bad decision. A little quieter in the second half.
    Laidlaw – 8.5 – Brilliant again. I think his decision making and leadership takes pressure of our 10 and definitely made it easier for Horne to step in.
    Strauss – 7 – Class player carried well but we all know a 8 or 9 Strauss will be causing a bit more havoc. I do think his leadership is useful in a forward pack lacking a star out leader. Could he be responsible for the improvement in restarts?
    Hardie, Barclay, J Gray, R Gray all a very solid 7. Hard work but no stand out plays.
    Nel and Dickinson – 7.5s – Solid in scrum and both showed some potential in the loose.
    Ford – 6.5 – I believe he can do better..

    1. I tend to agree with you. What I liked most was we didn’t sit back and nervously try to defend our slim lead, we kept attacking, that is something we wouldn’t have done in previous years, we would have booted the leather off the ball and played for territory.

  7. Ecstatic with that performance! Starting with the forwards the front row were terrific, Nel always looks totally done when he comes off, what a shift he puts in. Dickinson has transformed from the mobile but poor scrummaging LH of a few years ago to one of the best looseheads around. Ford was ok, lineout still makes me wince sometimes (although I appreciate this is not necessarily all his fault) and I wish he would hook the damn thing now and then and get us some quick ball. The Grays were fantastic, Richie, who I have been quite critical of recently for not living up to his own high standards of a few years ago, had a blinder, great presence of mind to look for that offload but then have the discipline to not go through with it. Back row were fantastic as well. Hardie was at the bottom of everything that slowed French ball down, was a nuisance to them in the mauls. Barclay was much the same. Strauss carried as well as Denton does but offered a little more elsewhere.

    Laidlaw was brilliant again, I’ll happily have another spoon of humble pie, he mixed things up and was relatively quick. I got the fear when France scored the early try and then Russell went off but Horne filled in admirably, I dare say Russell would have struggled to match his performance, he stood flat and zipped passes out and was a big threat on his own too. I was very impressed with his support play, which is something we often struggle with, he was right on Taylors shoulder for his try and was the guy chasing R Gray that secured the quick ball for Vissers try. If his kicking game was a bit better (or if we let him try) and he puts in performances like this then we have another genuine option at 10. Visser and Seymour were quite quiet as the article says it was not an aerial game and most of our penetrating attacks seemed to be through the 3/4 channels but both did their duties well and Visser was there when it mattered. Dunbar had a solid if unspectacular game, to be expected I suppose, I think the way Horne was playing kind of stole a lot of what Dunbar would have been doing, unsurprising since Horne is a 12. Taylor was excellent again, I love the confidence he plays with, he backs himself to get to the line and does it, this is confidence that regularly winning brings. That leaves Hogg who was in a league of his own, that’s two tries in as many weeks he has assisted with touches of pure class. What I liked about that try is he more or less said he wasn’t entirely sure Visser was there, that’s what having trust in your team mates and not being afraid to try things does, he would have looked a right chump if he flicked the ball into touch.

    1. I noticed the restraint that Richie Gray showed with his non-offload and I believe this is Jason O’Halloran’s influence. When he coached at Manuwatu their team had the least amount of offloads but the highest number of line breaks, and he has been quoted a saying it’s less about rampant offloading and more about choosing when to offload with a lower risk strategy/

  8. Horne did outstandingly, to play 80 mins of test match rugby out of position and fit in so well is amazing.

    Barclay didn’t impress me too much, he is becoming a liability and its not just the penalties he gives away, its where he gives them away (their 22), also is too weak a ball carrier for a 6. Hardie did a lot more and is becoming one of the most important players we have (so much unnoticed work) with even Strauss playing better.

    I think the Visser deserves more than a 6. His defence was very good and he took his try well, he cant do much more if he doest get the ball (and that was the game plan as Seymour didn’t get much as well).

    Lastly people need to relax about Laidlaw, he is a good captain with an accurate boot but he isn’t that important to us. He is slow to recycle, box kicks to much, and doesn’t snipe enough. No offence to him, I think he has been great for us, but I wouldn’t go tugging him off every time we win. Espesh with his age we need to start giving other 9’s more time otherwise we will be in trouble in the future.

    1. Callum. Sorry pal, I like to hear/read other people’s opinions, but I think you are well off the mark re Barclay and Laidlaw. Barclay a liability? Come on, he has been fantastic since he was brought in from the cold. Watch the recording again, but specifically watch Barclay, and Hardie. Work rate is incredible. Granted they didn’t win as many turnovers as they did in Italy, but against a forward orientated and smart French team they put in an enormous shift. Penalties? Yes he will give them away, he’s a back rower on the edge of the laws. He (as did the rest of the eight) stood up to France’s attempts at intimidation and provided leadership. For me me he was one of a super team effort. As for Laidlaw. How many box kicks? He had an eye for gaps and when he has been ‘crabbing’ in recent games it has been a deliberate ploy to try and open those gaps in solid defences. I have been critical of him in the past, but now we seem to have more forward momentum and front foot ball he has come in to his own. I’m not saying he’s not irreplaceable, but when all are fit and available I think he gets the nod. I agree we need to get the others, SHC and Pyrgos, being the two front runners, some game time, but this 6N is not the time for that. Let’s get some positive results behind us, build confidence and belief and use the summer tour and autumn internationals to develop more options. Horne? 100% agree. A fantastic stand in performance, he is a smart, clever rugby tactician and deserves a lot of plaudits.

    2. Totally agree with your comments re Barclay and Laidlaw. Barclay has been ok but an in-form Denton or possibly Hamish Watson could have more impact.

      Laidlaw looks mediocre when we play well (and exceptionally poor when we play badly), but the team could really improve with a good scrum-half. I’m not sure we have one coming through.

  9. All you Laidlaw doubters out there should get a grip,Here was the smallest guy on the pitch not taking one backward step against some of the biggest players in the modern game,he must have cojones the size of melons.He has become a great on pitch leader as shown by the respect his team mates give him.
    Maybe some of you should try to give him a bit of credit instead of constantly sniping.

    1. Having watched the game another time – Laidlaw made so many critical tackles. On at least 4 occasions he prevented certain breakaways and try scoring opportunities by bringing down vastly bigger men who were heading for gaps in our defence.

    2. Great he’s the smallest man on the pitch and takes a few hits.

      Why not get someone bigger and then we wouldn’t have to constantly admire his ability to get up after having been whacked.

  10. I haven’t trawled through all of the stats for every team, so I stand to be corrected and may find that someone else has done better. But Jonny grey has made 58 tackles during this 6 nations and missed none. That’s 320 minutes of international rugby making a tackle, on average, every 5 and a half minutes or so (ish)and not missing one. That is just incredible isn’t it?

    1. Hey Deflated,

      I’ve had a trawl. Nobody’s done better.

      According to the fine people at Accenture, Gray’s made more tackles (58) than anybody in the tournament, and he hasn’t missed one. Faletau’s second with 56, but he’s missed four.

      The only other players not to miss a tackle (having made more than 20) are Zanni (44 tackles) and Charteris (24, in 2 and a bit games). Heaslip’s stats (50 tackles, 1 missed) are also not too shabby.

      But however you look at it, wee Jonny is the tackling king.

      Here’s the top ten (Hardie also makes it – he misses a lot but he’s always going for that big hit):

      Jonny Gray 58 0 100%
      Taulupe Faletau 56 4 93%
      Sam Warburton 51 4 93%
      Francesco Minto 51 6 89%
      Jamie Heaslip 50 1 98%
      John Hardie 50 8 86%
      James Haskell 48 2 96%
      George Kruis 48 7 87%
      Jack McGrath 47 4 92%
      Alun Wyn Jones 47 8 85%

      1. Jonny is a big loss to us, and after reading those stats I now know why.
        With Denton out (his tackling is better than either Strauss or Wilson), his brother Richie, and whoever gets picked at 8, will have to step up to the mark. Otherwise our two scavengers (Barclay and Hardie) will not be as effective, having to put in the tackles rather than get over the ball as 2nd man in. (See “Scotland slowing the ball” on Accenture’s website about Scotland v Ireland.).

      2. Angerine. You’ve obviously got more patience than me to take the time. Good info. I giggled at your term ‘wee’ Jonny, an affectionate term, I assume, as opposed to descriptive.

      3. Cheers Deflated. I think the phrase you’re looking for is “too much time on my hands”…

  11. Also worth pointing out that although he had a quiet day overall in attack, Seymour is now very good defensively and it was him who earned the penalty that Taylor tapped and went with (thanks Tom English).

  12. Misc. thoughts:

    We beat France, with room to spare! France even played well.

    Hogg – take a bow.

    Tend to agree with Callum on Barclay. Too many penalties at bad moments in bad positions. That is old Scotland and has to stop. On another day we would have been ruing the try before half time.

    Laidlaw – well played! But after this tournament it has to be Pyrgos or SHC, with Russell kicking. Let’s build for the world cup.

    Stand-off, hopefully now goes: Russell, Horne or Jackson. Horses for courses as someone else said. Loved Horne’s breaks and the supporting / blocking run for the Taylor try. Nonetheless Russell is first choice at Glasgow and first choice for Scotland. He makes the same sorts of breaks and is more than just a once in a generation passer. Even Horne makes the odd mistakes, e.g. the pass to Ford (great pick up), Italy last year.

    Centre, wow: Taylor, Dunbar, Horne, Scott, Vernon. Lamont makes space in the squad for Bennett, maybe even replacing Dunbar who was quiet to keep the starting xv fresh…

    Wing lacks depth: Seymour, Visser, Maitland. But with Taylor, surely Dunbar and even Hogg able to do a job there I think we’re fine.

    So, with class and promising back up in every position, only Hooker looks weak. And right now it doesn’t seem to matter that we cannot hook due to sheer power. But Vern, please, please, please fix the lineout somehow!

    Bring on Ireland :) Who’s the ref???

    1. Luckily for us the Ireland game is being reffed by a Craig Joubert, so nothing to talk about there really.

    2. I think with McInally, Brown and MacArthur as back ups we have reasonable stocks at hooker. The first two have the potential to emerge from Ford’s shadow as serious test players. James Malcolm looks good for a young guy too, I imagine we’ll not have to worry too much about this position for a few years.

      Wing is the obvious weak spot. Hoyland is callow but has real pace and a little star dust, I hope he gets called up for the summer tour. Brown, Jones and Hughes have probably peaked at pro-12 level. Hopefully Farndale will return from his 7s stint ready to fulfil his junior promise. Longer term we should be ok with Robbins and Nairn too bright prospects coming through but they might not be ready until after the World Cup. Looks like no quick fixes here…

      1. I must say I think Lee Jones’ recent performances since coming back from 7s have been terrific and if there is another wing injury, he would definitely be my man to call up. Great to see him bring the continuity aspects of 7s as well as his defensive improvement to his Glasgow performances – he’d provide international level cover and must be pushing for a spot in Japan.

      2. For me the future match day hookers will be McInally & Turner. Brown just doesn’t have the accuracy at the line-out for international rugby, though I think he’s a great player (still convinced he’s a properly quality 7). Malcolm has looked a little ropey in that area too, but plenty of time to improve.

        Hoyland has something unique, which I feel we should expect as standard from all our internationals going forward (no more journeymen now we’ve joined the pro era properly). Robbins has serious talent but he’s a natural FB rather than a wing, though with Kinghorn at Ed, he may have to make do with being a back 3 super sub for a while. Nairn is a flyer but coming to the game late may mean his rugby brain might not be as sharp. Actually think Jones has been way underrated – he’s brought loads to Glasgow since Taqele has been exposed for the mistake he was.


        Hugh Fraser is going to be a real star for Scotland – So composed and damn accurate in the pass, but also looks to attack himself when it’s on. SHC will have huge competition at Edinburgh when he comes through. On the flip side, I think Weir will help SHC massively as he won’t tolerate sloppy service for a second.

        Fly Half – Almost the whole U20s are fly-halfs – Hastings, Hutchinson (huge potential), Galbraith, Kinghorn and Howarth are all capable 10s. We’re going to have a banquet of possible playmakers in a few years. Also, Weir has been on fire for Glasgow – for all the talk of him not being an attacking 10, he’s scored 2 tries in the last 3 games…

        Matt Smith – formidable mix of attack and defence – will make a seamless replacement for Hardie.

        Scott Cummings – Just a smidgeon lighter than the Grays, will offer us extra dynamism around the park. Could solve the current restart crisis and help at lineouts by being quicker across the turf and easier to lift (Having played with Richie, I can tell you lifting a Gray is no easy task).

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