Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Prop concern for Cotter and Scotland

Scotland coaching staff - pic © Al Ross
Scotland coaching staff - pic © Al Ross

With just over a week to go until the Autumn Test series gets underway, the front row appears to be where Vern Cotter will have his biggest headaches.

With Edinburgh pair Rory Sutherland and WP Nel already ruled out of the series, and Alastair Dickinson included in the squad despite not having played since the tour to Japan, Alex Allan has today joined the squad as “precautionary injury cover.”

The former Edinburgh man was perhaps unlucky to miss out on the original squad, Allan Dell originally preferred as back-up to Gordon Reid, but to call up Allan 10 days away from the series opener against Australia suggests serious concerns over Dickinson’s fitness.

There’s no doubt the Wallabies’ scrum has improved but Nel and Dickinson made mincemeat of it in the World Cup. A more pressing issue could be getting the 58-cap loosehead veteran Dickinson ready for the November 19 battle with Argentina, who will travel with one of world rugby’s most feared scrums.

Al Dickinson - pic © Al Ross
Al Dickinson now seems likely to miss the Australia game – pic © Al Ross

It has to be assumed that Gordon Reid will don the number 1 jersey for the Wallabies clash next Saturday, but it now looks increasingly likely that the uncapped Dell or one-cap Allan may back him up from the bench.

The tighthead side is no less of a concern, with Moray Low being used as a loosehead by his club side, Exeter Chiefs, in recent weeks and not playing much first team rugby – Low has played in just 3 matches so far this season, 2 in Europe.

That means Low is short of match practice on his preferred side, but the former Glasgow Warrior does have a wealth of experience, including 34 caps for his county.

Zander Fagerson struggled on his Test bow against England in the Six Nations, but he has bounced back well with Glasgow this year and will be pushing for a starting place.

Zander Fagerson - pic © Al Ross/Novantae Photography
Zander Fagerson made his Test debut against England earlier this year- pic © Al Ross/Novantae Photography

Given the lack of Test experience among the likely reserve loosehead and at hooker, with Fraser Brown and Stuart McInally sharing just 26 caps and five starts between them, may mean Fagerson is handed his first Test start against the Wallabies, with Low providing cover from the bench.

Cotter has also to ponder the make-up of his centre pairing and wingers to join Stuart Hogg in the back-three, or whether he selects Tim Swinson or Grant Gilchrist on the bench, but the front-row is sure to give him plenty of headaches before the team is announced in a week’s time.

Expect Reid and Fagerson, the Glasgow Warriors props, to start against the Wallabies, with Low and Dell providing the back-up.

25 Responses

  1. Watched Bath v Exeter at the weekend and Low was awful. Penalised at every scrum and subbed shortly after half time. Understandable maybe due to his inexperience at loosehead but raises serious concerns for Scotland.

    Odd to think that Nel only qualified just over a year ago and has become such an integral member of the team. I think we’re just going to have to persevere with Fagerson/Low and try not to get sucked into an arm-wrestle, particularly against Argentina and Georgia

    1. Georgia is the big worry, as Argentina by now have a plan B so don’t need to rely on scrums nearly as much – although any team worth their research will have spotted the potential weakness with the first choice front row missing. Big chance for Fagerson, Dell or Allan to lay down a marker if they are given a game…

      1. Yes and if we’re really frank, we can lose to Australia and Argentina and still end up 8th in RWC rankings. Lose to Georgia and we’ll need to have our best 6N in a decade just to have a sniff – lose by more than 15pts and they’d go above us in the rankings! So, there is one must win game this autumn and it is our last one in Killie.

  2. Typical that just as our backline is looking as good as it has for many a year then we have a crisis with our front row!

    I have faith that Fagerson can do a job – he’s not as effective a scrummager as Nel not many are, but he’s better in the loose. Dickinson can hopefully shore up loosehead for an hour and Reid has looked in ok form for Glasgow but any injuries will be very unwelcome.

    Unfortunately (in my opinion) BVC will start with Ford for a bit of extra oomph in the scrum, but there his usefulness ends – his throwing is typically wobbly, he can’t hook, and I have always felt he is overrated in the loose. Please, please, please get Stuart McInally in there!!!!!

    I would like to see us line up with Dicko, McInally, Fagerson, Gray, Gray, Harley, Watson, Strauss, Laidlaw, Russell, Seymour, Dunbar, Bennett, Maitland, Hogg

    1. I believe McInally is on the bench for Edinburgh which unless Fraser B is similar for Glasgow I doubt he is in the 23. Personally I would have FB ahead of McInally and given the likely inexperience of the front row for the Oz game I wouldn’t be surprised if Ford is starting.

      1. Ford has to start for me, as you’ve said his experience is invaluable when you consider the relative inexperience of those around him. Brown would edge the bench spot for now, but great to have strength in depth in a position we’ve been light in for years

    2. Not a bad side at all, that. Feel Maitland may edge Visser due to his defensive captabilities, but interesting you’ve gone for Harley & Watson in the back row.
      Wilson is a favourite of VC’s and I’d expect to see him in the side, but 7 is a different story – Hardie not on form but proved at Test level how good he is. Big risk asking Watson to ‘fetch’ on his own, potentially vs Pocock and Hooper?

      1. I feel that Watson is in terrific form so I reckon is a better shout than Hardie. BVC will go for Hardie which nobody could moan at as he has been one of our best over the past few tests. Harley I think is a bit more of a pest and less of a yellow card risk than Wilson. Strauss has looked in terrific form and justifies a run at 8.

        My only other area that gave me pause was outside centre – I feel Taylor is going to be short of match fitness and Bennett is looking more like his old self. I would have no issue if Jones was starting though, I’ve watched a few videos of him and he has amazing pace and quick feet – a proper modern centre.

  3. Spent a couple of hours on Sat stoating aimlessly through the hell on earth that is Glasgow City centre on a Saturday afternoon, and find it almost laughable that we seem to have run out of props given the waddling girth of the swarms of tracksuited men heaving themselves up and down Buchanan St…I’ll tell you where the next generation all are, they’re all hanging about with their Mums outside H&M wondering why they don’t do 40″x28″ school trousers.

    Scotland I think need to take a Glasgow approach to scrums, get the ball in and out quickly rather than getting involved in a shoving contest. Lock the legs, ‘HOOK’ the ball and get it out. To that ends, would make sense to have a tight 5 from Glasgow starting – for me, Brown is performing at a level miles ahead of both McInally and Ford.

    On opposition ball, we’ll be targetted no doubt, But Ragnar the terrible, Brown and Reid have aquitted themselves well this year against some big units, so they deserve a crack.

    1. I agree totally. Scotland’s front row has been brilliant and a real strong point for the team under Cotter.
      However, without a hooker who can hook you leave yourselves vulnerable against bigger packs or when depleted through injuries. After all, I presume that the ability to hook would not prevent the hooker from being able to play the ‘shoving contest’ tactic when appropriate.
      I feel it is necessary to get the young hookers hooking as soon as possible to allow this variety of options, hopefully C.Flynn can help develop the upcoming hookers at Glasgow in that regard.

  4. “Lock the legs, ‘HOOK’ the ball and get it out.”

    Ford hasn’t hooked a ball for five years ( I would guess under instruction ).

    All we need is one video session for the pack showing what Japan did in the RWC to the Boks.

    Or 15 minutes with Andy N if he’s free, because his point is spot on.

  5. I’d go
    Hogg, Seymour, Jones, Dunbar, Visser, Russell, Laidlaw
    Strauss, Watson, Hardie, J.Gray, R.Gray, Fagarson, Brown, Reid.

    Maitland, Horne, Pygros, Wilson, Swinson, Dell, Low, Ford

    Brown simply better, more dynamic than Ford, bit of a gamble to go with 2 7s but…………….

    Need to get stuck into them, Wales showed what the Aussies can do when they are given space & time on the ball, target the breakdown with Brown, Dunbar & the 7 boys seeking the priceless turnover ball.

    Jon Welsh should’ve been in squad to cover 3

    1. Agree with your team completely.
      We have nothing to loose against Oz so we should go for it with speed and aggression in the first half. Win the breakdown (as you say with Brown, Watson, Hardie & Dunbar), fast passing & off-loads, and a wide game. Russell and all the backs attacking the gain line and the whitewash with everything they have. And keep control of the ball – key role for Jonny and the forwards.

  6. Watching the Wallabies dismantle the Welsh at the weekend was not only entertaining to watch, but also made me realise Scotland are in a no lose situation. We know Oz are good, so no embarrassment if we are well beaten which allows to be adventurous why not try something new.

    So I would pick:
    1-Reid 2-McInally/Brown, 3-Fagerson, 4-J Gray, 5- Gilchrist, 6-Hardie, 7-Watson, 8-Strauss
    9-Pyrgos (give him a chance on the biggeststage with a full team, he needs opportunity to settle in) 10-Russell, 11- Maitland, 12-Dunbar, 13-Jones, 14-Seymour and 15-Hogg

    1. I think other than 2 – Ford, and 9 – Laidlaw, that’s close to the side BVC will name, question is who would you have on the bench if you are thinking new?

      Never mind what Oz did to Wales (or what Wales did to themselves), Argentina absolutely hammered Japan.

  7. Watching the Wallabies dismantle the Welsh at the weekend was not only entertaining to watch, but also made me realise Scotland are in a win win situation. We know Oz are good, so no embarrassment if we are well beaten which allows us to be adventurous so why not try something new.

    So I would pick:
    1-Reid 2-McInally/Brown, 3-Fagerson, 4-J Gray, 5- Gilchrist, 6-Hardie, 7-Watson, 8-Strauss
    9-Pyrgos (give him a chance on the biggest stage with a full team, he needs opportunity to settle in) 10-Russell, 11- Maitland, 12-Dunbar, 13-Jones, 14-Seymour and 15-Hogg

  8. Its a real pity that Du Preez will likely not be considered in next 3 weeks, I really rate him & his soft hands are a real weapon.

    Bradbury will be capped before long too.

    Gilchrist hasn’t “looked right” to me since his comeback, Toolis may be a better bet presently.

    I partially agree with you re Pygros

    1. Agree in principle about Du Preez, but he needs game time, and there’s others in front of him in the pecking order. Not sure I’d be in a great hurry with Bradbury. Like to see him get a whole year of consistent performances before asking him to step up a level. Think summer tour will be time for him – depending on Toonie, who has no problems starting youngsters.

      Watching the Embra game against Ulster, I was impressed with Toolis. Certainly got a bit of dog about him. Never really replaced ‘Nasty Nathan’ or as one of my English rugby pals called him ‘the cage fighter’.

      Looking forward apprehensively to Saturday.

    2. Apparently there’s a Scotland A game v Emerging Italy on the 11th. Wonder if we might see the likes of Du Preez, Toolis et al. given a chance to impress there?

  9. I pretty much agree with views here about getting stuck right into the Wallabies from the off and then sustaining it. What I don’t agree with is the ‘we’ve got nothing to lose’ mentality. There is a Test to lose (or rather win, I hope) and then there is confidence, external regard for us and momentum to lose if we get humped like Wales were. So we need to keep experimentation (unless forced on us by injuries) to a minimum and pick the strongest possible XV for Saturday. We have the best squad we’ve seen for nearly 20 years and I’m looking forward to Saturday.

  10. Maitland in good form. He must start over Visser. If lasts week’s Gla Edi selections are anything to go by I think we will likely see Dunbar and Jones starting at centre. Reckon Duncan Taylor will be on the bench with Bennett missing out once again, which is unfortunate as he is back to form.

    I wonder if Bradbury might make a surprise inclusion to the squad?

    1. Good to see Maitland in form again, playing well in one of Europe’s top clubs. A better all round footballer than Visser, but Tim is a high class finisher with pace that even the Wallabies will find hard to cope with. It’s nice to have choices like these. For me it’s inconceivable for Bennett neither to start nor to be on the bench. Possibly the one back who, on recent past Test form, is most feared by the opposition, and by Oz in particular. If our eight can win enough quick, quality possession on Saturday, then I would love to see a class act like Bennett see what he can do with it. All due respect to the Jones camp. I’ve seen the clips and he looks very good.

  11. Genia’s back for the game. Damn good players outside him – Foley, Hodge (he’s fast for a 12) Kuridrani with Folau as an extra man on just about every attacking play. If the Scots are to win they’ll have to get the job done up front in the forwards.

  12. The Aussie backline last year in the RWC was better
    Beale, Ashley-Cooper, Kuridrani, Giteau, Mitchell, Foley, Genia
    If Scotland do come close / win it will be the backs.
    Dunbar, Brown, Hardie, Watson targeting turnover ball & supplying Russell, Hogg, Jones, Seymour

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Scottish Rugby News and Opinion