Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Missing In Action

Will we see these players again in time for the 6 Nations?
Will we see these players again in time for the 6 Nations?

With Christmas fast upon us and the 1872 Cup first leg following hot on its heels, there are still a number of Scotland players who could be termed “missing in action”. These are players that we would have considered vital to our national interests just 12 months ago, but who are still uncertain to feature when the Six Nations opens in just over a month, on February the 4th.

Duncan Taylor - pic © Al Ross/Novantae Photography
Duncan Taylor – pic © Al Ross/Novantae Photography

Duncan Taylor
Last appearance: has only appeared once for Saracens as a substitute in the Premiership this season, against Northampton in mid September.
Status: injured (sprained ankle).
Fact: his nickname within the Saracens squad is SuperDunc, which shows the regard he is held in at Allianz Park.
Latest Intel: Estimated to a Sarries fan that recovery was “4 weeks away” on or around 27th November. That could put him in the mix for late festive games with the aim to be match sharp to make the squads for the remaining European rounds (round 5 away to Scarlets or round 6 at home to Toulon). If he’s back playing European Rugby by then he should make the Scotland squad, but breaking into that Saracens squad will be no mean feat. If it takes longer, ironically his best bet may be a slot on the wing if Sean Maitland is rested or away with Scotland.
Known Associates: Huw Jones, Alex Dunbar and Mark Bennett are all in theory vying for the Scotland 13 shirt. Taylor’s heft and defensive capability makes him, like Dunbar, more likely to slot in at 12 for Scotland, which would be harsh on the in-form Matt Scott. Dunbar/Jones looks like the go-to pairing on form – but Jones and Taylor can both play on the wing too…


WP Nel - pic © Al Ross/Novantae Photography
WP Nel – pic © Al Ross/Novantae Photography

WP Nel
Last appearance: vs Harlequins in the Challenge Cup.
Status: resting.
Fact: is one of the few Scotland players to have beaten New Zealand, having played for the Barbarians as the uncapped man in their 2009 win over the All Blacks.
Latest Intel: The tighthead prop was “rested” over the autumn after a gruelling season that really meant he’d seen non-stop action since about July 2015. With an ever-improving Scotland deputy now uncovered in the shape of Zander Fagerson it means that WP doesn’t need to play the full 80 minutes any more, and with Simon Berghan just recently finding a bit of form at Edinburgh it won’t be the same environment he returns to at club or international level. Nel may not be rushed back from exile for just these reasons, but if he doesn’t show up in the 1872 Cup (rumour has it that he will be when the squads are announced today) then his international spot could be usurped come the Ireland game. That puts an awful lot of hypothetical Lions teams at risk…
Known Associates: Zander Fagerson, Simon Berghan, Moray Low. Fagerson at this point is the only genuine challenger; to survive a Six Nations we need them both fit.


John Hardie on another fearless charge for Scotland - pic © Al Ross
John Hardie on another fearless charge for Scotland – pic © Al Ross

John Hardie
Last appearance: against Australia in November.
Status: injured (sprained ankle).
Fact: Loves the Home Alone movies, according to his excited tweet last week.
Latest Intel: Had corrective surgery on his sprained ankle on 17th November, with an estimated recovery time of 8 weeks. That puts him in line for a return mid-January but that could only be to the training field, leaving a pretty short 2-3 weeks to get up to international speed and face Ireland’s monster back row. When he visited the Edinburgh Sick Kids hospital recently, there were no signs of plastercasts or strapping in the photos. His trademark intensity and disregard for his own personal safety have been a hit with fans since his arrival before the last World Cup and he is still very highly rated despite a slight lack of form. He was going very well against Australia off the bench when injury struck. Incredibly frustrating.
Known Associates: Hamish Watson is now fairly well in charge of Scotland’s 7 shirt and will most likely hold on to it until Hardie can oust him at club level too. John Barclay and Ryan Wilson do a job there but as with the situation at tighthead between Nel/Fagerson, most fans now would probably have one of Hardie or Watson in the 7 shirt.


Pete Horne - pic © Al Ross
Pete Horne – pic © Al Ross

Pete Horne
Last appearance: he sustained knee and ankle damage in the single point loss to Munster.
Status: injured (knee/ankle).
Fact: Horne has represented Scotland at U18, U19, U20, Scotland A and Sevens levels.
Latest Intel: only just back from a hand injury suffered in September, Horne joined our less-than-merry band of ankle injuries at the start of the month and has an estimated recovery time of 16 weeks. The problem Scotland have is that Horne is currently the number one deputy to Finn Russell at standoff. With Finn throwing himself into everything with reckless abandon, a fit backup is required and 16 weeks carries Horne right through to the tail end of the Six Nations. He could yet be involved, but Cotter will find himself going backwards for cover at 10 in the meantime.
Known Associates:  The other choices of Duncan Weir and Ruaridh Jackson have often been found wanting at test level – as have Horne and Russell if we are being fair, but Russell is currently going through a purple patch that we hope continues. Other options to provide cover as part of a matchday squad from elsewhere in the team or from the bench would be Stuart Hogg, Greig Laidlaw or even perhaps Matt Scott? If Finn was injured though as happened in this years’ Six Nations, Jackson or Weir are the most likely replacements.


David Denton is tackled by JP Pietersen - pic © Al Ross
David Denton is tackled by JP Pietersen – pic © Al Ross

David Denton
Last appearance: he’s only had one start for Bath in the Premiership this season, for a total of 72 minutes in September.
Status: Injured (hamstring tear)
Fact: fair haired Denton dyes his moustache, possibly why he doesn’t grow one very often.
Latest Intel: He left his one and only start for Bath this season injured and at the time was expected to be out for 4 months. That would put his recovery period ending late January just before the start of the Six Nations, so his timing could be perfect. With Toby Faletau – injured in the same game but now back starting for Bath – likely to be away for Wales, Bath chief Todd Blackadder will likely make use of him as soon as he’s fit. With game time by mid-January most likely an issue it seems unlikely that he’ll be in the opening Scotland squad but with the tournament stretching well into March he therefore may have time to stake a claim as an injury call up.
Known Associates: Josh Strauss hitting form last weekend for Glasgow, and the appearance of young tyro Magnus Bradbury won’t have helped his mood any. Adam Ashe is also on his way back from injury. A rampaging Number 8 is what Scotland needs in the back-row blend, and Denton will hope it’s still him.

Additional sources: Dan Evans, @danielevans28, Kevin Millar @topofthemoonGW, Beaker @neilquinney

64 Responses

  1. For me the most critical member of this group is Nel. Fagerson has been, given his age and experience, an excellent deputy, but Scotland just don’t have the strength in depth at TH to be missing Nel.

    Taylor and Horne would be welcome additions to just about any squad, and the sooner they are fit the better, but with Dunbar, Scott, Bennett, Jones in the midfield we can cope without them. What is the latest on Jones – will he be fit for the 6N?

    Fly-half is a problem if Finn gets hurt, but at least Weir and Jackson have Test experience, unlike the next cabs on the front row rank. Also, with the increased confidence of playing well, would this have a positive impact on Weir/Jackson and allow them to control the game better?

    Back row is so strong right now that you want Hardie to take his time and not rush back before being fully fit. Both him and Watson at 100% would give any coach a selection problem to dream of.

    As for Denton, I know he improved massively in his last few games for Scotland, but for me he still doesn’t have the handling skills or rugby nous to get him in the team at the moment. Saying that, if fit, and playing regularly, he would have the Test incumbents looking over their shoulders as he is the closest Scotland have to a bullocking 8 if you can accommodate his weaknesses elsewhere.

    1. Unfortunately jackson is just not getting anywhere near enough rugby. Weir has had many chances, but we just don’t threaten the big contenders when he’s at the helm (the same can’t be said oh Horne, who has produced the goods). I would rather see Hogg at 10 with Kinghorn at 15, which i feel would preserve the style and tempo more effectively. A word on Denton -his performance against Aus in the rwc was the best by a scottish 8 in a long time. If he can reproduce that, he should defo be in the mix.

      1. I don’t deny Denton has had his purple patches, but overall he has been more Andy Powell than Sergio Parisse. And I think we have a better balance to our back row without adding any one trick ponies. I sincerely hope Denton proves me wrong.

        As for Hogg playing 10 – nope. Not going to happen. If GT had any plans to plug that gap for Scotland then Hogg would be wearing the jersey for Glasgow this season.

      2. Totally agree with Ade re Denton. Strauss has never quite stepped up, good player though he is. If Du Preez is showing good form, I’d like to see him get a chance. Great hands, but can he do the really hard work next level up. Only one way to find out.

        Cotter needs to think long and hard about the Ireland game, and in particular how we nullify their back row. He was one himself, so I am not without hope we can do so.

      3. Agree with Ade about Hogg staying out the 10 jersey – its a rhetoric that has been going about a while but I just don’t see the merit.

        For a start, he has no experience there to my knowledge. Last I know of was that Lions cameo 4 years ago. More than that though I think the way he is developing his skills make him less and less suited for 10 and more and more suited for 15. I have noticed for Scotland and Warriors he has been keeping ball in hand more and running into (or through) traffic and actually there have been a couple of occasions where his passing has let him down a bit.

        To be most effective he needs the space that he won’t get at ten, especially playing with Laidlaw. In the AIs against Aus and Arg he was actually taken out the game a little because the defence closed him down very quickly, that would happen much more easily at ten.

        I would much rather upset just one position and put Weir or Jackson in at ten instead of having both Hogg and Kinghorn in unfamiliar positions (in Kinghorns case that would be international rugby). Think preference is Weir for me (sigh), then Laidlaw with Price at 9, but only if Price has had some more international minutes. It’s probably still too early for Hastings imo.

        On the back row, looking forward to a spell of game-time for Du Preez, Bradbury Strauss and Ashe all to stake their claims for that hard-hitting 8 spot. Add in Denton at his best and that gives us some great hard-hitting options across 6 & 8 to add to our ‘fetcher’ contingent

      4. Re Denton. We need 3 good options in each position, and that keeps him in the mix for me. I’m not saying he is first choice, though I do think he deserves recognition for that performance, which was superb. Worth watching the highlights as a reminder. Similarly, I have never been a purponent of the ‘Hogg at 10’ argument. What i’m saying is, as a 3rd choice scenario, i would rather have players capable of playing our style of game, and getting decent game time, in favour of bringing in players that can’t. Even if that is at the expense of playing players out of position. We need to field a line up that the opposition will fear. Of course i would like to see e.g. Hastings come through as a 3rd choice, but he’s not played enough pro rugby yet. Maybe if Ford goes to Sale… I would possibly even prefer to see Price and Laidlaw as an emergency pairing than other tried and failed options.

      5. Looks like Hogg had a very decent shift at 10 today. It’s no surprise really, as he has a very full skill set and great vision. Great to have the additional option in times of need.

    2. Matto – Happy to have to eat my words a little after a fine performance from Hogg yesterday at 10. He passed well and often and didnt take contact as much as I thought he would. Great to have that additional option.

      I stand by my comments that I wouldn’t like to put him straight in there for a 6N game this year in the event of a Russell injury with Kinghorn coming in at 15, its still too new for both of them and. Italy game maybe an exception if kinghorn has been capped from the bench.

      I prefer Jackson or Weir (depending who keeps up current form and playing time best) as the sub 10 for first 2-3 matches at least then lets see where we are. Maybe move Hogg to 10 if/when Kinghorn comes off the bench but hard to see when we are going to be in a comfortable enough position to try that – again maybe Italy, and I dream we could do that against Wales.

      Summer is time to try out the Hogg 10/Kinghorn 15 combo. Will be interesting to see if Tooney tries it again this season for Glasgow. Trouble for them is that Munchie is a bit sub-par as a back up 15 against anyone but the bottom 4 in the league imo.

  2. Denton is our best tackle busting, wrecking ball of a ball carrier at number 8 (at them moment – it might become Bradbury) and adds about 10kg to the scrum when compared to the likes of Wilson or Barclay (if played at 8) which is needed against the likes of Globogym (England) or the giant Irish Back Row (Heaslip/Stander/OBrien)

    1. H’mm, the mix is more important than the individual. Not troubled about the weight issue, Glasgow buried a mammoth pack last week, accepted Murrayfield isn’t fully artificial.

      I could see different selections against different sides, seven to me is the only position not really up for grabs, Watson or Hardie. Neither changes the game plan, just about clones.

      1. Clones are known for their mental instability, so sounds about right. Sorry, seeing Rogue One tonight came over a bit nerd there…

  3. So no Nel for the 1st 1872 game, Denton/Horne likely unavailable for the Ireland game, I’d go –
    Hogg, Maitland, Jones, Dunbar, Seymour, Russell, Price, Wilson, Watson, Du Preez, Gray, Gray, Fagarson, Ford, Dickinson
    Reps – Taylor, Laidlaw, Wilson, Bradbury, Gilchrist, Nel/Berghan, Brown, Dell.

    Hogg to cover 10, 6-2 split as up against world class back row, Brown to cover 7

    1. Interesting, but I think you need someone to take the referee on as we need at least something from the ref with the “streetwise” nature of Ireland. So Laidlaw will almost certainly start but hard to argue with your back picks otherwise.

    2. So is Barclay injured then? No start or bench place in your selection for an outstanding and rejuvenated/rediscovered player who played very well indeed in the AIs?

    3. I like du Preez, but he’s not the 3rd best back row at Edinburgh just now. I’d switch with Bradbury. Wilson is playing and on the bench too?

  4. JM:
    Laidlaw is our goal-kicker and current captain so, injury excepting, will be first name on the team-sheet. A 6-2 replacements split will be exposed in the event of any back injuries or poor form. Looking forward to the 1872 which will be competitive given a number of jerseys will be up for grabs. In the absence of the the old Probables v Possibles trial a convincing performance for one side will influence selection.

  5. The game last year in Dublin was a perfect microcosm of Scotland, great if we can get quick ball to our backs/impose broken play but can be forced onto the back foot by bigger brutish packs, so that’s why 6-2 – to give us the best opportunity to compete.

    The Price over Laidlaw thing – quite simple Price will keep the opposition defence honest & will give our brilliant 10 quick ball (so he can decide what to do in the way he does for Glasgow) things Laidlaw can’t do.

    Anyway i reckon Du Preez could play 12 (he a much better rugby player than Richie Vernon)

  6. Strikes me as defeatist to admit that 3/4 of the pack are unable to last 80 minutes. I remain to be convinced that a series of impact substitutions don’t disrupt the team. I think back to February 2015 where the arrival of Watson & Toolis (not to mention their yellow carding) led to the under-powering of the Scottish pack and contributed to the defeat to Italy.
    A significant weakness of Scottish rugby is the lack of strength in depth. If our best pack cannot compete why expect that the substitution of a lesser player will turn the tide.

  7. What about this for a combination in the 6N?

    1.Alastair Dickinson
    2.Ross Ford
    3.WP Nel
    4.Richie Gray
    5.Jonny Gray
    6.Josh Strauss
    7.Ryan Wilson
    8.David Denton
    9.Ali Price
    10.Stuart Hogg
    11.Tommy Seymour
    12.Alex Dunbar
    13.Huw Jones
    14.Sean Maitland
    15.Blair Kinghorn

    16.Fraser Brown
    17.Allan Dell
    18.Alex Allan
    19.Tim Swinson
    20.Adam Ashe
    21.Henry Pyrgos
    22.Ruaridh Jackson
    23.Mark Bennett

    I think if we played this combination then this would be the most exciting Backline we have ever had in years

    (No specialist 7 because I have chosen a powerful pack, Fraser Brown to cover 7)

    1. Are you assuming Russell is injured? Because he is first name on the team sheet. We have no other test quality 10 who is eligible for Scotland – Horne is passable but injured.

      Why would you drop Watson? He was epic in the AIs and is a dynamic ball carrier and our main turnover threat.

      1. @FF, I wouldn’t drop Watson but I would like to trial this combo for at least one match, as I think the Backline could so some serious damage and the forward pack weight would equate to 918 KG! I think this squad would have the talent to give any team in the 6N a run for their money.

  8. No-one had noticed (not even me) that in my team I’ve got Ryan Wilson twice!!!!

    So Barclay or Strauss would come into my selection.

    Highland Bear, its not being defeatist its simple pragmatism the Irish back row are a tremendous unit & reinforcements may well be required. If we can match them up front we can win the game.

    Fascinating match up Sexton v Russell

    I actually reckon Hardie will be fit by then.

    Interesting team McNally, Russell, Fagarson, Watson, Hardie should be there & Jackson doesn’t play nearly enough.

  9. I think if everyone is fit then 1-5 and 9-15 are pretty much nailed down. Edinburgh front row, grays, laidlaw, russell, Seymour, Dunbar, Jones, Maitland and Hogg.

    Back row is interesting and I think who is picked will vary on who we are playing. Lots of combinations possible which is good but I would expect Wilson to start against ireland somewhere across the back row. I would go with one of Barclay, Hardie or Watson and then Denton or Strauss but I have reserations over Denton and possibly not fit, whilst Strauss has been hot and cold for Glasgow this year and the choke tackle is a risk against the irish- they will attempt to nullify his ball carrying that way and he appears to be susceptible to it at the highest level. Big fan of Strauss for glasgow so would love him to step up but just not sure.

    Of course, the choke tackle could be illegal by then under the new tackle laws…..

      1. I think wilson merits a place. If all fit we may play a big back row against Ireland and play Wilson at 7 with Denton and Strauss but I think Watson and Barclay would be pretty hard done by after the autumn. Good problems to have!

  10. Think the best thing to come out of the last year depth wise is that we can probably now tailor our hooker, back row, no 9, centres and bench to the opposition. Front 5, 10-11 and 14-15 are nailed on and obviously we still have some much-discussed positions with a scary lack of depth but if everyones fit we can quite comfortably put out a back row of big ball carriers or specialist sevens. Likewise we can switch between a hard-hitting hooker and centre partnership of say Ford, Dunbar & Scott and Laidlaw’s game management and a much more mobile selection of Brown/McInally, Price, Taylor and Bennet.

    Good to see and gives us a bit more flexibility and unpredictability if Vern is prepared to gamble a little in his final 6N

  11. My team for Ireland would be:

    1- Dell, 2- Ford, 3- Nel, 4- Gray, 5- Gray, 6- Hardie/Barcley, 7- Watson, 8- Wilson
    9- Price, 10- Russell, 11- Seymour, 12- Dunbar, 13- Jones, 14- Maitland, 15- Taylor

    16- Brown, 17- Dickinson, 18- Fagerson, 19-Gilchrist, 20- Hardie/Barcley, 21- Pyrgos, 22- Bennett, 23-Taylor

    1. I think (just my personal opinion) that the two 7s approach will not work as well against Ireland who generally like to play the ball off the ground, I think this is a game where we could really exploit a back row with the following ;

      6. Strauss / Harley / Denton
      7. Wilson
      8. Denton / Strauss

      1. I also think the two 7s thing has run it’s course. The Irish and English back rows would just March over the top of them rather than compete on the ground. A more orthodox 6,7,8 for me.

      2. Barclay hasn’t played 7 for years for club or country, he’s a 6/8. Maybe not the biggest bruiser but in the AIs he was back to his best. I don’t really get posters just selecting the biggest back row we can find – inevitably they will be less powerful/quality than the Irish. We need to select a balanced back row with on-form players and give them a game plan that will work, not just get as many lbs on the pitch as possible. Best back row still looks like some combination of Watson/Hardie, Wilson, Barclay/Strauss/Harley.

        When Harley was selected against Georgia I opined that he wasn’t a test quality player. I think I may have been wrong and he could be exactly what we need to contest the breakdown against Ireland. Watson and Wilson are THE form back row players. So unless anyone forces themselves into contention I think we should go 6. Harley 7. Watson 8. Wilson REP: Barclay against Ireland.

        Would be better to have a more powerfull 8 but Wilson has been in outstanding form since against Italy last year and unless Denton/Strauss prove they can outperform him he should keep the shirt.

  12. Agree re 2 7s experiment, fine if playing Japan or Fiji but the lack of power is ruthlessly exposed v England & Ireland.

    Am I alone to really rate Du Preez he has physicality & lovely soft hands (no-one else at our disposal offers these 2 things) his off-loading game could be a real positive/bonus.

    V Ireland whilst physicality is important we can’t forgot our strengths & Watson/Hardie are critical.

  13. The two 7s option is legitimate if you have a pair of the quality of Michael Hooper and David Pocock. But then you need the other 6 forwards with sufficient heft in the tight to compensate.
    When you have 2 world-class players in the same position it is worth building your team around them. Scotland in the past found ways to play both Andy Irvine and Bruce Hay in the same team and seem to remember 5 backrow forwards in the pack for a few games in the 1980s.

    1. On that note what ever happened to Blair Cowan? He looked set to be in the team whether that be at 6/7/8, now it would appear he has fallen into the same bracket as the likes of Weir.

      1. He is playing with London Irish in the English Championship, and therefore off the radar screen. A decent player at his best but definitely underpowered.

  14. I’ll be honest, I’ve not seen anything from Denton outside of his first season that makes me think he should be parachuted into the team, especially given the options we have and how well they performed in the AIs.

    For me the worry is, good as we think the players are (and they are definitely the best in a generation) when we talk of the Lions few Scots make it in. So we’ve gotten better but so have the others (or in Wales’ case plateaued at the level we’re hopefully getting to). I can’t help but feel slightly pessimistic about this 6N. I think that comes from too many seasons of blind optimism being brutally crushed in week 1!

    I’m not sure where I’m going with this slightly negative train of thought. I think what I’m getting at is that we have the best players but we are going to have to fight really hard to be competitive, let alone victorious. This is where Vern will earn his salary for the last few seasons, getting us into the top half of the 6N table.

    1. Denton looked world class at the World Cup. He has the attributes it is getting consistent performances from him that appears to be a struggle. In terms of squad strength – one good 6N will rocket half our squad into Lions contention. Where we are weak remains front row (at least in terms of depth) and back row where we have v good players but not those handful of players that bear comparison to anyone else in the world – the B. Vunipolas, O’Briens, Faletaus etc.

      Good to start of pessimistic. We could realistically finish with a wooden spoon or win a championship – in past years any hope was more wistful than tangible. It all comes down to whether our pack can get fast front foot ball and hold up in the set piece. If they can we will win games, but we are still susceptible to brute power.

  15. Denton was colossal at the RWC & on form he is a very phusical effective ball carrier, get him fit & on form & he’s my #1 choice @ 8.

  16. Agree denton is our best ball carrier but he doesnt offload in contact so that is why I always have a question mark over him.

    Good conundrum to have. If ireland was tomorrow my team would be:

    Barclay @ 8
    Bennett (assuming Jones not fit)

    I think the calls for Bradbury, kinghorn are premature. Both good prospects but a six nations opener against Ireland is no place for experiments.

    1. Sean, check out ‘Denton the collosus’ on youtube. I tried to include the link, but think it’s with the mods. A lot from more recent games. Some compelling clips, and even a number of offloads!

      1. Looks good when going forward on his good days (has the odd howler as well), not sure why he is not getting a game for his club side (injury?) which is still listed as Bath on wikipedia ?

        Like JM says , he needs to be fit to get considered .

  17. Sean, I reckon that fairly lightweight mobile back row is likely to get overwhelmed / overpowered (as a similar back row was in Dublin earlier in the year) v a likely Heaslip, O’Brien, Stander we would be 4st / 25.5kg lighter.
    From the comfort of my armchair I’d like Strauss & Du Preez to play with Watson, now I’m not obsessed with weight but been at too many games where our lack of physicality has been our downfall.

    1. Absolutely agree it is an issue against Ireland.

      Interesting to see how thing develop over the next few weeks with form etc starting with the game on boxing day!

    2. It just isn’t a personel or weight thing. Ireland are good at the breakdown because they get there quickly, have excellent technique and body angles and frankly, cheat like hell to get an advantage. To compete at the breakdown we need to match them in speed and technique. Weight doesn’t tell us about power either. Who is best at contesting the breakdown can’t be found out from looking at players’ weights. FFS Russell blasted two players off rucks against Racing Metro because of technique and aggressiveness. We need every player to be a breakdown dog.

  18. Comes down to whether Cotter has confidence that his best team have the skills to implement a game plan that best suits Scotland, or whether it will be a damage limitation exercise with the priority being nullifying the opposition. Unfortunately the best players for the latter aren’t always the best to deliver the dynamic attacking game.

  19. I don’t think it will be damage limitation, more ‘horses for courses’ in the back row. Certainly don’t expect to see the two sevens idea again soon, with the possible exception of the Wales game. Personally I think balance is more important. Still 6 weeks away, so fitness is likely to have a bearing on it.

    1. On current domestic and international form I think Barclay is the first name on the back row teamsheet.

  20. Starting if fit: Dickinson, Ford, Nel, Gray, Gray, Wilson, Hardie (Watson if not), Strauss, Price, Russell, Seymour, Dunbar, Jones, Maitland, Hogg.

    If Laidlaw will not make the next World Cup then let’s give Russell kicking duties now.

    No matter how good Barclay was in the Autumn internationals you just feel he will give away too many penalties, especially against a shrewd Ireland team.

    Wilson and Price are in on form. Suspect Price is the player to get the best from Russell as they both have that sniping ability and speed of pass.

    I still think Strauss is a world class 8 and will show it.

  21. Agree with the consensus here. Nel is a must, Fagerson did admirably in the AIs but Nel is the weapon we need to turn the scrum from solid to destructive.

    I like Hardie but with the other quality we have in the back row at the moment I see no need to rush him back unless he is fit and on form. Likewise for Denton, never really been a fan, he’s a cab horse, I’ll admit he has had some outstanding performances but I wince when he throws / receives a pass. He reminds me too much of the Scotland team of around 10 years ago, honest bashers but poor handling skills and an annoying talent for knocking on yards from the try line. We are missing a big bruising ball carrier though which Denton certainly can do, Richie Gray continues to be a powder puff for a man of his size, Strauss fits the bill well and played very well in the 1872 I thought.

    We really are blessed in the centre at the moment and as with the back row don’t see any need to rush people back before they are ready. Jones and Taylor are two of the best but Dunbar and Bennett are in decent form.

    10 is a bit of a worry if Finn gets crocked. Weir is a safe pair of hands but he does not suit the game plan everyone else is suited to and we have rarely threatened with him playing. Horne is not a safe pair of hands (is Russell?) but does suit the game we try to play and has some great touches and vision. Like Russell he is unpredictable and keeps the defence guessing which creates gaps. Pity our 9 wouldn’t be a bit more like that but that’s another argument… Jackson would be the compromise IMO but I gather he’s short on game time, I don’t really follow English rugby so not sure on how he’s playing. Hogg could do the job but I don’t see him as anything other than emergency cover at 10. We have seen time and again, he is best with acres of space to work his magic, you get that playing at 15 not 10.

    1. Agree with your thoughts about rushing people back. Like to see Nel have a couple of starts before the 6N kicks off. The plus coming from the autumn games is we don’t need to flog him, Fagerson can come on around the hour mark and be steady enough.

  22. Assuming they can demonstrate fitness:

    Dickinson, Ford, Nel, Gray, Gray, Barclay, Watson, Strauss, Laidlaw, Russell, Seymour, Dunbar, Jones, Maitland, Hogg

    Dell /Sutherland, Brown, Fagerson, Gilchrist, Wilson, Price, Taylor, Jackson

    Like everyone has said, finding the balance in the backrow looks key – that and whether Laidlaw ‘trusts’ Russell to run the game – i.e. give him the early ball he craves and avoid calling the box kick – it should always be Russell that decides and calls the game – trouble (if it is indeed a trouble) is Laidlaw is a very good pragmatist and is a trusted captain – but the combination with Russell just doesn’t look and feel right and its a question of who you want running the game…..

    Is there any info on Jones, Taylor, Sutherland, Nel and whether they are ready for full contact yet?

    1. Personally if everyone is fit I would like to see this combination.

      1) BACK ROW – I would have a back row with what I consider to be two “big hitters” in Wilson and Strauss but with a specialist 7, the two 7s idea has had it’s day.

      2) HOOKER – Brown is more flexible and just as capable as Ford, simple as that.

      3) CENTRES – I would like to trial a combination of Taylor and Jones, maybe if anything I have concerns that it would be underpowered but worth a shot.

      4) SCRUM HALF – I have said for long enough that I believe Laidlaw is very much a member of the squad that has been carried over from the Andy Robinson days where we had very little options apart from kicking for goal, those days are over and we have upcoming talent in the likes of Ali Price and Henry Pyrgos.

      1.Alastair Dickinson
      2.Fraser Brown
      3.WP Nel
      4.Richie Gray
      5.Jonny Gray
      6.Ryan Wilson
      7.Hamish Watson
      8.Josh Strauss
      9.Ali Price
      10.Finn Russell
      11.Tommy Seymour
      12.Duncan Taylor
      13.Huw Jones
      14.Sean Maitland
      15.Stuart Hogg

      16.Ross Ford
      17.Alan Dell
      18.Zander Fagerson
      19.Grant Gilchrist
      20.John Barclay
      21.Grieg Laidlaw
      22.Ruariah Jackson
      23.Alex Dunbar

      1. What an odd thing to say about Laidlaw. He isn’t just a hangover from the Robinson years, he is probably more closely associated with the Cotter era than any other single player. Cotter made him his captain and built his team around him. I can’t see any likelihood Cotter will drop him in his swansong 6N as he has total faith in him as his general on the field. Laidlaw was a much less constant fixture in the Scotland team under Robinson. Who knows what Townshend will think of him – Price looks good now but he’s a young player and may suffer from second season syndrome. Just look at SHC. Prygos isn’t good enough.

  23. The first match in the 6N is just over 4 weeks away. While I agree that a fit Nel is an automatic selection, there is no word as to when he will return for Edinburgh. The thought of dropping a non-match fit player into a starting 15 at international level is insanity. My view is that he requires match time in at least 2 Edinburgh matches, one as a starter, before being selected for the Scotland side. Fagerson did well in the autumn and will not let the side down. We need to show confidence in young players who have won international selection based on their club performances.

  24. Can anyone provide an update on those missing in action? Taylor for example I thought would be back over Christmas but haven’t seen any sort of injury update for Saracens.Same for Nel at Edinburgh…?

    1. Just went on the Sarries’ forum and apparently Taylor’s training. The fans on that site seem to think it’s a club policy to be sketchy regarding players’ injury prognoses. Hopefully he makes their bench this weekend and gets a game or two under his belt before the 6N.

      No idea about Nel but rest assured whatever is happening he’s being looked after as well as possible by SRU/Edinburgh. Take no risks to rush him back and we can maybe extend his career for an extra season or two down the line; likewise Dickinson.

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