Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


The Battle for the Back-Row

John Hardie breaks from a maul - pic © Al Ross/Novantae Photography
John Hardie breaks from a maul - pic © Al Ross/Novantae Photography

Assuming that everyone’s fit and available for selection, I want you to pick your Scotland XV starting from number 1. Do it in your head, write it down if you must, if you’re with friends, even better, you can have a discussion about it.

All done?

Well, even if you’re not done, I bet that picking numbers 1-5 was pretty easy. Some may make a case for the in-form Fraser Brown starting at hooker over Ross Ford, but I’d reckon about 90% of people will have picked the Edinburgh trio of Dickinson, Ford and Nel in the front-row, and nearly 100% opt for the Gray boys in the engine room. If you didn’t pick at least Jonny Gray, stop reading now, and have some stern words with yourself.

Then it gets a lot harder, as there is some real strength in depth to choose from 6-8.

Since Vern Cotter’s first match in charge, only some two and a half years ago, sixteen players have been used across the back-row. The first trio picked were Al Strokosch, Blair Cowan and Johnnie Beattie. Of those three, Strokosch has now retired from the international scene, Beattie has not been picked since March 2015 and Cowan since February 2016, and with no recall in sight I’m siding with Vern on this one and saying their time is up.

I’m also going to rule out young prospects Adam Ashe and Magnus Bradbury, bright futures ahead, but given the intensity of competition in front of them, they’re not quite at the level. Also missing the cut is Rob Harley. The 13/14 Warriors Player of The Season has been playing well of late for his club, but the other options are just a little stronger. Not to be ruled out for a spot on the bench as he provides bonus lock/flanker cover though.

The next omission is hard-carrying David Denton, even though his raw power provided a personal World Cup 2015 highlight. Ball in hand, big Dents went charging into Australia captain Stephen Moore. The hooker uttered “Oh f***!” as he was dumped on his derriere right beside referee He Who Shall Not Be Named whose microphone then shared it with us all. I don’t like to remember the rest of that match, but that moment stood out as a positive.

Now, I know I said to assume everyone’s fit and available for selection, but having not played a lot of rugby in 2016, I’m putting him on the bench at best, due to not knowing what level his game is currently at. Has he improved since he went to Bath? Time will tell, but for now, he’s not in the XV.

So the pool of main contenders, for me, is made up of John Barclay – who seems to be firmly back in Vern’s good books – John Hardie and Hamish Watson at Edinburgh, and finally Ryan Wilson and Josh Strauss from the Glasgow Warriors.

Some purists may be aghast at what I’m about to say, but does the number on your back really matter that much in the back-row anymore? Even now with 7, who was traditionally a bit shorter and used that low base to get into rucks and be the main cause of turnovers, doesn’t seem as relevant today.  Strauss is the least “7”-y of the contenders, he’s all about carrying power, but of the remaining bunch, all of whom are comfortable at 7, I wouldn’t specifically say that breakdown work is their main asset. Hardie hits people hard, Watson’s a strong, mobile carrier, Barclay and Wilson are just all round abrasive, in your face workhorses, but hitting rucks and especially getting turnovers really is a team effort now.  Do you know who’s made the most turnovers in 6 Nations History? Brian O’Driscoll. Played a lot more games than anyone else, that much is true, but none of them were at 7. Of the players with the most turnovers at Rugby World Cup 2015, you have to go down to joint 8th place before you find a starting openside flanker.

You’re just after the best three-man combination, who between them are willing to tackle themselves to a standstill, get stuck in at the breakdown, and have the power to carry for some hard yards. Not a lot to ask for really, is it?

Oh, handy at line-outs, and able to steer a maul too. On that basis, when fit I’m going for 6: Barclay, 7: Hardie, 8: Strauss. Barclay and Hardie started all the 6 Nations games last year, and I like how they work together, especially in defence. Strauss goes in to add the bull-dozer effect with ball in hand.

Right, that’s my back-row settled. I could go on: 9: Laidlaw, 10: Russell, 11: Seymour, 12…. this next bit could be tricky.

Things will become clearer when the Scotland squad is announced tomorrow, but for now who would you pick in the back row?

65 Responses

  1. Barclay, Strauss, Watson with Wilson on the bench. Or if you want a bit more heft probably switch Wilson and Watson and have Watson as impact sub, with Barclay playing 7.

    Du Preez gets his cap from the bench against Italy. Hardie and Harley probably first to step in when injuries hit.

  2. Welcome to the dark-side Iain! I think your reasoning is sound but unfortunately the back row is one of the areas where injuries will play a part so as of the squad announcement tomorrow we’ll have to take them into account!

    I agree with playing Strauss though, if only to see him have another friendly go at Conor Murray. I’d have Barclay, Watson and Strauss with Bradbury or Harley on the bench.

    1. “Welcome” to the dark-side? I’ve always been on the dark-side, lurking in the shadows like Darth Maul (pun fully intended).
      But thanks for sharing my ramblings, hopefully the first of many, or at least a few.

  3. Very tricky, but I’d also go Barclay, Watson, Strauss. Barclay has simply been very good for club and country of late. Watson probably has the best form of the whole selection, though choosing between his dervish and Hardhorse’s hammerhead is so tough. Watson takes it on form though. Strauss brings the bulldozing option. Again would be happy to see Wilson there for his form. Wilson on hte bench if he doesn’t start, followed very closely by Hardie, Bradbury and Harley. I’m a big fan of Bradbury, but agree that he would probably benefit from being bled in, so to speak. Harley is an excellent backup especially if you just need someone to chop folk down all day. We’ve got good horses for courses options. I’ll stand by a previous comment though and say that Denton’s performance versus Oz in RWC was the best by a Scotland 8 in a long time. Hopefully he finds that form again once recovered.

    1. Cotter didn’t select Bradbury for Georgia because he needs to up his work rate at the breakdown. I think once he’s ready he’ll be superb but for Ireland we need three guys willing to go full berserker for 80minutes if necessary.

      1. Yep, it’s probably not the game for bedding in… Our berserker quotient has improved markedly, which is great to see. I’m looking forward to Bradbury’s future carrier. He pretty much has the full package, other than experience. It’s good that Vern has identified where he can improve and has given something to work on. I’m sure he’ll step up to it.

  4. Totally agree with you, never really agreed with categorising the back row, if you are a good back rower you would be comfortable anywhere. 7 would benefit from being a bit faster and 8 from being a bit bigger by the nature of where you stand at a set piece but other than that you all need to do the same, tackle hard, carry hard and get your hands where they shouldn’t be (without being caught)!

    I would be inclined to agree with the selection you have but would possibly have Watson over Hardie due to the latters unproven fitness / form. Wilson on the bench due to his current form and ability to play anywhere. Injuries will hit though and any of the mentioned are more than capable deputies.

  5. Although for other games I’d want a big ball carrier, against the Irish I want the work rate. 6. Harley; 7. Watson; 8; Barclay. If the front five play to their best you’ve got carriers in Ford, Nel and the Grays, and Watson punches above his weight going forward too.
    Spoil at the breakdown and tackle them to a standstill – our backs will create the holes. Wilson on the bench will have an impact. Seems harsh on Strauss given his form but he’ll be ready for France the following week. Horses for courses and I think it’s more important to stop their back row getting a head of steam than having an extra ball-carrier ourselves.

  6. The days of out and out sevens are numbered in the face of behemoths like Vunipola et al. England are picking the human steroid Haskell at 7 these days and NZ Ardie Savea is a beast.

    We have so many options now it’s nuts: Barclay, Strauss, Watson, Hardie, Wilson, Harley, Du Preez, Bradbury, Denton, Ashe! been could permany three from ten and have a decent back row but it’s all about getting the right blend. Personally, I like a back row of Strauss, Barclay and Hardie. How they would go against CJ Stander, Faletau, Picamoles, Haskell etc is anybody’s guess. I remain eternally optimistic however.

  7. One of the telling things from the Glasgow Munster game is how Glasgow dominated the game but aside from Strauss, made no real punches through the fringe defence. Telling because Stander, O’Mahony and Ryan regularly made 2/3 yards on every hit, but Glasgow actually managed to turn them over a fair bit…

    So what does this mean for Scotland – well personally I think you have 2 options – one is ballast to counteract the Irish back & second row wrecking ball (Stander, O’Mahony, Heaslip, O’Brien, van Der Flier, Murphy, Henderson, Toner, Ryan – its the most abrasive and destructive in the northern hemisphere by a mile) or do we go for slowing the breakdown and looking for turnovers?

    Personally I think you can pick a XV that combines both – Personally and I know it might get shot down but I think you go Strauss, Wilson & Barclay as you will have Dunbar and Brown who are exceptional over the ball and perhaps can through sum of parts cover Watson’s absence – If you can starve Ireland front foot ball I do genuinely believe our backline is more dangerous than theirs – but I think managing the collision and preventing the gainline success is probably more important than having a designated jackal. As it happens I think Watson is more than this and could be seen as more destructive than Wilson – in which case I’d be happy with him starting – but the question should be a toss up on who will get over the gainline and who will stop the opposition getting over the gainline rather than who will turn over more ball – IMHO !

    1. Have to agree with Staruss, Wilson and Barclay for the Irish game only would even be tempted to put Swinson in at N0 8 to counteract the Irish driving mauls.

  8. The first name on the team sheet in the back-row has to Hamish Watson, he was outstanding in the AI’s and has continued that form with Edinburgh. For me the back row for Ireland should be 6- Wilson, 7- Watson, 8- Strauss. However for the games against the less physical sides I would go with Hardie at 6 if fit, if not Barclay.

  9. The need to put out ‘horses for courses’ needs to be balanced with the advantage of having a settled unit, and we don’t often see other teams changing their back row to suit the opposition – so I think we should focus on which combo suits our style best, rather than picking a unit based on our best guess about who the opposition will pick.

    We also need to factor in who is in form as well as who is fit – fantasy selections are pointless when we already know that some individuals are definately out of the reckoning.

    Of the options on the table just now, I think it’s as simple as picking the guys that are showing form – so Watson, Wilson and Barclay. Strauss is coming onto a better game, so will bench. Du Preez may come into the reckoning later in the campaign depnding on form/injury.

    Swinson is playing the best rugby of his career so far, but in second row, so would be mental to play him out of position. I would argue that JG and Swinson should be the starting second row as Swinsons workrate is currently miles ahead of RG.

    We can’t ignore the fitness issues in front row – and having not seen Edinburgh recently, I’ve got no idea if Ford’s maintained his workrate in the loose that we saw against Georgia. If he hasn’t, then Brown needs to start as he’s arguably got better arrows and is very visible in the loose. Nel isn’t fit, so Fagerson starts at tighthead with Dell at loosehead.

    Not for 6 nations, but would love to see Ashe, Bradbury and Watson during the summer tour.

  10. Barclay, Watson, Wilson for Ireland and mix it up by going for an extra back row replacement instead of a back. Hardie and Strauss ready for bench impact. The back row battle is the key line we’ll be looking to square off so have the guns ready to match it in this Ire game for sure. Our backs are so interchangeable that we can cover. Swinson over Gilchrist for sure right now. Brown over Ford purely for later impact.

    Finally everyone cross all fingers and toes Jonny’s calf injury clears up fast.

  11. The summer tour might be too soon but Bradbury/Watson/Ashe would be the trio I’d like to see at the next world cup. Watson’s doggedness around the park combined with two big ball carriers is exactly the type of modern back row necessary at this stage. Plus they’re all so young they could feasibly be the back row at the world cup after as well.

    For the 6 nations, Barclay has form and experience on his side so is a natural fit at 6 while Watson shades it at 7 due to performances in the autumn and Hardie’s lack of game time. Ideally I would have like Cornell at 8 as he’s the closest thing to a Stander/SOB type but since he’s not been playing for Edinburgh much I’d go with Strauss and Wilson as back up,

    Brown at hooker is tempting for his breakdown work although it’s worth noting that the game he started in the autumn was far and away our worst performance. Enough has been said about Ford – easily the worst international player in history to get to 100 caps – but like Laidlaw every time we try out a new alternative everything seems to fall apart.

    Nice to have these kind of options in the back row and centre for a change but hope we can continue to develop elsehere as well – we’ve got some real problems if either Russell or Hogg go down in the next match..

  12. The top Irish back row would possibly be Heaslip at 8, Stander at 7 and O Brien at 6.
    Given the injury issues O Brien has, he might be replaced by Van Der Flier or Murphy.
    Most of the Scottish choices are sound, and there are several combinations that could work.
    I thought Strauss played a blinder last week and kept Stander very quiet. This is almost sufficient reason to pick him, as not many can keep Stander quiet.
    For those proposing Denton as an alternative no 8, I really don’t buy it.
    He just isn’t good enough. He can only run and charge and simply doesn’t have the skill sets needed for a good 8 (passing, offloading, think quickly )
    Although injured for the most part at Bath, I think he’s been found out for what he is, a very ‘one dimensional player’. Du Preez is a much better all rounder although he isn’t really a big’crash ball’ type.
    Any one of Hardie, Watson, Barclay, Wilson, Harley at 6 and 7.
    Neither will I ever agree with Ian about Ross Ford at hooker. He’s had 50 caps too many for me simply down to his size. Well documented before. Very slow, can’t break a tackle, not aggressive enough. He was there for reasons of size alone when we had more prop issues, and I don’t believe the same arguments still apply. Brown a much more dynamic all round player as long as he can keep his throwing together.

    1. The fact is that no Scottish hooker has managed to oust Ford from the starting position. That’s 5 national coaches who thought he was the best option. Nobody is disagreeing that he’s not the best international hooker, but neither Brown nor McInally have stepped up to the mark (yet).
      I’m as frustrated as anyone with his inconsistency. His aggression seems wax and wane with the tides, and why oh why can’t he practice his throwing in? Steals by the opposition and mistimed jumps aren’t necessarily his fault, but the number of under/over-throws and “not straights” are far too high for somebody with over 100 caps at hooker.
      That being said, if he plays like he played against Georgia (or against Quins at the Stoop on Saturday) I’ll be a happy chappie and he can stay on for another 100.

    2. To pragmatic optimist (I’m going to allow the mis-spelling of my name as an auto-correct, for now mate), I didn’t actually say I’d pick Ross Ford, because I was being a bit sneaky and ambiguous, I just said that 90% would pick the Edinburgh front-row. Admittedly, I would if they were all fit, I think the familiarility of the unit needs to be recognised, but as Dickinson’s out, the nest is rattled.
      I’ve been whining about Ford and Laidlaw for years, both resting on their laurels with no competition, but when the replacements have stepped up, things haven’t gone too great. Pyrgos, who I was screaming for the start spot at RWC 15, had a minger against USA (maybe because of the wrist injury which required surgery shortly after), whilst Laidlaw was outstanding throughout the tournament, and the 2nd test in Japan over summer needed Laidlaw to come in and get the win. Ruairidh Jackson was particulary dreadful, I just don’t think he’s got the nous, or the confidence in himself, which is a pity, to play 10 at international.
      Ford seems to have upped his game in the last couple of years at least, because he knows there are genuine competitors now. Brown’s far more dynamic, bullish and a better rugby player in general, but we don’t have a great scrum, so Ford’s experience, aka knowledge on how to cheat or stop the others cheating, and muscle helps shore that deficiency up.
      This 6 Nations is going to be a war of attrition, and sometimes you have to fight fire with fire, rather than try to extinguish it. I hope Keith Earls is playing the first game, and that someone just rattles him, Favaro-style. Dunbar has some payback to get from the 13/14 sneaky doing Earls gave him in the Pro12 semi-final, and his smack-talk, followed by forced, insincere apology, regarding his tip-tackle on Brown, must be avenged!
      Connor Murray too needs “the treatment”, if you must insist on box-kicking every time, don’t expect the time and space to do it. The histrionics after one particluar Strauss tackle on Saturday, went Ronaldo-style.
      “But he was going after the standing leg, that’s not right”, have decried some Munster fans, but the emphasis should be on the kicker to have the time and space to get his boot on it, or are you just not allowed to tackle Connor Murray?

      1. Iain, I completely agree about the need to get in Murray’s face from the off. He’s an excellent player but gets wound up quickly when dislodged from his comfy seat behind gnarled, knowing and powerful packs in red or green shirts. I’ll shut up about this now, having posted on the Murray temperament issue a few times. Except to say that I too enjoyed the Strauss moment last Saturday.

      2. I don’t get the targeting the standing leg complaint – isn’t that just a tackle on a man with the ball?

      3. We’ll have to agree to disagree about Ross Ford Ian. In tandem with Laidlaw, they’ve been given game after game to get it right, even after some very poor performances. Everyone else (inc Pyrgos, Brown and McInally) has single opportunities and are then demoted because they didn’t set the heather on fire in that one game.
        I do agree with you about that gobsh**e Earls. He’s long overdue his come-uppance. Particularly painful that he made the Munster try last weekend.
        I’d target both Murray and Earls as they’re likely to have a tantrum and be carded. As long as the timing of the ‘tackle’ is close enough to legitimate to keep referees from carding the Scots instead.

      4. I’d like to see Earls taken out. I know that makes me a bad person, but he’s a knobhead.

      5. I’ve just read the Irish Independent with Murray claiming Glasgow illegally targeted him and tried to injure him.

        Munster are a very good rugby team but they are truly world class at sanctimony.

      6. PO – I am not in favour of deliberately sanctioning foul play, it is a tough enough game. There is enough to think about out there ,without split hair timing of rib softening tackles.

        I do believe in robust play within the rules.

        To see a good man going off for the sake of silencing those sorts , is the worst place to be. Mind you , I will not be mourning their loss should they get crocked legally.

        Must make sure I have a ringside seat on the 4th.

  13. Anyone remember Cowan? I’m not saying i’d pick him, but I had completely forgotten about him.

  14. This is tough. I reckon given his form Strauss has to start at 8, same applies for Barclay at 6. Number 7 is harder to pick – Hardie has been injured for a while, but will throw himself at everything, Watson is a dervish in the loose and in terrific form, and Wilson is twice the player he was 12 months ago.

    So I’m gonna go for…………..Hardie. No, Watson. No, Wilson!. No……

    As has already been said however, we could pick Amy 3 from about 10 and still have a great back row, which is a fantastic position for BVC to be in. We just need a bit more depth in other areas now.

    1. Despite our strength in depth I have yet to see a Scot in back row in any Lions selection.
      Hope 6 nations will change this

      1. Probably because Gatland will take any opportunity to shoehorn the Welsh back row into the squad. Plus the Irish backrow is in exceptional form at the moment.

        That being said I do feel that the Scottish back rows have been underrepresented in the various Lions Selects.

      2. Hardie was making it in a few of the ‘early’ ones, but since he didn’t feature in the AIs he’s dropped off the radar a bit.

  15. Personally i would pick 6. Hardie 7. Watson 8. Barclay and bring on 2 big balls carriers in the last 30, replacements for me would be strauss and wilson , although i do like the idea of bradbury coming on also . just not in the Ireland game

    1. Also i would have brown starting ahead of ford and swinson in for richie gray and have those guys along with strauss and wilson coming off bench for some big impact against tiring defense.

      1. Slightly scared that is too lightweight especially with Swindon and brown.
        I agree Watson and Barclay need to start, but Hardie is short of game time and is a bit too small to play 6 for an international team

      2. The Glasgow pack had the upper hand against Munster with Brown and Swinson so I’d have no probs picking them both. Gordy and Zander are playing well at the mo so should probs start with the Glasgow tight five and Barclay, Strauss, Watson in back row.

  16. i think a back row of bradbury watson hardie would scare the piss out of me…at 8 7 6 respectively

  17. Week by week I change my mind, v Ireland Hardie is unlikely to be fit enough & I do think that Du Preez suits our fast paced game down to the ground so Barclay, Watson, Du Preez.

  18. Good article, and how bittersweet is it to have to make choices like these? I feel for the selectors. Anyway, for me it’s:
    Watson – outstanding form for club and in his first few Tests.
    Barclay – excellent in the AIs and by all accounts still on top form for club.
    Wilson – would not have dreamed of this name until about halfway through last year’s 6N, when he just started to get better and better and improved his self-discipline on the field. There’s something of the dog in him – meant as a compliment – and I think he’s just the sort of back rower the Irish absolutely hate playing against.

  19. Great points made, and like everyone else I’d like to say its a great problem to have, although back row has, in my time watching Scotland, been an area of strength. Nowadays though, its even stronger. Like someone else said above, I’d like to see a 6/2 split on the bench against Ireland. Whilst its bold move, I reckon with the depth at centre, Huw Jones’ ability to cover wing, Maitland’s ability to cover 15 and Hogg and Laidlaw able to cover 10 to a certain extent, its a possibility. The question then is, what kind of balance do we go with for the 5 back rows in the 23? Personally, I’d go with work rate and breakdown disruption the area to concentrate on for the starters, with Barclay, Hardie and Wilson the combination, and Watson and Strauss the replacements to provide impact and impetus around the 60 minute mark. I’d start with Dunbar and Scott in the centres and hope that the back three don’t get injured, meaning that Jones can come off the bench against a tiring defence and find mismatches and run them ragged.
    Just my quick thoughts, love that we can have this debate though, so many options now.

    1. I agree with your suggestion of a 6/2 split would be the most effective, huw jones coming off the bench is an exciting thought but has he actually played much rugby in the wing?
      For the back row, I can’t believe I am saying this but I would start with an emphasis on work rate Watson, Harley and Barclay. Watson carries very well, Harley offers a line out option and Barclay is an all rounder. Then a toss up between 2 of Wilson Strauss Bradbury and du Perez to add impact in the second half and more of a carrying threat.
      Good options to have but I guess it’s all about the game plan

  20. Just watched the Harlequins v Edinburgh highlights, Du Preez was exceptional in the lead up to Dell’s try

    1. We were sitting behind the Harlequins goal line. All we saw at the time was a blur of handling followed by Dell charging straight at us!

  21. Some choice to have to make!! For Ireland CdP , great player, not sure he is 100% test level fit, so he’ll have to wait, I do expect him to feature at some stage in th 6N. Hardie also, not 100% fit so sits this one out. Ireland, no side to blood guys. So, while we have plenty to choose from think it boils down to – Watson, Barclay, Strauss, Wilson; any three from four.

    Case to be made for others, no doubt about, if I really wanted to upset the Paddies I would be tempted to find a slot for Harley on a 6 / 2 bench split. Apart from being a complete nuisance he is also a great line out option. Whether BVC does a Toonie and targets Irish 9 and who gets that job if so we will wait and see, think Ireland will be alert to this.

  22. Some good comments and many of them. Some saying much the same thing so heres some thoughts to get you really engaged..

    Like many I think Harley is a good shout somewhere in the match day 23 , though I would love to see him keeping Glasgow on track in the pro 12. Right now I have confidence when I see Harley on the pitch, he is now mature and what we need, ‘not a lot of show but a lot of know’.

    Watson is on form and Hardie needs to sit out the early games till he is fit and with regret , needs to prove himself again. I can see his NZ savy and experience needed at the end of of the 6N.

    The one question no one is considering is Scrum Half. For me this position can be another wing forward (Mike Phillips style) or a true half back , the word ‘back’ being the dominant one in that combination.

    So I would like posters to consider who should balance their combination at SH. Who is the 1st Choice and who is his replacement ?

    You may want to consider who should hook in each instance, the mobility of brown (yet another Wing Forward) versus the power and (cant believe I am saying it) stability of Ford.

    I do not think you can just pick them in their tiers , for me the thread runs through to how the backs are engaged and I do think it is horses for courses and a game at a time.

    1. bull at scrumhalf 100% i would start with price and bring on laidlaw with 20-30 mins to go when the experience and know how rly comes into play.

  23. Really is a head scratcher for the backrow. Too small a back row and the globogym units of Ireland and especially England will just walk right over the top of them…but we wan’t enough mobility there to get quick ball and a high tempo game. The choice of half back needs to be symbiotic with the back row. The more dynamic Price and you’d want two ball carriers who can burst the line and present quick ball. The more pragmatic Laidlaw and you might sacrifice that for general dog and aggression.

    Against Ireland who are the most ruthless and well-oiled cheating machine in the Northern Hemisphere I’d want Laidlaw’s experience to try and work the referee.

    Glasgow had a lot of success on the floor against Munster without a specialist 7 so that also asks a question.

    For me, the right combination is Harley/Barclay/Wilson starting. Might not be everyone’s cup of tea and is quite a defensive minded unit, but offers a lot of workrate and spoiling and gives us lots of lineout options. If we went for a 6/2 split on the bench then Strauss could come on to run through tired players and Watson with his all action brand of rugby would be an absolute menace.

    Could be perm any 3 from 5 at the moment though. Hardie will come into contention from the 3rd game onwards.

  24. Bulldog, John Hardie needs to prove nothing he is simply class, Price keeps the opposing back row honest & ,for me, has to start.
    Mikelinds, If CdP gets a full 80mins in on Friday he’ll just about be fit dont you reckon?
    Andy, I reckon we must get onto the front foot & attack Ireland, Watson & Du Preez to start.

    1. Even if CdP gets a full 80 minutes he’s still short of game time. Had he been Nel, then maybe, but there are plenty of options rather than an uncapped player. I expect we’ll see him at some stage, and then we’ll see how he cuts it at the next level up. Ireland, of all teams, isn’t the opposition to test a new cap’s ability to step up.

    2. Just to be clear JM, I like CdP, he offers something a bit different, just that Ireland is not the game to start him.

    3. John Martin- Do not agree with you. Hardie has been injured and is not match fit, I dont want to see him back till he is at his best , which no dispute , is class.

      However , I want him at the standard he set in his first caps.

      Right now we have emergent talent that can more than cover and develop themselves till we see JH performning at or above those standards.

      I would never consider any player will meet or exceed his previous standards after a period of injury. I respect those who come back and go on to improve.

      I would always play the most on form man over talented men who are trailing a wing .

  25. Excellent blog……………. I’d assume Hardie won’t be appearing until the Wales/Italy game(s) (Cotter wouldn’t have selected him if he was any further away from being fit), you are correct Bulldog but once fully fit Hardie is class.
    CdP has had 5 games ish (replaced about 60min in couple) so must be fit, I’d start him as (as you say Mikelinds) he definitely offers something different.

    1. Now, JM, I will play devils advocate. Like you I hope to see CdP get a start. My choice – Twickenham. No Vunipola, wide open spaces where he can use his pace and hands, and no huge pressure as we will not be expected to win. Your thoughts?

      1. Mikelinds,

        We agree CdP offers us something completely different. Cotter said yesterday “Cornell is a more seasoned campaigner [than Magnus] – things stop around him or go more quickly around him, and we like that.”
        If 199% fit I’d start him v Ireland as 1 off CdPs half breaks/offloads could be the difference. CdP really suits our style & I get the impression he’s a big game player (his 260lbs will help too)

  26. This is probably more a general squad statement and something which I think we have shot ourselves in the foot with at the start of the tournament the last few years.
    We need to pick guys on current form!
    Countless times we have brought guys back from injury or with lack of game time, played the first game which we nearly won and this has gone on to damage us for the rest of the tournament.
    Hardie is undoubtedly class when fit and would be one of the first names on my team sheet. But he’s still injured so leave him till he’s fully fit. Watson is in the form of his life.
    Same with huw jones. Matt Scott has rediscovered his mojo at Gloucester so why not play him with Dunbar in the first game.
    Laidlaw will be captain and therefore starting (groan), but let’s hope the in form Price is given the nod off the bench rather than Pyrgos who seems to have lost his way a bit.

    Ah I’m getting excited already!

    1. I respect all the comments above, but I think we need to remember BVC has named a squad for the 6N, not for the Ireland game. It’s essential for the guys who may figure only in the later games to be in camp NOW. It doesn’t preclude further call ups in the event of injury. Apologies if this is a statement of the obvious.

      Fairly sure BVC will not fall in the trap of starting guys freshly back from injury.

    2. Could not agree more – if you do not pick the man on form – what message are you sending him.

  27. Just read an article on the BBC that Glasgow are in talks with both Adam Hastings and Huw Jones in coming to Scotstoun for next season.

      1. I’ve seen this rumour on the Glasgow forum too. Would be a pretty disappointing move for Bennett. He should really be playing for a ECC team, although Scott’s move to Gloucester seems to have rejuvenated him.

        Looks like Glasgow pulling out the stops to keep Dunbar and recruit Jones. I suppose that edges out Bennett’s salary expectations, but it is a shame one of our brightest young talents isn’t going to get the chance to work with Rennie.

      2. Maybe Johnson and Vernons contracts won’t be renewed? Thats would free up some cash, promote Kelly from the acadamy.

    1. This is good news but expect Glasgow to start cutting back on size of squad especially at Centre. If all fit Glasgow have Dunbar, Johnson, Bennett, Horne, Vernon as well as Grigg and Lyle fighting for two places. A Dunbar/Jones combo would be the top choice I think. Could see one, maybe two, of Horne/Bennett/Vernon move on.

    2. Newcastle may have plans to improve however right now they are sitting in bottom 4, so it is a big punt for Bennett.

      Gloucester will always be a rugby giant and many of our guys have progressed there (Dicko, Patterson, Laidlaw and now Scott) in fact the whole M5 corridor is Rugby daft but Newcastle is on a branch line.

      FF – looks like he is a ‘home bird’ after all – commuting zone from Ayrshire

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