Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


The Scottish Rugby Blog End of Year Awards

Huw Jones celebrates
Huw Jones celebrates scoring for Scotland vs Australia at BT Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh - pic © Alastair Ross / Novantae Photography

Happy New Year everyone! Through the foggy haze of Hogmanay, we’ve put our heads together and here are the winners for the awards that are undoubtedly more important to Scottish Rugby than the Oscars…

Young Player of the Year: there are any number of nominations here, so to make it manageable we’re counting “young” as under 21; these guys can’t buy beer in a Scotmid. For Edinburgh, Blair Kinghorn has had a year to remember – much to Glenn Bryce’s frustration no doubt – having cemented a spot in the first team, aged 19. Magnus Bradbury turned 21 this year and earned his first cap. At Glasgow, Scott Cummings had a good tail end to last season but injury has hampered him massively this season. Most impressive though has been the rise of Zander Fagerson. The tighthead became Scotland’s youngest debut prop since 1948 and after WP Nel was rested over the autumn, has cemented himself as his challenger or successor with a strong series of games against some hefty scrummaging units.

The Respect The Kicker Award: goes to this effort from someone in charge of the iPod at the Stade Mayol:

The Respect The Officials Award: this one goes to John Muldoon of Connacht, who managed to convince French referee Matthieu Raynal – coming to a Calcutta Cup near you – that the new directives for 2017 were already in place, and that they could kick for touch and still take the lineout even after 80 minutes was up. Connacht went on to score a try, the conversion winning them the match.

The Pascal Pape Fair Play Award: stiff competition from the big man himself after the PapeSlappe™ but this one goes to Keith Earls of Munster, who reacted poorly – during an understandably heated occasion – when he was red carded for a tip tackle, then reacted poorly again in the media. He possibly still thinks Fraser Brown milked it, even though he’s been forced to issue any number of clarifying statements after that particular opinion seemed to contradict the one he gave to the disciplinary panel and possibly to Brown himself. Thankfully it is in the past now, but expect Earls to be treated like a pantomime villain at Scotstoun for a wee while.

Try of the Year: sorry Matt Taylor, who probably had kittens, but it has to be this one:

Close runners up were Visser against France, Hogg against Ireland, any of Huw Jones’ in the Autumn and Strauss against Racing 92 as well at least a couple of these Edinburgh tries against Quins:

Breakthrough of the Year: Duncan Taylor had a Six Nations to remember, and Hamish Watson has finally disproved his doubters after the Autumn. Ali Price has developed rapidly this season for Glasgow, to the point where co-captain Henry Pyrgos’s shirt is genuinely under threat, and he’s bagged himself a Scotland cap now too. But in terms of impact on the national level, take a bow Huw Jones. In the spring it was all about the rise of Taylor (himself not initially first choice during the Six Nations), until the well-regarded Stormers centre sneaked in stage left for a first cap on the Japan tour after Finn Russell was injured. He followed up that fairly innocuous start with a hugely impressive 2-try performance against Australia and created another one against Argentina, and he was going well until he was injured in the act of offloading it to Sean Maitland. Short and sharp but he’s left a big impression on Scotland fans. He’s only 22, and could perhaps be part of our own golden generation along with the likes of Gray, Hogg, Russell and Bennett. So don’t worry about him playing Super Rugby for another season at least – as long as they let him play for Scotland too.

Moment of the Year: No contest really: Scotland 7s winning a first ever World Series Sevens tournament at Twickenham (just in time to be under-represented in the Olympic squad). Particular mention to Dougie Fife, comeback king of the year both in the final and in general.

Player of the Year: much like the Man of the Match awards he hoovers up pretty regularly, this one is easy. Hamish Watson, Finn Russell and Stuart Hogg came close. However, Jonny Gray has been head and shoulders above every other Scottish lock – even his brother who stands 10cm taller – and in terms of tackling stats he’s miles ahead of everyone else too; according to Ultimate Rugby he’s missed 3 tackles all year at any level for a total of 204. The battle for those red shirts and a seat on the plane to New Zealand is most heated in the second row, where there are probably 8 or 9 candidates Gatland could choose. Even taking 4 or 5 as he is likely to, will mean some culling of talent. Jonny has the work ethic, the precision in defence and the attitude for it, but does his dogged hard work but perceived quiet personality put him behind some of the showier candidates (for example Maro Itoje) in the perception that somehow he isn’t the complete rugby player? Well, he is only 22. Give him time.

36 Responses

  1. “a hugely impressive 2-try performance against Australia and another one against Argentina, at least until he was injured in the act of scoring his third try for Scotland ”
    It was Maitland that scored in the Argentina game from a Jones break.
    Although Jones did not score in that game he would definitely get my vote for Breakthrough of the Year.

  2. Agree Huw Jones has made a fantastic start to his Scotland career, adding to the richness of choice at centre. Hamish Watson very impressive too, as has been Bradbury. Like others on this blog who feel Scots players have had a rough selection deal in recent years, I’m not bothered about Jonny Gray getting a Lions call, I just want to see him take his outstanding ability into the 6N to help us get the best we can out of the tournament. If he does, and gets a call, great news. If he does, and still doesn’t get a call, then my interest in the Lions will probably end there.
    Got my tickets for Ireland and France. Come on, Scotland!

  3. Much to my disgust, I agree with all of those !

    Could you not have selected Scott Johnson as Unseen Positive Influence of the Year ?

  4. Cant argue with any of it , a lot of thought has gone in there. That Japaneese try was amazing.

    Shame there is not an award for ‘Cheating the hangman’ as the retiral of Joubert has left me feeling strangely bereaved.

  5. It is entirely possible that the sum total of Scots on the Lions tour = 0. Gatland has fallen out with the SRU over Gregor Townsend’s non-availability. Like Woodward before him, he plainly favours players he has coached at 6N level. Add to that the fact that there is a far shorter time available than was the case historically for development of the 1st choice team; the temptation will be to select established combinations, rather than try to develop them on tour. Remember Brian O’Driscoll being selected at full back in an early midweek game? Stuart Hogg at outside half? Daft. Gatland needs to know his first-choice combinations before they get on the plane. So, Welsh back three; English midfield; Irish half-backs. Irish front row +/- English hooker, English lineout locks, Welsh back row, but less certain now Faletau injured. Then, on bench and in midweek team, English front row, Irish midfield and Welsh half backs, Irish hooker and locks, and so on.
    Maitland might make it because of the Saracens connection and his undoubtedly productive combination with Feral. But there are plenty of lock forwards with practised combinations with hookers from their own 6N team that the brothers Grey could be overlooked. This would be a colossal injustice but I am prepared for it.
    Now, I have said before that Scots being excluded from the Lions tour would not necessarily be a disaster. Touring instead with GT, establishing their own working combinations, learning about one another; better, surely, than being buggered about playing the midweek games and being granted Saturday match time off the bench while Gatland’s favoured anointed get the real action. I would be relieved if Finn Russell wasn’t a Lion; the All Blacks will try to kill him. Remember O’Driscoll being spear tackled by Nonu in the first game of tour. Quite deliberate, an attempt to end his participation. The battle of Canterbury, when an entire Lions front row was beaten to a pulp and off the tour by provincial thugs with nothing to lose. With his head injury history, Finn is vulnerable. The ABs will regard this as a weakness, and will seek to exploit it. Nasty, but that’s how they do business.
    We love a Lions year, with the endless pub selection committees. But let’s be frank, it’s an anachronism. The British Isles do not play home fixtures; whereas in the past, individual 5N (as it was) teams did not, as a rule, go on tour; that was for the Lions. But 6N teams do now tour on a regular schedule; so what is the place for the Lions? It would make more sense if the British Isles played home fixtures as well as touring, with the 6N fulfilling the role of the Super Rugby sides when Southern Hemisphere teams come here on tour. But for evident commercial reasons, and for reasons of pride, that won’t happen.
    I won’t shed any tears if our lads have a summer learning and developing with Gregor. Yes the Lions tour will be interesting but my inclination is 3-0 to NZ with a cluster of career-ending injuries and a whole heap of bad feeling. I hope that I am wrong.

    1. Pretty much agree with you fat bloke but it was Umaga & Mealamu who tried to decapitate O’Driscoll & successfully put him out of the tour & yes the AB’s would target Russell if selected as they will target Sexton or whoever else plays 10.

      1. You are quite right, Mac2, it was Umaga who did for BO’D. Was there even a penalty awarded, can you remember? I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a yellow; in current practice it would have been a certain red, no question, and a substantial ban. But they were out to get him, just as they will be out to get whoever wears 10.

      2. It was probably a red even then, but I think the problem was a lack of sufficient evidence as the cameras moved past it too quickly.

        At the risk of pointing you to a potential competitor for your affections, I thoroughly recommend reading the serialised account of that particular Lions tour over on David Barnes’ The Offside Line, the archive is here:

    2. Excellent analysis in the first paragraph TFB. I disagree with your argument that the interests of Scottish rugby are best served by not having players or coaches as part of the party.
      The 1984 Grand Slam side was coached by Telfer who along with Baird, Laidlaw, Rutherford, Beattie, Jim Calder, Deans, Milne and Paxton toured with the 1983 Lions. Similarly a core of the 1990 Grand Slam team, Armstrong, Chalmers, Gavin Hastings, Scott Hastings, Finlay Calder, Jeffrey, Sole and White, along with coach McGeehan, toured with the 1989 Lions. It can’t be a coincidence that the greater intensity of an extended tour, within many of the mid-week games of international intensity, was of benefit in player development, while also demystifying the aura around other home nations players.
      I see it as essential to the development of the current Scotland team that as many as possible are selected for the tour, even if they don’t make the Test team. All will learn from the process. I regard the SRU’s attitude regarding Townsend as short-sighted. To be invited to tour as the attack coach shows the regard he is held in by his peers, and his development as a coach would be accelerated.

      1. Very valid. Comments HB, but we need to be realistic. Fatland will not select any of our guys unless they are quite outstanding. To my mind that means Hogg, Seymour and Gray (J), so to take the comments about combinations, then why not Scotland back three. Ok, apologies I will wake up, Fatland will go for Wales back three over ours, no matter what.

        I would usually agree in terms of Lions intensity, but there’s a lot to be said about bedding in our squad under Toonie as well. I suspect it was his call rather than the SRU. All conjecture really.

      2. He’s taken Maitland before. A good 6N by all 3 and it’s not out of the question they travel. Doubt he’d pick them as a test unit though. He’s also taken Richie before…

      3. Completely agree – it is essential for both Scotland and the particular players that we get as many in the tour party as possible. Once on tour there is always the chance to get into the test side. The experience will be invaluable coming back into the Scottish squad.
        If I was being optimistic, there could be 3 Scottish props in Nel, Fagerson and Dickinson, the 2 Gray brothers, Watson as an out-and-out 7, Russell, Taylor, Jones, Seymour and Hogg. Pessimistically, it’s just Hoggy. On current form (and without tartan specs) I’d probably take Hoggy, Tommy and Jonny, with Nel if back to full fitness and Finn if Gatland wants to surprise the ABs. But whoever goes will benefit.
        Gregor doesn’t need his core players to go with him on tour – he knows most of them pretty well already and their replacements will benefit from being first picks on a Scotland tour (Hoyland, Kingshorn, Junior Baku, Gilchrist, Toolis, Allan etc etc).
        The British & Irish Lions is only an anachronism in the sense that it’s the spirit of amateurism. Which is why I’m so aghast they picked Gatland again – his win at all costs mentality means not taking risks and playing an ugly version of the game. That being said, if we beat Ireland first up he’ll have to take note.

    3. Interesting and valid point on combinations. Bit of a shame Taylor won’t be fit then: a Taylor/Jones combo slaying all before them in the Six Nations might work well together and have the Playing for Sarries/Super Rugby Experience boxes ticked for Gatland. Oh well…

      1. It really is a shame for Scotland as all of out players effectively have to work so much harder than everyone else to gain attention, there is a lot to be said for performing “reasonably” well in a winning team.

        This means the likes of Hogg, Seymour,
        Jones etc need to perform outstandingly to get noticed.

      2. There’s a world of a difference in being an international player and a winning international player. Ask yourself Gary (i) how many matches have Scotland won in the past 4 years against Australia, South Africa or New Zealand? – the best teams find ways to win test matches(ii) how many of the current Scottish team would get into the current England or Ireland teams?
        For Scottish internationals to be taken seriously as Lions candidates, Scotland as a team needs to start winning regularly in the Six Nations and against Southern Hemisphere teams.
        Good individual performances may not be sufficient to get someone on the plane. Two wins against the other Home Nations will.

  6. I know this is a bit left field, but pity there’s nowhere for the Scottish Rugby League performance in the 4 nations in this round up. All rugby is great fun and at least the league guys don’t get all prissy about a decent right cross!

    Great blog, all the best to all for 2017,

  7. Pity the sevens coverage did not show Scotland regaining the ball from that final kick off. It was shown in one of the tries of the tournament – a short grubber regathered.

  8. A good recap of the year Rory. The only award where there is any doubt is breakthrough of the year. Such a tight group of selections but I could possibly be swayed by Watson instead of Jones as I think he has been immense for Edinburgh all season and has stepped up to Test level. Saying that I’m not arguing about Jones as he has been pretty special too!!

    Here’s to all involved in Scottish Rugby having the kind of season that makes this article even harder to write next January :0)

  9. I think the reality is that we have been relatively crap for a long time and there can be few complaints maintain about low Lions representation. Rather than it being an anachronism.

    It’s in the players’ own hands come 6 nations time.

    I think it is important as the psychology of those getting. On the plane is that you are better than those who have missed out.

    Even when Garland went with Welsh players over Ireland it was at least preceded by a recent period of Welsh domination (despite the shocking sin against rugby of omitting BOD). It’s only England that have that going into February and they can’t make up up he whole team…

  10. Only a month until the 6N kicks off. How is the potential squad looking? Dicko, Ford, Nel, Gray, Gray, Barclay, Watson, Wilson/Ashe/Bradbury, Laidlaw, Russell, Maitland, Dunbar, Jones, Seymour, Hogg, Dell, Brown, Fagerson, Gilchrist, Hardie, Price, Scott, Bennett all potentially available? Fairly tidy squad. I’m assuming Nel, Jones, Hardy will all be fit, and that Horne won’t. Would expect Taylor to ve there or there abouts if he gets some games wirh Sarries first.
    Really hoping that this will be our best 6N ever. Not necessarily in terms of position, but in terms of performance. 3 wins would be good: Italy, Wales and either Ireland or France. 4 would be excellent. 2 wins would probably be a pass, but ultimately disappointing. Ireland first up is a massive challenge. I am not optimistic about it, as we don’t seem able to match them at the breakdown. Achieving that would be huge progress, however.
    Just as we had to beat France last year, we HAVE to beat Wales this year. Looking forward to getting along to the 3 home games.

  11. Couple of points that I wholeheartedly agree with.

    1. Gatland will pick “Warrenball” players, i.e. Welshmen wherever possible.

    2. Our players will get overlooked till we start winning as a team, look how many Wales, Ireland, England players that have toured recently that maybe perhaps aren’t the out and out best in that position, but they are part of a winning team or have made the difference between winning and losing, winning matches is what its all about, the Scotland team was a team of losers, that is hopefully changing and that is the only way our players will get noticed.

    3. I think Lions experience is more important than the players that may have gone touring with Scotland instead, despite justified injury concerns. Most of the players we are expecting to have a chance are or were Glasgow first team players, Toonie knows them and there is nothing to gain by flogging our best guys, if they don’t go with the Lions give them a rest and give the other guys a chance. For the first time in quite a while, apart from a couple of exceptions there are genuine options at every position. Wouldn’t it be nice to have the problem we have at centre in every position?

    1. On the other hand, we have a genuine chance to win that Tournament in the summer as we should expect to beat Italy and could certainly beat Samoa and Australia given the right circumstances… so Toony may want to start/continue that winning culture with a bang…

    2. It’s back to the same argument about the squad for Japan last year – do you want to maintain momentum and build the winning culture, or do you take the opportunity to begin blending in some new combinations with a longer term view?
      At least this time round the RWC ranking positions won’t be at stake, so possibly there is more leeway to rest a couple of front line players if they are not on the plane to NZ.
      Obviously if a Scots contingent makes the Lions then the decision is made for you, and you hope that they come back better players for having been in that environment as well as blooding youngsters on the Scotland tour.
      The other aspect to bear in mind is the Toonie Tombola. Will this still be in use when he’s in charge of the Big Team?

  12. Somehow don’t imagine that winning a ‘friendly’ quadrangular tournament would rank with a Triple Crown. Scotland, with 4-6 of their best players creamed off by the Lions, lack the strength in depth to challenge the Wallabies. In addition a number of the first 15 will be carrying injuries or need an extended summer break if they have played all season, particularly if either of the clubs have gone deep into European or Pro-12 knockout stages.

    Or are you suggesting that Scottish players forgo a Lions tour for ‘glory in Australia’?

    I would equate the party with an ‘A’ or developmental tour, to blood new players and allow Gregor to begin to put his stamp on the national side. The 2013 quadrangular tournament in South Africa was not a success from a Scottish perspective. It would be interesting to get the new coach’s views as to how the tour will benefit the side, post 6N.

    1. @neil – a timely return. 2017 could be just the year for all your wishes to come true. laidlaw, box kicks, more red cards, demands for a third pro team all on the agenda.

      Talking of red cards !!!!!

  13. According to the Guardian ‘World Rugby’s new directives for punishing high tackles come into effect this weekend, but in truth they have left it up to coaches and players to figure out for themselves how to adapt’.

    Not a new law, just harsher repercusions. Cound be a lively talking point next week.

  14. See racing getting stuffed by munster. Whilst not the first time this sort of thing had happened when a team is out of Europe and another is chasing a bp, I can’t help feel a aggrieved as happening to Glasgow. surely it would be more equitable to have 4 pools of 5 teams with top two from each pool through. Appreciate an extra two games but removes the draw bias of getting the Italian team or teams that give up half way through the group.

    Of course Glasgow can still go through but more difficult now. Two wins not out of the question though!

    1. Definitely one of the issues that was not got right, the group with the Italian side is clearly the most likely to get a second place qualification. That said, notwithstanding today’s result, qualification or not is in Glasgow’s hands. Win both and even if not top of group will certainly be one of the best runners up.

  15. Bonus category: player that’s benefitted most from a move. Winner Matt Scott. Joint top try scorer in the AP with an impressive 8 so far. Has to be in the mix for 6N. Runner up Sean Maitland.

    1. Scott is looking sharp for Gloucester. Took his two tries well yesterday. And yes, Maitland has benefited from going to Saracens – he looks energised. I would include Visser in that category too as he is scoring tries for fun at Harlequins.

    2. @ade We have an abundance of riches in many many positions and the premiership is giving us a benchmark on how our pro 12 players sit with their home nations peers.

      Matt Scott has remained injury free and is now making progress, how positive is that.

      I heard John Welsh had a decent game for Newcastle so lets hope that continues.

      While I am not saying we go back to the future, who would have thought we would have had so many choices at Tighthead.

      Personally I can not pick the best centre combination for Scotland and for once we are going to be leaving class out of the squad.

      We just need results in the 6N.

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Scottish Rugby News and Opinion