Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Scotland vs Wales: The Teams

ohn Hardie, John Barclay, Zander Fagerson and Richie Gray pictured during Scotland vs Australia
John Hardie, John Barclay, Zander Fagerson and Richie Gray pictured during Scotland vs Australia in the Autumn Test at BT Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh. © Alastair Ross / Novantae Photography

John Barclay will start as Scotland captain for the first time in a long and winding career. There have been “downs”, but to captain his country against the country where he lives and works will be a considerable “up”.

He is joined in the back row by John Hardie who surprisingly replaces Hamish Watson, and Ryan Wilson – who started the game against Ireland – replaces the injured Josh Strauss.

Gordon Reid gets the nod at loosehead as Allan Dell swaps to the bench but the front five is otherwise unchanged.

In the backs, Ali Price gets the nod at scrum half while Tim Visser comes in for Sean Maitland who picked up a knock for Saracens (as a replacement for Duncan Taylor) and will be tasked with marking George North…

There are two decent teams here. My worry is that we haven’t seen much of the new high tackle directives yet so we are due a bit of controversy. And just look at the ref…

Scotland team to face Wales on Saturday (1425 GMT live on BBC):

15. Stuart Hogg, 14. Tommy Seymour, 13. Huw Jones, 12. Alex Dunbar, 11. Tim Visser,  10. Finn Russell, 9. Ali Price; 1. Gordon Reid, 2. Fraser Brown, 3. Zander Fagerson, 4. Richie Gray, 5. Jonny Gray, 6. John Barclay (capt), 7. John Hardie, 8. Ryan Wilson.

Replacements: 16. Ross Ford, 17. Allan Dell, 18. Simon Berghan, 19. Tim Swinson, 20. Hamish Watson, 21. Henry Pyrgos, 22. Duncan Weir, 23 Mark Bennett.

Wales: Leigh Halfpenny (Toulon); George North (Northampton), Jonathan Davies (Scarlets), Scott Williams (Scarlets), Liam Williams (Scarlets); Dan Biggar (Ospreys), Rhys Webb (Ospreys); Rob Evans (Scarlets), Ken Owens (Scarlets), Tomas Francis (Exeter Chiefs), Jake Ball (Scarlets), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys, capt), Sam Warburton (Cardiff Blues), Justin Tipuric (Ospreys), Ross Moriarty (Gloucester).

Replacements: Scott Baldwin (Ospreys), Nicky Smith (Ospreys), Samson Lee (Scarlets), Luke Charteris (Bath), Taulupe Faletau (Bath), Gareth Davies (Scarlets), Sam Davies (Ospreys), Jamie Roberts (Harlequins).

Referee: John Lacey (IRFU)

109 Responses

  1. I fear for the “Lacey Lottery”.

    Need time to digest the team. Bit surprised with Hardie starting in front of Watson.

    1. It’s a strange one. Maybe they want Hardie to run himself into the ground for 50mins before bringing on Watson. Harder to see it work the other way if Hardie not 100%…? Plus Watson against tiring players might just be our version of a Faletau game changer…

      1. I think Vern made a comment about him being an important member in the famous leadership group of his. ‘leads by example’ was mentioned and you can’t argue with that, though if everyone copied him exactly we’d have more head knocks than a game of whack-a-mole.

        My guess is he is partly in as part of a ‘leadership group’ in place of Laidlaw, partly to play himself to shreds for 50 mins a la Moriarty last week and partly to work with Barclay to cause mayhem at the breakdown when Wales hit us with their big carriers and try and get some counter attacks going.

  2. A few comments come to mind, all in my opinion of course.

    I can understand opting for a Glasgow front-row for stability, but Dell is probably more dynamic in the loose.

    Back-row decision is clearly tactical, with a view that Hardie is going to cause more havoc when the Welsh have the ball, though Watson is a better carrier.

    Half-back pairing starting/bench has a win-the-game vs close-out-the-game look about them.

    I’ve no idea who is covering Hogg, other than Huw ‘play anywhere’ Jones. Seymour?

    1. Both Jones and Seymour have played full back. Would expect Bennett to come in with Jones at the back.

  3. Also surprised to see Hardie starting before the in-form Watson, however he’s not a bad replacement. I’m disappointed Maitland hasn’t made it as I don’t fancy Visser v North, hope I’m wrong. Agree with you Al and Mikelinds on Lacey, I like to think all referees are impartial all the time but we never seem to get the rub of the green with him. A good team though, Barclay as captain is the right decision and if Price and Russell can keep their composure we should be a real threat as I expect as to be more competitive in the scrum against Wales.

  4. Please forgive a re-post from a different discussion here, as it’s directly relevant to tactics and team selection for Saturday, particularly scrum-half and front row.

    From memory (always selective), I had thought our scrum/props had done quite well in the Autumn internationals, but when I look back at the highlights of the Australia game, Australia destroyed our scrum on two occasions and successfully kicked both resulting penalties. The main things that stand out to me from re-watching those highlights:

    1) We arguably lost that match largely because of our scrum.
    2) For both of those scrum penalties, it was Scotland’s put-in.
    3) In both scrums, the ball was at the Scotland No. 8’s feet when the penalty was given. A lot of refs now just say ‘Use it’ if the ball’s at the back and available, even if the scrum has collapsed, because the refs want to avoid scrum penalties and keep the game flowing. This ref didn’t. Who was he? John Lacey, our ref for the Wales game.

    In the build-up to our third try, we had a put-in in Australia’s 22. Our scrum was being destroyed. Laidlaw, under great pressure, brilliantly picked and passed in the nick of time to Hogg, who made ground and Johnny Gray scored off the next phase. If Laidlaw had waited another second, I’m sure we would have been penalised.

    The Southern Hemisphere ref in the Argentina game is a good example of saying ‘Use it’ when Argentina were dominant in the scrum and looking for a penalty. (about 3 minutes into the 11-minute highlights when Scotland were 6-0 up.) Perhaps Scotland would have lost that game if he had reffed the scrum like Lacey.

    It goes without saying (and not just because we have a weaker scrum than everyone else), I much prefer the SH ref’s interpretation. To allow a knock-on (for either side) to mean effectively a penalty for the stronger scrum, potentially with yellow cards thrown in, is just anti-rugby in my opinion. But it’s our reality and we have to find a way to deal with it against Wales.

    Take-away: Scotland must release the ball incredibly quickly when our scrum is under pressure or Lacey will penalise our retreating scrum. In this respect, Price’s eagerness to play quick ball may be a huge asset.

  5. From the chat on here during the week that the back row could involve Harley, Kelly Brown and CDP we now end up with Hamish Watson on the bench. Didn’t see that coming. No complaints here as I think the human crash dummy Hardie in-form is even better than Watson and presumably he’s looked sharp and recovered in training. Watson will play 30 mins at least.

    I also think Visser’s defensive weakness is a bit overstated, no worries for me him against North.

      1. @Paul, I don’t think Kelly Brown has ever really fallen back into favour with Cotter for some reason, you’ve got to remember that Kelly was the Scotland captain up until 2014 so I don’t know what happened after that but he was a decent player but let’s face it, he was very much protected by the “captain’s armband” much the same as Laidlaw and was never any good as a No.7, to me he was always a very effective No.6 or No.8 but you’ve really got to ask if we are going for a player of this style then does Ryan Wilson or even Rob Harley not fit the bill instead of bringing a 34 year old former captain into the fold?

  6. Visser may be our best attacking player. Be positive.
    I think we have a good chance, but the team have to back themselves.

    They won’t if we don’t!!!

  7. Really pleased with that side, in the circs the best that could be selected IMO – especially like Price as scrum-half and Glasgow front row as this gives us the best chance of solid scrum / quick release to 3/4’s

  8. I would have had Watson starting and have mattscott in for bennett , im happy we have reid in for dell and should hopefully solve the scrum issue. I think our backline will be better with visser over maitland and price for laidlaw (not game management), hopefully we blow them away though. Dunbar vs scott Williams is my head up to watch.

    1. I don’t think Gordon Reid will sort the scrum issue, IMHO his scrummaging is pretty poor as he keeps getting popped up by the opposite number.

      1. He’s always been a strong scrummager so not sure who you’ve been watching? Check out v France in Paris 2015 with a Scot forward already in the sinbin and a 7 man scrum. Heroic stuff. Given the issues the scrum has been having and the tackles Dell has been missing, it seems the right choice.
        It’s also the Glasgow front row which might help.

      2. Presumably they have been doing scrummage practice all week. Looks like the Glasgow blend edged it. Actually there is some sense if its marginal in picking units that play together all the time. Dell seems to do better with Ford alongside him. Looks like they prefer Browns mobility over Ford and that may have swung it for Reid.

  9. Sometimes it’s good to spruce things up a bit. Hardie will be chomping, this is what he’s made for. Watson has played 2 tough games. I can see the sense in the decision.

  10. I like the mind games presented by the Welsh, by announcing their team on the Wednesday. I also like the fact that Vern has clearly given thought to our previous performances, and results, and picked a team that appears to have a game-plan. It’s a shame for Watson, but the match-day squad needs ‘finishers’, and hopefully there’s a couple of decent combinations and options on the bench depending on where we are 55+mins.

    Getting excited again.

  11. Visser for Maitland… urgh. Why was he released back to Saracens anyway? Who’s decision was that? Disaster.

    1. No choice as it is outside the test release windows. That’s why it is so important for teams across Scotland, Wales and Ireland to keep players at home. French clubs don’t care about the national team so flog the players anyway, English clubs get paid to not play English players and release them to the national team for training. Just another reason for a global calendar that keeps test rugby and domestic rugby separate.

      1. Don’t get me started on that! Absolute shambles with regard to league fixtures taking place during international weekends, making a mockery of domestic leagues in my opinion. It is, quite frankly, amateur. Imagine it happening in football? Imagine having the World Cup during the league season? Also bit bizarre in relation to the argument for ‘rest weeks’ in the 6N. If players play domestically during these ‘rest weeks’ then how is it a rest?

    2. Got to be a bit pleased of what has transpired now with the unfortunate injury. Visser did what Maitland would have done defensively. Maitland is still to do what Visser does regularly. Great way to answer the critics today and he was outstanding in almost everything.

  12. Agree with most of what been said. Started reading some of the 120+ comments on the BBC article and gave up after 5 mins, what nonsense.

    Feel for Hamish, he certainly doesn’t deserve to be dropped as he’s been outstanding but despite it being a cliche, it’s 23 a side game now and he will be a big asset for us off the bench. Hardie is a class act at his best and wasn’t that long ago he was one of the first names on the teamsheet. Our back row might not be as robust as the Welsh but think we more than match them for skill and think we can win the breakdown battle.

    Pleased for Reid getting his chance, to my mind he’s had his best season to date for Glasgow and can hopefully provide us with the platform that’s been lacking. Dell has done a good job and offers more in the loose, but as he mentioned recently to his credit, he needs to Improve his scrummaging. The experience he has had in the this competition and in November will be invaluable in the future though and he will come again.

    It should be close again and could go either way. Do think that the England game in Cardiff is Wales’ big match of the competition though and they always massively get up for that game. Remains to be seen if they can put that level of performance in again though and let’s not forget they were poor for a long time against Italy. Finally, and possibly crucially, in VC I think we have the significantly superior coach and it could just be that fact that might swing the match our way.

    1. Could VC be holding back H (uman) W (hirlwind) to give some fresh puff to back row when Faletau comes on?

  13. Hardie starting with Watson on the bench surprised me a bit too. However this has to be a specific game plan of Vern’s, and it’s good that we have high quality to replace high quality at 7 as and when needed.
    Presumably Reid starts in favour of Dell to reduce the risk of scrum penalties early on and being watched like a hawk by the referee for the rest of the game.
    I feel sorry for Maitland. Tim V has been playing well for Quins though and surely deserves to take the spare wing berth given his Test match experience.
    Hoping too that Price and Russell’s partnership at club level transfers well to the international stage.
    Incidentally, there’s some hilariously ill-tempered swinging of cyber handbags on the two BBC Have Your Say threads on the Wales and Scotland team announcements.
    Come on, Scotland, you can do this on Saturday!

    1. I don’t get this belief that Gordon Reid is such a solid loosehead, I would be confident in Alex Allen or even Ryan Grant over Reid. Reid to me has never really matured as a player, makes stupid mistakes during games and simply can’t hack it in the scrums, he should be a ‘club player’ meaning the likes of James Eddie who was excellent at club level but could never really get to the next level. You’ve also got to think there is a reason why Glasgow haven’t resigned Reid? If he was such a good prop this wouldn’t have happened. Having met Reid I would concur that he is a friendly character, acts the fool but is extremely poor in terms of his attitude towards working for a place, this is potentially why Townsend / Rennie don’t want him at Glasgow.

      1. @William: You are correct,’ In the land of the blind , the one eyed man is king’ according to Erasmus. Reid is not that solid but the best we have available. A nice lad who does not appear to take anything too seriously. He does work hard at his local gym (so I am told). While not ideal it is not a catastrophe.

        Glasgow can not even give Grant away, Alex Allen is less experienced at test level and Gordon Reid has just secured a premiership place.

  14. My biggest concern is Visser’s aerial ability, or lack thereof. Wales play box kicks very well, and while Seymour, Hogg and Russell are comfortable under the high ball, Visser is not and Biggar will target his wing.

    Reading the HYS on the BBC website, the Welsh fans are their usual arrogant/dismissive selves, and given how the fixture has been the last decade, if Scotland were to win only 1 more game this calendar year, please let it be this one – by 20 at least!

    1. Yes, it’s a bit frustrating that after so many years as a pro player, Tim Visser still isn’t the complete, all-round package. But he’s a strong, fast runner and let’s hope he gets plenty of galloping space on Saturday.
      Re the HYS, it’s good to see nearly all the Scotland fan contributors are behaving themselves!

    1. Would be delighted with 33-25. 5 pointer with no losing bonus point for Wales. That would have to put a few of the Scottish names in to the mix for the Lions even with Gatland picking the team.

  15. Can Visser be that bad defensively? If he was such a liability, why is he a regular pick for Harlequins (and highly rated there) and first reserve winger for Scotland? He just wouldn’t get picked if he was simply bad in that area.

    I’m asking myself this question as much as anyone else. Like others, I’ve seen him pull away from contact rather than direct his energies towards it. I think I’d prefer to see him against North than Liam Williams.

    I do remember seeing him with a stunning take of a high ball in a Harlequins game last year. Does anyone know how much consistency he has under the high ball? I haven’t seen enough of him recently to know.

  16. Tim Visser has a strike rate comparable with most wingers @ international level (better than North, far better than Maitland & about the same as Seymour), yes he’s not as good a rugby player as those boys but he is a try scoring threat.

    Before Solomons arrived at Edinburgh Visser had a sensational strike rate.

    Hardie is a tremendous 7 & the Welsh won’t like Watson coming on @ 50 mins.

    1. Providing the starting from row is competitive those mobile props coming on after 60 will be like having an extra couple of flankers come on.

      1. Agree….I think we got it the wrong way around v France…and by half time were just battered.

        A more physical starting XV and more mobile subs is better I think, at least in the fwds.

  17. Im pretty pleased with that team selection.

    Bit surprised by Hardie over Watson… that said… I would have picked Hardie too. Hardie …when fit and fresh is an absolute beast of a 7. As ferocious a tackler I have seen in test matches. In the short time he appeared this season he looks like he is even faster than he was when he 1st played for Scotland. He could potentially destroy Wales at the breakdown.
    Watson is a different player at 7 these days… he is starting to come into his own. He plays like he is covered in olive oil… very hard to pin in a tackle with great breakaway ability. A Wales team with dropping energy will not want to deal with him when he comes on. Hardie / Watson is virtually no drop in standards at all.
    Wales, I reckon, will have been surprised with that selection. Serves ’em right for their ‘cocky’ early team announcement.

    Bummer Strauss is injured, I would have made Scotland favorite with him as 8. Wilson is playing better than he ever has tho… used to be a walking time bomb..seems a more mature player now. Very good hands and link play tho …even if he is a small’ish No8.

    Visser may get targeted with balls over the top of him to put him in defense…which as everyone knows he is barely club level at. In attack tho… better than Maitland.

    We could potentially be a far better side with Price & Russell combo. Laidlaw’s rugby style may not be missed….but his experience probably will be. They’ll need to stay calm at key moments. Scotland have been crying out for fast ball for some time tho…. so hopefully Price and Russell click. Pyrgos and Weir will play some part too Id imagine… when more composure and territorial kicking is needed.

    Reid at loosehead is a wise move. Dell was being targeted in the scrum…and with Lacey ref’ing the game a stream of penalties were on the cards…still possible with Reid …but less likely from the scrum. Dell will come on with the scrum experience of Ford there beside him.

    The bench would have been far stronger with Taylor there…he can cover wing, centre and FB. Obviously he isn’t quite ready… interesting he is with the squad training .. may be on the bench v England. Bennet hasn’t done anything to deserve his spot on the bench…Scott really has dropped out of favor with the coaches.

  18. With Gordy Reid and Wilson on from the start the chances of niggle and handbags go way up. Not sure I mind that. Richie Grey with his dander up would be a sight to see.

  19. The weather forecast on Saturday is for rain and gusting winds. That should make life a bit more difficult for anyone to gather high kicks. Not sure if Wales will kick more or kick less because of this. It could be chaotic.

    1. Wales will heft it up all day long as they are irritatingly briliant at getting penalties from Scotland’s finest in ariel collisions . We have had yellow and red cards in recent times for this. I actually think Biggar should have been sent off for leading with the knee some years ago. A gullible referee is likely to hand them out like Sunday School Soiree tickets. lets hope JL sees through it all and does not get caught up in the latest player safety concerns. This is an area where Wales are a danger to themselves.

    2. Agreed. I do like a bit of handbags from Scotland, as it shows that we’re not going to be messed about. Too many Scotland teams are just too passive in my view. It’s a bit semi-detached and they really need to get their ‘dander’ up.

  20. I think that this is a great 23. Like everyone else, I was expecting Watson ahead of Hardie but I guess that they’ll both get game time and with Watson’s vigour at 50-60 minutes, you can see the logic. Vern had to change the front row (after France demolition) and an all-Glasgow front row makes sense. I previously didn’t rate Reid but my view has changed over the last year or so with some really good all-round performances for Glasgow.

    Very glad that Price has been selected over Pyrgos (to start) given Pyrgos poor recent form. Don’t why Vern doesn’t give Scott a bench spot. His Gloucester form has been impressive. The negative comments about Visser are fair. He has been excellent at ‘Quins both in attack and defence. I also think that he’s been safe under the high ball.
    The weather forecast is a bit of a worry but I presume that’ll affect both sides equally.

    Long overdue a Scotland win – surely the best chance for a long time?

    1. Don’t think they are unfair. If Visser was actually good in defense he would be one of the first names on team sheet for Scotland every game…. but he isn’t. The guy has the physique to almost play as a no8 …6′ 5″ 240lbs
      Attack wise he can be fantastic..pace and power.. his achilles is most definately his defense tho. If he was good at both he’d be in ahead of Maitland.

      1. My point is that he has improved since joining Quins (both attack and defence). For what it’s worth, I would have Maitland ahead of Visser (although I wouldn’t have said that 6 months ago) but Maitland’s not fit.

  21. Calm, focus and control need to be the watch words for the team this weekend. It is all very well playing fast-paced, harem-scarem, “chaos” rugby but: not in our 22 (possibly our 3rd of the pitch) and there is no point if every time it ends up in a needless turnover as someone tries to make that final “miracle” pass.

    That is said without wanting to be a dour misery about our play but more that another game of tearing my hair out won’t do much for my health (or for my kids vocabulary!)

  22. Will be interesting how the weather is at time of match. Reports say the wind and rain will start to drop off around game time. If its high winds hoofing the ball in the air will turn it into a lottery. The more creative team with ball in hand and team better at the breakdown would come out on top Id think….because of loose ball.

    1. My team would have been the following ;

      1.Allan Dell
      2.Ross Ford
      3.Zander Fagerson
      4.Grant Gilchrist
      5.Jonny Gray
      6.Kelly Brown*
      7.John Barclay (CAPTAIN)
      8.Ryan Wilson

      9.Ali Price
      10.Finn Russell
      11.Tommy Seymour
      12.Alex Dunbar
      13.Huw Jones
      14.Tim Visser
      15.Stuart Hogg

      16.Fraser Brown
      17.Gordon Reid
      18.Moray Low
      19.Richie Gray
      20.Hamish Watson
      21.Henry Pyrgos
      22.Tom Heathcote **
      23.Mark Bennett

      * – Kelly brought in to add some extra grunt of a 6/8 to the back row instead of 2 7s (Granted Harley could have been used for this)

      ** – Heathcote why not? Meatball is ok but he will never be up to test standard Tom is the best thing that we’ve never had and a suitable back up for Finn

      1. I don’t want to sound totally dismissive but I’m afraid I couldn’t disagree with you more strongly on that selection. In particular, Gilchrist can’t even get a start for Edinburgh so why you think he’d be a better pick than Richie is beyond me. Kelly Brown is an honest pro but he’s knocking on a bit and doesn’t really get much game time for Sarries these days. You might as well offer up Ally Hogg as a pick from the recent past if your suggesting Brown would be suitable. Low can’t scrummage, as we found out last year and doesn’t start for Exeter so he’s hardly likely to improve the team and I’m afraid poor Tom Heathcote is so much out of favour he doesn’t start or even get much bench time with Worcester. All in all, I’d say your entitled to your opinion but I’d suggest you might want to rethink those picks of yours. However, it’s a free society….

  23. I’m guessing, Ruggerall, that you are American, with spellings like “favor” and “defense” — but you make some very good comments on the game, which in the context of this blog is the main thing.

  24. Any bets the two Gray boys stay on for the full 80, assuming no injuries and Swinson comes in to the back row alongside Watson and who ever else can still run. Actually think it will be a hell of a battle at the breakdown as Warburton is back to his best. Definitely Lions places up for grabs on Saturday.

    1. Injuries apart, I think that is a very good call. I think Hardie will get about 55 minutes, do his all, then the whirling dervish that is Watson. If either of the other two back rowers are running out of steam Swinson could do a job.

      Swinson isn’t really top drawer at international level, but he’s versatile and in
      excellent form right now.

  25. Everyone seams to forget the Scotland captain that never was, Grant Gilchrist?

    Where has he went? Let’s not forget it was Grant who was Vern Cotter’s first choice of Scotland captain after Kelly Brown and not Greig Laidlaw, as far as this is concerned this has affected the Gray brothers development and secured Laidlaw’a starting spot! I think big Grant is very much the forgotten man and unlike the Grays or Laidlaw gets on with his game quietly without having to be the “poster boy” of Scottish rugby.

    1. I think GG form has been poor since coming back from the last of his disastrous run of injuries. Hopefully Cockerill will help bring back his mojo as at his best he is very good indeed. He needs to get on it as Scott Cummings will be banging on the door pretty soon.

    2. Been wondering what was going on with him too. VC showed alot of interest in him before his injuries and wanted to make him captain. He hasn’t progressed enough since recovering I guess… Swinson is playing better at the moment and is being capped on merit.

      Scott Cummings is looking to me to be the future Scotland captain and so Gilchrist needs to find his feet again soon.

      The new Edinburgh coach is a tough old forwards guy and so hopefully his coaching gets him back on the rails.

    3. I think the ‘poster boy’ piece is a bit unfair, Jonny Gray is everything good about scottish rugby, Gilchrist has not actually , due to circumstances , shown us what he can do in the jersey. Swinston is in amazing form and the Bulk of the Grays is needed to support a light weight front row. They are all there on merit.

      GG is not quite back to form in time for this 6N, however I look forward to seeing him in the mix again as I can see he has it all , including maturity. To get in this side it all needs to come together at the right time.

      We are not short of emerging talent in the second row.

  26. We all have our thoughts on the side, and squad, but it’s noticeable how few of Cotter’s overall squads come in for pelters from we armchair warriors (or gunners). Mostly he gets it, or we get it, whatever, how good that there is a level of harmony. The dark days of the Bluffer, Matt Williams and the like are hopefully now behind us.

      1. Im trying hard to erase that era from my memory…. which is tough to do considering the list of terrible coaches we have hired.

      2. There is a very simple answer to that question. They were playing because they were the best we had. As were guys like Dan Parks, Andy Henderson, Hugo Southwell and others. For the first part of this century Scotland had a pack that could, on their day, match most other countries. In the backs it was a different kettle of fish. And we might as well have played a kettle of fish on the wing for all the difference it would have made.

        Those guys gave their all though – and I respect and admire them for that. As fans we could never honestly ask for any more than having the man in the jersey doing his best. Hugely frustrating that their best was nowhere near good enough, but that’s where we were at the time.

        Now, thanks to continued investment in the Pro sides, the age grade teams and the work of the Academies, we are beginning to see a marked difference in the quality of players available for selection for Scotland. The likes of Dunbar, Russell, Scott, Bennett are class players, and behind them you have Kinghorn, Hoyland, Graham, Henderson, Hastings. Not an endless list by any means, but a damn sight longer than it was 10 years ago.

    1. We’ve had this outraged call for a call up with a number of players over the last few years; Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, Cornell Du Preez, Jackson and now Kelly Brown.

      BVC has played them rarely or not at all and the chances they have got and their subsequent club form have proven his choices correct for the most part imo.

      The exceptions are maybe Barclay and I’m still yet to find a reason for Scott not getting a shot. Vern is a conservative team-selector but he’s not thick and he’s left the team and the squad in a much better place than when he found it. Agree with Mikelinds that the dark days are over. Not all down to Cotter but he’s played his part.

    2. I think Cotter has come in at a time where we do have some competition for places. I also think he is a better coach. We are getting something right , its just that the others are always a step or two ahead of us.

      We have the smallest number of registered players in the 6N by a significant margin which is another factor.

  27. Good to see Reid starting ,we need stability early on. Visser is looking good for quins and brings another dimension in the air, won a few restarts last weekend.

    Maitland’s cover tackling has been notable these last 2 games. Visser and Hogg better step up and do their own tackling this week.

    Watson and Swinston coming off the bench makes some sense , though like the rest of us, never saw that coming.

    1. Watched extended highlights of last weekends bath v quins match (never the best gauge of a game, granted) but looked like visser was on cracking form. Also thought Ruaridh Jackson looked superb. (Okay, they lost, which does backup my earlier caveat :-) but thought that pair stood out)

  28. I agree FF if we can’t beat Wales at home then it’s virtually back to square one. Price is pivotal to how well we play tomorrow and Hogg needs a blinder.

    1. Can’t agree with that. Win or Lose….we have come a long way under VC..and we play attractive competitive rugby. We’ll be a long way from square 1 regardless of who wins.

  29. The Welsh will be hard to beat, they will likely attempt to play a tight forward orientated game, stealing penalties, we need front foot ball, turnover ball & a solid scrum, if we get those we will win.
    The other thing that gives me hope is that Cotter is a far better coach than Howley.
    Need Hogg on the ball……………..

    1. Hogg is a great on the ball, not quite boyo off the ball. Here is a few tips from your friends in Cymru.

      Tackle as hard as you can and you will feel better for it.
      Enjoy your rugby and play hard.
      Wrap your arms around their legs.
      Always make sure you are in the right body position to tackle.
      Practice makes perfect! …
      Straight back and shoulders ready for the impact.
      Do not ever consider injury could prevent you fulfilling your destiny.

      1. Very wise words Dai. “Enjoy your rugby and play hard” is a sentiment I would wholeheartedly agree with.

        I would add that if you are not playing then you should enjoy the game and all the banter that goes with it, respect the referee and the opposition, and lastly remember that it is just a game and there are more important things going on in the world.

        Hope you enjoy the game on Saturday – just not as much as me :0)

  30. Hardie starting?! He’s played 60 mins of rugby since November and Watson has arguably been our best player this 6N. Makes no sense to me – maybe Vern’s trying to convince him to go with him to Montpellier?

  31. I like this side. Given the injuries to Laidlaw, Strauss and Maitland, and the scrum problems in the France game then VC has done well with the hand he was dealt. It shows that the strength in depth we all felt was there is actually in place.

    Scrum wise – as usual it will be a complete lottery. Whichever side manages to con the ref at the first scrum will probably find themselves in the ascendancy for the remainder of the game. We are used to that so it’s no biggie.

    Wales have picked a strong side, and have a good bench, in particular up front. Having Watson to come on, in the form he has shown this year, is good to see.

    It looks like being a cracking game. Let’s hope the weather allows both sides to play a bit of rugby. The games against Ireland and France have been top drawer, partly because Scotland are at last competitive, but also because of the way we have played the game. As FF mentioned above, we are coming out of the dark days, but need a victory over Wales to confirm that we really have moved into the light.

  32. Here’s my take on comparing the two squads (the better of the opponents gets 10):
    Hogg 10 v Halfpenny 9 – Hogg is the best FB in the 6N at the moment and it’s only Halfpenny’s experience that stops him dropping to 8.
    Seymour 9 vs North 10 – North at his best is almost unstoppable, but his form waivers and I could have easily swapped these numbers.
    Jones 9 vs Davies 10 – Form is temporary, class permanent. Jonathan Davies pips this on experience.
    Dunbar 10 vs Scott Williams 9 – Dunbar gets this for his defence.
    Visser 8 vs Liam W 10 – I’ve scored this on reputation. Liam Williams is a livewire that can change a game and Visser’s aerial defence is suspect. They could easily be closer than this tho.
    Russell 9 vs Biggar 10 – Finn on fire is easily better than Biggar, but Biggar nabs it on consistency.
    Price 8 vs Webb 10 – Ali’s lack of experience and the fact that Webb is playing well means there’s a two-point gap.
    Scotland Backs 63 v Wales 68.

    Reid 9 vs Evans 10 – the scrum stupid!
    Brown 9 vs Owens 10 – the lineout throws.
    Fagerson 9 vs Francis 10 – the scrum again!
    Richie 10 vs Ball 8 – Jake Ball is playing his best at the moment, but still not in the same class as Gray Snr.
    Jonny 10 vs Alun-Wyn 10 – what can I say? I’m hoping these are the Lions locks.
    Barclay 9 vs Warburton 10 – Sam’s back to his best which is slightly better than John’s best.
    Hardie 10 vs Tipuric 10 – different players with different strengths but both are phenomena.
    Wilson 9 vs Moriarty 10 – would have swapped these round before last week.
    Scotland Forwards 75 v Wales 78.
    Total Scotland 138 vs Wales 146.
    Now I reckon our bench is better by 3-5 and home advantage should give us another 3-5. I called a close one vs Ireland and this one’s just as close. If I was betting I’d say Wales by 3. But I’m going to the match with my Dad, so Scotland by 2!!!

    1. I think some of the marking is a bit harsh there, as I’d far rather our back division than theirs (I’d probably pop in one of North or Williams for Visser to be fair)…

    2. To be fair to Visser, he averages 0.39 tries per match for Scotland, whereas North averages 0.42 – the same as Seymour – and Williams a mere 0.18, roughly the same as Maitland. Granted, Williams probably assists in more tries than a finisher like Visser, and is more solid in defence, but if we want to score tries, Visser’s not exactly a bad choice.

      1. Visser has a very healthy tries/game ratio. It is not far off the likes of Tommy Bowe, Chris Ashton and even Shane Williams. As you say TeamCam, he is not exactly a bad choice.

      2. I think for many, it’s Maitland’s defensive contribution that justifies his inclusion in the starting XV, he reads the game so well and always seems to track back at crucial moments, or make a crucial last man tackle, or chase a downfield kick effectively, or field an aerial threat.

        These are things that Visser doesn’t seem to offer to nearly the same level. What we have seen him do is take the ball cutting a deadly line then beat a man (or two) and show wicked pace to finish and score.

        This is an exciting attitude by Vern and his selection panel. Don’t try and nullify North/Williams with a proven all rounder, but fight fire with fire and give Visser a run at a Welsh back line we’ve historically tried to contain (and failed).

        For this to work, we need to give our backline plenty of ball and successfully combat the Welsh in the ruck/mall. That’s where Hardie’s selection makes sense to me. Watson has done so well at carrying over the gain line and breakdown efficiency, but I’d expect Warbuton and particularly Moriarty to kill him there. Hardie will smash Welsh ball carriers and combat an inevitable onslaught of Warrenball better than Watson would, hopefully pinching some turnovers too.

        For the first time in a long time, I feel we have a superior coaching tactician than the Welsh. Let’s hope Finn has a good day.

        Trying to find a good pub to watch the game in Geneva! Any recommendations?

    3. Do you really think that Wales win 10 out of 15 individual battles Merlot?
      Interesting scores.
      Accept that Russell is a bit of a wild card so could be marked lower, but he has an x factor that Biggar just doesn’t possess, even with his renowned aerial ability.
      Warburton hasn’t been the same player for at least 2 years, so can’t see him as better than Barclay on the strength of a few recent games. Barclay is playing the best rugby of his life, so would get the 10 from me.
      Same could be said of George North, who seems like one bad concussion away from retirement.
      A 10-8 score at scrum half also seems generous to Webb. A good player no doubt, but think they’re both similar styles, and Price seems blissfully unaffected by his inexperience.

      1. Maybe a bit pessimistic – especially the wings and wing forwards. If I’d put Seymour against Liam Williams (11 v 14) I’d have gone 10-9 in Tommy’s favour. Equally I think Visser will stand up better against North, but still feel George edges it.
        However I stand by the fact that Warburton is a class player who seems (albeit after 2 games) back to his best. Which is slightly better than Barclay.
        Also Ali Price has 2 caps and 2 hours of international rugby, against Rhys Webb’s 25 caps and 5 years. Don’t get me wrong I like Ali’s speed: running, passing, playing, thinking. Nobody but an optimist (pragmatic or otherwise) would rate this tussle differently. Until after the event, hopefully!

  33. Listened to the Welsh Rugby podcast earlier – same concerns over Lacey and for Tim Visser’s ability to defend, substitute George North

  34. Could somebody with a little knowledge explain why John Lacey doesn’t suit Scotland or does he just not suit anybody? What is it about his style of reffing that brings so many complaints? Looking for specifics here. Have we ever won a match he has refereed Scotland? I couldn’t include six nations here as we haven’t won that many so pretty hard to equate that.

    1. Look at Jungle’s comment above yours Referendum, should answer your question for you.

      Welsh fans are equally concerned over Lacey, and will be able to give you chapter and verse about why he never favours their team. At the same time Scotland fans will wring their hands claiming he is always biased against us.

      In truth, that is all utter nonsense. Lacey may make decisions that seem strange to armchair observers, armed with a dozen camera angles, and remote controls capable of slowing play down to a fraction of real time speed, but he is not biased towards or against any particular side.

      It is an effect of the echo chamber of online discussion, whereby folks who all think the same tell each other about their perceived injustices, and everyone else agrees, and it can go on to the nth degree. If you go on some of the Irish rugby forums you will see exactly the same conversations as to why Lacey never gives Leinster/Ulster/Connacht a fair break (because he is from Munster), and carbon copies regarding JP Doyle, and how as a Dubliner, he is biased against Munster/Ulster/Connacht.

      Yes, referees make mistakes, and yes, they miss things that are blindingly obvious on television, but what do we expect from them? They are one pair of eyes, watching the game at one speed, and trying to deal with a complex set of Laws, and 30 players who have all been coached to bend those Laws to the utmost.

      Play the game to your utmost, score more points than the opposition, and the man in the middle becomes irrelevant.

      1. Welsh rugby podcast were complaining about Lacey’s inconsistency rather than bias. Concern about how he changes his area of focus from game to game.

  35. If we can stop Warburton getting three turnovers and holding on penalties the game is there to be won. I can see Finn taking advantage of their blitz defence and making hay. But if he gets over the ball too much we are in trouble.

    My own wee hunch is Gordie Reid doing one of those cheeky pick and goes from the ruck and scoring. Then four minutesof TMO working out if he was last man.

  36. So before the try fest today I thought I’d have a wee look at what we offer as an attacking threat from centres, wing and full back from all the chaps in the squad with more than 10 caps to their name. Quite impressive.

    Tommy Seymour Hogg Caps 33 Tries 14 Percentage Hit Rate 42%
    Tim Visser Hogg Caps 28 Tries 11 PHR 39%
    Stuart Hogg Caps 50 Tries 16 PHR 32%
    Mark Bennett Caps 19 Tries 6 PHR 32 %
    Alex Dunbar Caps 21 Tries 6 PHR 29%
    Sean Maitland Caps 28 Tries 5 PHR 18%
    Matt Scott Caps 36 Tries 4 PHR 11%
    Duncan Taylor Caps 18 Tries 2 PHR 11%

    This maybe goes some way to see why the selections have gone the way they have. Mark Bennett has a very high hit rate and so does Dunbar (not to mention his defense) Tim Visser has a superb rate and so glad he has a chance today. Has he scored against Wales yet? Defense is huge but hopefully he has improved that. Be good to see how they all shaped up defensively but no idea how to quantify that.

    But can you imagine even 5 years ago looking at this and thinking how is this even possible for Scotland? What a turnaround. Our best and more prolific scorer would probably be on five tries with 68 caps or something.

    So we’ll probably lose a couple of tries but I reckon we’ll get the bonus from at least 4 tries today. Hogg, Visser, (Reid or Brown) and Seymour to score. Will we win? Quietly confident but not a dead certainty at all.

    Should be some game!!!

    1. The Bookmakes say the gods of Rygbi, the glorious Boyos of Cymru to win, but only just. I think the bookmakers have it wrong , it will be Cymru by a crooked mile.

      We are all here with our Daffodils, leeks and some unlucky lads even have their Dragons with them. But I am here with the boyos and will be on the ale and having a lovely welsh lamb shank tonight to celebrate.

      Love Edinburgh mind , best 6N venue of all and this stadium is second only to the Principality itself. Good luck lads, here’s to a clean game, I cannot wait.


      1. Awaiting your response to the result Dai … :)

        I said 33-15 before the match – pretty close.

        Watson is an absolute beast – seams to just lift the team when he comes on. Nice to see Visser doing well again.

        Keep Allan Dell off against England i really dont want him near the england scrum.

      2. Harsh lads, very harsh. You know the best team lost, we know you had the ref in your pocket.It wont make a jot of a difference for lions selection you know, just remember, the jersey is the blood red of Cymru. Before you go snapping back at me like those little scottish terrier looking scrum halfs you keep fielding , or getting john lacey to tell me to stay quiet, I know we are bad loosers, we just can not help it. We are not the biggest losers mind, those bookmakers got it wrong as well. At least I can celebrate that.

        This is going to be a rubbish trip home today, thanks lads, for making this a completely miserable weekend for gods appointed kings of Rygbi. You dont want to anger god too much you know. The last time you did that he gave you Dan Parks and Scott Johnson (another welsh cast off)


      3. @Dai Hard – Think you may want to change your name to ‘Dai another day’ because yester-day was all Scotland

      4. Laughable… thanks for that Dai Boyo!

        Those ‘little Scottish terriers’ fairly squarely tore you ladies a new one to sit on during that long ride home. You might want to give those Daffodils some water ..they look wilted!

  37. Visser has done everything we didn’t expect and hasn’t done the one thing we expect yet. Score a try. Still time!!!

  38. In the words of the incomparable ‘Professor’ Stanley Unwin, ‘Deep joy.’ And Tim V? Shaky start. Then try scoring pass. Then try-saving tackle. Then try!

  39. Wales had grunt, Scotland had guile and stout defence. Good though the Gray boys are, neither are fast off the mark and Scotland do need quicker ball carrying forwards. Still, a very entertaining game of rugby.

  40. The BBC website says in the list of players out for the championship that now includes Hardie has Al Dickinson, Sean Maitland and Duncan Taylor too. Is this lazy journalism or true?

  41. Mouthy Jones straight into his BS media….

    England’s next clash is against rejuvenated Scotland at Twickenham on 11 March where victory would see Jones’s side equal New Zealand’s record of 18 consecutive wins for a top-tier nation. Jones chose to fire an early shot across the Scottish bow.

    “They’re already talking about coming down here and beating us,” added the 57-year-old. “When you’re confident, you have expectation. They have got to carry around the burden of Scotland’s expectation for the next two weeks.”

    But then couldn’t you just replace the ‘Scotland’s’ with England’s?

    He’s already a bit worried then. What is worse than that ‘burden’ Jones matey is having to listen to your sh**e for 2 weeks!

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