Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


A different 23

Can Ross Ford Make Up Ground against South Africa? - pic © Al Ross

Following the monumental soiling of bed linen by Scotland on Saturday and the injuries the squad here is a look at my proposed 23 man squad for the finale against Italy. I have picked my 23 man squad based on all the players with knocks after Saturday (Hogg, Wilson, Russell, Seymour, Huw Jones and my namesake) not being available, although it looks like some will probably come through. For the purposes of being realistic I have picked from the current squad as much as possible, but also added some possible left field choices just to add food for thought.

1. Loose head prop

Available in the squad: Gordon Reid, Allan Dell, Alex Allan

My pick: Gordon Reid. Reid is the best option we have at loose head in terms of scrummaging and despite being part of that thumping he was one of the more positive players even chipping in a try. Let’s be honest we are into third string choices in the absence of Dickinson and Sutherland.

Left Field Choice: Where is Ryan Grant these days? Used to be a stalwart.

2. Hooker

Available in the squad: Fraser Brown, Ross Ford, Stuart McInally

My pick: Ross Ford. We can argue all day about whether Brown should have seen red or not after tipping Daly early on Saturday, but truthfully I do not think he has been consistent at all this championship. Our scrummaging has improved greatly each game Ford came this championship and he is far more disciplined all round.

Left Field Choice: Neil Cochrane – it is definitely a left field choice for such a seasoned player, but he could do a job. He does the job of hookers by throwing and actually hooking the ball.

3. Tight Head Prop

Available in the squad: Zander Fagerson, Simon Berghan, Jon Welsh

My Pick: Simon Berghan

Arguably the better scrummager out of the three and fairly solid in the loose. I think Zander needs to be rested after the England game. He lost his head and was involved far too much in the nonsense for my liking. I am not throwing the young man under the bus, but think this would benefit him in the long run. Lets be honest we really miss Nel.

Left Field Choice: Kevin Bryce – he has been moved from hooker for Edinburgh and looks solid and comfortable there OR Murray McCallum – what a story he has been.

4 & 5 Locks

Available in the squad: Jonny Gray, Tim Swinson, Ben Toolis, Grant Gilchrist, Rob Harley

My Picks: Jonny Gray and Ben Toolis. Jonny is an obvious choice and aside from a stinker across the board on Saturday has been a tremendous player this champs. Ben Toolis leapfrogs Swinson largely so we have experience on the bench. Toolis has been good on a poor Edinburgh side and as a former volleyball international provides a lot of leap in the line out.

Left Field Choice: Don’t really have one. Our second row is pretty solid. Maybe Scott Cummings from Glasgow.

6. Blindside Flanker

Available in the squad: John Barclay, Rob Harley, Cornell Du Prez
Potential call ups: Magnus Bradbury, Adam Ashe

My Pick: John Barclay. I am not sold on Barclay as a captain. I think his discipline is lacking at times, but he is still deserving and the right guy for the six jersey. Strictly speaking he is an openside, but I think this is the way to go.

Left field choice: Johnnie Beattie – it would be interesting at least. Kelly Brown – he’s still pretty good.

7. Openside Flanker

Available in the squad: Hamish Watson, John Barclay
Potential Call Ups: Jamie Ritchie, Chris Fusaro, Blair Cowan, Hugh Blake

My Pick: Hamish Watson. Been phenomenal most of the tournament and as one of the younger lads in the team you can’t put too much blame on him for the implosion. Think somebody has to wrestle that shirt off him.

Left field choice: Any one of the potential call ups.

8. Number 8

Available in the squad: Cornell Du Preez, John Barclay
Potential Call Ups: Magnus Bradbury, Adam Ashe

My Pick: Cornell Du Preez. A debut to forget. Has an X Factor and deserves a shot to show what he can do.

Left Field Choice: Joseva Nayacavou – this is really left field, but can this guy play 15s? OR Richie Vernon – do not really need to say much.

9. Scrum Half

Available in the squad: Henry Pyrgos, Ali Price
Potential call ups: Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, Sean Kennedy, Grayson Hart

My Pick: Ali Price. I wasn’t sure why he was shoved out on the wing when he could have been more effective in the thick of it. Pyrgos is slower in delivery and Price can get the backs working.

Left field choice: SHC – on his day I would argue he is our best player at scrummy, but his form has been lacking.

10. Fly Half

Available in the squad: Duncan Weir
Potential Call Ups: Peter Horne, Ruaridh Jackson

My Pick: Duncan Weir. If Duncan had not been with the squad for the whole championship I would have gone a different way, but the fact is this is a key position and the guy who has trained each week should start.

Left Field Choice: Adam Hastings – I am surprised he has not had his chance yet.

11 & 14. Wings

Available in the squad: Damien Hoyland, Sean Maitland, Tim Visser
Potential Call Ups: Lee Jones, Rory Hughes, Tom Brown, Sean Lamont

My Picks:

11. Tim Visser – proved in the last 20 minutes of the England game what he can do with the ball in hand. Give him the ball early this time.

14. Damien Hoyland – winning out on being with the squad and the fact with half decent ball he will score tries.

Left Field Choice: James Fleming or Jamie Farndale – two guys looking good in the abbreviated version of the game. Not gonna happen and hence a left field choice.

12. Inside Centre

Available in the squad: Matt Scott, Alex Dunbar
Potential Call Ups: Duncan Taylor, Nick Grigg

My Pick: Alex Dunbar. Dunbar is like an extra back row on a good day and last Saturday was an awful day. Should not be dropped, but I think his Lions chances are scuppered.

Left Field Choice: Chris Dean – I think he has a chance of getting in. Been a good performer in black this year.

13. Outside Centre

Available in squad: Alex Dunbar, Matt Scott
Potential Call Ups: Duncan Taylor (?), Nick Grigg, Sean Lamont

My Pick: Matt Scott. He can do a job for us and on his day is outstanding. Has played fly half in the past and gives us a secondary creative option out there.

Left field choice: Junior Balumakau – at wing or centre – why not. He can score tries. Dougie Fife – found some form at sevens and I doubt he has forgotten how to play the 15 man game.

15. Full Back

Available in squad: Sean Maitland, Damien Hoyland
Potential Call Ups: Blair Kinghorn, Peter Murchie, Ruaridh Jackson

My Pick: Sean Maitland. Played well until the injury took him out the squad and probably the defensively the best full back out of what is available. Lets be honest, ideally we want Hoggy back, but Maitland is a solid full back and I have no concerns with him back there.

Left field choice: Probably Kinghorn, but an even bigger surprise would be Darcy Graham who has been awesome for the U20s.


16. Stuart McInally – for all the reasons I said about dropping Brown and he would be an impact sub.

17. Allan Dell – one of the best ‘footballing’ LHPs going and brings something different off the bench.

18. Zander Fagerson – I said my piece as to why he shouldn’t start, but don’t think he merits being dropped.

19. Tim Swinson – Solid experience off the bench.

20. Richie Vernon – I know he is a centre now, but that versatility could be invaluable to come on at 7 or 8.

21. Henry Pyrgos – been with the squad and frankly the only reason I’d pick him.

22. Peter Horne – Can bring something special off the bench. I might have went with Jackson, but Peter

being with Glasgow will allow him to hit the ground running.

23. Sean Lamont – a tonne of experience to bring on if needed.

By Richard Gray. You can follow him on twitter @ramboliwa

66 Responses

  1. Richie Vernons season is most certainly over, if not his career with that injury..although we’ve not had any updates tbf.

  2. Given all the assumed injuries I think that is a reasonable team. Totally agree with your points on Fagerson, I think they highlighted this on the blog too. Some pretty left field left fielders in there! Johnnie Beattie, now there was a player I always admired, strong ball carrier, good hands and he ran good support lines. The third member of the hallowed killer Bs, who along with Dan Parks beat Ireland at home by themselves. When did he last play, was it not the 6N a couple of years ago? I remember him being utterly shocking, always seemed to blow hot and cold, devastating on his day but another kind of devastating on a different day.

    Is Matt Scott not more of a 12, Dunbar has played at 13 plenty although not recently? Either way still a strong centre pairing, on paper anyway.

    Probably agree with you on Weir, if Jackson or someone had been involved with the squad from the beginning then maybe not, or if Horne had some more game time but Weir is a canny operator. You should not need Russell’s touches of brilliance to unlock an Italian defence, Weir should be more than capable, can kick them into submission if it turns into that classic kind of Scotland / Italy game too. Horne to go on the bench for me.

    I had a different plan for Sean Lamont, he was originally going to be on the bench for this game to come on at 70mins, grab the captains armband, score our BP try securing the 6N crown for us, triumphantly raise the trophy above him then happily be put out to pasture, maybe he could be Toonies waterboy or something? Sadly his team mates messed up that plan last weekend.

    1. Scott’s been playing at 13 for Gloucester and playing well despite the quite considerable handicap of playing outside Billy Twelvetrees!

    2. I would say Scott/Dunbar has been a centre pairing that has a bit of evidential backing, not just on paper.

    3. Unfortunately Jackson literally just doesn’t play enough rugby. I think Horne is a great player. More creative than Weir, and more consistent than Jackson. There has been over fixation on one error (the clearance kick against Italy) than is justified. He’s featured strongly in some of Scotland’s and Glasgow’s most significant performances in recent times.

  3. B. Toolis ahead of Swinson is just utter madness – He’s not even the best lock in his family!!! The inconvenient truth since the Irish game is that Richie has been better than Johnny and Tim should have had more game time as he has been arguably the best Scottish lock since the turn of the year?

    Brown will not be usurped by McInally, again what are we basing this on? Brown having one bad game does not make McInally a better hooker – again its madness.

    I think for the backrow bench replacement the next cab off the rank is Harley and he will likely be selected

    I like Hoyland on the wing if Seymour and Hogg are out – I think this game would be set up for him to come in with his explosive

    I am not sure what you are basing the SHC is the best scrummy on his day – is that per chance a day when all other scrum-halfs are striking or is there a new criteria for judging what makes someone the best scrum half – i.e. passing to the 1st receivers feet???

    Truth is thankfully that Russell, R Gray and Jones will likely be fit. If Hogg passes HIA then we will have no excuses and I would imagine VC would line up as:

    Reid, Ford, Fagerson
    R. Gray, J. Gray
    Barclay, Watson, Du Preez
    Price, Russell, Dunbar, Jones, Maitland, Visser, Hogg

    Dell, Brown, Berghan, Swinson, Harley, Pyrgos, Weir, Scott

      1. Alex recently went in for an operation and hence is not playing just now. Good to see a Scot in Super Rugby.

  4. Decent team, albeit I disagree with a couple of choices.

    Ever since he came into the team I have thought that Duncan Weir is a limited player. He reminds me of Dan Parks, but Dan Parks at his most average. I don’t rate him and think that Horne is a much better option at 10, having played extremely well against France last year in that position.

    I also think that CdP is band out of form at Edinburgh and he didn’t exactly show much against England (but then who did?). Personally I would go for Ashe.

    1. We really need more alternatives to Weir. Jackson has been playing as third choice FH for Quins, Heathcote has been frozen out of Scotland squads since before he left Edinburgh, and Horne at pivot is sometimes good, sometimes bad but usually looks like a makeshift FH (to me at least). Tonks – no way. Who else have we played there recently?

      We desperately need Hastings to take to Glasgow like a duck to water and Kinghorn to be played there for Edinburgh. Particularly as Henderson and Eastgate have been struggling with the u20s by all reports. We got lucky with Russell and I can’t believe the amount of criticism he’s been getting – without him we are half the team.

  5. I was a big fan of SHC when he first appeared. Fast, good break, decent pass off either hand, and could kick penalties. Sadly, he’s regressed a lot over the last 18 months. Sean Kennedy has played to a much higher level this season. I’d also have Lee Jones in the 23. He has played well for Glasgow and is not afraid of tackling the big runners. I agree that Fagerson does need a rest and some time to work on the technicalities of scrummaging. I’m sick of hearing refs tell him to get his feet under him. Welsh is pulling up trees at a Newcastle and deserves a chance.

    To be fair, no-one played well last week but in terms of consistent form, most are maintaining a pretty good level. I’d have maitland in my team any day of the week. He’s not flash but he is a very clever player and we do miss him when he’s injured. I worry though if Russell has a second bad game in a row, Reid is steady at club level but hasn’t done anything at test level to convince me he’s good enough to unlock an international defence.

    1. I recall Lee Jones taking a big knock in one of his first few tests, which seemed to put him well off kilter, after which he never really made it back into the fold at the top level. Must have been a good few years back now. He is a player that I really enjoy, but I’m not sure that he has a sufficient sum of attributes to make it back into the squad as a test winger.

  6. re:Adam Hastings, why surprised he hasn’t been given a chance?
    He is, what, 20? Hasn’t played an awful lot of rugby for Bath yet either (afaia).
    If he comes to Glasgow and starts playing more regularly an argument can be made for his involvement, but at this stage I can’t help but feel his elevation into even being talked about is because of his surname.

    1. Agree. From what i have seen, I think that Adam Hastings has good composure and a decent skill set as a stand off, but he has nowhere near enough experience, or proven form at the appropriate level, to be considered for international rugby right now.

  7. FF, spot on again. Russell and Hogg make this team tick and worryingly are currently irreplaceable. We were completely over powered and blown away by the English. Not his fault he has to try biting off more than he should be to get us back in the game. We are envy of other 6 Nations supporters having such an exciting 10 along with the most dangerous running back in the competition in Hogg at 15.
    Question, how come the Welsh back row, not exactly the biggest, weren’t exposed and seemingly brushed aside in their game v England like we were? Did the ref have a big say in England being in the front foot so much?

    1. Russell, is a tremendous player and regardless of last week’s horror show our backs will be golden for years to come. Jones is a real find.

      So, my Scotland team wishlist for the 2018 Calcutta Cup grudge match and 2019 World Cup, in no particular order:

      1. A reliable hooker, who hits his men at the line out. Prospects: [???]
      2. A big, physical, hard carrying no.8. Prospects: Denton [will he come back from injury and nail down a regular start at Bath?]; Strauss [has his time passed now he is injured and off to Sale?] ;
      3. A big, physical, hard carrying no.6. Prospects: [???]
      4. A test-level back-up fly-half. Prospects: [this is purely on the basis he is off to Glasgow and his dad]; Jackson [still only 29, find a team!]; Horne [unlikely given other players in the position at Glasgow]; Hogg [move Maitland to the Wing].
      5. A new emphasis on strength and conditioning. Preferably with some dedicated coaches of the level that Eddie Jones has in place at England. As someone else said it doesn’t have to be globogym, but we need more punch per pound. Relative weakness may be a feature of young team, but why not get everything right. Be good to know it is a priority. Hopefully GT can make it so. At England, even the lightweight physique players like Ford and Farrell look conditioned to their best. Can we really say the same about: Price, Russell, Ritchie, even Dunbar or contrast Gordon Reid / Fraser Brown to Dylan Hartley and Dan Cole.

      P.S. I have not included Bradbury, Ritchie or Du Preez in the above as others on this site who watch Edinburgh more will know whether they are real prospects.

      1. I really want George Turner at Edinburgh to get a run at hooker next season. Couple of times i’ve watching him he’s produced some amazing offloads and even done a shift at tighthead in an emergency. But at 25 he really should be kicking on.

      2. As I have previously voiced here on a number of occasions, I think Magnus is a real prospect. He seems to have the grunt, bravery, hard-hitting, confidence, hands, attack the space and/or the defender vision, and a bit of dog, that gives him the potential to be a very well rounded 8/6. I also think Ritchie has potential. Du Preez on form is undoubtedly very good, but I am slightly biased toward hoping the former two develop well, purely because I would like to have as many Scottish accents in the team as possible.

      3. 1. Don’t see any on the horizon. Mcinally has all the makings of being a proper wrecking ball but lack of game time, injuries and late conversion make him seem destined to always remain a prospect,
        2. Really hope that after a season or two of consistent injury-free starts Adam Ashe fills this role. Got all the makings of a classic No. 8 (aggression, power) but hasn’t really taken his chance yet. Maybe with Strauss gone next season, who knows…
        3. Bradbury for me if he continues his current rise. Shone in an exceptionally poor Edinburgh team and its only his first season as a starter. Consistently makes ground with the ball, some lovely offloads and a natural try scorer.
        4. No real suggestions here unfortunately. Followed Hastings as closely as possible since he first broke through but have yet to be convinced. Decidedly Russell-esque in that you never know whether he’s going to create a try for you or for the opposition. Maybe Glasgow will be the making off him (certainly done Russell no harm, although that could be Townsend’s influence). Cupboard looks bare otherwise.

        Agree with you about strength and conditioning but also remember the amount of injuries England experienced pre 6 nations in the camps. Not sure Scotlands depth could cope with that (as interesting as the left-feld choices are, I’d rather not have to call up Johnnie Beattie and Neil Cochrane!)

  8. Hardie is missed in the back row, he’s still underrated which is weird considering he made team of the tournament last year and was superb for Edinburgh last season. Watson is more eye-catching with his bouncy carries but Hardie is a guy who looks to knock the wind out of opponents. We really need him injury free and fit which hasn’t been the case since the summer. The back row were made to look bad like the rest of the team, just one of those days. On another day they would hold their own against Haskell, Itoje, Hughes which is nothing special. You can’t expect them to do much when the rest of the team is malfunctioning.

    Duncan Weir is solid but I’d rather have Horne playing at 10. He’s a very intelligent player and excellent passer. And frankly the comparisons with Dan Parks are way off. Once Weir has several match-winning performances and general flawless kicking game and we see him effectively unleash his strike runners….then we can start making comparisons with Dan Parks.

    1. I’m struggling to remember a game when Dan Parks effectively unleashed our strike runners. Or who are strike runners were to be honest.

      1. Do you not remember that time he took the ball flat, shimmied to run drew in the 10 & 12 and popped a flat pass to your man coming in on the angle??? You must do???

        Oh how we dined out on that for years. Cant remember any of the details but it was great…..

    2. As much as your constant Dan Parks comments make me laugh I’m going to have to call you out on this one, Dan Parks releasing strike runners don’t make me laugh! Match winning performances and excellent kicking game I’ll give you but the man couldn’t pass and refused to tackle!

      Rory, I’ll see your Rob Dewey and raise you Simon Webster.

    3. Dude, seriously enough already…Dan Parks was not good. He was literally the only option for many years. He should not be a benchmark for anyone unless your aspiration is to be someone who is a decent kicker with a speciality for throwing passes which can easily be intercepted. He even got dropped in favour of Phil Godman for a while. Enough said!

      1. Yeah but eddie jones is thinking of bringing him in as sideburns coach for england. only the best

    4. The referee not allowing the back row to compete at the breakdown made them look bad and pretty much ensured our defeat. Watch the game again and listen to what Raynal says to Watson after he pings him for ‘slowing the ball down’ in the 13th minute. I’d argue that 95% of the time, that penalty’s going Scotland’s way.

      1. I think I recall that incident, Watson was clearly on his feet and first man in yet the ref pinged him rather than the tackled player who was holding on. Set the tone for every breakdown onwards. Defending poorly AND on the refs bad side! I dont recall any penalties being given AGAINST England at the breakdown. Two were high tackles, one was a scrum pen and the other two….who knows?

      2. Exactly the one, Al. I honestly believe that Eddie Jones must have got into his ear before the game.

        Raynal has a history of bowing under pressure – he was in charge of the Connacht Wasps game when the Connacht captain convinced him that the rules had changed and you were able to kick to touch for a penalty after the clock hit 80 mins.

        I’m not saying in the slightest that we wouldn’t have lost the game had he allowed us to compete at the breakdown, however I do believe it would have been much a closer contest. We have a number of turnover specialists in our side – the back row, Brown and Dunbar – and had we been allowed to compete, like we had been against Wales, the ball wouldn’t have been as quick and we would have won a few more penalties. It made our back row extremely ineffective/quiet – bar perhaps Watson, who I felt put in a big shift with 19 tackles and a couple of decent carries.

  9. Wee Dunc before the leg break was a phenomenal attacking 10 and let’s not forget he nearly went the length of the pitch in one of the RWC games. He is no Russell but then how many players have Russell’s x-factor (and how many of them call Scotland “home”)? And the people who are slating Russell, yes he has made some bad decisions but look at the big picture and us all who you’d rather have at 10?

    Picking Lamont, reliable servant to Scottish Rugby as he has been, for me would be a backwards step. It would also raise the old chestnut of, if you keep picking players because they are experienced, how do younger and possibly better players get experience? I’d rather have someone with a bit of dynamism in attack on the bench (preferably whose not been scarred by previous Scottish losses to Italy) who might come on and create something.

    As has been said, Toolis over Swinson seems daft and I have to agree with the comment that Ritchie has outplayed Jonny this Championship. For me, rather than a trip with the Lions what Jonny needs is a break this summer!

    I’d be happy with Dunbar and Scott in the centre with either as 12 and the other 13 but Dunbar is another who looks like he could do with a break at the end of the season.

    We should be able to field a team to win at home on Saturday but then we have said that before about Italy games…

    1. I think the quality of the current Scotland team, even with the injuries, means we have to hold them to higher standards than in previous years.

      To lose to this current Italy side would be unthinkable. Ireland, England and France have all had bonus point wins against them, Wales very nearly did, and we have scored 10 tries in our 4 games so far so I fully expect us to beat them with a lot to spare – something like the World Cup warm up game at Murrayfield in 2015 (48-7 if memory serves).

      The lack of news coming out of the camp is heartening – no news is good news maybe, and I expect that Gray, Jones, Russell, and Seymour to be fit, although it may not be so good for Hogg and Wilson. With that in mind I can only see enforced changes to the lineup, CdP in for Wilson, Maitland in for Hogg, Scott in for Bennett, Bradbury perhaps getting called up for Wilson.

      I reckon that the players will want to make a statement that last weekend was an aberration, and they will also want to give BVC a fitting send off.

  10. I can’t believe you’d rather have Vernon on the bench rather than Harley. Harley’s work rate is fantastic and – ask any opposition – he’s a pain to play against.
    In fact I’d have him starting at 6 with Barclay at 8 and CduP on the bench for impact.

  11. Unlucky for Italy that they won’t have Campagnaro and Favaro. As Scotland discovered, it’s not just about losing quality players, it’s the lack of high-intensity training and game time that the replacements have had which impacts performance. Scotland’s chances of a strong win have increased significantly with those changes.

  12. 1. Alasdair dickinson
    2. fraser brown
    3. Wp Nel
    4. grant Gilchrist
    5. Richie Gray
    6. John Barclay
    7. Ross Rennie
    8. Josh Strauss
    9. Greig Laidlaw
    10. Finn Russell
    11. Thom Evans
    12. Duncan Taylor
    13. Huw jones
    14. Joe Ansbro
    15. Stuart hogg
    16. Ross Ford
    17. Ryan Grant
    18. Euan Murray
    19. Scott Cummings
    20. John Hardie
    21. SHC
    22. Peter Horne
    23. Sean Maitland

    This is my expected 23 for the italy game

    1. In what reality? Or is your humour and sarcasm failing to come across via the written word?

    2. Naming a number of players who’ve had to give up the game because of injury is frankly sick. Still, I suppose he thinks he’s clever.

      1. Agreed. Pretty much mocking them and all genuine posters here. Same old childish dross from ‘Neil’ who I thought/hoped we had seen the last of

      2. I’m not sure this is the original Neil, who is banned. Should it prove to be…

        Neil, I’m not sure that picking guys who’ve had to quit the game with serious injuries as a “genuine” proposal for a current Scotland team isn’t trolling in some form although I can understand it may have been a response in some form to the left-field picks in Richard’s article.

  13. I’d hope that I’ll be watching something like
    15.Hogg . 14.Visser . 13.Jones . 12.Dunbar . 11.Maitland . 10.Russell . 9.Pygros
    8.Barclay . 7.Watson . 6.Du Preez . 5.Swinson . 4.R.Gray . 3.Berghan . 2.Brown . 1.Reid.
    Replacements -Horne, Hoyland, Price, Harley, J.Gray, Fagarson, Ford, Dell
    I reckon Seymour & Wilson will not make Saturday, Weir not good enough, CDP better @ 6, Bradbury not in squad.

    1. Good selection. Id probably swap Hoyland for Scott and play Barclay at 6 Du prize at 8.

  14. Welsh, Ford, Berghan
    Gray, Gray
    Swinson, Watson, Denton
    Scott, Jones
    Hoyland, Seymour

    Dell, Brown, Fagerson, Toolis, Ashe, Pyrgos, Weir, Maitland.

  15. I appreciate that the piece is entirely speculative, but the left field choices could have, for the most part, been renamed ‘pie in the sky’! However – Ryan Grant. There is a player who we could really have done with being on form and in the mix. I have heard that he has struggled a lot with injuries over the last while, which is a bummer.

  16. I’m glad to see a good few posters sticking up for Russell here. We have struggled for any sort of class at 10 for so long. Russell is a class 10. Of course he will have good games and bad games, like any 10. The fact that in, what should be considered his formative years, he has delivered some of the moments, and complete performances, that we have enjoyed, should be celebrated and provide hope. I think Finn is more or less the same age as Sexton was when first capped for Ireland. Sexton has had 8 years since then. Finn has probably been thrown in at the deep end as a precocious talent with few serious competitors, but I anticipate his next 8 years with great optimism.

    1. And with all my critism below I still agree with this post 100% too. He has years ahead hopefully with less basic errors. Sexton had a terrible game especially kicking on Friday so it happens to all. He’ll need to be better on Sat.

  17. Going further on The Finn Russell conundrum I think some of the critism is unfair but much I actually feel is spot on. It’s not about his ability to make mistakes as in the heat of battle when stuff is fluid things will happen some good some bad.

    It’s when all is still, the games has stopped and he makes actually unforgivable mistakes at times. Horne has been almost destroyed after Italy when after his miss touch kick there were five other errors which caused that try to be scored. He also injured himself in the process of kicking too.

    Russell has missed two penalty kicks to touch in the last two games. Welsh one dribbled over the try line for a drop out. Didn’t change game but was very poorly executed. Against England we were down to 14 had zero ball. Got a penalty for High tackle. Get territory and ball for a few mins. Who cares if it’s in the 22 or 10 yard line. Get it to touch and go from there. He didn’t and England continued to hit us hard while we were weak.

    He has put the ball out on the full once against England and once against France. If ur not sure just get it in play. You do not need to be 10 yards within touchline for a decent kick and if u know ur flakey just get it safe and build. Don’t make it easy for opposition. France won a penalty from that scrum so from our kick they are now in our 22. I think England lost a pen from that resultant scrum but again we should never had been in that position.

    Charged down clearance kicks. Surely he can organise the team to stop this happening. Nothing has come from this this season but another thing within his control.

    Can he not miss legs in his grubber kicks through the defence? You’ll end up losing a try from this.

    And drop goals. Surely he can practice them and become someone who is competent?

    Lots there for thought and may seem overly critical. I don’t mean to be but just would like the controlables controlled and these mistakes should be once in a blue moon not two or three a game even when he is outstanding.

    1. Good post.
      Not quite sure how this has all descended into crying of foul play against Russell. As far as I can see from the last few days it’s been a fair and balanced (not blinkered) assessment. Those making suggestions for improvements and criticisms of things Russell does are qualifying this with absolute clarity that he is our best option and has the potential to be a great players for us for years to come, myself included.
      But let us not pretend that he is not up for critique. Yes, he may well get better in his decision making, but that doesn’t mean that those decisions/executions can’t be called into question now.

  18. Without Russell and Hogg I’d agree that Weir is probably the best option to start at fly half. Horne is a tidy player but is fundamentally a centre standing one spot over. People like to point to the game vs France last year when he came on and deputised ably but seem to forget that Hogg spent a lot of the match standing in the 10 position and took all the kicks. Horne never looks quite he’s comfortable taking charge as a 10 should (and say what you will about Weir, but he never looks short of confidence!). However if Hogg passes his HIA I’d be far more inclined to give Horne a shot

    This match is a must-win for us to keep confidence up and end the 6 nations on a high. Also think that Conor O’Shea will continue to employ the Italians irritating (but effective) no-ruck tactic in order to play on the inexperience of Ali Price. They will have identified how Scotland failed to adapt when the boat was rocked last week and will no doubt try and wind us up as much as possible.

    Still believe this is the most talented Scotland team in a generation and really hope they cement this belief with an emphatic victory on Saturday.

  19. 15. Maitland 14. Hoyland 13. Scott 12. Dunbar 11. Visser 10. Weir 9. Price 8. Barclay 7. Watson 6. Harley 5. Swinson 4. J Gray 3. fagerson 2. Brown 1. Reid – 16. Ford 17. Dell 18. Welsh 19. Cummings 20. Bradbury 21. G Horne 22. P Horne 23. Kinghorn , – This could be worst case scenario ? Bolter would be George Horne.

  20. Time to get real on the Russell comments – if not him who else for goodness sake? Weir? Been there and we’ve all got the t shirt, Horne? A good 10 on his day but needs to play there all the time, Jackson? Been there and a backward step. It’s Russell and I repeat we are very very lucky to have him. No Russell then no number 5 ranking in the world and another lackluster six Nations. The knowledgeable posters on here get it the rest are on another planet

  21. My gut feeling is that one of our “game-breakers” – Hogg, Jones, Russell or Seymour – won’t make it. I would be most concerned if it was Hogg or Russell as the replacement options aren’t the same kind or standard of player. Also strongly suspect we’ll see Du Preez for Wilson, regardless of latter’s fitness. We need a bigger ball carrier and DuP’S visibility in the media this week seems to be a big clue!

      1. Always suspected Vern would stick with as much as he could. Would still not be surprised if we see one or two late changes Saturday morning as three players dont officially complete HIA until tomorrow if memory serves…

        Surprised Maitland missed out disappointed but not surprised that Toolis misses out. Very glad Scott is in. He deserves his shot.

        Maitland will almost certainly come in to cover if we do get a drop out, direct to the XV if Hogg or Seymour drop and to the bench if Russell does

    1. Having now read the announcement article, Russell is fine, as suspected Hogg and Seymour still completing protocol along with Wilson.

      Ergo 26 man squad. I reckon Maitland direct cover for Hogg and Seymour, Hoyland also if god-forbid they both dont make it. Either Harley or Toolis for Wilson. I hope Toolis but I would price Harley as a 60% or so favourite.

    2. I think the players need a chance to atone for last weekend. Brown is obviously on the naughty step.

      Tom English has a good summary of where Scotland are on the Beeb – we need to make sure the England horror show is a learning experience. We obviously got our mental preparation wrong but nobody should have any misconceptions about how hard every test game is now and how high the benchmarks for every appearance must be. Excellence is doing something well every time you do it, not every so often (as coach Brian Smith is wont to say).

      I hope we put Italy away handily. They have selected a poor side with nowhere near the forward punch of even a few years ago. Then, in the summer we need to add depth and options to our squad. I suspect neither Cotter nor Toonie would choose Wilson-Barclay-Watson as a unit without our injury woes, but apart from Strauss we need Ashe, Du Preez and Bradbury to start making a forceful case to be in the 23. We can’t afford to be bullied by the rugby world’s elite. Saturday would be a good time to show we have left the pack of also-rans by putting a big score on Italy. We might be a long way from the elite of England and NZ but we are still moving forward.

      1. Agree. Need convincing win to really show decent progress. Bonus point is clearly the aim. The Welsh & Irish would expect such at home to Italy, so too must we.
        And then, in my opinion, we need 3 wins again next year which would represent another step up (requiring as it would either a win in Ireland/Wales or beating England).

  22. John Thompson & Al, your comments on this article are some way back but I agree with them wholeheartedly. Assessment of player performance in the Calcutta Cup match obviously has great relevance to selection for the next test. In my view the referee all but neutered our back row. I wrote under the Player Ratings article: “If on the field of play our players are then constantly penalised for putting these drills into practice, the breakdown will become a virtual no-go or no- contest area for them…..”. In my view the referee changed the whole complexion of the game in England’s favour by his interpretations at the breakdown and the post-match ratings of our back row in particular have suffered accordingly. They remain excellent ball-winners.

  23. Looks like Vern has gone with the redemption selection, which I had hoped for.
    Other than Brown for Ford that is – looks like he is putting significant blame for last week at the door of Fraser Brown.
    Having not seen anything of Matt Scott for a while I look forward to seeing him get 20 minutes at least.

    1. Totally agree on redemption and Scott.

      As suggested by TheSmidge on the new post, Brown may have been dropped due to missing a day of training due to having to go down to London for his hearing. Ford will likely have been put as main man for training from the Monday when Brown was cited.

      1. Brown has been benched for out and out stupidity. Good call by BVC and hopefully Brown will come back a better and wiser player and nail the hooking spot for many years to come

You might also like these:

Craig is joined by Jonny and Rory to look back at the disappointing end to Edinburgh's season and Glasgow's march towards the semi finals.
Gregor Townsend has named a largely experimental squad for the summer tour of the Americas. It's not a question of who misses out, but rather who is actually going, writes Rory.
Iain is joined by Jonny and John to discuss the penultimate round of URC fixtures as well as the recent Scottish Rugby Writers' Awards
Craig is joined by John on the injured reserve list to have a wee look at the URC action from the weekend.

Scottish Rugby News and Opinion