Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Scotland reach 5th in World Rankings

John Hardie - pic © Al Ross
John Hardie - pic © Al Ross

Scotland reached an all-time high of fifth place in the World Rugby Rankings this week after the stirring 29-13 win over Wales in Rouch 3 of the 2017 RB Six Nations.

The national team leapfrogged the Welsh and the listless Springboks in the rankings having gained 1.28 rating points.

Scotland are now on 82.18 points, knowing that any sort of victory over England at Twickenham in a fortnight’s time would not only keep their RBS 6 Nations title bid well on track but also give them a damn good chance to claim a top-four spot by the time the 2019 Rugby World Cup pool draw takes place on 10 May.

The team have so far done sterling work to make sure that they are well inside the top 8 when the draw is made. However you can also approach it from the other side – Scotland would probably (if we’re honest) be the team any other side would want in their “pool of death” whether from the second or (less likely) first 4 teams. The fools.

A chance to avoid Australia and New Zealand in the pools would be a genuine positive for us if Scotland can get the results to sneak the top 4, but there is still a fair bit of rugby to be played, against England and Italy.

As attention turns towards the visit to England, the Scotland vs Italy game on the final weekend has been announced this week as a sell-out. It completes the set of three 67,144 capacity crowds for Scotland’s home Six Nations matches and is the first time the Italy fixture has been a sell out at Murrayfield.

If you haven’t got a ticket yet, we’ll have a chance to win a pair coming up on the site soon.

In less exciting news, John Hardie will sit out the remainder of the Six Nations with the knee injury he picked up early in the Wales game. It all but guarantees a back row of Barclay, Watson and Wilson but throws open the possibility of a bench slot to the likes of Cornell du Preez or Rob Harley. David Denton and Magnus Bradbury could also come into consideration for a call up as training cover at least.

While Hardie’s contract status remains up in the air, one of Scotland’s other injured back rows, the project beard himself Josh Strauss will move from Glasgow Warriors to Sale Sharks on a 3 year deal, solving that particular mystery. Glasgow have just about resolved all their contract issues one way or the other, but WP Nel (remember him) and Hardie remain in limbo at the other end of the M8.

Could injuries be hampering their chances of big money deals in England or France?

Some other snippets from the pro-teams: Rory Clegg has left Glasgow for Championship side Ealing, having had much less success in his second spell with the Warriors than he did during the first. Tom Brown and Sean Kennedy and Hugh Blake have been added to the HSBC Sevens squad for the American legs in the US and Canada.

Which may leave Edinburgh short of backs in an already underperforming unit for their game against Ospreys, but it is interesting that Sam Hidalgo-Clyne seemed to suffer from Solomons’ rotation policy and is now starting to rediscover some form given a run of games in the 9 shirt. Nathan Fowles has been retained as his deputy.

And who knows where Hugh Blake has been?

43 Responses

  1. More breaking news. Stuart Lancaster has been telling RTE News that he believes Ireland have the potential to derail England’s Grand Slam dreams.
    Stick this snippet on the Scottish dressing room wall at Twickers on Saturday week !

  2. Would like to see Vern asking for Du Preez, Bradbury, Harley, Ashe and Denton to play for their clubs this weekend and compete for that bench spot.

    If no standouts (as per last few weeks to be honest) then Swinson gets the no. 20 shirt and Toolis onto the bench for me.

  3. Indeed. Has anyone seen Denton’s form since his come back at Bath? We need to front up against a meaty, fearless English pack and his physicality might be useful if he’s on form.

    Also, is there any particular reason that Magnus Bradbury hasn’t featured in the Scotland squad this season? Thought he looked like a really strong prospect and quite useful at international level.

    1. Denton a bit lacklustre from what I have watched and heard from others.

      To be fair, at the time of picking the squad the other 7 were probably in better form – Du Preez maybe aside but he was more experienced and probably about due his shot.

      Since then though we’ve lost two to injury and Harley and Du Preez haven’t been great. Reckon Bradbury probably the 4th best fit back row at the moment, but he’s a young 1 capper who hasn’t been training with the squad (as far as I know) whilst squad members Swinson and Gilchrist have both shown their abilities to cover the back row well in the last 5-6 internationals.

      If Bradbury comes in on merit I am happy with that. Reckon he might be better saved for Italy though and then give him a good crack in Summer and Autumn.

      1. I think we should be calling up Adam Ashe, on previous occasions he has stepped up well and is playing well for an otherwise mediocre Glasgow B string at the moment.

        On form I’d say he’s on a par with Bradbury if not slightly better at the moment and also has international experience.

    2. Cotter made some comments about Bradbury needing to improve elements of his game (breakdown etc iirc), so I’m not sure he’ll get called in what remains of BVC’s tenure. I hope Denton gets called up. Remember he was our first choice 8 before he got injured. A spot on the bench to come on in the last 20 to run through people could be useful.

      CDP has been poor this season, but I really hope he’s given a bench spot for the Italy game. This may sound very cynical but World Rugby is voting on residency rules in May. It would be prudent to cap him before then…

      1. Denton is treated unfairly on here. Called one dimensional etc. He is the only destructive number 8 we have available at the moment. He might be short of match fitness but has years of international experience and is a huge man. Would be my choice for a bench place.

      2. Andy, yes he probably is treated a little harshly on here, his physicality would be useful but he is a knock on machine and the last thing we want to be doing is giving away scrums.

    3. Cotter said Bradbury didn’t work hard enough at the breakdown and tends to drift in and out of games. I’m not sure his form at Edinburgh has been any more impressive the Du Preez’s.

      At a push Barclay can cover 8, so maybe Harley is the safest bet. He’s not going to help us chase a game but will make his tackles and hit his rucks.

      1. For me, Harley hasn’t set the world alight last few games for Glasgow and I reckon we could use a bit more grunt against England Globogym.

      2. I will be Harley , fit and a safe pair of hands, a player’s player. He will just beaver away and give his best. By the time he gets on the Globogym will be just big burst refrigerators.

        I notice Duncan Weir has been released back to Edinburgh?

  4. Dicko starts for Edinburgh!

    Let’s hope he goes well. Du Preez, Bradbury, Gilchrist and Toolis all start to try and play their way onto the Scottish bench. Should be interesting.

    Meanwhile you could make a solid XV out of Edinburgh’s injury list still at the moment. At least Rambo is back on the bench.

  5. Billy Vunipola is possibly back for Saracens this weekend. Could be in contention to face Scotland. If thats the case we need some beef in that backrow.

    1. He’s going to start against Newcastle on Sunday. Billy’s a class act, but a recall to Test rugby after one club game following three months of injury? Bit risky surely, for England and the player himself.

      1. Pretty sure mako only had one game for saracens before coming off the bench for England?

      2. There’s an argument to say that Test level internationals need to prove only their “fitness” fitness (as opposed to match fitness), if you take the view that class is permanent…

  6. Did anyone see that Edinburgh post on social media about “How to get hair like Ben Toolis”? I guess it was tongue in cheek but, my God, that just epitomises everything about the (ex-)Murrayfield Luvvies. Cockerill cannot come soon enough!

    Also Dickinson back is just incredible news. There’s an argument that he’s even more important to the team than Nel, considering how Fagerson seems to be an able deputy. My hope for the Calcutta Cup* match has just gone up yet another notch…

    *edit: TRIPLE CROWN

  7. We have to face the calcutta cup with optimism, we will not get a better chance of England away than this one and what a prize, top 4 , 6N , Triple Crown, calcutta cup. . With the top 8 secured we should be preparing our lads well but tell them to get out there and enjoy the game. Just have a good afternoon at the office.

  8. I personally hope B.Vunipola does play against scotland … and breaks his leg in the first 5 minutes. I wouldnt complain if this happened to any of the english lads though.

      1. Apologies, still … who wouldnt be happy if he picks up a knock and dosent come up against us… he clearly makes a huge difference when he is on for england.

      2. I wouldn’t, for the same reason I wouldn’t want to avoid the ABs in the RWC: I want us to beat the best and be undisputed. If we can’t beat England with Billy V, we aren’t the best in the 6N.

  9. Denton undercooked, Bradbury not quite ready for international rugby (according to BVC), Harley too slow, Du Preez out of form I’m leaning toward Fraser Brown to cover the back row.

  10. Denton looked way off the pace and contributed next to nothing his 1st game back. Last weekend he looked a bit fitter..but still looked well short of where he was at when he played against OZ.

    Fantastic that Dickinson is back…if he makes it through his match for Edinburgh Id be putting him at least on the bench vs England.

    If Scotland try and play an unproven or unfit No8 just to play with more bulk …they are playing right into Englands hands and trying to go toe to toe. We should just focus on getting our own game style perfected. Quick ball and fast accurate hands are more important to our play I think. Wilson has done very well against big packs and is playing very well.

    1. Completely agree about not picking bulk to match Vunipola B. Cotter will work out what’s needed if he does indeed play.

      Dickinson, think we need to see how he goes tomorrow – arguably he is as important to us as Vunipola is to England. Hope he goes well and then we’ll see.

    2. Exactly, I don’t think fighting fire with fire would work for us, we have to try and play our own game not Englands. If that’s not good enough then so be it, wont be able to say we didn’t try. Pick the players best at our game which is pretty much the team that played Wales. Watson is a 7 but Barclay and Wilson can play across the back row, I wouldn’t be averse to Swinson covering the back row, he could easily drop into 6 with the others moving around if necessary, with Dunbar and Brown playing we already have 5 backrows anyway.

      Dickinson would be a welcome addition to the bench.

    3. Completely agree we should play our game and not get drawn into boshing contest which we can’t win. It happened against France but we had Strauss to drag us over the gain line again and again.

      Ryan Wilson will play number 8 for a number of reasons. He’s been a revelation this season with his work rate, wanting to be at every ruck and back on his feet to make the next tackle. Phenomenal desire and mental strength. He looked dead and buried at points at the end of the Wales game but dragged himself to his feet to make the next hit. The combination of Wilson, Barclay and Watson is purring so why change it? Lastly, Wilson is like Vern’s adoptive son. Did anyone else see the warm embrace at the end of the Wales game? I swear there was a tear in Vern’s eye! I wouldn’t be surprised to see Wilson at Montpellier at some point down the line.

  11. We do not seem to be very excited that Josh Strauss has found a home. I think we saw him at his best keeping the Glasgow Second string going over the 6N and AI’s in our most successfull seasons.

    I think at 30, Sale is probably a good move for him , he will get game time and exposure. They have room to improve and he did influence the younger lads at Glasgow . After Sale he could then see out his career as an impact player in the premiership. All in all , I would say a well played Josh.

  12. The Welsh game showed how we continue to improve under Vern Cotter, I was very surprised and disappointed when I heard he was leaving, 5th place may only be temporary but it should at least be a benchmark for the next few years. We need to go into the England game with a positive attitude, play with pace and cut out the mistakes as much as we can. It goes without saying that we also need to keep our discipline and hope for fair refereeing at the scrummage (a means to restart the game not driving for penalties!). Before the Welsh game I said that we didn’t seem to get the rub of the green with Lacey as referee, I was glad to see him prove me wrong, he was fair, particularly at the scrums. I also cast doubt over Tim Visser’s defence and handling skills, again he proved me wrong, his all round game has improved a great deal since his move to Harlequins and with his attacking strengths he looked the complete winger and deserves to hold his place. I’d also like to give a mention to Ryan Wilson and Alex Dunbar who I thought were excellent in the Welsh game as they were in the Irish game.
    I hope VC sticks with the same side, with Watson in for Hardie, and I would have Swinson, Gilchrist and Dickinson, if he comes through this weekend’s game, on the bench.
    Whatever happens against England, we’ve got to stick with this squad, which with another 3 year’s experience will be very competitive at the next world cup.

  13. The Telegraph today has 9 (yes nine) Scottish players in the touring party for the Lions. The Gray brothers, Watson, Laidlaw, Russell, Dunbar, Jones, Seymour, Hogg.
    Now that would be something we should all be proud to support! And I usually hate the Telegraph!!

    1. And the 9 include one player that many think has played for Scotland for the last time! On another note – how does Hamish Watson qualify?

    2. I still don’t think that Finn or Greig will go, especially now with Greig’s injury. I think it will be Sexton/Farrell/Biggar and Webb/Murray + Care or Youngs but I’d be pretty happy if the other 7 lads listed got on the plane!

      1. Biggar was pretty poor last weekend. I hope Gatland sees sense and leaves him at home as he’s really struggling to get his backline moving. If Finn has two good performances in him and a good turnout against Saracens I think he’s currently edged ahead of him.

        I think Ben Youngs will go ahead of Laidlaw and Webb and Murray are nailed on.

  14. Edinburgh are just so so poor. Poor skills, poor composure, turgid gameplan. Never even looked like scoring tonight. What is the opposite of synergy? Whatever it is, that defines Edinburgh. Player for player this team should not be perennial bottom dwellers in the Pro12. Role on the Cockerill regime.

    1. I couldn’t believe that Hoylans didn’t back himself at the end of the first half. Overall, they just suck, though. Good luck, Cockerill.

  15. At the risk of introducing negativity into a period of ebullience, what’s the general consensus about Toonie replacing VC?

    I’m a Warriors fan and have loved some of their displays this season – viz home and away against Leicester and Racing – but I do still worry about Toonie taking over Scotland. It wasn’t that long ago that there were rumours of player and coach discord at Glasgow with some key players looking to move… and whilst I realise that seems to have resolved itself with key players sighing new contracts, I still get the feeling there’s a greater bond between VC and the players than between Toonie and the players.

    In short I worry Toonie hasn’t got sufficient experience and that Scotland will regress under his stewardship.

    I know what’s done can’t be redone but why didn’t the SRU let him go to France – as per the apparent ultimatum – and if he proves himself there, bring him in after Japan 2019.

    Very nervous….

  16. Me too JP, been wondering about this myself. Strange it hasn’t been brought up on any posts but here we are 5th in world rankings thanks to a coach that the players obviously respond positively to who has been shown the door even after getting us within a minute of a world cup semi final. So a high risk decision by the SRU, just hope they called it right. On a positive note Townshend has to take credit for the development of so many of the Scottish team that has played so well in this six Nations. In particular Finn Russell, without him I cannot see how our dangerous and innovative back line would have shone so well and so gloriously. Hope this comment makes sense.

    1. Makes perfect sense, Niddrie Exiler. In particular your positive note on Toonie. He’s a been there, seen it, done it former Scotland and Lions star. He’s done wonders with the Warriors who, as you say, provide more than just the engine room for the Test side. Big Vern has been simply fantastic for us – great features in The Times today in which Seymour and Visser separately comment on Vern’s impact – and if there were one coach I had to pick as capable of doing justice to the Vern ‘legacy’ and then building on it, it would be Toonie.
      There was a fearlessness in Toonie in his playing days that has clearly transferred to the psyche of the whole Warriors squad.
      We need Cockerill to do something similar with Edinburgh, which will be good for them and the Test team.

  17. I think Cockerhill will provide a very good balance in style …in terms of Scotland talent development….same with Rennie. Just running with same coach or style coaches can result in talent stagnation.

    I have enjoyed VC being coach…he brought a heavy dose of reality, honesty and world rugby smarts to a role we had heard so many false promises from previous coaches. He has done a great job getting the Scottish players to realize their true identity and ensuring they progress. An honest, talented and effective rugby coach.

    I do, however, believe GT can take our rugby further. He clearly has his own vision of how rugby should be played …..and most importantly…has proven that he can get his team to buy in… improve skills and attitude… and win.

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Scottish Rugby News and Opinion