Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Scotland vs Italy: The Player Ratings

Stuart Hogg
Stuart Hogg - pic © Alastair Ross / Novantae Photography

After Cam’s controversial ratings from last weekend, we may need to make you aware these were done after the pub, and also based on one view from the press deck and one from the back of the stand.

15. Stuart Hogg: For a man with questions over his defence, put in two try saving tackles. Had a baby earlier in the week and clearly pumped for the occasion – 7/10

14. Tommy Seymour: A quiet finish to a quiet tournament by his standards but took the try well – 6/10

13. Huw Jones: A few nice jinks before the first Scotland try but injured in the process. More to come from him, definitely. Such a dangerous runner – 6/10

12. Alex Dunbar: A big reaction was needed from the centre after the England game, and he responded with his best ball carrying performance of the tournament. Defence reverted to the default state of “solid” too thankfully –7/10

11. Tim Visser: Probably the most involved of the Scottish back three, but perhaps flattered to deceive with regard to effectiveness in the first half. No shortage of workrate though and was similary busy for his try on the hour mark – 6/10

10. Finn Russell: Concussion worries set aside with a pretty assured performance. Maybe tried too much at times but was involved in all of Scotland’s best moves including most of the tries – 8/10

9. Ali Price: Played his usual game and kept things moving quickly – 6/10

1. Gordon Reid: Part of a solid scrum effort and key in the defensive stand down to 14 men – 7/10

2. Ross Ford: Played over an hour during which there were solid scrums and the defence was strong. Brown wasn’t needed until the game was all but done – 6/10

3. Zander Fagerson: Part of a relatively strong scrummaging performance by Scotland but quiet in the loose – 6/10

4. Grant Gilchrist: A late call up for Richie Gray who couldn’t get over his hamstring injury. Carried a bit, tackled a lot. Not spectacular, but didn’t let anyone down – 6/10

5. Jonny Gray: Quiet with the bigger carries but took on plenty and punched a few big holes when really required. Must take some credit for a defence that didn’t let in any tries – 7/10

6. John Barclay: Yellow carded for collapsing the maul at the start of the second half but when he was on the pitch, led by example and had far more success at the breakdown than last weekend – 6/10

7. Hamish Watson: Made ground with almost every carry and is incredibly hard to bring down when he’s going forward. Put in a few key tackles as well – 7.5/10

8. Ryan Wilson: Looked like he was going off injured after just 5 minutes but somehow lasted till half time and beyond. – 6/10


16. Fraser Brown: had little effect on the game. Perhaps docked a point for an iffy lineout at the death (we’ve heard that before) which almost let Italy on the board – 5/10

17. Allan Dell: Very useful in the loose this lad. Scrum didn’t suffer too badly. Italy miss Castro badly – 5/10

18. Simon Berghan: Had his first decent run off the bench but they still prefer Fagerson which says something – 5/10

19. Tim Swinson: Helped with the maul defence when he came on and had some strong carries against tiring Italians. Unlucky not to start – 6/10

20. Cornell du Preez: Played half an hour and did the carrying he was supposed to. Josh Strauss but slightly less effective, on this showing. Needs to bring the extra skills we know he has if he’s going to break in to the team permanently – 6/10

21. Henry Pyrgos: Replaced Price with no discernible drop in quality, if perhaps a slight drop in pace – 6/10

22. Duncan Weir: Brief cameo when Scott was injured and kicked for territory well just to really put Italy’s fire out. Still unlikely Weir/Russell will make a Ford/Farrell level combo – 5/10

23. Matt Scott: Had just short of an hour on the pitch after waiting patiently all tournament. Not quite in the Huw Jones mould but more Dunbar Mk II, carried hard and direct all game but went off injured just before the end – 6.5/10

And last but not least:

Vern Cotter: has Scotland moving in the right direction. Identified the ideal blueprint for a Scottish rugby team and has gone some way towards putting it in place. Unearthed some new players and has others playing the best rugby of their lives. For the first time in recent memory, Scotland’s ship is going in right direction and not taking on water as a new coach comes in. There were blips along the way but if Toony can get the tactics right, there’s the makings of a great team now and a lot of that credit goes to Vern – 7.5/10

71 Responses

  1. I thought GG outshone J Gray from a carrying perspective. Also I think you are being incredibly harsh on Fagerson. I think for a 21 yo tighthead prop he has been outstanding. To bag Berghan and Fagerson at the same time shows exactly the kind of negativity we could do without in Scottish Rugby.

    1. Totally agree, well said. As if there’s something wrong with being 1 place behind Fagerson in the pecking order.
      Both have done well against some very powerful opponents considering they’re back up in the position. Nobody who puts everything in to it deserves any put-downs anyway.

    2. Couldn’t agree more Duncan. Zander Fagerson has been superb and filled a huge hole throughout the 6 nations. Also thought that Grant Gilchrist carried better that he has ever done for Scotland.

      1. The penalties he gave away were criminal and would have been punished by better teams. I think he took the man out in the line out twice and something else equally idiotic. That kind of stuff negates other positive work.

      2. 7 carries for 3 metres. Not exactly anything to shout about. Having said that, nervous start aside I thought he looked like he was approaching the level we expect from him as he has been woeful for Edinburgh recently.

  2. A little bit flat for the culmination of our most successful 6N and the end of Cotter reign. I thought we played a little too conservatively and when we should have broken the back of Italy’s resistance after half time they dominated possession for the third quarter. Nevertheless, to ease to a 29pt victory with try bonus point shows our increased competitiveness.

    Everyone keeps saying how O’Shea has Italy improving and starting to move in the right direction but I can’t ever remember them being as bad as this and I think he’s just realising how difficult a job he has got himself in to. I certainly can’t remember when we would play well within our selves and beat Italy with such a scoreline in a 6N match. I don’t want to see relegation as I think it will kill off Italian rugby – but Italy are bringing a lot of pressure on themselves.

  3. Disagree with Gilchrist. Two identical and silly lineout penalties on our own line and a knock on from a simple pass. Thats a bit of a let down. Swinson should have been rewarded with a start, but I suppose this would have reduced our back row sub options.

  4. A decent enough performance. Was anybody else getting driven up the wall by the slow service from both our 9s? It was a huge reason to why we struggled so badly against England.

    1. I thought that the delivery from breakdown was measured, JB. When it was on, the ball was fizzed out and we scored, when it was still building pressure, it was deliberate and frustrated the hell out of the defence. I’ll grant you that it took me a while to come to this conclusion, I was frustrated for the first 20, but the longer I watched, the happier I was with a truly professional performance across the team. I reckon each of these ratings is between 0.5 and 1 on the low side for what I watched.

  5. I’d rate Gilchrist, Barclay, Russell down and Fagerson up. For me, Fagerson did well in the loose and he scrummaged better than the previous games. Gilchrist and Barclay’s discipline was shocking (Barclay shouldn’t be captain but that’s another story) and, while Russell looked sharp, he kicked too much (although you could tell it was the gameplan), his little dabs over were woefully inaccurate, and he was far too deep in attack to be his usual effective self.

  6. Is it a good thing we are disappointed with a 29 – 0 victory over a country we usually struggle against? this is an indication of how far we have come as an attacking force under vern. not our best performance of the 6n but a capable one all the same. can’t wait till we get the likes of nel, dickinson, strauss and Denton back to fitness and form and show what we can really do

    1. Yeah, 4 home wins on the trot not to be sniffed, neither is niliing Italy; nobody else managed it, or even came close. Positives, our collective star is rising.

  7. I agree with FF, I felt the occasion, given the significance, was a bit flat. Yes it was great to get a BP win and a shutout, but we didn’t have the same attacking intent as we did against Ireland and Wales. Maybe the conditions had an impact, which in itself is a welcome change from a few years ago when rain usually played in our favour, now we pray for a dry day.

    I do fear for Italy’s future in the 6 Nations. We managed to beat them comfortably and we barely got out of 1st gear. I know Favaro and Campagnaro were missing, but the gulf between Italy and the rest of the 6N teams is growing year after year. Who now is the 5th best team in the tournament? France? They managed to bet a BP win in Rome too. This season’s performance will only increase the calls to switch them out for Georgia, and there may also be calls to look at Zebre and Treviso’s participation in the Pro12. I know they need to develop, but they have been in the 6 Nations for 17 years now and have they ever won 2 games in a tournament?

  8. Is it just me, or is the bench needing work?

    Vern has done a great job, but doesn’t use (or maybe trust) the bench.

    Despite the positives, if it wasn’t for Greig getting injured then we would still have scant experience for Price, and I’m stumped why we aren’t using Horne and Maitland on the bench (don’t think they’re injured).

    We also need Finn to work harder on areas such as drop goals for him to be considered a decent 10.

  9. I think the man in the picture deserved more than a 7/10. We’ve come to expect a lot from him, and didn’t see so much of the line breaking running we’re used to. However, he set up 3 tries and (as you say) had two try saving tackles. Should be first pick for the Lions XV by now.

    1. I think when he got the ball, he kicked it back every time but somehow assisted 3 tries. Showed that he can make tries for a lions team that won’t be attacking mainly with the back line.

  10. I am already fed up with the Lions discussions. Chris Jones on 5 live just named his test team which although Hogg was mentioned he was erring towards Kearney because of the size of his boot! Are you kidding me! Apart from that no other Scots were even close. I think we will be lucky to get 2 in the touring squad. I hope no Scots go so GT has a full squad to go to Oz with and the ABs pump the Lions.

    1. Funny thing about the Lions will be picking the team most likely to beat NZ, rather than the “best” team on form

      This won’t happen playing the game “their” way, especially with the short break-in period and Gatland in charge.

      So I’m expecting England and Ireland core with a mostly 10 man game plan…kick, lineout, maul, one-up run, recycle, slow the ball, repeat for 15 phases, yawn ..occasional bit of backs play to keep them honest.

      From yesterday’s team I could see Jonny as part of that, and Hogg is probably unignorable, but other than that I can’t see our players being the best placed to execute that plan.

      1. You say that Hogg is unignorable, and many sensible rugby folk would agree with that (Stephen Jones take note), but Gatland has a particular style and I’m pretty sure he will go for a defensive fullback rather than Hogg.

        I’m fairly certain it’ll be a Welshman at 15 for the Lions, not sure which one, with Hogg in the dirttracker team.

    2. I listened to that piece by Chris Jones and was shouted at the radio (so did my Welsh wife). England players were listed as starters with no need for debate (Farrell at 12 for example) and Hogg was put forward with lots of question marks. We all recognise he has been outstanding and makes a world of difference. As someone said on here he had a hand in 3 tries and made two try saving tackles. Kearny is better under the high ball, Halfpenny’s goal kicking has vbeen world class but no one causes other teams to doubt their defence the way Hogg does. That said I am coming round to the thought that keeping our boys together and develop under Gregor in Australia would be best.

      1. Best thing that could happen for Scottish rugby would be that all the Scottish players go to Australia under the saltire with Townsend : start preparing for 2019 and all of that.

      2. Disagree. Touring with the Lions probably contributed towards Hogg transitioning from talented youngster to World Class full-back.

  11. Feeling oddly subdued after 29-0 and 3 wins….some thoughts

    1 – I really hope Italy can improve …it would truly reinvigorate 6N

    2 – Italy aside the ONLY away win in 6N was England v Wales ..and only just..that was good enough for the tournament. Away wins are pure gold and France was a chance missed for us. We’ll need 2 away wins next year to have a chance.

    3 – we’ve got to learn to deal with physicality and adversity better. I don’t think we need bigger players necessarily but finding a way to play to our strengths not theirs. Both losses this year seemed a bit panicky under pressure.

    4- hopefully Toony can keep up the momentum…He’s done well with a very good Glasgow side but the international side is a different challenge. I guess we’ll find out.

  12. The impact that Ross Ford has had in the scrum and line outs this season has gone largely unrecognised. The scrum was significantly stronger against England when Fordy came on and was solid yesterday. His linout work is also solid and dependable. It seems to be popular to run him down now as he is not the most dynamic player around the pitch but he has a big impact in the close game and is involved in the vast majority of breakdowns.

    1. Agree on the scrum, disagree on the line out. Think we lost 3 line outs when he was on yesterday. Fraser Brown has also thrown very good arrows this tournament. Brown also better at the breakdown and often a top tackler also.

      Good to have both of them, horses for courses and all that.

      1. What sticks in my mind was the lineout in the last minute close to our own line, all they had to do is nail it and boot it away and that’s 29-0.

        Brown, throw, miss, Italy ball… luckily knocked on but it could have cost us points when the pressure was on and changed that zero. Australia anyone?

        Similar to the fumbled restart, nerves when the pressure is on maybe… hopefully GT can change that!

  13. With all that happened yesterday with BVC’s swansong, I think the fact that another important member of the coaching team is also leaving was lost to most people.

    Although Vern has been the head coach, I don’t think the impact of Jason O’Halloran can be overstated. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the increased efficiency and cutting edge of the backs became a factor after his arrival.

    I remember looking into his background after he was appointed, and when he was at Manawatu, they had the fewest offloads in the ITM Cup but most line breaks, and he was known for instilling a knowledge of picking when was the best time to offload, rather than just looking to offload at every opportunity, something that I felt we were guilty of a couple of years ago.

    Still, Scotland’s loss is Glasgow’s gain and he should form a great team with Dave Rennie. And given that Glasgow make up the bulk of Scotland’s backline the National team should continue to benefit from his influence.

    1. Yeah he’s seems a very good coach… however the good thing is that he is still going to making a contribution to the Scotland team via Glasgow. Also, GT and his staff have done a very impressive job doing the same thing with Glasgow backs…so I dont see us regressing in that regard….the problem for GT will be getting the forward pack to be more aggressive and effective…I’d say.

      1. Rennie is in post for two years. I wonder if o’halloran is at Glasgow as a piece of succession planning to takeover when Rennie gets the ab job/ a national position.

      2. GT will still have Jonathan Humphreys coaching the forwards. He is a real unsung hero of the Scottish coaching set up.

      3. McFarland has substantially improved the Glasgow maul attack/defence and scrum stability. I’d be looking to him make the same impact again for Scotland if we’re going to seriously pressure the other 6N teams. Ire and Eng conceded far less penalties so we need a more efficient pack to move toward that level.

  14. Not saying that Finn should be upgraded from 8/10 but his place kicking since we lost Laidlaw has become very dependable. That will give more flexibility at scrum half than before. Can play to the strength of our creative backs more and keep the opposition flankers watching for sniping breaks which they did not need to concern themselves with before.

  15. I think yesterdays performance by Fagerson was incredible, against a usually strong scrumaging team he showed his ability to learn from the previous games and for once Scotlands scrum was dominant, his performances in the loose have also been excellent, think he will be quite an asset in years to come!

  16. Think a starting point of zeros from last week has led to somewhat harsh scores for this round.
    ZF I would give at least 7.5 possibly 8 – thought his carries and defence showed a great work rate and reminiscent of a certain WPN. Hogg probably deserves another point for his contribution to a clean sheet and JB & HW carried well and put in a defensive shift, despite JB’s yellow card.
    Finally, for the belief he has brought back to Scottish rugby and the big steps forward in terms of attacking edge, an extra point for Stern Vern. Still some way to go but it’s been so long since someone got this much from a Scotland team, he deserves a huge amount of appreciation. Thank you VC.

  17. If we had put more points on Italy we could have come third, bit disappointed we didn’t go for it as I think the prize money difference could be about 1 million, a huge amount for cash strapped SRU. Certainly Wales missed out on 1.5 m by coming 5th not 2nd.

  18. Did anyone watch BBC rugby special yesterday? They had an Englishman, an Irishman, and a Welshman on the punditry guest list. Needless to say they asked for their Lions XV. The only Scot to feature on anyone’s XV was Stuart Hogg. A fortnight ago they were peppering their Lions XV with Scots including Jonny/Ritchie Gray, Hamish Watson, Huw Jones, etc. So what’s changed?

    Ah yes, Twickenham. They travelled down to London and put in their worst performance of the tournament against the most punishing opposition. In that single game alone, half a dozen Scots had their names scored off the ‘possible’ Lions selection list. Gatland will steam on and now select a maximum of three Scots feeling justified by the way in which Scotland defensively exposed themselves in West London. Scotland didn’t turn up and the players let themselves down, big time.

    This is a shame, because you don’t become a bad team or a bad player on one single performance. It was so frustrating to watch Jerry Guscott, Keith Wood and Mike Phillips not even mention any Scots as a possible option (other than Hogg) in their Lions XV. Disregarded as a result of our Calcutta Cup disaster. Even when we bounce back with a solid win over Italy all they talk about is how crap Italy are to lose to Scotland like that.

    Very frustrating. This was our worst defeat to England, not just because we were humped, but the timing was particularly unfortunate for Lions selection.

    1. I didn’t watch rugby Special, but it would be a big mistake for the Lions to discount the Scottish backs because of Twickenham, and I hope they don’t.

      If you look at the home nations try scoring league table it’s
      1) Scotland & Ireland on 14
      3) England on 13
      4) Wales on 8

      Ireland scored 9 against Italy and we gifted England 7. If we exclude Italy, the table is:

      1) Scotland & England 10 tries
      2) Wales & Ireland 5 tries

      The 2016 table tells a similar story. The home nations are adept at racking up tries against Italy, with the exception of Scotland (possibly because Italy target the fixture), but much less potent against each other.

      Scotland are a consistent 2-3 try per game tea against all comers (even against England we scored 3!).

      The All Blacks are not Italy. We won’t beat them with hit up rugby and pouncing on errors.

      The Scottish backs score tries, and should be in the frame, particularly Finn Russell and the entire back 3.

      1. Interesting points, and I agree with what you are saying about not beating The All Blacks with Warrenball. However the coach is Warren Gatland who invented Warrenball, he will chose players who can play that type of game. If anything we are worse at that type of game now than we were 4 years ago.

      2. We shouldn’t get riled because the BBC pundits don’t pick Scots. If I were picking my starting 15 I doubt whether anyone but Hoggy would be in with a shout at the moment. You could make a case for Seymour but North is back on top form and Daly has had a stormer of a 6N, Italy red-card aside.
        However, there will be 37-40 players going on tour and I’m sure even Phillips, Guscott and Wood would have a few more Scots there – just not in test contention (yet).
        The Gray brothers, Watson, Russell, Dunbar, Seymour and Visser are all in with a shout if they perform over the next month, not to say Nel, Hardie, Jones and Maitland if they prove fitness and form.

      3. Wales have been dreadful but play one good game against Iteland and all their players are suddenly back in the frame for lions. Ireland have been woeful with ball in hand but they beat England so ditto. It’s bo*****s basically.

      4. I saw the article on BBC Sport this morning that seems to have come out of this programme, and it is like Mike Phillips and Keith Wood seem to have forgotten that their teams LOST to Scotland. With the exception of Twickenham, we’ve been the most consistent of the Celtic nations and we will score tries in every game. One of the things that is most notable for me, is that our conversion of territory/chances to scores is phenomenal compared to what it used to be. When the chances are that the Lions will not get that many scoring opportunities, surely the back-line that is best at converting what comes its way should be in the mix? But, then again, the Lions will be playing Warrenball and that is irrelevant. As has been said many times already, the fact that the attack coach has led the weakest, bluntest of the home nations is of greatest concern.

      5. I have to agree Merlot if we are being brutally honest. I thought the same about Seymour, he has been a bit quiet himself lately which hasn’t helped the cause. You can’t really look past Joseph and Farrell in the centre IMO, 10 will be Biggar or Sexton. I don’t think any of the Scottish forwards would be starting. Launchberry is like J Gray but a bit better (at the moment anyway) and I can’t see Gatland not picking AWJ. If it was any other year I would say both Gray’s were in with a shout but the depth of talent across the nations in the second row at the moment is ridiculous. I reckon half a dozen or so will go on the tour, those being Hogg, Maitland, Seymour, Jones, Russell, Watson and J Gray, Hogg being the only starter and Watson and Russell being the ones I am least confident of.

      6. It’s conventional for coaches of sports teams to talk in terms of ‘focussing on our own game’ and ‘not worrying about the opposition’. But this is the All Blacks in NZ. Some of the star performers in the Six Nations might find that their game doesn’t cut it against the Blacks. I hope Gatland recognises that and takes a leavening of rugby brain as well as brawn, however athletic, because the latter on its own won’t work in NZ.

  19. Only watched the game yesterday. Have to say it looked a bit muted, nilling them is an achievement as bad as Italy have been they usually manage to sneak a try or two. The conditions did look very slippery though which does not suit us (how times change). It was good practice for Russell playing a kicking game and I think he did it well for the most part. Matt Scott did well when he came on, hopefully he isn’t that badly injured, same to Jones, they all looked happy enough sitting on the bench later but then again I thought Jones looked delighted after the Argentina game.

    I have seen a few pelters for Barclay and his indiscipline, his card was one of those things, yes of course its illegal, if he didn’t do it they would probably have scored a try, he got binned, they didn’t score so he got away with it. TBH I’m surprised it wasn’t a penalty try, I don’t think anyone could have argued if it was.

    Can someone with some reffing knowledge explain to me Nigel Owens advice to the ref about the knock on / out on the full thing? As far as I saw his foot was in touch, he touched the ball so that means its out, the fact he then dropped the ball should be immaterial IMO?

    Its a shame that THAT game against England happened, if they beat us by 5 – 10 (as I thought would happen if I was being perfectly honest with myself before the game) I think it would have been a very successful and positive tournament, if you want to do anything you need to win your home games and win games that you probably don’t deserve to, we did that. As the tournament progressed France looked more like a missed opportunity, I think if Laidlaw didn’t get crocked we would have won that game, when he went off there were a few clueless looking guys on the field.

    I think it will have done a huge amount for the team, we have a settled and strong back division, room for improvement in the strength in depth at 10 and 15. Russell will have learned a lot without his Laidlaw armbands on and handled the kicking duties well. I think Hogg has matured a lot too, he was in danger of believing his own hype for a while but has had another excellent tournament, he has been less selfish IMO and aswell as scoring 3 he assisted in god knows how many of the others.

    The pack is more of a difficult one, we were found wanting in terms of shear physicality at times. The front row developed through the tournament after a very shaky start and are now a credible alternative to Nel and Dickinson, who says that the two of them will return to anything like the form they showed prior to injury anyway? This is maybe going to be a bit harsh but both Grays need to be more aggressive, neither have done much wrong but there’s very little in the way of the bursting runs and dragging opposition players along in their wake that guys of that size should be capable of. Richie outshone Jonny for the first time in a while too.

    I have described our back row before as rapiers rather than sledgehammers, I like that, I don’t like men running straight into each other just because they can, its boring and isn’t the true spirit of the game. We do need a bit more bulk though, Hardie is the only big hitting tackler that we have, J Gray misses very few but you never see him smashing someone. Another big ball carrier or two on form and in the squad would do wonders, Strauss is ok and makes decent yards but he’s not exactly a bruiser either. Will be interesting to see how Bradbury develops and if dare I say it, Denton can return to form. Plenty of teams have experimented with the “two 7s” idea but we have played with 3 for most matches! With Brown and Dunbar basically being an extra two back rows we have plenty of skill at the breakdown but are lacking in enforcers.

    1. Regarding Owens’ intervention, I think it is because the catch was not completed then it is not regarded as out of play. If he had caught it properly and had the ball under control, then knocked on, it would have been out on the full and a lineout. He never had the ball under control, so it was a knock-on and a scrum to us.

      1. Sounds plausible. I just found it strange because when the boots on the other foot for example when scoring a try you just need the proverbial baw hair to be on the line and its in touch. I thought it would be reasonable to assume if your foot is planted in touch you just needed a baw hair to touch the ball and its in touch. Anyway Nige knows best and I certainly wasn’t arguing during the game!

  20. Garland made it clear that Twickenham was the Scots chance to show him they deserve to go on the Lions tour, they blew it simple as that. I reckon apart from Hogg who is nailed on both our wingers, Russell, Jones, Jonny Gray and Hamish Watson have an outside chance but a 50-50 one. Not bothered one bit much more interested in GT’s squad to play Australia.

  21. Don’t know how I managed to waffle that much and not mention big VC. Its really strange, the only head coaches I have really experienced are Williams, Haddock, Robo and Johnson and I couldn’t wait for them to leave and rejoiced when they finally went. Ok I did feel a bit sorry for Robo, he looked as exasperated as the rest of us at some of the dross that was served up on the field at times! Vern has been the cool but firm hand that the team has needed, has instilled confidence and self belief that was non existent before. Toonie is in the enviable position of inheriting a good team, he won’t need to start building from scratch like Vern did, most of the players are known to him anyway and I think Vern and Toonie have a pretty similar philosophy on how to play the game. The only thing I am slightly concerned about is attitude, Vern was a big no nonsense back rower, Toonie was a flighty 10, I hope we don’t lose some of the steel that Vern has instilled. Will be interesting to see who he picks as captain too. It’s easy to say after our recent run of relative success but it makes you wonder what Vern could have done with another 4 years and maybe the SRU were a bit hasty but only time will tell. Thanks for everything Vern.

  22. re: ‘nilling’ Italy as an achievement. Let’s be honest, that wasn’t an ‘achievement’ in terms of our defensive display. Canna should have had at least 2 of those 3 first half penalties (probably all 3) and they should have had at least 1 of those 2 tries that they spunked (and realistically both). If we had limited them to pens from the halfway line or not been opened up at all you could make that argument. As it is, they should have had maybe between 15 and 21 points. They didn’t (and that is poor from them) but we can’t really take credit for that. Not saying the defence wasn’t good at times, but the fact that it was nil was more significantly about Italian wastefulness.

  23. Also, just seen the player of the tournament nominations are up…
    Louis Picamoles (France)
    CJ Stander (Ireland)
    Finn Russell (Scotland)
    Camille Lopez (France)
    Maro Itoje (England)
    Owen Farrell (England)
    Joe Launchbury (England)
    Stuart Hogg (Scotland)
    Conor Murray (Ireland)
    Sergio Parisse (Italy)
    Rhys Webb (Wales)
    Ken Owens (Wales)

    Obviously voted for Hoggy but if I am being honest rather than Scottish it would be between Launchberry, Farrell, Picamoles and Stander, gun to head I would say Picamoles.

    1. Picamoles for me too. On Saturday, pre-Wales game, they brought up his stats for the tournament and they were eye opening. Seem to recall it was particularly ‘defenders beaten’ that was an incredible number.

    2. I genuinely think Hogg ought to get it. 3* tries and 5 assists in 4.25 games is unparalleled influence in this seasons 6N. He was a huge threat every time he got the ball. His presence in the line draws defenders and creates gaps for others too.

      Add in the fact that he was solid under the high ball throughout, and made two try saving tackles in the last game. These were aspects of his game that were loudly criticised before this season, and he responded to them emphatically. If he wore a red, green or white shirt he’d be lauded by all and the first name in the lions team. We are lucky to have him.

      * I’d argue actually four as I’m sure he got to the ball before Halfpenny after his own kick through in the Wales game

  24. Trying to remain impartial I went Picamoles as well. Some of his carries in first game against England were outstanding.

  25. Just overheard Jason White speaking to ZF: apparently he’s injured, which is a shame.

  26. Good ratings for what was a good, solid win. Can’t help but feel Italy played their trump card against England and had well and truly run out of steam but we put in a professional and no nonsense display to see them off without ever looking in trouble bar one short period before and after the yellow.

  27. Can anyone out there explain why the 100 minute game wasn’t brought to an end by a penalty try? ( Suggesting that the overtime was proving more entertaining than the game, while true, is not the answer I’m looking for!).

    1. Barnes is a cyborg. He can’t be reasoned with, he can’t be bargained with…he doesn’t feel pity of remorse or fear…and he absolutely will not stop (the game). Ever.

    2. Another query was why was the clock not stopped when the French chap got the bizarre HIA and also when they were swapping the Wales prop after the yellow was the clock not stopped? Wales only had six minutes to hold out with 14 the first time due to that mix up. Makes no sense. Can anyone help?

  28. Quick thought: Finn Russell is only a year older than Sam Davies, the big new hope of Wales who’s making his first tentative steps into test match rugby. Think about all the extra rugby he’s taken on, when they could be in the same school year.

    This is the flipside of how little we had prior to this generation. We had to throw them in, because there was no-one else. We expect a lot of them, and we have to be careful with their bodies as you’d think it’ll take its toll. But it’s exciting to think that none of our back line have hit their peak yet.

    Price, Russell, Jones, Bennett, Hogg – they’ll all be younger than Johnny Sexton is now at the World Cup. The 2023 World Cup.

    1. One thing I found quite surprising this tournament was how the average age of the Scotland team seemed to only be a year or so younger than most of the other teams, but had a few hundred fewer caps. I really thought our average age would be a lot younger.

      The main positive I suppose is that our best players on the whole are A) young B) in key positions. Statman, Watson, Russell, Jones, Hogg are going to be around for a long time yet, Fagerson too.

      Barring injury they can all be around for another 10 seasons. Hogg and Gray in particular are shoe-ins to eclipse Mossys cap record at this rate.

      1. We don’t play as much International rugby as our peers, which is one of the main reasons we have comparatively poor levels of experience compared to the others. Take Wales for Example. Since the World Cup they have played 19 matches, we have played 15. Extrapolate that across a full World Cup cycle and that’s probably the guts of potentially 180-ish international caps we’re down. A few reasons for it that have roots a few years old. Firstly, Scotland were seen as a bit of a joke side until recently, so getting a summer tour down under was difficult for us (things have now changed). Secondly, we had such a limited player pool that welfare issues meant that we couldn’t expect them to be playing pretty much constantly for 4 years with no scope to rest them at all. Again that’s changed and we now have a pretty large player pool who are of a “decent and up” International Standard.

        Assuming everyone is fit (except Huw Jones who we now know is out) we can select a squad from Dickinson, Reid, Sutherland, Dell, Ford, Brown, McInally, Nel, Fagerson, Berghan, Welsh, Gray, Gray, Swinson, Gilchrist, Toolis, Strauss, Barclay, Harley, Hardie, Watson, Wilson, Du Preez, Denton, Ashe, Laidlaw, Price, Pyrgos, SHC, Russell, Weir, Horne, Dunbar, Bennett, Scott, Taylor, Seymour, Visser, Hoyland, Maitland, Hogg. That’s a squad of 41 and doesn’t even include prospects such as Rae, McCallum, Bradbury, Cummings, Kinghorn, Dean or Ritchie or those on the fringes like Hughes, Fusaro, MacArthur, Allan, or even Nick Grigg.

        We need to take advantage of the expanding size of the player pool by giving them more matches to play.

      2. Interesting point DT. For one reason or another, the older players in our team (Nel, Strauss, Swinson, Reid) don’t have many caps, but our young players are more experienced.

        Scottish under 25s in the current squad (Toolis, Hogg, Russell, Bennett, Price, Jones, Hoyland Gray & Fagerson), have an average of 17 caps. That’s more than any other team (England & Wales-13, Italy – 10, Ireland – 8, France – 7).

        So we have inexperienced older players and experienced younger players. Also worth noting that Russell, Hogg and Gray also have tactical and/or leadership roles. Can only be a good thing.

  29. I haven’t been on here since the debacle at Twickenham. Just couldn’t bring myself to read the match reports and comments after sitting in the West stand watching us get drubbed while the girl next to me never took her eyes off her phone for the whole game…..

    Bright skies returned this weekend. That was a professional, clinical performance – the sort of scoreline that we used to suffer 4 or 5 years ago when we were where Italy now are. Yes, Italy were woefully blunt in attack, but you still have to make the tackles when they have the ball, and Scotland did that very well when reduced to 14.

    Attack-wise? Bonus point achieved, with tries scored by 4 backs, including both wings. That shows that Scotland have attacking threats across the pitch and will score tries every game. Some of the comments above read like they have come off the Irish or Welsh forums saying we should be beating Italy by more, this wasn’t that great etc, but for me that is a nonsense. It is too easy to forget that in his first season VC saw us whitewashed, and it was both Italy and ourselves who were candidates for the 6N axe. Scotland have been on a steep upwards curve, and that has contributed to one of the most exciting 6N (or 5N) we’ve ever had. Three teams tied on 14 points? Fantastic! And next year Scotland will be more competitive – bring it on!

    1. Well said, Ade. I too was gutted by what happened at Twickenham, but it was what it was and it didn’t ruin the whole 6N for us or make us a bad side. Agree with others on the blog who’ve pointed out that many of the media pundits in picking their Lions players seem to have forgotten that we beat Ireland and Wales this year.
      I’m now looking forward to the Euro Quarter Finals, the summer tournament down under and then the AIs. It will be fascinating to see how Gregor takes us on from the Vern era. I really think we will move on from here. And, as I haven’t yet said it on the blog, thank you Vern. You are a star and we will never forget what you have done for us!

  30. A few more points on the Italy game:

    Fagerson was awesome, as others have said criminally under scored in the ratings.

    Thought Scott looked really sharp. As a Glasgow fan had him below Bennett in the pecking order but put himself well above Bennett on current form albeit plenty of games before the summer. Poor Huw Jones who was looking world class again.

    Du Preez was impressive, bette than expected, a really good run out. There was one error but njoyed some of his carries and especially that basketball pass.

    Thought Finn looked no notably more assured when Prygos was on for Price. Albeit the weather changed too Pyrgos ran the pressure attack more, Finn sat deeper and then pulled the trigger on the big plays. That might be worth bearing in mind for all those calling for Price to be nailed on starter. Think GT will know this from Glasgow.

    That Seymour try was a thing of absolute beauty. Quick hands from Russell, Hogg and then a great finish. Class from three huge talents.

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Scottish Rugby News and Opinion