Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Scotland vs Italy: The Teams

Vern Cotter
Vern Cotter pictured before Scotland vs Ireland - pic © Alastair Ross / Novantae Photography

Vern Cotter has named his final Scotland squad.

All round it’s probably not what he had in mind as an end but targeting 3 home wins would represent a satisfying tournament.

A number of injury worries and poor performances from the devastation against England seem to have been miraculously consigned to the past with just one change to the starting lineup and one to the bench.

Up front, the pack probably escaped lightest with Richie Gray’s hamstring the main injury worry aside from a Ryan Wilson head knock. Both come through for an unchanged back 5 but up front Fraser Brown swaps with Ross Ford at hooker, possibly as punishment for the tackle that sent it all wrong and also the requirement for Brown to miss a day’s training for a hearing in London.

Completing the return to play protocols are Stuart Hogg and Tommy Seymour, who reform the same back division with Tim Visser. Finn Russell has overcome minor knee trouble to partner Ali Price once more.

On the bench Matt Scott is chosen ahead of Sean Maitland for the 23 spot. His fellow centres Huw Jones and Alex Dunbar probably had the biggest drop in their stock at Twickenham; expect a response.

Almost no-one suspected the whole team would be fit, so it’s something of a miracle and the Scotland medical team should be applauded. It’s great to have the nearly top team available and there will be a number of objectives. Firstly they need to prove they can keep the head in emotional circumstances – still the need to prove a point as it was last time, but from a different direction – and then they need to prove they don’t revolve around Stuart Hogg.

The back row, in particular, will want to show they are indeed masters of the breakdown and adaptable to whatever the referee throws at them. Before you get too excited, it’s another Frenchman that Scotland have had difficulty with in the past: Pascal Gauzere. Gauzere was the ref who both Laidlaw and Barclay struggled with against Ireland last year (see post by our Ed Rory here).

Now they need to seek redemption and a good send off for Vern.

Scotland team to face Italy at BT Murrayfield: 

Stuart Hogg, Tommy Seymour, Huw Jones, Alex Dunbar, Tim Visser, Finn Russell, Ali Price; Gordon Reid, Ross Ford, Zander Fagerson, Jonny Gray, Richie Gray, John Barclay (capt), Hamish Watson, Ryan Wilson.
Replacements: Fraser Brown, Allan Dell, Simon Berghan, Tim Swinson, Cornell du Preez, Henry Pyrgos, Duncan Weir, Matt Scott.

Italy: E Padovani (Zebre), A Esposito (Treviso), T Benvenuti (Treviso), L McLean (Treviso), G Venditti (Zebre), C Canna (Zebre), E Gori (Treviso); A Lovotti (Zebre), O Gega (Treviso), L Cittadini (Bayonne), M Fuser (Treviso), G Biagi (Zebre), M Mbanda (Zebre), A Steyn (Treviso), S Parisse (Stade Francais, capt).
Replacements: L Ghiraldini (Toulouse), S Panico (Calvisano), D Chistolini (Zebre), D van Schalkwyk (Zebre), F Ruzza (Zebre), F Minto (Treviso), M Violi (Zebre), L Sperandio (Treviso).

104 Responses

    1. And another up-yours to Gatland’s Lions snub. Glad they will be with us for the summer though, best medical team in the business!

  1. As I’ve suggested on Twitter, I thought the RTP protocols can only be completed in a minimum of 6 days, so technically speaking, Hogg, Seymour and Wilson won’t be cleared to play until tomorrow. The medical staff must be very confident that they will all pass, but it must surely mean that some of them have missed some of the training this week. If Brown is dropped to the bench partially due to missing a day because of the hearing, then it probably only the shallow depth of the squad following the wave of injuries that mean they are in the team.

    Still not entirely sure what Sean Maitland has done not to get a place on the bench. If last week taught us anything, is that we need proper wing/full-back cover.

  2. To only have one injury from last week’s mauling and injuries on the day is remarkable. And i saw a tweet that Bennett is back training which is again remarkable. Especially Wilson who was knocked out cold. But I agree that if Jones is not seen as our full back cover then Maitland should be there somewhere.

    If we hit our straps early then I could see tries galore and the whole back line getting in on the act. Yet more likely it’ll take time to break them down and be competitive in the first half till they tire.

    Next season’s Italy will be fit I reckon with what O’Shea is putting in place and much more of a challenge for everybody.

  3. happy enough with the 1st 15. no real threat of the bench and lack of cover for all areas would rather have Peter horne than Duncan weir

    1. The first team makes sense – Ross Ford as a calm head and improvement at scrum time. But not to have Horne and Maitland on the bench seems foolhardy.

  4. For yeh it is as Jebus stated to Lazarus :”Stand up, pick up your gps trackers, and walk Scotland back line !”

  5. I know this sounds ridiculous and priorities should be a) winning and b) bonus point but I think we should be targeting a 50 point win margin.

    As has been said already getting the biggest win against Italy would help our credibility. It would also boost our points different enough that it would see us finishing second even if Ireland or France win – providing they dont get a bonus and the winning margins are modest.

    With that team, at home and fired up for Vern’s last game and redemption for last week, I think it’s doable, but certainly not likely if Italy pull some passion, power and innovative play out the bag. Aim high.

    1. By my calculations we need the following winning margins over what Ireland and Wales/France win by, in order to make 2nd (assuming we win a BP and no one else does):

      Ireland: 70 points
      Wales: 43 points
      France: 40 points

      If Ireland win then, we need to break all sorts of records to make 2nd. Anything other than a draw between Wales and France needs us to go better than the 2015 WC warm-up game in order to finish 3rd.

      If England win, we still need these winning margins over Wales/France in order to finish 2nd, but 3rd would be guaranteed just by winning.

      In summary, the likelihood of finishing 2nd is very small. 3rd is possible, but let’s be honest, 4th is probable.

      1. A slim win for Wales and an England victory coupled with a BP win for us puts us in second place.

      2. Yes Andy, I think the above post seems to be predicated on Wales also being on 10 points (as per France/Ireland), but they are not as they failed to get a bonus point in Rome.
        It’s even better than you suggest in that even a large Wales win wouldn’t be enough, provided it does not garner a bonus point – i.e. winning by 20 points but only getting 3 tries…

      3. Oops, yes, I misread the table!

        It stills stands that an Ireland win means 3rd at best. An Ireland/France winning combo probably means 4th. 2nd remains pretty unlikely in my view.

      4. Thank god for bonus points! Bit of a shame we’ve had 10 tries in 4 games but no TBP…..still better than points difference.

        Come on waengland!

      5. Don’t think it’s that unlikely.
        I think Ireland beating England is unlikely. I also think we have a fair to good chance of beating Italy with a bonus point.
        Then all you are asking is for a Wales win in Paris which is not 50/50 but not a millions miles off.
        I’m no bookie (or mathematician), but I rate England’s chances of winning at maybe 80%, us with maybe 60% chance of bonus win and a Wales win at around 40%.
        That would be around 20% combined. So 1/5. I reckon that’s about right.

      6. Erm, I would still suggest that a 20% chance is pretty unlikely! I think you’re overstating England’s chances in Dublin as well, but that’s just my opinion.

      7. I’d be staggered if Ireland beat England. By their own accounts they were sh*** against us and Wales. They beat France and gloriously scored one try by battering over from a few metres.

        Yes, they filled their boots against Italy but they are looking poor by their standards (admittedly that is still pretty good by our standards) and England look like a juggernaut that is going to take some stopping. I think England will win with plenty to spare.

        Only England has won away from home if you exclude games held in Rome. I know this game is in Dublin but I think it puts another gloss on their victory in cardiff.

      8. Agree to disagree! I would say ‘pretty unlikely’ is something that is maybe 1/20 or 5% chance, i.e. the chances of us finishing 5th. I would say 1/5 (20%) is a fair chance!

        Furthermore, I’ve estimated the likelihood of certain results in each game (IMO), multiplied them with my % chances in the other two games respectively in order to come up with % for potential scenarios, and then worked out where each would leave us finishing. Then, by adding each of the scenarios with the same finishing position together I have my personal estimate of the chances of us finishing in each position as follows:

        2nd: 20.4%
        3rd: 59.7%
        4th: 14.9%
        5th: 5%

        That looks about right to me.

        If you centre it purely on what we do:

        If we win with a bonus point, I reckon our respective chances are as follows:

        2nd: 34%
        3rd: 57%
        4th: 9%

        If we win, but without a bonus:

        2nd: (technically possibly but miniscule, – Ireland to lose, Wales to win without bonus and our win to turn around the points difference on Wales WITHOUT us getting 4 tries)!
        3rd: 85%
        4th: 15% (effectively Ireland beating England).

        If we were to somehow lose, it comes out:

        4th: 24.75%
        5th: 75.25%
        (basically comes down to whether we and/or Wales get losing bonus points).

    2. I agree ross but i think the forward pack needs to bully and destroy their fowards the way england done to us for it to happen.

    3. A 1 point margin will do me to be honest but I think the team will be targetting and expecting a bonus point victory.

      1. If ireland can put 60 odd points on them in italy, Their is no reason we cant do more, they are missing 2 of their best players in favaro and the exeter centre and i can see huw jones making a lot of line breaks through that centre area and with seymore hog and visser and price supporting any chances will be finished.

  6. I expect a big response to the defeat last weekend. This is about the best 15 that we could have expected. Slightly surprised that Maitland has been omitted but we’ve been calling for Scott to get into the 23 for a while and glad that he finally has made it – maybe Maitland’s carrying a minor injury. I’m glad that Ford makes a start – I don’t think that he has done anything wrong in the parts of games that he’s featured in recently and hopefully brings experience and solidity to the scrum. He won’t complete 80 minutes so Brown will get his opportunity for redemption.

    We have no right to be complacent but with a home fixture against a struggling Italy, in my mind, the only question will be whether we can get a winning bonus point or not.

  7. Sorry guys it has to be at least a BP result, everyone else has vurtually slaughtered Italy, even in Rome so this team that has been picked has to do the business or the England game cannot be referred to as rogue, unlucky or a blip. So the pressure is back on which should result in a great game. Looking forward to it – it’s been a great 6 Nations. If we get 2nd then the gods are truly smiling down on us

  8. With Gauzere refereeing we’d be better off not even competing at the breakdown. I think that what the matches against England last week and Ireland last year showed is that we need a plan B for the back row when referees prevent us from competing. Well, among other things…

  9. I don’t understand Weir on the bench, Horne is closer in style and attacking nous. For God’s sake this is Italy Vern we need to smash them and rack up the points.
    Also Maitland would give us better cover surely from the bench. Seymour didn’t work at 15 so who is covering Hogg?

    1. Are we not learning… one of the lessons last week was the need for flexibility, the need for a plan c as well as b and surely having a player like Maitland on the bench provides that. I can’t see a game scenario when Finn is not injured to bring Weir on. Maitland could cover almost all positions with a bit of va va voom as well.

  10. Well that’s remarkable, lets hope they are genuinely fit and its not a case of “well there’s no one else son so I don’t care if it hurts”. I’ll add to the general chorus of Maitland should be on the bench. Glad Matt Scott will get a chance though as by all accounts his recent performances more than merit it.

    Not sure what I think about dropping Brown, I was more angry at him for coming back on and throwing a crooked line out than I was about the yellow card. As long as Ford can hit his jumpers he is a safe pair of hands and adds bulk and experience to the scrum.

    1. I think Ross Ford should be watching the video of hs performance against Georgia when he carried with reaal intent and made a lot of yards. A repeat performance in what could be his last Murrayfield start in the Six Nations would be great.

      1. I’ve noticed with Ross Ford, when he has been dropped he usually comes back with a bang, lets hope he continues this trend.

      2. Agreed. And this is the sort of game that could suit him. I think he’ll be up for this one!

  11. Personally, I would sound a loud caveat about over-confidence. Predicting scorelines from results in previous matches is foolhardy e.g. Wales nearly beat England — admittedly at home — while we beat Wales (at home). This would have suggested a close match against England. Things turned out rather differently! Italy played some really good rugby in the match v France, scoring the first, excellent try. They came close to adding another in the first half. If they started really well at Murrayfield and were able to go two scores ahead in the first half, their notorious tendency for a second-half implosion might not materialise.
    Our style of play is free-flowing and adventurous but if the ref’s interpretations disrupt our work at the breakdown and thus our continuity, our scoring potential will be severely blunted.
    We write off Italy at our peril…….but if everything goes right we can do much to erase the pain of last week’s defeat.

    1. I agree with you AC. I’d argue that there was an element of believing their own hype which led to the humping at Twickers. We Scots are not good when we are favourites, something we need to learn to deal with as the team gets better. But last week showed that mentally we are not there yet and I fear that if we get cocky or complacent we could end up getting a nasty shock. We might not lose but we could certainly get a scare. Remember that Italy need this win more than we do and have been written off so I’d expect them to come out fired up in the first 20 minutes. We need to be calm, weather the storm and get some early points to break the Italians spirit.

  12. I’d love to see a whitewash result this weekend, you just know Italy are gonna try “something” again but I’d hope our coaches are ready for them and their tactics. lets face it it’s a Zebre/Treviso select V’s a Glasgow/Edinburgh select apart from 2 or 3 from elsewhere. It should be a walk over.

  13. No surprises from VC, I would have left Brown in, his mobility and ball winning skills on the ground should be important in this one. I would also have had Horne on the bench to help keep the tempo up and I’m guessing maybe Scott gets the nod ahead of Maitland to cover any potential injury to Jones.
    Hopefully, last week’s hammering was a one-off not helped by the things that conspired against us in the first half. We need to get back to winning ways to prove that we really are improving, as I believe we are.

  14. Will be in attendance, and looking for a 30-point winning margin. Last week was a dreadful day at the office, but I really didn’t expect England to be so clinical.
    I’ve seen calls for Dunbar to be dropped for Horne, due to Dunbar’s poor defensive display, but that’s short-sighted.
    A few weeks ago I saw Horne get run-over by Josh Matavesi as Ospreys scored against Glasgow. Horne slipped the tackle on Kuridrani that allowed Australia to win the match in November. Alesana Tuilaigi flattened Horne on his debut, so to suggest Horne is a better defender than Dunbar is nonsense. And I like Peter Horne!
    He’s not as good as Dunbar though. I’d take Horne on the bench over Weir for his versatility, and like many others, Maitland for the same reason as he can cover FB if required, unlike Weir, who got chucked in there because everyone else had to go off.

  15. Excellent to see so many fit to play and then given a chance to make up for last week’s humping. Really hope they do make up for it as I believe they are able to do so and they should all be completely up for this match.
    The Murrayfield crowd rediscovered its voice in November and amplified it for Ireland and Wales. Up a few more decibels again on Saturday, please!
    Like others, puzzled by preference for Horne over Weir. Anyway, let’s just get it done now, hopefully in some style and with many points.

  16. Maitland may still be nursing an injury and I, for one, am glad Scott gets a chance. I am also glad that Weir is picked ahead of Horne. Everyone on this blog seems to think Weir is a one trick pony (kicking) and Peter Horne is the second coming (albeit behind Finn). Watch any game and Horne’s defence is suspect, at least at 10. Admittedly he is usually coming off the bench but his missed tackle on Kuridrani in the Autumn sticks in my mind (as well as my craw).
    Wee Dunc always gives 100% and rarely gives away penalties/missed tackles/missed touches. Peter for me is a great centre, he just happens to be in an era where there are so many better Scotland centres.

    1. I will be cheering Dunc on if he is called onto the pitch and agree he always gives 100%. And agree that he has more than kicking to his game. At the same time I think Peter Horne deserves more opportunities but if the guy (Dunc) is in blue he has my support.

      1. Everyone gives 100% and I don’t think anyone would advocate showing displeasure if and when he arrives on the park – its just a question of balancing the replacements and teasing out whether we the punters agree on Weir or think Horne is a better bet.

        Is he a better fly-half than Horne – arguably yes all round. But is he better equipped to play in a manner that most similarly replicates how Russell plays and does he offer as much versatility as a bench replacement? The answer has to be No.

        If Horne isn’t fit then fine – also he hasn’t trained with the team so arguably Weir is the sensible choice but I think the impact of any injury replacement should be limited to ensure you can do a straight swap where possible – the problem is that against England we had so many out of position players that it clearly caused disruption – in terms of our back line replacements 2 out of the 3 are pure specialists.

      2. Depends whether you are going for a bench which can cover for injuries, in which case you’d go for Harley over DuPreez, Horne over Weir and Maitland over Scott. If, however you want tactical subs, or you want to see more of certain players, then this selection fits.
        Against England we had a horror-show with injuries (not just with injuries). Bennett could have acquitted himself admirably at full-back but we’ll never know. Maitland would have been a better choice with hindsight (with Hogg going off) but what if it was Dunbar that got injured? Suddenly you’ve got a centre pairing of Jones at 12 and Maitland at 13 – again both out of position. The only way we could have avoided players not playing out of position was not to have a scrum-half replacement.
        All rugby positions are specialist to a certain extent, and every international team bench has 4 specialist forwards (front-row and lock) and 2 specialist backs (SH and FH), and an extra 2. That’s because these are VERY specialist. I must admit to a liking of Horne but I’d rather Weir on the bench should Russell get injured or have a mare.

      3. Good selection by Vern…. in that he is giving the same team who were humiliated last week and others the chance to show they are better than that.
        Brown deserved to get benched….he let himself, his team and everyone supporting Scotland down….with his yellow and general performance last week. He will play some part and will get his chance to prove that was a one off.
        Don’t understand the criticism of Weir. He gives it his all… has a far better kicking game than Russell has at the moment. I think he compliments what currently Russell just isn’t good at. Weir style is different, however, if we can’t adapt our style mid match against top sides we won’t be winning anything anyway.
        He is better than Horne in that position. Horne is an attacking centre … he isn’t good in defence. Comparing him to Dunbar seems bizarre to me… maybe he can be compared to Jones but isn’t as good as him either. I just see him as a good back up to Jones… and patch backup at 10.
        Slightly surprised Maitland isn’t in there on the bench… he played well when he has played. Must still be injured. Visser is a great finisher and , especially at home, against Italy is a good choice. If the front pack aren’t winning ball …it would not matter which wing was playing.
        A lot of pressure on the front pack… they need to dominate and steamroll Italy if they want their credibility back.
        Was looking forward to seeing what CDP could do (we really need to unearth a powerful 8).. but Wilson deserves his chance to prove himself like many others.

      4. I have to agree totally with Martin about Weir, is Horne a better fly-half than him, no but he is more similar in style to how Russell plays, which is how we as a team attack and score tries. I’m not quite comparing him to Dan Parks (he can tackle and pass) but he is more that type of fly-half with a strong kicking and tactical game. He stands deeper for a start so he is very rarely a threat himself ball in hand, this gives the back line less time and space and time and space is what Hogg et al require to work their magic. There is a time and a place for that type of game (arguably last weekend) but it wouldn’t be playing to the attacking strengths of the rest of the team.

        I do think Dunc is a good option on the bench, he has the ability to come on and steady the ship if we are frantically defending a narrow lead in the last quarter, or bang over a drop goal. But as last weekend painfully taught us the bench has to be viewed as cover for as many injuries as possible and not just as impact. I hope I don’t come across as being harsh on him because I do like him as a player but Pyrgos, Horne and Maitland cover all positions. Pyrgos, Weir and Scott do not.

  17. Personally I’d had Du Preez @ 6 & Barclay @ 8 with Wilson on the bench, alas Weir is simply too slow & if Horne isn’t fit I’d have Hogg covering 10 with Scott & Maitland on the bench. If Weir comes on our whole game has to change as he hasn’t got the skills to continue playing the way we need to play

    1. Ok, Vern has picked Weir so good luck to him if he gets onto the pitch. But I don’t rate him as a Test class 10 in a side with realistic ambitions to stay in the top group of the world rankings. We are no longer the side that needed a Duncan to drop a last minute goal to scrape a win in Rome in 2014. Not sure where the next 10 to seriously challenge Finn for his place is coming from, but I just feel it’s not Weir who’s able to do that. The whole Weir/Horne debate just underlines the challenge of achieving real strength and depth across the entire side.

  18. Would be great to have started Magnus Bradbury in this game. The England match showed we need more weight/power in the back row and he can provide it.

  19. what does everyone think our best backrow is if everybody is fit so we can compete with all the big nations I’d like to see strauss at 6 Watson at 7 and Denton at 8. think we could compete and not get bullied

    1. Agree with your choice – Strauss, Watson, Denton. Maybe start putting Bradbury on the bench. Barclay and Hardie are also v good but not real stand-outs IMHO, whereas I think Bradbury has genuine talent. Not a big fan of Wilson, Du Preez, or Adam Ashe (at the moment), and obviously don’t think Favaro or Cowan are near.

      1. Favaro is Italian for heavens sake!! Cowan is not on anyone’s radar screen, Denton and Bradbury aren’t doing it at club level right now.

        Get a grip!

        BVC was a backrower when he played, I think he knows.

      2. Perhaps Mrak meant Fusaro?

        Think Barclay has been fantastic for a while. Best fetcher we have. Which is saying quite a bit as Hardie and Watson are pretty handy, not to mention the two out-of-position-sevens duo of Brown and Dunbar.

        When everyones fit, we don’t have a ‘best’ back row, we have horses for course. E.g. Hardie, Barclay, Wilson v Wales and Denton, Strauss, Watson v France. Options are what great teams are built on.

      3. Makelinds, calm yourself dearie I meant Fusaro. I said that Cowan wasn’t near. Bradbury is a stand-out in terms of potential so I disagree with you. I’d back Denton because he’s more physical than Wilson, and we need that bulk, e.g. against England. Let’s see who Townsend chooses, will be interesting. If BVC knows so much why did he always pick Cowan in the early days and Hardie before Watson – even Vern gets it wrong sometimes.

      4. Hardie not a stand-out? Amazing how injury and time makes some forget eh? I suppose by the same token Nel is not a stand-out?
        Make no mistake about it, Nel & Hardie are both major factors in our turn-around over the last couple of years. They have both been missed in recent months (though accepting Hardie has had some gametime). If fit, they are up there with J.Gray and Hogg as first names on team sheet.
        The fact that Hamish Watson has emerged as a fantastic player does not change this fact (though it is massive credit to him that he has made the loss of Hardie less potent). What it does mean is that we have excellent options and the ability to mix it up.

  20. To everyone complaining about Horne not being there, I have two points to make:

    First, on the 18th January Vern named a 37 man squad – Horne wasn’t in it due to injury. At no point in this championship despite 6 players dropping out completely due to injury has he called up anyone else – even to train. And fair play! It’s those guys that have been out on that Oriam pitch every day for the last two months, not Horne or Bradbury or whoever. They know the systems and the plays best.

    Second, Weir hasn’t exactly done much worthy of dropping him. Last week aside, his (albeit brief) cameos have been fairly good. Including that glorious kick against Ireland whilst Finn was getting his head screwed back on. He is also the only player in our team who can kick a drop goal and still has more international points than Russell.

  21. I don’t think Vern left out Brown to make a point about his yellow card. What’s the point when this is your last game as coach?

    I assume it’s because they thought he would be banned after his citing and have been training with Ford at hooker this week instead. That and his set piece is generally stronger.

    1. That was my take on it also. Either way, plenty of mobility coming off that bench with Dell, Brown and Du Preez.

      Maybe not so much for the backs though…

  22. This might sound boring, but I’d really love to see an analysis of the decisions that went in Scotland’s favour (i.e. were at least a 50/50 or did not align with the laws and guidance) vs. those that didn’t this year (well, I’d love to provide, but I am nowhere near au fait enough to comment upon the laws or use the phrase “au fait” without coming across like a twat to do so…). Especially if it were followed up by a piece examining last year, largely because until round 4 the key difference I saw was more balanced refereeing. Of course, being told that you can’t compete at the breakdown kind of scuppers my hypothesis, but Raynaul can suck it.

    1. I’d agree that we got much more the run of the refs until the England game this year. From my experience, and not just in games involving Scotland, I think for some reason refs always have a tendency to give the side on top the benefit of the doubts. Not sure why that is, and I wish it were the other way around. England didn’t need any help at all on Saturday, but they still got it all game long.

  23. Last week if it was not for bad luck, we would have had no luck at all, yet even with so many playing out of position we put 3 tries on England.

    I agree , cover for Hogg is the only issue, yet how many times have we actually needed to cover him ! Tomorrow he will keep out of the tackles he has a seat on the plane and will not risk injury.

    Duncan Weir is not a bad choice, he is traditional and will pin them in their own half and force them into risks on the ball.

    I do hope Cotter comes out to a round of applause at the end.

    1. Taylor has started at Full back for Sarries and Maitland can play there too… both would be satisfactory cover for Hogg. Plus hopefully Kinghorn will push on.

      I still can’t fathom Maitland’s omission from the 23 this weekend so must assume its injury.

      1. I am just wondering if SM might not have responded appropriately to Visser taking his place. He would not be the first and won’t be the last to go when his face no longer fits (ask Kelly Brown).

        I have posted the statistics before, Maitland’s strike rate in a Scottish jersey is no boast. He can however tackle and given Full Back is last line of defence (clue is in the name) is an asset.

        I can see no reason why Maitland is not in the 23 either. We need someone with positional agility, tackle grit and a modicum of attacking flair on the bench. He fits the specification perfectly. The ideal supersub to cover 11 to 15 adequately.

  24. FYI Stuart Hogg’s second child was born yesterday – congrats to him!

    Feel it may knock a couple of percentage points off his chances of playing on Saturday if he was already a bit of a doubt.

    1. Nah if it was still due or she was in labour on the day or born on the day then that’s what’ll affect things. If all went well and no problems he’ll be scoring a try tomo for the Bairn.

      1. As long as he scores try’s for the bairns around him on the team and allows them to show some initiative he will be doing the bairn proud IMO.

  25. I know we have been stretched with injuries but actually it might be a good thing in the long run as we have been forced to try different players and barring the England game the team have stood up – I think you could make a great case for us now having 30 genuine international standard players at our disposal who have all had exposure to the rigours of test level rugby – in fact you could make a pretty good XV with the players not starting tomorrow – one which would arguably be favourites against our starting team tomorrow

    Dickinson, Brown, Nel, Gilchrist, Swinson, Strauss, Hardie, Denton

    Laidlaw, Horne, Scott, Bennett, Hoyland, Maitland & Taylor

    I don’t think any other country in the tournament could make such a claim, so a win tomorrow and a 2/3rd finish should be viewed in that context as well

  26. I would love Weir to prove me wrong – a good club player completely our of his depth at test level as VB should have remembered when last season he dropped Horne, who had a fantastic game against France at 10, and replaced him with the very conventional Weir. Even Brian O’Driscoll on the commentary team couldn’t understand it. He played like a donkey, we were useless and I thought Vern had learnt a lesson. So please Duncan prove me completely wrong and show us when and if you come on for Russell that you have finally, and it’s been a long time, made the step up.

    1. I’d have even had Toolis in the team before Gilchrist. Bizarre selection, but Vern is a fan.

  27. shame as r gray has been probably our best forward with Watson this 6 nation’s. it certainly is a weird selection considering toolis and swinson have been in good form. I’m thinking it’s maybe for his leadership qualities as we were missing some last week

  28. Agree that leadership a factor. Let’s not forget Gilchrist was our captain not so long ago. Swinson has done well when called upon but Vern may have opted to keep him on the bench for an extra option in the back row as much as at lock. The way we’re picking up injuries you couldn’t blame him!

  29. Not so much leadership as getting the right balance in the 2nd row. Swinson and Toolis are more in the mould of Jonny – hard carrying, hard tackling, offloading. Richie and Gilchrist are more of the scrummaging, lineout, clearing out locks.
    All can do everything very well but I can see the differences.
    Still feel for Swinson as he deserves a start, and also Toolis who deserves a call-up. But I cannot fault BVC’s logic.

    1. Fair points but to pick holes in it a little… J Gray and Swino have been pairing well enough for Glasgow whilst Toolis is the Pro12’s leading lineout taker/winner.

    2. IMO Gilchrist for R Gray is a fair replacement I think. Gilchrist hasn’t hit form since recent injury recovery… but he is far more similar to R Gray than Swinson is. Swinson has been playing well and is a good replacement lock and / or 6 for the bench. Gilchrist has more potential tho even if he isn’t quite there yet. Hopefully his leg or arm doesn’t drop off mid match…

      1. Swinson deserves the start. He was stand out in January for Glasgow on the big games. However, I am not an international coach and presumably there is statistical analysis that says Gilchrist for 55 or so minutes and then Swinson.

        Warrior of the year for me!

      2. It does feel harsh for Swinson who is on amazing form and not getting a game for club or country. It looks like we are beefing up the scrum which must be pivotal in any Italian strategy tomorrow. No question Gilchrist has beef about him and Swinson is the strong whippt build. Ironically we have a Fetesian from Ardrossan in the Italian Second row (George Biagi).

  30. good points merlot just hope he finds form tomorrow. I can see what vern is doing keeping swinson on the bench as he’s a good option for the backrow as well

  31. Let’s remember it wasn’t that long ago we would struggle replacing our top lock, now just as with our back row we have quality replacements with Cummings just about ready to join this group. Not unhappy with Gilchrist who will also lend some grunt to the srumnage and rolling maul defense

  32. Let’s remember it wasn’t that long ago we would struggle replacing our top lock, now just as with our back row we have quality replacements with Cummings just about ready to join this group. Not unhappy with Gilchrist who will also lend some grunt to the srumnage and rolling maul defense

    1. Lock is one of the areas that we do have genuine quality depth at the moment… with Toolis & Cummings coming thru also.

  33. …………I’ve just been watching the U20 version of tomorrow’s game: an eloquent demonstration of the “strength-in-depth” of Scottish rugby’s following, with a smattering of spectators barely discernible amongst the empty seats. So sad. If I lived anywhere within a fifty mile radius of the venue, I’d make an effort to turn up. For the average Scottish “aficionado” the only rugby event that impinges on their consciousness is the 6-Nations!

  34. …………I’ve just been watching the U20 version of tomorrow’s game: an eloquent demonstration of the “strength-in-depth” of Scottish rugby’s following, with a smattering of spectators barely discernible amongst the empty seats. So sad. If I lived anywhere within a fifty mile radius of the venue, I’d make an effort to turn up. For the average Scottish “aficionado” the only rugby event that impinges on their consciousness is the 6-Nations!

  35. I’m also watching the under 20s game and the Scottish scrum is absolutely mince! why at most levels can our scrum never compete against other nations?

    1. We did last year. Under 20’s scrum with McCallum and Fagerson destroyed the opposition most of the time.

  36. ………………further proof that at all levels the strength element of our players’ conditioning is sadly lacking.

  37. Going back to the rankings discussion. Wales are very close to us in terms of ranking points so any win and they jump over us. France are a bit back and at home so we win we should stay fifth if the comp stays on trend. Outwith Italy the home team has won every match except Wales V England. In saying that should that happen (home teams win) we are likely to have three wins and end up fourth which is bizarre.

    Not sure how it works if points are tied if it’s points difference then tries scored or what? We’ll need a massive swing in points which is not impossible. Scant reward for what I think is a very good six nations campaign.

    I feel a bit like being in the impossible choice. Do we want a chance to finish second and England win back to back grand slams or sacrifice 2nd so England don’t win grand slam and record wins in a row. It’s a pretty bad choice to have to make but one that will be much easier to stomach with a great win tomorrow.

    This could be the first weekend in 5 years that all three national sides have won in a weekend at least.

    Come on Scotland!

    1. With respect, the fact that England winning a slam is even being discussed as a factor for consideration by various people is pathetic. I want Scotland to do as well as possible. That should be all there is to it if you’re a Scotland fan. An English win in Dublin gives us a very good chance of our highest ever finish in the 6N; I’d take that every day of the week thanks.

      Besides, England are worthy winners. I’d take them going unbeaten for another calendar year if it meant we were the ones to end the run.

      1. Love that last comment. Have to agree, and hopefully it would be the start of their downward spiral.

      2. Completely agree. To give an analogy from another sport, I worked security at Ibrox the year they won their ninth title and the next year.

        I was standing at an exit the night Rangers made their customary ignominious exit from European competition, and the phrase I kept hearing was “At least Celtic [or a far less complimentary name for the same team] are out, too”. I thought that lack of was indicative of the lack of ambition and small-mindedness of Scottish football and would limit their ability to achieve; we’ll be exactly the same if we think like that about England.

        After our win handed England the title last year, I got annoyed by the media describing our victory as “bittersweet” – stuffing England and the joy that we get from it is at most a secondary goal…the main one is that Scotland win (and do so in a manner that signifies we are progressing as a team.

        The other way to look at this is “WWTKD?” or What Would The Kiwis Do…I asked myself this after Mr Black gave so many null points to our team last week, and had to agree with him (although I would have given 1s rather than zeros, in the same vein as “nobody gets a ten”, but that’s just semantics). In the unlikely event of a New Zealand performance and score like ours last week, the Kiwi media would not miss & hit the wall. They would probably have gone on to negative marks…we need to emulate this mentality as this team has the skill & potential to become very high achievers, with the attendant boost in player numbers that brings.

    2. With respect the fact that ur mentioning beating England next year to end their winning run as a factor shows that England and Scotland’s rivalry is a factor to you too and to call enjoying our big rivals pit falls (however little they come along these days) pathetic is rather disappointing.

      We are not wishing hatred on a race nor for England as a nation to face disaster. It is sporting rivalry against a team who have dominated us recently and would like to see Eddie Jones squirm a bit. I don’t see it as pathetic but I would probably in balance prefer Scotland to do well rather than revel in England failures. Both is bonus.

      I do hope I bump into The Trews that you speak of tomorrow. Already had the enjoyment of that after The Wales game even if they were a little worse for wear at the time and struggling to get home on their own.

      1. I think its simple…. best hope for Scotland is second….so that requires England and Wales win, plus the bonus point for us.

        Also in the rankings we are looking at 5 or 6 based on Wales v France….but a Wales win and Ireland loss means Wales get top 4, Ireland in the 5-8 group with us, probably France and the Springboks.

        I think for 2019 Ireland are likely to be better than Wales, who seem to be in decline.

  38. Just a thought, and probably one for after the game tbh.

    Am a big fan of John Barclay. He has many of the attributes we look for in a captain. But, given the serious disparity between referees in interpreting the rules at the breakdown perhaps having a flanker as your captain isn’t the best idea. Surely it’s likely to get you on his wrong side right from the get go.

    Big game today, was always going to be far more important than last week’s result. Scotland expects.

  39. After watching under 20’s, both fagerson and graham look likely to make the step up long term. I’d like to see graham starting fullback for Edinburgh next season. His pace and threat from deep along with Bennett could push Edinburgh to getting a top 6 place (if they also sign a top winger and top 12/13 player).

  40. I quite like the hooker as well actually. In the games iv seen he always hits his man and drives the maul quite well.

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