Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Who Ya Gonna Call?

Finn Russell
Finn Russell - pic © Al Ross/Novantae Photography

The Scotland medical team provided the following squad update yesterday after another physical and mental hammering down at the Cabbage Patch.

Replacement back Mark Bennett – who replaced injured full-back Stuart Hogg in the 18th minute – left the field after playing just four minutes with a knee and arm injury. The knee injury looked largely self-inflicted in the act of one of his trademark sidesteps. He will be “subject to further care and assessment” but it is now expected that he will take no further part in the current RBS 6 Nations Championship.

Three players are being treated for concussion (Hogg, Tommy Seymour and Ryan Wilson) and are now subject to the completion of the HIA protocol. This can be completed in as few as 6 days with constant medical attention as John Hardie did earlier in the tournament, but is usually more like 2-3 weeks if concussed.

Finn Russell, Huw Jones (both knee) and Richie Gray (hamstring) will also have precautionary scans at Spire Murrayfield Hospital early in the week following musculoskeletal complaints arising the morning after the match.

As reader Ross pointed out in the comments on the match report, assuming the worst case scenario and all these injuries exact their toll, that leaves us with the following players in the official squad as called up pre-tournament:

Alex Allan, Simon Berghan, Allan Dell, Zander Fagerson, Gordon Reid, Jon Welsh
Fraser Brown, Ross Ford, Stuart McInally
Jonny Gray, Grant Gilchrist, Tim Swinson, Ben Toolis
John Barclay, Cornell Du Preez, Rob Harley, Hamish Watson
Ali Price, Henry Pyrgos, Duncan Weir
Alex Dunbar, Matt Scott
Damien Hoyland, Sean Maitland, Tim Visser

No call-ups have yet been made to the squad despite ongoing injury issues since the France game, but that may change this week.

There is also now the possibility Scotland will be without Fraser Brown who has been cited for his “red card if it happens after 5 minutes not 2” tackle on Elliot Daly. The cited offence is dangerous tackling. The disciplinary hearing, before an independent Six Nations Disciplinary Committee of three, is scheduled for London on Tuesday 14 March. It is likely he will see some sort of ban that rules him out of the Italy game.

The pack is in decent shape but some back row cover in the shape of Magnus Bradbury would help. Dave Denton is a possibility too but my guess is they’ll go with players they can get quickly. We’ve still got our current “best” props of Reid/Fagerson available, our captain (Barclay) and our best-performing forward (Watson) and could probably fashion a pack to trouble Italy:

Reid, Ford, Fagerson, Gray, Swinson, Barclay, Watson, Du Preez

Out back it’s highly likely to be a return to a “functional” backline as often seen in recent years and to be honest the sort of thing that we had hoped was in the past…

Duncan Taylor could be prised from Saracens’ grasp but is unlikely to be fit; more likely is a call up for Glasgow’s Nick Grigg in the centre. Pete Horne having now returned to fitness would also be a sensible addition for fly-half cover, even it seems unlikely Vern would leap-frog him over Weir. And he’s going to need to find a 23 shirt from somewhere which could be Grigg or perhaps Rory Hughes or Blair Kinghorn. Lee Jones is probably the next in form wing though and should make a welcome return. Backline:

Maitland, Hoyland, Scott, Dunbar, Visser, ??, Price

Horne might be less disruptive in terms of style but I suspect it will be Weir at 10, who has been with the squad all tournament. The bench is once again the tricky spot with gaps to fill:

Dell, Berghan, McInally, Toolis, Harley, Pyrgos, ??, ??

Grigg and Jones please, possibly Kinghorn – but that would be a big leap.

Sir Dr Robson, work your magic.

UPDATE 14/03: Fraser Brown has been cleared to play by the disciplinary committee who judged the yellow card sufficient punishment:

The Disciplinary Committee, chaired by Jean-Philippe Lachaume (France),alongside Rhian Williams (Wales) and David Martin (Ireland), having reviewed footage of the incident and all other evidence, as well as hearing submissions and testimony from the player and his representatives, considered the tackle to have been dangerous, and therefore contrary to Law 10.4(e). The Disciplinary Committee, however, found that the act of foul play would have not have warranted a red card, and so the citing complaint was not upheld and no sanction was imposed. (The Disciplinary Committee also considered whether or not the player, in carrying out the tackle, had infringed Law 10.4(j), but found that not all of the necessary elements for foul play under that law had been present). The player is therefore able to resume playing immediately.

32 Responses

  1. Well this is a rather bracing end to a championship that began so brightly!

    Frankly, any win will do against Italy. I’d have a backrow of Harley, Barclay and Watson with Du Preez on the bench I think. No place for Kinghorn – this could get real ugly. I think Weir has to be in just for continuity sake. It’s still an ok team and probably better than whatever Italy will put out. But our confidence must be shattered and we just need to avoid the kind of creeping crisis that overtook us in 2015. Italy are going to have their tails up knowing this is their chance to win and shut up all their haters.

  2. Was going to make the point that the backs starting to look like something of days gone by but then you did it yourself! Still a worst case scenario, imagine Russell, Jones and Gray will all be ok.
    Despite the particularly tough injury situation it does make a mockery of the supposed strength in depth which I think is over-stated in some quarters. Perhaps it does exist in one or two areas that have been badly hit (back row in particular) but we’re now seeing just how light we are elsewhere.

    1. There have been a pretty hard line of injuries for any team apart from England and France to contend with. We had lists up here of fairly good cover of three for each position in some places and if you look we have been hit with more than three in some areas. You could argue Fly-half and Full back is where we struggle yet the majority have always said that would be an issue and in terms of Saturday showed how right that was.

      I’d love to see lee Jones come in. He has out shown most of the other wingers in the club game over a long period of time. Think he deserves a chance.

      1. Disagree. These lists of three for each position always look better when that 3rd option is just that, way down in 3rd. If you elevate them to the first team it opens the eyes.
        The point is that if you took those 3rd options and made a team of them – that team looks a million miles off the 1st options. That isn’t strength in depth, that’s listings player for listing sakes.
        It’s the same when someone says ‘oh and we’re missing X or Y’ when said player wouldn’t be in the 23 anyway. I’ve seen David Denton listed as a player we are missing. All being fit, is he in the 23?
        If you go through the 15 that started on Saturday, you could argue that only Nel, Dickinson & Laidlaw would get in the side over those playing. You could argue it. You could say Strauss would get in ahead of Wilson but on another day it would be the other way around. John Hardie? Perhaps, but then you are dropping Watson.
        In terms of the wider 23, you could argue we’re missing the likes of Duncan Taylor but you can’t say the same of Horne or Maitland or Matt Scott who (afaia) were all available.
        I completely get the fact that we have a large injury list, but my point is that your ‘fairly good cover’ often isn’t really as good as we might think. An abundance of solid Pro-12 performers is not the same as a range of genuine Test-level players.

  3. Could do with some fresh legs to be honest. I’d start with Matt Scott, Maitland and Du Preez. If Richie doesn’t make it I’d be tempted to start Toolis ahead of Swinson.

    1. I think redemption is more important than fresh legs. Swinson would deserve the start if required IMO he has been on fire. In the grand scheme of things we don’t really need to beat Italy other than to feel better about ourselves? I could be wrong as I am never sure how these things work but are we not secure in the top 8 for the WC draw regardless? No one ever remembers who comes second, third, fourth and fifth in the 6N, first and last are the only places that matter. Plenty of time in the summer and AIs for Toonie to blood people and try his desired combos.

      1. We simply must beat Italy on Saturday, without question. We do simply need to feel better about ourselves and also show this season isn’t just another busted flush.

        I can’t stomach being beaten by Italy and finishing 5th; it’s just unpalatable with all the good we’ve seen from the squad and sends out a message that we’re still not really good enough. Getting trounced by England when we’re trying to show we belong at the top table is bad enough, but to couple that with defeat to the whipping boys of the tournament, and they are this year, would be a disaster for our development and confidence.

        I want a bonus point win and I want to finish 2nd in the table. I want a good performance for Vern who’s done so much good work and deserves to go out on a high mark of our best finish in the 6 nations. The players need to go out there, win the game well and redeem themselves. It is simply a must win game. Let’s hope for a bit of luck on the injury front to make it possible, not just for Scotland, but for Glasgow’s tilt at Saracens in a few weeks.

      2. If Scotland lose to Italy, they drop to 8th. If they lose by more than 15 points, they drop to 9th.

  4. Find it quite unlikely that we will lose all 6 of the doubts, reckon par would be 2 (and let’s just hope those two aren’t Hogg and Russell). Until we know for sure I reckon it is all conjecture and it’s hard to pick any sort of XV.

    I agree with 1.8T that redemption and continuity are important, with the two exceptions being Toolis and Scott, who have both been very good for their clubs and deserve their shot imo, even if just in the 23.

    Re: Taylor – my understanding was that he was out for the rest of the championship but I dont think that has been officially confirmed.

  5. Putting aside the injuries in the backs, I think our main problem on Saturday was an inability to stop the momentum being generated by England’s big carriers (and the space that gave their backs). Not an original thought I’d admit!

    You could sort of see the same problem against Ireland in the second half when SOB, Stander and Heaslip started to make yards, and also against France. In both those games Strauss added some bulk to the backrow.

    Wales do not have the same sort of carrying threat as those teams, and we got away with our backrow selection, but I think we have to accept that, unless the ref is going to let us slow down the ball in the rucks all game, we need some big units that can put in dominant hits or withstand the clearout – I think Townsend and Cotter both know this; cf the Wilson Strauss combination that was selected for Ireland. I think we would have seen more of this, or Strauss at 6 with Denton against the ‘larger’ sides if we hadn’t had the injuries we had.

    As a counter to this of course, we had Denton Strauss against SA in the world cup and well……

    So what are Italy like, are they Wales or Ireland? Can we get away with both Barclay and Watson? Who is our biggest fit backrow tackler / carrier?

    What can we do to get on the front foot in the collisions – the injuries / concussions we are getting are probably exacerbated by having to make tackles on the back foot against power runners?

    It was a bit of a perfect storm with the back line injuries, but I think we would have struggled with their power anyway and the injury / lack of form of Strauss, Denton (potentially Du Preez) were critical.

    Maybe this is heresy, but if the Grays missed a few more tackles, but absolutely buried the opposition in a few would that be better overall?

    The team deserve a lot of credit for the results so far, we would all have taken 3 home victories before the start of the 6 nations, lets get behind them and hope they do it!

    1. Another thing about England’s gigantic back row is that they had 5 options at the lineout compared to our 3.5 (Barclay being the half). They could have two 6ft5″ players lifting anout 6ft6″ guy and got quick ball off the top at will and were able to disrupt our lineup and won a few against the throw.

      Time for Bradbury to be brought into the fold. CdP given a chance (maybe in the summer?) to awaken himself from his Ediburgh stupour, Ashe, Denton and Strauss all to come back into the mix when fit.

      We do have the makings of a sizable back row, when all fit and firing, but do need to think about the balance of the side.

      1. A fair point.

        I think we may have been too concerned with getting ready to counter their maul to stop the quick ball off the top – another consequence of their power? We should be able to disrupt with RGray as he’s a bit tall……

    2. I’m still looking for a reasoned explanation of why we have lost so many to injury . Poor tackling technique? Poor conditioning? If I read the stats right we were not that much lighter than England overall(?). Pure blind bad luck!?

      1. i think it would be fair to say that the game against ireland broke at lot of our players for france with all the tackling. and i think for england its that saying ‘ you are less likely to get injured by fully commiting to the tackle than half hearting it’ , that along with the borderline high tackles on hogg/seymore.

  6. Makes you wonder what Jackson did wrong. Thought he has looked good wherever and whenever he has played at country and club over the last couple of years. Much prefer him to Weir and of course he can cover full back. Yet neither him nor Maitland were in last week.

    1. Got injured for Wasps just as he was starting to show what he could do. Never been more than back up since, and it’s crying out for Embra to pick him up. 3rd choice at Quins next year – a complete waste of talent

  7. The Scottish rugby facebook page just posted footage of today’s training session with Ritchie gray, jones and Seymour all involved so hopefully they are ok. No sign of Hogg, Wilson or Russell at the moment.

    1. Hogg and Russell were there at training…. whether Hogg passes concussion protocol is a another thing. Maitland is good test level FB replacement anyway.

  8. Maitland, Seymour, Jones, Scott, Hughes, Weir, Price. Reid, Ford, Fagerson, Swinson, Gray, Bradbury, Barclay, Denton.

    Berghan, McInally, Dell, Toolis, Watson, Pyrgos, Horne, Dunbar.

    Ball carrying.

    1. Bradbury and Hughes are both injured I believe. Good selection otherwise.
      Except for Pyrgos… not his biggest fan… he doesn’t even look built for Rugby…far too lightweight for this level…aside from his dreadful slow ball.

  9. No arguments from me over Brown’s citing. He’s done really well this season but lost his head completely there.

  10. I think a loss is unlikely (said that before….), but the bonus point is a question.

    Really I think our fate rests mostly on the other games this week….A Wales win (+ Ireland loss) moves them up to 4th in rankings, which is barely believable after the Autumn, plus they might shunt us into third on the 6N table on points difference/ bonus points.

    If Ireland and Wales both win then we might fall to 4th even if we win….that would be very disappointing given we beat them both!

  11. How about this for a world cup pool:

    NZ-1, Scotland-5, Argentina-9, Samoa-14, USA-17….ouch

    Obviously very unlikely….but Argentina and USA look like real problems at 9 and 17.

      1. Not giant killers yet but I reckon they’re pretty strong for team 5 in a pool…wins over Georgia Romania Japan and almost Italy..compared with Spain or Russia or Namibia.

  12. Still 5 in world rankings, this is still a fantastic achievement and we must not lose sight of this. A win against Italy, and Wales and Ireland losing should mean we retain that spot just wondering if we could overtake Ireland?

    1. No – Italy are ranked low so I don’t think we get any points for beating them at home. Lose and we lose 2 whole points, lose by 15+ and we lose 3 points and drop to 9th. Google world rugby rankings calculator for an online tool to put in permutations.

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Scottish Rugby News and Opinion