Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Gregor Townsend’s first Scotland squad announced

Gregor Townsend
Gregor Townsend - pic © Alastair Ross / Novantae Photography

With Greig Laidlaw called up at the weekend to fill the Lions spot left after Ben Youngs sadly had to pull out due to family illness, the first big call Gregor Townsend had to make as Scotland coach was at captain. John Barclay was the obvious remaining candidate given his stewardship during latter stages of the Six Nations so there is some leadership continuity from the Vern Cotter era.

One name left out in the cold by Cotter was Ruaridh Jackson, but the Harlequins standoff/fullback earns a recall over Duncan Weir perhaps with versatility in mind – he’s listed as a fullback/wing. Pete Horne has been selected as the backup standoff.

Elsewhere in the backs, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne did enough at the weekend to fill the third scrum-half spot and there’s a thoroughly deserved call up for Warriors centre Nick Grigg who adds to the depth in that area alongside a beefy trio of Alex Dunbar, Matt Scott and Duncan Taylor.

In the pack, D’arcy Rae is perhaps the bolter with no space for Simon Berghan in the props. Al Dickinson and Rory Sutherland will both sit this one out and George Turner shows perhaps why Cockerill had an eye on him as the uncapped Edinburgh hooker joins the tour as another surprise.

Some noticeable names miss out alongside Weir, including Dave Denton, Cornell du Preez, Grant Gilchrist, Rory Hughes and Adam Ashe. Young Scott Cummings is perhaps unlucky but with both Gray boys perhaps still on Gatland’s radar neither he nor Gilchrist should get the swimming trunks on just yet.

In the back row the usual suspects mean no room for Jamie Ritchie or the likes of Bristol/Northampton’s Mitch Eadie, but Magnus Bradbury has been passed fit as has Ryan Wilson. Both of the Edinburgh opensides will tour, with the back row mix hard to predict at this stage.

Here’s the squad:


PROP (6)
Alex Allan (Glasgow Warriors) – 3 caps
Allan Dell (Edinburgh Rugby) – 8 caps
Zander Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors) – 9 caps
Willem Nel (Edinburgh Rugby) – 15 caps
D’Arcy Rae (Glasgow Warriors) – uncapped
Gordon Reid (Glasgow Warriors) – 24 caps

Fraser Brown (Glasgow Warriors) – 25 caps
Ross Ford (Edinburgh Rugby) – 107 caps
George Turner (Edinburgh Rugby) – uncapped

Richie Gray (Toulouse) – 64 caps
Jonny Gray (Glasgow Warriors) – 33 caps
Tim Swinson (Glasgow Warriors) – 29 caps
Ben Toolis (Edinburgh Rugby) – 1 cap

CAPTAIN John Barclay (Scarlets) – 60 caps
Magnus Bradbury (Edinburgh Rugby) – 1 cap
John Hardie (Edinburgh Rugby) – 15 caps
Rob Harley (Glasgow Warriors) – 19 caps
Josh Strauss (Glasgow Warriors) – 11 caps
Hamish Watson (Edinburgh Rugby) – 10 caps
Ryan Wilson (Glasgow Warriors) – 27 caps

BACKS (14)

Sam Hidalgo-Clyne (Edinburgh Rugby) – 9 caps
Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors) – 5 caps
Henry Pyrgos (Glasgow Warriors) – 21 caps

Pete Horne (Glasgow Warriors) – 23 caps
Finn Russell (Glasgow Warriors) – 27 caps

Alex Dunbar (Glasgow Warriors) – 24 caps
Nick Grigg (Glasgow Warriors) – uncapped
Matt Scott (Gloucester) – 37 caps
Duncan Taylor (Saracens) – 18 caps

Damien Hoyland (Edinburgh Rugby) – 2 caps
Ruaridh Jackson (Harlequins) – 30 caps
Lee Jones (Glasgow Warriors) – 4 caps
Sean Maitland (Saracens) – 28 caps
Tim Visser (Harlequins) – 31 caps

Here’s a possible starting side based on that lot:

Maitland, Hoyland, Taylor, Dunbar, Visser, Russell, Price; Reid, Brown, Nel, Gray, Gray, Barclay (c), Watson, Strauss
Bench: Dell, Ford, Fagerson, Swinson, Hardie, Pyrgos, Horne, Grigg

UPDATE: Sean Maitland is apparently out of the remainder of the season with ankle ligament damage. We await word on a replacement, if there is to be one.

58 Responses

  1. A largely predictable 1st squad for Townsend. Good to see Lee Jones back in, and I’m pleased for Nick Grigg as he deserves it.

    I’m a little surprised not to see Scott Cummings but as Rory says there’s every chance of a call up if either there’s an injury in the squad or if a Gray gets called up.

    1. It’s predictable because we have a desperately shallow pool of players. If all are fit and firing the only real selection headaches are centres and back row. In centre we could pick any two from six and they’d do a fine job (Twickenham excepted), in the back row Cotter never really struck a perfect balance and we were too often overpowered.

      1. Twickenham 17 was an out and out collective brainfart and an aberration among our 6N results this year. Need to bury it mentally, just like England did after their 76 zip loss to Aus in 98.
        Great to see Nel fit enough to be selected. A bit surprised by Gilchrist’s omission, but that suggests maybe we have more strength in depth than we think.
        This looks a good squad to me. Well capable of beating Italy and Fiji quite convincingly, and of giving the Wallabies a real square go in Sydney.
        Looking forward to this tour!

    2. I’d have mixed emotions if one of the Gray’s was called up to the Lions. Certainly Jonny looks like 3 games this summer followed by an ice bath and a long holiday will be plenty for him. However, I suspect Launchbury is on Gatland’s speed dial.

      Cummings caught the eye on Saturday. When did we last see a second row perfectly execute a Toony Flip to set up a try? Oh yes, Nakarawa!

  2. Slightly off topic I know; but, interestingly the Chiefs’ (Waikato not Exeter) back up scrum-half, Finley Christie, is Scottish qualified. He has Scottish parents and was born in Scotland before moving to NZ aged 7. He is only 22 and from the sounds of it a very promising talent. Hopefully the SRU get in contact with him and snap him up before NZ do.

    1. Well, with Dave Rennie coaching Glasgow Warriors next season, the SRU will be bound to hear about him soon. He would be quite the steal for us, even though he’d have to fight for a place with 4 others who have previous Scottish honours.
      Maybe he’d be able to prove more if he moved to Scotland, and if Rennie knows him it could happen. But if Rennie would be able to convince him to come over to Glasgow, who would he replace?

      1. It is looking like Glasgow will only have two scrum-halves next year. Could be a target for Rennie.

      2. Glasgow have 3 scrum-halves for next season – Price, Pyrgos, and Horne.

  3. Struggle to see logic of Jackson’s selection- has he been tearing it up in the AP or something?

      1. Aye FF he does rarely start, gets game time from the bench, a real paucity of options gets him another chance. Maybe Adam Hastings / Darcy Graham should have got the chance instead.

      2. Jackson has been unlucky with a bad injury just as he was starting to nail the 10 jersey at Wasps, and moved into a logjam at Quins. Now they’ve signed the Montpellier 10 he’s still scratching around for the occasional bench place or LV cup start.
        I still believe he’s the potential to be Russell’s back up – so he needs either a new team or a string of injuries at Quins.
        So I’m pleased he’s been picked, although surprised it’s at fullback. But hopefully this may reignite his career.

    1. He’s a better FH than the alternatives (Horne, Weir), still only 29 and can cover fullback. I’d have mixed feelings if we lost Russell to the Lions when Sexton gets crocked. Hopefully Ford is a buffer.

      For me if fully fit, for the second test:
      Starting: Maitland, Hoyland, Taylor, Scott, Visser, Russell, Price; Reid, Brown, Nel, Gray, Gray, Barclay, Hardie, Strauss.
      Bench: Watson, Toolis, Dell, Ford, Fagerson, Pyrgos, Jackson, Dunbar.
      Near miss: Swinson, Horne, Wilson.

      I prefer Taylor over Dunbar at the moment, as Dunbar looks knackered. Hardie over Watson, as he has a physical edge. But more than happy with any of those 4.

      Visser is a more natural winger than Taylor.

      Scott has had to bide his time, first with Bennett, then with Huw Jones and deserves another shot.

      I’ve never understood the waste of Jackson’s potential. Is an excellent utility option. Is he a bit of an arse or something?

      1. Ive always thought Jackson is one of the players who has a lot of talent but no consistency. At times he has looked very accomplished at Wasps. If Townsend can get him to focus he can be a very useful player. Probably as a back up however.

    2. I think Jackson is in really as back up for a Maitland/ Taylor injury. I expect to see Maitland to start at 15, with Taylor moving there if Sean gets injured. Jackson will either be a utility back bench option, or a back up utility back option. Personally, I think Horne has performed better at 10 for Scotland than Jackson ever has, so I’m glad to see him listed as Russell’s back up. Pleased to see Crigg in, as well as Toolis, Bradbury and Hoyland, who I think all have great potential and attitude, but are not getting to shine as brightly as they might in the current Edinburgh situation.
      Hardie is excellent, but I can’t agree about leaving Watson on the bench NRS – Hamish is currently our top back row in my eyes.

      1. I think Watson is our best performer bar none. But if you start with him at 7, a balanced back row should probably exclude Barclay and Hardie IMO. Which is an issue as both have been recent stand outs and hve experience our callow squad lacks.

      2. Interestingly, though, in the 1990 Grand Slam game against England, Scotland’s most-capped player in the squad was John Jeffries, with 28 caps. Yes, they played fewer cap internationals then…but district rugby also wasn’t at the level Warriors and even Edinburgh are at.

  4. Interesting

    Harley, Bradbury in front of Denton/Ashe/Du Preez (I really rate CDP but he can have little reason to feel hard done by – he looks 10lbs overweight to me).

    Berghan is a big lump & has improved, but………….

    Gilchrist may have been the next to step up if J.Gray was rested but……..

    Will be interesting to see us go without our “talisman” Hogg

  5. Wee happy dance that Toolis is in the squad. He has been the better lock at Edinburgh every time I have seen him.

    In his one cap he came on for a few minutes and was just unlucky to be the one who was pinged and sent off after other players and been persistantly infringing. He certainly deserves more of a chance than he got.

    Also his awesome mullet is to be recognised on its own surely?

  6. as someone said…. Denton/Ashe/Du Preez/Gilchrist omissions.. telling. A little surprised some more young talent were not included…but really he had to
    go with consistent selection to figure out who is going work with his coaching methods and staff and who is not before selecting other upcoming.

    1. There’s an under 20 team needed at the same time ? Think he’s left out any / most of those who are eligible for selection for that ?

    2. Bit surprised Harley’s been picked, presumably Barclay would play 6 as skipper & plenty of back-up in the form of Wilson & Bradbury. Would prefer another ball-carrying no. 8, either Ashe or du Preez as need to develop what is probably the weakest link in the back-row if Strauss not available. Looks like we’re building decent depth at 2nd row, with both Gilchrist & Cummings as options and all relatively young so should be good for a few years. I do wonder if Glasgow’s drop in form had anything to do with Toony being somewhat distracted recently and just hope he can build on the legacy Vern left behind rather than reinvoke his previous stint with Andy Robinson.

  7. I think your starting team is pretty close to the mark. For the backs a lot depends on how quickly the non-Glasgow players get on to Toony’s wavelength. I’m sure Taylor, Hoyland and Visser will get it but you can never be sure. Wouldn’t be surprised to see Taylor at full back. Really could do with one of the other backs putting their hands up as talisman in the absence of Hoggy, Seymour, Jones and a slightly out off form Russell.

    In the back row the balance is the challenge and as you say even Cotter struggled to find it. Barclay / Watson or Hardie / Strauss is probably as good as it gets. However, Toony and Cotter both like Wilson so I wouldn’t be surprised if he comes off the bench.

    Finally does anyone know if Nel is match fit? Its a long time since he played.

  8. No Gilchrist, CDP, Berghan, McInally, Weir or Kinghorn. But D’Arcy Rae, Harley and Jones are in. He’s done a Gatland I’m afraid and I’ll be boycotting this tour as well as the Lions tour.

    1. Hardly. George Turner, Bradbury, Toolis, SHC. Did anyone from the Dragons make the Lions squad? :)

    2. McInally is injured or he would be in. Can easily see why the others have missed out. Jones deserves to be there for sure and I can see the logic in Rae as well, he has improved a lot recently.

      10 players from Edinburgh, that’s a fair amount based on recent benchmarks.

      Please let’s move away from sensationalism like this.

      1. Hear hear! The balance between Edinburgh and glasgow is about where it should be at the mo. Let’s not be twats about it

    3. Jones is there on merit – he’s been miles better than Kinghorn this season. Gilchrist is perhaps unlucky that Toony chose to take only 4 locks but again has been outperformed by Toolis, who is going. Boycotting it because of Rob Harley seems a bit extreme.

  9. I would of rested dunbar and j.Gray
    and brought in cummings and jon welsh
    only other small thing might be harley for ashe but i dont see either getting near the starting team.

      1. No just added an extra prop and i think we have enough at center with taylor scott grigg and backup horne .

        would of taken off darcy rae if i had to swap welsh for somone

  10. Does anyone know if the matches are going to be televised and if yes, where are they on?


    1. My guess would be BT Sport will pick up the Aus game and for Italy/Fiji, might be some sort of live stream or outside chance of the BBC picking up local coverage given interest levels are up at the moment. The SRU are handy with a stream these days so you might get them putting their own solution in place if no-one fancies it.

  11. There’s not many choices that are really that controversial. One thing we can’t forget is that the SRU is not in a position financially to take everyone who has a legitimate case to tour not matter the depth in their position. The size of squad seems about right, for 3 tests, each a week apart, and no midweek games. Toony has picked the players who will be in the test team, and a few developing players for the experience. It think that’s what most people would have wanted and no one comes to mind who would otherwise be a ‘first pick’.

    Some specific thoughts:

    BACK THREE: Hoyland had to go, based on form and performance last weekend. Jones is in as cover, but it is a wing-heavy squad, so I’d be surprised to see him feature as anything other than a replacement. It’s surprising to see Jackson picked as a wing/FB, but he’s here to cover 10 and 15, the positions that we need more depth in. Given his experience, it’s not really surprising, and Toony has clearly opted for him over Kinghorn on the basis that there will be a chance that Finn gets called up when Sexton gets crocked.

    HALF-BACK: Pretty much what I would’ve picked, given the option for Jackson to also cover 10. SHC is probably in because Greeg is going to NZ, but his recent upturn in form justifies inclusion over a more left field choice, such as one of his Edinburgh team-mates.

    BACK-ROW: With Strauss fit to travel, the need for CduP is much lower and I think Toony has gone with Bradbury for the experience. He will clearly be a star for Scotland and this is a good opportunity to get good exposure. CduP is not a long-term solution, more a stop-gap. Harley is more of a surprise, but I can see how he might be a good option for Fiji, though that’s more of a hunch.

    SECOND-ROW: As already commented, if you’re taking 4 locks, with Harley as a back-up, then Toolis gets in ahead of Gilchrist every time right now. Along with Watson, player of the season for Edinburgh and deserving of his chance.

    FRONT-ROW: Massive boost that WP is available, though he will be casting a glance across the Tasman Sea for most of the tour. I’m concerned about Loosehead, as the options after Dicko are not of the same quality as those after WP on the other side. I would’ve liked to see McCallum given a chance, but his time will come.

  12. The squad may be predictable, but I believe Gregor knows more about the players available than I do, so I am not going to comment on that. I do think however that he will be the right man for Scotland. He knows all the players very well and has coached most of them at Glasgow. I am glad he didn’t go with the Lions. I do wonder if we will lose any more players to the Lions during the tour.

      1. Bryce maybe, although I don’t think he will ever cut it at international level. Murchie is pointless; no more than solid club level player, and already too old. Personally I think we will see Duncan Taylor at FB. Plays there on occasion for Sarries, and would be useful to see if Scotland can employ him there too. Will also allow us relieve the log-jam at centre somewhat. I would really like to see the Dunbar Scott pairing tried; and also give a cap to Grigg at some point. I’d bring Hughes into the squad in Mailtands place

    1. I’d like to see Kinghorn go if thats the case that Maitland is out…. clear talent ..if not quite there yet. Don’t see point taking a player who doesn’t really have potential at test level just to plug with ‘experience’.

      1. Kinghorn was named in the Squad for the U20s world Champs, so doubt he’ll go. I imagine he’ll try Duncan Taylor at FB with Jacko for cover. I think they’ll call for another wing, not sure who deserves a call. Maybe Rory Hughes, but I expect Visser to play and either Hoyland or Jones to get the nod on the other wing.

      2. Agreed. At this stage I think Visser will play all 3 tests, Jones will play vs Aus, and Hoyland vs Italy and Fiji. Taylor given the 15 shirt vs Italy and Aus, and Jackson tried against Fiji. We of course have to go strongest XV possible for Australia, and with Italy being the first game up the team will be pretty much full strength too in order to get them used to playing together again. The last game in Fiji will allow for a bit of experimentation.

  13. Shame if Maitland is out… his career has been plagued with injuries and i know fans were expecting more from him . Was looking forward watching him at Full back…

  14. I’m excited by this squad, although saddened to hear Maitland is crocked – is the ligament damage so severe that he will miss the tour, or just the end of regular season bunfight?

    Very glad to see Toolis getting another run. His form this season in a poor Edinburgh side has been good enough to make the pro12 dream team and he deserves to go on tour. CdP could do with taking a few notes from him or he will not be bothering Toonie’s pencil any time soon as there are too many back row options which offer more than him.

    Very glad Grigg is going as he is my pick for Warriors player of the season, although Lee Jones was running him close.

    The exclusion of Weir gives a clue as to how GT wants to play the game I think. Jackson must be in the last chance saloon though.

    Looking forward to it!

    1. I think people have short memories about CdP. His previous form has been exceptional and he has excellent off-loading ability and athleticism when he’s playing at his peak. I think he could fit a Toonie game plan well if he hits his straps again. Doesn’t anyone remember his double ankle taps on Gloucester’s wings in the final of the ECC? Conditioned right he has size, serious pace and great hands. Let’s get back that CdP please!

      1. Agree, CdP has to get back to where he was pre injury, then he’s back in the equation, if not in the squad. If all were fit and on form I doubt any of us would agree the first choice blend.

        To my mind Cotter never really solved this, despite being a back rower himself. It’ll be interesting to see what Toonie does. Personally I think he’s likely to vary it on a ‘horses for courses’ basis. Who knows?

      2. The CDP of a couple of seasons ago would be pushing for the no8 shirt that’s for sure. Just as abrasive as Strauss, but better hands.

  15. Scotland have been drawn against Ireland, Japan, Europe 1 and a play-off winner. England got another tough group.

    1. A good draw. If I understand it looks like Romania and maybe Georgia or Tonga to fill out?

      4 wins a definite possibility.

    2. I think it is a decent group, Probably easiest (or second easiest) band 1 team in Ireland but probably the second hardest band 3 team in Japan. Romania will probably be Europe 1 and I have no idea about the playoff winner.

  16. On thinking about this, if he is fit, denton is the big miss for the tour. if the last 6 nations taught us anything it’s that we are missing a big ball carrying back row, at least the moment that strauss gets injured. how does gray, gray, strauss, hardie, denton sound – pretty physical. bring on ireland wc

  17. With Maitland injured and Hoggy with the lions, we are desperately short of full-backs. Ruaridh has obviously been picked to cover there but I don’t think he’s played there for Quins this season. As others have said I’d love to see if Taylor can make a fist of playing in that position, but he’s more of centre/wing than a wing/full-back. Peter Horne can obviously cover there but again, not really his position. The obvious choice would be Blair Kinghorn but removing him from the U20s would seriously weaken that side.
    There are only two other contenders – Glenn Bryce or Peter Murchie. At 31 Murchie is not the choice, so it has to be Glenn Bryce. Unless Toonie tries Taylor or Horne there, in which case I’d take Weir, because otherwise we’re short of midfield options.

  18. Was only following the 7s on text updates but it looks like Bryce played well. I agree he’s probably earned the opportunity to replace Maitland. Maybe Townsend has been waiting to see how he’d get on in Paris first?

  19. Watched, didn’t contribute a lot. And in any event, 7’s success doesn’t automatically transfer to 15’s. Stand out player for me was George Horne. Electric pace, made the ‘dream team’.

    The Fiji result – WTF. Best ever performance and it’s on you-tube, link is on

    Planet Rugby, index, Scotland…it was a masterclass!!!!!

    Apart from the last pool game against Japan, we were excellent. No disgrace to lose today, now for Twickers…..

  20. Bryce is like MIke Brown. Head down, straight into the opposition.

    There is an overlap, doesn’t matter, run on
    Splintered backline ripe for a chip, doesn’t matter, run on
    Asking for a Garryowen, doesn’t matter, run on

    He’s very one dimensional, I don’t think he’s got the skillset to be a Scotland quality FB but is obviously a very big and capable ball carrying back, would be better on the wing for me.

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