Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


5 positives to take from Scotland’s defeat to Fiji

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

We never like to be miserable about Scottish Rugby here (yeah right) so let’s pick over the positives to be taken from that final game against Fiji.

Because it’s better than doing player ratings…

1) It was an eye-opening clarification on squad depth

At least it wasn’t eye-watering like the Calcutta Cup earlier in the year. Yes it was the end of tour, the end of season, and players were affected by tiredness of one sort the other but on that performance, several players might have played their way out of Gregor Townsend’s long term plans for Scotland. It would be surprising if Henry Pyrgos or Ruaridh Jackson re-appeared in Scotland shirts any time soon, for example.

Ahead of the game we were thinking that the team looked strong despite being shorn of our first choice backline and then some, probably lulled into a false sense of security by the slightly second string performing well in Australia. Maybe guys who hadn’t been great before were suddenly great?

We are also badly in need of some cover for Finn Russell. Weir, Jackson and Horne have all been tried and while (Fiji aside) Horne has played well in some cases he still looks like a second five-eighth, not a first. It’ll be an interesting season ahead for Connor Eastgate (Wasps) and Adam Hastings (Glasgow) to push for increasing game time at pro level, but they are unlikely to be ready any time soon. Might the return of Greig Tonks to the utility fold be an experiment worth undertaking in the Autumn (he started just one game for Irish at 10 last season, a loss to Doncaster)?

While some areas are a bit thin (10,15), on the other hand we don’t need to play John Barclay if he can’t get out of bed – apparently he suffered back spasms on the morning of the game. He’s had a superb season, but this will have been a disappointing and unnecessary end to it. No player will ever want to declare themselves unfit to represent let alone captain their country but perhaps this is one case where Sir Dr James should have stepped in. In the back row there actually was cover, even with Magnus Bradbury sent home early.

With our first XV out we should be challenging any team in world rugby. We’re almost on the way to building a 23. But Six Nations and World Cup winning teams don’t consist of just 23 guys.

Going Up: Stuart Hogg, Finn Russell, Ali Price, Duncan Taylor, and possibly Greigs Laidlaw & Tonks
Going Down: Henry Pyrgos, Ruaridh Jackson, Tim Swinson, Ryan Wilson, Grant Gilchrist

2) It was still close despite Scotland being so hopeless.

With say Laidlaw and Hogg on the park and JB not playing in pain, it might have been salvageable. Richie Gray is another player who often pops up at the right time to give the team forward motion. That was lacking.

All Scotland needed to do to win this game was to make most (not even all) of their tackles and hold on to the ball, rather than trying to engage Fiji in an entertainment-off. It was quite similar to the Lions first test where suddenly the visitors were throwing it about (and spilling a lot of ball) while the home side kicked their goals and stuck it to them with the basics against general expectation.

That Scotland painfully failed to deal with a game running away from them was a lesson that will hopefully reverberate through the team’s collective memory going forward. A good way to do this would be to make them watch that last scrum then the breakout and Tim Visser’s final run into touch, along with a giant caption that says: “this was not necessary.”

You don’t need to save the game in the 80th minute if you win it in minutes 1-79. That’s a lesson Scotland players should have been learning since Argentina in RWC’07. Hopefully it sinks in within a decade. Still, they missed 30 tackles and still only lost by 5 points.

Fraser Brown stood in at captain and looked like the only one steering the ship in the dying minutes. Making him part of the leadership group could be a great plan.

Here’s a Scotland team for the Autumn:

Hogg, Seymour, Jones, Taylor, Maitland, Russell, Price; Dickinson, Brown, Nel, R Gray, Toolis, Barclay (c), Watson, Strauss
Bench: Dell, Ford, Fagerson, J Gray, Hardie, Laidlaw, Horne, Dunbar

3) The rolling maul still works

Since last year, Scotland’s maul attack and defence have improved massively. It’s been a good tour for the hookers, and each of them finished with a try from the back of a maul. Neither Fraser Brown or Ross Ford jumped clear ahead of the other in the selection stakes with about even game time, but Brown is clearly the man with age on his side. 110 cap hero Ford works increasingly well as a bench impact player, and stacking our bench with experience is not an awful idea.

The only worry – and it’s good one – is that the arrival of Ben Toolis as a lineout operator par excellence has made the choices at lock even trickier. Yes, Toony is a fan of Swinson, but come the autumn don’t be surprised if Toolis has consigned a Gray brother to the bench – perhaps even Jonny – and Swinson shuffled further back.

4) We can stop arguing with the Welsh about the Lions

Unfortunately, this result is all the ammunition required to kill off the armchair skirmishes on social media over whether Scotland should have further representation on the Other tour. Yes it was the 2nd/3rd string but “Scotland lost to Fiji last week” overwrites all “but that was just one game” arguments regarding the Calcutta Cup in defence of our lads and their “winning” mentality.

We have who we have. With Seymour and Laidlaw playing the full 80 today against the Hurricanes, that could be the Lions tour over for the Scots in terms of playing time.

Finn Russell at least hasn’t been tarnished with the same Fijian brush as his colleagues in his absence but although he has his number (#835) for 5 minutes as an HIA replacement he will be unlikely to get any more Lions game time. Is Warren Gatland really going to throw a (so far) notoriously mercurial standoff (although much improved on recent form) into an unfamiliar setup against the Best Team in the World™ with any confidence that he won’t be throwing passes to no-one or fluffing touch kicks? His first touch was a lovely wee half break, but with no one to support the offload and the ball exposed he was turned over; the Hurricanes turned that to a scrum penalty and 3 points.

To beat the All Blacks – as the test XV found out at the weekend – you need to be playing a near perfect game. The public perception of Finn won’t be encouraging; despite his undeniable form on the Scotland tour and the creativity he could bring, is the test environment the place to throw him in? He should have been on tour from the start in order to gain an understanding with the players around him.

However, the experience he gains from training alongside both Farrell and Sexton in terms of game management could be huge in his development as a player. There is, of course, the possibility of a third test bench spot if the series is put to bed as seems likely, and Dan Biggar continues to pick up head knocks. Which would be welcome as Finn will want to face the All Blacks in November.

Gatland may, in the end, be doing us a favour while trying his hardest to stop The Geography 6 from upstaging him.

5) We’re not there yet, and we needed to see it

Thoughts of beating All Blacks, winning Six Nations tournaments and contributing the bulk of the next Lions tour are, unfortunately, still wide of the mark. Many of the armchair warriors referenced in #4 above point to consistent awfulness being the rule rather than the recent upturn in fortunes. Scotland have to make a new rule as a rugby nation, and being great one week and awful the next should not be it.

And perhaps the players needed to see it.

You can turn a corner but you have to keep the foot on the accelerator. You can’t just coast along, chuckling through the national anthems. For all that the haka annoys me, it sure focuses the minds of the players into the right headspace.

Fix the restarts too please. Again.

We’ll need a  lot more victories like the one in Australia and far fewer like the one in Fiji in order to be seen as genuinely worth respecting by any other rugby nation other than pre-match interview lip service. Townsend and this group of players may have the makings of a perfect rugby brew, but they are just starting to simmer. It’ll take a few years to get them boiling over.

So thanks for bringing us down to earth, Fiji.

52 Responses

  1. I have been generally positive about Gatland and the Lions but not using his bench today is a damming decision. I don’t think he needs to know anything else about Biggar but could have a game changer in Finn and left him on the bench. I see Tommy is the top try scorer with 3. Suggests that the rugby hasn’t been too exciting.

    1. Not using the bench was stupidity – it basically said I brought these guys out but they aren’t good enough (which in Russell and Davies case is patently not true !). Now if there is an injury to the front row this week especially he has beasted them for 80 minutes twice in 7 days and then may be asked to bench against the best team in the world in the highest of intensity games (perhaps ever !). Also a Davies / Russell combination for 20 minutes might have really been something special

      Tommy did what Tommy does, trailed beautifully for the first try and finished tight in the corner by maintaining width – Strangely he did absolutely everything textbook in the game which included keeping Savea quiet, yet only scored a 7 with the Telegraph, whereas Nowell who was busy but ineffectual scored an 8 – its clear that the knives are sharpening in the media for more English representation. Laidlaw who basically did what was asked of him (Murray lite) got given a 5….

      1. Tommy Seymour had a fine game today. Not just the tries but all sorts of great work around the park. It’s quite obvious though that in the topsy-turvy world Gatland and his team inhabit, the better Tommy plays the smaller his chances of reaching the 23 become. Sad, really.

      2. Yeah, I thought Gatland brought these additional players into the squad to rest others…. instead they get a good rest themselves on the bench. Utterly pointless callups. Biggar ahead of Russell??…and then no game time for Russell.
        Really, Ive gone from having minimal interest in the lions due to some Scottish players being in their to even losing that….hope NZ stuff them…again!

      3. Ultimate Rugby gave Laidlaw 7 and Seymour 8 (along with only Henderson and Lawes).
        When Henhaw went off, the logical sub was Russell who has played centre. The Halfpenny addition disrupted Nowell and North who were playing for test places.

    2. It would have opened up the argument that he got it wrong. So he wanted to provide as little evidence of this that he could. Should have left Finn as he was on the way to Fiji.

  2. Gatland is a laughing stock in NZ for many reasons. If he ever coaches the All Blacks I’ll eat my hat. Not using your bench in a high intensity match like today just increases the volume of the laughter and risks fatigue and injury to players who may be called up to play the next test match. What kind of coach doesn’t use his subs in case they play well and show up his previous decisions as being incorrect? Be a big boy and own up you got it wrong. At least people will respect you for that.

    Well done Tommy.

    Good article on the fallout from the Fiji game. I generally agree with all the points raised and really hope one of the younger fly halves come through next season. Time for the players to get a rest before getting stuck into preseason.

    1. So why did gatland bring in those 6 ? im guessing 1. to increase the welsh player numbers represented and more cash for WRU ? , and 2. to disrupt the scotland tour.

      F*ck Gatland.

  3. I’ve been arguing for a numbet of years that if Scotland’s rugby fortunes were going to change it would be through long term patient improvement rather than a Great Leap Forward. But I actually think we have a squad that could win a 6N now. We’d need a huge dose of luck, and a clean bill of health but first season managers often win the 6N (I may be wrong but Schmidt, Gatland and Jones off the top of my head), we have England and France at home, where we can beat them, post-lions we should be less fatigued than our home nations rivals. So, I think we will be ok in November but will win the 6N in 2018. I haven’t decided to bet in a grand slam yet but it could be our year.

    1. Optimistic FF!! Personally if it was a toss up between winning the 6 nations or a guaranteed humping of Wales in Cardiff I’d take the latter. I was hopeful for a possible first win at 15’s over New Zealand in the Autumn, but after Fiji and seeing NZ v the Lions/Samoa I think thats a pipe dream!

      1. Winning the 6N would be much better for Scottish rugby than devastating the Welsh.

      2. Yes, but we should be optimistic. I’m not saying we’re the best team in the NH just that we could win the 6N if things go our way.

      3. Yeah it would be better TeamCam I agree…but I really really really want to beat the Welsh!!!

      4. Victory against England at home please – with a convincing performance. Every day of the week. We could lose every other game, but do that and the Anglo-orientated rugby press will have to explain a rejuvenated Scotland.

        With that said, if we beat Wales away first up, then it’s France at home and things are looking tasty headed into the England game. I think we’ll do it, as it’s usually the team that wants it more: Fiji (superstars returning home in a rare tier 1 match) v Scotland (end of tour on the beach with missing and rusty players); NZ (Best Team ITW at home with rugby reputation at stake) v Lions (biased pick n mix collection, poorly managed, on a free pass); Eng (at home, on for record wins after being embarrassed against Italy) v Scotland (already playing great rugby, but no expectations to win) etc. etc.

        Applying that sort of thinking: Wales (chippy squad past their sell by date with Howley / Gatland) v Scotland (angry non-Lions, GT’s first six nations). Scotland (GT’s first at Murrayfield, revenge for last year) v France (probably just lost to Ireland). Scotland (REVENGE, Eddie Jones, angry non-lions) v England (complacent)…

    2. This is a view I share too.

      I would prefer us to 2nd/3rd place next year 6N and again 2nd/3rd place with something to prove after the 2019 6N…we need some fire in our bellies for the 2019 RWC and certainly don’t need the pressure of 1st rank 6N.

      We have enough time to develop the depth and grounding for RWC19.

      1. Frozen North – that is properly mental. You’d rather not win a first 6N and first championship in 19 years so we’re under less pressure at the World Cup????

        If we won a 6N or even Grand Slam I’d take it and happily crash out of the World Cup at the group stage. We’re not going to win the World Cup and have NEVER won the 6N. I want us to win something dammit.

  4. I am getting frustrated that the team are written off because of the Fiji game. Scotland do not have 60 odd players good enough for the team and remain 5th in the standings. We don’t and may never have unless the school system and SRU can crank it up which will be difficult with just 2 teams in the Pro 12. However, there are some decent players in the 1st XV. If Scotland had played that team we would have disposed of Fiji, but with the Lions and a long season Townsend took a gamble and lost. Also some of those on the park were ring rusty as they are coming back from Injury. Agree that the biggest issue is no proper cover for Finn at standoff and that is an issue, and until they find cover we need to cross our fingers he stays fit. Fiji is one of those games you learn (hopefully) and forget, but does not represent the capabilities of the 1st 15. But we should not get all miserable and over analytical about it – we have not got the strength in depth and that is something we need to resolve which partly means letting some of the better players go off to get money elsewhere from Glasgow and Edinburgh and get the good youngsters in.

    1. Fiji are a decent team and play exciting rugby. Even with Scotland’s best 15 fielded we may not have won on Saturday. Fiji deserve the credit for the win.

      1. Andy sorry but you are way off the mark. Fiji’s game on Saturday was anything but exciting. They played smash and bash and we let them through

        Out best team would have put 50 on them

        Just look at the fact that with the decimated team we fielded and how we played we lost by only 5

      2. Angus that is my opinion based on the fact that Fiji are a decent team. I think you are overestimating our capability and underestimating theirs. Putting 50 past them is unlikely as Fiji are a better team than Italy and I can’t remember ever putting 50 or more by Italy. England, Australia and Wales also never put 50 past them in the World Cup.

      3. Happy to justify it Andy

        We scored 3 tries to 2. Fiji won this game based on penalties – 5 of them

        Fiji were not the run it from everywhere skilled “skilled” team everyone thinks they are because it is romantic to do so. As I said before they were smash and bash

        Out team on the day had people suffering from stomach bugs and a captain who had to be rolled out of bed in the morning because of back spasms

        We fielded a 2nd/3rd string backline and missed 27 tackles never mind the turnovers

        Despite this we scored 3 tries and a total of 22 points on a day where we totally failed to perform – Nobody questions that part

        Despite us missing 27 tackles Fiji were still only able to score 2 tries

        None of that points to Fiji being a “decent” team playing “exciting rugby” it points to them being pretty average. Decent at their level not decent compared to the top 6 where Scotland stand

        I am totally behind my belief that on that day in Fiji if Scotland had fielded their best 15 (with no sickness and injuries being carried onto the pitch) as you surmised then it would and should have been a cricket score

        I don’t know if you actually saw the match but I was there and am talking from first hand knowledge

        As far as Fiji deserving credit for the win goes I back you 100% they worked very hard for it and were the better team on the day

      4. Angus, I agree based on current form and rankings we would think that Scotland’s first choice 15 should win, all I am saying is that there isn’t that much between the teams ranked 5-10, and based on the fact Fiji were at home and played well in the WC games, albeit lost to E, W and Aus, I would think they still have the advantage over our first choice 15 at home. Until Scotland can beat teams like Ireland and Wales on a regular basis I am not convinced we should be expecting putting 50 past teams like Fiji.

        The expectation to win in the media in build up to the Fiji game was similar to the build up to the Eng game in the 6N and I think we believed we were better than we are and we failed in both. After a couple of wins in both situations we believed we could beat anyone, though we seem to do a lot better when that kind of pressure is not on us.

        I agree that the back line was probably a 3rd choice, but was that Fiji’s first choice team?. Injuries happen in rugby and every team needs to deal with them.

        I still think the tour was successful based on the first two games, despite the defeat in the last game and cannot wait for the next game in the Autumn.

  5. There’s no reason we can’t win 2/3 in the AI & 3/5 in the 6N (in fact i’d take that right now).

    I’d have Hogg covering 10 in the AI.

    Lack of depth at 10 main issue, the situation @ Edinburgh with regard 10 doesn’t help one wee bit.

    With regard the Lions – Gatland’s stock is at at decade low, wrong players/wrong tactics & virtually scuppered by 2 injuries (Hogg & Vunipolo), maybe the worst decision – Howley as backs coach…………….

    1. Yeah I think Gatland stock is going into freefall after today’s comments. Basically he has just said to guys your not good enough and i will only use yoou in an emergency but string you along. If this was a football team they would all be on twitter etc and walking away. Rugby players tend to be a bit quieter about these things.

  6. I think pinning the loss to Fiji on the absence of Finn is over simplistic. As much as the defensive effort against Australia made it a team win – the performance against Fiji was a team loss. Too many ridiculous passes, errors and penalties in crucial areas from multiple team members.

    Knowing Toony’s rotation policy and the fact it was a development tour do we even know if Finn was going to start? It was very useful to see our other 10 options – there were 3 on the field at the same time in the second half and we still couldn’t control the game. Saying that, Horne is capable – his 2016 6N performance against France was one of the better ones from a Scottish 10 in recent years only outdone by Finn in 2017. Horne just needs people around him not to loose their sh*t. Scotland really needs to find some leaders in the backline as I think this was the main reason we lost.

    Overall a positive tour the boys just lost their heads in the last game. I think Toony will learn more than anyone from that game. The backline bench was a bit of an error I think.

    Finally – please don’t mention Tonks as a 10. He played admirably at FB against Australia but at 10 he struggled at club level never mind international.

    1. I think that as long as all the rest of the first choice guys, and you can have a few permutations at centre, in the back line are fit, then it’s not a total disaster if Finn is out. Clearly not ideal, but until we develop some of the youngsters and see if they are up to snuff, then probably Horne is the least bad option, especially if he had Price at 9 and Dunbar at 12. Tonks, Jackson and Weir should only be played in extremis. If Tonks can make a case at FB in an extended squad good luck to him.

      Personally I hope we see some ruthlessness from Gregor, guys who can’t cut it need to be cut adrift. Gives us a chance to blood some of the younger guys, albeit only one at a time.

      I suspect he knows the basis of his RWC squad right now, with a handful of spots up for exceptional and consistent performances.

  7. Can anyone who was following the lions tour back in 2005 compare this one with that one on where gatland stands compared to woodward ?

    On the squad that played fiji i think it is difficult to tell who will or wont fit in future based on fact the whole team looked unorganised. players you can cut out are those who were not performing the basic skillsets well though.

    1. In 2005 the mid week side, run by Geech, won all their games. We got totally pummelled in all three tests, not even close. I was at the first two. Both SCW and Gatland picked out of form favourites.

    2. I thought Woodward’s tour was the lowest ebb – but other than taking Alistair Campbell and creating a fecking Lions anthem it was better than this honking pile of manure that Gatland is steering to defeat.

  8. I’d tell Horne to forget about 12 and work on his game at 10, he’s played pretty well there including the win against France last year. Glasgow alone have 5-6 very useful centers and it’s increasingly hard to get a game there anyway. Hopefully his brother continues to improve and SHC gets his mojo back as Pyrgos is a total disaster area and even with a couple of injuries in the position should not be in a Scotland shirt. Horne Jnr looks a hell of a player from what i’ve seen, a real feisty wee bugger too.

    I’d pick Toolis over J.Gray and first choice back row would be Hardie-Strauss-Watson….Barclay on the bench.

    The Lions……if Seymour was anything but Scottish there would be talk of him getting in the test squad. But he’s not, so there isn’t. Hoping the Lions get pumped this weekend too.

    1. Don’t think a back row of hardie Strauss Watson would be big enough against the best teams ie no line out options at all

  9. Some comments on the side you picked.

    Interesting that J Gray has dropped to the bench – not sure what that’s about – he certainly faded as the season went on but I am confident he’ll be back to his best come Sept. Strange you also go with Dickenson, who hasn’t been on a rugby pitch for a season, Dell has done more than enough to warrant being regarded as first choice now.

    The balance at backrow still feels slightly off, especially with Hardie on the bench – Strauss is just not a test 8 – he still carries poorly and is prone to fade out of a game. We have too many 6/8s and desperately need to develop a proper 8 in the big brutish carrying mould. Cotter for all his many fine attributes could never decide what backrow he wanted – he came from ASM and French rugby where they love playing 3 generic identical and interchangeable backrowers and at times wanted to go down that route. Scotland always play better with a proper 7 like Watson – it fits in with how we want to play and we surely have enough players to stay consistently with this lineup. For this reason I dont think Wilson should play much more that a stop gap role in the future – he’s a penalty machine when under pressure and not specialised enough in any backrow role.

    Time for the young 8s to step up – I still have high hopes for Ashe, but he needs a consistent season for Glasgow.

    I want Taylor to start for Scotland and at 12, but I am concerned our backline can be a bit of a mess without Dunbar at times – I know Twickenham rather flies in the face of that theory (although I thought Jones defence was more the issue there) – Fiji showed that Dunbar is still needed and unless you want to wind down a game from 65mins I am not sure its from the bench. Dunbar is either in the starting 15 or not in the 23 IMO.

    All in all it’s been a good season for Scotland – the transition from Cotter was never a huge concern for me as I felt he benefited from Toonie and Glasgow in structuring how Scotland wanted to play. Cotter’s greatest contribution was giving the players the confidence to realise they are as good as anyone else.

    Whether Toonie can give us the consistency we desperately need is another matter – but it’s going to fun watching him try.

    1. Hi Stu, Gray to the bench was based on the Six Nations and the summer tour where I felt Richie and Toolis respectively performed better. I don’t want him getting complacent if his place is secure until he gets 110 caps. Also massively agree (we talk about it a lot on the pod) that we haven’t found the answer at Number 8 and until we do it’s hard to find the right balance. A breakthrough season for Mitch Eadie would be most welcome… I think Hardie/Watson at 7 is a straight choice and currently Barclay holds 6 although he’s one who could be versatile from the bench if he wasn’t doing a decent job as captain. Good points about Dunbar and he has been the defensive cornerstone for long enough but we’re starting to see Taylor offering way more in attack. Dunbar needs to start the season flying with his ball carrying as him in that sort of form and Taylor on the bench would probably be ideal for the 23… currently though I’d still go with Taylor, who is a class act.

      1. Toolis is taking his chance – gamboling about the place eager to stake a claim in the squad – he played well but not enough to replace Gray. I would like to see Toolis really kick on for Embra next season – he had a good season for them, but be the fulcrum for the pack. He’s also much more of an impact sub of the 3 locks mentioned. I am just glad the successor to Kellock is not on the radar anymore – Gilchrist really was a Cotter blind spot.

        I am glad Northampton have signed Eadie – but he’s another of the athletic svelte 8s Scotland have – we need a bear, a wardrobe of an 8 who can give us some go forward. Which reminds me, I would like to see J Gray get even better at carrying – really driving deep beyond the gainline.

        I am going to be controversial here and suggest that Hardie should only feature for Scotland if others are injured – Watson is a superior player and allied with Barclay we have all the bases covered. Barclay’s carrying is getting more productive, but he’s not that type of 6 – but when you group his skillset with Watson’s it’s an excellent combination – we just need that big American fridge freezer at 8.

        Dunbar hasn’t done much in offence for a considerable time – you could argue his place in that backline is give reassurance to all the exciting fast backs around him – but if he continues down that path then teams will find it easier to defend against us as Dunbar will be given less of a priority by defences. I have never been a fan of big bruising 12s and much prefer us to have another playmaker there – but I do wonder if Taylor will suffer from being able to play anywhere in the 3/4s and spend most of his career on the bench.

        Scott showed us glimpses against Aus that there is nobody like him to straighten the line – it’s a pity he has hands like cows tits. He will definitely benefit from time under the tutelage of Toonie – whether he will get enough of it is another matter. I have never see Scotland with so many test quality centres – it’s hard to comprehend when you consider what we used to have select there. Who could ever forgot the Henderson/MDR combo – actually I had until I started typing this.


        Quite an extraordinary embarrassment of riches – which is just as well considering how often they get broken.

        Looking forward to the new season is such a unusual feeling for a Scottish rugby fan.

      2. For the forwards out there: how tough is it for a lock to play at no 8? Specifically, Ritchie Gray? He’s no ZZB but he is heavy, has filled out a bit, albeit a bit lanky, is a decent ball carrier and would seem to have the personality to step up to more of a maurauding role. Or is that a tough ask? J Gray, Toolis, Barclay, Watson/Hardie, R Gray. It would seem to have huge potential to nullify the opposition, possibilities at the lineout and weight for the scrum. Or is that unlikely to work?

    2. Agreed, would Jonny Gray be seen as an impact player? I think either Toolis or Richie would be better off the bench.

      I don’t think anyone can complain about Strauss’s carrying after the France game. Plus he got the better of Stander in the Ireland game and carried well in each of the summer games. He’s no Billy Vunipola, but he’s a good 8. I’d really like to see Bradbury develop, but I’m guessing he’s simply not doing enough in training to warrant inclusion.

      Agree about Dunbar, too, like Gray he’s someone who consistently gets through a lot of work, he’s not someone you bring on to change or close out a game. IMO.

      1. It’s just so technically poor TeamCam – so upright – and when he meets opponents who physically match him he suffers IMO.

        Agree about Bradbury – I do wonder what is going on there, I thought he was superb against Arg last season – got subbed and never been seen again. I have met him and he doesn’t seem the the big headed type – maybe he is lazy at training. It would be a real shame if he didn’t fulfill his enormous potential.

      2. I agree about his technique, but he met opponents who physically matched him in the Ireland and France games, and he seemed to make ground with every carry, and the same was true against Ireland last year and Aus this year.

        Yeah, I think that Cockerill et al. will either make him an excellent back rower or ditch him. To be fair, he was fairly anonymous when he came on against Italy, but then if you watch the AR Rugby video of him, it does seem like he can really turn it on.

  10. 2 positives out of the Lions draw with Hurricanes . . . Roman Poites’ beatific smile in admiration of Tommy’s second try and Finn getting to know his new team mate, Callum Gibbons, at no side. Check it out on the playback . .

  11. At last, Ryan Grant’s response to Rowntree’s appalling behaviour during the 2nd Test in 2013! Rory, can we have a article on the perceived future of the Lions and the Lions relevance to Scotland?

    1. I’d recommend reading Alan Greenwood’s piece on here from around the time of the tour announcement I’m not sure we’d improve on that…

      For me this is the telling bit from the Grant article:
      “So I let it cool down for a couple of days, went and spoke to him, and he just kind of said to me that he hadn’t seen enough of me and he wasn’t sure he could trust me in a Test match like that”. That for me is a horrific failure of coaching and also does point to the fact that coaches are always going to go with what they know against the evidence. Hence AWJ and Warburton being picked this weekend.


      1. Remember what happened to Gordon Bulloch in 2001 – he was selected for the tour and then they called up Dorian West as an injury replacement. Bulloch said he was basically slotted straight in as understudy for Wood. When Bulloch complained he was told his knowledge of the English lineout codes and drills made him more suitable.

  12. Personally, I took away four things from this tour in terms of personnel:
    1- Finn Russell is far and away our best 10 and we must do everything we can to have him on the pitch. Horne is a good bench player and can do a job at 10, Jackson has the vision and at times can fizz a flat pass but is far too inconsistent to be a test 10, Tonks isn’t a 10 and Weir just isn’t good enough nor does he fit our style. There’s an awful lot of pressure on Hastings to develop as we are desperate for backup and competition.
    2- There’s finally back up for Hoggy at 15. Whilst he is far and away our best option, and probably our best player outright, Maitland and Taylor now provide test quality back ups to him, and Seymour, Horne, Jackson and hopefully Kinghorn soon all provide the depth there.
    3- Dunbar is a very underrated piece of our team. I keep seeing people putting Taylor and Jones in our midfield for the Autumn and beyond, but whilst Taylor is without doubt an outstanding player, he doesn’t provide the defensive solidity, breakdown threat and ability to punch forward in attack to straighten the opposition and keep them honest. I feel Dunbar has to play to give balance to the team, and SuperDunc and Jones are fighting it out to be his partner, or perhaps Taylor can play on the wing opposite Seymour?
    4- Denton has to find his form at Worcester. I think I read Toonie saying that he almost picked Denton for this tour. I feel like he must be at least on the bench if in any kind of form. Strauss is a good carrier, particularly in heavy traffic where he can make a short gain. But he doesn’t have the x-factor or same mind set as Denton where he just wants to smash people. Barclay at 6 offers a well rounded player, with excellent work rate, excellent breakdown work, a line out option and a decent ball carrier. Hamish is similar, albeit a better ball carrier without being a line out option. A lot of people have Hardie on the bench, and whilst I am a fan of his, if he comes on for Strauss, we lose that heavyweight ball carrier. Eadie is someone who will soon be in the squad, but from what I can find, he’s the same size as Barclay, so whilst a different kind of player, he’s not what we need at 8. Personally, Denton and Strauss, Barclay and Watson should be the four back rows in our match day 23.

    1. I cant agree about Denton – he’s not got the skills to fit into the current Scotland gameplan. Whilst he will run through a brick wall he doesn’t have the smarts to execute a 2 on 1.

      1. I’m not so sure about that – during the RWC he was pretty good, offloading and such. It seems (granted this is based on not much info) more like he’s content to just coast now, which is a shame. Hope he re-captures his desire. No idea what Bath did to him, although obviously the injuries didn’t help.

    2. Can’t argue re Finn Russell, but I wouldn’t be too hasty to write off Weir yet…he’s still early 20’s for goodness sake and I’ll be watching with interest to see how he develops under a decent coach at Edinburgh.

      I would prefer that we have a specialist 15 as back up for Hoggy and I think this is where we’ll see some of the u20’s really step up, Kinghorn needs to bring more consistency and learn to accelerate into contact rather than put on the breaks at the last moment. Graham could be magical if he can develop the defensive game to match his attacking threat. I agree Maitland is the most natural cover until these young guys are ready, although if Tonks has a good start to the season at Irish then who knows.

      I don’t think Dunbar is underrated, if anything he’s made a few squads this year on his reputation rather than form. His defensive work is generally top class, but after his injury problems he’s not been the same threat in attack as a couple of seasons back. Here’s hoping a good rest and a proper pre-season sees him kick on for a good injury free run. Jones and Taylor for me are completely different players, and I think with everyone fit, the selection debate is probably who partners Jones.

      An impact player in the back row is where I think we could really see the benefit of Cockerill at Edinburgh. Some of the forwards at Edinburgh have huge potential and I read someone suggesting converting Hunter-Hill to 8. I really enjoyed seeing the agression he had in his game in the U20 tourny recently, never took a backward step, yet is in that new mould of big forwards with good ball skills. Would also love to see Denton find some form at Worcester.

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