Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Australia vs Scotland: The Teams

Jonny Gray Ross Ford Australia
Jonny Gray in action for Scotland vs Australia pic © Alastair Ross / Novantae Photography

The Toony Tombola™ goes full international with this one as new head coach Gregor Townsend makes 8 changes to the starting lineup that saw off Italy with relative ease.

Things to work on? Yes.

Wholesale change? Not so sure. Maybe it is a development tour after all…

The biggest change takes place in the back three where Lee Jones is rewarded for his excellent late-season form but Rory Hughes and Greig Tonks also return to the fold, perhaps unexpectedly. Tim Visser is the last remnant of Scotland’s first choice back 3/4 group (Seymour, Hogg, Maitland, Visser) but sits this one out with a rib injury. There’s no place for Damien Hoyland but that could perhaps be a size thing with Jones on the other wing.

Tonks coming in is a result of moving fullback Duncan Taylor to 12. He often plays at 13 but perhaps Townsend wants a look at him at 12 with a view to partnering Huw Jones in the Autumn.

Another big surprise comes up front with Zander Fagerson given the chance to start at tighthead and WP Nel, who came through the Italy game but looked rusty, on the bench. The extra heft of Gordon Reid allows Fraser Brown to come in at hooker to reform a familiar looking unit from the spring.

Jonny Gray returns to the second row to create a potentially very dynamic partnership with Ben Toolis and in the back row, “joker” Ryan Wilson (don’t they know he’s Batman?) replaces Josh Strauss at Number 8 and Hamish Watson comes in for John Hardie.

Does it have the makings of a side that can beat Australia on their own patch? The Australians have a pretty strong first XV out on paper – when you ignore Super Rugby form – but are delaying naming the bench until tomorrow.

The Australians have a pretty strong first XV out on paper – when you ignore Super Rugby form – but are delaying naming the bench until tomorrow.

Scotland: Greig Tonks; Lee Jones, Alex Dunbar, Duncan Taylor, Rory Hughes; Finn Russell, Ali Price; Gordon Reid, Fraser Brown, Zander Fagerson; Ben Toolis, Jonny Gray; John Barclay (capt), Hamish Watson, Ryan Wilson.
Replacements: Ross Ford, Allan Dell, WP Nel, Tim Swinson, Josh Strauss, Henry Pyrgos, Ruaridh Jackson, Matt Scott.

Australia: Israel Folau; Dane Haylett-Petty, Tevita Kuridrani, Karmichael Hunt, Eto Nabuli; Bernard Foley, Will Genia; Tom Robertson, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Allan Alaalatoa; Sam Carter, Adam Coleman; Ned Hanigan, Michael Hooper (capt), Scott Higginbotham.
Replacements: To be announced on Friday.

56 Responses

  1. Toony Tombola in full swing for australia…

    Tonks at 15, visser and hoyland swapped out for hughes and jones taylor in at 12 and dunbar swapped out to 13

    Full front row swapped for glasgow and Johnny in , watson and Wilson into backrow.

    I mean … at least we have a good bench …

    And jackson , no idea what to expect with him.

    I kinda wanted to see Visser against Falou.

    1. A good set of forwards – not sure about the mix of backs…Folau is going to be a real handful. I predict he’s good for two tries…!

      1. Front row swapped round, but no adverse affect. Couldn’t have said that two years ago!! In fact that’s a hell of a forward bench to come on for the last 20/30.
        Toonie obviously reckons continuing with the experiment of Taylor at fullback is too risky against the Ozzies. Can’t say he’s wrong as he was out of position a couple of times against Italy, including their last try. So was Rory Hughes but he gets a second chance as Visser is injured.
        Can’t see Pyrgos or Jackson getting on unless there are injuries.

  2. Not sure about the team for the Wallabies. The forwards, even with 5 changes, in my opinion look better than the Australian pack, the issue for me is the backs. Visser is injured so the wings make sense, but I cannot see what Tonks brings to the party at all. He didn’t look comfortable in the past for Scotland, and barring a ton of injuries he wont be around for the World Cup in 2019. And cut and paste that last comment for Jackson on the bench.

  3. Lets not mince our words – this looks like an A team backline that should be playing the Churchill cup against Italy A in Vancouver or when we played the blacks in the world cup 10 years ago!!!

    Hughes, Tonks, Dunbar, Wilson, Brown and Fagerson really shouldn’t be in the starting line-up either on form or when compared against the alternative selection.

    I will just about say that L. Jones & Reid have actually done ok at club level and come in with a bit of form, but I would have preferred Visser or Hoyland to be honest and Dell should be the incumbent until Reid does a lot more to oust him.

    It has experimental written all over it, and perhaps done in such a way that if there is a defeat he can deflect it because of the changes….

    I really do fear a 20-30 point loss here !!!

    1. It’s certainly an interesting team. I’d have kept Hoyland but can see why he didn’t fancy a “lightweight” back three. Could be a make or break for Hughes in terms of his international career….

    2. Er Visser has an injury Martin. Wilson, Brown, Dunbar and Fagerson have been mainstays in the starting team for the last season so are hardly experimental.

      I hope Taylor at IC works as Dunbar has not quite lived up to his reputation recently. It would be good to fit Taylor, Jones and Bennett in the same 23.

      Tonks selection shows our pitiful depth at FB without Hogg, Maitland or Seymour.

      1. Never noted Visser’s injury when I responded – still think Hoyland did enough to retain ahead of Jones if you need 1 little, 1 large combo (i.e. had to replace Visser with Hughes). There is still the Fiji game should Toonie be adamant that Jones deserves a runout.

        If you want to ‘try’ Taylor at IC do it against Italy and give Tonks a chance to stake a FB claim before going into such a big game cold (internationally speaking).

        Whilst Wilson, Brown and Dunbar are mainstays, it is fair to say that on form and benchmarked against other squad members they should not be considered 1st choice. As for Fagerson he is incumbent because of Nel’s injury – he certainly didn’t do enough in the 6N to suggest he is now the #1 TH.

        Quite simply from 1 to 15 this is not as strong a team as was out against Italy, and if indeed changes were to be made to keep it reasonably fresh, I would argue that Dunbar & Wilson were 2 of the weakest performers and thus should have been cut.

        And Ford / Nel would be better starting than Brown / Fagerson who would offer more in the loose after 50 minutes as the game invariably opens up.

        Granted we cant account for injuries / BIL call ups, but I genuinely only think, J Gray, Barclay, Watson, Russell & Taylor are in our strongest XV and I can’t believe I am saying this, but with that backline I think we are crying out for Laidlaw. Can Price / Russell combo marshall that backline against an Aus rush defence with supreme turnover potential???

  4. All good apart from the back three. I like Jones, but can’t see this unit causing too many issues. Reminiscent of a combination from a bygone, and best forgotten, era.

  5. Shock horror. Finn’s been called up to Lions for injured Farrell! Jackson replaces him at fly half!
    ……just kidding….!

    1. If that happened we should call up Ihaia West out the Maori squad (I assume he would still be eligible for Scotland even if he plays for Maori’s?). In fact, it wouldn’t be a stupid move to tap him for Embra next season????

      1. Not 100% certain, but seen it kicking around for a few years. I do think with the success of our U-20’s however, we should be looking at that avenue as a general rule – That said if West and say a Marty McKenzie / Robbie Robinson or even a left field Lachlan Coote wanted to declare for Scotland and move up here we would be totally against it? We don’t have great depth at fly-half or fullback

  6. Struggling with Tonks aswell….

    Front row and wing changes are fine. Not ideal to be missing Visser, but Hughes is a big lump and was probably going to get a game against Fiji. He’ll just need to step up. Might be the making of him.

    Nice big centre combination which I would imagine is in place to deal with Kurindrani and Falau taking balls up the middle. I’m not sure how it will function in attack though.

    1. This set up makes me very nervous. Like others have said, its feels a bit retrograde. Also, “taking balls up the middle”: LOL.

  7. A bit surprised by the squad at first but actually think it is very strong (given the circumstances) and has been set up for an intense last 20 minutes. What a front row to bring on at 60minutes! Think Lee Jones will have a cracker tomorrow and hopefully Tonks will be solid …. Taylor / Dunbar will be powerful and difficult to breakdown. Should be a great match.

    1. Not clear where our spark comes from once the ball moves beyond Russell. Think our centres are both good but not necessarily the guys toile something out of nothing and we don’t have any prolific try scoters in the back three. The now I think about this selection the more I think we’re headed towards a convincing defeat. Not so much because our players Re untested but because it is out squad stripped of our game breakers. A lot of pressure on Russell and Price.

      1. It looks like we will be seeing trys through the forwards , expect some set piece, line out plays.

        Hope for a rainy slippery day.

      2. Just checked , Forecast is rain on saturday there, back line have been picked to be solid in defense and play a territory game, expecting some quick play through the forwards and some moves their with the pack picked, And a power pack to come on from the bench to try take it towards the end,
        just cover for all positions in the backs.

        So expect scotland to keep the ball in tight , keep australia shut down outwide, and keep the scoreline close till the last 25 , then bring on that bench to get penalties and and pentaly tries perhaps .

        Scotland will need to manage territory well in the last 10 of both halfs i see this as the danger zones where aus will be coming hard.

  8. This is a bizarre team. Struggle to see the rationale – other than, let’s see how our younger pack and Lee Jones gets on??

    Maybe it’s a genius move. He knows the likes of Hughes, Jones, Tonks might be up for it enough to mix it for the first half. But then come 50th minute brings on the likes of: Scott, Jackson, Strauss, Nell. After all recent matches have been lost in the few minutes. So if we lose, it’s with third / fourth string players in the starting line up; if we win then it’s boosted the confidence of squad players. But really what’s the point if the Aussies put us away by 20 / 30 points and Russell, Price, Gray are on the receiving end!

    Hopefully there’s gamesmanship in this selection – last minute appearances for Hardie, Visser and Hoyland anyone???

    Of the players allegedly available, would have expected something like the following:
    Jackson; Taylor, Scott, Dunbar, Hoyland; Russell, Price; [Del, Ford, Nel / Reid, Brown, Nel]; Toolis, Gray; Barclay, Watson, Strauss.
    Fagerson and Wilson off the bench.

    Agree with FF, what happens if the ball goes wide, and even if it doesn’t where is the threat that it might? Not sure that a quick narrow game works so well!

  9. I fancy our forwards will besttheirs, but I think their backs have the edge. Anyway, the game’s not played on paper and all that. If we’re close when the subs come on, particularly try machine Ford, it could be a good day.

  10. Tonks at FB… Yikes!..not international class at all…. Thats like a 3rd choice back 3. Lee Jones deserves a shot… has been very good 2nd half of season.

    Lightweight No 8 yet again….

    Went from thinking a tight match to a 15pt+ loss..

  11. Tonks is solid enough, without Hogg, Seymour, Maitland, Bennett, Jones & still the fact is we still only having 2 pro teams the teams is no bad.

    If we are within 7-10 points @ 55 mins we are in with a fair chance as we have a very strong bench.

    1. We’ve got an ok bench, but it’s the back three that looks like an A team and there’s no proper strike runner – just Scott, Jackson. Where’s Hoyland?

      1. Yeah concerns me that there is no real pace in the backs…and no real game winners on the bench… however front 3 we are looking strong again. Lock will be an interesting combo… Id have started Strauss and benched Wilson who can play 6,7,8 and included Hoyland on bench at least.

  12. Interesting team. Forwards look good although I wonder if we will look a bit underweight in the backrow. Although I am looking forward to seeing how Watson gets on against Hooper.

    Backs… I hope Tonks performs like he did at full back in the game against SA (his first cap?) when he looked good and not like the player who looked ruined by Edinburgh. Surprised to see the centres that way round but happy to accept Toonie knows what he’s doing!

    Good luck to the team!

    Anyone know if the game is on tv?

  13. I think this will be a bit of a spanking for us. Can’t help but feel Toony has fielded this team to take the pressure of him actually try’s no to win with so many absentees. Tonks. Jeez.

  14. Haha good to see he remembered to take the tombola along the m8 with him! No complaints about the forwards, Zander did us proud in the 6N and I don’t see any value in beasting Nel.

    Backs are a bit more random, I’m sure Visser would have been in but I believe he’s picked up an injury. I didn’t see the Italy game but from what I’ve read Taylor had a decent game there so not sure why Tonks has come in. Jones fully deserves it after his late season form at Glasgow.

  15. Tonks is in due to 1st choice – Hogg, 2nd choice – Maitland, 3rd choice – Seymour are out, Taylor is a centre (being played @ centre on Saturday)

  16. Must admit to being a bit surprised by the backs selection. However, in support of Toonie he’s been working with these players and may well have seen something in training that we haven’t. He’s a pretty decent backs coach after all. Tonks has been going well for London Irish and they’ve just been promoted back to the Premiership so maybe he’s upped his game. Injuries, U20s and Lions aside I’m not sure anyone else has a stronger claim.

  17. Townsend kept the Glasgow squad changing and well, why not ! It would be good to see Dunbar coming alive this week. This time last year we would be talking up Mark Bennett and Huw Jones was barely known to us. Both injured and no shortage of class stepping up to cover.

  18. That’s a pretty decent starting pack bolstered by the bench of my dreams contrasted with where we were a few years ago. Like others, I’m a bit concerned by the back three choices – but Jones definitely deserves a shot on recent form, and Hughes could create all sorts of problems for the Wallaby defence. Tonk’s is the biggest question mark for me – hope he has a good game. A Taylor/Dunbar combination could be potent. Duncan is much more creative than a crash bang wallop merchant, and if Alex can get anywhere near his peak of a couple of seasons ago he will unsettle Aus too.
    All in all I feel more optimistic about this than some fellow fans. Especially as the Wallabies are rebuilding and, from the brief accounts I read of their Fiji match, are by no means where they want to be yet.
    Sticking my neck right out there, I think with the starting pack and forwards on the bench we could well school them up front.

    1. Taylor could be good at 12 – runs very good lines, solid in defence and a physicals presence. Although Dunbar has played plenty at 13 he lacks a bit of pace and an outside break and neither Dunbar nor Taylor are really excellent distributors. Still, I doubt we’ll see this combo outside a June tour setting and they could surprise us as they are both quality players.

  19. Tough for Toonie – he needs to keep winning, but he needs to give people starts. I like Hughes and good to see him get a go –
    likewise Jones. Difficult game, and I wouldn’t judge them fully on this. Good to see Taylor back at centre – our best centre imo and but for injuries he’d be in NZ and chasing a test spot.
    Like others I’m mildly stunned at Tonks starting – don’t see the value in that at all. Be delighted if he comes good.

    But I may have to start my viewing from behind the couch. . . .

  20. Jones does deserve a chance given his form, and I guess Hoyland has indeed lost out on combined size. However, I think I would be happier with Damien in as he has a spark and is a prolific scorer. Tonks can probably do a solid/unspectacular shift covering the defensive and clearing duties, but in there with Hughes leaves me feeling fairly flat. I hope either or both make me eat my words on Saturday. I’m intrigued to see how Toony plans to make this play out. If any one of Hogg, Seymour or Visser were in, the outlook would have an entirely different complexion, but we’re lacking a pacy finisher. Is there enough sting in the half backs/ midfield and a fairly dynamic pack to compensate for a makeshift back three?

  21. Like most others, bit puzzled by choice of Tonks at FB, especially as Jackson has covered there more recently in an international. However, if things don’t work, haul Tonks off, bring on Scott with Taylor moving to FB & not too dissimilar feel to last weekend in the backs, with one lighter wing. Virtually have three “7”s starting but again, bring on Strauss for Wilson & that then looks a really good back-row, no disrespect to Wilson. Could it be that while most thought Aus was the big game, Toonie perceived getting off to a winning start in his first game in charge was more important?

  22. Mind when everyone was moaning about Vissers selection in the Welsh game? He came good after being dropped. Tonks isn’t Hoggy, he isn’t going to set the world on fire but give the lad a chance he’s gone well for Irish and apparently they rate him highly. Maybe a move from Edinburgh was just what he needed.

  23. Given the rumblings this morning from the Lions camp that Gatland wants to bring in an additional half dozen players for the midweek games, I wonder if that has had any influence on Tonnies selection? Could Nel, Strauss, Ford all be benched to protect them for a Lions call up?

    Mind you, if that were the case then I would have thought Finn would be part of that group as 10 seems to be causing no end of problems for the Lions through form and injury.

  24. If that was the case I would’ve expected Tonks to be preserved too with Hogg out leaving them short of cutting edge at full back but he’s starting for us tomorrow.
    Can’t see it myself, why would the Lions be after a 4th hooker and prop.

  25. Never thought I’d see ‘Tonks’ and ‘cutting edge’ in the same sentence. ;-)

    Lions ball carriers look jaded and off the pace – really badly missing Big Billy V. I could certainly see an argument for Struass coming in – even if just to give Stander a rest and see if he can get himself up for the tests. Agree re prop and hooker, unless there are some injuries we don’t know about.

    As I said above, I would guess that the most likely call up would be Finn, assuming he comes through Saturday in one piece….this would give Horne a full game at 10 against Fiji and perhaps create an opportunity for Grigg to come onto the bench.

    Will be up at 6am supporting the boys….only silver lining of Hogg’s departure is that I can then happily go back to bed at 8

  26. Tonks is very solid under the high ball and a solid defender, so I’m not that upset he is playing. He’s not Hogg but the danger men in this team are Russell and Taylor. If they open up the defences then Tonks counter attacking ability will not be key, his support lines will be.

  27. Jones and Tonks are going to be under huge pressure. I expect get high balls all day and kick passes to Folau – who will barely have to jump. If they can hold steady and our centres have better showing this week I will be happy.

  28. I kind of dont want gatland to pick players from us , i mean it’s definitely going to be for the midweek team now , id tell gatland to keep being biased and pick more welsh and englishmen and stay the hell away from our squad which is still learning gregors new ways.

    1. On the other hand, 2 weeks experience of the cauldron of NZ would stand our lads in good experience for 4 years time… personally I’d love to see Barclay go because I think he deserves it although back row is one area they aren’t massively struggling.

  29. There are only 2 midweek games left for the Lions, and having lost 2 already they’re just not that critical. Tomorrow for impetus, and then the three tests are the only games that now count. It’s not as if they can’t field a team at all.
    Read in the paper today that the Lions have adopted a protocol of a maximum of six games per player. That may have looked good three months before departure, but Sexton is playing his fourth tomorrow with three tests to come . . . Silly to tie yourself down with rules that will simply have to be broken.

  30. Given that one game is Tuesday next, it’s hard to see anyone called up being ready for that, so in reality only one game. Can’t see the point.

  31. I’m trying to see the positions Gatland may need cover for. He’d need another 10, another lock (perhaps 2), a loose forward, and probably another utility back/centre. He may also be in need of an extra front row forward

    Potentially we may lose any one or more of Russell, Barclay, Brown, Gray, Watson, and Taylor.

    My initial reaction to Gatland adding these extra numbers was that I thought he had a brass neck, and if the aforementioned players weren’t good enough when he named the squad, why would they go over now to warm the dirttracker bench for a couple of games? But at the end of the day, even if a player gets 10 minutes against the Chiefs of Hurricanes they can still look back and say “I played for the Lions”, plus there’s an outside chance of playing like a boss and getting into the Test 23.

    So, here’s hoping some more of our boys get a chance to pull on the red jersey.

    1. I agree with you there, Frazer. Keeps us on the moral high ground and does give some of our lads who were shamefully overlooked a chance to put the Lions shirt on and even get a Test place.
      On another, much earlier thread, I’m sure I read that the spoils of a Lions tour are distributed equally among the four Unions regardless of how many or how few from the home Unions actually represent the Lions. If that’s true, maybe there’s a formal obligation on all four Unions never to refuse a Lions call-up of a fit and available player?

  32. Might sound abit bizzare but i can see russell going to 15 in attack and tonks at 10 when we are close to their line, sure i heard somewhere that he was training their abit and he can provide that spark from anywhere , with taylor , hughes and dunbar hitting strikes lines of tonks/finn also . can just see fin in the 15s position in attack and setting up chips for the wing also.

  33. So here’s hoping: (1) the forwards school an undercooked Australian pack, (2) off that platform, Price, Russell, Taylor and Dunbar dance through the Aussie defensive line at will, (3) Scotland’s rush defence forces handling error after handling error, resulting in three turnover tries, (4) Hughes & Tonks each catch one wayward cross-kick meant for Folau, but are otherwise completely uninvolved, (5) following a resounding away victory Mick Byrne calls Scotland “the All Blacks of the NH”, Russell, Gray, Watson, Nel and Strauss are immediately drafted into the Lions squad, meanwhile the Aussie media claim to have missed the game as they were all watching the AFC, (6) Sexton breaks both legs against the Maoris, putting him out of the rest of the tour, and the 2019 world cup, as the lions lose heavily again, (7) mid-week Steve Hansen refers to “Warrenball” three times, noting that Gatland still has only his arms up his sleeves, (8) Barclay’s latest column for the BBC is surprisingly gracious: “I might not have made it to NZ, but me and joker have found a lovely coffee shop on beach in Fiji”, (9) Biggar, AWJ and George North start the first test, but are on the receiving end of the largest ever Lions defeat, wiping tears from his eyes and downing another glass of Malbec, Eddie Jones states “the Lions are dead as a concept forever, fact”, (10) Rob Howley excuses himself from the tour due unspecified personal problems…, (11) Steve Hansen mentions “Warrenball” seven times in the run up to the second test, noting that Gatland still only has his arms up his sleeves, (12) under unprecedented pressure from Austin Healey, Will Greenwood and Gabby Logan, Gatland reverses his decision to play Rhys Webb at fly-half and Russell starts the second test (both Ian McGeechan and Gavin Hastings say Ford is better), (13) complex instructions to just get the ball to Davies are getting the better of Finn, but like Sam from Quantum Leap Greig appears at his side “forget that Gatland sh*te, go out there and pretend it’s Milbrae”, (14) unruffled by the Haka, Finn responds with a mean shuffle like he’s at a psytrance rave, before orchestrating a composed victory, sealed by a Toonie flip at the death to Seymour on the inside, and (15) The NZ fans still can’t name a single Lions player, but that bloke who used to cycle to Lincoln University has come on alright.

  34. Gatland’s call ups are an absolute joke. Dacey, Hill…. Gatland continues to make a mockery of the Lions.

    On more important issues, great result for Scotland!

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