Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Scotland team to face Fiji

Ross Ford in Fiji - pic courtesy SRU

Gregor Townsend has named a side balanced with pace and power to face Scotland’s final tour opponents in Suva, Fiji, tomorrow.

Ruaridh Jackson, Nick Grigg and Alex Allan make their first appearances of the tour while Henry Pyrgos, Tim Swinson and Tim Visser return to the starting lineup. Even some distance from our first choice backline, it looks reasonably potent. Pete Horne will control the play from 10 in the absence of Finn Russell, currently keeping some of New Zealand’s finest timber warm.

Plaudits also to Ross Ford who will reach the milestone of 110 caps, making him the most capped male Scottish rugby player of all time (Donna Kennedy has 115). He returns to start in the front row alongside WP Nel and they are joined by Alex Allan.

In the back row there is a nice looking blend of Barclay, Hardie and Strauss with both Watson and Wilson on the bench. Townsend presumably thinks the pace of this game will be more attritional in the pack than the backline, where he only has Price and Tonks as replacements.

Ben Toolis is also rewarded for their hard work so far with a bench spot – the cavalry awaits should they be required.

Fiji: K Murimurivalu; J Tuisova, A Vulivuli, J Vatubua, P Osborne; B Volavola, S Vularika; P Ravai, S Koto, K Tawake, T Cavubati; L Nakarawa, D Waqaniburotu; P Yato, A Qera (capt).
Replacements: T Talemaitoga, J Veitayaki, M Ducivaki, S Nabou, N Dawai, H Seniloli, J Stewart, B Masilevu.

Scotland: R Jackson; D Hoyland, N Grigg, D Taylor, T Visser; P Horne, H Pyrgos; A Allan, R Ford, WP Nel; T Swinson, J Gray; J Barclay (capt), J Hardie, J Strauss.
Replacements: F Brown, G Reid, Z Fagerson, B Toolis, H Watson, R Wilson, A Price, G Tonks.

Coverage will be via: at around 3.30am.

No word yet on whether the stream will be available as a re-run immediately afterwards but you would like to think so given the ungodly hour. Apparently the livestream will be available to watch via WorldRugby’s Facebook page after the game has finished.

In other news, the Lions announced their first test team. It’s a balanced side without too many out of form Welshmen – but still no Scots, who by simple numbers have had little chance to represent. But then you knew that already:

Lions team: L Williams (Wales); A Watson (England), J Davies (Wales), B Te’o (England), E Daly (England); O Farrell (England), C Murray (Ireland); M Vunipola (England), J George (England), T Furlong (Ireland); AW Jones (Wales), G Kruis (England); P O’Mahony (capt, Ireland), S O’Brien (Ireland), T Faletau (Wales).
Replacements: K Owens (Wales), J McGrath (Ireland), K Sinckler (England), M Itoje (England), S Warburton (Wales), R Webb (Wales), J Sexton (Ireland), L Halfpenny (Wales).

49 Responses

  1. I was hearing a rumour that some of the players aren’t enjoying the tour (too many egos) and that the coaching for the backs is utter garbage (who’da thought it…)

    Anyone with any insight into whether this is true or not?

    1. Have just seen the 23 for first Test. Won’t go over all the anger and frustration again about Scots under-representation. All I’ll say is AWJ wouldn’t even merit a place on our bench these days. Nuff said.

      1. Agreed!… Even considering its really the Welsh/English/Irish Lions …Itoje on the bench?? … no J Joseph who was excellent during 6 nations…likewise Launchbury.. etc etc.

        The whole thing has been a PR & selection shambles….Honestly, Id have turned down the 75K in a heartbeat.

        Even if they win … won’t change my opinion one bit.

      2. From the players on tour, it’s not far off the strongest team IMO. Murray, Farrell, Teo, Davies, Daley, Watson with Willams at 15 is very strong. Suggests Hogg could have started, with possibly Daley dropping to the bench. You can see a case for Huw Jones or Duncan Taylor had they been fit at the right time.

        Up front don’t disagree with P O’Mahony as captain especially in light of Glasgow Champions Cup games, their run to the final and the England game. AWJ sticks in the craw, but Itoje is a decent impact sub. Itoje and Gray would have been ideal! Other than that Watson could have played himself into the team and a fit Nel would be starting.

        The next tour is hopefully Russell’s, so at least he’s out there, getting a feel for things having demolished Australia.

        All that said would quite like to see them thrashed! :)

      3. Actually agree, I think either of those two centres would have been challenging for a test spot had they made the initial selection. JD2 has done okay, but as with the wings it is more a case of who turned up rather than who is on fire.

      4. The thing is, there were other players who weren’t fit at the right time or were just coming back to fitness who were selected, so that justification doesn’t really work…

      5. Teamcam -agreed and it’s the same with every other selection criteria Gatland has quoted in the build up to initial selection. Scots lost out every time whereas exceptions made for others.
        Can’t get excited about a party you’re not invited to but the lack of an invitation still burns. No respect. The lack of it means our loyalty isn’t earned. Quite the reverse!!

      6. Hand on heart, I cant say I’m surprised that with a relatively inexperienced front row (it is George’s first test start, he hasn’t even started for England yet!) that Gatland wants some experience in the tight 5. I don’t think there is any coach in world rugby who would pick a pack without a mix of experience, dog and athletecism. AWJ is certainly not the best player (Itoje and Lawes are better on tour, Launchberry and Gray off it) but I do think you need to have a balance. The pressure will be unbelievable for the first test – I wouldn’t be surprised to see Itoje starting the second and third tests.

        This is also why O’Mahony is such a good pick. Athletically not the best, not massive but a real warrior and leader who stands up in pressure games.

        I agree with Rocket below. Gatland has been brave with his back three, and I think Hogg would have started. I also agree that had Duncan Taylor been fit earlier, he could have made it for Teo.

      7. I agree that Super Dunc could have started in that team (almost tempted to say he’d stroll in). I said when the squad was announced that the Lions have a weakness in the centres and I really think with a Taylor and a Huw Jones in there we could have seen a potential test partnership at some stage, but unfortunately both injured and had no chance of touring.

        Davies and Teo have been the best centres on tour but both are uninspiring. I really like the back three combination and was wrong in my comment that North would be selected. A bit of credit (grudgingly) for Gatland there; he’s still well in debt though…..Seymour could easily have been in there with a couple of better performances.

      8. I think that Gatland has shown again that he is willing to make big calls and that the nepotism is generally overstated. Only one really debatable call given the squad he has and that is AWJ. Point is made that the front five lack experience and he brings that. McGeechan said last night on 5 Live before the announcement that sometimes you have to go with your gut on a player not on the analysis. I am hoping for a Lions win but enthusiasm would be much higher if we had someone on the pitch.

      9. As far as the starting 15 for the Lions test selection goes, for once I would more or less agree with Gatland. I wouldn’t have AWJ in though. Unfortunately Tommy did not do himself justice with the opportunities he has had. He’s simply not played with the confidence and ability that we are used to. Watson and Elliot have been the stand out back three players for me. The thing that grates is that more Scots weren’t given the chance. Marginal, or under-performing Welsh players have been given their chances and the valuable experience of touring NZ instead. Also, as FF highlighted in another post, there is the financial benefit too. Cynical.
        Will watch the game, but am much more interested in Scotland vs Fiji.

  2. I love the lions concept and the history, but but it has been over 12 years since we had representation. I am tired of our team at being at best patronised or at worst mocked. Some because of our incompetence, hopefully the wheel will turn and we can feel part of it again soon.

    1. I’m with you – it’s difficult to get up for a match where you’re not represented. One of my English friends asked which Scot of the current squad would I have picked. Typically obtuse question. Obviously Hogg is out and Seymour and Laidlaw have hardly played their best. The point is that Jonny Gray, Hamish Watson and Finn Russell would not look out of place in that 23, but they weren’t even taken on tour and given the chance.
      I answered that he probably wouldn’t even get out of bed to watch the game if there was no English representation.

      1. Exactly, or the other variation, which is “which Scots players were significantly better?”. POM is a great player, but is he better than JB? Is KOwens better than Brown? Is AWJ better than either Gray? Is Watson or Williams better than Visser (TS hasn’t been great…)? Is Warbs better than Watson… and so on. Almost all those posing the questions and insisting that Scots get over it have no experience of being this underrepresented, whereas it’s the only experience of the Lions I have.

      2. Agree, I thought johnny gray was so unlucky. (I thought he was partly a victim of the injuries to the other Glasgow locks and he was overplayed. I thought by the end of the six nations, he looked that he needed a break.) Geech has stated that a Lions tour only works when each player feels they get a chance to stake a place. The cause of the injustice people are feeling is that not any of our players were given that chance

  3. Toonie has taken a much more developmental and depth building approach than I expected for his first tour. I’m very much hoping for a good intense performance here and an assured win. If that is achieved this will be an excellent start to the Townsend era. If we can win these games in the absence of almost all of our starting backs then things are really looking up. From a tactical perspective I like that Toonie is retaining a lot of strength on the bench, which is giving us something we’ve lacked a bit. Slightly concerned that, Visser and Taylor aside, the backs are a wee bit on the small side. But then I was concerned about the back three last week…

  4. I hope toony leads the lions next time and picks 15-20 scots , 10 irish and english and a (Token) Welsh just to give them a big FU.

  5. Looks like a good side, given where we are in terms of the season.

    I’d like to see Jacko get more game time, maybe come through Edinburgh or give SHC a run a 10?

    I also think that a Lions coach shouldn’t be come from an current coach of a home nations side, due to conflict of interest.

  6. It’s easy to be cynical about the Lions selection, but that is not saying much more than was said when the squad was announced. If I was being extra-cynical, I would say that he’s picked Watson/Daly over North in a rather obvious attempt to show that the nepotism has been dialled down a notch, but on tour performances it was a no-brainer of a decision (although I agree that Seymour just wasn’t given enough chances). It certainly doesn’t overcome the whole Six-Nations-form-is-important line, when so many of the 15 weren’t regulars in that competition, and not because of injury.

    With the exception of FB, our team for Saturday is more or less what I would have expected. I think I’m right that everyone has had a chance to start apart from Turner, Rae and Kennedy, none of whom are capped anyway? It’s a good shuffling of resources, though I would have preferred SuperDunc to revert to FB and been tempted to play Jackson at 10 with Horne at 12. Looking forward to seeing Pinball’s impact off the bench against a tiring opposition :-)

    1. prob wont be to long before watson comes on to be fair , any wager on how long before hardie gets injured ?

    1. Don’t do Twitter, Rory. Not yet anyway. Just to say that despite my anger over under-representation of Scots, I will still through gritted teeth be supporting my local hemisphere.

  7. Now I’m concerned – I actually think this is a sensible, strong team and considering I thought it was a lambs to the slaughter team against Australia, I fear I may be equally wrong about this !

    Couldn’t care less about the Lions, and actually hope no Scot gets any more minutes during the rest of the series.

    A 16 point win against Fiji and we go up to 4th in the World rankings with a genuine shot at 3rd if the Autumn results fall a certain way – Its only through performances / results for Scotland that will turn the tide of opinion on whether they should or should not be touring Lions, not the midweek scraps of this borefest.

  8. The turnaround in squad depth and ball playing skill in the Scotland ranks is a thing to behold. The fact that we can put out a relatively untested untried back line with much of the rest of the matchday squad very inexperienced….. but still be optimistic speaks volumes. Win this and its a great start to the Toonie era.

    Really looking forward to seeing what Grigg can bring to the party. Also like the look of that backrow as well. Hardie vs the Fijians……immovable object vs unstoppable force anyone ?!

    Lions…who really gives a f**k anymore ?

    1. Totally agree Greengumbo…

      And I really think a great deal of credit must be given to the SRU and the various tiers of Scottish rugby… I can’t proclaim to know a great deal about the structure or indeed the personnel but the turnaround is quite remarkable: finalist in the last two 7s events, under 20s only undone by NZ and the senior team riding on the crest of a wave… and with proven coaches like Rennie and Cockers at Glasgow and Edinburgh surely they are both set for a good season…

      Dodson made some bold claims early in his tenure and i’m sure we all scoffed by my goodness he’s getting us there…

      And if we say the ultimate measure of a nations rugby is the quality of its match day squad then the following team for 6N 2018 is a ringing endorsement:

      Hogg, Visser, Jones, Taylor, Seymour, Russell, Price, Sutherland, Ford, Nel, Gray, Toolis, Barclay, Watson, Strauss

      Dell, Brown, Fagurson, Gray, Wilson, Laidlaw, Dunbar, Maitland

      And players like Bennett, Scott, Hardie and Swinson in the squad…

  9. Excellent forwards mean we will be much to good for them in the scrum / line-out, play the % game, scrums, kick for territory should see us with a handy lead before the “finishers” seal the deal.

    Defo the strongest Scotland I’ve ever seen & ( and I’m quite old)

  10. just want to add the comment that not only do we have a strong squad, depth across different teams and that we are attracting really top coaches – the way the team is playing is just magical. I love our ambition, handling skills, aggression, where we attack the space and the width. It is a joy to watch and it is being recognised. The Australian commentators on Saturday were very complimentary about our ambition and skills. With Toonie is charge, these are great times!

    1. I think that the most compelling part of this is that we’ve got a 70% win rate this year against tier one opponents, and have scored 22 tries in the process, and would could reasonably aim to end the year better than that.

      1. Team Cam, I enjoyed your riposte on Guardian online to the repeated and complacent non-Scots fans’ jibes of, ‘ Well, which Scots players deserved a place on tour then?’ Last I looked, no-one responded to you. Says it all really.

      2. Wow, I didn’t realise that. Looking back into the dark and no so distant past I’m pretty sure we didn’t score 22 tries the entire time Frank Hadden was coach!

        In response to JohnMc, only winning will improve the chances of guys going on Lions tours. Yes we have had a successful 18months but the other guys have had years of (albeit patchy) success. People like AWJ are (rightly) being ridiculed but he is a player with experience of winning, Jonny Gray for example is not. Until we are a team of winners there will always be the attitude that the Scotsman needs to be head and shoulders above the rest to warrant picking, historically we haven’t even had outstanding players. What I am trying to say is that the majority of the Scotland team aren’t any worse players than other nations (certainly compared to some of the journeymen that have been picked) but that logic doesn’t apply, it only applies to the other nations. Breeding a team of winners will change that. Our recent success was too recent for this tour but if we keep it up then we should be represented on the next one, if we aren’t then we will be fully entitled to our rage.

      3. Indeed, JohnMc. It’s sad that the majority of rugby fans on the page appear to base their opinions on outdated stereotypes or one 6N performance, and have very little knowledge of our players beyond Hogg and Gray. Ah, well, they’ll learn soon enough.

      4. It is interesting that Fatland acknowledges that Scotland are a team, possibly defined as being greater than the sum of the component parts. So where does that leave him tomorrow, if the Lions go down? A coach who is incapable of forming a TEAM from a pool of supposedly superior players?

  11. Very impressed with the squad for Saturday. I think Townsend has done a good job of managing the resources available to him, and exposing uncapped players to life with the national squad in a tour environment.

    Congratulations to Ross Ford on his 110th cap, and also Nick Grigg on his 1st. I hope that they both enjoy the occasion.

    I’m also very impressed with the bench for Saturday. Rugby at the top level is a 23 man game now, and we have suffered for a lack of depth in the past, but it seems those days are behind us. Go hard boys, and go well – let’s keep the Toonie era on 100% wins please!

    1. Yes, the bench for tomorrow and last week’s bench are just so unlike the bench selections we’ve cringed at in recent years, when we were so devoid of depth and strength. Fiji at home are absolutely no mugs, but I’m hoping our starting side and bench firepower will enable the likes of Grigg on his first cap – congrats – to strut their stuff. Mone, Scotland!

  12. Thanks for the heads up re the “as live” stream on the WR site. Simply not possible for me to watch at 03:30 !

    1. Can you share this? In other words, how can I do the equivalent of Sky+ing the coverage which I understand will be live on

  13. There is only 2 teams I follow, Cymru and Cymru reserves :). When you come to Caerdydd next year the score will be settled.

    Gats rightly ( I say) believes Cymru have skills and experience and has backed the depth he has in Cymru.

    You should not be concerned about the lions, you have a game against Fiji to get through and Gatland has acquired your jester playmaker and mobile loosehead. This will test your depth so good luck lads, however no more about the Cymru selections if you do not mind. Cymru will come through. The Lions tour will fail because of the dysfunctional inclusion of Ireland and English players, few of whom merit their places (POM excepted).

    AWJ is head and shoulders above the others tactically and O’Brien is not in the same class as Warburton . Gats has made a mistake, he should have Tuperic on the bench SOB should be in the stand with your lads.

    1. Your tongue is so far in your cheek you’re in danger of dislocating your jaw!

      Tipuric hasn’t set the heather alight on tour.

      Hope Gats and the Wales players avoid the nonsense of 2005, but I hae me doobts…

  14. As a lifelong ardent Scotland fan I was both disappointed with the lack of Scottish selection in the Lions, yet chuffed to bits with the result over Australia. I live in Australia and it was good to hear most Aussies suggest that although they didn’t play well, they felt we deserved it and have got a good team that play well for each other. I would love to see Finn Russell get a chance against the Hurricanes in the mid week game and do something outrageous. How can he be the number 5 best player in the six nations yet Dan Biggar be selected above him ?…….Oh yet Finns not welsh. I love the welsh but you start to feel bitter against them because of Gatlands favouritism for them. Bring on the Lions tour to South Africa 2021.

  15. I have nothing against the Welsh but I have nothing but contempt for Gatland, his coaches and his selections. Despite the media overhype, the win over the chiefs 2nds really doesn’t mean much. I have feeling Lions will get put to the sword at Eden park. I reckon it’ll be a car crash and I’m glad our boys are no where near it and the media backlash.

    On a more positive note really pleased with Scotland under Townsend. Seems to be carrying on his uncanny ability to get the best out of his players (even those not at Glasgow) and can’t wait for the game tonight. Hopefully Hardie will last the full 80.

  16. Article in the telegraph doing a position by position analysis….now, whilst I clearly look on much in the rugby world through blue tinted glasses, I still like to think that I can give credit where it’s due and have a reasonably hoest and balanced view of who the best players are in their positions in World Rugby today….but some of the comparison comments and scores in this article are laughable. A few gems are…

    Jonathan Davies “a formidable centre and excellent defender”….I guess all those missed tackles, botched overlaps and panicked clearance kicks were indeed formidable, from a certain perspective.
    Connor Murray “finest scrum half in the world”….Warrior Nation can’t argue with this one….just don’t target his standing leg.
    Mako Vunipola “finest loosehead in the world”………simply speechless!
    Jamie George “carrying and set piece ability has set him apart”…..these guys must be watching different games to me.

    1. Who would you say is the finest loosehead in the world? I’d actually say Vunipola’s up there now that his scrummaging has improved

  17. Best loosehead in my opinion is quite likely Ryan Grant, he just needs to rediscover his best form which unfortunately has long illuded him.

    Other than him? Probably Mikheil Nariashvili.

  18. I’ve tried to encapsulate how I feel about the Lions in the medium of song. I worry that we’re in danger of becoming apathetic about the Lions due having been disenfranchised for so long. It was easier when we were poor, but to have a good side ignored has me in danger of thinking “what’s the point?” Every time Lions time comes around.

    Imagine Kate Nash singing rather than a fat beardy bloke…

    [The Lions’] Foundations

    (Being a Scottish Lions fan & with apologies to Kate Nash)

    It’s Lions Squad time,
    And we’re feeling right,
    Except you’ve got that look in your eyes
    Like you think you’ll be ignoring
    The Scottish free scoring
    You’re thinking they can’t win away
    You make up rules, then exempt some
    And humiliate us in front of our peers

    Then you use that voice that we find annoying
    And say “no Scottish input, darlings,
    “So we’re just not picking you then”
    So we’ll moan and bitch
    And the everyone still in
    Should be embarrassed but they. don’t. give. a. shit.

    Our fingertips are holding onto
    The cracks in the Lions foundations
    And we know that we should let go but we can’t
    Each time Howley spouts shite,
    We know it’s not right,
    Every time we’re upset Steve Jones smiles
    We know we should forget but we can’t

    You said we must play so many lemons,
    ‘Cos we are so bitter,
    We say why you picked so much Welsh mate…
    ….our players are much…fitter
    Yes Wales are big lumps
    & can play aggressive
    But you must admit they were more than a bit shit
    Our Back row were skilled and duffed yours up

    Our fingertips are holding onto
    The cracks in the Lions foundations
    And we know that we should let go but we can’t
    Each time Howley spouts shite,
    We know it’s not right,
    Every time we’re upset Steve Jones smiles
    We know we should forget but we can’t

    You might just get wasted
    Because your selections were too hasty…what a surprise
    Wasn’t a fair race
    And it’s making us sick

    You’ve gone and ignored Johnny Gray, now
    Finn only got there yesterday
    Omigosh, we just can’t be bothered with this

    We’ll watch you gubbed by the All Blacks
    And we purposefully won’t turn our smiles off
    And think “dear God, we hope we you don’t coach the next one”

    Our fingertips are holding onto
    The cracks in the Lions foundations
    And we know that we should let go but we can’t
    Each time Howley spouts shite,
    We know it’s not right,
    Every time we’re upset Steve Jones smiles
    We know we should forget but we can’t

    (PS: am available for Jingles lyrics gents;-)

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