Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Three Scots in Lions Opener

Lions crest

Almost all of the initial British and Irish Lions training group are set to start the tour’s opening match against the Provincial Barbarians on Saturday.

Of the group that assembled the earliest, only Jared Payne misses out and he’s on the bench while all three Scottish Lions will start the game.

Greig Laidlaw, despite being a late call-up to the squad, is the least injured of the scrum-halves available and starts in a side that also features international captains Rory Best, Alun Wyn Jones and tour captain Sam Warburton; plenty of leaders. Jonny Sexton makes an unconventional half back partnership complete and it will be interesting to see the approach used.

Jonny Sexton makes an unconventional half back partnership complete and it will be interesting to see the approach used between the pair of them. You never know, Greig might actually take to Warrenball like the proverbial duck…

Tommy Seymour and Stuart Hogg both feature in a back division alongside Jonathan Joseph and Anthony Watson with club pairings to the fore. Presumably Warren Gatland is hoping these will mitigate against lack of preparation time.

Owen Farrell will provide cover from the bench along with Saracens’ Jamie George and the surviving Vunipola.

The opposition in the shape of the Provincial Barbarians, consists largely of players from the level below Super Rugby including Gatland’s son Bryn who starts at first 5/8 (standoff to those north of the border).

The match takes place at the Toll Stadium, Whangerei and will kick off at 8.35am BST on Saturday – on Sky.

Team: Stuart Hogg, Anthony Watson, Jonathan Joseph, Ben Te’o, Tommy Seymour, Jonathan Sexton, Greig Laidlaw; Joe Marler, Rory Best, Kyle Sinckler, Alun-Wyn Jones, Ian Henderson, Ross Moriarty, Sam Warburton, Talupe Faletau.

Replacements: Jamie George, Mako Vunipola, Tadgh Furlong, George Kruis, Justin Tipuric, Rhys Webb, Owen Farrell, Jared Payne.

65 Responses

    1. You’re more than entitled to your own feelings on the Lions, Nicholas, but having let them be known, do you think you could be gracious enough to allow those of us who are interested in the Lions to enjoy it, as many of us will?

      I’m confused why you think a team with three Scots in it this weekend is irrelevant to Scottish rugby, regardless of whether any of us think there ought to be more.

      1. Andrew, I wouldn’t go as far as to say it’s irrelevant, rather dis-interesting. By all means continue to support a squad set up that has minimal appreciation of Scottish rugby players. Mark my words – not one Scottish player will start in either three test matches, not even Hogg.

        Don, its sad and silly to support a BIL coaching set up who fielded 0.33% Scottish players in the 2013 tour (test matches). Or take a quarter the number or Scots as Welsh when we’re 3 places higher in WR and beat them convincingly in our last meeting.

        I’d just rather we talked about what’s going on in Scottish rugby like junior level, Scotland tour, Edinburgh and Glasgow, premiership, etc.

        You can accept the Lions for what it is and go either two ways. Get behind them, and let the coaching set up continue to unfairly ignore Scottish players – by all means enjoy yourselves. Or disregard them and take more interest in matters that really effect Scottish rugby. I choose the latter and I’d urge as many Scottish rugby fans as possible to stand up to this as its wrong and needs to change. Otherwise we’re just going to get the same cr4p tour after tour and the Lions legacy will be trully dead and buried in Scotland. It’s already dying in fact.

  1. All 3 scots to start in the first match for the Lions. Looks a strong side but then again any mixture will look good – the squad is quality throughout despite those left out.
    Starting XV v NZ Provincial Barbarians:
    Marler, Best, Sinckler; AWJ, Henderson; Moriarty, Warburton (c), Faletau; Laidlaw, Sexton; Seymour, Te’o, Joseph, Watson; Hogg.
    Mouthwatering prospect and I for one will be cheering them (all) on. If Nicholas and others want to keep their chips on their shoulders then let them.

  2. Hiding to nothing – win and it’s against the weakest team the Lions play so no credit. Lose, and there will be a number of people ( including 3 Scots ) who will go straight to the back of the test queue.
    My suspicions about Gatland are only compounded by the article in today’s Times which reveals Dr James Robson found out Gatland didn’t want him on this tour via the press. Not the slightest respect or courtesy shown to a real Lions legend.

    1. It’s simples.

      1. Hoggy misses a cover tackle.
      2. Seymour drops a high ball.
      3. Laidlaw misses a conversation.

      Gatland I gave them a chance to step up, but…..

      Regarding Dr James Robson finding out via the press, just when I thought I could not hate Gatland any more.

      1. Couldnt agree more. The first lions match is usually a bit disjointed, even though i still expect a big win, so that will be the excuse for no scots in the tests.

        Hope those following the lions enjoy the tests, but i cant see past the under representation of scots (gray.j, watson, russell and fagerson at a push). Shame as had been looking forward to it.

    2. If the Lions lose this one they may as well get on the next plane home. Totally agree with your thoughts about Fatlands treatment of Dr. Robson.

    3. Read that too in The Times this morning and was shocked to learn how the omission of the good doctor had been handled.
      Hoping for good performances from our three lads this weekend.

  3. Who will kick I wonder? I think Laidlaw has the better stats but Sexton is more likely to start the tests?

  4. Perhaps the best response is to not follow the tour. Harsh on the Scotland 3 but they will understand.

    I don’t see the point of moaning and then following it, sort of gives Gatland the upper hand. He can do us down and we come back for more !!

    Raise yer kilts in disgust.

    So at least one Scot will not be watching.

    1. I will be watching the games where at least 1 scot is starting , if their are games with them as replacements or not at all i wont be watching as i doubt i will feel a connection.

    2. Not watching it myself , time and time again Fatland has shown no respect for the Scottish players. Ryan Grant warming the bench for 80 minutes in the second test in 2013 when Mako Vunipola, I think, was being taken to school was the begging of the end of The Lion’s for me.

      I will however happily admit to watching uTube highlights of the sans lube prison style treatment that the All Blacks are going to give playing Warrenball against them.

      I just hope that neither Hoggy or Seymour come back with the attitude that Hoggy had after the last tour and Toonie, quite rightly, put him in his place.

  5. The apathy at best and resentment at worst felt by many Scots towards the B&I Lions is understandable, but if we’re honest with ourselves as Scotland Rugby supporters, this is probably the first Lions tour since the early 90’s when we’ve perhaps had a case for a slightly better representation in the squad, but personally, I don’t think our international players are yet performing consistently at a high enough standard to feel truly aggrieved. Give it 4 years, and if we’re continuing to improve, if we’ve been able to climb out of mid table mediocrity in the 6 nations, and if we’ve seen some success against the likes of NZ, Aus, SA, Eng etc, and if we can get some Scottish representation on the coaching staff then I would hope that we see a move towards parity with the other nations.

    But we all know that at the heart of Lions selection is the need for horses for courses, or more specifically horses for coaches – if BVC had been offered and accepted the Lions top job, no doubt we would have seen a few more Scots, because when things get sticky, all coaches have their ‘go to’ men, guys they know they can trust to do a job when the pressure is on… it or not, Garlands ‘go to’ men are predominantly Welsh – and based on past performance, you can’t really argue with that.

    Randomly, my Dad bumped into Hoggy and Tommy at Cardiff airport a couple of weeks back. They were on the way back from their first training camp and were absolutely buzzing. How do you think these guys would feel knowing that despite them busting a gut for club and country and rising against the odds to be selected for the Lions, Scottish supporters back home are more interested in whinging about how unfair or how irrelevant it all is, whilst they lay their bodies on the line against some of the best rugby players in the World….try telling them that the Lions are irrelevant.

    As a Scotland supporter, you might not feel you owe anything to the Lions, but surely the boys that have made it deserve our support.

    1. It’s interesting that VC only selected WP Nel for the Baabaas. I thought perhaps he’d name a few more Scots.

    2. Some really good points well made.
      I will watch with interest and a touch of worry… the Scots wont be fall guys.. all are way too good for that. I hope all goes well on tour and am quietly confident that any ‘attitude’ on return from successful tour will be Toonie

    3. I don’t get this response and I have to say usually find affinity with Andy’s posts.

      The ‘boys out there’ have loads of support and really won’t be caring if we are watching or not. Players love playing and don’t play for spectator approval or encouragement.

      The only point we agree on is that we should stop whinging and mine is if you feel that badly, do something about it. The only choice you have is watch or abstain, it’s a personal choice, however, stop whinging.

      I think you might just have said to the other scots who never got picked, that despite ‘busting a gut for club and country’,(in the case of Josh Strauss quite literally) they are not good enough.

      That their efforts to beat Wales and Ireland, finishing on the same points as Ireland and above Wales in the table, were not good enough.

      That they are not consistent enough !!!! I agree they are not as consistent as some of the Welsh. I say consistently poor in the case of Halfpenny and Falatau , consistently average in the case of Wyn Jones.

      The Scots anger is not for about those selected but for the unselected.

      1. Spot on response. Summed up my reaction perfectly.

        The consistency point for me is the wrong one. Successful lions teams pick players on form. No one will persuade me every one of those 12 Welshman was on better form than many of our guys.

        I wish our guys selected well but gatland’s lack of respect for Scottish rugby translates into at first anger and now relative indifference. I’ll watch the YouTube highlights.

    4. I don’t think Hogg and Seymour care in reality as they’ll be so focused on BIL.

      If they are hurt by it then maybe that’s not such a bad thing as it might feed through to senior leadership who might feel more entitled to introduce more a more even selection of players.

      Many of us just can’t get behind the current set up, even if three of our boys are out there with them. Sorry.

  6. Quite frankly my interest depends solely upon whether Gatland picks Hogg to start the tests. The point at which he picks Halfpenny and I’m done. I fear tomorrow may be the best we get.

  7. Never mind Halfpenny (whose presence on tour IMHO is a joke), there’s Liam Williams as well!! I know he’s notionally been picked as a winger, but this is Fatland, personally I think Hogg has to play out of his socks on tour to get a start.

    1. Halfpenny has picked up a bit of form towards the end of the season, and although I find him annoying Liam Williams is a very good player , turned in some good performances v New Zealand last year. Hogg is in the driving seat and I hope he has a stormer but the two Welsh lads i’m afraid to say are seasoned campaigners and decent players in their own right.

    2. You are correct and if Hogg could tackle , it would be in his interests to do so. the AB’s will run directly at SH in a test.

      1. Well it was a poor performance from the Lions overall, but a win is a win.

        As far as our boys are concerned I thought Laidlaw played typically solidly, if unspectacular, Seymour played very well – a couple of breaks and a try saving tackle, but Hogg had a pretty poor game – butchering a 2 on 1 and a couple of knock ons, then he was pretty anonymous in the 2nd half. It looks like he, like many of us, might think that Gatland will shoehorn a Welshman into the starting FB position, and I think he was guilty of trying too hard. Still plenty of rugby to be played but I’m mentally preparing to have the 2 time 6N player of the Championship to be benched for the tests, probably in favour of a player who has been injured for most of the past 2 seasons.

        In summary – Laidlaw 6/10, Seymour 7.5/10, Hogg 5.5/10

      2. I think you’re spot on re: Hogg. He tried too hard knowing that he isn’t in the clique. Laidlaw is being slated in the English media. What do you want? He played perfectly well but he played a Greig Laidlaw game. You know what he brings. The Problem was the rest of the side didn’t, especially sexton who killed his test hopes today, fit or not. Hogg will get one more chance to impress and not until the real big boys. He won’t make the test 23, likely thru little fault of his own. My ore tour prediction was the baa baas being our only win and I stand by it. That said these lads landed on Wednesday. The baa baas have been together longer than is being let on I suspect.

  8. Amazing how better coached the nzbarbarians looked who were all fringe super rugby players at best…

    yes their might have been jetlag but they have had longer to prepare than the barbarians.

    a win is a win … but they will need to improve massively to beat any of the super rugby teams , nevermind the allblacks.

    Individually i think Sexton and Hogg had bad games by their own standards Rest were ok , i dont think wyn jones or henderson had much of impact in game.

    1. Good comment on the preparedness and coaching of the baabaas. What has the Lions attack coach been doing since they got together?

      What’s that? The attack coach is Rob Howley! Ah well, never mind then.

      1. I watched the documentary of the last tour and the full final test this week. The guy is a clown. Listening to the selection discussions and watching him scream and jump around like he’s won the lottery when the lions won. It was like a kid. He had no expectation they’d win, they guy inspires high performance and winning like Donald Trump inspires a cool head and considered thought.

    1. Played nothing like Gatlands Wales. Gatlands Wales are structured, tight and one dimensional. These lot were like headless chickens. In the first half I saw Greig barking at Moriarty three times to guard the short side of the ruck and Moriarty looked clueless. A coup,e of abrasive breaks shouldn’t mask that

  9. Only able to watch the first half today. A stodgy performance all round. Thought Faletau was very good. Signs of a return to proper fitness and form and staked an early claim to a Test place.
    As to our lads, Greig looked ok – i.e. no pulling up trees but decent linking and workmanlike – and not out of class in the red shirt. Good to see Tommy constantly looking for work. Hogg a bit mixed – didn’t seem to miss a tackle, butchered a clear score for Watson, but was buzzing about and his threat was clear to the oppo. Sick fed up of numbnuts on BBC Have Your Say already writing Hogg off after this one game. Lions have no chance in the Tests if they don’t have players like Hogg in the mix.
    Have to say, hopefully without too much of a view through navy blue lenses, that despite stability bordering on strength at the scrum, neither Wyn Jones nor Henderson impressed me at lock. And Warburton is either not fully fit yet or simply in decline at 7.
    Too soon to declare it definitively, but it did come across as a failing Warrenball strategy today – and failing against second tier pros and good amateurs.
    Despite all the frustration we’ve voiced on this blog about tour party selection, I still in my heart of hearts want the Lions to do well down there. And wrapped inside that, I want to see our three do well too.

  10. I caught the end of the first half and the second half, was streaming it on my phone as I don’t have sky sports and couldn’t see it too well but it looked like a pretty dreadful game. It was like watching Scotland teams of the not too distant past. Clueless, cagey, full of mistakes and bad calls topped with very bad handling skills.

    Greig had a solid game if unspectacular, as we well know that’s kind of what he does. Webb defiantly injected more pace when he came on. Seymour was ok too, reflective of his recent form, not setting the heather on fire but by no means bad. I gather Hogg had a couple of howlers in the first half, for what I saw (or rather didn’t) was him being completely anonymous. I genuinely didn’t see him until well after 60mins.

    With my tartan cap on the saving grace for us was some of the other stars were also pretty poor. Falatau was decent, the second row pair were not, Farrell looked much better than Sexton when he came on.

    1. That’s a pretty fair summary, though I don’t think Webb was noticeably better than Laidlaw – in both cases, the line wasn’t set most of the time. There were a lot of crappy performances from the Lions. Faletau and Gatland were the best players on the park by far.

  11. For me, what that Lions team needed was Hamish Watson coming on and playing with his trademark chaotic energy. I definitely think he will be a big miss for the Lions.

    1. Please don’t make me start on Hamish’s omission again! Anyway, I agree with you that they will miss what Watson brings to the party. Warburton doesn’t look the player of three/four years ago, which could be very bad news for this Lions tour. Whereas Hamish trampled over and through the entire Wales back row at Murrayfield this year, and I hope he does the same to Italy, Australia and Fiji in the next few weeks.

  12. Whats an anticlimax that was….BIL seemed torn between matching the Barbarians style or playing Warrenball – ended up doing neither. Made me cringe everytime the camera went to the coaching box and you see guys like Howley and Rowntree there – ah well.

    Might be a controversial opinion looking at the posts above, but I think Hogg was OK. The try that he and Watson butchered for me had more to do with Watson running too deep, not at full pace and and drifting towards the touchline, rather than coming hard and straight which meant that when Hogg instinctively fired out a flat pass, Watson was a couple of yards off the pace and too far out.

    On the flip side, Hoggy made some nice half breaks, linked well with his midfield and only had one High ball which he took easily – also had a body on the line moment when they broke in the second half and he managed to take the big fella on the charge down (albeit because the guy tripped over him more than anything else) but as long as they go down.

    Front row were poor, should have dominated that pack at scrum time and failed to make any impact….Sinckler looked lively in the loose, but scrummaging had got to come first. Second rows were lethargic and were bullied around the pitch. Back row were posted missing most of the game and looked largely clueless – majority of turnovers were won by Best I think.

    Greig was Greig (or Gregor) and Sexton seemed to want to take the ball flat, but Greigs service is too slow for that, so he ended up in no mans land. T’eo and Seymour for me were the pick of the backs.

  13. Howley, in his own words, has no idea what Warrenball means, but is ready to unleash “Rugby Chaos”. And, apparently they ran a drill which got very heated because things were so competitive.

    Hahahahahahahahahahaha – 1. there’s a rip off in the marketing department, 2. there’s a difference between organised chaos and chaos, and 3. they’ve run one drill and it went badly. Oh dear this does sound promising! 4. after years working with Gatland he has no idea how the tactics work.

    This article really tickled me. Apologies for the Torygraph link below

  14. Hopefully a Full Strength side for saturday, id like to see

    5.i guess kruise ? all options are abit shit
    6. Stander
    7. o’mahony
    8. falateu
    9. Webb
    10. Farrell
    11. Williams
    12. Henshaw
    13. ?
    14. Seymour
    15. Hogg


    16. George
    17. Mcgrath
    18. Sinckler
    19. Henderson or lawes (both abit shit compared to what could be their)
    20. Some backrow … should be watson
    21. Murray
    22. that wasps guy
    23. North.

    Farrell can last 80 mins and if injury and desperate stick in hogg , sexton not in form and the alternative is bigger.

    North for Impact . Williams or no22 can cover Fb i think.

    1. The team needs to be built around these big beasts: Itoje, Falateu, Farrel, Teo, Watson, Hogg.

      And there’s a fight on the Wing: Seymour, Williams, Nowell, Daley, North – Seymour could yet make it!

  15. One key thing the kiwis have here is consistency in approach to the game from ITM to super rugby to international…so players can “slot together” quite easily.

    eng vs ire vs wal vs sco plus premiership vs pro12 are all different fish….the result is a mess unless the coach can hang it together

  16. I’ve said it from the squad announcement, wrong coaching team, wrong squad (not enough “rugby” in it), wrong tactics, the appointment of the hapless Howley the worst decision.

    V Crusaders

    CJ Stander

    AW Jones

    1. I found it ridiculous that O’Halloran was offered a role as Howley’s assistant and it’s no wonder he declined this “honour”.

      Had he been offered the role of backs coach and accepted the role then we’d be looking at a far more incisive attacking unit, as it is the backs look disjointed and clueless – like Scotland from a few years ago.

      In spite of Gatland and his cronies I want so much for the Lions to do well during the tour, but he has hamstrung himself with his selection of players based on reputation rather than form. This has been done to death but Warburton, Sexton, North and Halfpenny are shadows of the players of 2013, Biggar is still dining off a purple patch a couple of years back, Henderson should never have been selected and looked way out of his depth in the opening game, and Best looks like he should have been put out to pasture years ago.

      If I were Gatland I’d be hoping for a few injuries to the aforementioned so he can call up players that should have gone in the first place and maybe make the Lions a bit more competitive, especially in the backs.

  17. Eventually caved in to curiosity and watched the highlights if the blues loss. Was that halfpenny who got rounded by West without laying a finger on him for the winning try? If Hogg had been in the same position he would have been roasted for that, although to be fair it was a tackle few fullbacks would ever make.

  18. Couple of articles in the press saying that the Lions need a SBW – they have a Hogg, and Saturday will be a much better indication than the Barbarians match to see if Howley has the tactical sense to understand how to utilise the most potent attacking rugby player in the Northern Hemisphere….I suspect not. Telling that an article in Kiwi press has Hogg as the only player in the tour party who they think would be an AB.

    How Watson is on that Bench for Saturday over Seymour defeats me :-(…having said that I don’t think many have really put their hands up so far, it’s almost a case of who has been least rubbish.

    So far, I’d reckon onlt front row seems to be taking shape for Tests – McGrath, Owens and Furlong should be nailed on with Marler off the bench for McGrath…jury is out on the rest of them for now although I think the Sinckler experiment has probably run it’s course.

    1. I’d guess that the inclusion of Watson over Seymour is either because Seymour has less experience at fullback or because Seymour plays for Scotland. I’d argue that Seymour had a better game than Watson on Saturday.

      1. Seymour had a decent game, but are you kidding me: Watson should have had two tries and is an absolute speedster / athlete, he is the best England winner, was an u17 in the u20s and was training with England at 19. He also posts incredible stats, played about the 20 or so Eddie Jones first games and scored on his return from injury. Without a Welsh bias, he’s the first winger on the team sheet.

      2. If your test place is based on performance, at the moment Seymour should be ahead of Watson on what we’ve seen so far. Could be, like you, Gatland expected more of Watson so wants another chance to see him before starting to finalise his test selections.

        If selection is based on reputation…..then I think Seymour gets the nudge. In terms of strike rate, Seymour has bagged 32 tries in 97 appearances for Glasgow, whereas Watson has 19 tries in 82 Bath appearances. For country, Watson shades it (Seymour 36 Caps and 16 tries, Watson 26 Caps and 13 tries) although there is probably some allowance that needs to be made for playing in an all conquering England team versus a struggling, but improving Scotland team.

        Points of difference are probably Seymours reputation for being defensively reliable under the high ball, and if Gatland sees Hogg at 15, then the Hogg/Seymour partnership is tried and tested under pressure – you only need to look at the try that Watson and Hogg butchered last week to see how unfamiliarty can lead to missed opportunities.

        Having said that, unless North steps up to the plate this weekend, then I could see a case for Watson, Hogg and Seymour all starting the first test……LOL made myself laugh out loud there, we all know it will be North and Williams with Halfpenny at fullback, but it’s nice to dream.

      3. ….actually, have just looked at Vissers stats out of interest – blows everyone else away….79 tries in 147 club appearances and 15 tries in 32 internationals…….he’s probably scored more tries than he’s completed tackles.

    1. When you look at career stats (and starts) it becomes more even at club level 29% for Watson and 34% for Seymour, 83 and 98 started games respectively. So Seymour still shades it, but then that’s for a prolific bonus points scoring Glasgow versus London Irish and Bath.

      But, realistically who else in the Lions could run a low 10 100m? He’s a frightening player. Wishful thinking, but I’d have that exact back three: Watson, Hogg Seymour! Though I think Williams, North might have something to say.

      I think we can chalk up that missed try to Hogg and jet lag and first game nerves. Not worried about that combo.

      If only the Timinator could have learned to tackle earlier in his career…

      1. Based on the first 2 and a half games my back 3 would be Hogg, Watson and Seymour, although L. Williams must be close. Halfpenny did nothing of any note against the Blues, North has looked worse than he did against us, and Nowell had a ‘mare.

        However, if I could go into a bookies and place a bet on it being an all Welsh back 3 I would place it.

      2. I’d have: Watson, Hogg, Williams.
        I’m worried after today it will be: North (I thought he did nothing during the game but apparently turnover stats were good), Watson (looked safe and dangerous at fullback), Williams (he’s just a very good rugby player).

  19. ok, FAKE NEWS!!! it was a twitter post by a Welsh Journo who was talking to a Kiwi Journo

    1. agreed , have to say its felt disgusting to see rob howley all smiles in the box 5 mins before end.

      They have still only scored 1 try this tour !

  20. Chat on GW forum is Hogg’s tour is over. So no Scots in test team.

    Also big blow to lions. Murray, Farrell and Hogg only 3 world class players likely to start in backs (North no longer in that bracket IMO).

    1. That is gutting for Hogg on a personal level for him, still young enough to have another tour in him at least, plus he gets a bit of a rest to recharge his batteries. Of small consolation to him though I guess.

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