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Injuries put a dent in Autumn aspirations

John Barclay
Scotland captain John Barclay, warms up - pic © Alastair Ross / Novantae Photography

Greig Laidlaw, Duncan Taylor, Fraser Brown and John Hardie are among the names to miss out on Gregor Townsend’s first squad for an Autumn International series.

In one sense it is a familiar challenge from his opening stint as Scotland coach, a short series of three tests on back to back weekends. Great for tournament practice and stamina, but not as long as the Six Nations. The challenges of being at home, however, and the increased expectation that brings are a bit different, as is the quality of opposition by a big leap. And let’s not forget, we didn’t beat Fiji.

Following a win over New Zealand last weekend, the Wallabies are no longer the bumbling shambles they looked at times during the summer. New Zealand have announced a touring squad with most of their big names still present. First up is the physical prospect of Samoa, and Scotland can’t afford any more injuries if they are to mount a credible challenge to the World Champs in the middle test. Al predicted a clean sweep in the most recent podcast – but we know which part was talking…

Townsend’s squad includes ten uncapped players as he starts to build towards the 2019 Rugby World Cup and beyond. Some have been included in squads before, like Phil Burleigh, while other names are brand new to the scene.

Last year we were crowing about the quality of our midfield options, but now sadly the question is: who is fit enough to partner Huw Jones – assuming he survives the Currie Cup final?

In news that is sure to make the RFU drop their rattle, Carlisle-born centre Chris Harris (26) has come up through the Newcastle Falcons Academy but has a Scottish granny and might be an option. Former Glasgow man Byron McGuigan is the Premiership’s top try scorer and has represented Scotland 7s in the past, and has also played wing and centre. Edinburgh player Burleigh is another with midfield experience but Matt Scott, Duncan Taylor and Mark Bennett remain on the injured list. Alex Dunbar is however, included – but will he be fit enough? Pete Horne played very well in the loss to Leinster and could be another option.

In the backs elsewhere, Tim Visser has suffered from a lack of game time at Quins and misses out, as does Sam Hidalgo-Clyne who has actually been going nicely for Edinburgh at both 9 and 10. Nathan Fowles makes it in ahead of him. The main questions out back will be who fills the third wing spot (looks like Lee Jones, Dougie Fife or McGuigan) and who deputises for Finn (Pete Horne).

While we’re winding up the home nations, the ghost of Steven Shingler also raises his head with news that former Wales U20 flanker Luke Hamilton (25) – whose father is from Stirling – is also in the squad. Currently playing for Leicester in the back row, he also won the Pro D2 with Agen and spent a season in the Top 14, as extensively documented by WalesOnline. Hopefully the SRU have done the due diligence this time…

Rory Sutherland hasn’t quite made it back to fitness in time which leaves things looking a little thin at loosehead but it is a huge opportunity for Darryl Marfo and Jamie Bhatti both of whom have had plenty of games this season. Sutherland and Allan Dell may be waiting in the wings though and spare a thought for Jon Welsh who could have been another beneficiary of Newcastle’s great form but hasn’t featured for Scotland since RWC 2015. Ross Ford will likely add to his mountain of caps at hooker although Stuart McInally is actually in the sort of form many had hoped for when he first switched roles and could start, but Brown is a huge loss. At tighthead, Berghan has been offering stern competition to Nel for Edinburgh and don’t be surprised to see a Fagerson/Berghan combo at some point.

The second row is about the only full strength area aside from Richie Gray’s absence that we knew about well in advance. Toolis and Gray Jnr should be the pairing but Scott Cummings could get a first cap off the bench.

Some other names are not included this time round: Mitch Eadie (No 8) and Ben Vellacott (scrum-half) remain on the wish fulfilment list, while Josh Strauss and Dave Denton remain in the wilderness even as we continue to struggle for ball carriers. Good times for Jamie Ritchie though who earns a call up and is in the sort of form to go further, while John Barclay has been deemed fit enough to lead the side again. No place as you’d expect for Magnus Bradbury (now stripped of the Edinburgh captaincy) and John Hardie (under investigation for alleged drug use) while Adam Ashe is sadly a late withdrawl with an injury picked up against Leinster.

The question is though, with high hopes from the summer “if we get our top team out in the Autumn”, do we still have the resources to win 2 or even 3 of the autumn tests with the squad available now?

Forwards: Simon Berghan, Jamie Bhatti, John Barclay, Scott Cummings, Cornell Du Preez, Zander Fagerson, Ross Ford, Grant Gilchrist, Jonny Gray, Rob Harley, Luke Hamilton (Leicester), Darryl Marfo, Stuart McInally, WP Nel, Jamie Ritchie, Tim Swinson, Ben Toolis, George Turner, Ryan Wilson, Hamish Watson.

Backs: Phil Burleigh, Alex Dunbar, Dougie Fife, Nathan Fowles, Chris Harris (Newcastle), Nick Grigg, Stuart Hogg, Pete Horne, Ruaridh Jackson, Lee Jones, Huw Jones, Bryon McGuigan (Sale), Ali Price, Henry Pyrgos, Finn Russell, Tommy Seymour.

Unavailable through injury: Adam Ashe (Glasgow Warriors), Mark Bennett (Edinburgh Rugby), Fraser Brown (Glasgow Warriors), Allan Dell, Alasdair Dickinson (both Edinburgh Rugby), Richie Gray (Toulouse), Rory Hughes (Glasgow Warriors), Greig Laidlaw (Clermont Auvergne), Sean Maitland (Saracens), Gordon Reid (London Irish), Matt Scott (Gloucester), Duncan Taylor (Saracens).

Possible XV: Hogg, Seymour, Jones, Dunbar, McGuigan, Russell, Price; Bhatti, McInally, Nel, Gray, Toolis, Ritchie, Watson, Barclay. If you put that team together, could it beat the All Blacks though on current fitness?

UPDATE: thanks to all the people who spotted I can’t count. Toolis was omitted from my team!

62 Responses

  1. Well, I think this squad is going to take a while to digest. First view is that the SQ stuff last week was a harbinger of a couple of the unheralded choices. Second view is that there seems only to be two LHs, both uncapped.

    1. Well he’s defiantly had the tombola out that’s for sure! Injuries are certainly a set back. I hope the squad can pull together and give us 3 good performances with 2 wins. It would be a shame for the performance of the 6N and summer tour to be undone by a lot of injuries. Good results will set us up nicely for next years 6N with a few to come back from injury. Backs I’m not so bothered about, we have the core of our strength there, hopefully Jones return will be a boost, but I am fearing the forwards. I see Barclay has been named as captain, hopefully he is fully fit.

      Anyone know why Visser isn’t selected? Haven’t paid much attention to him lately, thought it seemed odd as with Maitland out he was the incumbent for one of the wings.

  2. Would have liked to have seen Visser – hasn’t been getting a lot of game time for Quins but he scores when he has, and really upped his defensive shift in this years six nations.

    I actually think Scott and Taylor’s injuries are the biggest for the backs and I would have preferred Laidlaw was there instead of Pyrgos as the game manager option

    In the forwards the massive gap is obviously at loosehead without Sutherland, Dell, Reid and Dicko.

    Also I’ll be honest and say that the backrow fills me with dread – I would have liked to have seen one of Denton / Strauss to give ballast – I don’t know much about Hamilton and Im not convinced du Preez has really earned his place????

    In many ways though I felt similarly when I saw the team put out against Australia so in that vein I am actually going to say “In Gregor we trust” (with the caveat that the above summary gives me ‘told you so’ rights a month from now….)

    1. Like you, I was worried by the line up for that Sydney Test in June, and also like you I decided just to trust in Toonie. It worked then.
      I’m a bit worried this time by imo a relative lack of real grunt up front. Backs look solid, even allowing for absences. If the pack can secure at least parity in these Tests then I think we’ll see some exciting, running rugby.
      Really looking forward to the New Zealand Test as I’ve never seen the All Blacks live before.

    2. Completely agree with all of your points. I really don’t see how dougie fife has justified selection here? He had been in the wilderness and is back in after a handful of games. has he even managed a single try for Edinburgh this season? Sorry but that makes little sense to me.

      Also unsure what Nathan Fowles has done to earn a call up? He’s been average at best ever since he arrived at Edinburgh. Admittedly it’s not an area we are blessed with lots of options but would much rather have seen SHC or vellacott in the squad. Going off on a slight tangent here but would really like to see George Horne get more game time at Glasgow, if he can’t get it there he needs to move along the M8 or elsewhere as he has too much potential to only be playing BT premiership all year and we need to be exploring more options at 9 given our lack of depth there.

      Our pack in general is extremely lacking in physicality and that is very worrying given the opposition we are going to come up against. Front row lacks experience and whilst the young guys at Glasgow have done well, it’s worrying how many minutes they have played already this season and are in danger of burning out. I’d personally start with The all Edinburgh front row with he more mobile Glasgow lads to come on in the 2nd half when the game is more open.

      Lack of strength in that pack maybe count against toolis as well which is harsh given he did really well last season and on the summer tour. For me it’s been noticeable this season how much better the scrum has been for Edinburgh when it’s been gilchrist, bresler and Mackenzie. As excellent a line out operator as toolis is, he is perhaps a luxury that we cannot afford with an under pressure scrum.

      Thankfully CDP has come into some form in the past few weeks but would have liked one of Denton or Strauss to be involved as like you say there’s a worrying lack of ball carrying there. Thought Eadie might have come into the equation but despite all the pessimism have trust in Toony and sure he has picked the squad he feels can execute our game plan. Perhaps this squad shows we will be playing to our strengths of open back play rather than trying to match that of our opponents?

  3. I’m beginning to wonder if the door has been left open for Sutherland to find a bit of form and fitness, before coming into the squad. Can’t think otherwise why he’s only picked two LHs in a 36-man squad. Wouldn’t be surprised to see him at least on the bench in the next couple of games.

    1. Any idea how many minutes he got on Saturday? Pretty off they didn’t select at least one more loosehead option. If McCallum had been fit a couple of weeks earlier he may have been an option as well.

      1. Not sure how long he got, but he did get a yellow card, although that’s just a hazard that goes with the job for props.

  4. Im surprised nathan fowles was selected over SHC and that Jon welsh is becoming what happened to barclay a year ago. Hope that Mcguigan can deliver at the highest level. Lee jones has been class but is not exactly a try scoring machine

    So many Injuries, lets hope they will all be fresh for 6N at least

  5. Some of the omissions seem very strange – no Visser, Strauss, Welsh for instance – & the much heralded midfield is now looking v thin too. LH looking scary too with just 2 inexperienced players who haven’t exactly lit up the scrummaging world. No problem with McGuigan, think he’s been pushing for squad inclusion for a little while. Is there enough grunt in the back row, how long will Barclay last, is Dunbar fit enough? A lot of questions over this squad for what is likely to be a gruelling AI series, feeling a bit nervous already but good luck to the squad & hope they prove us doubters wrong.

  6. Not too impressed at the selection of Hamilton and Harris. Is either really much better than the actual Scottish options? Even despite the injuries just off the top of my head options would include Eadie or a younger option in M.Fagerson or Crosbie in the backrow and Dean or Hoyland at centre or wing.

    Yes we’ve got a long list of injuries in those positions but when the injured players are fit the likes of Hamilton or Harris will drop off the radar so I’d rather we took the chance to blood someone young who could be a much better option in years ahead.

    1. I take your point, however, surely Mitch Eadie is the same as Hamilton and Harris. He was born in Bristol and the only difference is he was called up when younger, but not sure that makes him any more Scottish apart from on paper.
      But just to say I am a big Eadie fan and would like to see him brought into the fold soon

      1. The difference with Eadie is more than likely that he hasn’t played since Northampton’s season-opening tanking from Sarries. Hamilton has being playing, and paying well, from what I can gather.

      2. Ah I didn’t actually realise Eadie was born in Bristol. Makes sense though as I know his dad was a footballer who started his career with Rangers and finished it at Bristol Rovers.

  7. A bit stunned at Fowles over SHC – somebody is seeing something I’m not – and also no Strauss. I really don’t understand either of those. Any combination in the front row won’t frighten anyone, particularly if Nel hasn’t found his strength and form yet.

    And the 2 x Jones ( if Huw isn’t knackered after a season and the Currie Cup ), Horne, Fife, Jackson, Grigg don’t exactly carry much beef. Not saying they’re not quality players, but it’s the need for the old rapier / broadsword mix – I appreciate the alternatives are much less than if there wasn’t such an injury list. Fingers crossed for Dunbar being fit. The other big unit is Visser and he seems out of favour. Burleigh – not at this level for me.

    Preparing to get behind the couch now, and will be happy to emerge in late November proven to be very wrong. Would absolutely grab 2 out of 3 now if offered.

    I’m assuming we’ll see Hamilton and Harris on the pitch at some point against Samoa to get them tied in.

    1. Fife, Jackson, Grigg, Bhatti, L Jones, Harley …simply not test level standard for me… they are decent club players. If they are in team when we play NZ or OZ we’ll get totally bossed.

  8. You’d have the foundations of a pretty good team out of the injured list. I think we’re missing too many 1st/2nd choice players, so unfortunately it’s difficult to be particularly optimistic about this series. I’ve not seen Samoa play for a wee while, but they are always a challenge. We possibly match the Aussies across the backs (though I also feel we could do with some Dunbaresque heft in there), but do we match up to the ABs in any unit? If we manage more than one win then hats off to GT and the boys. I can’t see a cohesive 23 with both experience, ability and balance out of the 36, and (horribly pessimistic) on paper zero looks as likely as three.

    1. Will be fortunate to win 1 of the matches with that squad. Injuries a huge blow. Not selecting a Denton or Strauss …bizarre. Expecting an absolute tanking from NZ….even from their 2nd string.

      1. I became one of Denton’s fans at RWC 15. He was outstanding. Then he went to Bath and suffered from injury and loss of form. Then to Worcs where he’s not exactly pulling up trees. So I think he’s out of contention right now. Something that could change as he’s still only 20 something. Maybe he needs to be brought back ‘home’ to Edinburgh or Warriors to get him in contention again, because he’s a formidable 6/8 on form.

      2. I agree re:Denton. He is definitely test level 6 or 8..he has a lot of potential that is being wasted. He lacks some skills sure but what he is good at he can be terrific at. He has obviously made career decisions that haven’t suited him or his style of play. I think Cockerhill would get the best out of him. Its a trade off … money vs career.

  9. I think Toonie will just be “tying up” Harris and Hamilton so they’ll be there as an option if there is a ton of injuries in the future.

    What is apparent is that even with all the injuries in the backline we still have enough depth to put out a very potent back division, although that old chestnut of having backup for Finn will be there until such time as we do (even though he only played a short while against Connacht I saw enough from Hastings to be encouraged).

  10. Think this AI could get ugly – we’re mixing guys who are up there with the best in the NH (or world in the case of Hogg) with guys who wouldn’t be capped by any other 6N team, bar Italy. We’ll get injuries through the series and our pack will get exposed. On the other hand, if Toonie is now saying defence is the bedrock of winning teams we’ll get plenty of practice and maybe deepen the pool a little for the 6N. I don’t care what results in the AIs are so long as we can back up last years 6N with more progress (which this year would be 3 wins again given we’ll have to win away from Murray field).

  11. Same concerns as everyone else: loosehead, back-row, wing. Hooker a concern even if everyone was fit. Some of it has to be down to club commitments, surely. Not taking Strauss or Denton even with an injured Ashe; not taking Visser even with an injured Maitland and Taylor???

  12. Really surprised at Fowles over SHC. In the Edinburgh games I’ve seen this season the team have looked lost when Fowles is on compared to Sam.

    I don’t know anything of Harris and Hamilton so can’t comment on them.

    It seems mental not to even have Welsh in the squad if he is playing well. Is the squad size restricted?

    What must Bradbury and Hardie be thinking looking at that squad? Let’s hope we are not all ruing their brain farts come the end of November.

    Good luck to the team and Toonie, I fear they are going to need it.

  13. Visser out, Fife in, don’t get it, must be a story!!

    Visser is a regular at Quins , scored twice against Sale, running good lines, Fife is at best ,adequate.

    Not sure I feel Denton or Strauss were due a recall. Credit where it is due , Denton is manning up in a side with problems, even I have to admire that.

    There is something , we are not seeing. I suspect GT may consider most of these guys are malleable. I think he respects loyalty and trust. It is his job on the line after all.

    But…….Visser out, is a mistake , both him and Seymour are good in the air and that will deliver a few tries over the season. Shaking my head in disbelief.

    1. GT has said that Visser’s form has dropped this season compared to last and has been given his ‘homework’ (mainly work rate off the ball) to get back in. Fife on the other hand is much improved after his stint with the 7s and has been doing well for Edinburgh. Heartened to hear that Maitland may feature later (i.e. last game) if he can recover and get fit. GT likes Fowles pass, so that’s that one. I have to admit to googling Luke Hamilton when I initially saw the squad. He does look like a contender though.

      1. Fowles does pass the ball better than SHC. SHC really needs to sort out his passing…other aspects of his game are very good but his passing constantly lets him down. Passing is critical for GT’s team play style.

        Visser out behind LJones is a mistake imo. Id play Mcguigan ahead of Jones. Mcguigan and Hamilton will be interesting.

  14. I think its a very “strategic” squad…besides injuries,the odd picks reflect two things…

    First is locking in new talent for 2019…

    Second is setting the principle that if you’ve been asked to up your game, and haven’t, don’t expect to be picked.

    He seems prepared to sacrifice the AIs for perceived future gain..

  15. The alternative ‘H’ team back line…

    9 – Hidalgo-Clyne
    10 – Hastings
    11 – Hughes
    12 – Horne
    13 – Harris
    14 – Hoyland
    15 – Hogg

  16. Tim Visser is better than most of those wings in the squad, leaving him out is nonsense no matter how you dress is up with all this ‘he’s been given homework to do and hasn’t completed it’ etc. He took his chance big time in the 6n this year and ended up keeping Maitland out, his defence has improved too. Out team is wee and his size is important. I do rate Dougie Fife though and good to see he’s back.
    Fowles ahead of SHC? Bizarre. I’d rather see G.Horne in there or convince Hugh Fraser to stick at it. If Price gets injured we are absolutely screwed considering the woeful Pyrgos is the other option at 9. Also no Strauss…what the hell.
    The lad Barry McGuigan definitely deserves his chance after his try scoring exploits this season, good to cap these guys now to lock them in too.

    The Hardie situation…..why has he been hung out to dry publicly like this, is there evidence against him as surely they haven’t suspended him and told everyone on the strength of 1 member of the public grassing him up.

    1. Visser’s been getting regular game time for Quins and a fortnight or so ago made The Times team of the weekend selection. It does seem a strange omission.

    2. I wonder if GT’s thinking is that George Horne should get a lot of pro game time during the AIs, which may serve him better.

      1. Agree, hope GH gets a decent amount of game time. He’s stepped up every time when asked, and needs to do so again. If so, then next year he should be close to the squad. Nearest we have to Price as it is IMO.

    3. Would like to have seen G Horne given a run out …but its hard to justify given his lack of club play. Great talent tho imo.

      Dreading watching the alleged ‘game management maestro’ Pyrgos. Will no doubt come on as a sub and swing the momentum against us with his ridiculous box kicking the ball right back to the opponent. Would rather almost anyone than him playing SH.

    4. Well said Bravo… Time will tell on the Fife decision however we do not command the air as well as Wales and Ireland and Visser brings that option . I cannot see Fife doing that.

  17. Marffo
    Ford
    Berghan
    Gray
    Gilchrist
    Ritchie
    Watson
    Wilson

    Price
    Russell
    McGuigan
    Horne
    H.Jones
    Seymour
    Hogg

    I think that’s a decent team and I’d look to bring in Barclay and Dunbar if fit for Ritchie and Horne to strengthen after the Samoa game.

  18. Think the criticism of the squad and Townsend is not really justified. Other than Strauss and Visser the core of last year’s squad is still there other than the injuries.

    Sure he has reasons for omitting both Strauss and Visser. Sounds to me like Hamilton is going to be given a chance at 8 and with Barclay and Wilson also in the squad probably not room for Strauss and Denton. Sure one or both will be back for 6N.

    Think Visser unlucky.

    There are players in the squad that I don’t think will be near the match day squad at least for Aus and NZ, but Townsend obviously wants a look at some of them, particularly the non-Warriors who he perhaps does not know as well. Also, having some new faces in the squad means they get familiar with the ethos and plays, should we get more injuries.

    I am interested to see how Hamilton and McGuigan go.

  19. Now the dust has settled a bit it’s not a wild squad selection by any means and you have to have faith that Townsend knows more than we all do with regards players that fit into his way of thinking. Like many, I thought we’d get a spanking by Oz in Sydney but we won it and I’m hoping to be proved wrong again this autumn. Let’s not forget, the aussies are without Falou for this test and he is by far and away their best player, he’s worth at least 1-2 tries per test either scored or assisted by him so that levels the playing field considerably. Furthermore, Australia are playing us at the end of an absolutely crazy playing schedule, and at the end of the season which might see them overcooked by the time they arrive in auld reekie. Wishful thinking perhaps, but not completely Impossible.

  20. Vissers omission is strange. He is a classic poacher, always has been and always will be, yes he doesn’t do a whole lot off the ball and it would be good if he did more, but the fact is he scores tries and on form he can score them for fun.

    All that said, with the world cup draw out of the way we can actually treat these AIs as the friendlies they once were and not for vital ranking points for avoiding groups of death. Blooding new guys and giving them a reasonable crack is something we have struggled to do recently but is vital for going forwards. That said the front and back rows do scare me. I can’t quite bring myself to call for Denton but someone of his ilk is badly needed.

    We are very fortunate to have reasonable strength in depth in the backs. A while ago if Laidlaw, Maitland, Bennett, Taylor and Scott were out with Dunbar dubious and Visser not even selected I would have been having nightmares!

  21. I agree with the majority of the comments above; the pack is too lightweight and is desperate for some extra heft in the scrum and a ball carrying option.

    Injuries mean we-are-where-we-are for the front row, and not much we can do about it other than hope that Nel suddenly clicks back into form and that Sutherland/Dell/Dickinson and Brown all get fit for the 6N’s so we can pick from our first choice options.

    In terms of ball carrying though, Watson can break the gainline through skill, but I don’t see anyone in the forward options that will get you real yards through breaking a tackle. The likes of Grey and Wilson will make 2 or 3 yards a time, manfully carrying the ball into the tackle and laying down for 80 minutes, but aren’t the type to punch a hole in a defence. I think I’m right in saying that Denton has started 3 of the last 4 for Worcester and hopefully getting regular game time will get him back to the 2015 RWC when he was immense for us. Strauss is getting game time for Sale as well so not sure of the reason for his omission either.

    The backs have less concerns, even with the number of players unavailable, which just goes to highlight the quality we have available and how good we might be with a full team to pick from. But even there, leaving Visser out and picking Fowles ahead of SHC does leave you scratching your head… but then Gregor has often had that affect on me and you just hope that he continues to prove you wrong!

  22. Here is a squad through injured players or not selected for various reasons.

    1. Gordon reid
    2. Frazer brown
    3. Jon Welsh
    4. Grant Gilchrist
    5. Richie Gray
    6. Magnus Bradbury
    7. John Hardie
    8. Josh Strauss
    9. Greig laidlaw
    10. Duncan Weir
    11. Tim Visser
    12. Matt Scott
    13. Duncan Taylor
    14. Rory Hughes
    15. Sean Maitland
    Subs
    16. Pat Mcarthur
    17. Rory Sutherland
    18. Darcy Rae
    19. Anton Bresler
    20. Adam Ashe (could also pick denton i suppose)
    21. SHC
    22. James Johnstone
    23. Mark Bennet

    1. Blimey that shows how a) we DO have strength in depth and b) some of GTs selections are a bit left field. You haven’t even included Al Dickinson!
      I’m assuming you meant Hoyland on the right wing, as Hughes is included in the squad for the AIs. I’d probably have Kinghorn on the bench rather than Johnstone.

      1. Hughes is injured and not in the squad!

        The mistake is actually Gilchrist, who is available and selected. For him, you would put Bresler in the team and any one of Hunter-Hill, Mackenzie or Carmichael on the bench.

    2. Arguably you could throw in Hoyland, Dickinson, Cowan, Kinghorn, Low into the mix as well – Question is would the ‘missing 23’ beat the ‘best available 23’?

      Marfo, Ford, Nel, J.Gray, Cummings, Barclay, Watson, Hamilton, Price, Russell, Dunbar, H. Jones, Seymour, McGuigan, Hogg – Bhatti, Turner, Fagerson, Swinson, Wilson, Pyrgos, Horne & L. Jones

  23. Visser he has been excluded.

    GT knows all the facts however we should not try and rationalise what is a very strange decision.

    This guy is our most effective finisher in the Navy jersey.

    Caps (Tries)
    Visser 30 (15)
    H. Jones 8 (4)
    Seymour 36 (16)
    Hogg 53 (16)
    Dunbar 26 (6)
    Maitland 28 (5)
    L Jones 8 (1)
    Fife 6 (1)

    Source: ESPN

    *He is a Premiership regular.
    *The press say he is on great form
    *We have seen it with our own eyes.
    *So how will we win his trust when ‘he has done his homework’

    1. The word is Vissers being frozen out at Quins but an injury here and there meant he had to play and he’s now made it very difficult not to select him. He is international standard and from the way he’s dealt with Quins has a good ethic. It’s swapping steak for corned beef in my eyes by picking Fife.

      1. I am sure that Visser will be back in the mix come the 6N, but Fife has really kicked on after his involvement with the 7s and deserves a chance to show what he can do around the international squad. While Toony hasn’t admitted it, with the rankings secured for RWC19, the AIs are a chance to try a few new faces (or welcome back older ones) before the rigour of the 6N.

  24. Fife is alright but I’ve got him down as another Tom Brown really. A very solid club player who probably won’t let you down but short of any sort of x-factor that could lead to a successful international career.

    He is a bit of a sort of Simon Webster or Graeme Morrison type figure. Yeah alright but these days we have better options than that.

    1. Remember Fife and Luke Hamilton are the only players in the squad who have tasted victory over an All Blacks side!!

  25. Watched Huw Jones in the Currie cup yesterday. Big performance from him with 2 tries and an assist. I am really excited to see him play more in the same team as Russell, Hogg and hopefully Taylor in the 6N. I honestly think he might be as good as Hogg. Also reckon him and Taylor add a dose of intelligence and savvy to our growing ‘game-breaker’ contingent in the back-line.

    1. As I recall he is a demon tackler as well. Russell is fearless and Taylor can be relied upon to pull his weight. We could need that defensive wall in the AI’s.

      1. Unfortunately Taylor is injured so Jones will be partnering either Horne or Grigg. I can’t see any of Harris, Burleigh or McGuigan being thrown into the fray, unless on the bench if Dunbar is still crocked.
        Great to see Jones on top form – MoM in the Currie Cup is not easily achieved.

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