Scotland team to face Samoa

In Europe, Glasgow’s top flight pack were undone by the brutalising physicality of Leinster and Exeter packs. They will probably be in for more of the same vs Vern’s Montpellier but first up many of those same players will haul on the navy of Scotland for a bruising set of autumn internationals.

Gregor Townsend has talked in the past about playing the fastest brand of rugby in world which to me sounds like they need to find Niko Matawalu a Scottish Granny. Vern Cotter’s organising principle was “organised chaos”, and the organisation aspect of that shouldn’t be forgotten.

Allied to a traditional fast rucking game, it might even trying to keep the ball out of contact which works if it works, but quickly gets messy and hands over possession if you are having an off day. It plays to the strengths of a backline that even with the injury crisis engulfing the pack could see Ali Price, Finn Russell, Stuart Hogg, Tommy Seymour and Huw Jones line up. You can see what style of play is going to be more likely.

The main issue is: what happens when you get shut down? Dave Rennie already identified the need for Glasgow to play more through the middle before going wide. If you always go wide, then the defence has plenty of time to spread. The rise of Ali Price will at least keep defences honest around the ruck where Greig Laidlaw was less of a threat.

The need to play at pace leaves us with the worry that Scotland will be left with a lightwieght pack unable to repsond physcially when the ball is constantly foulded up in a heap of bodies. Or when opposition line speed is so quick that the backline doesn’t have the extra time to work the magic and a new approach is required.

I am sure that Toony has an alternative plan that works when the fast chaotic style comes unstuck.

First up this weekend are Samoa: not known for their structured, set-piece heavy play so it’s unlikely to give Scotland much of a chance to find an answer. Actually a test against a team like Georgia would have been ideal here. The real test of how this approach works against structure won’t be until the big one against New Zealand which if they don’t have an answer, could be brutally unforgiving. As usual, the All Blacks are the prototype for a blend of both: structure until there is an opportunity, then play fast and wide when a hole opens up – and don’t mess it up.

Samoa have come with troubles hovering above them – the Samoan government announced this week that their Rugby Union is bankrupt. The game apparently goes ahead with World Rugby’s insurance covering it – even as they’ve announced increased investment in the region today – and it is a shame that the perpetual struggles of the Pacific Island nations to make anything from a game they provide so much to have re-appeared.

This game could ironically see an end to rugby tests in Scotland’s own outlying regions with the news that more than 60,000 tickets have been sold with the last few set to be available on the day and the other two games sold out. With the game in Scotland now on a relatively secure financial footing, should Scotland be leading the charge to get help for the Samoan union as one of the few countries to tour there in recent years?

You imagine the Samoan team will be glad to turn attention to purely rugby matters which could make them a determined and dangerous opposition.

For Scotland, the highlighted trouble area is the front row where injuries have deprived Scotland of two thirds of their first choices (Dickinson, Dell, Ford and Brown). Rory Sutherland is only just back to full fitness and George Turner looked like he picked up a knock playing for Glasgow last weekend. Things are a little rosier on the tighthead with both WP Nel and Zander Fagerson fit, although Nel has looked some way off his best and Simon Berghan is in barnstorming form for Edinburgh.

Unsurprisingly 3 of the four uncapped players in Townsend’s team are front rowers. Darryl Marfo will start on his first cap while Jamie Bhatti and George Turner wait on the bench. Stuart McInally has the hookers shirt while Nel gets the tighthead shirt. It’s an ideal chance to blood a new front row combination.

Otherwise it is probably the strongest team available with Lee Jones on the wing probably about the only tricky choice in the backs once Alex Dunbar was fit. If the pack click and get them on the front foot, the damage that Finn Russell and co could unleash is truly exciting. The only worry is that they treat it like Fiji in the summer and assume the job is done before it kicks off.

In the pack, Ben Toolis gets the other lock place and John Barclay will captain the side from blindside flanker. Ryan Wilson packs down at Number 8 and vice captain – Stuart Hogg is also named as a vice captain.

With all the injuries, the bench is not quite as strong as we would hope but could see Newcastle Falcons centre Chris Harris get a cap in the backs. Front row aside there is plenty of experience so let’s hope they are used rather than trying to keep the first choice XV on as long as possible and risking tiredness against the All Blacks next weekend where many of these players will be required.

It looks like a good team, as long as they can stay focused injury free.

Scotland team to face Samoa

15. Stuart Hogg, 14. Tommy Seymour, 13. Huw Jones, 12. Alex Dunbar, 11. Lee Jones, 10. Finn Russell, 9. Ali Price; 1. Darryl Marfo, 2. Stuart McInally, 3. Willem Nel, 4. Ben Toolis, 5. Jonny Gray,
6. John Barclay (Capt), 7. Hamish Watson, 8. Ryan Wilson.

Replacements: 16. George Turner, 17. Jamie Bhatti, 18. Zander Fagerson, 19. Tim Swinson, 20. Cornell Du Preez, 21. Henry Pyrgos, 22. Pete Horne, 23. Chris Harris.

Kick off 2.30pm live coverage on BBC Sport.

Tags: , ,

36 comments on “Scotland team to face Samoa

  1. Alastair Stewart on

    Hi, Looking forward to what should be some interesting, selection and games for Scotland.
    I have a Scotland Season Pass for one adult and one child. For the South Stand. Gets you into all the Autumn and six nation games at Murrayfield.
    Cheers alastairstewart the rest of the address is contact me if interested.

  2. Neil on

    does anyone know if the sru or players will be doing somthing similar to what 2 of the english players are doing in requesting 5 % of the match day play money going to the samoans , ofc england have more of an obligation bringing samoan players such as tuilagi in but i also belive we should contribute somthing.

    • CptDnt on

      The Times today said that the SRU would not be giving any money to Samoa. They are footing the bill for the hotels etc but it would be nice to see them give Samoa something. The SRU justification was that they are one of the only countries to have toured Samoa recently.

      • FF on

        Samoa said they had not made a request for money from the SRU. Presumably because we are not rolling in cash.

        I’d like the SRU to do something but can’t stand this sense that the worlds richest union can only put its hand in its pocket if everyone else does. Professional rugby is hanging on in Scotland but in England it is booming. They will never do anything do undermine the huge commercial advantage they hve over everyone else.

      • Mikelinds on

        I think it’s a bit more than that. There’s a major spat between the Samoan RU and World Rugby.

        On a broader front the rules about match receipt distribution need to be looked at. They disadvantage the PI sides, irrespective of who tours there.

      • LP on

        The SRU should give absolutely nothing to the Samoan Rugby Union. It has a terrible history of financial profligacy. On the other hand, individual payments to each Samoan player might be of some benefit.

  3. greengumbo on

    Great to see Huw Jones back in a Scotland jersey, that back line could do some damage if given a sniff.

    The front row is a worry in terms of heft but Nel should keep them honest and you want an old head next to the debutantes.

    Hopefully have a decent lead by the 50 min mark to empty the bench and give the lads a rest ahead of a brutal NZ game. After Fiji though…..who knows.

  4. Merlot on

    Given the number of injuries that is a decent 23. With 3 looseheads out it was always going to be a debut for Bhatti or Marfo and probably both. Similarly, with Brown and Ford out it was who was starting – McInally or Turner.
    On the plus side our much heralded strength in depth at centre has been sorely tested but still have 3 international standard centres in the squad.
    I’d have had Visser in for Lee Jones and George Horne for Henry Pyrgos but they weren’t even in the training squad and I’m sure Gregor knows best.

    • Mikelinds on

      Basically agree, except it’s too soon for GH. If, as I hope, he performs well for Glasgow, especially during the international windows, he ought to be knocking on the door for the next summer tour. In terms of style, he’s nearest to Price, if not even quicker, so I certainly expect Toonie will have a close eye on him.

    • RuggersB on

      Think the AI’s are too soon for GHorne. Terrific talent tho he is. If he keeps performing and improving for Glasgow during these AIs he may be ready for inclusion in the 6nations squad as back up to Price. I have zero confidence in Pyrgos at International level. The way he needlessly gives away possession is simply not good enough at that level.

  5. Alanyst on

    Sorry Rory for picking nits here…but although its new for Scotland, the front row is not a new combination, being the Edinburgh front row for much of the season.

    I think on that basis its a more sensible selection than mix and match…and edges the alternative settled trio of bhatti/turner/fagerson

  6. Not rocket science on

    6/7/8 – a bit light, but interested to see how it fits the game plan.

    Looking forward to seeing how the front row go. Have not seen Edinburgh this season. Marfo looks like a unit and has pedigree (noticed he has a younger brother who looks like a speedster and a high-level amateur – anyone know anything…). Cockerill is saying nice things about McInally.

  7. RuggersB on

    Not a huge fan of Wilson….especially at 8. Far too lightweight. Id hope for Bradbury, Du Preez or Hamilton at 8 against NZ and Australia.
    Wing is a weak spot for us too. Seymour is test class…but Jones?? he works harder than Visser I guess..not as good a finisher tho.

    • FF on

      Still scratching my head at what strauss has done for Toonie to leave him out in the cold. Last 6N he was epic against France and it’s not like we’re spoilt for choice for barnstorming back rows.

      • Andrew McGavin on

        Surely not Strauss’s somewhat unfortunate comments earlier in the year about why he chose to stay at Glasgow?

      • pragmatic optomist on

        I can’t shed any light on this either, but find it equally incomprehensible that the only real hard ball carrying number 8 we have, has been left out. As Strauss is in good form and playing regularly, the omission is ridiculous. I’d like to know what is going on, as he is clearly the best 8 we have by a country mile.

  8. john on

    I’d have had Dupreez & McGuigan (Visser for that matter) in.

    Agree with Rocket science re back row lightness

    Very interesting Dunbar is deemed fit enough after his 10mins last week

    • David on

      Looking at the team I had a flash back to that of 61-21 hammering in march. Samoa should be ok but next week might be a bit brutal again.

      From 11th March 2017, vs England
      •1 Gordon Reid
      •2 Fraser Brown
      •3 Zander Fagerson
      •4 Richie Gray
      •5 Jonny Gray
      •6 John Barclay (CAPTAIN)
      •7 Hamish Watson
      •8 Ryan Wilson

      •9 Ali Price
      •10 Finn Russell
      •11 Tim Visser
      •12 Alex Dunbar
      •13 Huw Jones
      •14 Tommy Seymour
      •15 Stuart Hogg

      •16 Ross Ford
      •17 Allan Dell
      •18 Simon Berghan
      •19 Tim Swinson
      •20 Cornell Du Preez
      •21 Henry Pyrgos
      •22 Duncan Weir
      •23 Mark Bennett

      • Merlot on

        I think we have to remember that the “hammering” was mostly due to injuries. We were down to 14 men after 2 minutes with Brown lifting Daly over the horizontal. Over-eagerness a poor excuse for such recklessness.
        Admittedly Dunbar’s missed tackle on Joseph for the opening score was poor, but uncharacteristic. Then we lost our best player, Hogg. As good as Mark Bennett is he is not an international fullback. In any case we then lost Bennett as well 4 minutes later.
        Our backline after 22 minutes and at 13-0 down is Pyrgos, Russell; Visser, Jones, Dunbar, Price; Seymour. Not a usual line-up.
        Admittedly Russell had a bad day at the office – missing kicks to touch and trying too hard for miracle passes. Also our midfield defence was MIA. But I think England would have struggled if they’d lost their best player (Farrell) and his immediate replacement (Te’o) after only a quarter of the match.
        People forget that and only look at the final score.
        PS we also lost Tommy Seymour just after half-time because of a late (and high IMO) tackle from Nathan Hughes. No yellow card and now we’ve got wee Dunc at FB, with no more reserves for the rest of the game!

      • TeamCam on

        9 of those players aren’t in tomorrow’s 23.

        Also, to add to Merlot’s points, there were 10 or so players out injured before the game, and we still scored three tries, which is more than anyone else managed. It was definitely a dark day, though.

  9. Scrummo on

    Starting front row looks about as strong as we were going to get with the injuries at loosehead and I’m guessing Townsend wants to give Sutherland a bit longer before throwing him into the fray.

    Really feel the replacement front row is a risk at scrum time as the Glasgow scrum has been utter, utter mince this season but Samoa likely won’t be too much of a threat there late on and I do look forwards to seeing what they and Turner in particular can offer in the loose.

    Feel a bit sorry for Berghan as he has been in good form this season and really improved his defence and play in the loose to go along with being an absolute rock in the scrum. Can’t argue that Fagerson will offer more from the bench though as the game breaks up and Nel will hopefully return to world class status with gametime.

    • Neil on

      I think Humphreys has a lot to answer for, apparently ospreys scrum under him came unstuck and underperformed, look at Scotland’s scrum under him and now Glasgow there’s a bit of a trend emerging.

  10. JohnMc on

    Three years or so ago the unavailability of some well established players for selection would have been a serious cause for concern.

    It’s still a concern now, but not so serious imho because we have a deeper pool than we did in those days. The absences do give Gregor and his team an opportunity to play with different combinations.

    These AIs could turn out to be breakthrough moments for some players, helping to increase competition for places and form the strongest possible squad for 6N 2018.

    I also think this is going to be the best chance we’ve had in over 20 years to beat the All Blacks. Wallabies this year and Ireland last year showed it could be done. We’ve beaten both sides in the last nine months, so there has to be belief this is do-able inside our camp.

    Again imho both Wilson and Lee Jones are consistently and unfairly under-rated and I hope both do well this Saturday.

    Also, very excited to see Huw Jones back in the navy blue and in partnership with Dunbar, whose mojo at Test level I hope returns big time!

  11. Matto on

    The back line must be close to the best Scotland have put out in the professional era. I feel like some of our key players are really maturing. Price, Russell, Hogg etc all seem to be developing a focus on leadership, which we are going to need in Laidlaw’s absence, and more generally, since it’s not something we’ve been heavily endowed with, even if the quality of our players has been improving.
    I’m cautious about this Samoa game as they are a team that we generally struggle with. Really hoping that the players available stay fit so they can get a good measure of themselves in what will surely be a very testing series. Going to all of the games and would love to have a couple more of the brilliant moments that the team have delivered in the last few years.

  12. Neil on

    Unfortuently we are lacking some serious Ballcarriers through injury and i think this is why we will struggle against all 3 sides although i do believe we we will beat samoa and possibly australia.

    we have amazing backs but without any serious grunt up front they loose alot of their attacking prowess, players such as richie gray , strauss or/and du preeze ashe or bradbury somewhere in the backline , even if all those were in form and fit i still feel we miss somthing there.

    that obviously as the fact we miss 3 first choice looseheads and 2 first choice hookers.

    i really hope johnny gray steps up in the next year a couple of levels in his ball carrying , for me it is average even and club levels. he excells in most other places but he will never be considered world class without it.

    it would of been nice to have seen visser in , if he was in the right mood and not slowing down before the contact. only 1 ball carrying option in Dunbar in the backline now , possibly Huw Jones can deliver this also although it has yet to be seen at test level.

    it would be nice if the academys can start delivering big lumps that can rumble the ball on and also have good hands, they have done ok in players like batti but they are not close to what we need for international level and pushing for top 4 spot in the next 5-10 years.

    • Scrummo on

      To be fair in terms of big ball carriers M.Fagerson, Bradbury and possibly Crosbie who has the size may all be coming through.

  13. Wilsysir on

    I know we love our alternative teams here. So here is my squad using players not in the 23 for Samoa.
    Gordy R / Rory S / Al D
    Fraser B / Ross F
    Simon B / ?
    R Gray / Luke H / Grant G / Scott C / Lewis C
    Back rows
    Magnus B / J Strauss, DD, J Hardie? / Blair C / Jamie Ritchie / R Harley / AA
    No 9’s
    Greig L / SHC / Vellacot / G Horne / N Fowles
    D Weir / Adam H / ??????
    Matt S / Timo V / Sean M / Rory H / Damian H / D Fife / B Mcguigan
    Duncy T / Mark B / N Grigg / Chris Harries / Phil B
    Full Backs
    R Jackson / Sean M / G Tonks

    I think you could pick a pretty decent team from that.
    There was a worry about back up should Hoggy get injured but theres some competent cover there now in Sean Maitland if he can stay injury free and R Jackson and G Tonks can provide adequate cover not ideal but will do a job.
    Also just confirms what we already knew that were just needing to unearth a couple of gems in the front row & No 10

  14. Scrummo on

    What’s great is that if you put out an Edinburgh pack with unpicked Scots considering there is 6 in the Scotland 23 and Ford, Dell, Dickinson and Hardie injured or otherwise unavailable:


    Nae bad, das depth mane.

    • FF on

      We are building more depth, despite obvious gaps (big ball carrying 8, front row, back up FH) but to go to the next level we really need half a dozen world class players.

      I reckon Hogg and Russell are more or less there, potential in Gray and maybe Jones if he keeps living up to the hype and Nel if he recovers his form, but then we have stand out test players who aren’t amongst the best in the world.

      So we need some of these guys to step up and drag Scotland to the next level. Hopefully see the likes of Fagerson elder and younger and Ritchie emerge as top class players too.

      • Merlot on

        Quite right about having at least 6 players who could/would be picked in any international side – if we are to have a chance at the WC. I think Hamish Watson could be, despite his (relative) size. Also Tommy Seymour (at his best) wouldn’t look out of place on the England/NZ/SA wing. I’m also excited about the forthcoming battle between Price and George Horne, especially with the older heads of Laidlaw, Pyrgos et al to mentor them and Mike Blair as coach.
        So given Hogg and Russell are there or thereabouts, and Nel/Gray/Jones in the mix, we have reason to be cheerful! Ever the optimist.

      • Bulldog on

        I think you are right, it is about hitting a critical mass and less experienced players do raise their game when the guys around them are not just competent but special. We are now getting to that critical mass and for me Huw Jones has still to peak and what potential, 8 caps, 7 starts and 4 tries.

  15. BorderBadger on

    I read an article a while back. May have been Allan Massie? He was making the point that, although we speak so much about strength in depth, the great Scottish teams of the past (‘84, ‘90) have pretty much picked themselves 1 to 15.
    Yes, we have injuries at the moment but, given everyone fit, how many would be our first choice anyway? For me…..
    J Gray
    (You could certainly argue Barclay)
    H Watson
    Ali Price
    Huw Jones

    All in all, despite the fact that we have injuries etc, that’s not a bad reckoning. Like Merlot says: ‘we have a reason to be cheerful’..

  16. Bulldog on

    Samoa are beatable, all the pressure is on us , usually an entertaining game. Hard hitters , so expect injury’s. Thinking of the bench,Horne can slot in anywhere, no idea about Harris.!Think he must be planning to keep Huw Jones (cover 11 to 15) and Hogg on for the duration.

    I actually think Lee Jones is a good call against Samoa, agile and gutsy. They may pick on him and that would be a mistake.

    No missed tackles in the secret tomorrow when their heads go down , the game is won.

  17. James on

    I am really looking forward to this series of games. Yes there are injuries but the squad looks stronger than it has for a while so there is hope… That said, with Scotland it is always the hope that kills you! So I am trying to keep a check on my expectations.

    You can’t go into a game expecting to lose so the players and coaching staff must be looking at three wins, but as fans what makes a successful autumn? I’m going with two wins but don’t have a handle on where Australia are at the moment. Should be a good game against them though.

    Looking further ahead, the teams put out by England, Ireland and Wales all look phenomenally good, even with some top players missing. As much as we have improved recently I do worry that we are still playing catch up a wee bit (perhaps I’m not as optimistic as I thought). We’ll know more at the end of this series but where do people see us in 6 Nations terms just now? I think it depends on how tactically astute Toonie is as there were games with Glasgow where you felt other teams had worked him out and Glasgow struggled as a result. I hope the same doesn’t happen with Scotland.

    Good luck to the boys for the next 3 weeks. C’mon Scotland!

    • Frazer on

      I agree that Ireland and England have put out good teams, but Wales are seriously on the wane and there’s only 2 players of theirs that I would consider putting into our XV – Faletau and L. Williams (as much as I dislike the man).

      In spite of Samoa running us close in the World Cup I think we’ll win with plenty to spare today. They seem to be missing a few of their bigger names and they’re not the best travellers – especially to a cold November day in Edinburgh. How we do against the All Blacks is largely dependent on which teams are put out next week. The last couple of times they’ve played us they’ve put out pretty much a second string, but I don’t think they could afford to do that this time around, although if Samoa batter us about a bit our resources might be stretched.

      Looking ahead to the 6N I am only concerned about losing away to Ireland and at home to England, I feel we will win the other 3 games.

  18. Scrummo on

    I think an Edinburgh based Scotland pack of:

    Du Preez

    Could be the one. With Berghan, McInally, Ritchie and Johny Gray on the bench and an all Glasgow back line.

Comments are closed.