Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Scotland v Australia: the teams

Simon Berghan
Simon Berghan - pic © Alastair Ross / Novantae Photography

Gregor Townsend has made four changes for the team to face Australia. You may not like all of them.

The backs are unchanged save for Sean Maitland who replaces the impressive Lee Jones. Jones drops out of the 23 altogether with the bench replacements also unchanged. There is presumably a contingency plan in place should Alex Dunbar fail to complete the return-to-play protocols which may well involve Pete Horne. Who comes in on the bench should this occur is a mystery but possibly Chris Harris or Ruaridh Jackson. It’s harsh on Jones who has played 2 very good games while Maitland has the pedigree but little in the way of form.

In the pack the changes are more widespread with Simon Berghan earning a start and Zander Fagerson perhaps rested on the bench. Everyone’s new cult hero Darryl Marfo is passed fit and Fraser Brown comes in to fill the reserve hooker slot. The scrum was one area that underperformed against New Zealand and will need a step up against the Wallabies. “Show me a picture”, to quote Mr D.

Grant Gilchrist starts his first test of the autumn alongside Jonny Gray while Toolis drops to the bench. Sadly no sign of Luke Hamilton who we’re keen to get another look at, but Ryan Wilson has recovered from his injury to take the Number 8 shirt back from Cornell du Preez who drops to the bench. A big effort will be required by Wilson to show he deserves the recall, with Du Preez bringing a welcome poise to restarts and carrying hard with the ball during his first start last week.

Toolis, du Preez and Jones can all feel pretty hard done by, but it does add a little more impact from the bench which may be required as both sides reach the end of their Autumn tests.

The Wallabies will be looking to go out on a high with Stephen Moore retiring after this game; Scotland will be looking to stop them and show the bright moments this autmn are signs of real growth.

Scotland: 15. Stuart Hogg (vice-capt), 14. Tommy Seymour, 13. Huw Jones, 12. Alex Dunbar, 11. Sean Maitland, 10. Finn Russell, 9. Ali Price, 1. Darryl Marfo, 2. Stuart McInally, 3. Simon Berghan, 4. Grant Gilchrist, 5. Jonny Gray, 6. John Barclay (Capt), 7. Hamish Watson, 8. Ryan Wilson (vice-capt).

Replacements: 16. Fraser Brown, 17. Jamie Bhatti, 18. Zander Fagerson, 19. Ben Toolis, 20. Cornell du Preez, 21. Henry Pyrgos, 22. Pete Horne, 23. Byron McGuigan.

Australia: tbc

Replacements: tbc

Saturday 25 November (kick-off 2.30pm)  live on BBC / BT Sport

Referee: Pascal Gauzère (FRA)

80 Responses

  1. Team news just out for Saturday:
    Hogg, Seymour, Jones, Dunbar, Maitland, Russell, Price, Marfo, McInally, Berghan, Gilchrist, J Gray, Barclay (capt), Wilson, Watson

    Bench: Brown, Bhatti, Fagerson, Toolis, Pyrgos, Horne, McGuigan

    1. Feel for Lee Jones, he’s put in some pretty solid performances so far and to not even make the bench seems harsh. Glad to see Marfo shaking off his knock, deserves the starting berth to continue his run of form.

    2. Don’t know why toolis is dropped to bench he has had 2 fine games cdp must be disappointed also.

      1. Doubt he’s ‘dropped’ but after an energy sapping tea probably just effort to freshen pack up and give us real impact from the bench – with Fagerson, Toolis, Du Preez and Brown to come on our pack should be as strong in the last quarter as the preceding three.

  2. When I read that Maitland comes in I assumed Seymour’s decent overall performance (I thought) with a couple of glaring errors had done for him but to see Jones has been put out of squad completely is strange.

    Jones has been the stand out wing in this autumn series and in the top three performers in the team each match. At least have him on the bench I do not understand.

  3. Du Preez and L Jones can feel very hard done by. Onus has to be on Maitland (who is a perennial underperformer) and Wilson to show that they are the guys for the job. Nice position to be in. Is Toolis injured? I have never seen Gilchrist do anything spectacular, a solid performer (if he doesn’t get broken) but nothing spectacular.

  4. Desperately hard on Wee Lee but International Rugby isn’t fair. Sean Maitland will have to play a big one to justify his elevation, ditto Wilson ahead of du Preez. Is Zander moved to the bench to provide 60-minute impact?
    Will Ali Price be moving to Racing 92 to provide simultaneous translation services for Finn I wonder? I understand that they are joined-at-the-hip best friends and flatmates?

  5. As you and others have said, very harsh on Lee Jones. I would have expected him to start but could understand Townsend starting with Maitland and Jones going to the bench.

    It seems to me that this is evidence of the Toonie Tombola at play rather than Jones being actually dropped. Townsend says to Jones, “You’ve done a great job, Lee. Well done and take a break. I now want to have more of a look at McGuigan so we’ve got more options for the 6 Nations.” Jones will be used to that from when Townsend was at Glasgow.

  6. I assume that Toonie is wanting to have a look at some of these players versus what he has seen from those dropped which is ok in the context of the AI’s. It could also be that some of the players (forwards in particular) are knackered after the mammoth effort against the AB’s. It also seems to have improved the impact from the bench, perhaps Toonie is looking at Eddie Jones “finishers” and what they did to Oz and is hoping for similar. Here’s hoping we are already out of sight by the time the finishers come on to put the final gloss on proceedings!

  7. First choice backs. Massive front 5. Impact from the bench. Happy.

    Who are Australia playing on the wings?

  8. I’m sad that Jones has been dropped from the 23, maybe a knock?

    I’m frustrated by Gilchrist being picked, IMO he represents a backwards step. We need to build depth and even though he’s steady that’s all he is, and we’re building for a strong future and we need players who are better than steady.

    All that being said, I still think it’s a good team and should win on Saturday.

  9. Interested to see Toolis being dropped to the bench, perhaps as James said above this is because of tiredness and the need for finishers. I’m sure GG is chomping at the bit to start so not necessarily a totally bad thing, but I actually think Big Ben through performance has earned his right as our no.1 lock at present.

    Same principal with Berghan and Fagerson re: freshness / finishers – though it also keeps the ‘pod’ approach to combinations with Edinburgh starting and Glasgow finishing.

    Regarding Wilson, I do think he is a slightly better 3rd option at lineout than du Preez (though roughly the same height) so perhaps that’s the main reason. But also Wilson is ahead of du Preez in the pecking order and though he had a good game at the weekend he cant afford to drop absolute sitters like he did in the first half and there not be consequence – its a by-product of depth that if used correctly will mean that players cannot afford silly mistakes. Mistake aside his general form is very good so he becomes a great option to come of the bench

    As for Maitland, it might be harsh on Jones (well no might it is ‘is’) but he is experienced in that backline he is a very good defender, good reader of the game and very good trail runner – if he is fit then its by no means diminishing the team he being selected. I also think he offers much more in cover defence than the naked eye might see – bear with me….. We all want to see Hogg with his hands on the ball ideally on 2nd / 3rd phase ball shifted from the ruck quickly. If we do that then we can create 4 versus 3’s, 3 versus 2’s – What Maitland will do, is spot this early and where he is not offering support will cover the backfield to allow Hogg more ball in hand and maintain continuity in the counter-attack. I actually think this is a very attacking selection and tells me that we will be looking to run from everywhere with the width coming on an arc on the 3rd/4th phase.

  10. Is it possible that Jones has been ‘dropped’ to free him up for Glasgow’s game on Sunday? Given how many of Glasgow’s best backs are tied up in the Scotland squad, maybe Townsend has struck a sympathy deal with Rennie. I agree with many others that he played really well last Saturday.

  11. I dont know why I get surprised by Townsend selection policies – but the changes he’s made absolutely no sense.

    Gilchrist isn’t the future – Cummings is and Toolis has been superb. Gilchrist is the new ruck inspector general after Kellock retired.
    Maitland is 80 mediocre minutes into a comeback and has been military medium for practically his whole Scotland career.
    I presume Fagerson is still struggling – why replace him with an inferior player?
    All coaches have blindspots – Townsend’s is Wilson.

    1. Maitland was immense in his last two test against Ireland and France with huge defensive contributions at vital times (particularly the intercept against Ireland). Koroibete was Australia’s best player against England by a distance and bringing in Maitland to combat him makes sense.

  12. Re:Wilson.
    Perhaps any regular Glasgow watcher can clarify quite what it is that successive coaches see in him? Nothing against him, but the way he is catapulted straight back into the starting XV as though he were Hogg or Barclay or Nel doesn’t sit right with me. I really don’t get it. As it stands, I put him in with the likes of Maitland or (perhaps until recently) Ross Ford in the ‘perhaps our best option in their relative position, but probably won’t be if we are ever to challenge for the 6 Nations’. Last week has already shown how competition is developing in the front row (and second row for that matter), I would like to see more options/combinations in the back row, not what we know and have seen plenty of, unless of course Toonie is saying that this is his preferred side going forward – to which I refer you back to my opening question!

    1. In defence of Wilson, and Cotter said as much, he is probably the quickest forward we have over the ground, and has good hands, so he is well suited to the game we aspire to. He’s not the typical ball carrying bash it up 8 though and if that’s what we want then we need someone else.

      1. Agree with this. Rennie has also come in and said he is impressed with his leadership on the pitch and made him captain. I see him as similar to Barclay.

      2. Wilson was close to going over the edge in Sydney in June – but not close enough to earn a yellow! He’s an in your face, won’t back down loose forward. He was a complete pain for the Wallabies then, and I hope he increases the pain this Saturday.
        If you’ve still got it on record, watch Ryan in the first 20 mins in Sydney. He was taking no nonsense from an outfit that thought they were going to boss us from the kick-off.
        Wallabies hate him, which is why he needs to start on Saturday!

  13. Gilchrist was “the future” as little as 3 years ago. He’s still only 27 FFS! Cummings may well be the future but not yet. Obviously Gilchrist will be really hurt by your comparison with Al Kellock.
    I’m surprised that Lee Jones has been dropped completely though. Obviously Maitland’s versatility, Seymour’s class (over form) and McGuigan’s need for a first cap (and his ability to play centre, given the injuries there), all trump Jones form in the last 2 games.
    I have no doubt that Ryan Wilson will prove his worth against Oz, but I’d rather have him start and CdP finish than the other way round.

    1. McGuigan has a first cap – his debut was clearly so memorable you never noticed him.

      What do you mean not yet for Cummings? He’s been superb all season – the capt of our most successful U20 side ever – he should clearly be getting game time in the AIs – everyone know’s what Gilchrist provides – mediocrity. Starting ahead of our No1 lineout jumper is just stupidity.

  14. Seems stupid to name the side this early , that is 4 days for aus to plan and prepare with new people in the system they can work on targeting.

    1. Brilliant! Loving the fact that the dastardly RFU tricked the poor Aussies with good weather in the lead up to the test as well.

      1. See the Aus coach is in bother reference his comments to the ref. Looks like a french ref this weekend – what do we know about him !!! Pascal Gaüzère

      2. Pascal Gaüzère refereed the Ireland Scotland game in Dublin 2016. Don’t remember him which might be a good thing. There were 7 tries in that game though so if he lets us play that would be another good thing.

      3. looks like he carded Barclay(breakdown) and Dunbar (Dangerous Tackle). The good news is he also carded Sexton , so the good news is he has no time for whinging drama queens.

      4. Gaüzère was a disaster in that game. He had no idea of what constituted a ruck, and incorrectly penalised then carded Barclay. Dunbar’s yellow was probably fair, but it was a result of Gaüzère refusing to penalise Sexton et al.’s cynical slowing down of the ball. He eventually started doing so and carded Sexton once the game was gone. Luckily the laws for the rucks have changed, so maybe he’ll accidentally referee them correctly this time…

  15. The reasons i can think for the pack changes ? Scrum. That is probaly our biggest available front 5 ? dont get why cornell would not then start also though.

  16. How about this : Wilson has loads of experience and a tactical menace (some say liability) . Get right under their skin.

    CDP brings more bulk in second half when we start swapping out the front row. Berghan a massive 128kg, Fagerson 121kg , Wilson 105kg , CDP 118kg.

    1st Half 232 and second 239 kgs. Other way round we would have 246 first versus 226 in second.

    1. I dont mind wilson being in the squad just not as an 8 , i think he is more a fit at 6 similar to P.ohamy or whatever his name is the irish 6 , he is a slightly better version of harley due to his ball carrying, not good enough to do that role at 8 though.

  17. Wilson?? Sigh! Just don’t understand what Scotland coaches see in him. Always looks average to me. At least CDP is in 23…he’s a far better player.
    Disappointed, however, that either Bradbury, Ritchie or Cummings aren’t given a go.

    Can only think Brown, Fagerson, Toolis, Du Preez are in subs due to tiredness and/or injury. Very good for impact tho.

    Pyrgos??….sigh!! for the 3rd AI time

    Maitland is better option than Jones, I think, because of his ability to cover FB…and/or to free up Hogg
    & seymour more to attack.

    Seems bizarre to me to select Harris for the overall squad and give him virtually no time to prove himself and in a position that isn’t his best. Either give him a good go…or its a waste of a squad spot. I wonder who would have made way had Hamilton been fit?

    Surprised to see squad announced so early… gives opposition far too much time to prepare.

      1. Yes…would just like to have witnessed whether it was worth tying them to Scotland. Hamilton looked the part tho….even in his short time on the field.

    1. Horne and Huw Jones can cover full back so it can not be that.

      I don’t get it , he can cover back for Hogg when he is in the line and he is a great tackler.

      I can recall very few outstanding moments and his try scoring record, while not everything, is not one for the CV. I hope it works out.

      1. Yeah…I meant more that Maitland can shift round to a good defensive FB position when in play allowing Hogg, Jones and Seymour to threaten the line from a more advanced position.

  18. Good reasons for continuity in selection, and there are some hard luck stories.
    But standing back I guess the question is if Toonie doesn’t try some variations on Saturday, when does he ? Against Wales in Cardiff ? I’d rather not . . .

    But the tombola has always been Toonies way.

  19. Looks like its going to be fast & furious.

    Maitland is better than Jones & I have to admit to always thinking McGuigan had the potential to be a very good player, harsh on L.Jones but……..

    If we are in touch (still a 50-50 game IMO) we have real options off the bench.

    Remember Gilchrist was BVCs 1st choice as captain, unquestionably harsh on Toolis.

    I’d have retained CdP in @ 8.

      1. Vern did some very good things, but continued to leave out players that should have been playing over that tenure including Barclay and picked Hugh Blake…. Perfect example is the fact that Toolis couldn’t buy a 2nd cap for over 2 years under Vern. The instant Gregor is appointed he’s starting and calling lineouts and hasn’t dissapointed! Coaches don’t always make the right selections!

  20. I think some comments quite harsh on Gilchrist. I think he has looked very positive for Edinburgh of late and carried well. This is a particular issue for us so let’s see how he does.

    Also with L Jones, he’s been good and will be there or thereabouts come Cardiff. Either going to play for Warriors or Toonie wants to see some of Maitland and possibly McGuigan.

    Wilson is a good back row option. Maybe too small for an international 8 but by no means a bad player.

    1. I’ve never rated Gilchrist but I thought he was really good when he came on. Carried hard and over the gain line often. Another leader to add to the group. I’m glad that he has found some form again.

    2. It doesn’t make sense to drop Toolis though. He’s been calling the lineouts, is quite clearly one of the best lineout options in the world, has a high work rate and is ridiculously skilled for a lock. Gilchrist had 3 carries against NZ against tired opposition, gave a stupid penalty away at a lineout. I’d say it’s pretty harsh on Toolis who has been class since singapore!

  21. Gilchrist’s form has improved since Cockerhill arrived and he played well when he came on against the ABs. We now know we have three Test standard locks R. Gray (28) J. Gray (23) and Toolis (25). If Gilchrist (27) goes well on Saturday then we have four locks we should be able to rely on for a good few years. Given that we don’t know if Richie Gray will be available for the 6 nations Gilchrist is one injury away from a start, playing him this weekend makes sense.

    Cummins is 20 and a very good rugby player. I think he needs to bulk up before he is ready to start a meaningful test though.

  22. Great for us “London Scots” to see Darryl cap off some remarkable performances considering his fragmented journey to Glasgow and to his selection.
    A state school boy from Battersea has made all of his teachers at The London Nautical School mighty proud we will be at Murrayfield again to raise a cheer for him and Scotland

    1. He’s been great – really happy with his arrival.

      There is no reason why he cant be No 1 for the 6Ns – Dickenson hasn’t played for 18 months and Dell is still out too.

    2. *ahem* ‘state school boy’ at er, Pangbourne College? £25k a year is it? May well have been a scholarship but slightly disingenuous to herald as state educated in this instance even though his upbringing/journey to Test rugby may well be remarkable.

      1. Read Tom english’s article on BBC – who cares if he got a scholarship for a couple of years frankly??? The guy is a legend and if he backs up his nz performance he’ll take some shifting from the squad.

  23. I’m fairly happy with the selection.
    Jones played well against New Zealand, but personally I didn’t think he was quite as amazing as has been suggested (harsh to be dropped completely though), Seymour needs a good game to give himself a confidence boost after last week and it will be interesting to see how Maitland gets on.
    Townsend has said Berghan is in and Fagerson on the bench to keep the Edinburgh/Glasgow front rows together, I think Mcinally has more than earned keeping the hooker spot over Brown.

    These games should have an element of trying new combinations and players – I thought that’s what the autumn internationals were there for? Of course there is a balance with getting wins and building confidence etc. but when else should we be doing it?

  24. L.Jones has been fine but hasn’t set the heather on fire.

    In reply to Fraser, I think No.1 priority is winning, & to be honest given the injury list there are few other combinations open to us.

  25. Did anyone see the Toonie interview. Said he picked Maitland for his experience and ability to cover full back. He mentioned that he really liked to have a back 3 that could attack from deep like full backs. This suggest he’s expecting Australia to kick more than normal and he’s planning lots of counterattacking plays. Maybe he’s seen the forecast although I think Saturday is probably the best day this week in Edinburgh.

    One thing I would say about Maitland is that his anticipation is very good, especially off turnover ball. If you watched him when he was at Glasgow, anytime it was on he and Hogg reacted instantly and were running at full speed before most others reacted. He also runs very good support lines.

    When you look at his Scotland record I think his scoring record appears low because Scotland attack for the last couple of years has depended on one winger dropping back when Hogg + the other winger (usually Seymour) + Huw Jones attack. Maitland has the best defence of those 3 so its usually him.

    1. Good explanation, I saw the part where he was keen to improve defense. So if they intend to kick more it feels like their loose forwards will be close to the O/S line hence Wilson who is as effective as Barclay and Watson in terms of retention. Hooper will need managing. We are well capable of winning this game and they know it.

  26. It seems hard on both Toolis and, especially, Jones. However, the game is different now and I think Eddie Jones’s reference to ‘finishers’ is right and Toonie gets this.

    I watched the intro of our bench from behind the sofa on Saturday. My feeling was that I hoped they could ‘hold the line’ rather than have an impact. To be fair they all did a great job.

    However I think we, the sofa coaches, tend to think simplistically that our number one players in a position should start and our number 2 players should be on the bench but I’m not entirely convinced that’s the case in the modern game. There needs to be more consideration given to the last 20min than simply replacement.

    Personally I’m Buzzed by the fact we’re arguing that some of our bench players should be first choice. In the modern game that’s the difference in competing for the last 20 or ‘holding the line’. In my opinion Toonie hasn’t picked a bench to secure the game. He’s picked a 23 to pressure and compete to the end. 16 to 23 are picked on a different basis from 1 to 15 and rightly so.

    I get why people (myself included) feel its a shame for L. Jones and Toolis but I’m excited that we can bring Toolis on at 60 odd mins to terrorise the opposition rather than GG. If I was a tired opposition player at 60mins I know who I’d rather see coming in!

    In Toonie we trust (*this statement may be entirely retracted on Sunday*)

    1. Change of topic here but does anyone else think doddie weir should take out the match ball again on Saturday gave the team great inspiration and getting MND appeal out to a massive audience. I know his walkout last week was very special.

      1. Maybe not but I wouldn’t be against him giving a pep talk in the changing room before they go out.

  27. I have a strange obsession with how awesome Toolis is and am sad to see him dropped but its clear that its about rotation. To me he is by far our best lineout jumper so I think that’s what we lose with Gilco. To be fair he has also played a lot of games recently.

    If we can keep players on the park and can tackle the Aussie monster centres I think we should win this weekend.

    1. Yeah I agree, I’m a massive fan of Toolis and we need him in control of the line out moving forward if we want to do things like win the 6 nations. Hopefully he’s not happy and he comes off the bench angry!

  28. I can’t really make sense of completely dropping Lee Jones and Benching Toolis. I’d drop Seymour as a way of showing it’s not acceptable to make that many errors. Toolis has been superb and taking everything into consideration lineouts (calling them), support play, workrate, link play in the backline has been playing better than Jonny in my opinion across the last 5 tests (Jonny got the chocolates against NZ as he was a bit more dominant) due to the tight game the forwards played. But I’d definitely have Toolis starting against his native Aussies that he took much joy in beating in sydney!

  29. It’s great we’re debating which locks to play/bench – it wasnt that long ago that Jason White, at his peak a great destructive flanker, was drafted time & again into a position which clearly didn’t suit him because we had so few options. Not sure why but Swinson sometimes gets a hard rap on this blog. Always had grit & could be a real pain to the opposition. Hope he recovers soon & strengthens further 2nd row options.

    1. 100% agreed in an ideal world if we can operate with a fit R.Gray, J.Gray and Toolis as our match day 23 rotation we are in good stead as they are all world class I thought Jonny and Toolis easily outplayed the All Blacks pairing. Swinson does get bit of a bad wrap which is harsh I guess he’s more of a tradesman and doesn’t stand out as much!

      1. For me Swindon is just not tall enough for an international lineout jumper. It’s really only that. I think he’d be a good 6 if he took a wee bit of bulk off.

  30. Slightly off-topic but how the hell have Edinburgh found 4 props to take to South Africa this week & who are they? Dickinson, Dell, Nel all injured, Marfo, Bergman in test side which leaves Sutherland & McCallum plus ??? Glasgow not that much better either for front rows. Just hope we beat the Wallabies to make it worthwhile & as a gift to Doddie.

    1. Just had the unhappy experience of watching the Edinburgh scrum absolutely blasted by the Cheetahs in the last 25 minutes of the Pro 14 game. It was painful to watch. Not saying it cost Embra a win, but the advantages gained by the Cheetahs’ total scrum dominance made it virtually impossible to get into positions from which a losing BP could be earned.

    1. Thats a blow losing Dunbar…literally leaving us short in the centre. Still Horne has caused os’straya problems in past.

      At least Burleigh is a solid , if unspectacular, replacement.

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