The State of the Nation: Backs

Having looked at the perilous state of the front row and how Scotland are looking elsewhere in the pack, attention turns now to the backline.

This is a pretty settled unit, key to deploying Townsend’s high tempo gameplane. Things aren’t quite so gloomy with most first choices fit or back to training soon, but with the glass half-empty we have two weekends of European action to whittle them down a bit (please, no). The good news is that Glasgow’s games are dead rubbers and some of the big names may be rested. Edinburgh’s backs haven’t troubled Scotland’s teamsheet much in recent seasons but they could also be looking at an easy qualification if they can put Stade Francais away this weekend and resting in the pack could help us get to Cardiff with a decent bill of health.

Scrum-Half

Ali Price

Ali Price – pic © Alastair Ross / Novantae Photography

As with the debate on hookers, scrum-half is all about Ali Price and who backs him up. Under the tutelage of skills coach Mike Blair you could argue Glasgow try too much, too often but one thing not in doubt is the improvement in their young scrum-halves.

That wasn’t the case this time last year when it was perhaps 50/50 between Price and Laidlaw. Since Greig’s unfortunate run of injuries either side of the Lions tour, Price has shot ahead and we got a real look at Toony’s plan in action in the NZ and Australia games. Finn Russell’s goal kicking has also improved massively which takes that off the table as one of the key arguments to start Greig.

Over in France Laidlaw has resumed outdoor training, according to his Instagram account. That’s about as much as we know. If he was fit there’s a good argument to have him there to close games out as a Plan B – but can he maintain the Plan A if he had to be brought on early for an injury? There is also scope to call him up to camp in an ambassadorial role for his experience but his fitness is likely to be a doubt for a style of play he’s already not wholly suited to. It puts a lot of pressure on the other two who are in if Greig’s essentially on an advisory brief.

Ben Vellacott is a much-touted name having a good season and there is a temptation to get in there before Eddie Jones does, even if he is still in his first pro season. As Richard Cockerill said of Blair Kinghorn, 21 (or in this case 22) is not “young” for test rugby. Vellacott has been playing regularly but not always starting for Gloucester, and has dual eligibility. He represented Scotland through the age grades but has been coy on his allegiances for the simple reason that while he is “English” or “both” he remains more useful to Aviva Premiership clubs. He doesn’t suddenly become “foreign” in terms of the squad makeup even if he pitches up at Murrayfield, but the club gains funding for nurturing English-qualified players and he’s understandably keen to keep the employers sweet. He also fits the fast, attacking mode of play that Scotland have (and currently, England don’t as much) and for now edges Hidalgo-Clyne on form. If he’s not capped during either the Six Nations or the summer tour he may remain one that got away though and in all honesty, if the decision is delayed until the Summer you’d think England’s tour to South Africa would be more appealing to him than the usual Scottish hodge-podge – especially now our main side are good enough that this jaunt can only be viewed as a development tour. Here’s another interesting point: for most of his Scotland U20 career (around 2015) he was second fiddle to George Horne.

On Horne, he already looks to the manner born at Glasgow and has that Sevens pace that is hard to beat. He also could offer a goal kicking option. Sam Hidalgo-Clyne has improved massively this season which means he is back at the level where he was in his first season, being talked about as a Laidlaw replacement until Price appeared. If Townsend doesn’t go for Vellacott then he should pick the two young lads to backup Price (who is himself only 24). Henry Pyrgos is out of sorts at the moment and isn’t the reassuring deputy he once was. Nathan Fowles was in the squad ahead of Hidalgo-Clyne for his service in the autumn but looks to have been overtaken. Roll the dice, I say.

Squad (3): Ali Price, Ben Vellacott, George Horne
Out: Greig Laidlaw, Henry Pyrgos, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne

Standoff

Finn Russell

Finn Russell – pic © Alastair Ross / Novantae Photography

Last year it was a choice of Finn Russell backed up by Duncan Weir or Pete Horne, with Ruaridh Jackson returning to the squad when Townsend took over and Weir barely seen since – mostly through injury. Finn Russell and Pete Horne are likely to continue as standoff and backup, although not quite interchangeable. When on his game, Finn Russell is world class in attack and can at times verge on unplayable – at least against Australia. Since last year he’s added kicking and a bit of maturity to his game but with a big money move to France now settled, this tournament could be his chance to justify the hype and silence the criticism that he is still too flighty in certain games.

As backup, Pete Horne has his critics but he’s been steady when appearing for Scotland aside from an early hiccup a couple of years back. Ruaridh Jackson will more than likely be around the squad to provide extra cover. Weir is injured and it is too soon for Adam Hastings. Things might get interesting in a few years as Hastings matures and when Jaco Van Der Walt qualifies…

Squad (2): Finn Russell, Pete Horne
Out: Duncan Weir

Centres 

Alex Dunbar

Phil Burleigh tries to get a hold on Alex Dunbar -pic © Alastair Ross / Novantae Photography

We’ve written whole articles on this in the past but currently the rosy glow from having the best set of midfield talent we’ve ever had is tempered by fitness issues. Townsend had Duncan Taylor in the summer but not Huw Jones, then the situation was reversed in the autumn. The question is, can we get SuperDunc into the squad to push the incumbents hard – and provide multi-skilled backup from the bench? And how quickly will Mark Bennett get back up to speed?

Huw Jones has not yet set the heather on fire for Glasgow as he adapts to new environs, but he’s probably had one bad game in a Scotland shirt and even then he scored two tries. Some of his touches and passes during Zebre game were class and he has a nose for a try. He and Defensive Dunbar are inked in already, having started all of the previous Six Nations and all of the Autumn Internationals. Expect Taylor to mount a strong challenge to start if he is fit but only injury or a serious dip in form is going to stop those two.

Currently Matt Scott, Duncan Taylor and Mark Bennett are all back to fitness. Duncan Taylor suffered a head knock after 20 minutes in Saracens’ win at the weekend; like Fraser Brown he keeps picking them up which is a worry. Hopefully, he will recover in time. We’ve not seen him for Scotland since the loss to Fiji when he was injured, but he was absolutely brilliant in the summer tour win over the Wallabies and should make the 23 if he’s fit.

Matt Scott was given things to work on by Townsend last year, but he’s only just back from ankle surgery and is short of game time. Toony will want genuine challenge for places and Scott may yet have a part to play if injuries come into it. Mark Bennett is in a similar situation after an even longer layoff, so it will be interesting to see how quickly he gets up to speed at Edinburgh but the opening games will almost certainly be too soon for him.

Nick Grigg, Chris Harris and Phil Burleigh were the backup centres in the autumn and Harris probably deserves another shot for strong Newcastle form – like Jon Welsh he’s played every game this season – but it could be any two from Scott, Bennett, Harris or Grigg to round out the training group.

Squad (5): Alex Dunbar, Huw Jones, Duncan Taylor, Chris Harris, Matt Scott
Out: Mark Bennett, Phil Burleigh, Nick Grigg

Outside Backs

Blair Kinghorn

Blair Kinghorn – pic © Alastair Ross / Novantae Photography

Trying to pick who to keep from this lot is quite tricky. Wonder fullback Stuart Hogg could be fit by as the weekend which is very welcome news, but it would be worth considering young Blair Kinghorn as backup purely because his form has shown no signs of dipping since the season started. Ruaridh Jackson is perhaps the more likely choice to challenge but if you are only picking 5 for the squad in this area, are three of them going to be “just” fullbacks? Kinghorn for me is more suited to cover wing if needed so he gets the nod despite the Ru-naissance, but Sean Maitland may get in ahead of them both on reputation.

Which brings us to the Sean Maitland question. He played very well against Australia but can seem dangerously nonchalant at times both for Saracens and Scotland. Contrast that with Byron McGuigan who was hungry and powerful on his Scotland debut, scoring two tries (although he got a red card back at Sale the week after).

Tommy Seymour’s toe was injured in the Samoa game and then allowed to deteriorate his game so badly that he’s not an automatic pick any more. He is class on his day and has a near-telepathic understanding with Hogg – that try they created for Jones against New Zealand was probably our best of the year. If he’s fit now he has been rested and goes well in training, you can be sure he starts.

Then it’s up to Byron McGuigan, Tim Visser, Dougie Fife, Lee Jones and Damien Hoyland to battle it out. Chris Harris, Duncan Taylor and Huw Jones have all spent time on the wing as has Mark Bennett, occasionally. There’s no shortage of competition but you need to look at try scorers who can defend. Visser didn’t feature in the Autumn and some suspect he’s out of favour for his defence but he still has 6 league tries in 9 games, one behind McGuigan who is in joint 2nd spot with 8 from 10. Lee Jones has had a damned good season, and he has the Glasgow backline thing going for him. It might come down to a choice between him and Visser.

Squad (5): Stuart Hogg, Blair Kinghorn, Tommy Seymour, Byron McGuigan, Lee Jones
Out: Rory Hughes, Tim Visser, Ruaridh Jackson, Dougie Fife, Sean Maitland

Next: The Squad Balance and the 23 to face Wales

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64 comments on “The State of the Nation: Backs

  1. Billy on

    Not sure where you are getting that Matt Scott is back to fitness from , unless he is playing for a Gloucester junior team somewhere. As far as i can see he was a sub Vs LI on December the 2nd and played about 25 minutes , but has not featured since.
    If he is fit and playing well I would definitely have him ahead of Harris.
    Visser ahead of Lee Jones all day and every day.

    • Sam Macdonald on

      Looking at the Gloucester team for their match @ Agen Friday night Matt Scott is still listed as unavailable. As a Scotland v Wales subplot Moriarty is starting. If he makes it through unscathed could be seeing him in the back row against us.

      • Alex on

        Believe Scott is back fit but not in the Gloucester European squad: hence why not playing against Agen or against Zebre in the two weeks after the 2nd. I think he was just not selected subsequently.

    • Michael Campbell on

      Why have Visser over Jones? His defence is shoddy, his link-up play average and yes, he can finish, however so can Jones (who plays with the majority of that backline at club level).

      • NADP on

        Vissers link up play is under rated. He’s much better under the high ball than jones and is a better finisher than jones. I don’t think Visser is great but I think he’s better than jones

  2. James on

    Another excellent article. Some of the quality players that are in danger of missing out is unbelievable when you think back just over 3 or 4 years to the early 2000’s.

    Visser with NDL creating space inside him at Edinburgh was a phenomenal try scorer. You wonder if given a run with Jones he’d be the same for Scotland? Although I think McGuigan deserves another go after his performance against Oz.

    Good to hear Matt Scott is back to fitness. Has he worked on what Toony gave him to work on? He seemed a bit out of favour so I’d be interested in why you went with him over Bennett who’s also just back or Grigg, is it to balance the number of 12s and 13s in the squad? I think I’d go Bennett.

    I’ve not seen Vellacott play and I can see why he’d want to keep his options open. There may be less competition for the England 9 shirt in years to come and he’d earn more with England so it’s a tough call for him. I’d be ok with either SHC or Laidlaw in the squad (assuming Laidlaw is fully fit).

    And for stand-off we really need Finn to stay fit. And possibly clone himself.

    Is this likely to be the best Scotland squad ever (prop issue accepted)?

    • NADP on

      Thing is I think there’s a rule as part of the new agreement between premiership clubs and the RFU that you must have x amount of english qualified players in your match day squads. So I can see him not wanting to get a cap off the bench for Scotland and risk never getting played again. As it could seriously affect his future employment

  3. Stu on

    People need to look at McGuigan’s defence against Aus – it was poor. He missed tackles and was all at sea quite a few times.

    • Gary on

      People need to look at Huw jones defence as well… Seems to get swept under the rug because he scores tries occasionally. He’s good but way overrated!

      • Bulldog on

        Knocking Huw Jones is just wrong. He has scored 7 tries in 11 international matches. His support running is impecable and he can tackle, no question.

        He can play anywhere in the back 5, so he will be in the matchday 23 . Knocking Huw Jones, for a few lacklustre outings at Glasgow, is unjustified. With a strong squad around him he will shine.

        If we think Jones is a bad tackler (and I dont), think again , there are much worse tacklers than Huw Jones already nailed on.

        If we were to rate them purely on strike rate Huw Jones and Visser (14 tries from 33 caps) head the statistics. So that is not the answer either.

        If they are fit , the back line will pick itself and it will be boringly obvious. The wings are, IMO the only area I think we could see a shock, however I am not sure Visser will be included.

      • NADP on

        Bulldog you think Centers are nailed on if everyone is fit? I don’t know about that. There’s a fairly major debate if Taylor Jones and Dunbar are all fit

      • Bulldog on

        Yes I would imagine all 3 of them if fit, will be in the match day 23. Taylor may be fit but lack match practice.

      • Gary on

        Seriously people have blinders on Huw jones is good didn’t say he wasn’t but he’s overrated. He dropped the ball a number of times during the AI’s more than acceptable and misses regulation tackles too often.

      • FF on

        Gary – 7 tries in 11 games speaks for itself. Seriously, anyone who remembers the white line fever days will put up with a few dropped passes for that kind of scoring habit. He has an uncanny ability to shrug off tackles and score tries he has no right to.

  4. JohnMc on

    Hogg is surely going to have to prove international match fitness. On the training park or, if not, how many club games left for him to do that? Still, he’s so good I’d take an 85% fit Hogg to Cardiff.
    Seymour is running on reputation at the moment and is in real danger of not making the squad let alone the starting XV. Think Toonie will be ruthlessly unsentimental if needs be here. This is 6N Test rugby, first game up, away from home, and there’s no room for taking selection risks here – apart from Hogg of course!
    Ready to be shot down, but I’d go for Visser and Lee Jones as wings. First is a proven finisher who can skin defences; second is an excellent footballer who can defend and cause problems in attack.
    Maitland seems a yard or two short of last year’s pace, and even Taylor (excellent footballer too) looked either a tad slow, or was maybe just cantering as that was all he needed to do at try-time, in Sydney in June.
    Nice to have these selection dilemmas in the backs. A world away from the dark times of the noughties

    • Alanyst on

      An 85% fit Hogg is what caused his proper injury in the first place…

      Unless he is essentially 100%, I’d keep the powder dry for France and England. Kinghorn is playing well and RJ is thereabouts too, plus maybe Taylor and Maitland, so its not like there’s no other decent options.

      • Sean on

        I agree with this. We beat Australia twice last year without Hogg. He is undoubtedly world class and if fit starts, no question, but we don’t need to risk him against Wales with the other class backs we have.

        For me Wales will be won or lost upfront. I think if we get parity at scrum and maul then we can/will win…. not long to go now!

      • Andy Slow on

        Are we really in a place where we can be keeping our powder dry, as you put it? The game in Wales will be a full blown test and therefore I’d say we need our best players on the pitch. If we lose against Wales it’s tournament over for me as the confidence will take a hit. Momentum is key as all and sundry keep saying. I do like the fact that we’re now thinking as supporters that the strength in depth is there, just don’t think we can leave Hogg out. He was roasting against NZ t 85 %

      • JohnMc on

        Alanyst, my phrasing of that 85% comment on Hogg was clumsy. What I meant and should have said was 85% of full power but fully recovered from his most recent injury and not at risk of aggravating it by playing in Cardiff.

      • Alanyst on

        Agree JohnMc if it is just a matter of being a wee bit off top pace or aerobic fitness…the big issue for me is a stiff (or loose) feeling hip joint can cascade effects through the whole body when running…back, hamstrings, knees will all be stressed in unusual ways…so it’s got to be feeling good.

  5. Gary on

    The fact other players get dropped for a lot less and sometimes for not doing anything wrong I don’t know how you can pick seymour?? His last number of outings have been terrible overall with the occasionally below average performance at best.

  6. George on

    Very surprised at some of the negative comments re Maitland.He is a superb reader of the game and does a lot of un flashy work defensively with his positioning .
    If he is fully fit he has to start ahead of Seymour

    • Frazer on

      I am similarly surprised by the negative comments around Lee Jones. He’s not as prolific a try scorer as Visser but not many are, but he’s skilful, has a good rugby brain, is defensively sound and generally beats the first man.

      Hogg should start even if only 85% fit, but him, Ali, Finn and Huw Jones are, for me, definite starters. The debates are around who starts on the wings and inside centre. I personally would go for L. Jones and Maitland on the wings, and Dunbar at 12.

  7. Merlot on

    I’d have Visser over Seymour or Lee Jones at the moment. If Hogg is to play against Wales, then he cannot afford to be rested at Glasgow. However I doubt he’s fit enough to start either game and so may miss Wales. In which case give Kinghorn a start, with Maitland on the bench.

  8. Virverax on

    Good series of articles so far thanks.

    I don’t mind if we lose to Wales fair and square on the day-it will be hard but let’s face it it’s only rugby-but if we lose on the basis of any of the following I will be so so p*ssed off-dodgy red cards (with ref viewing replay after crowd make a noise); repeated scrum penalties from ref who assumes that our front row is crap and therefore committing infringements; general acts of gamesmanship by Wales players that make us look like we are infringing; errors from the restart and missed touch kicks.

    Barclay’s captaincy and overall tactical astuteness will be crucial to all of this and given what he has achieved in the last few games there is cause for optimism if he leads the team to play a smart game on the day.

  9. Stuart on

    I think the fact that the article and the comments below are largely a discussion of strengths instead of weaknesses shows how far Scottish back play and our options have come in such a short space of time. And on those options – in Toony we trust.
    If Hogg can’t play for whatever reason I’d be happy to go with Kinghorn. His metres made and line break stats are astonishing and the best in the league so far – he’s gubbing Charles Piutau! – in a team not renowned for its back play. Back him up with experience elsewhere and let him fly. Especially if we can get Duncan Taylor on the bench. He’d start at 12 for me if he’d had a run of games.
    I think we’ll come up against better attacking wingers than Wales can muster so McGuigan and Visser appeal to me more than some of the others in terms of the squad (with one or t’other starting maybe). They score tries! Who would the opposition rather face out of the options listed? I’m a Glasgow fan and huge Seymour fan too but his form simply doesn’t merit a start.
    Desperate for a win in Cardiff – especially after the disgrace of Lions selection. Come on boys!

  10. Christian on

    I don’t get people claiming that Greig can’t play Toony’s rugby when he’s had literally zero time in the team so far … if he’s fit enough get him in the training squad, see what he looks like. It’s not exactly a risk.

  11. Fraser on

    What does Seymour have to do to get dropped? At this stage he needs to show some decent club form to get back in the running.
    For me McGuigan and Jones should start on the wing (Jones has been in great form for Glasgow).
    Saying the fullbacks are one position players is a bit harsh. I would seriously consider Kinghorn as a backup 10 over Horne, freeing up bench space for stronger centre/wing cover. Hogg and Jackson are also fairly handy as well if it comes to it.
    I would also like to see Grigg in the squad, I’ve been very impressed with him recently.

    The starters are mostly nailed on all being fit, the exception being on the wing. I think it’s going to be the subs that are the key and probably the difference between winning and losing games (especially when our 2nd minute injuries start inevitably happening!).
    I really hope G Horne gets the nod at 9. SHC wouldn’t be a bad option, but Pyrgos or Laidlaw would be a step backwards (I haven’t seen Vellacott so can’t comment on him).
    I suspect P Horne will be there with Maitland covering back 3 – my choice would be pretty much any of the centres listed above and Kinghorn. I think having better centre cover than Horne is vital, especially in defence.

  12. Clarkie on

    Great article. For me, if Duncan Taylor is fit, he is in the 23 every day of the week. He’s in a class club side/environment week in week out and has been great for Scotland. Maitland is deceptively quick and reads the game well so I’d have him over Visser.
    I’d be happy with L Jones or McGuigan on the other wing. Griggs definitely ahead of Scott at the moment, he’s scoring tries and runs with pace and real power.
    God -what a brilliant problem- who to leave out in the backs. Long may it continue!

  13. Stuart on

    “Which brings us to the Sean Maitland question. He played very well against Australia but can seem dangerously nonchalant at times both for Saracens and Scotland. Contrast that with Byron McGuigan who was hungry and powerful on his Scotland debut, scoring two tries (although he got a red card back at Sale the week after).”

    Dangerously nonchalant. He has won Super Rugby, the Pro12 and the Premiership. He has played for NZ Maori and B&I Lions.

    Dropping an intelligent player with superb defence like Maitland for McGuigan or Visser would be madness.

  14. Stuart on

    On the topic of Seymour’s form….

    He was with the Lions and did very well. Was rested then came back for the win in Blom then scored tries against Exeter and Leinster. He appeared to be carrying a knock but played all three AIs and set up a couple of tries. He struggled against Nadolo like pretty much everyone else who plays him. Then played 50 minutes in the 1872 snoozefest.

    Townsend has relied upon Seymour for his entire coaching career and I doubt that he is about to drop him now for Visser or Byron McGuigan. People are talking about needing to see “form” but form is temporary and class is permanent. The vital thing is to have the class players fully fit and raring to go in Cardiff and i’d be very surprised if we see any of the starters based in Scotland – McInally, J Gray, Toolis, Watson, Price, Finn, Dunbar, H Jones, Seymour or Hogg – playing before the 3rd of Feb.

      • Stuart on

        Let’s hope they don’t pick up any injuries.

        Richard Cockerhill understandably disagrees but I wouldn’t risk anyone in our Six Nations plans for the sake of a home quarter in the Challenge Cup.

  15. john on

    I think Maitland is a Rolls Royce of a player & very much fits into the NZheld opinion of him – “nearly” – nearly a great player, nearly an AB…….. he starts for me, very clever rugby player.

  16. James on

    Lot of chat about wings, centres and full back but what (please god don’t let it happen) if Finn gets injured in game 1 or before? Who steps up and how does that affect how our back line plays? Does starting Horne get the centres and back three attacking as effectively? Can we still play the fast and loose game Toonie is planning for?

    • FF on

      If Finn gets injured we’re f*****.

      Succession planning at FH has been really poor, considering Kinghorn and SHC played FH when younger, but neither does now, Heathcote has drifted completely off the radar so we only have Dunc and Horne as back ups. Obviously Hastings isn’t getting much game time yet.

      • Fraser on

        Kinghorn played 10 in an Edinburgh game recently and did pretty well.
        I suspect most likely Jackson would cover 10 – that is meant to be his primary position after all….
        I don’t really understand why Hastings hasn’t even been on the bench recently – particularly for games like Zebre which were never going to be really tight. I guess we will see how he gets on during the 6n (for Glasgow).

      • Bescot on

        Just noticed , James Lang Harlequins stand-off is Scots qualified. Someone to keep an eye on. Looks a good prospect.

  17. 1.8T on

    An excellent write up. I would probably pick Taylor over Dunbar IF he is fit. I think he just offers a bit more going forward and is a pretty handy tackler. I don’t know why Visser doesn’t get more praise, the guy scores tries for fun and hasn’t disgraced himself in defence for a while. Maitland has to feature IMO, Seymour needs to find some form. I would be tempted to start Jones and Visser and bench Maitland due to his covering abilities. That’s without even thinking about McGuigan! Nice problem to have. Kinghorn would be an able deputy should Hogg not make it, Jackson is a safe pair of hands but doesn’t offer as much spark. Without Finn we are screwed, Horne can deputise and gets the line moving well but he is more inconsistent than even Finn and can go missing, isn’t as good a kicker either.

    No concerns over the backs, I would probably have them to a man over the Welsh equivalents, with the possible exception of JD2 and L Williams, although I cant pick him on principle so its a moot point.

    • FF on

      I’m sure Hogg has trained at 10 as a stop gap but let’s be honest, he’s got virtually no pro experience in that position in actual matches. Still he is abundantly talented so that’s why the idea never quite dies…

      • Mikelinds on

        Frankly not a great idea at this level. Much prefer to see Jackson there. He’s been in good, consistent form and it’s his preferred position.

        Let’s not worry, Finn’s fine right now.

        A bigger call to make about Hogg possibly. Risk him or not?

      • Billy greenhorn on

        Nothing to do with Scotland team but I was sad to hear Peter murchie has had to retire always I felt an underrated player and great Glasgow stalwart.

    • Neil on

      To be fair if laidlaw can get a job done their without previously playing alot , im sure hogg can do a similar job with basic plays.

      It would certainly be interesting to see with 10-20 minutes go to move hogg to 10 and bring on kinghorn. Im sure the opposition would dread it with 10 minutes left to see a backline including replacements of 9.Horne/SHC 10. Hogg 11. Visser/Mcguigan 12. Dunbar/Taylor. 13.Jones/Bennet 14.Maitland/Seymour
      15. Kinghorn.
      Their is not one person (except maitland) they can afford to take their eye off when scotland have a stable set piece and if its for the first few times especially hard for defenses to work out how to beat it.

      • Scott Douglas on

        I have said for ages I’d like Hogg a bit higher up the pitch. He is seriously quick and gets up to pace within meters. There’s a reason he played there with the lions a few tours ago. He is an great full back but he could do real damage at short range and gives space for the young Blair Kinghorn who has been exceptional with Edinburgh.

      • Stuart on

        Hogg was first receiver a lot during the first half against the ABs and it worked very well. I expect we’ll see more of it during the 6N.

      • FF on

        I’m sure toonie had Hogg playing at 10 for a game last year, maybe away to Benetton? But the experiment hasn’t been repeated so that probably tells us something about what circumstances might lead us to see it again. I’m not in favour of shifting our best player from his favoured position but it isn’t hard to see Russell and Horne both injured at the same time.

  18. Busy Little Bee on

    I wouldn’t drop Seymour, he’s not old and it’s only a matter of time before he gets the little details right again. That’s all it is recently, bounce of the ball going against him and a couple lapses in concentration. I’d never play Hogg at 10, it’s be negating his main strength which is running in to space. Crazy not to use his strike running considering he’s arguably the best in the world at it. P.Horne or Burleigh as back up at 10 but don’t let Horne kick anything from hand. His wee brother is superb and I’d have him on the bench. If Pyrgos is involved I will start supporting Samoa instead.

    • Neil on

      You say its negating his strength of running into space but look at beudan barret, he picks holes in defenses at ten all the time and he also played 15 for his first 20-30 odd caps for the all blacks, also hogs monster boot could come in handy if russell gets injured and they need to play a territory game kicking for the corners, i know who id rather have doing that out of Horne and Hogg.

      I think Nz Play 10s in a style that fits us , Damien mckenzie and BB, Jordie Barrett and new guy richie mo’unga All can play both positions to a high international standard. Hogg is in the same boat at those guys for me.

  19. Neil on

    Also i just cant see seymour starting or being in the sqaud for the wales came , he has looked so defensively weak under the high ball and in general and is dropping basics passes in the last couple of months, i dont want him defending against North, Webb , Willams etc.

    Also i think it will be very hard to leave out a guy who scored 2 tries in his last international game and is still in the same form. The other spot is between Visser and Maitland , Lee jones while he does all the basics well offers as much threat ball in hand as ruaridh Jackson so just misses out, its close though, i would very much like to see how Visser goes with Jones inside him giving him quality ball.

    I do however agree with your statement on Prygos

      • Merlot on

        Completely agree. I was at Murrayfield for the Wales game and was very impressed with the way Visser marshalled North defensively then skinned him in attack. Don’t know what he was supposed to “work on” during the AIs but his form for Quins has been exceptional. At the moment I would pick him above Seymour, Lee Jones, Mcguigan or Maitland.

  20. Busy Little Bee on

    Looks like townsend just doesn’t like Visser if he doesn’t call him up next week, they might have fallen out. I think there have been stories of Visser being a bit flash. Or perhaps he’s been asked to ‘work on’ his English, considering he might be the only player ever to represent the team for whom English isn’t their mother tongue?

    I’d start with Visser and Seymour with Maitland on the bench.

    • JohnMc on

      BLB, have you ever heard Tim speaking English? He speaks it better than most native English speakers! If there is any problem for Toonie here, it’s certainly not a language barrier.

  21. Matto on

    I’m not sure on what basis Toony would select Vellacot ahead of Horne (other than the tactical of tying him in). Both players seem to be at similar stages in their development, but Horne looks better to me. So Price and Horne then SHC and Vellacot fighting out for the 3rd spot, assuming Laidlaw is not in the mix.
    Very much think that Kinghorn has merited a place. He has been on outstanding form and is another true attacking weapon. Cockers has clearly had a very positive influence on him, as he has with pretty much everything else about Edinburgh. I see both Visser and Maitland are starting this wkend, so it’ll be interesting to see how they go. Tim’s last games for Scotland were probably his best. Big improvement in bravery both in defence and under the high ball. Outplayed North in every aspect. Would be happy to see either/both included.

    • Bulldog on

      Yes at the minute we appear to have many scrum half’s of quality however Laidlaw and Pyrgos are soon to go, thereafter If one other gets a serious injury, we are back in a vulnerable place ! I am 50/50 on the Vellacott position , what I cannot understand is why SHC dropped form so much , though I have to say is back on better terms now but no where near the standard he was ascending towards before his form dipped. Horne is on an upward trend and Price is consistently playing a high standard of rugby. We will see how high on the 4th of Feb. I would say one of the biggest personal benchmark tests on the day will be Price.

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