The State of the Nation: Forwards

Let’s get the bad news out of the way. If the Six Nations started next week, we’d be struggling up front.

Even when it does start, we’ll still be struggling. But you have to pick someone…

Props

WP Nel - pic © Al Ross/Novantae Photography

WP Nel – pic © Al Ross/Novantae Photography

Since he took over in June, these are the props that Gregor Townsend has picked in match day squads: Allan Dell, Gordon Reid, WP Nel, Alex Allan, Zander Fagerson, Darryl Marfo, Jamie Bhatti and Simon Berghan. Swap Marfo and Bhatti for Jon Welsh then you have the 7 strong prop group from Vern’s last Six Nations squad. I think we can agree that the times for calling Al Dickinson the first choice loosehead are some distance in the past. When does “injury crisis” become “that’s how life is now”? Even from that (now established) group, Dell, Nel, Fagerson and Marfo are all injured.

The main source of the prop crisis is via Edinburgh, where Cockers has a very bare cupboard indeed. Before last week, Glasgow’s Jamie Bhatti and Zander Fagerson were the two in the driving seat – and Glasgow at least have non-Scots backup in Kebble and Halanukonuka. Edinburgh’s Murray McCallum (uncapped) has made strides with every game under Cockerill and can play both sides; he looked very solid against the Kings on Friday. Alex Allan has just 4 caps, and D’Arcy Rae is also a possibility having trained with Scotland before. If Rory Sutherland stays fit he’ll be right in the mix – he sat out the Kings game on Friday night but has played recently.

The other clear issue is that most of those guys are modern, dynamic ball-carrying types or just plain inexperienced. There aren’t that many old-school scrummagers of the type who become more important when you are packing down against hardened and experienced Six Nations packs. Even with Toony’s high-speed ChaosPlus™ we’ll need a few of those to avoid leaking penalties at the set-piece.

Marfo saw a back specialist recently and there is no word on recovery times for him or Dell*. WP Nel broke his arm against Samoa and was quoted at a minimum of 12 weeks absence which runs right to the end of the month. Unlikely he’ll be ready for the first two games – at best. I bang on about Zander’s ill-discipline a lot but he is definitely maturing and would have proven very influential in the next 2-3 months – but then came the bizarre foot injury that kept him out against Zebre. He’ll probably be in the squad at some point, but could now be looking at sitting out as many as the first three games.

As a result, don’t be surprised if any “old” stagers like Gordon Reid (London Irish) or Moray Low (Exeter) are called up. Another possibility is Kyle Traynor who has started games for Leicester this season but mostly in the Cup. His Premiership time amounts to 17 minutes from the bench across 4 matches.

It is Jon Welsh who is the most due for a recall, having started all 12 of fifth-placed Newcastle’s Premiership games so far this season. His experience – and form – are something Scotland badly need up front to support the efforts elsewhere. We can’t avoid the scrum forever and he should now be a certainty.

Having just a couple off the injured list by mid-tournament could give Scotland a huge boost, as will the return of Simon Berghan after the opening weekend. This is a depth tournament; 3½ fit props isn’t going to cut it. But after the autumn, it would be a bitter pill to end a tournament we have such hopes for with a much stronger squad than at the beginning. Nowhere do we need Toony’s June-November ability to fashion a Scotland team that plays the same regardless of personnel more than up front…

Squad (7): Rory Sutherland, Jamie Bhatti, Alex Allan, Gordon Reid, Jon Welsh, Simon Berghan, Murray McCallum.
Out: Al Dickinson, WP Nel, Darryl Marfo, Allan Dell, Zander Fagerson.

(Squad position numbers based on previous 6N squad).

Hooker

Stuart McInally

Stuart McInally is congratulated by teammates after scoring his second try for Scotland vs Samoa at BT Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh. © Alastair Ross / Novantae Photography

Things are little better in the middle of the front row, where right now Stuart McInally is the man some distance ahead of his competitors and in the form of his life. Fraser Brown has this week been rested indefinitely due to ongoing concussion issues; he might not see the rest of the season never mind the Six Nations, and we wish him all the best.

Brown is surely the first second choice if he is fit to play but things get trickier after that. Ross “all the caps” Ford is recovering from a pectoral injury, with a 4 month layoff predicted in November that could see him out into March. Although like Pat MacArthur he’s a bit late in his career, Edinburgh’s Neil Cochrane is not far behind having trained in the autumn while Glasgow’s George Turner will surely be on the shortlist. He’ll only have the two European games to play himself into form after he, like Berghan, serves a ban. With Brown causing untold damage in the Calcutta Cup last time, the last thing Scotland needs is a front row with a rash streak so we hope he can control that frustration.

Squad (3): Stuart McInally, George Turner, Neil Cochrane.
Out: Ross Ford, Fraser Brown.

Second Row

Richie Gray at the lineout

Ritchie Gray wins a lineout for Scotland – pic © Alastair Ross / Novantae Photography

This area is usually pretty easy, and it remains so. Jonny Gray and Ben Toolis walk in; Richie Gray and Grant Gilchrist are fit (Gilcho even has form now too) so they’re in too, although Richie is short of games. The only debate is on the fifth backup spot, which would go to Scott Cummings in the absence of Tim Swinson who is recovering from hand surgery. Cummings picked up a hand injury of his own last week, and is also expected to be out for “up to 8 weeks”. Lewis Carmichael and Fraser Mackenzie are the next most likely candidates now that Anton Bresler has left for Worcester, lapsing his Scottish residency qualification with a squad call-up but no cap. So far Cummings is ahead of them all in terms of his play. You might actually see Townsend take 4 locks and, say, Rob Harley as cover to spare Edinburgh who will be left short there too.

Squad (5): Jonny Gray, Richie Gray, Grant Gilchrist, Ben Toolis, Lewis Carmichael.
Out: Tim Swinson, Scott Cummings, Anton Bresler.

Back Row

Hamish Watson

Hamish Watson – pic © Alastair Ross / Novantae Photography

Another easy bit: the actual team will be John Barclay (capt) and Hamish Watson, plus AN Other. Picking that “other”, plus a backup on the bench is where it gets tricky though; you have to make sure that Scotland can retain the dynamism from the autumn even with a replacement or two. As we’ve already seen, the pack could be severely makeshift in some areas but they are going to need to perform to give that backline a chance. So mass experimentation could be unlikely here but there are still some names worth considering.

How about Luke Hamilton plus Watson and Barclay? Will former Welsh U20 Hamilton – who impressed during his first cap but has not started loads for the Tigers – fancy a crack at Wales in Cardiff? You can bet on it. Wales could be very depleted in the back row (and will wish Hamilton wasn’t now Scottish or they might have capped him) so Barclay at Number 8 might work better than it would against, say, France or England.

Sale’s Josh Strauss is out for 3-4 weeks with a shoulder injury, so a call-up for him is unlikely. The same probably goes for David Denton and Mitch Eadie, at underperforming Worcester and Northampton respectively. Denton is a tricky one, as despite Worcester woes he has scored 3 tries from 9 games and is reportedly hitting some form at last. London Irish are doing even worse but Vern Cotter favourite Blair Cowan tops the Premiership for turnovers and offloads. Might either be due a recall?

Closer to home the question is: is it too early for Matt Fagerson or Adam Ashe, just back from injury? With stalwart Ryan Wilson injured (ankle), Rob Harley may find a place again and Cornell du Preez did better than expected in the Autumn, but Ashe, Fagerson or Magnus Bradbury would be seen as more forward-thinking options. Jamie Ritchie has been superb for Edinburgh and if any of the tyros are getting a call-up it should be him.

John Hardie should be back playing for Edinburgh by the game on the 3rd but may need time to get his head right and there’s no word if Toony will even consider him following the off-field ban. Let us hope a return to form makes that an easier decision.

Squad (7): John Barclay (capt), Hamish Watson, Cornell du Preez, Luke Hamilton, Jamie Ritchie, Rob Harley, David Denton.
Out: Ryan Wilson, Josh Strauss, John Hardie, Adam Ashe.

Up next: The Backs

*Update: Dell is due back “by the end of next month” (Feb).

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57 comments on “The State of the Nation: Forwards

  1. Bulldog on

    Good article Rory, a good 360 taking account of the Premiership players as well.

    Since Hamilton’s selection I have been watching Leicester and he does make a nuisance of himself. I never realised Blair Cowan was on that kind of form. Turnover and quick ball could be a differentiator however set piece is our albatross.

    I suspect we need to go for props who can hold it up (and that is a hard find). The big question is does he start with experience or bring them on to finish. My daft guess is you need to start with the experience away from home and take a chance on starting the newcomers at home.

    The quote the bard, ‘the best laid plans …..gan aft agley and leave us naught but pain and grief for promised joy.’

    It is going to be as frustrating as ever being a Scotland fan.

  2. Grahame on

    I watched the Worcester v Bath game yesterday and you would have to say that Denton played pretty well in a poor team. He scored a try, made tackles, secured turnovers and carried all day. Bit like the old Dents really.

    It is easy to forget just how explosive a player he can be whilst in form, as he has not been for the past two years. He was very impressive in the last WC, which is what earned him the big money move to Bath. It was also noted that he was probably working a bit harder than he used to, which was always the flaw in his game and not one that will appeal to Toonie.

    He will be in the squad and will likely start at No.8 for the first game with Wilson injured. We really don’t have anyone else who can carry ball like him.

    • Bulldog on

      I agree he is in good form and it could be argued that is not an easy task in such a poor side, however would Worcester beat Edinburgh or Glasgow !

      The RWC story was what Bath spun at the time, however it is easy to miss the whole story in the spin.

      Bath lost Sam Burgess back to League early season and were desperate to find a replacement. They immediately went hunting and were unsuccessful in signing Burger, Picamoles and Faletau (who was prevented from moving by the WRU and finally joined Bath for 16/17 season ) . As I recall Denton had some good games in the RWC , he was lured from an under performing Edinburgh, by a side who needed a fit competent big unit right away. He was overlooked ultimately at Bath who finally got their man.

      I hope he can get a move to a better side next season and in the form he is showing I suspect that is likely.

      He took the purse , left his team mates, left Edinburgh and the SRU control. It has been a tough few years for DD since the RWC.

      • SlowWalk90 on

        Really hope to see Denton recalled ahead of the 6 Nations. On form, he’s our best option at number 8. I think he’d also be an ideal signing for Glasgow as well.

    • SlowWalk90 on

      I don’t know what anyone sees in Berghan, to be honest. I think Welsh is a significantly better option, and hopefully a good performance against Wales will see him cement his place ahead of him.

  3. Frazer on

    I must admit the front row is going to be a real concern, particularly given the high speed, high risk gameplan will result in knock-ons so a solid front row is paramount, and the injuries are hitting at just the wrong time. I also have a real fear that Fraser Brown may ultimately have to retire on medical grounds as he seems to be getting concussed with alarming regularity.

    I have no concerns about depth in all other areas (barring Finn), it’s just the front row. Hopefully by the time England roll into town things will look a bit healthier with the props.

  4. Little Discourage on

    To pick Denton ahead of Du Preez would be a nonsense. CDP shows commitment and physicality every time he fields pitch and is silky with ball in hand. No contest skill wise when compared to Denton. Surprised by the author had such low expectations for CDP – he has been on top form for Gunners since closing games of last season. Fits the Toonie game plan far better than any other choice for number 8.

    • MK on

      Denton has faults but one thing he never shirks on is his commitment and physicality, gives 100% everytime he puts in the Scotland Jersey.

      • Bulldog on

        He was certainly committed to leaving Edinburgh mid season and taking the purse at Bath.

        Bath’s dispute with Burgess ended up costing Edinburgh and as we know , it has been a long way back for the Gunners.

        I will give him credit for one thing, in his early Scotland caps , I used to pelt him for carrying sideways, he is finally going forward , so he has convinced me he can change. Not sure if the SRU are as forgiving.

      • FF on

        I don’t think Denton owed Edinburgh anything. He was with them for ages, Solomans was managing them into the ground, and Edinburgh got a big wedge for his contract being bought out. It’s pro sport and he got a once in a lifetime offer. Shame it hasn’t worked out for him – he’s had a tough old time with injuries. But if he gets his old form back I’d expect him to be a strong contender for the squad as he can do heavy lifting few in our squad can do.

      • Bulldog on

        Denton made a professional choice, we all do that in life, they have consequences, it never worked out and he broke his contract at Edinburgh.

        He was never Bath’s first choice, 4th in fact so he knew what he was getting into. The SRU let him go and kept Solomons , they could have held him if they wanted to, but they didn’t.

        Solomons strangely enough is his new boss and Worcester are improving, he is not running them down.

      • FF on

        Denton didn’t break his contract, Bath bought it out for a negotiated fee. You’re talking as if he betrayed Edinburgh but he’s paid his dues to them dozens of times over.

        Oh and Solomon’s did reasonably well for the first couple of seasons at Edinburgh but the team was totally dysfunctional by the time he left. Cockerill is a pedigree coach and has done a proper job with them.

      • pragmatic optomist on

        I’m not sure why some people are pressing for Denton so much.
        He’s never been able to pass, doesn’t really have a rugby brain, and just charges head first into whatever is in front of him. A big lump but has neither the skills or effect needed.

      • Bulldog on

        FF: I am presenting the facts, take what you want from them.

        Dodson said ‘it was an opportunity for Denton and that they would not stand in his way.’ Just words.

        The fact is the SRU did agree to his contract being terminated before it’s expiry date.

        I have no doubt cash was involved but as all employers know , you can retain a man however if his mind is elsewhere, let him go.

        As for paid his dues, just an opinion and different to mine I though he was inconsistent and frankly , not tough enough for the big sides. When he could not run forwards he ran sideways.

        But here is another opinion I doubt they would resign him now, why would they.

    • TeamCam on

      CDP has had his share of meh games for Scotland – it took him ages to start to live up to his promise. I’d be happy with either playing, especially against England and France.

      • Little Discourage on

        Give the guy a chance. CDP has only had 6 caps for Scotland, some of which were off the bench. 5/6 win rate at that and you can’t blame him for the loss as he came on with less than 20 mins to play in the shambles that was last season’s Calcutta Cup match. “Had his fair share” a bit harsh.

      • TeamCam on

        I like CdP, I was arguing with the post that implied he was miles better than Denton. I think CdP’s only really started to settle in the AI games, anyway. Hopefully he’ll knock things up a notch in the 6N.

  5. Scrummo on

    I really think we need to stop the panic over the front row.

    Jon Welsh is a really good prop who has been ignored for too long. He was a great loosehead and has succesfully managed the transition to tighthead where he is a fixture for the Falcons and on top form. He will have no problems coming in for us and in fact I’d say he’s a stronger scrummager than either Berghan or Fagerson so we won’t be any worse off at scrum time. He’s big, strong, a hard man, a really good scrummager, decent in the loose with a handy chip on him.

    McCallum is young and inexperienced but has cleared every hurdle asked of him so far without taking a backward step. No issues with him on the bench.

    At loosehead we just need two from Dickinson, Sutherland, Dell, Marfo, Reid, Allan and Bhatti to be fit. All are competent at worst and most much better than that.

    • Bulldog on

      I tell you what Scrummo, it is bringing out the importance of the front row , who are rarely credited for their prowess and contribution to the game, mainly because it is not visual and not understood. No modeling contracts for those lads.

      Nothing can be achieved without them. My biggest fear is that we will end up with RL Scrums, as the game has become more visual and entertaining , the skills of the Props are being muted often in the disguise of safety.

      What ever front row , we put out, they will give 100 percent, it is in the DNA of the prop , no room to hide , it takes a certain type of individual to put his neck between the heaving weight and brawn of 16 forwards.

    • JohnMc on

      Agree that this ridiculous series of accidents and misdeeds involving Fagerson and Berghan does give Welsh another clear and deserved chance. He’s playing regularly and well for a top half team in the AP and I’ll bet he’s gagging to wear the navy blue shirt again.
      I was impressed with McCallum the other night, my only question being the quality of the loose head(s) he was up against. Still, as you say, he has done well this season; and if he is pitched into the Test arena then I hope can make the same kind of fist of it as Fagerson did when introduced very early in his career to Test rugby only two years ago. Zander didn’t exactly shoot the lights out but he was by no means exposed as unready.
      I do wonder if Denton has done enough yet in a poor side and free of the injuries that have plagued him for 18 months to earn a squad call up. If he’s anywhere near back to his RWC form, he could make the squad. Certainly a Denton or Denton-like presence will be an asset in the major back row battles coming up soon, especially against England, France and Ireland.

    • WestCountryTartanArmy on

      My concern isn’t simply how the situation sits now, but how there is still a fair bit of rugby to be played before the 6N for it to get worse! Imagine if McInally and/or Welsh were to get an injury in the next couple of weeks?

  6. TeamCam on

    Although this pertains to the backs, I just watched the Wasps v Sarries game and Taylor went off and failed a HIA, and Maitland looked like he was making up the numbers…

  7. Virverax on

    I would love to see Richie Gray come back into the mix with a bit of form. I can’t work out if he is really underrated or never hit his full potential-my own feeling is that it’s a bit of both-but my recollection of the last two 6N is that he showed some really good physicality before injury struck. As far as I can see he’s played twice recently for Toulouse but no idea how well. Assume he will be in the squad so I guess the opportunity for him to really perform is there, although no guarantees of a place given the form of the other incumbents.

    • Rory Baldwin on

      There were a few round these parts who felt – I was one of them – that Richie arguably had a better 6N than Jonny before his injury. Be very surprised, especially given the injury to Cummings, if he wasn’t in the squad.

      • Virverax on

        I was thinking along the lines of a brace of tries against Wales. The second one scored with AWJ and a couple of other Welsh Lions hanging on for grim life as Richie smashes his way across the line and puts the ball down :)

    • PJD on

      For a long time Richie never hit his full potential. Thankfully playing alongside Jonny has been a real kick up the arse and he’s looked like a much better player since.

    • Gary on

      I’d say our best 3 locks are Jonny, Toolis and Richie, so if fit I hope Gregor opts to use this rotation predominantly!

  8. Martin on

    Very good detail in the article, enjoyed it a lot

    In My opinion it would be criminal if our lack of depth at front row meant that we get beasted up front in Cardiff and we lose as a result. Unfortunately I can see it coming, because one thing about Gatland is that he knows how to exploit weakness and will make sure his players are winning scrum penalty after scrum penalty against us – guaranteed the ref (Gauzerre) will be being ‘lobbyed’ to ensure there is never a cry of use it , and Webb will just keep the ball in the scrum until the whistle blows.

    Every other facet of our game is working well and ready to click, but if we don’t have a solid scrum everything else could fall to pieces and I just have this horrible feeling the above will happen – If on the other hand we hold up the first few scrums and it just becomes general play then its game on because I would be confident that our backs are far more accomplished in their execution and understanding of the plan than their Welsh counterparts and I also have been very impressed with our recent maul attack and more importantly maul defence – again this is critical because Wales will definitely kick to the corner on their first penalty and its how we deal with that first up that will dictate how this game is played !

  9. Merlot on

    Great summary Rory. I was getting quite worried about who in the front row we had left! Actually with Jon Welsh playing well for Newcastle and young McCallum, we have two props who can play either side. I still think we’ll struggle at scrum time but hopefully we can compete!
    Personally I rate Denton over CduP, despite the latter’s better hands (and possibly rugby brain). Cornell seems to go AWOL a bit and be a ruck-watcher. Hopefully I’m wrong.
    Harley as a 5/6 replacement I always like – if he can stay on the right side of the ref. He always seems to me to be someone the opposition hate playing against – such a nuisance and all elbows. If the oppo hate him that much, get him on the park!

  10. TheSmidge on

    A potential front-row of Sutherland, McInally and Welsh isn’t bad, considering the dreadful run of injuries that we’ve got. If it was Allan, Cochrane and Rae, I’d be much more concerned. All I hope is that Rambo is wrapped in cotton wool after the first Stade game (assuming Edinburgh win handsomely and secure the home QF).

    • Rory Baldwin on

      Interestingly, didn’t realise until wading through old U20s reports for my Backs piece that Cammy Fenton is still pretty young. Cockers might start a hooker assembly line at Edinburgh!

      • TheSmidge on

        And he’s impressed when given the chance in the last month or two. Timing is good for Edinburgh, with Ford and Cochrane nearing the end of their careers, and Turner likely to go to Glasgow permanently.

  11. Alanyst on

    I’m strongly in favour of picking the best set piece options to start v Wales. We can’t afford penalties in our own half with Halfpenny slotting them over.

    If/when the game starts to open up we can bring on the more dynamic sorts. I suspect GT will go the opposite way however.

    • FF on

      If we could limit penalties to three points I’d be less worried, but the prospect of penalty-lineout-maul-try repeat which has hamstrung Glasgow in Europe is the real issue. At least Scotland have Danny McFarland so our maul defence should be a step up.

      • TheSmidge on

        Maul defence and maul attack is a real strength for Edinburgh at the moment. With at least 3 of the tight 5 likely to be Edinburgh players (Sutherland, McInally, Toolis), then I’m not too concerned. I think the time has come when we have to consider that the opposition is more worried about our strength in this area, than we should about the possibility of them trying this tactic. That is part of our progression over the last couple of years.

      • Alanyst on

        True.

        I hate that sequence of knock on leads to scrum penalty leads to 5m lineout leads to maul leads to try.

        It seems Glasgow have been (a bit) too susceptible to this, Edinburgh not so much.

        Wales might lack firepower a bit with their own forwards’ injuries, but Webb is a real nuisance in these circumstances.

      • TeamCam on

        Webb’s especially a nuisance when he is allowed to ignore the offside laws and take free kicks from next to the scrum rather than behind it!

      • Andy on

        Surely the Welsh wouldn’t ‘accidentally” commit a handling error (knowing they can’t score open field tries for toffee) prompting a scrum……penalty/yellow card……3 pts/5mtr lineout…penalty try (another yellow card)…..would they?!

  12. iMac on

    What is the deal with Anton Bresler… With the small pool of Scottish qualified professionals it seems immensely careless to let him leave for Worcester without locking him in with a cap… With the Gary Graham situation and risks around Vellacott are SRFU losing their touch?

    • Billy greenhorn on

      Don’t think bresler is good enough and Scotland seem to be well covered in the 2nd row department.

    • Mikelinds on

      Don’t think so. There’s already an established pool of second rowers with plenty younger ones waiting in the wings. A case of clearing the way for home grown talent.

      Graham, that’s just EJ playing games. On current form he’s miles down our pecking order. Again, plenty home grown talent knocking on the door.

      Vellacott, slightly different. He is qualified to play for England in a position they are not overburdened with talent. I imagine he has been approached. We aren’t short here, albeit, Price excepted, you could argue that none fits what Toonie has set out as his philosophy, barring Horne jnr who is very inexperienced. I would rather back Horne jnr, who has stepped up to the plate every time he has been asked, and impressed, than a guy who wants to sit on the fence.

      Just my opinion.

      • FF on

        Horne Jr has more experience than Vellacott – and looks exceptional in my opinion.

        I’d like to have Vellacott in the wings too but we are in a good place at SH though the SRU should be offering good terms for him to join Edinburgh as first choice.

      • DesT on

        I don’t get how people forget about SHC? Vellacott may well be good, but is he better than Price, George Horne or SHC?

      • Scrummo on

        I think we’re alright at scrum half. Price is very good, Horne is a great prospect, Pyrgos and Laidlaw seem disliked by a lot of fans but both are accomplished particularly Laidlaw. SHC at his best is a contender, Kennedy and Fowles are alright, Steele looks OK. Shiel and Barreto are rated as prospects. And there’s always Grayson Hart…

      • FF on

        Chat is SHC is off in the summer to the English Premiership.

        He’s Edinburgh’s best SH but still some way off the form that got him capped.

        Fowles, Kennedy, Pyrgos (on current form), Steel aren’t up to it at test level. Vellacott might be in the future.

  13. john on

    With the Grays, Toolis, Gilchrist, Cummings ahead and 4 or 5 others roughly even with Bressler its no surprise .

    Likewise Graham – Hardie, Barclay, Watson, Cowan, Hamilton along with several young guys ahead of him.

    Vellacott is interesting, we can’t match the £ of the RFU but he can’t be far away from being in the squad if he continues to impress

    • Billy greenhorn on

      Scotland team for Wales hoping for no more injuries mine would be Hogg Seymour hue Jones Dunbar visser Russell price Sutherland mcinally Welsh jgray toolis Barclay Watson cdp

  14. James on

    Excellent article. I hadn’t seen the news about Bresler. I always thought he was quite good and brought something different to Edinburgh. Possibly it was just that he looked like the faceless man from GoT.

    For me, if Richie is back to the form he was showing before he got injured last 6N then he’d be first choice in the second row. Although to be fair to Jonny he looked knackered last year and wasn’t at his best. To have them both playing to the level we know they can in the same game would be unbelievable. Toolis is right up there as well with Gilchrist not far behind.

    In the backrow, has Luck Hamilton fully recovered from his injury? If he’s back to the form he showed in his cameo for Scotland then I think he’s better than Denton. Picking a backrow if everyone was fit would be a nightmare in a good way!

    Front row, as others have said, is less of an issue now than it seemed. Again, if everyone was fit picking the first choice front row would be a nightmare.

    Strength in depth is looking good. Let’s hope Toonie gets to them to gel as a team and we put in a complete performance and give someone a whooping this 6N! Preferably in the first weekend…

    • Christian on

      Hamilton’s injury turned out to be almost nothing – it looked bad on the telly but he’s fine, his last game was a start against Exeter on the 31st. I’m a fan, he came on 100% committed against NZ and fought for everything, at least deserves a chance to show what he’s really made of with more minutes.

  15. Gary on

    One thing I don’t agree with is all the people saying Gilchrist is back in form. He seems to be getting elevated above Toolis just because he isn’t playing crap anymore and you’re suprised… Toolis is the far superior player and has been in every Edinburgh game this year in the lineout, carries, workrate, when you really watch Gilchrist play he offers nothing at the ruck and is lazy (ruck inspector). If he gets picked ahead of Toolis for the Wales game it’s an absolute joke and basically rewarding him for not being terrible anymore instead of being the best option!

    • Sean on

      I would disagree (no expert so just my opinion!). I think Gilchrist has looked good this season and was good in the AIs. I think as a technical lineout operator, including mail defence he is good.

      Could we see a team without a Gray starting at lock?

      I think JG is probably nailed on and the other three fighting it out – great place to be.

      • Gary on

        Lol agree to disagree, Toolis is easily Scotlands best lineout operator and I would say it isn’t even close. I was probably being a bit harsh as Gilco has looked good compared to his previous form. Also in the AI’s he came on fresh against New Zealand and had a few good carries in position where teams will exit didn’t actually do much else. Against Aus again good carries and tackles in the first 30 but he was gassed by near the end of 1st half and at the start of the 2nd half and did basically nothing he was near the wing half the time. Scotland also lost 2 lineouts to Aus while he was in charge. In the previous 2 games Scotland was 100% in the lineout safe to say NZ lineout is a lot better than Australias. Just my opinion as well as the others I was watching it with.

  16. Alanyst on

    Sutherland-McInally- McCallum for Edinburgh.

    Is this the Scotland front row v Wales? Or do Bhatti and Welsh get the biccies?

    Here’s hoping no more injuries

  17. Matto on

    Nice article by David Barnes over on theoffsideline about Robin Hislop. He’s been on a bit of a journey since the disenchantment of Solomon’s era Edinburgh, but is apparently going great guns for Ayr. Must be on Cocker’s radar given the present situation.

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