The State of the Nation: The Squad

As a last little summary, it is maybe helpful to look at the squad I’ve picked as an overall group, and also reflect on some of the feedback on Twitter and in the comments based on the selection.  If you’re thinking “what about INSERT NAME” take a look at parts I and II for position by position discussions, links are below at the end. Following that lengthy process, here is the complete group:

Rory Sutherland, Jamie Bhatti, Alex Allan, Gordon Reid, Jon Welsh, Simon Berghan, Murray McCallum.
Stuart McInally, George Turner, Neil Cochrane.
Jonny Gray, Richie Gray, Grant Gilchrist, Ben Toolis, Lewis Carmichael.
John Barclay (capt), Hamish Watson, Cornell du Preez, Luke Hamilton, Jamie Ritchie, Rob Harley, David Denton.

Ali Price, Ben Vellacott, George Horne
Finn Russell, Pete Horne
Alex Dunbar, Huw Jones, Duncan Taylor, Chris Harris, Matt Scott
Stuart Hogg, Blair Kinghorn, Tommy Seymour, Byron McGuigan, Lee Jones

As usual, I forgot a few names in the overall discussion: sorry Greig “Folau Killer” Tonks and Ryan Grant. We’ve also had updates this week on a few of the props: Allan Dell is expected end of February. Darryl Marfo and Al Dickinson are out indefinitely, although Marfo’s does not require surgery it’s more a bit of a mystery that just needs to heal.

Rather than focusing on individual positions which I did in the last two parts, looking at it overall shows the usual picture: we’d be in good shape in the First XV but things get a bit iffy thereafter.

There is a blend of youth and experience although some of that experience (Denton, Welsh) has not been at the heart of recent squads. Leadership in the team could again be an issue if games get tight but the rise of Stuart McInally is extremely helpful in that regard. There is also a flexibility of approach in most positions although all the half-back pairings are designed for speed, and attack, which is as it should be.

The other thing not really considered is backup goal kickers. If Finn was to be injured, you are looking at Hogg, Kinghorn or either Horne as cover and of those, Pete Horne and Hogg are the most likely to be in the match day squad.

I would say that most of the names you’d expect to see in the first XV are in this group (save maybe Maitland and Laidlaw) but I fully expect that Townsend will pick a slightly different squad group, perhaps taking Jackson and Grigg instead of Kinghorn and Scott. I now also think it is unlikely we’ll see Vellacott get the call and Henry Pyrgos or Sam Hidalgo-Clyne (I’d choose the latter) will be in there. The wing picks could go down to the wire on form with a lot of Visser fans out there – is Toony one of them?

There could also be a few “who?” selections too. Vellacott – for some who are less knowledgeable than you good people – will fill that role, but I’d consider myself reasonably switched on (on a good day) and had no idea about Chris Harris and Luke Hamilton. Who else might the exiles system have unearthed that Townsend wants to bed in before RWC 2019?

I’d suggest calling up a few names to the camp for training slots (club commitments permitting) such as Sam Hidalgo-Clyne and Magnus Bradbury – and Kinghorn if he doesn’t make the full squad – and as I mentioned before if Laidlaw’s about but not fit for matches, bring him on board in a mentor role. Ryan Wilson is another perennial favourite who may make it back to fitness in time.

Possible Scotland 23 to face Wales in Cardiff

Aside from the wings, the backline and large chunks of the pack pretty much picks itself. We’re going to appear weak in the front row, especially on the bench, but you could argue that was the case in the autumn too. Number 8 and the props aside it is a reasonably settled first XV following on from the autumn.

The bench is where there is real thinking had to be done. I’d be happy with Gordy Reid, Richie Gray, Cornell du Preez or even Greig Laidlaw appearing if he was fit, but I’m sure there are few in here we can debate in the comments. Tim Visser or Sean Maitland might perhaps swap in for either wing, although pre-Lions dropping Tommy Seymour would have seemed unthinkable.

Stuart Hogg, Tommy Seymour, Huw Jones, Alex Dunbar, Byron McGuigan, Finn Russell, Ali Price; Rory Sutherland, Stuart McInally, Jon Welsh, Ben Toolis, Jonny Gray, Hamish Watson, John Barclay (capt), David Denton.
Replacements: George Turner, Jamie Bhatti, Murray McCallum, Grant Gilchrist, Luke Hamilton, Ben Vellacott, Pete Horne, Duncan Taylor.

As usual, the Scotland management team will confound our deliberations with the real squad announcement which is expected on Tuesday.

Part I: Forwards
Part II: Backs

62 comments on “The State of the Nation: The Squad

  1. Scrummo on

    I tell you what, people will say the front row replacements are weak but the 3 you have named on the bench would certainly have an impact.

  2. Billy greenhorn on

    Don’t think your too far off with your 23 man squad I personally would have CDP at no 8 and Adam Ashe on bench if he can improve match fitness same for R Gray over Gilchrist and I’d have G Horne on bench.

  3. TeamCam on

    I think all the fuss over Vellacott is just because England might select him. I’d take Horne and Laidlaw over him any day, and SHC if he gets back to his best and beyond. Just because EJ says he’s interested in a scrum-half of back row who’s SQ doesn’t mean they’re better than who we’ve got. It makes us seem like we’re England’s jealous little brothers.

    • FF on

      I think you’re right. For my mind GH is going to surpass Price in the next couple of years and become one of our best players. I still think he’s a little raw, let alone Vellacott, and would have Laidlaw on the bench who’s still a very accomplished player and superb leader.

      • Tryhard on

        I have a huge amount of respect for Laidlaw and think he was exactly what we needed a couple of years ago (a cool head next to Finn basically…) but don’t think there’s any point putting him on the bench now.

        I’d have him in the squad and probably starting if Price gets injured but Horne’s been exceptional so far this season off the bench. Since our game plan revolves around being faster and fitter than the other sides, what’s the point in slowing the game down in the last 20 when the other team is getting tired? I know it’s only his first season but he looks like a player who thrives on confidence so why not throw him in now?

        Re: Vellacott, I agree as well. From the (limited) times I’ve seen him this season he’s looked like a good quick scrum half with a decent bit of potential. Nothing to get worked up about though and I’d rather not indulge EJ in his mind games.

      • Finn Andrews on

        I think it is best to cap Vellacott now rather than wait until England decide that they may / may not want him, a lot of people have been a bit tired of Laidlaw’s rather slow play for years so why not consider this :

        9. Ali Price
        21. Henry Pyrgos
        Reserve : Ben Vellacott

        All reasonably fast players that know how to play the game instead of Laidlaw who (IMHO) just slows the game down at every possible opportunity, lets face it GT wants to play a fast, expansive style of play and Laidlaw just does not suit that anymore.

      • TeamCam on

        I don’t think Pyrgos is known for his speed anymore, not since his wrist injury. And I’ve not actually seen him have a good international game – whenever he’s started he’s needed Laidlaw to come on restore order (lay down the Laidlaw?). On the other hand, when Scotland have had their defence set, I’ve seen Laidlaw play a fast, sniping game, e.g. versus Argentina in 2014. I’d believe that he could play at Toonie’s pace as long as the rest of the players are quick to get into position.

    • Matto on

      Agree, it would be a mistake to cap one player ahead of another on anything other than merit. Sends all the wrong messages. And stay as clear of EJ’s wee games as possible.

  4. James on

    I confess I haven’t seen Denton play recently but I’ve never been convinced by him. For me Luke Hamilton looked better than Denton in the Oz game.

    If R Gray is back to last year’s 6N form he starts for me with either of Jonny or Toolis on the bench depending on whose playing better at the moment.

    Not sure about Vellacott, I’d not be unhappy with SHC, Horne or Laidlaw (assuming he’s fit).

    The wings must all be very close in who does or doesn’t make it and none of them are bad options. What a position to be in!

    One thing I would like is for the supporters and the media to stop talking about us having a front row crisis. Or saying we have a weak from row. That is a good front row and a decent bench. The more we talk them down the more Gatland & co will be using it to try to influence the ref to assume it’s always our fault at scrum time if there’s an issue.

    • FF on

      Hamilton only played about half an hour. It was a good half hour granted but it’s a bit quick to be inking him in as our solution at number 8. Denton has had a fair few ropey games but also a fair few phenomenal 30minutes. Let’s not get carried away with the novelty of a new name.

      • Andy on

        Denton played well in all the RWC 2015 games he was involved in… and Scotland done well in that tournament. Since then Denton has been injured much of the time since so how can you suddenly judge him as not good enough. Denton deserves his chance again once he regains the form he showed in RWC 2015

  5. lookatthebigtiger on

    Is Strauss injured? I’d rather have him in the squad than Harley, who I can’t remember ever having an impactful performance for Scotland. Seems a waste of a squad spot

    • TeamCam on

      Seems odd that Harley is valued because he can play at lock, but the likes of Strauss etc. apparently can’t. He’s an inch shorter than Harley but a stone heavier!

      • lookatthebigtiger on

        Is Strauss perhaps too heavy to jump in the lineout? Don’t know. Maybe Harley falls into the “good guy to have around the camp” category. But if Toony wants someone who can play lock and 6 there’s Carmichael (who Rory has picked). He’s going well for Edinburgh and it’s surely better long term to give him some minutes rather than picking Harley who is never going to be more than a backup option

      • Andy on

        Are you serious???…Harley has rarely put in bad performance for Scotland…Contribution isn’t measured by the number of tries a player has scored. Harley is a good option to have in the team.

    • Andy N on

      Nope – Strauss is pulling up trees at Sale, but for some reason Toony has an issue with him. From what I understand, SRU were keen to offer Strauss a renewal, but Toony stepped in and scuppered the deal….I found that hard to believe at the time, but given that he’s not seen a place for him in the Scotland set-up so far starts to give it some credibility.

      Toony might be a good coach, but he is also a huffy bar-steward who holds grudges to an international standard.

  6. CptDnt on

    I don’t get why people would choose Bhatti over Reid for the Wales game. Reid has the experience and is getting the game time for London Irish now he is back from injury. We need to win against Wales and to do that we need experience in the front row. My 23 for Wales would be:
    1)Reid
    2)McInally
    3)Welsh
    4)R.Gray
    5)J.Gray
    6)J.Barclay (c)
    7)H.Watson
    8)D.Denton
    9)A.Price
    10)F.Russell
    11)B.McGuigan
    12)D.Taylor
    13)H.Jones
    14)S.Maitland
    15)S.Hogg

    16)G.Turner
    17)R.Sutherland
    18)M.McCallum
    19)G.Gilchrist
    20)L.Hamilton
    21)G.Laidlaw (leadership to come in and see out a game after bench changes)
    22)P.Horne
    23)A.Dunbar

    Both McGuigan and Maitland have been in better form for their respective clubs than Seymour. He is one of our best wingers but since the Lions and the birth of his son has been a bit off the boil (happens to everyone). Give him a game or two at glasgow to rediscover his form and get the bounce of the ball back in his favour as it were. If Wales where later on in the tournament and we had won a few games and gotten some momentum I would have had Kinghorn on for Horne as that is the last person I would want to see coming on against a tried defence. As it is we need to play a bit safe and ensure a good start to this Six Nations as we actually have a strong chance of getting a top half finish and even competing for the title.

    • Toony's Advisor on

      What happens if Price gets injured early in the game and Laidlaw has to play 70 odd minutes?? Would be a total disruption to the way we are looking to play?

      Also, why have Dunbar miss out? He was a star against the AB’s and shackled SBW really well. SBW became creative when Dunbar went off. Taylor is awesome but Dunbar is the defensive leader and merits his place at 12.

      CptDnt on January 14th, 2018 – 2:18pm
      I don’t get why people would choose Bhatti over Reid for the Wales game. Reid has the experience and is getting the game time for London Irish now he is back from injury. We need to win against Wales and to do that we need experience in the front row. My 23 for Wales would be:
      1)J.Bhatti
      2)S.McInally
      3)J.Welsh
      4)R.Gray
      5)J.Gray
      6)L.Hamilton
      7)H.Watson
      8)J.Barclay (c)
      9)A.Price
      10)F.Russell
      11)B.McGuigan
      12)A.Dunbar
      13)H.Jones
      14)S.Maitland
      15)S.Hogg

      16)G.Turner
      17)R.Sutherland
      18)M.McCallum
      19)B.Toolis
      20)D.Denton (could start but makes a better impact from bench)
      21)G Horne
      22)P.Horne
      23)D.Taylor

      That’s better

    • Toony's Advisor on

      What happens if Price gets injured early in the game and Laidlaw has to play 70 odd minutes?? Would be a total disruption to the way we are looking to play?

      Also, why have Dunbar miss out? He was a star against the AB’s and shackled SBW really well. SBW became creative when Dunbar went off. Taylor is awesome but Dunbar is the defensive leader and merits his place at 12.

      My 23:
      1)J.Bhatti
      2)S.McInally
      3)J.Welsh
      4)R.Gray
      5)J.Gray
      6)L.Hamilton
      7)H.Watson
      8)J.Barclay (c)
      9)A.Price
      10)F.Russell
      11)B.McGuigan
      12)A.Dunbar
      13)H.Jones
      14)S.Maitland
      15)S.Hogg

      16)G.Turner
      17)R.Sutherland
      18)M.McCallum
      19)B.Toolis
      20)D.Denton (could start but makes a better impact from bench)
      21)G Horne
      22)P.Horne
      23)D.Taylor

      That’s better

      • CptDnt on

        Toony’s Advisor Taylor was more than good enough at 12 when he played against them in Australia to stand up to the mark. Dunbar or Taylor either or I would just give Taylor a go as he will have had a bit more game time recently. I have absolutely no clue what you see in Bhatti at the moment. It honestly confuses me so so much. He is a good player in the loose but no where near as good as Reid in the Scrum. Which is where Wales will attack us. I picked the two best LH available to us at the moment in the scrum. Bhattis time will come but I don’t think it is just now. Reid also has a lot more international experience again what we will need against Wales.
        In terms of Laidlaw. We haven’t seen him play townsends game plan so we cant comment on whether or not he can actually do it. We all may have our opinions on it but even Townsend sees him as key around the squad. Hence why he was invited to help out over the AI’s. So no your comment of that’s better is incorrect in my opinion.

    • Gary on

      One massive issue with this 23… So Toolis goes from winning player of the tournament in the Summer tests and playing extremely well again in the AI’s. He’s easily Scotlands best lineout jumper and was in charge of calling, he provides an x factor that Gilchrist doesn’t and you don’t have him in the 23!

    • Gary on

      My 23 based on AI’s form and match fitness.
      1) J.Bhatti
      2)S.McInally
      3)J.Welsh
      4)B.Toolis
      5)J.Gray
      6)J.Barclay (c)
      7)H.Watson
      8)L.Hamilton
      9)A.Price
      10)F.Russell
      11)B.McGuigan
      12)A.Dunbar
      13)H.Jones
      14)S.Maitland
      15)S.Hogg

      16)G.Turner
      17)R.Sutherland
      18)M.McCallum
      19)R.Gray (We are not sure about match fitness would be better off playing 20-30min than 50-60)
      20)D.Denton
      21)G Horne
      22)P.Horne
      23)D.Taylor

      • CptDnt on

        Toolis and Gilchrist where 50/50 for me, both are performing well. I did have to flip a coin to choose. I would prefer the Grays together because they tend to get the best out of each other. My main issue with your 23, Bhatti starting … really!?! Please explain how he is better than Reid because I ain’t seeing it. He wasn’t even first choice in the AI’s and he was selected because all our first choice LH’s were injured. He is still down the pecking order for me.

      • Gary on

        Haha Bhatti over Reid makes more Sense than Toolis( our best lineout option by far) not even in the 23! Literally name one thing that Gilchrist is better at than Toolis? Toolis is fitter, faster, stronger, more skillful around the park/lineout and gets through heaps of work. Gilchrist seagulls and waits for carries and people lose there minds when he makes 2-3 metres!

  7. Neil on

    Interesting stat about Visser, out of the 40 attempted tackled this season in the premiership he has missed 13.

    • JohnMc on

      Neil, it’s interesting to read about the excellent coach Wayne Smith’s take on tackle stats. When he was with Crusaders he and his coaching team looked beyond bare tackle stats. They looked at when something classed as a missed tackle actually had the effect of slowing or otherwise disrupting an attack. For instance there was a notable incident in a crucial NZ club/province match where a defender’s tap tackle didn’t bring the attacker down but did slow him enough for the cover to get there and stop the threat. According to the stats, it went down as a missed tackle yet I’m sure I recall it was a match-turning intervention.
      Not saying whether any of Visser’s 13 missed tackles were anything like that, but just saying I think Wayne Smith has a wider view of how to understand and learn from tackle, and probably other, match stats.

      • Rory Baldwin on

        Interesting point John, was actually discussing something similar on Twitter with Jamie Lyall the other week after Jonny Gray successfully “completed” a tackle from a technical point of view (wrapped the arms, brought carrier to ground) but failed to prevent the opponent from scoring a try, as it was on the goal line. His player stats showed no missed tackles…

  8. JackP on

    Denton and Welsh have been miles out of the picture for multiple campaigns.

    Welsh is surefire to come back in as a necessity (and I truly hope he grabs his chance with both hands).

    I don’t see GT changing his mind on Denton. This team is not about “Hollywood” hit ups followed by turning the ball over. Its about intelligence with the ball. I’ve not seen anything from Denton to suggest he has changed his ways re: this.

    • Rory Baldwin on

      Weary, suggest having a look at the Forwards discussion also on the home page, Cowan was considered. Wilson injured yes and no information was forthcoming so I left him out. Suspect we will actually see him though.

  9. Squid Ink on

    Not sure why so many advocates of bringing Laidlaw back into the squad; a stalwart of the past few years, but not match fit and has a slow style at the breakdown which the antithisis of Scotland’s current strength. I would be surprised to see him in the squad never mind the matchday 23, barring injuries.

  10. Toony's Advisor on

    Bhatti did really well scrummaging against possibly the best TH in the world yesterday. Albeit, the team got pumped but Bhatti was solid in the scrum.

  11. George on

    Laidlaw would be a calming presence and is a much better rugby player than often given credit for, a very good reader of the game . I really like Price but he does have the habit of sometimes being a bit impatient and impulsive, fine in an open game like a lot of the pro 14 and autumn games were but- lets face this it tournament will be quite diff to the autumn games. Laidlaws proven kicking ablilty could be a godsend in a tight high pressure game if Finn got injured. There is a massive difference impressing in some match against a mid table Pro 14 team and in a harsh competitive international environment.
    My 3 scrum halfs would be Price/Laidlaw/ G Horne in that order.
    Pyros in ahead of Laidlaw would be an utter farce let alone Vellacott.
    I do though get everyones criticism of Laidlaw- but at present I still think the positives outweigh the negative until George Horne is ready which hopefully wont be too long.

  12. Grahame on

    Matt Scott – definitely not, he has hardly played this year and is still injured I believe.

    Laidlaw needs to get himself match fit, can’t see him coming straight in. Both Horne G or Vellacott could bring some real pace of the bench with 20 mins to go, surely that is how we need to play.

    Dunbar or Taylor in the centres, both good players, will likely come down to which, if either is fit, they have both struggled to string any games together recently.

    Second rows are all playing well and all may get some game time without weakening us.

    If Strauss was fit, he might well have been in the picture but I don’t think he is, or will be for a few weeks. In his absence it may well be Denton, we do need someone to try and break down the wall and he has been playing well recently.

    Wing is difficult, Seymour surely has some credit in the bank and was clearly in need of a rest and may not have been fully fit in the autumn. Maitland never looks great but it was always thus and the top coaches keep picking him, so they must be seeing something. McGuigan did well on debut and looked up to standard and Visser we know will score us tries. I will leave that one for Toonie to sort out!

  13. 1.8T on

    I think the front row needs to be picked on scrummaging ability, dynamic and skilful ball handling props are great but if a knock on = an opposition lineout in our half we aren’t going to win much, have to do the basics first.

    Wouldn’t be fussed about any combination of the Grays, Toolis and Gilchrist. Is Richie fully fit?

    Unless Denton has developed the ability to throw and catch he would be a step backwards, a lot of people saying Cowan is on serious form, might be an idea although that still leaves us short of a prolific ball carrier.

    Price has to start. This may surprise as I am a fairly long term Laidlaw critic but we’ve never really seen what he can do, is he slow or is he told to play slow and carefully? The backs pick themselves, I’m a big fan of Duncan Taylor and he would feature for me, he’s like Dunbar but while perhaps giving a bit away defensively is more dynamic. It’s harsh on Seymour but he hasn’t done anything to deserve his place. It’s a fantastic place for us to be in that we can even consider dropping such a quality player. Maitland and McGuigan for me. If Hoggys not fit bring Lee Jones in and shunt Maitland to 15, Kinghorn on the bench. I know form is temporary and class is permanent but form wins every time for me, class is the ability to sustain and regain form when it is lost.

    • JohnMc on

      Completely agree on the single criterion for front row selection. Ref will be all over us if we can’t from the first scrum hold our own. And even if we can, we’ll need excellent rapport with the ref and line judges to point up the kind of conning we’ll see from the Wales pack if we do show we can hold our own. (Not that I’d blame them for attempting that – we’d do the same!).
      Everything beyond that, given our form these last 18 months or so, will take care of itself – for better or worse.
      Would just hate to see us getting penalised to death at scrum time.

      • Alanyst on

        I worry it might be a foregone conclusion….Gauzere perceives (consciously or unconsciously) Welsh strength, Scots weakness.

        A few 50/50s go to Wales due to this bias…bias is confirmed by these repeated “indiscretions” and by the crowd “opinion”.

        Scots have to adjust from natural technique…Wales know they can push the boundaries, this leads to further “indiscretions”

        Gauzere is now looking very closely at Scotland with a YC in mind for repeated offences.

        I think we must pick the best scrum option also, but also consider “reputation” to reduce perceived weakness.

        So is that Reid, McInally, Welsh?

  14. Not rocket science on

    Agree the most important selection up front. Going on the comments of those lucky enough to have seen some rugby this year, save from a few Glasgow games, it sounds like it has to be Welsh, McInally, Sutherland. Cockerill said McCallum is not ready for international rugby. Though fingers crossed for a miracle Nel and Marfo return.

    A few other comments:

    A well rested and determined Hardie must be worth its weight in gold.

    Denton – Townsend said he was close to the squad in the Autumn, but needed more games. Expect to see him back and hopefully carrying on where he left off against Australia in the WC.

    Laidlaw – thanks, honest servant, but the ship has sailed on.

    Bennett – would love to see him in the squad.

    Maitland – I never understand the criticism, for a player who is an outstanding winger, fullback, NZ age grade pedigree, Lion, near Lion and Saracen. Has to be in there as next in line at full back back and probable wing start.

    One from Seymour, Visser, McG – I think Seymour has enough money in the bank to start, given he is training day in day out with the rest of the backline.

    Welsh, McIn, Sutherland, Gray, Toolis, Watson, Barclay, Denton, Price, Russell, Dunbar, Jones, Seymour, Hogg, Maitland.

    • Rory Baldwin on

      A last thought before we get the real thing: John Hardie resurfaced from exile last night with a tweet to Denton (regarding top knots) and was also mentioned in the press yesterday. Cockerill says he’s not earned his place back yet to play for Edinburgh – but might Toony take that out of his hands and stick him in the squad? It’s an odd sort of message to send but would boost the back row resource considerably to have him there.

      Full squad reaction should be up shortly after the announcement.

      • Matto on

        On the other hand Hardie should get a run of starts with Edinburgh to get back into it with Hamish away. Cockers may not let him straight back in this wkend, but i’d expect to see him against Leinster, Ulster and Dragons, assuming he doesn’t get called up during 6n.

  15. Daihard on

    The big problem for Scotland is second and back rows. Cymru have much more experience. Scotland do not have a Lion in the pack unless you get Dell fit. The front row need to keep their feet, what is hard about that ? If they go down , that is a penalty. The Scottish backs are lively if they get the ball and we know that. Gats will have us well prepared.

    Cymru are not cheats and I know you do not mean that. We just take rugby seriously. I wish you all the best for the trip down. I hope you receive a great welcome and enjoy the hospitality in Caerdydd.

    • Eoin on

      Fair-dos, Dai, although I’d take Jonny Gray over an ageing warhorse Lion (AWJ) personally. With Ball injured, I guess you’ll turn to Davies to partner him – I’d happily take Toolis or a former Lion, Jonny’s bro, over him. As for the back row, we’re both going to be missing players, but I would strongly contend that Wales’ losses will be greater than ours – no Faletau, no Warburton, no Lydiate. Moriarty is just back too, and there are clearly ways of nullifying Tipuric (see last season’s game, for example). A back row of Watson, Barclay + 1 makes me happy against a combo of Tips, Shingler, Moriarty and Navidi. Best of luck for the rest of the 6Ns

    • TeamCam on

      I disagree with this: our back row last year mullered the Welsh back row, and you guys have tons of back row injuries, whereas we’ve got most of our best chaps available (Hardie, Barclay, Watson, Ashe, Denton, du Preez) or back from injury soon. In the second row AWJ has returned to form, but I’m happy with the Grays, Toolis and Gilchrist. It’s the front row that we should be worried about, especially given how Scarlets’ and Ospreys’ front rows performed over the weekend.

  16. TheSmidge on

    Squad announcement at 10am…the excitement builds.

    Some quick predictions (including at least one outlandish hope):

    1. No Denton or Strauss.
    2. Laidlaw returns as “squad captain” or something, with Barclay as “team captain”.
    3. There will be one head-scratching selection.
    4. We will have found a prop that no one thought of.
    5. There will be a surprising omission, even more so than Visser in the autumn
    6. We will all have half-full glasses when we compare it to the Welsh squad.

  17. The Chiel on

    Key for me is this comment in Rory’s article referring to the Autumn tests :
    “We’re going to appear weak in the front row, especially on the bench, but you could argue that was the case in the autumn too.”
    The issue for me is in the Autumn we played three teams who came to play an open style of rugby. In the 6N we will be playing 3 or 4 teams who will certainly set out to bully us up front and grind out a win. The scrum, as many have said above, is crucial. We almost need the style that Eddie Jones used for Japan in the last RWC against the Saffers – ball in, quick hook and gone.
    I suspect we are going to be on the back foot for long periods. Toonie’s style means lots of passing and offloads, and the error count is higher than up the jumper. So quite a few scrums with opposition put in.
    As always, I will be delighted to be wrong !

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