Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Townsend’s worries ease going into training camp

Glasgow score
Tommy Seymour crosses to score for Glasgow Warriors vs Exeter Chiefs in the European Rugby Champions Cup at Scotstoun Stadium, Glasgow. Pic © Alastair Ross / Novantae Photography

With the last round of European pool rugby finished, the Scotland squad are now together in camp. If anyone gets injured now, well it’s their own silly fault. No sitting on wine glasses, or playing keepy-ups with gym equipment this week please.

You might even go so far as to say that the run-out Glasgow’s – and most of Scotland’s – backline got in the hard-fought win against Exeter on Saturday will have done them the world of good. That try from their own line will go down as one of the classic Glasgow tries of all time – and they’ve had a few likely ones in recent years, even another in that game – and possibly the only sour note left would be George Horne’s absence from the Scotland squad as he was a core part of it.

For fans who have watched Tommy Seymour’s rise from an unheralded Ulster cast-off utility back to prolific Scotstoun favourite, Lions winger and a fixture in the national side, his recent drop in form has been galling. With the toe injury that caused it now hopefully in the past, the sight of Seymour and Hogg tearing up a wing together was stirring. Hogg, 2017-18 edition, seems to just be able to perform well, regardless of when he last played – the mark of a truly special player.

Sean Maitland’s try during a strong performance for Saracens was another indication that two of Scotland’s top players might be hitting their straps at just the right time. Given the debate we’ve had in the comments over who should get the wing spots, that can only be a good thing. Sean still runs like he’s not really moving though.

Expect a buoyant mood in camp this week, for the backs coach at least.

There will be some debate over who might play at 12, with Pete Horne the most likely to fill in should both Alex Dunbar and Duncan Taylor be unavailable. Huw Jones played a blinder at 12 in the Currie Cup final before he joined Glasgow so that’s worth remembering. Mark Bennett has only played three games, but he got better with each one even as a depleted Edinburgh went down fighting over in Paris with a performance that had plenty to like about it. They will now face a home quarter-final against Cardiff before an away semi in France to Pau or Stade (again).

Jones/Bennett would be an unfamiliar partnership now but as they are both still just 24, looking into the future to the 2019 World Cup or beyond, it could be one with legs.

We’ll wait to hear on the injury to Alex Dunbar, but George Turner picked up a leg injury that could keep him out for up to 8 weeks and has put paid to his 6 Nations ambitions; it throws the Scott Lawson debate right back to the forefront. Neil Cochrane or Pat McArthur may get a call up but both pro-team coaches are now looking down the barrel of a serious resource shortage at hooker.

Here’s some behind the scenes footage, Denton hair watchers will be particularly pleased:

Is there an exile out there in the Southland that we haven’t noticed? After all, it wouldn’t be the Six Nations build-up without parachuting an unheralded kiwi in.

Other than the front row, most of the rest of the pack is healthy which isn’t the case for Wales who will be without a raft of frontline names. Let the Gatland hand grenades begin. Underdogs, us?

UPDATE: George Turner is indeed out and Neil Cochrane has been called up to the squad. Richie Gray missed the 3-day camp with a calf complaint but is expected to join the squad ahead of the tournament.

113 Responses

  1. Sean Maitland started (Nathan Earle came off the bench) and he looked a lot quicker scoring his try then he did against Aus. I think someone else on here wrote that GT had said Maitland was carrying a leg injury in that game. I’d be more than happy with Seymour and Maitland starting on the wings.

      1. I think Liam Williams pulled out before the game, so Maitland was promoted from the bench and Earle brought in, to be fair.

    1. Did you see Maitland’s try, Rory? It was one of the first times I’ve thought, “Wow, he is really running powerfully.” It was still smooth but the acceleration left the defensive cover for dead. Seriously impressive.

      As I mentioned in another blog forum, it was the first time I saw what Andy Robinson meant when he said he is a ‘Rolls Royce of a runner’.

      1. Yeah that was about all I saw of that game, I’m not sure how quick off the mark he is, he never struck me as having quick feet like Hogg, Bennett or Jones but he’s got pace when he gets going.

      2. Fair point. He’s definitely not a ‘stepper’ like those guys. I think the difference here was that he got going/accelerated so effortlessly and quickly, unlike his usual cruise control.

      3. I saw that clip of the Maitland try too. Looked more impressive than the 2CV outpacing the lorry when he scored against the Wallabies, and reminded me of the serious speed he showed to help snuff out a couple of dangerous Ireland breakouts at Murrayfield last year. So, excellent to see his turbo unit has been re-fitted!

  2. Stuart McInally is now our most important player for the next 2 months. Right up there with Hogg and Russell anyway.

    I’d like to see Seymour, Maitland, Denton, Reid, Toolis start in Cardiff. Rest of the team picks itself.

  3. It’s essential that Rambo stays fit, the prospect of starting a 6N game with Lawson at hooker gives me the fear!

    Assuming there are no more injuries I think we’ll see a XV against Wales of Reid, McInally, Welsh, Toolis, J.Gray, Barclay, Watson, du Preez, Price, Russell, Maitland, Taylor, Jones, Seymour, Hogg.

    Even with the players missing I’d back that team to do a job against any team in the World.

    1. Well, the Hoggster hadn’t on Saturday, but that didn’t hold him back. We have a number of good combos depending on who is fit. Try any from Dunbar / Taylor/ Jones at 12 with any from Jones / Bennett / Taylor at 13. And that’s not considering Horne or Grigg.

  4. A fully fit back three of Hogg, Seymour and Maitland will be the best in the championship. It’s a lot for other teams to focus on and should also give Huw Jones more space to play in than he has had recently with Glasgow.

    As ever injuries will play a huge part but if we have a bit of luck we will be in the almost unheard of position of fielding a strong 23 with players on the bench who can make a huge impact. Richie Gray potentially coming off the bench is an incredible luxury for us.

    1. Wales have North, Halfpenny and Liam Williams – not a bad back 3 either. All B&I Lions and all experienced campaigners.

      1. Liam Williams is a great player but gets shunted to the wing for Halfpenny. Halfpenny seems to be paying the price for his comical muscle gains and isn’t the player he was a few years ago. North seems to be a spent force paying the price for concussions and whatever he did to achieve that physique as a teenager.

  5. I’m not sure I’ve forgiven Lawson for starting off the collapse in Cardiff in 2010. His ridiculous yellow on halfway when we were comfortable gave Wales all they needed to win. I put the blame solely with him. It was the most amazing comeback but still it hurts.

  6. I’ve just re watched the Welsh game of last year and into the crucial last 25mins Pyrgos comes on and him and Visser snuf out and stop a try together when the scrum goes wrong. Visser also gets a try saving tackle in shortly after. He sets up Seymour for his try just before all that then finishes one himself.

    These are crucial crucial moments that shows strong defensive qualities. Still think he’s worth being in the squad.

  7. Planet Rugby are saying that Richie Gray is out for this weekend with a calf injury. Hopefully it’s nothing serious.

    No update on how Dunbar’s fairing in the article.

      1. Not sure, he’ll have had a week or so now. Not sure the camp is still on, the official launch is today so imagine they will reconvene near the weekend we might get an update then.

  8. Apologies as this isn’t really the place for it I know (where is)? I have a spare for the France game, very good Gold seat (W30) – face value with booking is £100 on the nose (purchased during first general sale in mid-December). My brother has let me down. I am still intending to go (flights etc booked) but have no real avenue for someone to take this off my hands, so hoping a regular on here may know of someone willing and able?! Failing that is someone likely to take it on the day? I would be happy for SRU to take it back off my hands if they could refund ticket cost (minus booking fees) but doesn’t appear to be possible. Only other options are resale websites and I don’t want to use them whatsoever!

    1. Can’t help I’m afraid but I just want to applaud your not wanting to use the resale sites. I despise these on an almost molecular level. I didn’t really mind paying a (kind of) honest punter on ebay over the odds for a ticket but I despise the institutionalised robbery that Viagogo et all partake in.

      1. If it makes you feel any better my brother was in charge of Italia tickets for this year. Got the bill through for £97 a pop – thought – they must be extraordinarily good tickets. Nope, just the Viagogo levy on 25 € seats. Feck sake.

      2. That boils my piss. A few months ago I was trying to get Runrig tickets for Stirling castle when they went on sale, instant sell out but they were available before and immediately after they went on sale on “those” sites for a gazillion pounds. I’m yet to meet or hear of anyone who actually got tickets that gig the normal way…

      3. Matto – surprised at this. We did Rome in 2016 and tickets are available on-line via official Italian channels from the summer before, all face value, and plentiful. It’s one thing to use viagogo/stubhub etc for the Calcutta Cup but no-one needs to be paying over the odds for Italy in Rome. If memory serves we paid something like 60euros a ticket and we were on the ’22, mid-level with a great view. Sorry to rub it in!

      1. Thanks Rory, looks like I have a taker but may yet need to come back to you on that!

    2. 1. Disown brother.
      2. Take a friend (or girlfriend, wife or PA, as you have the hotel)
      3. Email local rugby club(s)

      1. Merlot – unfortunately there is a dearth of Scottish rugby fans (or French for that matter) in this part of South-West England! Expensive day out for anyone with only a casual interest especially now that the flights have gone through the roof. If it were for the Calcutta Cup a fortnight later I’d have takers coming out of my ears!

    3. Disown any female company and take me!
      Only kidding, as I’ve just managed to land a couple of tickets through contacts with a real sport from a Scottish club selling on at face value.
      Good luck with the re-sale. I’m sure you’ll find a buyer.

    1. Big boost for Scotland. Whatever his detractors say Biggar knows how to win test matches at the highest level.

      If Wales select Patchell it’ll be his first test start but could lead to virtually a whole Scarlets back line. Whilst Scarlets are superb I’m happy if Wales play is at our own game rather than ruthlessly exploit our weaknesses.

    2. A blow for Wales, but I don’t think we should celebrate too hard…Patchell is playing well and I think there are other decent options in S Davies and D Jones…however it goes Price/Russell should be able to prevail.

      1. Patchell is a very good player but consistently picked by coaches at regional level as a fullback. He has nowhere near the control of Biggar. Hi he other FHs in the squad are Anscombe (also mainly a FB) and Owen Williams I think. Biggar is a two time Lion and has orchestrated numerous test victories on the biggest stage. He might be out of fashion now but he is so far ahead of Wales first choice FH for a reason. Along with AWJ and Faletau he is Wales most important player. His loss definitely weakens them. We’ll see if Wales suddenly adopt the Scarlets template – personally I don’t think it’s likely to happen and either Patchell or Anscombe will struggle with the step up as they have done in the past.

      2. The Scarlets backs are on form so I’m concerned that they might go rather well.

        I’m hoping that Barclay is our secret weapon here as he obviously knows them all. He’ll also want the bragging rights when he gets back to club action. His first tackle on Patchell will likely set the tone for the game.

      3. I must admit I fancy the Glasgow backs over the Scarlets backs that started their last game in Europe

        15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Alex Dunbar, 11 Leonardo Sarto, 10 Finn Russell, 9 George Horne

        15 Rhys Patchell, 14 Tom Prydie, 13 Hadleigh Parkes, 12 Scott Williams, 11 Paul Asquith, 10 Dan Jones, 9 Gareth Davies

        Leigh Halfpenny was on the bench.

  9. I admit it, I’ve completely lost track. Can anyone populate the latest news on each of the front row absentees. Wondering who, if anyone, might be back in time for England a month from now (24 Feb)?
    Marfo – ?
    Sutherland – ?
    Dickinson – ?
    Dell – ?
    Nel – ?
    Fagerson – ?
    Berghan – back after Wales.
    Brown – ?
    Turner – out for 8 weeks.

    1. I should add I don’t know if things have changed since state of the nation forwards, which had Nell out for 12 weeks to ‘at least end of [Jan]’

    2. Marfo – undergoing rehab with no return date specified but hopeful for mid tournament return to rugby
      Sutherland-played the last couple Edinburgh matches
      Dickinson – no news and tbh has only played twice in the last year and a half?
      Nel- broken arm and out for the tournament
      Fagerson – out for first three matches i think
      Brown-concussions issues-no timeframe given
      I think that these are still accurate!

      1. Good point. Much as I am pleased for Scott Lawson to get a recall, Ford’s strength and experience would certainly shore up the front row. All I can find on the web is that he is injured. Not sure if it’s still the chest injury that ruled him out of the AIs.

  10. So it’s looking like Liam Williams is also out. With the injuries they have we are dangerously close to a PR lose/lose situation. If we lose it will be seen as nothing has changed. If we win it’ll be because they were missing plenty of key players. Seems that we would need to do a proper job on them to get the right level of recognition.

    1. Who cares, it will be the manner of the (hopefully) victory. We’re not exactly without injury ourselves in certain positions, we are just a bit more blessed with depth than we have been in recent years.

  11. I want the win more than anything ( I have a Welsh girlfriend) and I agree that it is more important than anything else.

    But I’d also like the wider community to give the team the respect it’s due rather than just pass off our wins to circumstances other than we are now really good.

    1. I understand your point, Dan, but agree with the others. I think it’s been easy for Scottish fans to feel sensitive, perhaps overly sensitive, to others’ perception of us. That’s certainly been true of me. I’ve got more excited than a mature adult should get when commentators from around the world praise our team and its style of play. Remember it’s only three or four years ago that a leading sport journalist called for us to be ejected from the 6N. Having so few Lions picked the last two times by Gatland also left us raw, and makes us particularly want to beat his Welsh team.

      Just like the results will take care of themselves if the performances are right, so will the PR side of things. All we can focus on is our own performance and consistency over entire campaigns, cups and four-year World Cup cycles.

      The best way to dismiss doubts is to win the next game and then the game after that, and then…etc…. If we don’t win them, then the doubts will have been validated, especially if the defeat is a heavy one. That’s one reason why last year’s loss at Twickenham was so devastating and why our ability to bounce back from that with mostly great performances for the rest of 2017 was so encouraging. I’m looking forward to moving on from my/our inferiority complex and just enjoying some great rugby from our lads.

      1. I’m quite happy for other teams/fans/coaches/pundits to keep writing us off as long as we keep on winning right up to RWC 2019 finals day! And come Lions 2021 here’s hoping they have a very blue tint (and no sign of Gatland!)

  12. I don’t know as much about the Italian and French squads and the Irish squad I don’t think have as many issues, but the amount of injuries that the English, Welsh and Scottish have is terrifying; around 15 front line players out each. Regardless of depth for each country that is an unsustainable injury toll for rugby as a sport. I don’t remember going into a six nations with so many players injured!

    1. Planet Rugby have England missing 14, France 12, Wales 11 and Ireland 10. We’re lumped in with Italy in the “things aren’t so bad” bucket which could be interpreted dismissively going by the thread above…

      Here’s a link to the article:

      Definitely a worry if top players are being injured so much. It’d be interesting to see a study of injury frequency by position and style of play. For example are props more at risk than other positions, does Billy V’s ball carrying style make him more at risk than others in his position etc?

      1. I think with Vunipola it has less to do with his style of play than the stress he puts his body under to maintain his physique and conditioning. He has slimmed down slightly but when he was at his peak you had a 20 stone man playing at a high tempo for 80 minutes. It’s obviously not impossible because we all saw it but his performances were getting close to a physiological miracle.

        I think Warbuton, Sean O’Brien and Manu Tuliagi have similar issues.

  13. I remember I asked a while ago and don’t think I got an answer, what is the reason (if any) we never play Italy on the first weekend of the 6N, we haven’t played them first since 2000. No disrespect to the Italians, they have given us a bloody nose on far too many occasions for that, but one of the other teams effectively get a “gimmie” to get their championship going that we never get.

    1. Who knows how the fixtures are determined, other than those that make the decisions? At best, it is random and our fixture against Italy being either on the 3rd or 5th weekend is by accident (as it has been on 14 times in the last 15 years). We tend to play France 1st up (7/18 times) then Wales (9 times and 8 of the last 12) then Italy or Ireland, then England (6 times but 5 of the last 10) then either Italy or Ireland on the last weekend.
      It may be that the different unions get to “pick” in turn, but I doubt it. Or maybe there is some fixed algorithm to ascertain the order, based on previous results and fixtures. Again, I doubt it.
      It is almost certainly influenced by the TV sponsors, and the six nations committee will want to ensure either a big finale or a close competition, preferably both.
      However do not fret – next year we play Italy first up (at home) followed by Ireland at home then France away. Couldn’t really have asked for a better fixture list, with Wales at home on the 4th weekend and then a showdown at Twickenham on the final day. I’m putting a tenner on Scotland Grand Slam 2019!

    2. I think it’s got something to do with how bad we’ve been over the past 17 years. The tournament organizers like to have matches near the end of the tournament between teams who are fighting for the championship or teams who are trying to avoid the wooden spoon.

      It’s no surprise to me that as soon as we march into the top 5 of the world we are gifted Italy at home 1st and are allowed to compete in the big matches later on in the tournament.

      Makes sense teams fighting for the same thing to be able to play each other later in the tournament. Hopefully we can maintain our form so we are never ever lumped in with Italy as wooden spoon contenders again.

    3. Interesting, thanks chaps. Blake, that sounds like a reasonable theory why have the wooden spoon decider as the first game!

  14. Rhys Webb is out of the Wales game now.

    Add that to Biggar and Davies definitely being out, North not having played in months and Liam Williams being doubtful and that’s a bit of a crisis for them in the backs.

  15. Rhys Webb out now too. That’s Wales missing pretty much all of their best 6 or 7 players.

    1. BLB you missed out the word ‘perceived’. Always dangerous when teams are forced into doing something different. I don’t see the absence of Webb and Biggar as a huge bonus. A small plus at best.

      1. I believe that with the exception of Biggar all of the guys I refer to were involved in the Lions tests just a few months ago, and have a hard time believing those coming in are at the same level. The performance level of a team depends almost entirely on the talent of the individual players.

        I still think Wales will win, but that’s not the point.

      2. BLB, yes indeed they were Lions involved. That doesn’t of itself make them the best options available. We were all fairly critical of some of the selections IIRC. Young guys with a burning desire to stake a claim are dangerous. There’s more than a few available to Wales.

  16. 9. G. Davies
    10. S. Davies
    11. S. Evans
    12. O. Williams
    13. S. Williams
    14. North/ J. Adams
    15. Patchell

    Still not too bad although I’d probably reckon Halfpenny will get crowbarred in somewhere for his, recently erratic, kicking ability.

    A fully firing Scottish back-line would destroy any Welsh 9-15 but we need the ball..

      1. And therein lies the rub!!! They are as badly hurt in the backs as we are in the front row. But we need the ball first!!

        Shaping up to be very interesting indeed. Pray for no unwanted training camp injuries and Toonie to come up with a game plan to fit.

      2. Reid and Welsh aren’t necessarily poor replacements. We don’t need to dominate at scrum time, just hold our own.

  17. I quite agree, I think I might have had them in, in front of some of the other candidates. In my book, props main job is to anchor the set piece. If they can do the fancy stuff in the loose, that’s a bonus. I guess I’m a bit old school on that. I think we’ll be fine.

    We have to ignore what the Welsh might or might not try to do and look to impose our game on them. Easier said than done. A re-run of 1982 would be more than welcome. I have fond memories of that one, watching with zero expectation.

  18. Just heard Toonie being interviewed on Radio 5Live. It was a quick-fire cameo but, goodness, it was impressive. He focused in the time available mainly on back play, on the attacking game and the instillation of belief in players to make quick decisions and have ‘the guts’ (his words) to carry them out. More pragmatically, he said you’ve got to get hold of the ball first.
    It was an inspirational three minutes of talk. I truly think he’s the real deal as a coach at the highest level.

  19. Austin Healy has written an article arguing that we’re genuine contenders rather than dark horses. So, wooden spoon? Amusingly we’re third favourite with the bookies to win, but second favourite to wooden spoon it. Classic Scotland!

  20. The most frustrating thing as a Scotland fan is apart from the front row we don’t have any real injury concerns in any other area it’s just our front row has been completely obliterated with injuries. Our 3 best tightheads Fagerson, Nel and Berghan are all injured/suspended. Our 2nd, 3rd and 4th choice Hooker’s Brown, Ford and Turner are all out injured and potentially our two best looseheads Marfo ( who was exceptional in the autumn) and Dell are both out injured.

    And Sadly injuries to the front 3 is the worst area to get major injuries as the scrum is where you are most at risk of giving away possession and penalties and thus points (easy points) and territory. It is very hard win a rugby match if your scrum is out muscled and dominated for the full 80 minutes.

    The only slight positive is that our 1st choice hooker is fit however if we want to avoid significantly damaging our front row further then he must play every minute of every match (not easy for a hooker) as our injuries in this position mean we are just left with Lawson and Cochrane as our only other fit hookers left in the squad who are respectively 34 and 36 and neither are that great of a player.

    I would go for a front 3 of Bhatti, McInally and Welsh with Reid, Lawson (dreading the thought) and McCallum on the bench should we need them.

  21. I dont think our front row will be terrible in fairness for the first 50-60 minutes, Bhatti, Reid, Mcinally and Welsh all good enough imo, Mcallum is an unknown at this level but has all the attributes, its more just Cochrane and Lawson but i think we should be ahead enough with 10_15 minutes to go for either of those 2 to get a job done.

    Its not like our gameplan is about set piece anyway , we just need to hold our own and get the ball out quick and cheat when it is their put in.

  22. According to Wikipedia:

    Gordy Reid and Daryl Marfo are an identical and fairly reassuring 6’2 and 18st, 13. Compared to Rory Sutherland (6’0 and 17st, 5), Rob Evans (6’1 and 18st, 4), Vunipola (5’11 and 19st, 1), Jack McGrath (6’1 and 18st, 8) and Healy (6’1, 18,2).

    John Welsh weighs in at an impressive 6’1 and 19st, 7. Compared to Nell (5’11 1/2 and 18st, 13), Fagerson (6’1 and 19st, 1), Samson Lee (5’11 and 18st, 4), Kyle Sinckler (5,10 and 18st, 13) and Dan Cole (6’2 and 19st, 5), Furlong (6’1 and 19st, 8) and Chuck Norris (4’0 and 30st).

    With Toolis, Gray and Denton / Du Preez backed in behind, that’s got to make us competitive until the replacements come on. By which time hopefully the game is opening up for the back division.

    Combine with McInally and possibly height is a slight concern? Though even so, looking forward to Bergan’s return (6’4 and 20st, 2!) on either side…

    1. Almost every one of those weights for our players is different to what is listed on the club’s websites. Welsh has also lost 8kg this season to improve his play in the loose. The point that Welsh and Reid are on or around the 120kg mark stands though. Bhatti and McCallum also not lightweights. Scrum will be fine.

    2. Size isn’t everything. Almost every prop I’ve known says it’s down to technique. One of the best props I played with was 11 stone “soaking wet”. Admittedly that’s not international standard and size helps, but if they haven’t got the technical side right they’ll get pummelled.
      This generally comes with experience, which is why almost every world class prop is over 25. Tadhg Furlong is a freak.
      That’s why I’d have Welsh and Reid starting.

      1. Agree 100%. A word for Fagerson and McCallum who are outrageously good for their tender years.

      2. Agreed and I bet we are talking about the same guy (JB). International and district players would call off rather than face him and be humiliated. That said , todays game has muted the ability of props to compete other than to win penaltys. When you talk with any of them they sigh and wish they could get involved in a much more competative scrum. What they do not realise is that they have the reserve energy to enjoy the loose play.

  23. My Falcons season ticket holding mate said to me that Lawson has been super solid in the best Falcons team in a decade.

    1. I’m not that worried about the scrum, there are enough replacements with years on the clock to settle it down. One issue could be with the number of quick (setpiece) lineouts we take, and making sure the throws are accurate. Plus giving away silly penalties… I’m sure the intervening years have levelled heads.

      1. On the subject of throwing in at the lineout: can anyone tell me why it’s *always* the hooker with this responsibility? It’s such a key element of the set-piece; surely it makes sense to give it to someone who can throw in straight!? (Sorry if this is too off-topic!)

  24. I find it amusing that some of the english media has Lawson as the nailed on test starter… seems they have not heard of mcinally.

  25. With no rugby to watch (well none of interest), thoughts are definitely focussed on next weekend so I thought I would a bash at my 23 for Saturday:

    J Gray
    H Jones

    Rae ( could be McCallum – not sure abt this)

    * I think Wilson will start unless Denton/Du Preez/Hamilton have been pulling up trees. Still not convinced it’s a big enough back row.
    **I prefer Seymour on right wing. However, when Maitland and him played together last year Seymour played left wing. Anyone got thoughts on this?

    Think McGuigan deserves a bench spot after Aus game and tries he has scored. Super Dunc and R Gray may be there or there abouts but Horne is a favourite of Toonie and Gilchrist has been playing well.

    1. Why is Kinghorn not in your matchday squad. You would imagine the player to gain the most meters and to have beaten the most defenders in the pro 14 as well having the joint 2nd most clean breaks and 8 trys (4 in Pro 14 + 4 in challenge cup) who can cover both fullback and fly-half as well as possibly the wing would be a certainty to be in the match-day squad – especially considering Hogg’s recent injury woes.

      Also can’t believe if Richie Gray was fit you would select Gilchrist ahead of him. Can understand selecting Toolis ahead of him as he was exceptional in the summer and autumn international and is the leader in the lineout we’ve been crying out for so long but Gilchrist has been poor in Scotland so far and has only been made to look so good this season down to the incredible form of Toolis and you want him in the team instead of one of our greatest ever locks.

      This would be my 23;

      15. Hogg
      14. Seymour
      13. Huw Jones
      12. Duncan Taylor
      11. McGuigan
      10. Russell
      9. Price
      8. Du Preez
      7. Watson
      6. Barclay
      5. J.Gray
      4. R.Gray
      3. Welsh
      2. McInally
      1. Reid

      Replacements: Lawson, Bhatti, McCallum, R.Gray (if fit), Wilson (if fit), Laidlaw, Dunbar and Kinghorn.

      Peter is a good 12 who would be in our 15 in recent generations but right we are blessed with two twelves in Duncan Taylor and Alex Dunbar who are far better than him so should be ahead of him and as 10 he is pretty shocking. From the times I have seen Laidlaw and Kinghorn at fly-half they have impressed me far more than Peter Horne ever has at 10.

      McGuigan has been far more impressive than Maitland this season with 8 tries compared to Maitland’s 4 and considering they both play in the same league it is pretty clear McGuigan is the better player and having McGuigan in the team allows both wingers to play on their natural sides. Seymour keeps his place in the side ahead of Maitland due to his impressive record for Scotland – something Maitland can’t boast about.

      You are more than entitled to your opinions and would love to get into a proper discussion with you and whilst you are 90% right some of your selections are way off.

      1. Great we can have a debate – good place to be for Scottish rugby.

        Kinghorn- Completely agree he has been great for Edinburgh. However, Scotland simply must win in Cardiff to be in the 6N and I do not think it is the place for a debut, likely out of position, assuming Hogg remains fit. Agreed he is one of our most exciting players but we have more experienced players who have the x-factor too (Hogg, Russell, H Jones) and my selections are based on balance.

        Gilchrist – surprised me too. If R Gray is fully fit then there is no doubt he is a more skilful lock than Gilchrist. Just not sure about the lack of game time and Gilchrist did well in the autumn. So that selection is a fitness issue.

        Horne – A regular at Glasgow under Townsend. Plus Taylor is in the R Gray camp of not being match fit.

        Can’t believe I am going to say this but I agree with Gatland that there is a huge difference between Pro14 an even European rugby and a competitive test environment. That’s why I have gone with experience over Kinghorn. Also Horne and Gilchrist over Taylor and Gray re fitness.

        On Maitland – ok he isn’t as flashy or scores as many tries as some of our other backs but from a balance perspective I think he is a great defender and reader of the game.

      2. @BlakeWestwood … He may be one of our best ever lock forwards, but that doesn’t mean that he can be in two places at the same time.

  26. I assume you meant to put Toolis at 4 and not R.Gray twice.

    My 23 now i have thought about it more would be.

    1. Bhatti
    2. Mcinally
    3. Welsh
    4. J.Gray
    5. Toolis
    6. Barclay
    7. Watson
    8. Du Preez (very very close with wilson)
    9. Price
    10. Russell
    11. Mcguigan
    12. Dunbar
    13. Jones
    14. Maitland
    15. Hogg
    16. Lawson
    17. Reid
    18. Mcallum
    19. R.Gray
    20. Denton
    21. Laidlaw
    22. Taylor
    23. Kinghorn
    Hard Desicions
    First was Bhatti or Reid, for me Bhatti has only looked really weak in scrum when with Turner who i think is the issue atm, he also fits the high tempo and quick rucking game Townsend wants. Reid can come on with 25 minutes to go and help keep the scrum stable when the real pressure comes in if its still close.
    Mcinally/Welsh – no brainer
    2nd row has a good partnership working atm so stays although Richie will be pushing his way in later in tournament i think.
    Barclay and Watson pick themselfs.
    Wilson is only close because he fits the game plan so well, for me however we need a big carrier and Du preez has to start for that along with his good hands linking the backs well.
    Wilson is not a good impact player for me unless early injury but Barclay can cover all sides anyway so no bench spot for him either.
    Price and Russell pick themselfs.
    Dunbar over taylor again due to the fast counter rucking game style and the fact he has the combo with jones.
    Jones no brainer but might be pushed hard by Taylor/Bennet if he loses form.
    Mcguigan mainly because i dont think it right to leave somone out who scored 2 tries against australia and has kept his form up since.
    Seymour is out despite having a good game against exeter, im not comfortable with him still until he starts consistently performing again.
    Maitland despite not being a big try scorer brings a good balance to a flashy backline and is always a safe bet to defend and do the basics well, somthing i think will be important for the first game looking to build continuity.
    Hogg no brainer.
    Front row replacements pick themselfs due to lack of option, Rae is not close to international standard for me so mcallum gets a shot, Same for Cochrane as Rae.
    R.Gray over Gilchrist but not alot between since Gilchrist has been improving and giving better performances and i have seen very little of Richie.
    Denton for the impact against tired welsh players need to be punching holes throughout and having our backline finishing off.
    Laidlaw because i really dont want Fowles or Prygos on in Wales both can lose their heads at times.
    Taylor because he is a class act and can cover alot of places.
    Impossible to leave the standout player in Kinghorn for me would start on the wing but mabey safer to bring off the bench, can also cover 10/15 and both wings, Hogg has also never played a full 80 at the principality so their is that.

  27. On Seymour i would still have him as my first choice wing without a doubt when on form but he has been completely pish for Scotland and Glasgow in 90 % of the games he has played in since the lions. I rate him but i think he needs a break, i was not able to watch the Exeter game so dont know if he performed well outside of the 2 tries he was involved in from the highlights.

    1. Seymour was virtually faultless against Exeter. Taking high balls, no silly mistakes, defence solid. Looked focussed and full of running. Saw him cuddling his baby at the players tunnel and chatting to folk after the match and his facial expression told you he knew he was back.

  28. My tuppenceworth on selection:

    Stuart McInally is at this moment up there with Finn as our most important player. Can Lawson do a job and let him have a rest?

    Seymour plays without question. Excellent vs Exeter after injury. Even in one of his bad games vs nz his link up with Hogg for Huw Jones’ try was quality. The way Seymour and Hogg play together makes me believe in telepathy!!

    Is anyone else getting worried about Dunbar? Will he ever get back to a place where he’s not injured or concussed? He’s our defensive lynchpin (see nz game. I think we win if he doesn’t go off) and always starts for me. Hoping and praying he’s fit for Wales.

    If Dunbar is out, do we look at Jones at 12 with Bennett at 13? Jones has played super rugby at inside and Bennett is just a wonderful player who is looking great after injury. Not sure superdunc is an option at this point as I don’t think he’s played recently.

    My team:

    1. Reid (experience)
    2. Mcinally
    3. Welsh (experience)
    4. J.Gray
    5. Toolis
    6. Barclay
    7. Watson
    8. Denton (I think we need a bruiser)
    9. Price
    10. Russell
    11. Maitland
    12. Jones (dependent on Dunbar)
    13. Bennett (dependent on Dunbar)
    14. Seymour (nailed on)
    15. Hogg (decent player…)
    16. Lawson
    17. Bhatti
    18. Mcallum
    19. R.Gray
    20. Du Preez
    21. Laidlaw
    22. Horne
    23. Kinghorn (playing too well to be left out)

    Pleasantly surprised about the front row given all the injuries, but would bite your arm off for a fit Ford or Brown.

    We must beat Wales, but I’m worried their injuries will force them to play rugby again……bring it on!

    1. Feel a bit out on a limb suggesting Kinghorn wont be in 23. I just don’t see Townsend rolling the dice against Wales when he has no need to with Hogg, Seymour, Maitland and McGuigan (not very much test experience but more professional experience that Kinghorn).

      What happens if we get a back three injury in first 5 minutes? It is a huge amount of pressure to put on a young guy. I could be wrong of course, and perhaps I am too risk averse!

      1. The greatest risk is to be afraid of taking a risk…more or less sums up Toony’s approach… plus risk aversion is what got Wales in their own little mess…I don’t think we should be remotely afraid of having Kinghorn on the bench, but it must fit tactics and other selections of course.

        For me, he comes into the frame in the absence of FB cover in the starting XV…so say if it’s Hogg, McGuigan and Seymour…then maybe he competes with Maitland for the bench spot. If Maitland and Hogg both start then I can’t see him in the 23.

        As FH cover he would be behind Horne and Jackson in my view…Kinghorn may compete with the latter as FH/FB cover if neither Horne nor Taylor selected…e.g. alongside Bennett and Laidlaw.

    2. Interesting call on Denton v du Preez. I think CdP is the better player but seeing it on paper like that perhaps there is an element of Eddie Jones’s “finishers” in having CdP on the bench. Denton to batter into the defence for 60 mins before CdP comes on to hit space and provide offloads…

      I still wouldn’t write off Hamilton though as he looked good v Oz before he went off injured.

  29. Toonie tested his players in the AI’s and Denton was not there, however due to the prop crisis I can see one benefit, his weight is 119Kg.

    Toonie might decide to outweight the Welsh as a countermeasure . Jon Welsh is 124kg, Fagerson and Nel are 120Kg. Begham weighes in at a massive 128Kg’s. McCallum is 117Kg.

    Samson lee only 116Kg.

    Richie Gray 126kg, Brother Jonny 118 and Gilchrist 117.

    AW Jones is 118kg (so any of our guys counter him ).

    At loosehead Reid is 120Kg and Bhatti 110Kg (10Kg differential).

    However let’s look at Denton at 119Kg , CDP 108, Hamilton 104, Wilson 105. Falateau is 110 Kgs.

    If you play with the weights we need to find 10kg for Loosehead change over and Richie Gray and Denton have circa that kind of number in each unit.

    So if you play with those numbers you can see what we might do.

    You could argue that we need to play or fastest back rows to counter the immobility of our beefy props.

    Either way , the welsh will move us around to tire the forwards and they will claim we are shoving early when they cannot stabalise a heavier pack.

    The good news , is we have just found one way to counter scrum stability.

    According to the Sunday Times Gatland has stated he will target the front row. They also say he wants an experienced centre to contain Russell and Hogg. Doubt he was even interviewed,

    I think we can assume he has more up his sleeve than that , I think he will play a kicking game and we had better be good under the high ball.

    One thing for sure Gatland will be feeling the pressure. I hope we dont just win, I hope we win big.

  30. I wouldn’t be too concerned about the weight of the forwards. Watson is one of the smallest loose forwards in the competition but he still makes a great deal of yards. In the scrum, technique will beat size 9 times out of 10. The Welsh front row are pretty poor by all reckoning, Gatland only picked his hooker for the Lions tour (and still picked Halfpenny).

    If Dunbar is fully fit he starts, if not I wouldn’t be surprised to see Horne at 12 if Taylor is not ready. Toonie trusts him and his style of play suits Scotland. Huw Jones & Bennett is the partnership I think most fans would like to see, but with Bennett only just back after so long out I think this fixture will be a bit soon for that.

    Forwards wise, McInally, Welsh, J Gray, Barclay & Watson are nailed on but the rest are still to play for. I wouldn’t be too surprised to see this 23 announced on Thursday

    1. Bhatti
    2. McInally
    3. Welsh
    4. Toolis
    5. J Gray
    6. Barclay (c)
    7. Watson
    8. Hamilton
    9. Price
    10. Russell
    11. McGuigan
    12. Dunbar
    13. Jones
    14. Seymour
    15. Hogg

    Replacements: 16. Lawson, 17. Reid, 18. McCallum, 19. R Gray, 20, Denton, 21. Laidlaw, 22. Horne, 23, Taylor.

    Either way I reckon we’ll go to Cardiff and pump them!!

    1. Disappointing news that Richie Gray is ruled out of Cardiff – Toolis has been in great form though and Gilchrist playing with much more confidence than last year. But it does mean another chunk of experience has been lost.

      I agree looking at weights is totally superficial by the way, but it is much easier than trying to guess who has the best technique. Shame that probably goes for refs too.

      I don’t think I do like the look of a Jones/Bennett partnership. Both are fantastic strike runners but don’t have the best distribution, both have a tendency to fall off tackles occasionally and neither has a kicking game that I’m aware of. Whether we choose a auxiliary FH (Horne) or a crash ball defensive lynchpin neither of these guys are ideally suited to 12. Taylor probably gives the best all round skill set but I’m not sure how much he’s actually played at 12. I know Jones played there often in SA but there is a. If step up from Currie Cup to 6N.

    2. “I reckon we’ll go to Cardiff and pump them!!” Easy tiger, don’t count our chickens or scare the horses.

    1. Bummer , we could have done with a bit of that weight however, no shortage of boilerhouse talent and the dependable Harley if needed.

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