Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


6 Nations 2018: Scotland 32-26 France

Scotland v France
© Scottish Rugby Blog

Iain Hay at BT Murrayfield

The returning Greig Laidlaw, aka “Rugby Jesus” in some circles, booted over 22 points as Scotland came from behind to snatch a dramatic, and hard-fought victory over their visiting French counterparts.

An early setback for Scotland came after less than three minutes, Teddy Thomas repeating his trick of last week by scoring an impressive solo try. The winger picked the ball up on the right wing just inside Scotland’s half before slaloming his way outside Finn Russell and Pete Horne, inside Stuart Hogg and under the posts, however Russell in particular will feel he could have done better with the first up tackle.

As Scotland sought to find their way back into the match, a knock-on between the 10 and 22m lines gifted the put-in to France, and the first test of the scrum. After a reset, referee John Lacey awarded the penalty to France who cleared into Scotland’s half.

Lacey then pinged Jonny Gray for not releasing after the tackle as Scotland finally gained some possession, and scrum-half Maxime Machenaud increased the lead to 10-0 for Les Bleus.

Scottish socks needed to be pulled up, and an eerily hushed home crowd needed enlivening, which Scotland sought to do with their next spell of possession. The Glasgow Warriors axis of Horne, Russell and Hogg combined in midfield, culminating in Hogg sending a grubber towards the try-line with Tommy Seymour chasing after it. With few options, try-scorer Thomas booted it into touch, but the reprieve for France was short-lived. Gilchrist claimed the line-out, and although the attempt at the driving maul was pulled down, Scotland recycled and worked their way left, Russell supplying the final pass for Maitland to finish the overlap in the corner. Laidlaw added the extra 2 points from an improbable angle.

From the restart, Hogg’s kick was charged down by blindside flanker Lauret, but thankfully Russell was in behind to get to the ball first in the goal area. After a disappointing showing in Cardiff last time out, particularly with the boot, Russell, who was outstanding for his club last year in moving the monstrous pack of French club Racing 92 around until they were blowing out of their derrieres, was over-eager and under-performing in trying to achieve the same result at international level. One kick was half-blocked, one went out on the full, most just gifted possession back.

In contrast to the mercurial Finn, France had opted for the more conservative Beauxis at stand-off, however the flair of old French teams was coursing through their forwards, who were not afraid to charge at the gain line and attempt the off-load. Their adventure eventually paid off and it was Teddy Thomas who again crossed the whitewash as he found space on the right-wing, kicked over the top of Hogg and after a fortuitous bounce deceived the covering Greig Laidlaw, had the simplest of finishes. Machenaud maintained his 100% kicking accuracy, but 2 scrum halves can play at that game.

Within a couple of minutes Scotland won themselves a penalty, Berghan getting his hands on French ball after they themselves had forced a turnover, only Russell knocked it over the touch-line beyond the try-line. Advantage lost,

Scotland reduced the deficit after 32mins, a glorious move down the right involving a sumptuous off-load from Huw Jones was knocked-on by Laidlaw, but when France booted their advantage away, the Scots struck. Russell, Hogg and Horne were all involved again, the attack culminating in Huw Jones cutting a fine line, taking Laidlaw’s short ball from the ruck at pace to keep up his remarkable scoring record on the Test stage, 8 tries in 13 games now.

With under five minutes remaining of a pulsating first-half, another attacking position went to waste. Russell did this time find touch, despite Teddy Thomas’ hilarious attempt to keep it in, but McInally’s arrow was picked off by Arthur Iturria. Although Scotland won the ball back, and Maitland charged into the 22 after coming in off his wing, France again won the penalty at the breakdown where they had had the upper hand in this first half.

France claimed the last points of the half from the resultant plays, winning another two penalties in quick succession, the latter of which was within Machenaud’s range to take the half-time deficit for Scotland beyond a score.

Half-time: Scotland 14-20 France

Russell kicked off the second half for Scotland, the visitors having replaced scrum-half Machenaud with Baptiste Serin.

Scotland dominated possession for the opening minutes, Grant Gilchrist, who had arguably been Scotland’s best performer in the first half with a bone-crunching performance, made a good charge which resulted in a penalty when Serin came in at the side of the ruck. Laidlaw knocked over the penalty, reducing the deficit to 3.

The reduction was almost instantly negated when Wilson obstructed the tackler with Hogg on the loop, Serin taking over responsibilities from the tee with Machenaud replaced. France had only won possession back after Russell had again failed to make touch with a penalty. The mercury had dropped on the thermometers as the afternoon wore on, and it had unfortunately dropped with Finn again today.

Penalty begat penalty, France pinged this time when despite claiming the restart cleanly, lock Itturia cleared McInally out before he’d got to the ruck, allowing Laidlaw to get us back to where we had been just 2mins before with a 3-point lead to France.

Hogg weaved and danced, but Jones knocked on Laidlaw’s ankle-biter of a pass, Horne then tried to smuggle away, but France would again manage to force a turnover penalty just as Scotland looked to be getting somewhere, Iturria making some amends for his previous faux pas.

France were then threatening the try-line with their first foray into Scotland territory of the half. An ambitious chip and chase was dealt with, but France came again, and Scotland were perhaps fortunate to only lose 3 points. With penalty advantage on their side they got up to within 10m, only for Laidlaw to strip the ball from Vakatawa.

Serin’s boot added the 3, and with that we saw the first mass reinforcements from the bench. Gordon Reid replaced by Jamie Bhatti and the impressive Gilchrist with clubmate Ben Toolis. France also took this opportunity to switch their props and introduce the je ne sais quoi of Louis Picamoles.

France’s earlier assuredness at the breakdown was starting to wane, either due to fatigue or referee John Lacey taking a dimmer view of their antics, and Laidlaw reduced the deficit again on the hour. Shortly afterwards, Scotland again won the penalty, this time at the scrum with Simon Berghan, playing for the first time in 6 weeks, forcing the error. With Ali Price stripped and ready to come on the touch-line, Laidlaw levelled the scores with what we had assumed would be his last involvement, but surprisingly it was Finn Russell who made way for Price, and at the same time current captain Barclay was switched with the battering ram of David Denton, making his first international appearance since Japan in 2016.

Murrayfield now in full pelt, Beauxis spilled an easy kick, further raising the home crowd’s expectations. Scotland huffed and puffed, putting France under extreme pressure, but within a few metres of the line and the lead, the French defence held up the maul to win them the scrum, and a well needed breather.

But Scotland kept on coming, their superior fitness starting to show, and for the first time took the lead with under 10mins left on the clock, “Bullseye” Laidlaw again hit the mark, 29-26 to Scotland.

With France now desperate, they emptied their bench but shot themselves in the foot when Camara interfered with Price at the ruck. Hogg found touch deep in the French 22. Line-out secured, Scotland kept the ball as the clock ran down, their cause further aided by another French aberration in easily kickable range.

Nerves now pretty frayed, France put a penalty into Scotland’s 22m with barely 2mins to play after Toolis was penalised for not rolling away, even though he looked pinned in. With the maul set up and France looking to breenge Scottish defences, a combination of McInally and Ryan Wilson, who showed his defensive prowess and work-rate throughout, caused them to falter.

Nerves now reduced to a single, graphene-thin layer, the scrum didn’t go smoothly, but Wilson got his hands on it, and France again conceded a penalty to the delight of the home crowd. Time up, ball out, and Scotland’s 6N campaign could boast a “1” in the “Win” column.

Next up? England. Toonie has some big decisions to make, but for now, let’s take heart in the fact that when Scotland were down, they fought back. Despite a worrying first and last scrum, the much fretted over set-piece was pretty even and the line-out functioned a lot better than last week. If Richie Gray’s available that will be a massive boost in that area, but both Gilchrist and Jonny impressed today. And as for Finn? I say keep him in, after two disappointments there’s a big game in to come. Decisions, decisions…

Referee: John Lacey (IRFU)

Attendance:  67,144

SRBlog Man of the Match: In sheer defiance of the sponsors, I’m going to pass on Laidlaw despite his points contribution. Horne, Hogg and Jones impressed in the backs with their running, (Huw Jones’ angles are a delight). Berghan, for a tight-head who hasn’t played in 6 weeks to put in that level of performance for a full 80 was a tremendous effort, and Denton impressed in his short time on the pitch, but I’m going to have to opt for Grant Gilchrist. In the hour he spent on the pitch he smashed everything in sight, carried well, ran the line-outs and also showed some deft touches. Well done that man.

107 Responses

  1. Never in doubt. Yeasssaaaaaaaaahhhhh

    Also nailed it straight though the Crabbies holes at half time, so knew we’d win.

  2. Defence was also impressive in the 2nd half especially against the driving / rolling maul. Traditionally we’ve coughed up penalties against that tactic…

  3. Outstanding composure at the end there. Greig Laidlaw and Dave Denton I’m sorry I ever doubted you. Laidlaw had a blinder, he was quick, minimal crabbing and minimal box kicks but was sensible and gave direction. Denton gave us some good go forward when he came on and even threw a couple of passes! Notable shouts to Gilchrist, Horne, Wilson and Jones, they all stood up big time today.

    Other than the atrocious kicking from hand I don’t think Russell had that bad a game. Those kicks though, missing touch is fine, it happens, but to do it repeatedly is unforgiveable, what was it 3, 4? Mental. Had those kicks gone to touch I think we could have put France to the sword today. We didn’t really get a lot of set pieces in their 22 but every time we did we were dangerous.

    Feel a bit for France they were the architects of their own downfall (and if anyone knows what that means it’s us) but when we got going they simply couldn’t deal with it. Teddy Thomas is a class act, every time he got near the ball I winced, what is it with France and having a player that is a thorn in our side, Vincent Clerc, Bastareaud and now Thomas.

    Anyway bring on the English! Toonie has some selection headaches now I hope, the guys that got called in from last week all played well and I thought our bench made a real difference.

  4. Well that was interesting!!!!!!!!!!
    French handed it to us on a plate in last 1/2 hour. Solidity was required, actually v good decision by Townsend to move Laidlaw to 10, Russell is a lot of things but not solid.

    Berghan was a colossus. (Wilson wasn’t far behind)

    Gilchrist carried very well & commanded the line-out.

    Bench – DD, Bhatti & Price up the pace / power at exactly the right time.

    Now to England……………………..

  5. I thought Denton looked the real deal during his time on the pitch, very impressive. Carried and tackled hard, presence at the breakdown and I even thought he made some good decisions and looked far away from the mindless bludgeon of yesteryear.

    1. Agree with all on Denton, Berghan, Jones, Maitland. Greig is going to have another World Cup now, one way or another.

  6. If we win our final 3 games and get a try bonus point in each game we could actually win the whole tournament. I know it’s going to be difficult but if we believe and we play to our best anything is possible. Gregor has had made us one of the fastest playing teams in the world which has made us such great try scorers so whilst it is a small chance we still have a chance of winning the six nations.

    1. Are you insane? have you seen Ireland play? Have you seen Scotland play, perhaps more importantly.

  7. Denton is a brute of a boy, I’d start him against England.

    Only downer today was Russell’s kicking. I noticed Duncan Weir has gone on loan to Worcester and is fit again, I’d parachute him in to the squad and if he’s match fit then he’s your man for the England match, we need that steady controlling presence at 10 and Laidlaw is too wee.

    1. I know Russell wasn’t fantastic, but I’d take a half-baked Finn over the puddin’ every day of the week. I don’t think he offers anything, creativity-wise, and the fact that Edinburgh have shipped him to Worcester must be a sign that his time in a Scotland jersey is well and truly over

    2. Don’t want to insult you mate but you are off your head. What has Duncan Weir ever done to make you think he is a decent international player who has the ability to be a “controlling presence” at 10 against top international sides. Because to me he just looks like a babbling baboon who is always prone to mistakes whilst never ever producing a Finn Russell moment of magic. Finn Russell may not be great at the moment but he is a darn sight better than Duncan Weir ever will be. Replacing Russell with Weir is like me resurrecting Hitler and putting him in charge of the UK because I feel Theresa May is too right wing. What you are suggesting is insanity.

      1. Just a touch harsh to compare Duncan to Hitler, don’t you think… Wasn’t there a reference to Godwin’s Law in a recent podcast (that sooner or later, someone will make a Hitler/Nazi reference in any discussion; and some have added that that person then automatically loses the argument…)?

    3. Finn brought his unique brand of ‘Je ne sais huh?’ today…but still a definite starter against England.

      1. Watch the game again and in the 19th minute Russell takes a big shot to the hip which he struggles to walk off. The kind of thing which could affect his kicking game. It was after that that he missed touches and kicked out on the full etc.

      2. It’s a fair point, Johnny. However, if he’s struggling then he should: a) take his time when kicking to touch; or b) tell his captain he’s struggling so someone else can take the kicks to touch.

        If it were a one-off error, I’d fully understand, but not when it’s repeated.

      3. But then you would have had 60 minutes with Laidlaw at 10.
        Laidlaw at 10 for 1/2 an hour to steady things when your back row has got the big runners in the opposing pack under control is one thing, but under Robinson he regularly started at 10 and teams just used to send their biggest, fastest runners straight down his channel early in the game, usually to good effect for them.

  8. So they we are, we are back to the Townsend’s a genius and we are world beaters once again. Somewhere in between the doom and gloom and the messiah mind set is probably about right.

    As some have said it is great to win without playing a perfect game. And it shows that it is not making errors (even very poor simple mistakes) but not compounding errors that is key to winning a rugby match. Some great performances and some very decent recovery with quick responses to going down on the scoreboard.

    This match was also an example of how many points you can accumulate by kicking penalties and how many can be thrown away by kicking to the corner and hoping. We built pressure by kicking the points and clearing our lines on restart.

    We had so many chances to go away and let France stroll this one but we didn’t. I still think we could have lost this one and things in the last 5 mins have to be noted that may have cost us against a better team. I would have liked to kick to the corner rather than take the penalty in the last five. Play territory and use up the time. And when we did take that option we were lucky to get ball back but when we did we kicked a contestable kick and gave them good possession. Either hold on to ball or kick it long. But the maul defence was brilliant and we closed it out very well in the end.

    Russell had some really poor moments today and we just have to let Hogg kick the penalties going for the line-out that would cover most of his sins today. However the chaps that ended the match today gave us 2 fly-halfs and 2 scrum halves on the field at the same time which is a hugely helpful combination and shouldn’t be binned as an idea to mix it up. It gives so many options.

    Delighted to see today and some great performances from those who came in to the team. A hearty well done to the players today.

    Still want Visser back in the squad. He is an option there is no doubt.

    1. At the end of the day this win was (or should have been) expected…a shocker last week in Wales, plus a strong French performance (at home) made this very doubtful.

      So aye, a good game well won that would have been easy to lose.

      For me, the next stage is making this sort of fixture a “routine” game to win…no genius, no enigmas, no FRITW, just damn good rugby.

      I do think the last penalty kicked should have gone to the corner as France were a defensive shambles, and Lacey had completely lost patience with them…+6 pts vs +3 doesn’t really matter much with the quality of kickers on the field.

      Maybe no try would have come, but it might have avoided the risk of their final attack which we were fortunately able to weather.

      Hindsight now of course, but that was my opinion at the time too.

      1. Maybe the corner was an option if we had a drop goal option to fall back on however with a replacement 10 and in all likelihood we have never practised it , because as we know, Finn is not , dare I say it , Dan Parks, I think they took the cool headed option and backed themselves to ride it out.

        I think most of this match was unscripted and the players won the game , not the coach who should be given credit for many things , however the hooking of Russell and moving Laidlaw was totally unscrited but worked as France were blowing.

        According to the BBC France were suffering as they put in more tackles than ever in any 6N match last weekend. I think France surrended in the second half due to fatigue, not our sensational game management.

        Like an earlier posted said , France came to play rugby and ran out of steam. We , at home, did not run out of steam but we were just compromising much of the time. We will not have that ability against other sides.

      2. Can’t it be both, Ginger? Scotland recognised the French fatigue and managed the game accordingly? I think that’s exactly what Scotland, and Laidlaw in particular, did.

      3. Ginger, BBC highlighted that last week against Ireland France made the most tackles ever in six nations match. They made 127 tackles today and missed 19. A lot less than 253 last week.

        But part of our game plan was to run them around and make them move and tackle which caused the fatigue. To say Scotland had nothing to do with that is grossly misinterpreting the match I watched.

      4. Andrew : It is whatever you want it to be, I have no idea what was going on in their minds and more than I know what is going on in yours. Maybe Laidlaw did hear them saying ‘Je suis Fatigue’. But I doubt an Englisham will be saying those exact words.

      5. ref: I think what they said (o’connell) was that the record tackles of last week were taking their toll this week. Who knows Maybe o’connell is really a frenchman in disguise and just made it up to get us all talking.

  9. On Russell…I think we must persist.

    Kicking and defensive positioning can be coached and/or managed, whereas you’ll never make the likes of Weir and Tonks a credible threat with ball in hand. Horne and Jackson are good but not the answer long term. In time new options will emerge to threaten.

    Lets hope that the move to Racing has a positive effect rather than negative…I worry he will be undercoached and underplayed, becoming the “entertainment” option rather than the “win the game” option.

    The missed penalty kicks to touch are howlers, but are they worse in reality than other similar errors?

    Unforced yes, but in terms of cost not worse than a card, or a needless penalty, or a missed shot at goal or even a bad knock on.

    That said he seems to be the only international fly half who does it regularly…

    1. Russell took a big shot to the hip about 20 mins in and looked like he struggled to shake it off.

    2. England are much too clinical. Unlike France they will convert them to points. The 20 minute injury theory is possible , he is brave , however its not just one game, it is every game.

      1. England didn’t score a point against Wales for the last 60mins at home. No doubt they are a very good team but not unbeatable. We’ll only give ourselves a chance if our pack takes them on up front as we did to France and gives the backs some holes to run at.

      2. ff: I am nicking someone else’s post here but we need to go for England’s strengths, not their weakness. I am not saying we cannot beat them, what I am saying is missed touch kicks bringing us back are more likely to be punnished against England.We have seen that year in year out and this side are no different.

  10. In terms of the big selection calls for England this is how I see it;

    Bhatti has worked himself into contention for a start. He carried extremely well and our scrum seemed to improve when he came on but for such a big match I would still go for the experience of Gordon Reid. Berghan was fantastic in all areas today and proved many wrong today and must start against England. Fagerson if fit replaces Welsh on the bench.

    Gilchrist and Jonny were phenomenal today and there can be no questions as to who starts in the 2nd row at Twickenham in a fortnights time. Toolis has been great over the past year but if Richie is fit he must replace him on the bench. That 6ft 10 and 126kg frame could be vital for both carrying and the scrum in the 2nd half.

    Both Wilson and Watson looked fantastic today. Big question is do we stick with Barclay at 6 or chuck Denton in. Denton’s 17 Kg weight and 3 inch height advantage could give our scrum and pack more power and strength and Barclay hasn’t looked in great touch in our first two matches. Big call but I would go for Wilson at 6 and Denton at 8.

    Finn Russell can either win you or lose you a match by himself. Normally I like to take risks but I don’t want to be in a situation where England have 3 tries inside the 1st 20 minutes due to our out of form 10 gifting them easy possession deep within our own half. Not too many options here apart from Russell but the Price and Laidlaw combo at 9 and 10 seemed to work today and Laidlaw would give us some much needed control at 10 at the start of the match. Should we need some magic later Russell is on the bench.

    The wings by some distance is our weakest area and neither Maitland or Seymour are in great form. Having said that it would be a tough ask for Kinghorn to make his debut out of position against England so would stick with Maitland and Seymour for now.

    Hopefully one of Dunbar or Taylor are fit in two weeks time but if not Horne performed well today and should do a decent job.

    1. Team for England match;

      1. Bhatti
      2. McInally
      3. Berghan
      4. Gilchrist
      5. J.Gray
      6. Wilson
      7. Watson
      8. Denton
      9. Price
      10. Laidlaw
      11. Seymour
      12. Dunbar/Taylor (if neither are fit Horne stays at 12)
      13. Huw Jones
      14. Maitland
      15. Hogg

      16. Lawson
      17. Reid
      18. Welsh
      19. Toolis/R.Gray
      20. Barclay
      21. Russell
      22. Dunbar/Taylor/Horne (depends who is fit and starts)
      23. Kinghorn

      1. Where does the fresh scrum half come from when we need it at 60 minutes?

        Horne probably deserves to stay in even with those to cover. The defensive weakness early on wasn’t from him.

  11. Can’t believe “fans” were calling for Townsend’s to be sacked after 1 defeat. All those claiming it was a mistake to replace Cotter with Townsend must be feeling rather silly when you look at Townsend’s record with Scotland. This is a man who with Scotland has beaten Australia home and away, came within 5 points of beating New Zealand and got us playing the best rugby we have played in a long time as well as leading Glasgow to the latter stages of the European Cup and making them the 1st Scottish Pro 14 champions yet after one bad match our fan base turn on him and say it was a mistake to even appoint him in the first place. Some fans are just so disloyal and should be eating some humble pie

  12. Thought that win showed a lot of resilience.
    And I think Finn Russell was smashed around the 20 min Mark right on the hip and I think he struggled to shake it off. That might have affected his game because until that point he mixed it up nicely.

  13. Good win. Couple of comments, mostly positive!

    Gilchrist has been good for Edinburgh recently and I think he and JG are our best combination at lock with RG,if fit on bench. No expert but second rows add a lot to the scrum – see praise for Itoje being a ‘great scrummager’. I think Gilchrist brings solidity to our game and if fit and on form should start.

    Denton also did well off the bench. I fancy he stays there for England as and Eddie Jones style ‘finisher’.

    Thought Horne and particularly Jones did well in the centres and Laidlaw had a great game – suspect those calling for him to be replaced by Hildago-Clyne or George Horne have a while to wait. Other than Parra probably the best ‘little general’ in European rugby?

    Now the negative…. I know moving Laidlaw to stand off has been passed off as pre-planned. However, had either of the backs replacements been Bennett,Matt Scott (or if the others fit Pete Horne), would Russell have come out for the second half? My major negative is I think Townsend hasn’t got the team selection correct in either game so far. This week was better in my opinion but the number of subs not used is not something we will get away with against better sides. Assuming DT and AD are not fit for England I think Bennett has to come on to the bench.

    Overall a relief and we’ve come a long way in two years that this is the feeling and not the overwhelming joy I felt then when we actually beat someone other than Italy!

    1. The starting line up I was happy with and the subs that came on but ur right some of the options weren’t our best. Bennet for Harris was a clear one and some more experience for Kinghorn at present even Lee Jones? Hopefully Dunbar and Taylor are in the mix in two weeks. However remember the shocker Dunbar had against England should heed as a warning for us.

      Berghan was immense his best Scotland performance by a mile although Welsh would have stepped in well.

      One thing that hasn’t been highlighted in the good win was Seymour and his lack of contribution and could Maitlands defence be questioned today? Seymour needs a try to get his confidence up. The only thing I remember from him was his quick thinking to pop a pass while he was isolated with France having tucked past him. Got us huge momentum at a time we could have been back in our own half facing a French maul.

  14. Gilchrist really does seem to be a bit of a marmite player – I have always been underwhelmed by him, but I thought he was excellent yesterday – but not MOTM. He really doesn’t hit enough rucks for me and whilst some of his carrying was good, he rarely dominates the contact. I think he gets noticed because of the red scrum cap.

    Yesterday was his best game in a Scotland jersey though.

    1. He seems to be just a bit stronger now after the injuries. Hes always been a Telfer “honest” player but has just a bit more raw strength to go with it. I thought his tackling was pretty good too.

  15. To the tune of “Truly Scrumptious” from “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”

    True wee scrummy,
    Oor Greeg’s our true wee scrummy.
    A scrummy with a boot that saves the day.

    When he’s playing, it’s less unnerving.
    Honest, Greegy: man of the match you were deserving.

    True wee scrummy,
    The feeling in my tummy,
    Never really every goes away.
    But, you with your calm demeanour,
    silence my inner Eeyore,
    Thank you Greegy, please stay.

  16. “noticed because of the red scrum cap”?!?
    Come off it, took a while for him to convince me but the boy was outstanding yesterday because of his excellent support, sweet passing, line breenging and bone jarring tackling. Non, pas à cause de son bonnet rouge Monsieur.
    I had him as my man of the match pretty early on in the game, I get it now. Bergman also excellent, another stand out. Would like to see him dominate Vunipola in two weeks.
    Scotland moving in the right direction but yet to click, however, I don’t suppose it’d be too much to ask to bring that assured and mature performance to the Calcutta table…

  17. Gilchrist is a great grafter who’s had too much injury disruption to show consistent form. He’s a great foil for either of the Grays.

  18. All the calls for Laidlaw at 10 are ludicrous. It worked yesterday for 15mins or so against some tired Frenchmen. If anyone had suggested laidlaw at 10 earlier this week it would have been met with “but he hasn’t played there for years”, “he shouldn’t even be starting at 9 let alone 10”. Andy Robinson played him at 10 because he was the only guy we had, Mike Blair / Chris Cusiter were the incumbent 9s but Greeg was too good to leave out all together so got the 10 shirt as he was better than Dan Parks / Phil Godman.

    Other than the howling kicks I thought Russell played pretty well yesterday, he should have made that tackle on TT but that was Maitlands fault and he also shrugged off Horne and Hogg so you I give credit to TT for that bit of skill. He was instrumental in the build up to both tries and linked well with Horne and Jones.

    The only thing we should have done and it’s not Russell’s fault, is stop him from taking the kicks to touch after a couple of them went wrong. I understand the anger that people have at his smirking but he is a happy go lucky kind of guy and that’s just how he deals with things, I don’t doubt for a second that he was annoyed at himself. He has always lived life on the edge with his place kicks, hero or zero kind of stuff, it just hasn’t came off for him recently. I think a good telling to settle down and ensure it makes touch rather than trying to be the hero and pin it on the corner flag is all he needs.

    1. Correct me if I’m wrong but Laidlaw played fly half for Edinburgh for years did he not? I’m not sure I knew he was a scrum half till Scotland put him there.

      Russell shouldn’t have been moved off the kicking we know he averages one missed kick a match which is far too much. He should have been off them before we kicked off.

      1. Yes he played 10 for Edinburgh too for the same reason, Mike Blair was the incumbent 9 but he was better than Phil Godman!

  19. People need to calm down re Finn. He has helped transform Scotland’s play and success rate, creating many of the tries we have scored in the last 2/3 seasons (remember we didn’t used to score tries!). Missing touch is really poor but most of the rest of his play was secure – linking/passing well, positioning well to field kicks and tackling well apart from Thomas miss. We now have loads of evidence that Finn and Greg combine well even if we are sometimes frustrated by Greg’s delays at the back of the ruck and weakish pass. Finn is instinctively good at taking the ball in a way to optimise pressure on opposition – often flat to the line, often at pace and often with the threat of an off load, if he takes it in. We will need that against England who are not the strongest defensively down the 10 channel.
    If Finn had stayed on to play with Price when France were dead on their feet, we might well have seen a try that put the match to bed.
    To seriously suggest putting Laidlaw at 10 vs England is bonkers.

    I think the really tough calls for selection in two weeks will be the following:
    i) Drop Barclay to bench for Denton (as Watson and Wilson were ahead of Barclay in impact on game) and he provides complete back row cover. Laidlaw captain.
    ii) Richie Gray vs Gilchrist. Although that was probably Gilchrist’s best game for Scotland he still is not doing enough. A fully fit Richie will do better that Gilchrist vs England behemoths
    iii) Horne vs Dunbar/Taylor if fit. Lack of game time for latter two even if fit is issue.

    1. Nobody with any knowledge of Scottish rugby would consider dropping Finn for the Calcutta Cup. The only reason Laidlaw stayed on was for his kicking (OK and leadership).
      Finn had a bad day, again, but perhaps that will give him the kick to up his game next time.
      As for your changes, Wabster, I don’t agree with any of them. Barclay is a leader and will raise his game against the auld enemy. Denton is an impact player. Gilchrist had a great game and you want to drop him for Richie, who hasn’t played in ages? Drop Horne who put his heart, mind and body on the line yesterday? I think we’ll stick with the same starting XV.

      1. I agree Merlot. For me the biggest call is actually whether to start Bhatti over Reid, but otherwise I would stick with the same pack and replacements. Backs could see some changes (not Greig at 10 though).

      2. I agree, I though Barclay looked a bit tired yesterday which is probably why he was subbed and Laidlaw stayed on as captain. He will raise his game again for next weekend. Denton is a great impact player, if he plays like he did for that brief period yesterday he will punch holes in anyone’s defence. Centre is the only difficult one for me, I like Horne as a player, he linked well with Russell and Jones, he’s a clever player, runs good lines and his support play is outstanding. Dunbar is more of a defensive 12 though and our defence always seems steadier when he is playing, but he hasn’t played for a few weeks now, is the Calcutta cup really the place to make a come back? If England have a weakness it’s in the 10 – 12 channel, how do we exploit that?

      3. My Denton suggestion was around blend of the backrow rather than an outright criticism of John Barclay. Remember Englands backrow in 2 weeks may be Lawes, Hughes and Robshaw (with perhaps Simmonds or Underhill).
        I would only want Richie back in if he plays most of the game for Toulouse this week.
        I meant no criticism of Peter Horne and there is an argument for continuity with Jones outside him.

      4. Is Bhatti weak in scrummaging? I don’t know. When he came on the scrum wheeled in Cardiff. Was that his fault or cheating from Wales?

      5. Toony Tombola…. Id be very surprised if its the same XV – he will pick a team he thinks best suits our ability to execute the gameplan designed to beat England. I suspect that might include Big Richie if fit, and possibly Dunbar at inside centre – but who knows……

      6. I also agree with all that. The only changes I would consider would be Dunbar if fit (but on the bench as Horne deserves a start) or Bennett who has being playing well for Edinburgh and is match fit. Harris would make way for either one.

    2. i) If we’re benching someone for Denton it should be Wilson – he covers the whole back row, worked well as an impact player in Cardiff and will give away fewer penalties as ones.
      ii) Gotta be the guy with match fitness, surely… I’d be tempted to bench Jonny, just to mix things up!
      iii) Out of AD and DT, AD has more game time, but DT is more flexible. I think Horne still starts either way, but I’d like to see someone with more experience and credit on the bench than Harris .

      I think Bhatti has been OK in terms of scrumming. Did OK against France, and against Leinster in an otherwise awful ERCC game.

      1. We’ve noticeably struggled to get the same joy at the breakdown with Barclay and Watson this season. Barclay also covers the whole back row from the bench but a Wilson/Denton/Watson back row is a bit more muscular against the powerful English pack. On the other hand, any three of those four should make a good back row unit so it is horses for courses depending on what weaknesses Toonie will try to exploit.

        I would be happy for Dunbar to come straight back in if he is fit. I’d have Price, Horne, Taylor on the bench but again – there is a huge difference between being fit and math fit and only the coaches can really make an informed choice about whether a player is ready to come in and do 80minuyes from the bench.

  20. An alternative theory on Russell. Scotland’s attack has been different to what we saw in the Autumn. I think Toonie has been holding a bit back from the playbook and modifying the shape for what in theory are the two hardest games but he seriously underestimated Wales. Russell is being asked to kick more and is not taking so much of the early phase ball. I think his concentration has gone a bit as a result so when he then gets to kick he’s just trying too hard to make an impression and is going too long. Also thinking that as Toonies protégé he got hooked as he is absolutely needed for the next two games, Toonie doesn’t want to see his confidence dented any more, Toonie thinks he’s got 2 weeks now to work with him and get it sorted and the French were blowing hard. Also think we should club together and buy him a better pair of boots.

    1. What’s your theory all of last year and when Cotter was his coach and the year before and so on and so on?

      He’s made too many missed touches when kicking for such a talented player. Whatever it is it is costing the team huge amounts of territory and hard earned possession. And then directly and indirectly points and tries. You make mistakes in play and bad decisions under pressure yes. Annoying but they happen. Kicks to touch to get good field position should only ever fail once a season. He just shouldn’t be on these kicks anymore.

      1. Hogg for the touchfinds, Laidlaw for the sticks, John Welsh for the chip and chase, the scrum can pack down with 7 men and get the excess backrower to do his tackling and we can have Finn for the stand up jokes to keep morale high. He is a lovely guy and you guys are all bagpipes and shortbread, looking forward to my half time cuppa. Eddie Jones

      2. I’m not sure Cotter was doing much of his coaching for Scotland. It was Toonie and Glasgow and O’Halloran for Scotland. Those two have swapped round. Suspect one difference now is that Cotter would have used more hairdryer treatment for missed touches.

  21. Our Scrum has held up a lot better than most of us thought. Even in the Welsh game it wasn’t a basket case. Saturday was a step up and presumably Berghan played a major part in this. I also think Reid found his international legs again after anonymity in Cardiff.

    Interesting to read that England are going to practicing with the Georgia Pack this week. What can we read into that? Battering practice? Scrum refresher? They haven’t looked that great at scrum time (so far). Vinapulo is great all round player, but the scrum hasn’t always been top notch with him playing.

    I think Gregor will stick with the starting 15 from Saturday barring injuries. Replacing Finn with Greg is a joke. Let Hogg take the penalty punts. The fact is none of our options (if they are options) at 10 are better kickers than Finn.

    1. Agreed, keep Finn. For the touchfinders – either the captain gives him a reminder of the priorities (leadership) or give the ball to Hogg. Laidlaw may be a cool head, but he is still prone to delay when quick ball would be the better option. Smart move to put him at 10 in the circumstances of yesterdays game.

    2. I don’t think Mako has ever really answered the questions raised about his scrummaging ability that were first posed in the 13 Lions tour, when there were better technical props available for selection. He’s highly effective in the loose – for about 60 mins before he runs out of puff.

      If you need a prep game before tackling the England pack, you could do worse than a run against Ireland or France. The French pack did pretty well against Ireland, and didn’t look as knackered against them as they did in the last 15/20 against us yesterday. Some reason for optimism then that we won’t be dominated by the England pack on 24 Feb. Hopefully!

  22. good shout from BigAl (- are you the real BigAl?). Anyone Scotstoun regular knows the player Finn is – he will do fine – perhaps a little less ambition when going for the corners (think of your pack) and less of the ‘no-look’ passes – not everyone can be Carlos Spencer. Thought selection turned out pretty much spot-on and once we got to the 2nd half, management was good. One exception was the box kick on 77+ mins. It should have been up the juke, the Munster way. Pleased the way some of the Edin-average showed up, especially Gilchrist and Berghan – thought both did well. Even Denton – usually rate Scrummo’s posts but ‘Denton looked the real deal’ – come on, hair is so bad he should sign for Exeter.

    1. I do genuinely think someone should be having a word with him about that haircut. If not the coach then his mates.

  23. Back row selection will be interesting. England in recent years have nullified our competitiveness there by having a back row with a 50kg weight advantage.

  24. Little stat for us – In the history of the six nations, Italy and Ireland have never scored as many points as we did on Sunday (needless to say its our best points return as well) against the French – and France’s 6th worst points concession in the entire 6 nations history.

    2015 – England – 55
    2009 – England – 34
    2002 – Wales – 33 (in defeat)
    2001 – Wales – 43
    2001- England – 48

    Considering we played much more direct and took a lot of 3 pointers instead of the obligatory / en vogue 5m lineout and wild ‘wide wide’ game plan. I think it goes to show that you can score a lot of points without compromising the basics / old fashioned principles.

  25. Keep Russell kicking penalties for touch, he’ll get it right. He’s a confidence player. Take that duty away from him and it could affect him negatively/psychologically?

    1. See above post. If I did that that many times I’d say myself to be taken off them.

      I thought he wasn’t sure where the touchline was on Saturday so I was helping him by pointing at it. Think it helped eventually.

      1. Yeah – you’re probably right. I just believe that if he’s going to develop as a fully rounded/complete fly half it should be part of his skill set. As a skill – I wouldn’t have thought it THAT difficult to kick a ball out over the touchlines or over the dead ball line. Mind you, this is coming from a 50 year old ex-flanker, so what do I know about kicking?

      2. That is all sensible and logical but its just been too long and too many times. No one seems to get through to him that the risk of the extra 10 yards isn’t worth the losing of field position and possession. The penny should have dropped by now.

  26. For England

    1. Reid
    2. Mcinally
    3. Welsh
    4. Richie Gray
    5. Johnny Gray
    6. Denton
    7. Barclay
    8. Du Preez
    9. Price
    10. Hogg
    11. Seymour
    12. Dunbar
    13. Huw Jones
    14. Lee Jones
    15. Kinghorn


    16. Cochrane
    17. Bhatti
    18. Berghan
    19. Gilchrist
    20. Watson
    21. Fowles
    22. Russell
    23. Maitland

    Through this Team we Have power To combat The English in The front .

    Richie Starts without Question.
    Du preez can show what he will really do with a good pack in front of him and not having to be the only carrier.
    Price and fowles as they offer the best distribution to our World Class Backline.
    Lee jones as he grafts hard.

    You can interchange Hogg and Kinghorn in at 10 to give them both opportunities in the wide channels.

    Dunbar as the defensive (general)

    Is it harsh on Laidlaw ? .. yes. but the backline requires quick service above all and while laidlaw is the better all-rounder he does not offer this.

    The Bench is Impact Impact and more Impact. I want Bhatti Berghan Gilco and Watson steamrolling tired English legs late on.

    I was quick service with russells creativy off the bench half as punishment for poorness and Maitland is a lightning quick versatile back 3 player.

    1. Seriously?? dropping the 4 best forwards from Saturday (Berghan, Gilchrist, Watson & Wilson), give me a break.

    2. Will people stop trying to put Hogg in at 10! It would be suicide to put our best attacking threat out of his best position, especially moving him into a position he doesn’t play at all regularly and that removes a lot of his strengths.
      If you want to drop Russell, Horne is the obvious choice (although I wouldn’t). Fowles is terrible as well.
      Also, that forward pack is crazy – CDP is not good enough, Watson is our best forward by a mile and Richie Gray is just coming back from injury with Toolis and Gilchrist both playing well.

      1. ‘Fowles is terrible as well’ – Edinburgh seem to think differently by getting rid of SHC and keeping Fowles

    3. Bob, its never a good idea to drink on a school night….

      Seriously, that team is not going to start against England. Du Preez, Lee Jones, Cochrane & Fowles won’t make the squad. Richie Gray probably won’t either but is good enough to dislodge Toolis from No. 19. Gilchrist and Jonny will start again.

      For England
      1. Bhatti
      2. McInally
      3. Berghan
      4. Gilchrist
      5. J. Gray
      6. Barclay (c)
      7. Watson
      8. Wilson
      9. Laidlaw
      10. Russell
      11. Maitland
      12. Dunbar (if fit)
      13. H. Jones
      14. Seymour
      15. Hogg

      16. Lawson, 17. Reid, 18. Welsh, 19. Toolis, 20. Denton, 21. Price, 22. Horne, 23. Taylor (if fit)

      1. And if Dunbar and Taylor aren’t fit? Horne to start again, presumably. Who goes on the bench?

      2. If Dunbar not fit, Horne to start. Kinghorn to bench.

        If Taylor not fit, Bennett onto Bench.

      3. Can’t argue with much of that. Would maybe start Reid with Bhatti lined up for an early(ish) appearance from the bench.
        Would be tempted to start Denton, but as others pointed out hard to drop captain. Wonder if any mileage in moving Watson to bench with mind to a half time sub for Barclay. Rejigging back row always comes with risk, but can also unsettle opposition – if you have the right players to do it.
        Would maybe feel counter intuitive given Watston’s performance on Sunday, but it is a 23-man game after all.
        (Am making mistake of typing as I think, with reflection I will no doubt decide this idea is a load of cobblers!)

      4. Pretty close to what I would go with. The variability is all in who is fit and firing out of the usual first choicers that didn’t make the France game. Don’t think any of the starters deserve to be dropped from the squad completely.

        Fagerson perhaps to the bench if fit. Welsh didn’t get on at all against France so reckon Toonie doesn’t rate him. Bhatti and Reid may switch.

        Agree Ritchie could challenge Toolis for 19. But probs wont.

        Think we can all agree those 4 backrowers will be in the squad, who starts maybe a little more up in the air.

        Kinghorn to the bench if Taylor or Dunbar not fit. Joined by Bennett if both still out.

        Toonie Tombola wildcard prediction: An extra backrower on the bench in the shape of Luke Hamilton if AD and DT still out.

      5. Why do people think that Denton would start in place of Barclay? I’d start him instead of Wilson.

      6. Denton had a good game when he came on, but running over a clearly tiring French pack doesn’t give him starting rights. If anything it ensures he comes off the bench again as an impact sub

    4. Bob, Brilliant. That team will confuse England and we can rest the others for the Ireland game.

  27. In all honesty that was a game that 2-3 years ago we’d have lost. Cotter’s first season was all about near misses and games we should have won. We got the wooden spoon. So I’ll take the win. Momentum in the SN can make all the difference.
    As for Finn, I thought he had an average game. The mistakes were big ones but very much of the goalkeeper variety so they get a disproportionate amount of attention. His drawing of the man and the timing of the pass for Maitland’s try were pretty good. I actually think Finn is very low in confidence. All the laughing and joking comes after mistake and I think it’s his way of shaking it off. I did notice that Greig put his arm around him in a very fatherly way not long before Finn went off. It was pretty odd; really looked like Greig was trying to comfort him. So I think Finn’s confidence is low.
    But for England I’d keep him. He’s just like Toonie, where he can be infuriating and then, from nowhere, be a complete genius and just run a game. I’m hoping that England go for him because in that situation I rather fancy him to turn it around especially if that muppet Jones has been giving it verbals before the game. I’d like to see Dunbar at 12 because he brings bit more weight to the midfield (harsh on Horne), have R Gray in the bench. I’d have Dents on for 50 minutes and ask him to empty the tank before Wilson comes on with the same instructions. Looks like Underhill is out so we might have Haskell to contend with; so a bit more bulk wouldn’t go amiss. Greig at 9.
    This is a game that we can win if we can surprise England. We’re clearly not favorites which is nice and we’re due a good performance. There could be no better joy than seeing Eddie Jones moaning after the game having lost to Scotland.

  28. Totally correct, we would previously have lost that one. In fact it’s one of the few times I’ve seen the ‘run the lumps off their legs and win in the last 20’ come to pass. Doubt we will see the ‘Hask’, I think he failed his 5+, never mind 11+.
    With any good fortune the Poison Dwarf will gift Toonie his team talk.

  29. Don’t know if it has been commented on already, but interesting that there wasn’t a single project player in the squad on Sunday. Wonder whether this is a blip – you’d have Nel if he was fit for sure.

    1. Good point, though Toolis is a Project Player is he not?

      Chris Harris also picked up through the scots qualified programme I believe – not quite the same I guess.

      All in all though a good reflection on our increasingly professionalised youth system.

    2. The only project player in the squad is du Preez. Others not in the squad are Visser, Burleigh, Nel and Strauss.

  30. Lots of plus points from Sat after the Cardiff shambles. First of all, a win. How much was that needed! Once again our so called ‘poor’ scrum did very well. Line out improved. We also showed we can win not only by playing fast & furious. Gilchrist & Berghan had their best Scotland games. Denton actually looked like a tidy rugby player when he come on.

    So what do we do with Finn? He’s clearly short of the confidence he had in the Autumn but he’s a class act who just as easily could be MoM next Sat against Engerland. Is there a case for giving him a 60 min run out for Glasgow against the Cheetahs on Friday to get some confidence back?

    I’d be bringing back Zander to the bench with big Rich, Denton & Dunbar coming straight into the starting 15. I’d leave the rest of last week’s starting 15 as is with Pete H, Grant G & John B dropping to the bench.

    Engerland can definitely be got at. Their so called excellent scrum isn’t that excellent. Let’s show them we’re really back next Sat!

  31. Starting Laidlaw at 10 for England would, IMO, be a big mistake and a red rag to Mako, Courtney, Maro & Co.
    Don’t even go there, because it’s the kind of thing I can see dropping out of the tombola….. I’d prefer to see Kinghorn started at 10, and I really don’t want to see Kinghorn started at 10……
    When the other lot are tired and you’ve got their back row under control and if Russell is having an off day, that’s the time when it may be acceptable to move Laidlaw to 10, but not from the kick off, no way.
    We’ve been there many times under Robinson and it didn’t work then and wouldn’t work now.
    He’s a great scrum half who can control a game when his pack give him half a chance. Finn Russell is a great fly half who can set up an attacking back line. He has had 2 iffy games (although I suspect the last one might have been affected by a knock he took in the 20th minute), I doubt he’ll have 3 in a row.

    1. What would be nice is if England believe we might play Laidlaw at 10 and they plan accordingly. I agree.. he would just get ran over by Englands bruisers. I think one of Englands weaknesses is adjusting to unforeseen tactics. Russell needs to stand up and show what he can do matter what…otherwise it’ll be a loss. The forwards and midfield need to give him the space to do that and that will be the deciding factor imo. England are a very strong powerful team..its their biggest asset imo. Scotland are more creative and nimble but for that to show we need to show up both sides of the ball.

  32. FFS Laidlaw plays 10 for 20mins and suddenly he’s better than the best 10 we have had since Rutherford.

    People need to go back and watch the last 20mins – Laidlaw was barely first receiver, he hardly played a traditional 10 role. And no matter how brave he might be, he’s going to get run over in the 10 channel.

  33. Nel and Zander both in full training which is good news. Any chance one of then will be on the bench against Globogym?

    1. I reckon one of them will..probably Zander..its been a while since Nel played.

      Berghan totally deserves his spot though.

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