Scotland look inward for visit of France

That defeat to Wales was massively dispiriting in the face of the high hopes we had for Scotland this year, after a best ever year last year. We judged them according to those hopes rather than perhaps the rest of the rugby world’s reality.

Some felt John’s marks were harsh, but the 5th side in the world came within two minutes of being nilled with a try bonus by the 7th side in a competitive test match. Losses are of course part of sport but that’s unacceptable for two teams so close together in the rankings. Our player ratings are of course subjective, but also scored on output rather than input. We’re not saying the players weren’t trying, but that some of them may have appeared that way to those of us still watching and not sobbing behind the couch.

I feel slightly guilty for hoping for so much from the players, but they were undoubtedly also confident this was the game that confounds history or statistics – both of which predicted Welsh wins.

Did we, and do we, expect too much? Yes perhaps, but the players have given us the belief by their performances. This was supposed to be The One, but maybe last year was just a succession of grubby one night stands. Maybe we dream too far.

Should we now temper our expectations? I’m afraid, we should. And quickly. Home wins against either or both France or England would send us off to Dublin with ridiculously high hopes again that you suspect would be dashed by a steely Ireland side. It doesn’t mean it is not a possibility, so let’s focus on the next game but try and keep things in perspective.

With France coming to town on Sunday, there is an extra day to prepare and in recent years Scotland are a different beast at home, as the tweet below illustrates.

So there are two or three issues here.

  • Scotland need to play better away from home. Including and excluding Rome, their record is poor. We can talk about this later in the tournament, when they go on the road after two home games against France and England.
  • Scotland need to start tournaments better. Last year they started brilliantly with largely the same group of players though, but it was at home. So is that actually less of a problem than an extension of point #1?
  • On pitch adaptability. When it’s not working, Scotland define madness by trying the same thing and expecting success. This week, Dan McFarland has been in the papers talking up their game plan and arguing that it is execution not approach that was at fault. That argument carries weight for about half an hour of a game; a team wants to play in a style that suits their strengths. But when it is point blank not working, surely something is needed as a fallback? Even this: if in doubt, maul it out.

This is the biggest worry, as time and again more physical, decisive and well-coached teams have locked down both Scotland and Glasgow’s supposed all-court gameplan. A failure to find a way to put the team into the right positions to score follows thereafter. It is not like we haven’t talked about it before. We’ve been talking about it in the context of Glasgow since the Champions Cup started.

And France will definitely be physical.

The issue is not leadership specifically, but game-management. The problem is that the entire core of the gameplan Townsend seems to aspire to routes through the players at 9 and 10. In the face of huge defensive pressure – and not perhaps in the manner Scotland expected from Wales – Scotland were creating more breakdowns that Price had to get to. After an extended period crabbing sideways from ruck to ruck, he threw the first interception. In short, the plan needs Price sharp, and to be sharp he needs to be going forwards not breathing hard running sideways.

The failure of execution from the much-vaunted backline came from the service provided by the half-backs. Nor should we underestimate the new cogs in that backline in Harris and McGuigan both of whom stuttered badly when asked to step up a level. But the tiredness of Price and Russell feeling the need to pull magic rabbits out of every ball falls at the feet of the pack, who didn’t or couldn’t get them going forward. Jonny Gray had a rampaging break very early on that brought images of big Richie at his best to mind, but it wasn’t repeated. Once Wales got their confidence after a second easy try, Scotland were left trying to chip over the defence not go around (or through). Kicking away ball is at best a 50/50 proposition.

So with all that in mind, changes have been made for the visit of France.

Unbanned Simon Berghan comes in at tighthead relegating Jon Welsh to the bench, but the other front rowers are the same. McInally aside, a bit more work in the loose is needed from them.

In the second row, Gilchrist swaps in for Toolis who had an off day but will hopefully give a good account from the bench. Gilchrist will provide extra heft for sure.

In the back row, Cornell du Preez undid all the good work from the autumn it is no surprise to see Ryan Wilson – we badly missed his hunger, his dog – and Dave Denton comes on to the bench in a welcome return.

And so to the half backs, the party kids who had their least effective outing after a shell-shocked first quarter of an hour when most of the horror came directly from their actions. Greig Laidlaw had his last start for Scotland against France, and he picks up where he left off alongside Russell which means Ali Price drops to the bench.

Pete Horne fills in at 12 with no return for Alex Dunbar, while Huw Jones shuffles out to the more familiar 13 shirt. It leaves us looking dynamic in attack but perhaps light in defence. The midfield replacement is Chris Harris, which puts us an injury away from some very chewed fingernails – but I am sure the Newcastle centre will be eager to show he’s not as bad as previous outings have suggested.

Maitland, Seymour, Hogg is a predictable but exciting back three, and Blair Kinghorn is in line for a first cap from the bench which would be no less than form deserves.

The Toony Tombola has spoken.

Scotland: Stuart Hogg, Tommy Seymour, Huw Jones, Pete Horne, Sean Maitland, Finn Russell, Greig Laidlaw; Gordon Reid, Stuart McInally, Simon Berghan, Grant Gilchrist, Jonny Gray, John Barclay (capt), Hamish Watson, Ryan Wilson.

Replacements: Scott Lawson, Jamie Bhatti, Jon Welsh, Ben Toolis, David Denton, Ali Price, Chris Harris, Blair Kinghorn.

France: Palis, Teddy Thomas, Lamerat, Doumayhou, Vakatawa, Beauxis, Machenaud; Poirot, Guirado, Slimani, Iturria, Vahaamahina, Lauret, Camara, Tauleigne

Replacements: Pelissie, Ben Arous, Gomes Sa, Gabrillagues, Picamoles, Serin, Belleau, Fall.

Referee: John Lacey (IRFU)

BT Murrayfield, Sunday 11th February, kick off 3pm.


138 comments on “Scotland look inward for visit of France

  1. Dan Mac on

    I’m guessing Bennett is being judged as not ready for a Test match yet or Toonie is seeing something in training with regard to Chris Harries that has yet to come out on a gameday?

    • TeamCam on

      Surely it’s that Bennett is not fit. If Toonie sees something in Harris, the 6N is not the forum to explore it. He struggled on the wing against Samoa, and crumbled at centre against Wales. Neither of those are entirely his fault, but he’s inexperienced and persevering with someone who’s inexperienced and who has not rewarded the faith invested in them at test level in a must-win game seems foolhardy. So, presumably (hopefully? As in: hopefully that’s the reason, rather than hopefully they’re injured…) Bennett and Dunbar are unavailable.

  2. john on

    More control with Laidlaw, Maitland & Wilson in. More box kicks & chases in 1st 5 mins than all of last Saturday. Maitland is class, he is not spectacular (like Hogg) but he is a quiet, top class rugby player, he will invariably take the right option. Play the game in their 22 & then let Russell / Hogg “play”. Still a distinct lack of beef.

    • Finn Andrews on

      I am ‘traditionally’ a Laidlaw basher as I don’t rate his speed (passing or footwork) but (and this is a big one) he brings much more control to the game than Price or Pyrgos and that sometimes can be invaluable! Usually I would say that this is a boring looking squad but it might just be what we need to grind something out against France.

  3. Frazer on

    I wasn’t confident about last weekend but I am very confident about Sunday, especially given the changes to the team.

    Watching last week we didn’t play as we did in the Autumn. Especially against the AB’s and Australia it was lots of carrying from the forwards, quick rucking, a few phases to create a mismatch or opening and then out wide to use the skills of the backs. That didn’t happen at all against Wales and I think it was down to the weight of expectation and the realisation after 5 minutes that Wales just weren’t going to roll over and gift the game to us.

    We won’t make the same mistakes this week, France aren’t good travellers at the best of times, the boys will have something to prove, and I expect a win by more than 10.

    • Bazz on

      Given our levels of inconsistency I don’t know how anyone can go in confident. I can see us winning by 10 but also losing by 10 or more.

      Even though France are far from their best, the difference between France and the 3rd ranked team in the world last week was a poor penalty kick.

      • TeamCam on

        The Telegraph is predicting a 15-point victory! I think they’re just doing it for banter now, though…

  4. Toony's Advisor on

    Harris still in the 23 is appalling. He proved last week he is nowhere near ready for test rugby. Nick Grigg & Marc Bennett must be feeling pretty hard done by to have missed out on a bench spot.

    Wouldn’t have started Laidlaw. Price has been sensational and gets dropped after one bad game?? Not really what I’d have hoped for from a coach who prides himself on good man management and the use of sports psychology to get the best out of players.

    I’m surprised Berghan starts. I’d have had him on the bench which lets McCallum get more Edinburgh game time.

    Pleased to see Kinghorn on the bench. I hope he gets a run out. Maybe not at fullback but on the wing, unless we at 20+ points up, then rest Hoggy for England.

    • ad on

      I suspect if Price’s performance was in isolation and the rest of the team played well then he would be given another chance and starting again. However Russell had no control and the centres were nowhere so Laidlaw has been brought in. I hope Price is brought in pretty early around the 50min mark and runs the legs off the French!

  5. Blake Westwood on

    Seymour was by some distance our worst winger on Saturday and that’s saying something considering how bad McGuigan was. Feel McGuigan took a lot of the flack despite not being the worst due to his inexperience but Seymour must put in a much better performance against France if he wants to keep his place for England

      • DJB on

        Agree. Seymour did very little wrong and in fact, I would say he was just about the best of the 15 on that day.

    • pragmatic optomist on

      Utter nonsense. Seymour is the only Scot who seems able to time his runs to challenge (and usually win) for the ball in the air. Proved again last weekend even in a bad game.

  6. Blake Westwood on

    Sorry but McCallum was our best prop on Saturday and put in some important carries which led to are only try and got stuck in elsewhere unlike our other props so I fail to see why he has been dropped for that thug Berghan who tried to stamp on a fellow Scottish teammate’s head.

    That thug Berghan should be nowhere near the Scotland squad after stamping on the head of a fellow Scottish teammate Fraser Brown – a man who suffers with a history of concussions. Berghan is a disgrace of a man and don’t think many of his teammates will be too happy to see him.

  7. Blake Westwood on

    Can’t see why Price has been dropped. He’s had one bad match but apart from that been awesome over the past 12 months and his attacking, creative and quick passing at the breakdown has made us into a high try scoring team which we won’t be with Laidlaw’s slow unimaginative play.

  8. Stu on

    The changes are understandable – Gilchrist or Toolis is not really much of a difference, whilst some think Gilchrist carries well, he’s nowhere near as aggressive as he used to be in 2012 and he inspects far too many rucks rather than hitting them.

    The change that annoys me is Berghan – quite apart from him being gash IMHO he hasn’t played for 6 weeks – has hands like coos tits and really doesn’t offer anything Welsh doesn’t – Welsh was poor in the loose but the scrum was solid. I feel sorry for McCallum who was the most mobile of our props and he actually carried and should have got another go.

    Wilson in was inevitable and Denton on the bench gives us the brainless bosh option.

    I wanted Price replaced as he needs a kick up the arse.

    Clearly Dunbar still isn’t fit so they may as well go back to Horne.

    But WTF is the point in Harris being on the bench – this smacks of Toonie not accepting he is wrong – which is one of the worse traits a coach can have.

    Delighted Kinghorn is there though.

    • JohnnyJJohnstone on

      That’s really negative! You’ve managed to have a good go at Simon Berghan describing him as gash, you’ve called David Denton brainless, Gilchrist soft and Harris a waste of space.
      Roll on Sunday, eh?
      Harris has shown good form for Newcastle. Rebooting the midfield and heaping so much pressure on a rookie away to Wales last weekend was mismanagement.
      Maybe Townsend knows that, and instead of ruining Harris, who could be a useful player for us, will give him a 2nd go off the bench,.

      • Stu on

        Where did I call Harris a waste of space?

        Beghan is gash.

        Denton is brainless.

        And I didn’t call Gilchrist soft.

        Comprehension is a really issue with you isn’t it?

      • JohnnyJJohnstone on

        Saying Harris isn’t even worth a bench spot is saying he’s a waste of space, no?

        I don’t think Berghan is gash, I don’t think Denton is brainless or Gilchrist is soft or whatever, and even if I did what is the point saying it?

        You want them to win, right? let other fans slag them, we should be behind them.

      • Stu on

        No its not saying he’s a waste of space – it’s saying he isn’t good enough for a bench spot.

        Good for you – you appear to be new to sports forums and the internet in general.

    • Gary on

      I’d say there is a noticeable difference between Toolis and Gilchrist in that Toolis is better lol. Higher work rate, more positive involvements, more athletic, better lineout option and he compliments Jonny’s style better. I know I’d like my chances more going against Gilchrist in the lineout both defensively and attacking.

  9. Referendum on

    Surely Visser or Jones would do a better job from the bench than Harris? I’m not saying we bin Harris forever but time to go away work on a few things before coming back in.

    Does Berghan offer more in the loose? I though Welsh deserved to stay in but u feel he will provide very solid back up.Not so sure about Bhatti.

    • john on

      Needed a centre on the bench, arguably Harris only choice, been playing well for Falcons, if you are looking at the postive angle, Harris has struggled in the 2 games where everybody struggled. Not saying he’s up to it, but in reality there’s not many more choices. maybe John Leslie has a son!?!?!??!

      • Alex on

        My memories of Harris from Saturday was him getting knocked back in the tackle repeatedly-but the every time he received man and ball which was principally due to very long floated passes that didn’t cut out any of the Welsh defence. Harris is interestingly the top player in the AP for offloads. Considering he’s being recognised principally for his defensive qualities I’d say persevere. And as other say Taylor and Dunbar injured, Scott and Bennett just back from injury and Grigg is barely more experi need at international and much more lightweight when it comes to tackling big French units

  10. JohnnyJJohnstone on

    Does anyone remember Matthew Tait, free scoring star of the Premiership, thrown to the Principality Wolves in the opening 6N fixture of 2005, promptly dumped on his backside by Gavin Henson in an unexpected Wales victory and then dumped out of the England team?
    Selecting Chris Harris to start in a reconfigured midfield last week away in Wales was a high risk gamble which didn’t pay, but he is a good athlete with enough form for Newcastle to suggest he could be a useful player for Scotland…… if he’s managed properly.
    If Bennett isn’t match sharp then Harris on the bench is fine and the bench is where he should have been last weekend…..

      • thebigiam on

        Matt Scott, too – at least ten caps before I realised he was on the pitch, and then he was just about our player of the tournament that year once he found his feet…

      • Not rocket science on

        When Scott broke into the team he was an immediate breath of fresh air and a cut above those that came before him. Bennett and bulking up did him no favours.

        Jeez Chris Harris is no Matthew Tait. He’s fairly old, been passed on by England and looked too slow (apart from being a rabbit in the headlights). Urgh that covering tackle for the first try. Would love to be proved wrong. But if we’re going to do wacky experiments rather have a proper footballer like Maitland brought into the midfield and Kinghorn on the wing. Or, here’s one, Finn to inside centre and Hastings to make his debut. At least that would be trying for the future.

        And yes on the whisky on the crappy Virgin Trains East Coast.

  11. WestCountryTartanArmy on

    Any advice as to locations/pubs for flogging spare ticket Sunday? Flying in AM so only planning on heading as far ‘east’ as Murrayfield or Haymarket rather than into town. As opposed to Cardiff or Twickenham (where you can’t help but be offered tickets pre-game) I haven’t tended to be accosted at Murrayfield (probably because demand hasn’t been so high historically).

  12. Scrummo on

    Nobody should be getting written off after last week’s test, the whole team as a whole had a shocker and were dominated. Harris will come good as he’s a talented player, I worry for Grigg though that he will be deemed to small for international rugby but we will see.

    Interesting team selected. Surprised to see Berghan going straight in, he’s a big, strong scrummager who won’t be particularly lively in the loose. Just like Welsh who didn’t do much wrong against Wales. Have to feel for McCallum who showed a side to his game that both the above tightheads lack in his short debut. The rest of the changes predictable in the pack and bench as Gilchrist and Denton bring extra bulk.

    In contrast Horne at 12 means that we’ve got our smallest possible 10/12 combination but also by far our most creative partnership which could be exciting. Also a good performance from Horne could be a statement that he’s a genuine top class 12 (which we already know) who can displace Dunbar not just be second choice 10 at 22 by default.

    • Not rocket science on

      It would be great to see Horne do that but he doesn’t tackle like Farrell, Taylor, Dunbar or even Finn. Wouldn’t relish any international standard battering ram going right at him. Got to worry with Laidlaw, Finn, Horne and no no 8 that we’re a bit soft.

      • TeamCam on

        Farrell misses plenty of tackles and gets run over fairly often too. England’s defence is better, though, so you don’t notice it as much.

  13. 1.8T on

    Well I think Toonie has given most of us on here what we wanted, Horne, Maitland and Wilson in. Not sure if Price deserves a dropping he had a stinker last weekend but he has been pivotal in our recent success. Laidlaw definitely steadied the ship when he came on though and the way it all fell apart suggests we need some more big characters in there to call the shots.

    I’ve never really seen much in Gilchrist, he was unlucky to get injured when he was coming onto a decent streak of form, he is more of a bruiser than Toolis though which may help.

    Not sure what Harris offers from the bench, although with Visser not in the squad and Dunbar, Taylor and Bennett clearly not regarded as fit then there isn’t really anyone else. I look forward to DD coming off the bench, ploughing 65 meters up the park then throwing a ridiculous offload to Hoggy to go in under the posts and making me eat a large slab of humble pie…

    I just hope the centres can sort their selves out, France will bludgeon up the midfield like they normally do, is our old friend Bastreaud playing, he must have scored a ridiculous number of tries against us?

    • Alanyst on

      I agree with Laidlaw…steady as she goes then bring Price on for impact…hopefully on a tiring French Pack.

      • DJB on

        I just hope that the box kick count is lower than usual (with Laidlaw at 9). It’s a tactic that never works well for Scotland but against France, will be punished severely.

    • Frazer on

      Bastareaud scored 2 against us back in 2010, and is joint top scorer over the last decade against us along with Fickou and Fofana. So just stifle the centres and we’ll be fine!

    • Ginger McGhee on

      The rush defense needs managed and Laidlaw with the odd wee kick from the base will help control that. Now I know his kicking is a bit 50/50 but Price runs everything. Apart from that , he is a cool head. As for Visser, he is gone, left out the squad, he wont be pulled in unless we are in a crisis and Gregor’s is not one for backing down.

    • Gary on

      I assume by saying Gilchrist is more of a bruiser than Toolis you mean… slow and heavy and ineffective around the park with
      an inferior workrate and lineout in comparison?

  14. JohnnyJJohnstone on

    I think that especially as Bennett is on a long injury comeback, picking Harris on the bench is the least he’s owed and possibly Toonie saying “I made a mistake last week but I’m going to stand by you”.

    Rebooting your midfield and putting a rookie like Harris at its fulcrum alongside an out of position player who isn’t exactly experienced himself in front of 70,000 gloating Welsh fans willing you to fall flat on your face at every step as the Welsh back row hound you from one side of the pitch to the other is the kind of thing which can ruin a player.

    I mentioned Matt Tait above, who was seen as a big star but was never the same after his debut at the Principality where he was targeted relentlessly by both the Welsh players and the fans.

    Last week’s midfield selection may also have had a knock on effect on the inside backs, Price and Russell, who didn’t play well but may have felt pressure to mitigate the untested combination outside of them, especially when we went a score down.

    All in all with the injuries we have, it’s a good selection and I’m looking forward to an improved performance. If we can deal with the French physicality, we have it in us to win, although the primary aim has to be scoring some tries, playing with the pace and accuracy Townsend’s game demands and getting confidence back after the shocker last weekend.

  15. RuggersB on

    Coming into this direct from the AIs this wouldn’t have been my selection. However, considering the performance last week…the changes seem pretty fair.
    Dropping McCallum a bit harsh… thought he did as well as Fagerson did in his debut…but the experience of Welch off the bench makes sense too.
    Thought Bennet might have made the 23.
    Good to see Denton get another shot, if he can get near his WC form.
    Great to see Kinghorn in there. Terrific player in the making.

  16. Busy Little Bee on

    Good to see the selection errors of last week are fixed, though McGuigan was forced. I don’t like the dropping of Toolis or Price. Does anyone who watches Edinburgh regularly think Gilchrist is better than Toolis? Doubt it. Both changes seem knee-jerky. Also Berghan, so thick the last time he played which was weeks ago. McCAllum and Welsh a bit hard done by.
    I think we will lose by 3-4 points.

    • Ginger McGhee on

      Toolis might just be a horses for courses change, I expect the French to be physical and Gilchrist has a 10 more caps under his belt. Now did anyone see sexton close out against France, we really need you know who on the bench to close out for us !

    • Gary on

      Totally agree, I hate to come across like I’m bashing Gilchrist but I don’t think he offers anything better than Toolis. Toolis could be amazing at test level(I have high expectations in the coming years) just don’t think he’s got the confidence yet as he’s only 8 games in. I just think Gilchrist is at his personal peak.

  17. Clarkie on

    Would have liked to see the direct running of Grigg starting instead of Horne as Dunbar is injured. Horne is a good servant for Scotland and can cover 10,12&13 but his tackling is weak at times and he isn’t going to smash through anyone, he won’t let us down though. I really hope Wilson, Gilchrist, Gray and Barclay man up and give us the front foot ball we need.
    I’m still excited about the game, they all have a big point to prove to the fans.
    I know Strauss is only just back from injury but I’d love to know what he’s said/done to be completely out in the cold.
    Come on, Scotland!! we need this…

    • Ginger McGhee on

      I think he kept a place for Taylor and Bennett to come back from injury, over Grigg . Dunbar and Taylor Injured, Harries stuttering it feels like his return from inury gamble, is just that, a gamble, we need to stop gambling both on and off the pitch , we do not need to, we are 5th in the world.

      Do the common sense thing, pick fit players , do the simple things well in the first 20 and get clever later.

      We kicked away a lot last week in the hope the ball would bounce our way. Cannot win without the ball.

  18. TheSmidge on

    I go into this match with hope, but not quite as much as last week. The changes that needed to be made, have been made, so can’t complain about that.

    Just buzzing though that King Blairhorn may get his chance this week. Quite who he comes on for will depend on how the game is going. I can’t see Hogg being subbed unless he’s injured or it seems like he’s having the worst game of his career. Maybe Hogg gets moved to 10 or 12 later in the game and Blair comes on. If we are needing flair in the final quarter then Blair is yer man.

  19. john on

    Clarkie – Horne’s tackling is not weak

    The Smidge – having Hoggy & Russell @ 10/12 would certainly spice things up a bit.

    Read the article about Cameron Redpath, interesting, sounds like exactly the type of player we lack, good genes too

    • Busy Little Bee on

      I like Horne but have seen him brushed off tackles a few times, the fact is he’s wee for a 12 and it’s tough when big guys like Kuridrani are running hard right at you. Still, much rather this midfield than the one last weekend.

      Hogg won’t be subbed off unless injured. Happy to see kinghorn involved but I reckon he only gets on if we’re miles behind or one of the back 3 gets injured.

      • Frazer on

        Thankfully (assuming they pick the same pair as last week) Lamerat and Chavancy are both quite small for centres so Horne and Jones shouldn’t get steamrollered.

        Kinghorn will play a part at some point even without an injury. I would bet good money that he’ll come on for Maitland at around 65 minutes.

      • Marv on

        Horne’s defence is pretty solid and I think he provides a lot of creativity in the midfield and can open things up for Jones.
        Finn had a howler in Cardiff but I’ve always thought he shows more composure and good judgement with Horne at 12. Horne isn’t a battering ram but he has a calm head and good judgement. I think he offers more options than some 12s.

  20. James on

    When I first heard the team I thought that Toonie had overreacted to the Wales result but on further reflection I’m not so sure. I wonder how many of the changes were preplanned before last weekend in Toonie Tombola style?

    Wilson coming in for speed v Cdp could have been planned with Gilchrist for Toolis to offset the drop in bulk.

    Dropping Price for Laidlaw looks like bringing in more leadership to the team. Looking to see some slick passing from Russell and Horne ripping the french midfield apart!

    I hope there is a reaction from the players to last weekend’s game as we all know they are better than that.

    • Gary on

      People keep acting like Gilchrist is 10 kgs heavier than Toolis… They are the basically the same weight. Toolis has bigger legs noticeably with Gilchrist broader across the shoulders.

  21. JohnMc on

    Well I’m pleased to see Wilson in the starting back row. I’m sick of hearing all this ‘he’s no big enough though’ guff. He’s a streetfighting loose forward who’s learned lessons about keeping his temper on the park yet still has the kind of dog in him we used to see in Finlay Calder and John Jeffrey. Exactly what we need on Sunday against a brutish France pack.
    It’s also good to see Denton in the 23. Not everyone’s silky smooth ideal carrying 6 or 8; but a dog like Wilson, and if he gets on the park and shows anything like his RWC 15 form, then so much the better to face up to the France cave trolls.
    Likewise Gilchrist, who’s definitely returning to form after a year or so of injury and probably loss of confidence.
    This is going to be a smash up in the pack and we have to have the heft and spirit to handle that if we’re going to run them ragged out wide.
    It’s our big chance to turn away from last week’s calamity and I think this selection, against this France team, is capable of doing that.

  22. Gary on

    I don’t like the benching of Price and Toolis… seems like a knee jerk reaction to a bad team performance (so they had to drop players). Laidlaw and Gilchrist are basically slower and less athletic versions of both. I personally would give players a chance to bounce back at home after average performances… Harris only one who deserves to get dropped, Du Preez I agree with for the sole fact that he was ineffective and Ryan Wilson made an impact when he came on. Gilchrist provided nothing even with fresh legs against tired forwards.

  23. ad on

    Still a lot of Harris bashing blaming him and the centre partnership for the defeat but there is little evidence to back it up.

    Wales 1st try – Intercept from a Price pass. Hogg in the attacking line so no fullback cover. Primary culprit – Price.

    Wales 2nd try – Squint feed from Price leads to Wales scrum close to try line. Wales go left off the scrum and suck a few players in, Wales then fling it right there is a ruck in the middle of the pitch and they fling it right again where they have us outnumbered and they run in for an easy score. Primary culprit – Good Welsh play combined with poor defensive line setting but the whole Scotland team. They shouldn’t be able to create such large overlaps and mismatches after 3 phases.

    Wales 1st and 2nd Penalties – Barkley off his feet or hands on the floor. Harris substituted.

    Wales 3rd try – Attacking pressure gives Wales a line-out on the 5m after dumping Laidlaw into touch. Scotland do well to defend the mall but Wales fling it wide where they have us outnumbered and score easily. Very similar to the 2nd try Wales have created an overlap after a couple of phases. Primary culprit – the Scottish defensive line setting/awareness. Some people may say this was Harris’s job but he was not on for this one.

    Wales 4th try. Russell throws a pass that is intercepted. Wales already have an overlap. Johnny rushes out of defence to stop it going wide quickly but Shingler makes a break down the middle. From the resulting ruck Wales go left again and Seymour is sucked in seemingly because he doesn’t trust Horne to make the tackle. They bring that man down but Horne misses the next tackle. Wales then have the space. Primary culprit – Horne and Seymour. Not helped by defensive line again and ref (for forward pass)

    So Harris was not directly involved in any of the Welsh scores – I will do Scotland attacking opportunities next….

    • ad on

      2 mins in – Johnny breaks the line and we have a ruck right in front of the posts. Price wants to go right but Russell tells him to go left. Due to this indecision Price is caught and turned over.

      18mins or so half decent attacking scrum – Scotland fling it wide and Russell kicks through for Seymour but it goes into touch. Not bad gain but not even one phase was completed.

      19mins – Scotland counter attack from Wales kick. McGuigan don’t gain much then Jones throws it over Harris’s head and Harris knocks it on jumping to catch it (otherwise it would have gone into touch)

      36 mins – Great attacking scrum – Price throws a pass to Harris’s face while he had two men on him. Harris’s knocks on.

      Not much else of note until the Horne’s try.

      Interestingly the starting team for France were pretty much on the pitch by 50mins while there was some improvement we still leaked 2 tries and didn’t score until the last 10 mins.

      Overall I would say the improvement for the France game need to be defensive setting and communication between and from halfbacks.

    • ad on

      I am not claiming Harris is a great player just that the usual favourites Price, Russell, Barkley, Horne, Seymour and McInally had a greater hand in the scoreline but overall it was generally down to a poor team performance.

      Denial and placing blame on one player isn’t going to get the team anywhere. Accepting the team had a bad day and identifying areas that need improvement is they way the team will grow.

      So while you may amuse yourself with childish comments you are contributing nothing to constructive discussion.

      EDIT: removed reference to Stu’s un-necessary previous remark.

  24. Alanyst on

    Completely different mindset needed this week — We are at home, we are playing a team who have not performed very well of late…we should be in the box seat.

    And yet France have talent and BMI and will come with confidence and hurt pride after last week’s near miss.

    The first objective, like the 6N has always had, is to not lose. Last week I think we lost it trying to “win”, without bothering about being hard to beat.

    So this week I can see a lot of value in control,structure and patience…with variations in tempo in attack…and good tactical kicking. Flashy? No. Effective? Maybe.

    This is exactly where Laidlaw, Horne and Maitland provide benefit…

  25. FF on

    I don’t think Toonie will throw the baby out with the bath water and revert to a cautious or tight approach and not should he.

    What we need is variety and accuracy. Last week we forced it but we were also painfully predictable, unlike v the ABs where we varied our game between punching up narrow, going wide, running from deep and kicking intelligently.

    I don’t know why Price and Russell did so, whether it was instructions or inclination but it was a huge failure. Laidlaw should mean we get more intelligent heads up play and don’t spend all game trying to bash a square strategy through a huge round hole of the actual unfolding match.

    To be frank it is a similar issue to Glasgow where Rennie has spent six months complaining his team have not executed the gameplan as they have forgotten the right game and just flung the ball around willy-nilly. I think at the moment Russell needs and on-field handler in the most pressured games or we risk what happened last week. Doesn’t have to be SH but we need a much better leadership group – looks like that is what Toonie has tried to give us this week

  26. S A S on

    On one hand, one change is all we need . A world class coach for a domestic class coach, Vern Cotter for Gregor Townsend. If we don’t get the basic game right and have structure then we have nothing to play off, and the French team will run over the top of us . Townsend’ s personal grievances have made our selection thin on the ground again. We got rid of a man and brought in a boy . It’ll be between us and Italy for the spoon. You cannot mentor a team into winners without diplomacy, all we’ve got is a bitter feud developing. On the other hand, we could go on to beat the French and all the other contenders . Then we could be called back to Wales for a re-match and win the grand slam. I’d have Bennet somewhere in my 23.

    • Stu on

      I presume you were screaming for Cotter to be sacked after his first 6Ns? A whitewash I believe.

      Or maybe after Twickenham last season?

    • Toony's Advisor on

      That’s a big assumption of Townsend’s coaching credentials.
      With regards to his personal fueds and making selection thin on the ground, I personally would not have picked Visser or Strauss. Visser is still a left wing only operator, he hits the middle on set plays but does not go looking for work in open play the way Maitland, Seymour, Jones, Hoyland etc. do. His passing is rotten and he can’t tackle for sweeties!!
      Strauss is a hairy version of David Denton, you can have one or the other but not both and Denton is in better form and fit. Who else does he have a fued with that you would have selected in this squad? His squad was top class prior to the Welsh game and now he is not a good coach? B**locks!!! After the NZ game in November he was the next Lions coach (preferred choice)

      Get a grip and accept we lost to the better team on the day.

      • Stu on

        I’m amused that people are now accusing a coach who doesn’t select certain players as having a feud with them.

        Toonie must know Strauss better than any of us – seeing as he’s a former Glasgow player – when Strauss started for Scotland he was terrible, his upright carrying style was destroyed in test rugby – he was given some time and had a fine season in 2016 for Scotland, but time marches on and Toonie has a responsibility to find an 8 for the RWC.

        Visser is a great finisher, but if there is a softer 6ft 5 winger in world rugby I have yet to see them. I would still have him ahead of McGuigan but his non selection is perfectly explainable.

  27. S A S on

    Why take 3 steps back when we just took 2 difficult steps forward . You can’t play rugby without the basics executed well. That goes for selection too ! We didn’t just lose in Cardiff .

  28. S A S on

    No Stu I wasn’t, and Toony’s adviser, Scotland have look good in every Autumn international for as long as I remember, I have every right to criticise Townsend, a coach who blames his players for ‘their’ poor performance , Townsend was outsmarted by Warren Garland white no plan B. I’ve never claimed that Scotland are world class , especially after just a usual Autumn, and a fourteen man Australian side. I also not didn’t say that Visser or Strauss should have been selected or not. Stick with the facts , I’d mentor better than Townsend .

    • Michael Campbell on

      It’s quite hard as a coach to get your team to transition to Plan B – which in your opinion was what, incidentally? – when they are unable to execute basic skills – which I can say having coached at a highish amateur level (which I suspect you’ve not, see below).

      There was a Plan B on Saturday – you saw it when Laidlaw came on 9and the improvement), but the basic error count stopped us from transitioning into a slower, more potent style of play. Instead Russell, Hogg etc tried to force the game, which was annoying to see. Not Townsends fault if players don’t follow instructions.

      As for your Autumn comments, we looked really good in 2013 (W, L, L), 2012 (L, L, L). Which makes you probably about 15?

  29. S A S on

    I think you missed the point Michael Campbell, It probably would be difficult for you to change tact all the same, as you were only at Amateur level, and that why your not a professional coach obviously, your personal attack on me doesn’t show emotional maturity grow a pair of balls and stop being so pedantic, a team is a team and for Townsend to exclude himself from it, and blame the team on the pitch for a hammering that came about partly by Townsend’s inexperience, Gatland was part of the Welsh team. It’s not a good mind set son. I can assure you that I have coach world champions, and your calling me 15 . You boys keep on dreaming .

  30. S A S on

    Toony’s adviser, Stu and Michael Campbell it’s narrow minded bullies like you 3 that stops people reaching their potential. Has the penny dropped yet boys ?

    • Referendum on

      S A S you are really not adding much to this forum. Your comments are fuelled with venom much more than those you attack. Please come back with a better attitude. Most on here disagree and discuss you have just come on for a fist fight.

  31. S A S on

    Referendum, it’s not your forum , just because your friends took a long time to get the point , and if you don’t have to intellect , to all but take your ball home , then keep out .

    • Referendum on

      It certainly isn’t my forum. But it certainly isn’t yours and won’t be for much longer if the attitude stays. Read the house rules. Your arguments are poor and your attitude worse. I agree with what others have said regarding this so didn’t feel I needed to add to it. I’ll not be taking my ball home due to enjoying this forum for the most part with people who are putting their point forward well. People are asking you to stop putting forward thinly veiled personal atracks to people who seem pretty reasonable.

    • Marv on

      Well said. Danger of this turning into the HYS comments section on BBC website, which is a toilet of trolling and insults. Let’s stick to the rugby here.

      • Matto on

        Here here, occasionally dip into the bbc hys, but have to duck back out quickly before getting caught up in the sickness. Life is too short. SRB is a breath of fresh air in that respect and I’d also like to thank Rory et al for the frequency and promptness of material at this challenging time!

  32. Frozen North on

    Townsend is what we have – we cannot afford to keep looking back the way a child might.

    By the looks of it, Townsend is switching large numbers of players from match to match with an obvious intent to establish his true team; a team that will win against the odds (away games, tough teams, high expectations) ahead of next years 6 nations and RWC…Townsend is therefore taking significant risks to find this team quickly…most of his combinations seemed to have payed off but some are definite fails.

    I would say no one (not this forum, media or the general pundits) was actually prepared for what happened last week with exception t
    of Gatland and the Welsh team…who apparently knew this game would go this way enough to mention it before hand… I dont think from arrogance either but by clearly having seen the way to break that combination of players.

    We’ll see what this weekend brings us and hope that Townsend is one step closer to defining his first 23 – good luck Scotland!

    • FF on

      Townshend is a fantastic coach. But so are Schmidt, Jones and Gatland. He’s playing with the big boys now, he’ll get things wrong but I think he’s taking Scotland in the right direction. Hopefully we’ll see a Scotland backlash on sunday and another win at Murrayfield.

  33. Rory Baldwin on

    Townsend: “The responsibility lies with the coaches and me as head coach,” he said. “We put a team out to perform; whether it is selection or how we prepared, the first thing we look at is how we could have done it better.”

    Townsend is not exempting himself from blame.

    If you could all calm down a bit that would be nice. As some have said above (thanks CSC, Marv & Referendum) we try and keep this a respectful forum for discussion and debate, as much as possible. I know it gets heated at this time of year; we all want the team to do well. The anonymity of the internet makes it easy to doubt the credentials of others, and go full nuclear at the first sign of disagreement.

    Try to resist that urge if you could please.

  34. john on

    2017 6N saw us playing some sensational rugby, the 1st half V Ireland (who’d just beaten NZ) & especially 2nd half V Wales were thrilling. Front foot ball, several hard phases, keep your opponents honest then get the ball to Hogg/Russell. Simple.
    Really miss Dunbar………………and Hardie

  35. Fairplay on

    I am getting a bit troubled by the continual pointing out the rules by commenters .We seem to be ganging up on someone with a strong opinion , going over the borderline and then pulling the rules when the guy fights back. If you do not like the tone if what is being said, just ignore it, you have a choice. But if you must respond the rules apply to all, no exemptions.

  36. TeamCam on

    Strauss and Scott both scored today in the AP, which is good to hear. Also, while I have nothing against the Welsh, watching Gatland’s face today was thoroughly enjoyable… doubt he told the chairman he was expecting a six-point loss today!

    • Ben F on

      We really shouldnt you know, but your only here once so why not. What goes around comes around Mr Gatland. Last week the TMO found in your favour , this week he didnt.

    • James on

      Yeah, poor old Warren G.

      Everyone is focusing on the grounding but it looked like a knock on at the base of the ruck before the kick was made, I’m not sure why that wasn’t reviewed.

      However, what that game shows is just how poor we were in the physicality and aggression area of the game last week. England’s attack wasn’t anything to shout about but they battered through Wales and we’d better be ready for the same treatment in two weeks time!

      • TeamCam on

        Hoggy ‘scored’ a similar try against Wales last year that was disallowed, didn’t hear Gatland speaking up then.

      • RuggersB on

        Thought England didn’t look anywhere near as good as their hype. Fit and strong though Ill give them that.

  37. Not rocket science on

    Few thoughts:
    Berghan a must after autumn and Edin.
    Always a transitional season with new coaches at G, E and S & fastest game in the world TM. Hopefully Toonie pulls it off like his idol Pep G.
    Like to see Finn retain responsibility for kicking duties.
    Keen to see Kinghorn, as must be all those E fans who have been touting him endlessly on here for years…
    Denton to have a barn storming second half.

  38. Bulldog on

    This is my favouite International of all, both sides play it from the heart regardless of the coaches game plan. I have been there when we have won/ lost at home and away. Sadly ill health prevents me attending and looking at the TV , Gregor T looks unwell also.

    Last week we were dire however the scoreline was a represenation of stupidity, mainly off the pitch, selection and managing the away dynamics. We can learn from that. We know we are better than that.

    Looking at England Wales, It was close. I believe we had the beating of Wales, just not the maturity. If we win today, we can prepare for England.

    The big upside being this French team, any French team, can turn it on and if beaten, they will beat either England or Ireland and that would open the whole championship.

    All to play for, have a great afternoon wherever you are ladies and gents.

    Game on.

  39. FF on

    Look at that – when our forwards punch it up we get space to score tries.

    Disastrous start again but at least we’re fighting back.

    • Bulldog on

      He is quite amused with himself. But we do have a Huw Jones 12 games 8 tries and not a soul touched him on the way through. Loads of tries left in this game.

  40. Fraser on

    If we stop kicking it away and play some rugby we will score plenty!

    Great line from the “terrible” Huw Jones

  41. RuggersB on

    We really need to find a more mature player than Russell for that position. His kicking and choices to kick are abysmal. Needs dropped for a while imo.

  42. Neil on

    Nice to see Gilchrist and the other forwards from last week carrying and gaining meters this week, give our backs a platform.
    Be sensible with the territory kicking and keep the ball in play and the french will tire.

  43. CSC on

    Scotland need some fast forwards. That would give better control of the breakdown and open up more room for the backs.

  44. Bulldog on

    Is Russell capable of kicking to touch. Is he capable of learning !!! Thomas 2nd try all about exploiting the outsized M field Dead ball , I can see us exploiting that in 2nd half.

    • Bulldog on

      It would appear he is not capable of learning. Another missed touch. He is now the only guy on the Pitch smiling at his own buffoonery. What is he on !!

      They are tired , the last 20 is going to be interesting.

  45. Bulldog on

    Finn out..price kicks it away again.liabilities. Time to take a brave pill and grasp the nettle on that pair.

  46. Bulldog on

    Thanks for your company gents , great game, France will go on and cause disruption and I suggest we closed out with an interesting combination.

    Well done to Berghan , he let no one down today. Played a full 80.

    I am delighted for Laidlaw.

  47. FF on

    Skin of our teeth. Laidlaw showing his worth. Gilchrist, Berghan, Wilson all stood up. Russell needs to get his head right.

    Sensible pragmatic rugby with a few touches of class.

    • RuggersB on

      Laidlaw was superb today…very composed. Many players showed the fight needed. Only disappointment was Russell…who really needs to start showing composure at this level. I would rather see Kinghorn developed as the 10 than Russell.
      Denton made a difference too.

      Big win for Scotland today…Will need to improve for the next one up though.

      • FF on

        Russell needs competition – he carries a huge burden for the team and he’s obviously in a patch of poorish form. If Kinghorn comes through at 15 Hoggy might back up Russell like Laidlaw did today – not ideal but it’s gonna be a while before we have a test mature FH within touching distance of Russell’s talent.

      • RuggersB on

        The thing for me with Finn Russell, is that when he has ball in hand and confident he looks exceptional…however against strong defensive teams where accuracy and tactical nous is essential…he crumbles and in the six nations this gets highlighted more than any other. Just not convinced of his ‘talents’. The 10 position needs to be adaptable to the game in front of them.

        Against England Id bench Russell and play Laidlaw at 10 price at 9. Price needs game direction and Laidlaw provides that…Russell does not.

  48. FF on

    I really wish Scotland players would stop talking about doing something in the competition. Just win the next game FFS!

  49. Andrew on

    Great performance in the second half. Sensible options with taking the three points of offer. I liked the timing of the substitutions a day how the subs integrated. Gregor didn’t have the party boys on at the same time.

  50. Neil on

    Interesting that they did not bring Lawson, Welsh , Harris and Kinghorn
    Good controlled win though.
    Standouts for me

    Berghan (To manage the French scrum)
    Gilchrist Carried well
    Watson was a beast
    Laidlaw brought abit a balance
    Jones hit the line well and was the difference in class in the backlines along with Thomas

  51. CSC on

    1st half certainly the most entertaining rugby of the tournament so far. Re. The new “auld alliance” trophy: it would have been a grand gesture for both captains to parade it round the stadium after the game to thank their supporters.

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