Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Scotland v South Africa: the teams

Scotland v South Africa
© Scottish Rugby Blog

The teams are out for the meatiest of our Autumn tests, and there are changes as you would expect, but maybe not as many as you might have thought.

The backline is pretty settled but Alex Dunbar drops out of things with Pete Horne and Huw Jones a new centre partnership for the autumn. It’s the only change in a backline that looks built for speed rather than defence. So Super Rugby, maybe Rassie was right?

Sam Skinner’s engine gets a big vote of trust as he starts at blindside flanker with two back rows on the bench leaving him as second-row cover, which means that Grant Gilchrist also drops out altogether. The other big change is the introduction of Gordon Reid at loosehead, with Brown and McInally swapping at hooker and Ben Toolis and Jonny Gray restored to the starting XV.

In the back row, Ryan Wilson is still at Number 8 while Hamish Watson returns to the openside berth. There is plenty of versatility on the bench to mix and match back row slots but should Strauss be starting over the vice-captain? Oh, and there’s no sign yet of Gary Graham.

Scotland have only lost to New Zealand at home in 9 tests (most of them sellouts) but this could be a tricky test against a Springbok side with a new lease of life under former Munster coach Rassie Erasmus.

Scotland team: Stuart Hogg, Tommy Seymour, Huw Jones, Pete Horne, Sean Maitland, Finn Russell, Greig Laidlaw (capt); Gordon Reid, Stuart McInally, Willem Nel, Ben Toolis, Jonny Gray, Sam Skinner, Hamish Watson, Ryan Wilson.
Replacements: Fraser Brown, Allan Dell, Simon Berghan, Josh Strauss, Jamie Ritchie, Ali Price, Adam Hastings, Chris Harris.

South Africa: Willie le Roux, Sbu Nkosi, Jesse Kriel, Damian de Allende, Aphiwe Dyantyi, Handré Pollard, Embrose Papier; Steven Kitshoff, Malcolm Marx, Frans Malherbe, RG Snyman, Franco Mostert, Siya Kolisi (captain), Pieter-Steph du Toit, Duane Vermeulen.
Replacements: Bongi Mbonambi, Thomas du Toit, Vincent Koch, Lood de Jager, Francois Louw, Ivan van Zyl, Elton Jantjies, Cheslin Kolbe.

For more details, check out Kevin’s in depth previews: Part I is here.

111 Responses

  1. Just seen the team, not at all impressed.

    Where the h*ll has Gordon Reid come from? Surely Dell deserves his place and Reid cannot be considered for the RWC so its a complete joke.
    Ryan Wilson is not an 8, or a top class international. I like him as a player but Ritchie is better.
    What has Ben Toolis done to jump right into the biggest of these test matches this Autumn after the 2nd rows last week were both outstaning.
    Ali Price should not be in the 23 after his Welsh performance considering how much Horne can change a game from the bench.


    1. Reid is the strongest scrummager at loosehead. He won’t do much in the loose but he’ll hold up against Kitsoff.

      Toolis must be in to attack their lineout which has been dodgy.

      1. Agree with you about Reid a better scrummager than Dell and then on about 45 to 50 min you will get the impact from Dell that I don’t think you would get from Allan mind the Springbok pack is powerful. Feel a bit sorry for Strauss and Gilchrist who both did well last week maybe just horses for courses.

      2. I imagine Gilchrist will play against Argentina.

        It’s only a year ago that fans were complaining about Toolis being dropped for Gilchrist in the Australia game after playing well against Samoa and New Zealand. I have faith in Gregor to balance long term squad building, managing minutes and putting out a XV to win the Test.

      3. Kitschoff plays loose head so I’m pretty sure Dell being dropped has nothing to do with him.

    2. A lot of the rotation here and s obviously pre-planned.
      Particularly Horne not being in the team hopefully means he will be starting against Argentina.
      Having said that, SA should theoretically be our strongest team starting at least. Backs are probably 1st choice (arguably), forwards are more controversial but mostly Townsend 1st choice if not everyone’s!
      Bench looks to be more looking at rotation in a couple of places.

    3. You know he’s going to do it, but it still annoys the hell out of you when he does.

      If Toonie is to reach the heights he clearly thinks he can he has to stop picking his favourites.

      1. One or two places on bench maybe rotation yes but I fully understand most of his decisions. Why would Reid not be considered for the world cup? What u lose in the loose u make up for in the scrum. We need Reid in some matches and this is the right match for him.

        Gilchrist can be considered unlucky but again it makes sense for rotation.

        Alot of noise over having four tests this autumn but it is in my opinion the way forward for the future. It’s another 23 caps 3 out of four years. Think of all the opportunites that have been afforded players that wouldn’t have been possible. Even not having certain players for Wales can be seen as a positive for exposure. I think its something Scotland have missed that Wales and Ireland have exploited in the past. Wales have huge strength in depth all over and if u look at the starting line up on Saturday it is now very experienced. The bench is a little shallow in that regard.

        With this team we have a real chance. Autumn is a chance to rotate and give out experience even against South Africa.

    4. Reid started all 5 of Scotland’s Six Nations matches at LH before being rested for the summer tour and being unavailable for the Wales game. He’s the best scrummaging LH we have available and the Scottish scrum has gone far better with him in it over the past couple of years.

      1. Agree.He was spotted at the gym and by all accounts looks in great trim.Maybe he will get around the paddock better as well.

      2. However, Reid is now playing in the championship. He’s not playing at the same level he was previously and it’s going to be a hell of a step up.

        Personally I wouldn’t play him, but hopefully he shows why Toonie is an international coach and I’m just a random poster on the internet.

    5. Rubbish. Reid has shown up time and time again as a stable scrummager, much better balance with Nel. I’d have had Strauss at 8, but can see why he has gone with Wilson / Skinner. Hoping Pete Horne has a good game and proves my worries wrong, as surprised Dunbar out. Should be a fun last 20 with players that could potentially come on: Brown, Strauss, Ritchie, Price, Hastings. Scotland at Murrayfield, game on!

  2. Just about what I’d have picked. Think this gives us the best chance of winning. Graham will be capped next week

    1. I feel also Scotland should start with Brown at hooker as McInally seems to give more impact from bench than the other way round.

  3. Not massively impressed by inclusion of Reid and Toolis.

    Slightly worrying that it feels like just one year out from the World Cup, we suddenly don’t know the identity of our first choice units in the centres, back row and second row – not to mention apparently not trusting our #1 loosehead to scrum down against SA.

    Alternatively Toonie really is rotating, which I just find confusing. The Boks are a massive scalp we should be throwing the kitchen sink at for a win.

    1. I’d say toonie has a good idea of his ideal units but the sudden emergence of Skinner and Blade plus ongoing form and injury issues in the centres has caused him to continue to experiment in these tests. If everyone is fit, I’d imagine he’d be looking at Wilson/Watson/Thomson as his preferred back row composition and Taylor/Jones in the centres. However since they’re unavailable he’s looking at finding the ideal back-up partnerships as well as testing whether Skinner can take over the role Swinson previously played as 2nd row /back row hybrid.

      Agree with you on the inclusion of Reid over Dell. Seems odd to pick a player playing championship level rugby rather than give Dell the chance to prove himself against the best.

      1. Thomson has never played an international. Sure he looks handy in domestic comps, but so did Brad Shields, and he’s been bang average internationally.

      2. I know, might not have made myself clear before. What I meant is that Townsend has been looking for a no. 8 to partner his 3 best flankers in Wilson, Barclay and Watson, and Blade (or maybe Bradbury), from domestic form, looked like the most likely candidate for the RWC. Since both are unavailable through injury, he knows that Wilson can do a job at 8 and is using the autumn internationals to look at other options to round out the RWC squad (Ritchie, Skinner at 6).

        Incidentally I have high hopes for Thomson for Scotland. SRU have played it much smarter than RU imo. Shields was parachuted into the England squad before ever getting a chance to prove himself for Wasps and his form for both has been underwhelming. Blade has been excellent for Scarlets and, unlike Shields, has now proven his worth outside of Super Rugby. Bodes well.

      3. Tryhard/ Teamcam – Isnt it just great to have so much choice ! We used to have nothing positive to talk about. We will come out of this decade with strength and depth. No one will look forward to meeting Scotland at Murrayfield.

  4. Dell could have taken a bit of a pummelling at scrum time, so bringing Gordie Reid back in makes a lot of sense.

    A bit unfair on Gilchrist as I thought he was good last weekend. Toolis probably edges it at the lineout, but when you’ve got three second-rows and Wilson as jumping options you should have enough in there anyway.

    Skinner at 6 has the potential to be very effective. If it works that would be the go-to selection against those bigger packs that we’ve invariably struggled against (England I’m looking at you!).

    Although Ritchie was excellent against Fiji, Watson is still clearly first-choice and was always going to come back in. Hopefully the competition just spurs Hamish on to even greater heights.

    In the backs all looks about right.

    The only other thing – maybe I’m missing something but where has Kinghorn disappeared to? I know Toonie has an ongoing love affair with Harris and is going to persist with him until it works, but surely Kinghorn has already done far more than Harris and offers so much more going forward. If Toonie’s worried that Hastings and Kinghorn don’t cover centre well enough then you put Dunbar on the bench with Kinghorn and Horne can move to fly-half if needed to give you cover.

    In general though, that looks a pretty strong team and looking forward to the weekend.

  5. This our my views on the 23 selected.

    1) Reid – Good solid scrummager, doesn’t do much else, but with South Africa so proficient in the set pieces makes sense to bring in someone who is going to give us parity in the Scrum
    2) McInally – Quality player one of the best Hookers there is.
    3) Nel – Can’t start this match off giving to many scrum penalties away, and he’s one of the best there is.
    4) J.Gray – Does the dirty work in the rucks, makes the tackles, improving ball carrier fantastic player
    5) Toolis – Fan of his but he’s too similar to Gray. Would like to see a lock with a bit of grunt next to Gray who can carry and let Gray do what he does best.
    6) Skinner – Put in a performance last week which made it impossible for us to leave him out.
    7) Watson – Up there with McInally as our best forward. Fantastic player.
    8). Wilson – Good solid ball carrier, tackler and passer. Not our best back row player, personally prefer Strauss, but comments that he is an awful player are just ridiculous. Not world class but a good solid 7/10 player.

    9) Laidlaw – Solid Experienced 9
    10) Russell – Magical player on his day and on fantastic form
    11) Seymour – Back to his best after gruelling lions tour
    12) P.Horne – Can make the sublime look easy and the easy stuff look hard. Most frustrating player in the squad but he is talented.
    13) Jones – Best attacker along with Hogg
    14) Maitland – Good solid 9/10 player who does everything very well
    15) Hogg – what a player

    1. 16) Brown – Great start to the season. Unlucky he’s playing in the same era as McInally
      17) Dell – Great all-round game and scrummaging improving.
      18) Berghan – Massively improved over the past 12 months
      19) Strauss – Delighted he is back
      20) Ritchie – What a game last week
      21) Price – Wheres G.Horne
      22) Hastings – Looks a real talent would love to see him come on and play in a 10/12 partnership with Russell
      23) Harris – Disappointed Dunbar is not starting or on the bench but gives Harris an opportunity for more experience and for Townsend to see if he has the capabilities of an international player.

    2. Not sure about all the Wilson bashing going on. He is rated very highly by Townsend, Vern Cotter and Dave Rennie. They know more than us what he’s being asked to do and how well he does it.

      He is not Billy Vunipola but then we are not trying to play like England.

      1. Completely agree – I also find it difficult because I have an image of an intl no.8 and its not Ryan Wilson – but his references alone make me contend with the indisputable fact that those guys no far more than I do !!! Though if we had Billy Vunipola then he would 100% be playing – that much I am confident in saying

  6. If rotation is the main goal for Saturday, then it’s a decent line up. If a victory is, I’m afraid the first 15 will concede too much damage the bench cannot repair.

    Hamish is a proper choice.

    Wouldn’t have chosen Toolis and Wilson.

    Was expecting Fraser Brown, but indeed: maybe he can do more damage from the bench.

  7. In one sense, Toolis and Reid, with Skinner at 6, are surprises. But in another, they are not. Like most, I would have preferred Gilchrist over Toolis for his carrying, but I can understand picking him for his line out work. Jonny was always a cert to come back in.

    But I just can’t understand persevering with Wilson at 8…it just doesn’t work in international rugby. Strauss easily deserves the start after last week. Having said that, impact from the bench of Strauss and Ritchie should be powerful (as long as the game isn’t long gone by then).

    Picking Skinner at 6 has the feeling of trying to find a place for him in the team regardless of position, on the basis of his performance last week. What I find most concerning about this is that we will have two locks playing 80 minutes, so there is a substantial likelihood of our line out and scrum performance dropping in the final quarter.

  8. Reid is a very clever selection. If it was anyone other than SA or Ireland I would’ve disagreed with his selection but he is a solid experienced scrummager and if we were to play Dell in the first half we would’ve been at risk of a lot of scrum penalties in the 1st half.

    Toolis for me just offers the exact same as what Jonny Gray offers, and he’s not as good as it. A proper ball carrier like Gilchrist should’ve been starting next to Gray.

    Wilson is a good solid player, and is not an awful player like some suggest, but Strauss is the far better player and after his performance last week should’ve started on Saturday.

    Would’ve also liked to see Dunbar starting and Kinghorn and George Horne on the bench.

    1. Gilchrist made 6m from 11 carries – he’s basically running backwards.

      People need to take their Embra specs off and start watching what he does – he’s a penalty machine that hits a ruck softer than Kellock.

  9. Looks like Townsend has set out to do the basics well and try to dominate (or at least have parity in) the set piece , hopefully to release the back line.
    Not a huge fan of Reid but he will help secure the scrum and there are other decent ball carriers to make up for him. Lineoot looks strong too – good options on our own throw and Toolis to bag a few from SA throw. Thought Strauss did well at the weekend and maybe could’ve started but the prospect of him and Ritchie coming on after an hour has a certain appeal.
    It’ll be a hard shift for the forwards against the SA pack but the back line has plenty of invention and should hopefully be able to capitalise on ball if we can secure it.

    It might just be me but I thought Dunbar looked off the pace a bit last week- even slow to track back when he was beaten; something a bit lacking about him? Don’t think he’s close to his best but midfield competition should hopefully force him to raise his game.
    I would’ve been a bit more excited to see G Horne on the bench but when Price has a good game he causes any opposition problems.
    Much will come down to defence though and the system hasn’t been the big problem, it’s been players falling off tackles. Think Jones will be our to answer his critics. Horne will get around the park and is always dangerous. Hope he’s been practicing his passing.

    1. I think it is really obvious that there has been a priority on getting the basics right in this series. Lots of 1-pass runs, nothing fancy, and looking to earn the right to go wide when the opportunity arises. It worked against Fiji, not so well in Cardiff.

      Makes me understand Reid’s selection more, but I’m still puzzled by the 2nd/back row blend.

  10. Dell has managed just fine in the HEC this season against big packs and props – Reid has been playing second division rugby.

  11. I think the Toony is looking at different combinations across the 4 games i.e. different centre partnerships, with one eye on the RWC. We need to continue to develop squad depth and you only get that by playing guys. I think Toony has the balance right at the moment. An incredibly strong bench to come on aswell.

  12. The focus on this Autumn seems to have been testing combinations rather than winning all tests. He is using this autumn the same way the lions use mid week games. He cant do that with the 6 nations so he has this autumn to blood those he wants blooded, test various combinations before the 6 nations and then dust off the rust and blood any bolters in the warm up games. I would have preferred to see a full strength side (if you consider this not to be one) but arguably we can afford to lose this more than next week from a perception basis (after hammering Argentina in the summer). I agree with many on here, Wilson isnt an international 8, Skinner can do a job at 6 but I dont think has started there for his club at all (at least not last season), Toolis I am unsure of, he was fairly ineffective against Wales but did have a good season last season. Backs are what I expected. The backs will win this game, if we rely on the pack and an arm wrestle then I think we will get steam rolled.

  13. Cant say I love the selection ….nor do I hate it.

    Wilson at 8? …for me simply NO!! Stop picking him GT! I don’t understand why he thinks playing an undersized no8 at test level is going to get the team the go forward it needs to release the backs at a fast pace. He’ll just get knocked back every time from the top teams. Wilson might be ‘annoying’ to play against….but its also frustrating to watch a ‘small’ no 8… get creamed in the tackle. At least Strauss and Ritchie on bench. Ritchie, I reckon, will improve rapidly with experience at test level… looks like he learns fast from his mistakes and whilst not as much bulk as Bradbury..he makes what he has count and is versatile across the back (looks great as a 7). Can see him and Bradbury being nail ons in the future. I’m not as convinced about Strauss…to me … he flirts between looking like he has the power ..then he just disappears for half the match. Plays like he is too ‘nice’ a guy for a test 8.

    Reid is a surprise…but then I thought…oh yeah.. makes sense. Far more abrasive than Dell… holds the scrum better..and has shown to win the odd ball in the loose. Dell better when big packs start to tire. Think Berghan has come on leaps and bounds…and to me he is better than Nel who I think is past his best.

    Concerned we look lightweight right through the centre…selecting smaller centers and half backs with a small no8 seems wrong…
    I think SA will look at that and pick a team to steam roll right the middle of the park.

    Bit disappointed not see Horne and Kinghorn on bench. Might be a bit too rough and tumble a match for them tho.

    1. Good post.I would have preferred Berghan.Mind you wullie will understand the afrikans calls in the scrum and line out.Dell is not right for this test.

  14. Hmm, a few odd ones here.

    Horne at centre, I worry about his defence against De Allende
    Reid, wow – where did that come from!
    Toolis, surely Gilchrist is needed against the physical SA team?
    Skinner in BR, well, maybe this is out attempt at bulking up the team…
    Harris, how the hell does he make the bench?!?!?!?

    1. Interesting, however, is that Scotland played SA last WRC?? with the heaviest pack we have put out on the field…and we got crushed.
      Maybe just focusing on our own skills and assets better serves us…if we play fast, streetwise , accurate rugby I can see SA struggling to keep up….if we try and go toe to toe with them we’ll get stuffed.

      Harris, I thought, in a couple of superb plays he showed terrific speed ,good hands and can tackle…..I wrote him off before but those moments made me think…hang on…is that the sign he has something major to add to the team? Some players take a bit longer than others to get to grips with test rugby.

    2. Reid Hard work and honest.He will be ready.Harris .Nah he has the same durty pictures as Wilson.

  15. Presumably Reid has been practicing his scrumaging against the other Scottish front rows over the last couple of weeks and Nel will have given him a proper test out. If the coaches think he’s what’s required then I’ll go with that. Maybe they saw Nakarawa pick up from the front of a ruck last weekend, leading to a try, and thought that we needed our specialist for that starting again!!!

    My only real concern for this team is the lack of jacklers at the start and we are going to need to win some turnovers. Our two best at that Brown and Dunbar wont be there. Watson can obviously do it but not if he is carrying as much as against Wales. On that basis the back row may be re-tasked somewhat with Skinner doing more carrying and tackling and Watson more rucking.

  16. I feel good about this team – with availability I do think its about the best we can put out. We need to stop the Saffas scrum, lineout and maul – the front five we have picked supplemented by the backrow I think is the best we have for this.

    Also our strengths I believe are: (i) our defensive line speed and pressure (ii) playmaking / passing / scanning (iii) Speed & Fitness (iv) and finally our intelligence.

    I think our selected combinations in the halfbacks, midfield and back 3 gives us the best opportunity to play positively to those strengths. In fact I cannot think of a better backline even if every player was fit.

    My only slight worry is that we need to legally slow the Saffas at the breakdown in order to get our defense set and off the line quickly. If Vermuelan and Louw get the rumble on, we could be in danger if they get quick ball plus Louw and Kolisi are getting a lot of turnovers themselves meaning penalties or turnover ball with 2 of the fastest wingers I’ve ever seen !

  17. Reid iirc did a pretty good job in Cardiff earlier this year when pre-match there was widespread apprehension about how the front row would go given the injuries to other loose heads. As it turned out, it was just about everything else barring the front row that went wrong that day.
    This discussion thread on selection for the SA match, featuring so many different names being offered up, is in stark contrast to selection threads of ten or even only five years ago – when our pool of genuine international standard players was the size of a child’s plastic paddling pool in the back garden and basically there wasn’t much in it to choose from. That’s a massive turn round for the better. The range of difference of opinion here reflects that turn round.

  18. Overall a poor selection imo, Yes Toony said every player would get game time this Autumn internationals but this is our biggest most important game.

    Assuming SA put out a full strength side i can see us narrowly losing this one unfortunately.

    The Lack of Jacklers worries me and that is SA biggest Weakness atm.

    Ball carying is a worry also although perhaps Mcinally, Watson, Skinner might step up enough. we saw against Wales what happens when we lacked powerful ball carriers.

    with 3 second rows we should be dominating the line out, so if Etzebeth ends up taking Gray and Toolis to school we know who to blame.

    The backline looks lightweight, if we are not dominating possession they will be in trouble.

    For me i dont get the Horne Selection, did he merit starting based on this seasons form ? i think there are others who deserved a shot.

    Happy to see the filth has not been selected.

    Thats a very powerful bench to bring on. Would not have has Harris there but guess he showed enough to get a look in against strong oppo.

    1. The filth !!! You really need to grow up or else be moderated off this site. Totally unacceptable language.

    2. “Happy to see the filth has not been selected”

      This appears to be in breach of maybe section 5 and certainly section 12 of the comments policy.

    3. The blog editors should really remove comments like that. Referring to ‘filth’ is disgusting language.

      Neil – you’ve revealed yourself to be a pretty unpleasant person.

      1. I do not really care if you or others dont like what i say, that is how i feel about the situation and so do alot of others.

        I have respect for graham as a player but not as a person, comes across as an awful role model for kids coming up through the scottish system.

        You dont turn your back to your country, reminds me of that abomination that betrays King leonidus in the film 300.

        Money is not everything in this world, some people still have values and respect for themself.

      2. Awful comment Neil. And as for your assertion that it’s “how you feel about the situation and so do a lot of others” – well that is plainly nonsense. There are a handful of posters who have expressed displeasure about Grahams’ selection, but none with the childish invective that characterises your posts.

        The majority of comments have been supportive of the player and his inclusion in the squad.

      3. “Filth” ??

        Ahh the language of ignorance and bigotry . I wonder how you slipped through the the net.? And the many people who agree with you aren’t posting on here as far as I can see. Perhaps you mistook this website for something catering to a more specialist sub group.

      4. Neil – how are you not seeing the hypocrisy and blind self-righteousness in talking about values and respect whilst using language that demonstrate the exact opposite?

        NO ONE has a problem with you expressing the view that you’re struggling to reconcile Graham’s recent comments with his decision to commit to Scotland. I’m guessing none of us feel thrilled about it. But you’ve managed to anger a lot of people on this board, yet don’t seem to care – which I guess is consistent with someone who feels it’s okay to call a player ‘filth’.

  19. Reasonably pleased with this. Gordy Reid is a big call and is obviously there along with Nel to ensure the scrum holds up as that is an area SA definitely won’t be weak in.

    Toolis is a bit of a strange one, I thought Gilchrist and Skinner played very well last week and Toolis was highly mediocre the week before, I think someone else commented earlier that him and Gray are too similar. He is a canny operator at the lineout though.

    Strauss can feel a bit hard done by, his performance last week merits a start. I wonder if the instructions to the back row will be run yourselves ragged for 50mins then get subbed?

    IMO Toonie has gone with a starting pack to ensure we get the set pieces right.

    As for the backs, I personally think that is our strongest line up. I think laidlaw has sufficiently proved his worth to myself and his other doubters and I continue to bang the drum for the Pete Horne fan club. Big call to not include Dunbar, very much his type of game, squad rotation? Seymour took his coat off the shoogly peg last week with his old pals back beside him. I would probably have kept G Horne on the bench, he has done nothing to deserve dropping and Price is off form. Harris has to show us that last week wasn’t a fluke and that is his standard, not the performances he showed before.

  20. Having watched both the SA v France & NZ V SA matches…. I think we can win…if we do everything we are good at…it’ll take a performance at the level we showed v NZ last year to be in with a good chance. They have a physically huge pack…. they do ,however, lack finesse in their play. France when they were creative…had them in knots….however when they lost focus thats when SA used their strength…discipline got them the win..not fluid creative rugby.
    SA will no doubt look at the way Wales beat us and think that’ll do the trick… Easy. SA are better at being Wales than Wales are…so if no lessons have been learned we’re in trouble before the whistle blows.

    Stating the obvious, but I think we need to draw their pack in hold them/slow them down and for as long as we can and then create with pace…overall our backs i think are better…but their wingers fare have a set of legs on them too….very fast.

    1. Not sure I agree that SA are better at being Wales than Wales are. SA leak a lot of tries against good teams whereas Wales don’t. When we played them, we didn’t have the guile (Russell) or pace (Hogg) to unlock their mighty defence – admittedly not helped by M Raynal ignoring the Welsh back row being 1-2 yards offside every single time!

      Look at the firepower in the Aussie back line and they couldn’t cross the Welsh line once last weekend. Wales are possibly the best defensive unit in the world or at least up there. Not surprising with Shaun Edwards as defence coach.

    2. I’m sure someone will point out a gap or two in my memory, but I’m struggling to recall when in the past 18 months we’ve been absolutely battered up front and constantly put on the back foot.

      NZ were going to do it last November but didn’t. France this February but didn’t. England in the 18 Calcutta Cup but didn’t.

      Periods of back-foot stuff in Dublin this year, but only periods not the whole 80.

      So maybe some of us, myself included, aren’t giving us enough credit for just how competitive we’ve become up front in the last couple of years.

      One example is how much better our defensive maul has become, and how much our attacking maul has become a real weapon in our armoury.

      Not saying we’re going to blast the Saffers; just saying they might have good reasons to worry about our pack too.


      1. Lots of complaining about Wales a couple of weeks ago, but they made very few metres after the first quarter.

  21. Pack weight:

    Reid 120
    McInally 108
    Nel 120
    Gray 119
    Toolis 118
    Skinner 111
    Watson 102
    Wilson 106


    Pretty hefty by our standards with the bench not light:

    Dell 112
    Brown 104
    Berghan 118
    Ritchie 107
    Strauss 114

    1. I think those weights add to 904kg Scrummo. SRU and Edinburgh both have Nel and Dell a bit lighter at 113 and 106 respectively as well. Although it is hard to know how trustworthy the height and weight stats are sometimes!

      1. You’re right 904kg!

        Dell’s weight is definitely out of date, there were some articles/interviews when he was coming back from injury where he talked about packing on a stone and being of a weight with Dicko who was 111kg. Certainly looks bigger than he used to.

        113kg seems light for Nel also but like you say who knows all sorts of different weights depending where you look.

  22. Think it’s a good selection. Same back line that claimed the Calcutta cup and only 3 changes in the forwards. The bench looks stronger than that great day so happy times!

  23. Pleased with this selection, even though it was a slight surprise. RWC we got blasted off the park with our biggest set of forwards available. Doesn’t make sense to try and match the Saffas in the beef stakes (see what I did there?), so look to play to our strengths.

    Genuinely excited to see how Skinner goes in the back row and also how the midfield axis changes as and when Hastings comes on – but for who?

    It’s interesting to see the effect that playing the extra Autumn test is having. GT is being afforded the opportunity to experiment to a greater degree and rotate players where necessary. I think that this has great value in replicating the needs of squad management for RWC19. I expect that the likes of Wilson, Nel and Seymour will be rested next week after 3 games in a row, injuries allowing, so that their game time is managed and others get a shot.

  24. Wilson has been at number 8 for all but one of the big wins we have had in 2017 and 2018. Wins over Wales, Australia home and away, France and England.

    We know he isn’t a 19 stone 6ft 5 wrecking ball. So he does a different job- suited to how Scotland play – and we get on with it. Successfully it seems. Check our world ranking.

  25. Basically that is a good competent 23 , capable of winning this game. It is a simple plan , secure ball and move them around first half. Bring on direct carriers in the 2nd half, take them on their soft underbellys and knock them back. Yes they will need to adapt to the referee.

    I suspect we may see Gordon Reid next week as well. I also heard from an unreliable source he is a bit leaner , maybe he has been asked to improve his carrying ! One thing that is in no doubt , he is always 100 % committed.

    1. Lot of negative comments around Reid’s inclusion but you’ve hit the nail on the head there, he always gives his all. Hope Gordy surprises a few people this weekend.

      1. Always give his all is the baseline for any rugby player – not sure a test player should be lauded for doing so.

      2. You’re right Stu if you’re just talking about effort, but we know that some players are more effective at giving their all and that ‘giving their all’ includes application of their particular mental and physical skill set. They might be more consistent or less prone to get distracted/wilt/fade out of games under pressure. Some players’ ‘all’ is better suited to certain types of opposition. I think that’s what GT had in mind with this selection. So I’m basically agreeing with you but with a caveat.

  26. Initially I was not happy with the selection but I feel there is a definite pattern/plan in choices made.

    We have gone for our best lineout options and our best kicking options. This explains Toolis over Gilcho, Skinner at 6 and possibly Wilson at 8. This has then been complimented in the backs by having a 2nd playmaker at 12 in Pete Horne and Price’s one advantage over George Horne is his kicking game. I feel Townsend may have planned this after SA lost 4 of their own line-outs against England but they recovered well in that area against France.

    Fingers crossed it works out!

  27. I for one am actually looking forward to seeing Skinner at 6. Bearing in mind he started out as a fly half and given his speed around the park, I think he could bring a lot to the role of 6, also playing him at 6 allows us to in future ( injuries allowing ) play a big 2nd row eg Jonny and his brother. I do think that over the next few months it would be great to play a backrow of Skinner, Watson, Thompson. Ball handling 8, bruiser 6 and genuine openside.

    On a similar topic am I alone in wondering if Mat Fagerson is a real option at 8 on the international scene. 6ft 1 and under 100kg is just too small. How about as an alternative in the near future , Crosbie ( or Ritchie) at 6, Bradbury at 8; with Fagerson at 7.

    Anyway nice to have options.

    1. I agree with you on Fagerson though he’s still very young and has been listed at 99kg for a couple of years, I suspect he’s bulked since then. Still he doesn’t look to have the frame to hit 110kg+ like Ashe or Strauss and doesn’t have the raw pace of say Simmonds for England. He’s always been a pretty brutal carrier though at age grade so size isn’t everything. I feel the likes of Ritchie and Fagerson could be part of a very modern all rounder backrow that do a bit of everything.

      Crosbie will be a really strong option in the future I think especially with Cockers bringing him on.

  28. With the WC on the horizon, it would be foolish for GT to give Laidlaw and G Horne all the game time without trying to bring back Ali Price’s form of 2017. He’s a real game-changer when he’s firing and his form has been improving.

    We need at least four strong scrum-half options to choose from for the WC squad. So while G Horne would have been my pick on the bench here if we were just thinking about this game, I can see the sense in giving Price the opportunity to step up in a big game.

    1. Which is a bit of a head-scratcher too.

      Price IMO has never recovered from Cardiff in Feb, he’s gone conservative when he doesn’t really have much of a conservative game.

      He’s also under pressure and not dealing with it very well, this manifests itself in mumping to the ref throughout the game.

      1. I was surprised Price was picked over Horne too but, lets be honest, Price was quality 18 months ago with some (not me, honest) even calling for his inclusion in the B&I Lions ahead of Laidlaw. He maybe needs a chance to play back at Murrayfield with a massive crowd behind him to really kick his head into gear. If he struggles then we know he maybe has lost all confidence and we move forward with Horne as the genuine contender to Toonie’s choice of Laidlaw.

  29. With the furore over Graham’s call up and the constant bickering on other sites about England picking Kiwis or us picking English players etc I’d be quite interested in an article that assessed our squad perhaps contrasting what a born and bred Scottish side would like shorn of the other players. I’d be interested to see how important the exiles program/project players are to our playing resources and to see whether this is driven by the needs of the pro clubs or shortfalls in certain positions etc. For instance our first choice tightheads Nel and Berghan are imports and without them our top 3 would be Fagerson, Rae and McInally. All talented youngsters so you can see how Nel and Berghan have bridged the gap from Euan Murray to the next crop. Think it could be an interesting discussion.

      1. Ah interesting! Would international rugby be better without residency players? Ive never personally had a big problem with the rules though 5 years is more sensible than
        3 but it does make you think.

        We’d have a weaker team but then so would every side in the six nations.

    1. Here’s a revised team based on the same system:

      Stuart Hogg (b. Melrose)
      Tommy Seymour (m)
      Huw Jones (b. Edinburgh)
      Alex Dunbar (b. Dumfries)
      Blair Kinghorn (b. Edinburgh)
      Finn Russell (b. Stirling)
      Greig Laidlaw (b. Edinburgh)
      Gordon Reid (b. Irvine)
      Stuart McInally (b Edinburgh)
      Zander Fagerson (b. Perth)
      Richie Gray (b. Rutherglen)
      Jonny Gray (b. Rutherglen)
      Sam Skinner (f)
      John Barclay (m,f)
      Magnus Bradbury (b. Glasgow)


      Fraser Brown (b. Edinburgh)
      Jamie Bhatti (b. Stirling)
      Murray McCallum (b. Kirkcaldy)
      Grant Gilchrist (b. Stirling)
      Jamie Ritchie (b. Dundee), or Gary Graham!
      George Horne (b.Dundee)
      Adam Hastings (b. Edinburgh)
      Duncan Taylor (m,f)

      As Scrummo surmised, prop is the trickiest area!

      1. That’s actually not too bad a team. If you’ve both the Fagersons, both the Grays, and both the Hornes fit that’s a decent start to a Scottish born team.

        I see Kinghorn as Hoggs apprentice and that frees up other spaces on the wings for Lee Jones and some other up and coming lads from the pro teams.

        In the centres the likes of Stafford McDowall has gone pretty well when given a chance at Glasgow and could make a breakthrough in the next year. He’s a big lad with good hands, probably a successor to Dunbar.

        Up front we’re in good shape with hookers but could do with another Fagerson. Not sure how the other Scottish props at Glasgow would fare against their Edinburgh opposite numbers. Think the 1872 games could be interesting again this year.

  30. A 23 from the players not selected in the match day squad.
    1. Daryll Marfo
    2. Ross Ford
    3. Zander Fagerson
    4. Richie Gray
    5. Grant Gilchrist
    6. Magnus Bradbury
    7. John Barclay
    8. David Denton
    9. George Horne
    10. Duncan Weir
    11. Tim Visser
    12. Matt Scott
    13. Alex Dunbar
    14. Byron Mcguigan
    15. Blair Kinghorn
    16. George Turner
    17. Rory Sutherland
    18. Murray Mcallum
    19. Lewis Carmichael
    20. Blade Thompson
    21. SHC
    22. Ruraidh Jackson
    23. Duncan Taylor

    Shows to me a big weakness at 10 to the gameplan should Finn and Adam get injured.

    We have a monster pack which could execute a plan B when all are fit.

    Wing positions need more quality depth within the next 2 years. Graham is on the rise and Jones/Mcguigan are just about international quality but wont be threats. (Visser would return to the international fold if asked i reckon.)

    Any talented young wingers coming up through our Academys ?

      1. True Rory off the top of my head.

        England – Cipriani, Farrell, Ford

        Ireland – Sexton, Jackson, Carbery

        Wales – Biggar, Priestland, Anscombe, Morgan

        Aus – Foley , Cooper , Beale

        France – they have about 5 just need to pick one!

        NZ – Barrett, Cruden, Sopaonga, Mo’unga, Mckenzie.

        /SA/Scotland/Arg are the other top tier 1 nations i can think off who are abit short.

        And yeh Marfo just wait going to be a B&I lion one day.

      2. Carberry isn’t test standard yet, Priestland and Morgan aren’t test standard (though you missed Patchell), Anscombe hasn’t really done a great deal internationally, Foley is far flakier and less skilful than Russell, Cooper has retired, Beale isn’t a test standard 10, and who are the French five?

      3. I think we’ve been very, very lucky with the emergence of Russell and now Hastings and Weir still looking solid. Even the likes of Lang and Hutchinson at Northampton are other options though untested. Unsure whether the likes of Eastgate or Thomson will crack the pro game though to keep up the production line.

        It wasn’t that long ago that Weir who is a handy third choice was pretty much the only credible option with Jackson and Laidlaw pretty discredited at 10.

      4. Scrummo – think Eastgate is at Plymouth Albion now so not looking to good.

        Josh Henderson is still at Glasgow and playing with the 7s I think. Might be the next youngester to come through at 10 if he sticks there.

      5. Scrummo, lucky? We put up with Parks for 10yrs I think we are entitled to not think us lucky we have Russell and the emerging Hastings.

    1. Yes. Ben Robbins.

      He’s tearing it up for Currie and on Edinburgh’s academy books I believe. Bolter for the WC 2019.

  31. Ill correct you on a few things there Cam.

    Id argue Carbery is test standard he was just in sextons shadow at leinster, was the starting 10 when they beat the All blacks.

    Morgan for wales i was pushing, priestland is test quality its only because he is playing in the english league that he is not being selected. Thanks i forgot about Patchell.

    Foley is a test quality 10 i find it hard to believe you would disagree there, was not aware Quade Cooper retired can anyone confirm this ?

    Beale is fair enough that was abit of a stretch but has done a job there in the past against the B&I lions.

    French fly halfs – Belleu, Trin-Duc, Lopez, Jalibert.. probaly some other test quality standard 10s in that league, its not one i watch alot of though.

    1. Cooper hasn’t retired he’s just signed a new super rugby contract for next season after playing in NRC due to falling out of favour

      1. Has he not retired from test rugby, like our own dear Visser? Either way, he’s nowhere near a shirt.

    2. Cheers for the reply. I disagree, though.

      Carberry will be ace, but ain’t yet. What has he done, or been trusted to do, since then?

      Priestland has enough caps. When did he last play to the requisite standard?

      Foley has been POOPY since 2016, and I believe that Cooper is retired from test rugby.

      I could go on, but there are a lot who have played test rugby but aren’t of that quality. Weirables, if you willl.

  32. We are in the best of times we have been in this century and still the glass is half empty. You really are true scots.Pick a scotland side it does not matter who is in it, we have a critical mass of goodness now.

  33. New to this, just a quick q and comment.

    Is there any chance Blade Thomson will make the Argentina game?

    Would really like to see him Watson and Skinner/Strauss play in back row. Actually really want to see Hardie back but dont think that will happen as out of favour, when he is fit he is as good as we have.

    1. Most important for Hardie is getting back on track again. Collect minutes at Newcastle. Maybe after that, when Townsend could step over is shadow, a wee chance of him returning.

  34. I’ve listened to an unseemly amount of podcasts this week due to travelling for work, and it seems every English pundit (and I include Jim Hamilton in this number without hesitation) has us down to lose. None of them seem to consider our recent record at Murrayfield. I’d say we’re 70/30 to win. Absolutely no reason for us to fear South Africa here.

    I guess we’re still going to be considered the underdogs going into next year’s 6N and RWC. Might not be a bad thing. Let them dismiss us.

    1. ‘every English pundit (and I include Jim Hamilton in this number without hesitation) has us down to lose’

      Out of interest, why do you put Hamilton in the same basket as all English pundits?

      1. I find that every time he talks about playing for Scotland it’s only ever all about him and nothing about the collective. Never really about the result, just whether he played well or not. He admitted wanting to see Scotland lose in the RWC because he wasn’t selected (he shouldn’t have been).

        I know he’s half joking to play up to a personna half the time when he talks like this. I just find him to be a bit irritating though. Maybe it’s because he reminds me of losing so often.

      2. The minute I care about what Jim Hamilton “thinks” is the time to get the revolver and whisky out.

    2. I don’t think is is unreasonable to have SA as favourites. Beating France in Paris is a big result and they really should have beaten England. But their results are all over the place. Defeating NZ away made them look like world beaters but losses to Argentina and Australia less so. Our results are more consistent – win at home, lose away.

      Personally I think SA have the slight edge as their forwards are so much more powerful than ours. We’d be favourites if Jantjies was playing but seems SA aren’t resting anyone against us.

      1. They are missing faf de clerk and Etzebeth both whom they could bring into squad anyway, full strength side other than that.

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