Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Scotland vs Fiji: the teams

Scotland v Fiji
Graphic - © Scottish Rugby Blog

Gregor Townsend has reacted to a mixed bag against Wales by tipping the Toony Tombola out on to the floor.

In come exiles Greig Laidlaw (who is also captain for the first time in the Townsend era), Sean Maitland and Finn Russell as everyone expected, and there is also a rest for Jonny Gray (he moves to the bench) with Grant Gilchrist and Exeter’s Sam Skinner a new partnership at lock.

But we probably weren’t expecting Stuart Hogg to start, Chris Harris to feature or for Hamish Watson, Blair Kinghorn and Huw Jones to drop out of the 23 altogether. Harris and Josh Strauss could appear from the bench with Strauss keen to atone for his 14th and last cap (also against Fiji) and Harris with yet another chance to repay Townsend’s considerable faith in him thus far.

The team has a very different look to it, that’s for sure. Whereas the team against Wales actually looked like the top team with some enforced omissions, this looks like a definite look at new combinations, although that Russell/Horne/Dunbar/Seymour/Hogg spine through the backline will be more than familiar to each other.

In the back row there is plenty of zip but not much experience with Ryan Wilson having to be the calmer head alongside the exuberance of Jamie Ritchie and Matt Fagerson.

For Fiji Campese Maafu (Leicester), Sam Matavesi (Cornish Pirates) and Manasa Saulo (London Irish) may be familiar faces in the pack to Premiership watchers, while we should all know Warriors legend Leone “Uncle BigNaks” Nakarawa and current Edinburgh favourite Viliame Mata although there is no sign of Niko Matawalu who didn’t make the squad despite a recent hat-trick for Glasgow.

Fiji are usually at their most lethal in the backs where Vereniki Goneva (Newcastle Falcons) and Semi Radradra (Bordeaux) could be the danger men if Fiji can get their own style of ChaosRugby™ going.

Kevin Millar will have a look at all the head-to-head matchups later in the week.

Scotland: 15. Stuart Hogg, 14. Tommy Seymour, 13. Alex Dunbar, 12. Peter Horne, 11. Sean Maitland, 10. Finn Russell, 9. Greig Laidlaw (capt); 1. Allan Dell, 2. Fraser Brown, 3. Willem Nel, 4. Sam Skinner, 5. Grant Gilchrist, 6. Ryan Wilson, 7. Jamie Ritchie, 8. Matt Fagerson.
Replacements: 16. Stuart McInally, 17. Alex Allan, 18. Simon Berghan, 19. Jonny Gray, 20. Josh Strauss, 21. George Horne, 22. Adam Hastings, 23. Chris Harris.

Fiji Airways Flying Fijians: 15. Setareki Tuicuvu, 14. Metui Talebula, 13. Semi Radradra, 12. Jale Vatabua, 11. Vereniki Goneva, 10. Ben Volavola, 9. Frank Lomani; 1. Campese Maafu, 2. Sam Matavesi, 3. Manasa Saulo, 4. Tevita Cavubati, 5. Leone Nakarawa, 6. Dominiko Waqaniburotu (capt), 7. Peceli Yato, 8. Viliame Mata.
Replacements: 16. Mesulame Dolokoto, 17. Eroni Mawi, 18. Kalivate Tawake, 19. Albert Tuisue, 20. Semi Kunatani, 21. Henry Seniloli, 22. Alivereti Veitokanim, 23. Eroni Vasiteri

Head Coach: John McKee
Assistant Coaches: Andre Bell, Neil Barnes, Peter Ryan, Alan Muir

2.30pm, BT Murrayfield Stadium (apologies for previously listing time as 3.30pm)

58 Responses

  1. Interesting team for Fiji.

    Hogg is starting and no Kinghorn on the bench, which seems risky for his first game back. I know Maitland can cover fullback, but then there is no specialist wing cover either…..

    Huw Jones dropped completely – fairly harsh but hopefully just rotation and I would expect he will be back next week.

    Chris Harris on the bench.

    Pete Horne and Dunbar at centre.

    Skinner starting at 4.

    Still a fair amount of experimentation going on by the looks of things. Hopefully Russell plays well and Hogg doesn’t hurt himself!

    1. Toonie said no one would play all four AI games so don’t think Jones is out in the cold necessarily. Dunbar needs a big game to keep Radrada quiet.

      Considering there are 9 changes it’s a pretty strong team. Excited but still nervous as f-. We have a clear advantage in half backs so hope we control ball up front and let Laidlaw and Russell dictate the game. Their back row is pretty fearsome though…

    2. I reckon we’ll see Huw back for both Argentina and SA. Him aside it’s pretty much full strength first choice backs. Decent pack and bench too. I hope that this is not too early for Hogg, and also to see something from Harris… Fast, intense, accurate but not loose. Hopefully that will do the job..

  2. Looking forward to seeing what Skinner & Fagerson can do and great to see Strauss on the bench. Despite the ridiculous amount of skill Fiji have I really hope we can boss this one from the start. Radradra Vs Dunbar will be tasty! Suddenly feeling a lot more confident about this one

  3. Not sure if this is the Tombola at work – Toonie said no one would play all four games and this looks like a very strong and experienced side considering the is supposedly our easiest autumn test and we are at home.

    Back row is obviously the most experimental unit and is up against a formidable Fijian group, that said we have a nice blend of pace and breakdown grit if no wrecking ball to get us over the gainline.

  4. Amazed Hogg is back for this one. Hope he is fully ready.

    Price and H Jones drop out of the 23 which is a bit of a surprise. I’m a little surprised to see P Horne at inside center but then not that surprised!

    No great surprise that Brown swaps with McInally as they’ll both be needed in the weeks ahead. Interested to see how the locks go together. Also think back row looks more balanced with Wilson at 6 and Fagerson at 8. Presumably Watson is being saved for the next 2 games.

  5. The Fijians will be licking their lips anticipating strolling outside the one paced Dunbar.

    We better accept that Toonie will never be without his beloved Wilson.

    1. I don’t mind Wilson at 6 and don’t rate him that badly as a player either, he puts the graft in, has reasonable hands and must be one of those players who’s a complete pain in the arse to play against, all qualities of a good 6 IMO. I just don’t like him at 7 or 8, he’s not fast enough or good enough over the ball for 7 and isn’t big enough for 8.

      1. He’s got not carrying game – part of the reason we are all tearing our hair out about the Scotland pack and he picks Wilson at 6.

        Being a pain in the arse to play against is hardly the measure for a 6 – if it was the ginger ninja would be starting.

  6. Well he certainly has given the tombola a spin hasn’t he?! I’ll continue my “pro Horne” crusade by saving be deserves a start, looks like our strategy is (wisely) to unpick the Fijian defence rather than try and fight fire with fire, accept that they are going to score some tries but aim to score more ourselves. Dunbar at 13 gives a bit more defence and breakdown bite out wide.

    Frase Brown deserves his start but I can’t see that being any more than squad rotation. Open to this new 2nd row partnership as Gray and Toolis has been shown a few times to be mediocre, the line outs were solid last week though so they will have that to live up to. Good that Fagerson is getting a start and Strauss on the bench but I’m not seeing a jackler in there at all. Again I assume this is squad rotation giving pinball a weekend off.

    I very much hope to keep eating laidlaw flavoured humble pie, after my derision of him coming back to the 6N squad where he subsequently more than proved his worth. G Horne could prove leathal to tiring defence later in the game so I eagerly await him making an appearance. All in all a familiar and strong back division. I just hope Hoggy isn’t back to soon and makes it through the game, no direct swap for him or any back 3 on the bench so they must be expecting him to play the full 80. I know Toonie must like him but Seymour needs to have a good game, hopefully with his old pals Hogg and Russell back he can find some form.

    Looking forward to this one. Did chuckle today at an article in a disreputable newspaper about Ryan Wilson knowing how to get under Nakarawas skin, by winding him up. Well Ryan I don’t think there’s anyone more up to that job than you, and you’ll need to!

    1. Seymour and Maitland can both play FB and there will be a change planned. Toonie can’t seriously expect Hogg to last more than an hour.
      Aren’t Nakawara and Wilson best mates ? Doesn’t mean he won’t try to wind him up anyway !

      1. But who is going to get moved onto the wing when Maitland or Seymour go to fullback?

        Options would be G.Horne, P.Horne, Dunbar or Harris!

        Actually, Hastings has played fullback a bit so maybe that’s the plan…..

  7. Great news that Hoggy is back earlier than expected. No point in putting Hogg on the bench “just in case” as that might me finishing with only 14.
    I see the Seymour-Hogg-Maitland axis as our back 3 going forward against major oppo. With the obvious caveat on form. Sorry Blair but, a little like Pete Horne, your versatility means a bench spot (finisher?).
    Wilson in his best position but that is an inexperienced pack. Hopefully they’ve gone well in training as it is a mistake to underestimate the Fijians in the set piece (now).

  8. FFS Cammy I just made a 2000 character post full of insight and it’s fecking disappeared – you need a proper forum mate.

    1. This has happened to me on numerous occasions also, anytime it gets to around 1800 or more it does not post.

      1. Cammy can’t help you there I’m afraid… yes there is a limit to comment length of 2000 characters and it goes into a queue for moderation after that in case of spam or bad language – which it does tell you.

    2. Guys, either do it a word document first of all then copy and paste.

      Or highlight all the text before sending and copy it on ur phone. It is then possible to paste it again should it disappear.

      Hope to hear ur detailed analysis soon Stu2

  9. There is something faintly unappealing about the latest instalment of the tombola and I cant quite put my finger on it.

    Whilst I am delighted that Hoggy is back and realistically he needs a runout before SA, it’s a big gamble – Harris could already be on for an injury prone Dunbar, so we could see Hastings on the wing if Hoggy doesn’t last the 80.

    The centre partnership only makes sense if you factor in the injuries we have to the other options – Jones is being rotated – I am not sure we need a 10/12 at 12 with Fin there and why have we put our slowest back in the 13 channel where the Fijians will no doubt be gambolling down all day? As a pairing they don’t make a huge amount of sense.

    Greeg back with Horne on the bench makes me happy a good balance.

    Front row picks itself with Brown and McInally being equal.

    The locks are a strange mix – Skinner needs capped and I suppose Gilchrist needs a run out, but I must take issue with the podcasters – Gilchrist is in my opinion Kellock #2 – his carrying can be terrible at times and he’s nowhere as aggressive as you were making out. Hopefully he doesn’t get an early knock as a Skinner/Gray partnership is far too alike and lacking in height.

    Glad Ritchie is there and Fagerson is the form 8 – but I just don’t understand Wilson at 6 (other than him being custodian of the Toonie incriminating polaroids) – I want my 6 to carry and carry well, I want him to score the odd try too, neither of which Wilson can do. So what if he’s annoying – I need my 6 to be more than annoying. I hope we might see Skinner at 6 later in the game as he could be starting there against SA IMO.

    Strauss cant make a gash Sale pack – he shouldn’t be in the squad – he carries like an auld wifie with dozen eggs in her hand and his time has come and gone. Adam Ashe has had two outstanding performances in the last fortnight and should be on the bench.

    C Harris – why?

  10. George Horne recently played on the wing when needed for Glasgow and I wouldn’t be surprised if he pops up there. Chris Harris is no stranger on the wing either. More worried about injuries to the starters in the back 3 than the finishing options.

    Not sure where all this stuff about Dunbar being slow is coming from. I think he still holds the speed record for a Scot in a game. Pretty amazing when you consider the other flyers we have in the backs. He’s coming back in to some form recently and he’s a proven jackler so could be pretty handy in that department.

      1. Italy 2014 I think it was when he scored 2 tries he was clocked as the fastest Scottish player and the record hasn’t been beaten. He was clocked going 33.6km an hour

      2. Hoggy’s all time speed test record for Glasgow is 36.8 km/h but that was in training rather than match conditions.

  11. A tough, almost warrenball looking backline, but can it score?
    I have faith in Toonie.
    Don’t think Dunbar’s problem is pace either. Anyone remember that try he scored against Italy in 2014 where he hit over 21mph? That’s proper outside back speed. He’s a good player but still I think better at 12.
    I guess Townsend is trying to enforce standards and players need to feel the heat of being dropped if they make the kind of defensive errors Shuggy did against Wales. Shug will be back later in the series, I have no doubt.
    Happy to see Sam Skinner in the team too. He is a real hard forward in one of the toughest packs in Europe, and we have lacked that kind of player, but he also has good skills. Anyone who watches the premiership would tip him to become a regular because he’s a good foil to the kind of high work rate loosies we have in the 2nd row.
    As long as we’re up for it and don’t sit off them we should win, but if we give them space then it could be a squeaky afternoon.

    1. 2014 was 4yrs ago, you surely don’t think he has the same pace now, especially after all the injuries.

      1. Stu2 it was entertaining with the trolling to a point but now you are looking like a virgin who cant access PwnHub and does not know what to do with himself.

        Dunbar is rapid when he is in full stride abit more like maitland in that sence.
        Its his big frame which at times make him look slow.
        I could quite easily see Dunbar playing 12 or 13 at the world cup. In Duncan Taylor gets match fit would not be shocked of a backline of:
        9. Horne
        10. Russell
        11. Graham
        12. Taylor
        13. Dunbar
        14. Maitland
        15. Hogg

        Oh yeh and did i mention he is probaly the best Defensive/Breakdown Center in the world when in form ?

  12. Must win game eh? All worried about our reputation if we lose.Well you might be ,GT isnt. Hogg wont be on for 80, Horne is a gamble, new cap 2nd row starts,Watson rested a shakey bench with super dud Harris and snubbed Strauss.It is not our strongest side .

  13. Harris is still a key player in a tough Falcons team.
    Dunc Taylor didn’t do much for Scotland until he’d got a few caps and became a regular starter at Saracens. It can take a while. I think Toonie made a mistake throwing him in at Cardiff. He should have been given his chance against Canada or the Eagles. Now he is tainted in the eyes of Scotland fans but if played for Edinburgh or Glasgow doing what he does for Newcastle I think he’d be much higher rated.

    1. The two or 3 Falcon matches I have watched this season don’t seem to support your view of how important he is. He’s the epitome of meh.

      Playing in the English prem doesn’t immediately elevate you. It’s not that impressive a league.

      1. Hopefully he’ll be “meh” in the two upcoming Champions Cup matches and Edinburgh come away with 10 points! For Saturday it’d be good if he was better than he has been in his previous Scotland appearances.

    2. Well Johnny he better B good this weekend. I see nothing whatsoever about this guy . He must have the pictures.

  14. Where’s Matt Scott in the centre pecking order? I’d have thought he’d be a better option at 13 than Dunbar. Nothing to back that up, just my opinion.

    If Sam Skinner is as good as everyone says, why’s he not been in the England squad/team? Has he been snubbed by EJ or did he choose us over them? Either way I hope he has a cracking game at the weekend.

    Fingers crossed Hogg comes through unscathed.

    I’m interested to see how JG reacts coming off the bench. Hopefully he’ll put in the performance we’re all hoping for from him.

    Fiji have some very talented players so I expect this to be quite a close match. And possibly quite high scoring as well, although now I’ve said that it’ll end up 9-6!

  15. Tooney does seem to have picked his 4 ideal teams for the 4 games a few weeks ago and he is just having to juggle around the injuries. Jones would have been rested ready for South Africa however he played against Wales. It is just frustrating to reconcile the talk of squad depth and then seeing Wilson and Horne back in the team …but that is injury driven – Johnson and Thompson would surely have played (if not injured) and Scott and Denton would surely have been on the bench (if not injured) so apart from Grigg and Hamilton not having the secret photos I guess it makes sense!

  16. I am surprised no one is commenting on the absence of Ali Price – or am I , maybe not. Do we think he is rested for SA or will Horne support Laidlaw next week as well (injury permitting) !

  17. Not sure if this is allowed but just read an excellent analysis on rugbypass dot com about Huw Jones’ missed tackles at the weekend. Basically criticises his tackle technique for both of them but blames Scotlands flat defence structure for both tries. Whereas the usual structure is for the FB to sit back and track the ball from side to side with the winger from the opposite side dropping back accordingly and the scrum half tracks the ball slightly back from the line. Scotland’s line is basically flat, Kinghorn was back but was covering the full width of the pitch as the wingers are staying flat to the line, he then fails to read the break through by North and gets caught on the hop and there’s no halfback covering across quick enough to bail him out. There was also some stats suggesting Jones has he best missed tackle stats of any international 13 this year (albeit with a distinct lack of NH players in their sample).

    1. I have no idea why there is still a debate especially on here about Huw Jones on Saturday. However Tom English and The Times article on the game really should have done some research before putting it in fact that Huw Jones was entirely at fault.

      Doubt we’ll all agree about who was entirely to blame for the tries but hopefully we can agree that Huw Jones wasn’t the only one at fault and shouldn’t be taking the responsibility for the loss of the match on his own entirely. A combination of many things caused the loss.

      1. North try: Jones indeed at fault for getting sucked into Davies “dummy run and hold onto Dunbar” gig…failed to hold his channel against North…excusable, but an error by HJ nonetheless

        Davies try: Jones was exposed by an insufficient response to Wales quick shift left…couldn’t have done very much more…missed tackle on 2 on 1 is not an error in my book

        Both tries:

        Fullback cover role not fulfilled well, with acting FBs out of position, and not anticipating the play, coupled with overall lack of cover (kinghorn and hastings implicated ..inexperience telling here.)

        Not my own interpretation, so much as what is said in the article 1.8t refers to.

        What is the benefit of not having cover? Must be one…is it simply reducing the workload for wings and SH? Or maybe more to do with defensive breakdown?

    2. The 1014 video on how to be the ABs actually goes into detail about defensive structures and is worth a look.

  18. The Tom English article on HJ was ridiciculous.

    JD try was a brilliant “play” of rugby from the line out to the 2 on 1 that HJ was presented with (ultimately against one of the worlds best centres)

    North try – as analyst states above.

    Rugbypass do a very interesting article on this.

    They also state HJ had best tackle stats for an OC last season.

    Re Saturday I’d still have liked Fraser B @ 7 for his brilliance at breakdown time, likely to be more opportunity to “jackel” given the way Fiji play.

    It will be fascinating to see how easily we beat Fiji……………………….or not

    1. I have to say I agree with Tom English. Harsh as it may be, Huw Jones missed two important tackles which led to their two tries. I’m not saying it was all his fault, just that if he’d made those tackles Wales may not have scored.
      The attempt on North was bad positioning and bad technique, against a guy who all the backs, including Jones, should have been swatting up on and practising how to put down. The JD attempt was bad positioning and bad technique again, although exacerbated by the whole backline being too narrow.
      I like Huw Jones, and he’ll learn from these mistakes but to try and gloss over them and say the blame lies elsewhere is disingenuous at best, if not blind love. The fact that both mistakes led to tries is not the point, it’s the fact that an international centre should not be missing these tackles.

      1. Nonsense.Jones was caught 2 on 1 and never committed to either on time.Timing error however do you want to put the blame on the symptom or fix the problem!!!

        The 2 on 1 was manufactured before it got to Davies and we have no full back or opposite wing tracking the ball.Our full backs are full forward in open play.

        A simple chip and chase over our flat defence would finish us anytime and it would not surprise me if Fiji with speed and strength do not exploit that tomorrow.Rant over.

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