Scotland team to face Italy

To blood the new or stick with the old? An opening fixture against Italy offers a rare opportunity to ask this question, and the answer, for Gregor Townsend at least, seems to be “stick em in there and see what happens”.

The result is that centre Sam Johnson will start for his first cap, while Newcastle’s Gary Graham and Leicester’s former Scotland U20 hooker Jake Kerr could make debuts from the bench.

In the backline Townsend has gone with most of the players you would expect to be cornerstones of the coming season: Hoggy, Huw Jones, Finn, Greig and so on. Johnson and Sean Maitland aside, that’s our first choice backline although Darcy Graham is pushing hard to be part of the conversation. It’s a settled unit at this point and that is a GOOD thing.

The pack is a little more interesting, where he’s picked as much of the Edinburgh team as possible. That means that Sam Skinner at 6 is less of a surprise than the total absence of Jonny Gray in the 23, with double back-row cover on the bench instead.

With any luck a strong XV like this should be able to see off Italy, but looking at the bench there is work to be done to match the quality of Ireland’s replacements next week… Gray, Pete Horne and possibly Maitland all still have injuries to recover from but could play a part.

Scotland: Stuart Hogg, Tommy Seymour, Huw Jones, Sam Johnson, Blair Kinghorn, Finn Russell, Greig Laidlaw (capt); Allan Dell, Stuart McInally, WP Nel, Ben Toolis, Grant Gilchrist, Sam Skinner, Jamie Ritchie, Ryan Wilson.
Replacements: Jake Kerr, Jamie Bhatti, Simon Berghan, Gary Graham, Josh Strauss, Ali Price, Adam Hastings, Chris Harris.

BT Murrayfield, 2nd Feb 2019 (live on BBC)
KO: 2.15pm

Squad players unavailable through injury: Jonny Gray (shoulder), George Horne (shoulder), Pete Horne (shoulder), Lee Jones (knee), Sean Maitland (hamstring), Grant Stewart (shoulder).

The Italy team will be announced shortly and feature in Part II of Kevin’s preview tomorrow.

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Alan Kerr is a long time rugby lover and occasional player for Broughton FP RFC. Site co-founder Al prides himself on offering the "man on the bus" view of Scottish Rugby!

94 comments on “Scotland team to face Italy

    • Cammy Black on

      Great positivity greengumbo! That’s what I like to see. Time to get excited about the Six Nations. It’s only Italy so what a great chance to try out some new guys and others like Harris who’ve got a point to prove.

      • Sas on

        Hey Cammy, it’s that attitude that will be your undoing ‘only Italy’! Like GT must have thought on the first game last year , when he decided to try out rookies ( including ‘the man in the mirror Harris’) ‘it’s only Wales’ , at this stage of the competition you start the best team available , so not to be caught out in disarray by a ruthless, hungry and, leaving nothing to chance Italy. I do hope we do well , but in the professional era of the six nations international coaches don’t experiment unless their hand is forced to. Hey Cammy GT may call you up to hold the mirror for Harris.

  1. Referendum on

    No Maitland, no Peter Horne and no Jonny Gray. Injuries surely???? No idea why Harris is there but seems he’ll be getting 10 caps for doing very little for Scotland. Should be enough to beat Italy. Not sure about Ireland though.

  2. Stu2 on

    That’s a shocking bench – I swear Toonie picks some players as a wind up.

    Why exactly is Graham a better bench option than Hardie when we already have another backrower on the bench – more to the point why is Graham even in the squad.

    I cant even be bothered whinging about Harris.

  3. Newhaven_boy on

    Based on recent club form its also possible Gray has been dropped. The three locks picked are all arguably playing better at the moment.

    Graham is probably in to tie him up for good before he changes his mind again.

  4. Scotty on

    Solid looking XV but a little light on the bench, would have preferred Darcey over Harris but I guess he edges it due to versatility. Looking forward to seeing Russell, Johnson and Jones with some front foot ball. Shame not to see Hardie, he is rated a lot higher that Graham at Newcastle so not sure the reasoning there. Will be good to see some of the injured lads make it back later in the tournament!

  5. JohnMc on

    It will be fascinating to see how a front five that’s doing so well in Pro 14 and European rugby fares at Test level on Saturday.
    Bags of pace behind the pack that could seriously worry the Italy defence given enough front-foot ball.
    Interesting back row combination there. Hope it clicks.

  6. Toonie's Advisor on

    I worry about some of you! Are we going to go the same way if Cameron Redpath, Ben Vellacott and others currently choosing England change allegiance to Scotland? It seems a bit fickle!

    Gary Graham has selected Scotland and Scotland have selected him. We aren’t exactly blessed with an abundance of abrasive ball carriers. I’d have had Hardie on the bench too, but at the expense of Strauss.

    Not surprised but unimpressed with Skinner at 6. Hopefully this is a one off for a specific reason, we really need a natural back row player there when we face the Irish.

    Pleased to see Sam Johnson get a run from the start but suspect thats down Pete Hornes injury. Hoepfully he goes well and gives Toonie a headache when Horne is fit.

    Why oh why is Harris on the bench? Darcy Graham completely deserved a chance on his current form and we have other ‘better’ centre options in Chris Dean & Stafford MacDowall. Hope I’m wrong about him, but he seems like a journeyman to me.

    • Stu2 on

      Graham’s nationality, accent, beard, national team choice means nothing to me Toonie’s Advisor – IMO he’s not good enough as anyone who has watched Newcastle this season will testify.

    • Johnny B on

      You haven’t been watching Exeter Chiefs then.
      Skinner instrumental in their defeat of Saracens and also the game they should have won at Thomond against Munster.

  7. James on

    Fair to assume that Skinner is covering the 2nd row? must be a long time since Scotland played without a Gray in the 23!

    I expect that Graham is on the bench to see what he can do at this level with an eye on the RWC. Neil, we all know your thoughts on Graham and we all know you know everyone else’s more reasoned responses to perhaps it’s time to agree to disagree and move on rather than bringing it up repeatedly?

    The bench doesn’t seem too bad but I agree on Harris, I’ve yet to be convinced. Although there have been comments on this site that it takes 10+ internationals to get up to speed so here’s hoping that Harris starts to repay Toonie’s faith in him. And perhaps that Johnson shows that it can be done in one!

    Having seen some of the other teams it is going to be one hell of a tournament if everyone plays to their potential! I’m hoping we’re on the right side of narrow hard fought games for a change rather than the wrong side. And that our away form improves immeasurably from previous seasons!

  8. Busy Little Bee on

    Presumably guys like Gray and Hardie are being kept back for the 4 tougher matches to come. I doubt all those listed as injured really are. Hardie is much better than Gary Graham, not even close. Even with all the injuries in midfield it’s hard to see how Harris is ahead of guys like Johnstone and Dean.

    Hastings isn’t up to it, not yet anyway. Too flash with little to back it up.

    We’re a couple of injuries away from having pub team players on the park on saturday.

    I’ve had a bet on 20/1 Italy.

  9. Alanyst on

    Personally, would prefer Graham on the wing over Kinghorn, thats his spot, week in week out.

    Hope Johnson goes well.

    Loosehead still a bit underwhelming, with neither Dell nor Bhatti first pick, but no-one else to pick I suppose. Might be OK this week but a mighty challenge next week.

  10. Warks Scot on

    Actually quite pleased some fresh blood is in the 23; players have to debut at some point & we need to look at options given the small player pool. Skinner presumably starts in back row to give it some heft after last years failures at the breakdown. Ritchie deserves his spot though might have started with Strauss & Wilson on bench to cover across the back row. Hope Graham has a good run off the bench – will hopefully stop all the totally unwarranted hatted from certain posters.
    Back line is pretty much as expected given a heap of injuries in midfield, Kinghorn at wing also provides cover at FB given Maitlands absence. Harris has shown glimpses of what he can do & again provides flexibility so can see why – for now at least- he’s in the 23.
    A large winning margin would be a great start but really just want to make sure we get the win first. At last something to cheer about in the gloomy atmosphere of Brexit … but then might we only have 4 nations next year??

    • greengumbo on

      The 4 European teams in 2020 (Ita, Fra, Ire, Sco) can bring in Georgia to start a new 5 nations.

      The Anglo-Welsh cup can be fought over in splendid isolation.

    • greengumbo on

      but yes I’m excited by this team.

      I think Johnson is going to love playing outside Russell and his bag of tricks.

      Even seeing Russell play is going to seem fresh. I think we forget how brilliant he is to watch as a spectator.

  11. Cammy Black on

    Guys, I’ve been through and already deleted comments abusing other commenters and one abusing a player in an unacceptable manner. The offenders are well aware of the rules and have been reminded in the past.
    There is a minority ruining the chat for others and we have started to receive complaints about this.
    We enjoy the chat and the majority of it is good natured and insightful and great for talking points for the podcast.
    Please play nicely and don’t engage with trolls or anyone posting who’s blatantly trying to hook you with some absolute bobbins. Engaging only encourages this behaviour. Ignore it and it’ll go away.
    I don’t want to start handing out CamBans(TM) again but I will if I have to.

  12. Fraser on

    Starting 15 is fairly solid given injuries but as has been said the bench is a bit weak in some areas and if we haven’t closed the game out by 60 minutes it could be squeaky bum time.

    Likely repeating what everyone else has said but….

    Darcy Graham really unlucky not to be playing – miles ahead of Seymour on current form.

    Wilson seems undroppable as usual, would much rather see Strauss.

    Chris Harris obviously has a copy of the same photos Wilson has… (although I don’t know how many other fit centres we even have in the squad as alternatives).

    Will be interesting to see how Johnson and G.Graham go.

    All of the players on the injured list (that are in the squad) – apart from maybe Lee Jones – would have a good chance of being in the 23 if they were fit. Hopefully will see some of them next week.

    • Ben F on

      Strauss is polarised. Great against France otherwise average. Even at Glasgow he was hot or cold. Wilson is consistent, middle of the road and we may need his skills in diplomacy if Italy come out punchy.

      I guess the Chris Harris and Kinghorn selection provides cover from centre to fullback (I still dont get Harris but its Toonies job, his reputation) .

      He has also got contingency goal kickers in Kinghorn & Hogg for long range , Laidlaw and Hastings to cover Russell.

      Hopefully we dont need a kicker to close out , mind you, how many 6N games are settled on or after the 80 mins in recent years

      As we know with Italy, smart sides take the points on offer and let them chase the game.

    • Ben F on

      I should have said, I think Seymour edges it as he is used to linking with Hogg. He has been tempremental lately but he has played a lot of big games .

  13. Merlot on

    As with others, I see nothing wrong with the starting XV. Ryan Wilson is an experienced campaigner so going for Skinner-Ritchie on the flanks means he has to start. If Toonie had opted for Ritchie-Hardie I would’ve gone for Strauss at 8.
    I feel for Darcy Graham but if Johnson-Jones doesn’t work we need a proper centre, and although Harris hasn’t yet performed in the Scotland jersey he’s been a stalwart for Newcastle and deserves a second (third?) chance.
    I hope (nay, expect) us not to notice the absentees, because apart from a couple that bench is far from full-strength. Good chance for the 3rd/4th/5th choices to put their hand up.

  14. RuggersB on

    GT always likes to include a wee surprise in his selections…which is fair enough…as the opposition coaches thoroughly analyze the expected selections.

    GT mentioned Italy’s linout and drive tactics…and so three 2nd rows in there to break that up.. I’d guess. Not disappointed to see J Gray out…he hasn’t progressed at all from being a tackle merchant.

    Thought Hardie would be in there…. and I’d have picked him ahead of Strauss…who, like J Gray, just looks mediocre to me.

    luckily Price has been slowly recapturing some form.

    Wilson at 8!!… I just don’t get it… but GT certainly does…picked every time it seems.

    Exciting looking backline. Maitland is consistently very good …but Kinghorn has more flair and needs the experience. Harris may or not breakthrough…GT sees something there for sure.

    Would have picked Bhatti over Dell… he looks a much better player to me. GT wants the Edin front 5 though…which is fair.

    • Toonie's Advisor on

      J Gray & Maitland injured as per SRU page.

      Think Maitland would have started if fit.

      Agree with everything else you have said.

      Would include Dean in those unlucky not to be included too. He has been in coutstanding form for Edinburgh.

  15. Matto on

    I’m looking forward to this. I’m going to stand up for Wilson too. He’s a well-rounded (not psychologically obviously) player, but he attracts disdain because he’s not the power forward that everyone wants to see in the back row. I don’t think we have a player who fits that role who is actually consistently better than Wilson.

    We need to win this one or the tournament could be catastrophic. Ireland are looking imperious, Jones has named a very solid back-to-their-strengths England squad too. Wales are doing their best to come in under the radar, but are quietly confident, and we’ll see what France we have after the weekend.
    With our nearest neighbours all looking very strong it’s going to be a great test of how we can now mix it. The realist in me says slogging it out with France for 4th. Anything above that would be an achievement. A great performance and win to get the ball rolling on Saturday to fan the flames of hope would be nice.

    • Referendum on

      Matto, I agree that Wilson unlike Harris so far has credit in the bank and will do many things that people don’t see that helps a team go in the right direction. A bit like Harley who nobody is touting but I think is unlucky not to have added to his 20 caps in the last two years.

      I’ve yet to see Wilson as a penalty machine to the level of Jim Hamilton who wasted 10 mins of game time with his handbags when we needed to get back into the game. Fagerson senior must rein this in when he’s back unless we’re winning. He needs to be smarter with his noising up of the opposition.

      I hope Wilson comes up trumps and uses the experience he has in what is a talented but incredibly cap shallow squad these days. Be interesting to see the cap level from now to say the match against New Zealand in 2017. Yes we have injuries but we are not in the same place we thought we would be less than a year out from the world cup.

      • thebigiam on

        I agree. We don’t have a world class 8, and Wilson is has a pretty solid all round game. More to the point, we had a torrid time at the breakdown in the Autumn. Wilson will be a proper pest there. And given that Skinner is out of position, and that neither he nor Ritchie have a 6 Nations start to their name, it makes perfect sense to start Wilson at 8.

  16. Jontymo on

    I cannot understand why people want two natural open sides in our team. It doesn’t work for anyone else (you’ll find most Aussies don’t agree with playing Pocock and Hoper together).

    Other than NZ, who let us play, every good side in the world recognises that the way to beat us is to challenge us in the line out and the tight and to dominate our lightweight carriers in the loose. We should know already that England, Ireland and Wales will try and strangle us with forward power. For that reason I can totally understand Skinner at 6 (I thought Carmichael might graduate into that position before his long term absence).

    As for Darcy Graham, if he doesn’t start, he doesn’t get in the 23…I’m not overly impressed by Harris but he can cover centre as well s wing. As for whether Blair is better than Darcy as a wing, I think the jury is out on that one.

    As for the pack….quite a tribute to Cockerill and Grant at Edinburgh, isn’t it? Pity Mata and Schoeman don’t qualify and Watson is out injured…..

      • Toonie's Advisor on

        I think the form he was in you would have been foolish to drop Ritchie. His ball skill level is the best of all our back row options and he never misses a tackle.

        I would have had Skinner on the bench if Watson was fit.

        For me the real pondering comes when Barclay is fit. Do we play him at 8 and keep Ritchie at 6 or drop Ritchie to the bench??

      • BigAl on

        If Barclay was fully fit, I’d start him as captain, have a serious think about our scrum half options and put Ritchie on the bench to cover 6 and 7.

      • Stu2 on

        If we go into the RWC with our No 8 options of Wilson, Strauss and Barclay then we will get nowhere.

        We should have played Ashe against Italy – why not, he’s actually an 8.

      • Jontymo on

        I like both of them, especially for Edinburgh, but without a dominant No. 8, I think they’re too lightweight a combo at full international level. Same problem with Barclay there too.

        I still think Skinner-Watson-Thomson might end up being our back row combo…

      • SB on

        Did you see Ashe play last Friday?

        Italy have a very strong back row even without Pollederi so we can’t afford any passengers.

    • thebigiam on

      I’m not certain about that, Jontymo. In the England game last year, we beat them with turnovers. I am a big fan of playing two 7s – and in the vase of Barclay and Watson, I think they are just two of our best players. That said, there will be times when that isn’t the approach – mainly when a referee isn’t keen on competition at the breakdown. Or if Barclay and Watson are injured :D

      I’ve had the same thought as you about Carmichael – he has the potential be the running 6/8 we’ve been looking for in a couple of seasons time…

      • Jontymo on

        Thanks for the reply.

        I think that what we gain at the breakdown we lose in ball carrying and line out presence. You are perfectly right, our ability to win ball in the breakdown contest beat England last year (and Stuart McInally had a huge say in that too) but that does rely on an indulgent referee…and what we gain there, we lose elsewhere.

      • Matto on

        Don’t forget Magnus. Of all the options i think he has the size, mentality, and skillset to fill that role in the backrow.

  17. Scott M on

    A lot of people complaining about Harris on the bench, but seem to forget he covers both the centre and wing. Dean and McDowall are out and out centres and picking either of them either leaves us with no cover for a winger or if we have a winger (like D Graham) on then no cover for our centres, that would force us to move Russell out to 12 and Hastings into 10. I suspect if Pete Horne was fit he’d be taking up a bench spot instead of Hastings and we’d have room for the likes of Darcy.

    As much as I like Hardie, I do want to see what G Grahams made of and this looks like the game to do it. He’s a totally different player to Hardie, a bit more of a 6 and less like a 7.

  18. BigAl on

    Based on who is fit and available I think its a good team. I also think there will be a few changes for Ireland as players come back and Toony picks horses for courses.

    Really hope Johnson goes well. I’m thinking he’s like an Australian version of John Leslie that plays with the rest of the Glasgow backs. The success of the game could well come down him being on the same wavelength as Russell and manipulating space for Jones and Hogg to run through.

  19. Newhaven_Boy on

    I think we still have to get our heads round the idea that Toonie probably won’t play the “first 15” until the Ireland match in Japan. If there is even one in his head.

    Partly I think its tactical based on the opposition, partly he still wants to work out who goes in the wider squad and also protecting the players from over work over the next few months.

    You can disagree with it as a way of working but its what he has done his whole career as a coach and he’s done OK so far.

  20. Kyle Paterson on

    Dunno why Chris Harris keeps getting picked, other than that, and would have George Horne on the bench over Ali Price, fair team. Especially considering injuries

    • Johnny B on

      George Horne is injured + Ali Price has been playing really well for Glasgow.
      Chris Harris is actually a very good player. You might say he’s a little raw – he did come to the game quite late – but he’s a great athlete.
      He’s the kind of player Townsend would have loved to develop when he was the Glasgow coach.

      • Referendum on

        He could be all these things but is he deserving of Scotland caps for what he has done for Scotland so far? I haven’t seen Dunbar recently at all but he would do much more for me off the bench than Harris. Not saying Dunbar should be there but he should be in front of Harris. Darcy Graham is really unlucky too. I understand what Scott is saying and covering two positions is useful if you are you good enough on either of these positions. Is he? I haven’t seen much yet for Scotland. I hope he comes off the bench and begins to change our minds.

  21. Johnny B on

    Glad to see Skinner in.
    Back in December Exeter Chiefs gave Saracens a thumping and a couple of weeks ago they really should have beaten Munster at Thomond.
    Skinner was at the heart of both performances and against Munster he played on the blindside.
    We don’t appreciate him because we don’t see him, but I think he’ll be a special player for us, and a real point of difference in a pack full of high work rate and ball handlers but probably lacking a bit of grunt. England were hacked off to lose him, and they always value good forwards.
    Harris is also a good player. He’s never been forgiven for Cardiff last year by some fans, but a debut at the millennium is a big ask and he probably should have been blooded on the Summer tour. He’s big, fast, has a good work rate, good defense, a good step and is actually a good footballer too. He’ll develop.
    I’m glad also to see Sam Johnson getting capped. Glasgow have 4 international centres and Rennie usually starts with him. Rennie knows his stuff, so that says something.
    Good luck to the boys. We need to get on top of an Italy side with nothing to lose, but if we do we should have too much for them.

    • Rich on

      That wasn’t Harris’s debut. It was against Samoa at Murrayfield in the autumn (where he was equally not very good). Wales was his first start, but he had already played for us.

      He’s played 6 times and has generally been poor in each test.

      I’m not saying he won’t or can’t improve, but so far he’s done nothing at Int. level to justify the faith Toonie is showing in him. However, he in theory, can cover a couple of positions so probably gets on the bench because of that.

  22. john on

    Agree re Johnson, he may finally be the 2nd 5/8 we’ve lacked since John Leslie, really exciting back-line if we get front foot ball.
    Its the getting that front foot ball that slightly troubles me, playing with 2 6s and a lock in the back row doesn’t fill me with confidence re the breakdown (no Brown, Watson or Dunbar either). V Argentina when re slowed the ball down showed how to negate our attacking flair.
    I’d have had Hardie & Graham starting.
    My mate a Falcons season ticket holder thinks Graham is superb.
    Nevertheless I can’t see Italy beating us & I’m hoping for Hogg, Russell & Johnson getting the ball in space

    • Johnny B on

      Ritchie is a bit of a jackler and Sam Skinner plays at 6 for Exeter quite often.
      The Exeter pack is outstanding.
      They totally outmuscled Saracens in December and, frankly, they should have beaten Munster at Thomond a couple of weeks ago.
      Skinner is a key component of that pack.
      If he wasn’t going to start in the back row, then he would have to have started in the 2nd, and who would you drop? Toolis and Gilchrist both having outstanding seasons.

  23. Johnny B on

    The thing about Ryan Wilson is that no matter how many people knock him he keeps getting picked.
    Must be a reason for it, eh?
    Actually, it’s pretty obvious why he gets picked.
    He’s not a blockbuster, but…..
    1) He’s aggressive
    2) He’s dynamic. Yes, he’s actually fast if you bother to watch him. Put him through a gap and he goes like an outside back.
    3) He never gives up. He’s a competitive player.

    These traits are worth something and you shouldn’t devalue them.

    • SB on

      The first half in Cardiff 12 months ago showed the value of Ryan Wilson as did the Glasgow performance at Sarries after he went off.

  24. Scrummo on

    Quality team. Pleased to see bulk on the bench with 226kg of abrasive backrow carrying to come on in the second half. Sorry to see Gray injured but the Edinburgh partnership is exactly that, a partnership and a great one at that.

  25. TheSmidge on

    I’m with most commentators, in that the first XV is about the best available. Picking Johnson at 12 IS a risk. Picking any debutant in the first game of the 6N is a risk, regardless of who they are. But, other than sticking with Wilson (why, Toony, why?), then I can’t grumble about the starting XV.

    The bench, however, I am concerned about. A debutant hooker, a LHP who has had limited game time this season, a debutant flanker whose teammate probably should on the pine instead of him, a fly-half who has lost his early season form, and a centre/wing who is yet to convince at test level. I would LOVE for us to have the match put away inside 60mins so that its not a problem, but that doesn’t stop me having concerns.

  26. Stu2 on

    I wish people would stop with this nonsense that the coach always knows best – our sides throughout the years are littered with coaches follies.

    Toonie doesn’t see something we dont in Harris – but like a lot of smart coaches he’s arrogant about his selectorial abilities and he’s digging his heels in. Harris is a journeyman for the side anchored to the bottom of the EPL – as is Graham, however the sainted Toonie has made his mind up and that’s it.

    We have enough in the 23 to win handsomely, but i’d rather we did it because of selections rather than despite.

    • Campbell B on

      Oh yes, at last a fellow realist. He does have an arrogance . Well known for it ‘his way or no way’.

      Gary Graham = borders bias,Gala players both of them. It runs deep.

      It is getting towards the time when he needs to deliver. Mind you the SRU, are unlikely to change it for the same reasons.

      What will be the changes when Dodson and Johnson go, will we go back to the future ? I wonder !

      • The iMan on

        You’re not really ‘realists’ tho’ more like one-eyed pessimists, to be fair. There certainly is a player in Harris which is why he’s rated and in Graham just give him a chance he might prove to have the right stuff. He’s got other options that he can pursue if he doesn’t think one avenue is worth travelling down. We cannot afford to be narrow with our selections in a World Cup year

      • Campbell B on

        Oh dear I man has missed the point and answered a point that wasnt made with a borderline insult of “pessimism”. If you are a whey aye man , canny bag o tudor crisps Newcastle fan and cannot wait to see your players in the jersey , just say so, it is ok .

        In time Harris will be forgotton and Toonie will be forgiven but there is no point denying that he is stubborn and thinks he knows best.Last year against Wales that attitude resulted in a shamfull whipping and we are still experimenting on the 6 nations opener against an enemy that sees Scotland as the one team they can beat. It is just an opinion however just to help me through my knowledge gap and ignorance can anyone tell me what Townsend sees in Harris.What on earth does Townsend see in this man that sets him apart from the crowd? Lets hear it!

      • Matto on

        I like Toony. He doesn’t come across as arrogant and will admit when he gets things wrong, whilst not dwelling on the negative and seeking to set the progressive path forward. He’s still in his early days as a coach, but has done well in that time, much to my initial surprise.
        He is experimental and i’m sure will be viewing things from different angles and with much greater insight, with respect to short and long term dynamics than the vast majority of us ‘supporters’.
        In terms of his way or no way – he seems to invest heavily in observing and seeking the knowledge of a variety of successful sports people and teams. He wisely values the input of those more experienced than himself and probably ignores the vast collection of generally negative viewpoints of less experienced armchair critics.
        I agree that we have had some seriously problematic selectors in the past, but i don’t personally think Toony, even with his Tombola, should be tarred with that brush. He has the right core group, nobody has been marginalised suspiciously/unfairly, he is hamstrung by depth in a number of positions and is continually trying to improve that – a substantial challenge given the unique circumstances of Scottish rugby.

  27. BorderBadger on

    I love the 6 nations because it’s the best rugby tournament in the world. Nothing compares to it emotionally, not even the World Cup.

    I also hate the 6 nations because some of the emotional bullshot that it brings out in people who are (mostly) otherwise pretty sensible is infuriating! We have a phrase in my line of work that says “assume positive intent”. Assume that everyone, players, coach, etc want the same things as us fans.

    So for what it’s worth my thoughts on the team.

    The starting 15 is pretty much the best one that Toony could select given the injuries. In am, however, convinced that Toony believes that it IS the best he can select given the injuries. And I’m also fairly convinced he knows better than me! The only contention seems to be Skinner at 6 but he’s played well there for Exeter and I believe both he and Exeter see him as an 8 in the long run so that could be an answer to our issues there. The other issue seems to be the inclusion of Wilson but he’s a nasty abrasive piece of work that (according to the podcasts) many people don’t like playing against. Give me one of those in my team every day!

    So to the bench. Front row picks itself. Only real question may be Kerr but even the English press say that the Leicester pack are the only thing that’s still good about the club so there’s every reason to give the lad the benefit of the doubt.

    Graham gets it as he can cover 6/7. Hardie is an out and out 7.
    Strauss covers 8 and, at a push, lock. Skinner also covers lock.
    These replacements will ensure our scrum doesn’t become too lightweight.
    Hastings covers 10/12 (with injury to Horne who else ?)
    Harris covers 13/11/14 with Kinghorn covering FB. I’m not convinced of Harris either but in the absence of Dunc Taylor who else? Graham is not (yet?) cover for 13. That doesn’t mean that Harris is our next best 13, just that Toony thinks he’s the best bench cover!

    So that looks like a solid team and bench to me given the injury situation.

    • Viverax on

      Thanks for this post, which sums up the selection issues very well for me.
      Totally agree about the “emotional ballshot” posts too.

    • Stu2 on

      We dont need Graham covering 6/7 as we have Ritchie and Wilson starting both who can cover the whole of the backrow.

  28. Ben F on

    It is a good job we have them at Murrayfield . They will hope to catch us when cold, best chance in the opening game so a tougher encounter then we ideally want. We have always moaned how we never get an easy start, however they will see it as their best chance in the 6N. It will be feisty , all or nothing for Italy .It is tough at the bottom.

  29. Not rocket science on

    Exciting back line – can’t figure out what I want to see more: whether Russell brings Racing form, Johnson proves how good at everything he is (fully expect him and Jones to find gaps given the angles they both run), Jones shows lack of form to be rubbish (he’s being managed at Glasgow), Kinghorn steps up his shout for a permanent wing berth, Seymour steps up defence of his berth and gets back to his best, and Hogg ready to tear up the tournament, again. Would have preferred Strauss or Ash starting to Wilson; and Reid to Dell but that argument was already over. I think we could – maybe should – have seen Darcy over Chris Harris (both Kinghorn and Seymour cover 15, Johnson covers 13, Hastings and Russell cover 12) similarly Hardie over Graham (there are three locks on the pitch, Wilson and Skinner can play anywhere in back row, Strauss on bench for 8. Hardie on with Strauss in the second half would have had an impact.

  30. Csc on

    Abysmal advertisement for the game of rugby. Wales did not impress and France were inept throughout. But, my chief concern is that yet another no arms- shoulder charge goes unpunished. World rugby may claim that player safety is paramount, but match officials seem to be oblivious.

    • FF on

      France looked like 2000s era Scotland. No matter how well they looked to be playing, they can find a way to lose. Really if we don’t win in Paris this year we have no business going around saying well challenge for the title. I hope Wales stay that poor all championship. They did nothing and were bloody awful really.

  31. Busy Little Bee on

    Great night for Scottish rugby. Women and u20 lose to Italy, 7s team loses to Spain and Gatland goes home with a grin on his face.

    Get your gold on 18/1 Italy tomorrow.

  32. Fraser on

    I have no idea how France managed to lose that game. Wales were poor and only a couple of very lucky moments/poor french decisions let them off the hook.

    From that performance, I would be much more concerned about playing France in Paris than wales at (bt) Murrayfield.

  33. john on

    One thing from last night………….we have a genuine chance against both France & Wales. The French were in control in the 1st half, the Welsh making far too many errors, the French showed you can score tries against them. Wales showed the French scrum can be “got at” & the French are prone to the regular odd moment of top class buffoonery

  34. the iMan on

    Yeah what on earth did Toonie see in try-scoring Harris? Arf!! :D
    And what on earth is canny bags of Tudor got to do with Rugby? Village missing its idiot I fear lol.

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