Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Townsend announces 2019 Scotland Six Nations squad

Gregor Townsend
Gregor Townsend Scotland - pic © Alastair Ross / Novantae Photography

Gregor Townsend has announced a slightly depleted looking Scotland squad for the 2019 Guinness Six Nations tournament and it looks like even in this World Cup year the Toony Tombola isn’t going to be put into the cupboard just yet.

The list includes 7 uncapped players, three of them hookers (Grant Stewart, Jake Kerr and David Cherry), indicating the struggle to build some depth in that position following injuries to Fraser Brown and George Turner. All three are not yet regular starters for the pro sides but are an injury away from starting a Scotland 6 Nations game. The decision to leave Cockerill with the experience of Ross Ford in the mean time is admirable but does leave Fordy facing the knowledge he is now perhaps Scotland’s 7th choice…

There are call ups for Gary Graham and John Hardie who will be likely to feature in the back row, another area where injuries have hit hard – the erstwhile captain, John Barclay, is yet to return although he had hoped to make the tournament.

In the backs, Chris Dean and Sam Johnson are both in good form and worth their calls. Like Graham (and still-injured Blade Thomson), Johnson was part of the Scotland squad previously but remains uncapped. With the usual suspects of Scott, Bennett, Dunbar and Taylor long on the injured list, we will see some new partnerships alongside Huw Jones. You might not think it to look at him but in terms of defensive leadership certainly, Dean is probably the closest we have to Dunbar.

For sure there is a good, even great XV in there but is there going to be the depth to challenge the top of the table? The 6 Nations adventure begins on February 2nd.

2019 Scotland Six Nations Squad


Alex Allan (Glasgow Warriors)
Adam Ashe (Glasgow Warriors)
Simon Berghan (Edinburgh)
Jamie Bhatti (Glasgow Warriors)
David Cherry (Edinburgh) – uncapped
Allan Dell (Edinburgh)
Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh)
Gary Graham (Newcastle Falcons) – uncapped
Jonny Gray (Glasgow Warriors)
John Hardie (Newcastle Falcons)
Jake Kerr (Leicester Tigers) – uncapped
Stuart McInally (Edinburgh)
Willem Nel (Edinburgh)
D’Arcy Rae (Glasgow Warriors) – uncapped
Jamie Ritchie (Edinburgh)
Sam Skinner (Exeter Chiefs)
Grant Stewart (Glasgow Warriors) – uncapped
Josh Strauss (Sale Sharks)
Tim Swinson (Glasgow Warriors)
Ben Toolis (Edinburgh)
Hamish Watson (Edinburgh)
Ryan Wilson (Glasgow Warriors)

BACKS (17)

Chris Dean (Edinburgh) – uncapped
Darcy Graham (Edinburgh) – 1 cap
Nick Grigg (Glasgow Warriors) – 6 caps
Sam Johnson (Glasgow Warriors) – uncapped
Chris Harris (Newcastle Falcons) – 6 caps
Adam Hastings (Glasgow Warriors) – 7 caps
Stuart Hogg (Glasgow Warriors) – 65 caps
George Horne (Glasgow Warriors) – 4 caps
Pete Horne (Glasgow Warriors) – 38 caps
Huw Jones (Glasgow Warriors) – 19 caps
Lee Jones (Glasgow Warriors) – 10 caps
Blair Kinghorn (Edinburgh) – 7 caps
Greig Laidlaw CAPTAIN (Clermont Auvergne) – 66 caps
Sean Maitland (Saracens) – 37 caps
Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors) – 19 caps
Finn Russell (Racing 92) – 40 caps
Tommy Seymour (Glasgow Warriors) – 46 caps

Unavailable through injury: John Barclay, Mark Bennett, Magnus Bradbury (Edinburgh), Fraser Brown (Glasgow Warriors), Lewis Carmichael (Edinburgh), David Denton (Leicester Tigers), Cornell Du Preez (Worcester Warriors), Zander Fagerson, Matt Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors), Richie Gray (Toulouse), Luke Hamilton (Edinburgh), Damien Hoyland (Edinburgh), Byron McGuigan (Sale Sharks), Matt Scott, Rory Sutherland (Edinburgh), Duncan Taylor (Saracens), Blade Thomson (Scarlets), George Turner (Glasgow Warriors), Jon Welsh (Newcastle Falcons). 

Possible Scotland Team: Hogg, Graham, H Jones, P Horne, Maitland, Russell, Laidlaw (c); Dell, McInally, Nel, Gray, Gilchrist, Ritchie, Watson, Strauss
Replacements: Bhatti, Cherry, Berghan, Skinner, Hardie, G Horne, Johnson, Kinghorn

83 Responses

  1. There’s a good team in that injured list. Where are the commentators that love a line up post when you need them……

    The squad has a very “autumn international / summer tour” feel about it. Glad some guys are getting a chance but surely now is not the time to experiment too much. I think we have a decent shot of the 6 nations but this squad gives me pause.

    Not sure the 6 nations should be used as a building tool towards a WC. It should be a competition in and off itself that we aim to win and right now, when we have a great pool of players and are on a high, is when we need to strike. I’d rather a 6N championship than a quarter final exit at the WC.

      1. Yeah I was a bit quick off the mark ! I had a wee look at the options and it does seem mostly forced.

  2. Think Prygos and Ford and the centre Johnstone will be disappointed the first two for experience and the centre for the form he has shown to be fair Prygos also played well recently still don’t rate Harris but Im not Tonny.

    1. Don’t really know what’s going on with Ford. He’s struggling to get game time for Edinburgh but has looked decent when ever he’s got the opportunity.

  3. Have to say im dissapointed that Price has been selected ahead of Prygos, does not make a hugh amount of sence.

  4. Dunbar is not listed as injured – looks like he’s been dropped.

    Why pick G Graham ahead of Crosbie? Has Toonie not been watching Newcastle?

    1. I wondered about that too. Dunbar’s had little game time in the last few months but Rennie said he had a massive haematoma in his leg after the second 1872 match so thought maybe a bit of both?

  5. Surely Ford is still better than a couple of those hookers? Not long ago he rampaged to 2 tries against Italy.

    Glad for Colin Deans, he deserves the call-up though I think it’s Sam Johnstone who will get game time at 12 as they look for a playmaker in that position. I’d rather see James Johnson in instead of Grigg or Harris.

    Good that Hardie is back, hopefully he is involved and Graham not.

    Surely Hastings doesn’t make the 23, he’s Phil Goldman #2, well short of the required level.

    1. Colin Deans was an great hooker, BLB. while Chris Dean plays in the back line. In my opinion i think maybe Duncan Weir may merit an call up instead of Hastings,as i just feel Duncan may be more solid in game basics rather than an maverick mind set that Hastings has sometimes shown this season on occasion and we already have one maverick in the squad with Finn. Off topic,i do enjoy your comments when you mention Dan Parks,they always make me smile. Thanks

  6. Given that “better than the 2008 team” injury list I can’t quite see who else there was to pick really in a squad as extended as this. Presumably part of it is wanting to see if there is a real bolter in there for Japan.

    I suspect come match time it will settle a little (but only to normal Townsend levels). I do expect quite a lot of horses for courses type selections in the pack though. For example Jonny Gray on the bench at some point and a rotating back row.

    There are some key questions we need to answers to I think:
    Is Skinner really a test match animal or was he a one match wonder? If so is he a 6 or a lock?
    Can Strauss play in test matches now like he played for Glasgow 3 years ago? If not who on earth is our big ball carrier going to be?
    Can Graham and or Kinghorn dislodge the back 3?
    Can Hardie still do a job for us?
    Hastings? Yes or no?
    Is there anybody qualified to play at 12 who is fit and is a first choice in that position? Please. Anybody….?

    And biggest of all. Is Russell reliable enough to take the tee so we can get Horne on the park at 9?

    I worry we will miss Barclay a lot more than we realised when he played.

    1. Interestingly first up against Italy allows him a chance to start Darcy Graham which if he goes well could cement him in as with some confidence and a few caps he’s going to be hard to stop, if not Toony can always bring in Tommy/Sean for Ireland. Could be at the expense of Kinghorn though. If you take 4 wings + Hogg to the RWC it’s tricky to see McGuigan getting a look in if he doesn’t play this spring…

      1. We cannot take Italy lightly. I’d say it’s the fixture with the most pressure on it. Realistically two wins would be a good return from this Championship.

        Hogg-Seymour-Maitland is the back three for the WC.

      2. Why would we select a weaker side against Italy?

        The 6Ns is about building momentum with a settled side.

    2. Dead on with those questions Newhaven Boy! Contender for comment of the week there imo.

      Only one I’d take issue with is Russell’s kicking reliability. Don’t know his Racing stats but last 2 years he’s been pretty consistent, and kicking well under pressure since that Pro12 semi final the year they won the league.

  7. Chuffed to bits to see Turncoat called up if only for the displeasure it will cause Neil. Crosbie’s time will certainly come but he’s not long back from injury and will benefit from a run in the Edinburgh side during the 6N.

  8. Like others, I think Pyrgos and Weir are unlucky not to get a call up, especially when you look at the form of Price and Hastings over the last couple of months. However the latter are the future, and both will benefit from the experience of the 6N.
    A pretty decent starting XV, good enough to beat anyone on their day. Not so strong beyond that though, especially in the front row and midfield.

  9. Which team would you rely on Grigg, Harris or Hastings to start or even close the game out? A waste of 3 spaces in the side, they’ve all got better counterparts who are on form and more experienced.

  10. I think Italy is a huge banana skin if we go in unfocused and complacent. They have some very good back row choices and Campagnaro is a huge threat in the backs. We are fortunate that Polledri and Minozzi are injured, and their front 5 is nowhere near the standard of Italian packs in the past. But if we let them get settled into the game and lack control at half back we will be in trouble.

  11. Does anyone know which of those on the injured list is likely to make a return to fitness within the next couple of months? We could certainly do with a few of them

  12. My first choice for Italy i guess out of what is available would be a pack of


    and backline picks itself bar wing.


    Bench is not as bad as i feared


    1. That’s not a bad side Neil.
      But I doubt your wish of leaving out Wilson will be fulfilled. And I doubt whether Gregor will leave Gray out of the starting XV.
      We’ll have an inexperienced side as it is and Jonny is the lineout caller and never fails to perform. OK he’s not the big ball-carrier or big hitter of some in the 6N, but his tackle rate is phenomenal. Hardie is there as a like-for-like replacement for Watson.
      I’d go for
      Dell, McInally, Nel
      Gray, Gilchrist
      Ritchie, Watson, Wilson
      Laidlaw, Russell
      Kinghorn, Horne, Jones, Maitland
      Stewart, Allan, Berghan, Skinner, Strauss
      Horne, Johnson, Graham
      OK the bench is full of (relative) newbies but they are all impact players and hopefully we’ll have the game sewn up by then.

  13. There’s a real mix here between guys who are certainties for the RWC if they stay fit, those who deserve a chance due to current form, and the ones only picked because there’s no one else at the moment. There’s at least 6 or 7 on the injured list who would be near-certainties for the 23 if fit. But we have to be realistic that our “ideal” 31 for the RWC will not all be fit come September.

    Like others, I think that young Darcy Graham has earned his chance. He has been way more consistent than Seymour this season and, if Toony is going to take one wee gamble in the 6N, I think this is it. While I would have put Sam Johnson in the same category if he had played more this season, I’m not sure it is worthwhile taking too many chances. Horne (P) will surely start at 12, with Chris Dean as injury cover.

    1. You are taking a risk putting such a young and undersized player into a Six Nations match. Townsend paid the price for stupid decisions in the first match last season, I doubt he will do it again. It’s less than 12 months since Graham got monstered under the high ball vs Stade Francais, fielding kicks is probably the biggest step for a winger going up to Test level.

      Seymour had a good autumn and links up well with Russell, Hogg and Maitland. We have failed to build up the correct level of experience in the centres and the backrow for the World Cup. I wouldn’t tamper with the back 3.

      1. His progress in 12 months has been phenomenal, particularly in the last 4/5 months. He has been superb under the high ball and plays like someone much bigger, e.g. his try on Saturday. Put Seymour on the bench and take one little risk in the team against Italy, I don’t think it’s too much to ask.

      2. The fullback he ran over on Saturday evening is 19 years old. It was impressive to watch but it’s completely irrelevant to test match rugby.

        He is improving but he will have to improve more. He has had good games but he also played in the defeats to Dragons and Zebre.

      3. There’s merit for picking seymour and graham atm.

        Not sure SB why not doing well under the high ball a year ago is relevant now? Cockerill wouldn’t be starting him if he hadn’t improved in that area and he has played superbly since he’s been selected. Also playing in defeats to zebre and dragons is completely irrelevant. Stuart Hogg played for scotland in their loss against USA. So lets drop him along with the 22 other players. Sounds about right…

        Seymour does have experience on his side and does link well with Hogg but I think he’s just as much a risk as graham as graham has outperformed him for months.

      4. Its a risk starting Graham but one which will pay off, look at that italian wing who broke through last six nations and tore the place up, Darcy is better than that guy and he sets the tone/intensity defensively surprisingly.

        I think if he does well against Nandolo at the weekend then he has earnt a starting spot against Italy, wont get much harder test than against that behemoth.

  14. What’s happened to Lang – able to leave him out now he’s capped ? Or just dropping down the order ? There was something a couple of weeks back ( admittedly only on social meedja ) that he was heading for Embra next season.

    1. Honestly feel its neck and neck between Lang, Weir and Hastings. Hastings before the 1872 cup was seen as the messiah but despite his poor games recently I think has more potential so makes sense to keep him around the squad. Weir is a known quantity and Lang I’ve heard has been playing ok but nothing more.

  15. Pretty much as good a squad as could have been expected given the injuries various players have, with only a few players, as always, a little unlucky. The gaps in our squad are obvious and we can only hope that the fates are kind to us in the tournament in terms of any further injuries.

    We need to develop momentum by making the most of having Italy up first at home. That’s never happened before and it’s only the second time ever that we’ve faced Italy first up. Contrast this with the fact that Ireland have had Italy first up a grand total of 7 times in the 6Nations…conspiracy theorists have fun with that one.

    The fixture list is about as kind as it possibly can be and we need to make the most of it.

    Nothing other than a conclusive “bonus point” victory should be demanded or expected..time for a bit of the Richard Cockerill style mentality to be exhibited by the Scotland team.

  16. There will no doubt be injuries ahead of the 6 nations especially as both Edinburgh and Glasgow have 2 absolute brutal match-ups this weekend (A pity Edinburgh were denied the try against Montpellier first up as I would personally liked to have wrapped McInally up in cotton wool).

    Its difficult to predict the toonbola, but I think you can probably pick the team as it stands based on how Toonie sees each player working to his gameplan, combinations and to a lesser extent current form.

    I suspect then it will be an all Edinburgh front 5 – Dell, McInally, Nel, Gilchrist, Toolis (Gray hasnt done enough to oust the partnership) – i think Backrow is Skinner, Watson, Wilson (though would like to see Ritchie in there) Halfbacks are Greig and Finn. Centres are Horne and Jones (I think this is the best partnership for the style). Back 3 is interesting as i cant call this one as easy to what I think will be the selection process, but if I had too I think for Italy he goes experience – Maitland, Seymour & Hogg but Graham and Kinghorn would be mightly aggrevied on current form.

    1. Jonny Gray has started 19 of the past 20 Six Nations games.

      He doesn’t have to displace anyone.

      1. I think you are probably right, but its my view to view the locks as a pair and I prefer Toolis and Gilchrist. Their primary requirement is lineout wins/steals and mauls and then the push in the scrum – I think Gray has many fine attributes especially in defence / loose play but i can’t see him in a pairing that works better than the Edinburgh duo

  17. Thanks Rory. What about Xander. He must be close? I have a strong suspicion that a lot of the injuries, many lower leg, are down to artificial turf. On a different subject, I would pickRoss Ford ahead of most hookers after MacInally, Brown and maybe Turner.

      1. If you listen to the most recent warriors podcast, Zander was on it and said he had just started light running, lineout training etc with the full glasgow squad, i would not be surprised if he is called up for the 2nd game in six nations.

    1. If I recall rightly, Xander’s injury was when he was stationary and an opp player fell into his leg.

  18. Italy will relish the prospect of Hastings ,Grigg or Harris coming on , or God forbid , any or all 3 of them starting. If any player who has never won in a six nations for Scotland starts against Itay, then I’ll put in a vote of no confidence for GT

      1. Hey Stu , you mean like Warren Gatland was last year , or Conor O’Shea will be this year, if GT was to take the same opinion as you ?

  19. V Italy I’d go
    Hogg, Maitland, Jones, Johnson, Seymour, Finn, Laidlaw.
    Strauss, Watson, Graham, Skinner, Gilchrist, Nel, McInally, Dell
    P.Horne, Kinghorn, G.Horne, Hardie, Gray, Allan, Berghan, Cherry .

    Harsh on Ritchie but no Dunbar & Brown leaves us vulnerable at the breakdown.

  20. Is Dunbar injured? Haven’t been paying much attention since the AIs as I am refusing to pay for premier sports to watch the odd game of rugby. Could be worse, an injury / not picked list like that in recent years would have given me the fear, but when you see the names that have made it, there’s a lot of quality in there.

    We are a bit bare in some areas, hooker especially, Brown will be missed. Will also miss brothers Fagerson and most of all John Barclay, I like Greig as a captain but I think our successes last year in no small way due to Barclays leadership and old school grit and determination. Backs worry me less even with that ludicrous injury list at centre, any one of them could argue for a starting shirt when fit. P Horne and Jones would be my starting centres anyway, I think we now see Hastings as the backup 10 rather than P Horne.

    1. Have you looked at Freesports? Every week they have two 1-hour programs of highlights from all games.

  21. I would pick the most brutish pack we can field full of snarl and aggression and hardness with a plan to unleash Watson in the last 20 against tired legs.


    A backrow of Skinner, Graham, Strauss would be interesting and give us real old fashioned bulk.

  22. I really don’t get all the hate for Hastings. Yes, he has had a few slightly under par games the last couple of months but has also played some superb rugby this season.

    1. Fraser why did you use the word hate? No-one else did, nor did anyone express the sentiment. For me he’s simply not above Weir in the pecking order. Where is the hate in that Fraser?

      1. I wouldn’t take the word hate literally in the context used Sas. You really missed the point there.

    1. Let’s be honest, if it’s not back for the Ireland game it’s too late.

      Keen to see if Kinghorn can push on and Graham step up. Tempting to wrap Hoggy in cotton wool for Ireland.

      Reid will be a miss as there’s no solid scrummaging loosehead here. Going to be destroyed by Ireland. Imagine McInally takes a knock and at some point it’s Dell, Stewart, Berghan.

      Like to see Johnson Jones in the middle.

      Gilchrist and Toolis probably earned a start against Italy.

  23. Pretty much an A’s expected squad given injuries, maybe harsh on Pyrgos & possibly Ford too – while having the experience, he hasn’t played much this season. Having said that, which hooker do you put on the bench, it’ll be one hell of a baptism for at least one of them. Surprised Dunbar not included given his experience & injuries to other midfielders, unless he too is not 100%, though he does seem a bit out of favour. Toonie will have to use someone other than P Horne at 12 at some point & again, a tough call between Dean or Johnson, maybe Johnson shades it due to his overall skill set but then he’s short of match fitness. Probably prefer Grigg to Harris as cover for 13, hope Jones stays fit & rises to the occasion again. We’ll miss Barclay but should be able to get a decent back row together – Ritchie, Strauss/Ashe & Watson with Wilson as cover. Given current injuries, likely that GT will have some experimentation, which is ok provided there isn’t a total lack of consistency. Really hope that Brown, Barclay & Scott return to fitness soon, would feel more comfortable then.

  24. I’m worried that a lot of players will run out of steam, it’s a long old season with the World Cup plus the additional champions cup matches this year, injuries are already starting to take their toll.

    I think the key match for our 6 nations will at home to Ireland so it will be important that we go into that game in the best possible shape and that the players are as fresh as can be for that game. Equally so after coming off two huge final champions cup group matches that could decide the season for both the club sides. I know Italy will target us hard as possible win so need to be wary of them but also a chance to blood maybe one or two players and use a few players that have had a lighter workload this season, so they’re ready for the tougher games ahead. I would like to see Nell, Watson, Gilchrist and McInally rested or used sparingly in the Italy game as I think they could be crucial to how successful our 6 nations will be.

    I know this is unorthodox but possible that Tooney will go for a 6/2 split on the bench against Italy so to rotate that pack and preserve them for Ireland who will be following up a hugely physical game with England.

      1. They are very much at the early stages – fairly unremarkable both of them IMO.

        Toonie must have said the Ford is finished, as he was looking quite spritely in that Embra match he started last month and would have been perfect as a stop gap until Brown and Turner returned.

        This 6Ns is not a time to be blooding apprentice hookers.

      2. Cherry has looked solid enough when I’ve seen him playing for Edinburgh but nowhere near the level of McInally. Grant Stewart played well in his last match and has a huge challenge up against Jamie George at the weekend so could be a good indicator of whether he can step up to international level.

      3. Ford can’t be older than, for example, Best so odd that he’s been binned if he’s playing well.

    1. It’s hard to tell whether Ford is playing well as he’s been getting so few starts.

      But the game he started in Dec – he looked spritely and keen. I would certainly have had him in the squad in view of the injuries.

  25. Is Gordy Reid injured? If not, he would have been in that squad for me. Only 12 months ago he did a very good job for us in the six nations and is a proven scrummager. If dell gets injured then we are pretty light in that area and bhatti and Allan don’t exactly inspire confidence.

  26. Cheers dude.

    He had a shocker for Racing at the weekend. But the fact they have him kicking shows something I think. There are other place kickers in that side.

  27. From a personal viewpoint, having watched a fair bit of both Glasgow, Embra and the Gallagher grindfest I am disappointed that Pyrgos, Weir and James Johnstone aren’t in the squad. I realise that contingency planning for an injured Russell is necessary but when you consider how abject Hastings form is and how well Weir has been playing it must be a kick in his guts to be left out. Re scrum half, Pyrgos again has been playing better than either Price or Horne. I’d have went with Horne and left Price to be a steady experienced head at Glasgow during the six nations. Injuries really have denuded us of some (IMHO) guaranteed members of the 23: Barclay, Brown, Dunbar, Taylor, Bradbury, R Gray but as has been pointed out, ten years ago with that many injured we would have been facing a whitewash. I remain ever optimistic but hope GT doesn’t go all left field on us again and gets their preparations right for the italians.

    1. Hey Allan, very well put. Not that I’m one the moan , but just one little over sight I think, from the injury list is Mr Bennett. Cheers

      1. I’d disagree I don’t think Bennett would be near the 23. His form pre injury wouldn’t have justified it.

        I would also look to remove Dunbar from the list as he’s not listed as injured in the squad list, which means he’s either fit, or he’s injured but wasn’t considered for selection anyway.

  28. I think Tommy Seymour put his name on the team sheet yesterday if there ever was any doubt. Ryan Wilson was also having a great game before he went off and as was Sam Johnson.

    Ali Price had another very good game as well. I’m not sure who will get that bench spot.

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