Horne takes reins against France

Gregor Townsend has made four changes to the side that lost to Ireland, largely enforced by injury.

Magnus Bradbury will start at blindside in place of Ryan Wilson – no less than the Edinburgh man’s very recent form deserves but he is still just back from injury. He starts alongside Edinburgh’s Jamie Ritchie and Josh Strauss. In amongst all the noise about his passport it should be remembered that Strauss had one of his best games in a Scotland shirt against France in Paris last time out so this game might suit him.

In the back division Pete Horne, Nick Grigg and Blair Kinghorn replace Finn Russell, Huw Jones and Stuart Hogg respectively.

Some big shoes to fill, but although it is a major shuffle from a Scotland point of view there will be plenty of familiarity amongst players that have been used by Dave Rennie at Glasgow more often than some of the men they replace.

It also means change on the bench with Grahams Darcy and Gary (no relation) coming in to the side along with Zander Fagerson. This could also be the highest incidence of the letter G in a Scotland team, ever.

France have picked a fairly different team too, the question is which team will hit their stride first – and can they sustain it?

France: Ramos; Penaud, Bastareaud, Fickou, Huget; Ntamack, Dupont; Poirot, Guirado (capt), Bamda, Vahaamahina, Lambey, Lauret, Iturria, Picamoles.
Replacements: Chat, Falgoux, Aldegheri, Willemse, Alldritt, Serin, Belleau, Medard.

Scotland: Blair Kinghorn, Tommy Seymour, Nick Grigg, Sam Johnson, Sean Maitland, Pete Horne, Greig Laidlaw (capt); Allan Dell, Stuart McInally, Simon Berghan, Grant Gilchrist, Jonny Gray, Magnus Bradbury, Jamie Ritchie, Josh Strauss.
Replacements: Fraser Brown, Alex Allan, Zander Fagerson, Ben Toolis, Gary Graham, Ali Price, Adam Hastings, Darcy Graham.

Referee: Nic Berry (Aus)

Stade de France, Paris
Kick off 14:15 GMT


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!

77 comments on “Horne takes reins against France

  1. TeamCam on

    When was the last time there were more Edinburgh players in the starting XV than Glasgow players?! Love the look of the team – solid, hard and with some flair players to join in the fun. Delighted to see Darcy Graham in the 23, too.

  2. Scotty on

    Pretty much as expected. Grigg is an interesting one but I guess his familiarity with Johnson has given him the edge over Harris or Johnstone. Decent looking bench considering the injuries, hopefully we can play smart and tire them out during the first half and let Price, Hastings and D Graham run riot in the second half. I didn’t see an injury list, is Hardie still out or has Gary Graham been picked over him?

  3. BazzaM on

    I’m underwhelmed by Horne and Grigg, both great club players but I can’t see us playing at any pace nor with any flair with a laidlaw Horne axis. If Hastings is the future then he needs to be trusted. Very disappointed and expecting a turgid game.

      • BazzaM on

        No I think laidlaw Horne as a pairing won’t inject enough pace to stretch France and everything will get bogged down in midfield. I’d be very happy to be proven wrong

      • Stu2 on

        I know, when that 9th try went in I thought – i’ve had enough of this turgid nonsense and went and juggled a couple of tarantulas.

    • Matto on

      Laidlaw-Horne have combined to beat France previously, albeit in a very strong lineup on that particular day when Hogg, Taylor, Dunbar, Nel, Richie Gray, Barclay and Hardie were all fit!

      • Jp07 on

        Horne has been instrumental in our big victories over the past couple of years. Doesn’t grab the headlines but we wouldn’t have won the Calcutta cup without him. He is subtle, skilful and deceptive. If you don’t rate him you don’t know rugby

      • Not rocket science on

        Rate Horne at international level as a useful utility back – covering 10 and 12 from the bench, but think there’s a bit of survivor bias in him being involved in all the best victories. Would not want to rely on him for a full tournament at 12, because alongside another playmaker it’s too vulnerable defensively against the best and biggest teams, he’s not quick enough and is prone to brain farts at key moments (without the same risk reward factor as other players). Counter intuitively, I prefer him at 10 where his pace is less of an issue, he has to be more focused and his rugby understanding & leadership is in play. With Johnson lining up outside him, that’s a pretty decent balance. The problem for Horne is that there are one, probably two, more naturally creative players with better passing, running and kicking games in Russell and (on form) Hastings; Russell is better in just about every facet of the game and Hastings played him out the Glasgow team in the first half of the season with his running game. Then at 12, if fit and firing, you’ve got quicker, stronger players – Johnson, Taylor, Dunbar. I hope he controls things tomorrow because if he solidifies his position at 10 it bodes well for the business end of Warriors season and is a great back up and off the bench option for the WC. Also, one of these days be cool to see GH at 9 and PH at 10 for Scotland.

  4. Referendum on

    This is almost what I would have picked certainly first fifteen. Delighted. Best of a bad situation. I think we’ll win after a wobble earlier in week. Graham will do well. Let’s home we’re back I this championship by 4:15 on Sat.

  5. Historic Banffshire on

    Are we worried about Grigg lining up against Basteraud? Or maybe not, seeing the big man rarely gets the ball above walking pace. I think GT is right to pick his own team, and not worry about the formation of the opposition and it keeps the Glasgow connection in midfield, which Harris wouldn’t have done.
    Happy with Horne at 10, I think he’ll do a good job. He has the composure which Hastings is lacking at the moment, but he’ll get there.
    I think the forwards look good, and agree with Alex Allan as LH replacement.

  6. Stu2 on

    “it should be remembered that Strauss had one of his best games in a Scotland shirt against France in Paris last time out so this game might suit him.”

    I once hit a hole in one at the 3rd on Braids 2 – never managed it again.

  7. Warks Scot on

    Probably the best pick with currently available players & have enough skill & brawn to get a win if everyone nails the basics. A hefty back row & decent pack generally; just hope the likes of Brown, Fagerson & Bradbury are match fit after returning so soon from injury. I really hope Grigg gets his human cannonball act fully functioning this weekend – yes he’s a bit shorter than your average centre but he’s no flyweight & that strength, power & speed in a relatively compact package can do a lot of damage to the opposition. Will be great to see Darcy Graham get a run out, he’s looked very impressive for Edinburgh this season.

  8. Warks Scot on

    Probably the best pick with currently available players & have enough skill & brawn to get a win if everyone nails the basics. A hefty back row & decent pack generally; just hope the likes of Brown, Fagerson & Bradbury are match fit after returning so soon from injury. I really hope Grigg gets his human cannonball act fully functioning this weekend – yes he’s a bit shorter than your average centre but he’s no flyweight & that strength, power & speed in a relatively compact package can do a lot of damage to the opposition. Will be great to see Darcy Graham get a run out, he’s looked very impressive for Edinburgh this season.

  9. Newhaven_boy on

    Like Bradbury at 6. So long as he is fit enough I think he could make it very hard to pick somebody else in future at that position.

    Backs are what they are given the injury crisis. There are alternative options and views but I don’t see any other option as being outstandingly better than these ones.

  10. DJB on

    Agree probably best team available. Regarding backs, Grigg has had an underwhelming past performance for Scotland but his recent Glasgow form has been excellent so he deserves another shot. He also possesses ‘pin-ball’ qualities which might suit the France game. Regarding Horne vs Hastings at 10, difficult one. Horne edges it on experience and recent club form. Hope to see Darcy Graham on at some point. Surely one of the best attacking new prospects at the moment.

  11. Rich on

    I’m fairly happy with the side, all things considered.

    I might have gone with JJ over Grigg, purely because he dealt with Basteraud comfortably when Edinburgh lined up against Toloun, but I can see the benefit of having that pre-existing paring from Glasgow. Especially on players so light on caps.

    Hastings would have been preferable if he had been in form, but he’s not, so Horne is probably the sensible choice. An away game in the 6 nations, is probably not the best time to try and help a player find form again.

  12. Rj on

    Understandable grigg picked over Johnstone given familiarity over the systems with previous involvement. It is however a bit of kick in the stones for Harris as he has been around and about the past few squads and numerous caps, if he can’t make the squad now that’s pretty much it for him I would say. I would really like to see Johnstone get a shot in the last two games, particularly if we don’t win on Saturday it would be good to integrate him into the squad/systems with a view on the World Cup. He has been the best 13 in the country by some way this year and is getting better. Jones has been poor for a year now, Dunbar likely past his best, Taylor always injured, bennet always injured. we need other options.

    • DesT on

      It is a real shame for Johnstone and Harris, but maybe GT is looking for familiarity.

      I’m happy with the pack though, and hope that Johnstone gets his chance soon.

    • RuggersB on

      Yeah we need to find a centre to compliment Johnson, who I think has become a 1st choice already.
      Being without Taylor has been disappointing…easily our best all round centre. He’s finished though I think. Dunbar is finished at test level too..I think GT is moving on from him.
      Hopefully Bennet finds his way back…a great prospect in his early years.
      Scott I don’t think GT really rates.
      Jones was a much better player when he played his rugby in SA…seems to have progressively gone backwards at Glasgow.

  13. Stu2 on

    Its a measure of the depth we have accumulated that we are still going to Paris with thoughts of victory – our injury list is ludicrous, but that is still a strong side.

    I am not Horne’s biggest fan – but he’s done it before is experienced and whilst prone to at least one enormous brainfart ever game, at least he’s not a 19yr old Centre starting at 10 in a test match for the first time.

    Excited to see our flankers in action – I never thought we would see them starting a test together this early but they are both fantastic talents.

    • Newhaven_boy on

      Its oddly Scottish of us to have so much depth at flanker but not at No 8. We do seem to traditionally struggle with certain positions but have a lot of talent at others.

      We seem to be a nation of flankers, scrum halfs and fullbacks.

      • Stu2 on

        I think it fits in with our national psyche – scrappy fighters.

        When I coached youth rugby for 10yrs all the best players wanted to be flankers and scrum halves.

      • Newhaven_boy on

        All the way back to my time as a kid the big heroes where Laidlaw,Irvine and David Leslie. Then Armstrong, Gav, Jeffrey and Fin Calder*.

        Anyway back to the usual chat.

        *Fin Calder should be a statue on the side of portrait gallery in my opinion.

      • Rob on

        We seem to be a nation of flankers, scrum halfs and fullbacks…… Can we not count Laidlaw in that statement please

  14. Johnny b on

    Not a bad team considering the injuries.
    I was an advocate of Hastings but I understand his form has been patchy.
    Townsend should stick with the fast game. Even with all the injuries the backline has tries in it.

  15. Scotty on

    Pretty much as expected, the only curveball I guess is Grigg but, as others have mentioned, I guess Toony is looking for his familiarity with Johnson. I’ve got no doubt Johnstone’s time will come.
    I’m hoping for Horne and Laidlaw to play a clever kicking/territory game and that Bradbury and can continue his ludicrously good kick chase from last week. If we can tire the French out with some smart play in the first half we have some electric back subs to come on and do some damage.

    On another note, considering our first choice backrow (Wilson, Barclay and Watson) are all out, how good is that starting backrow!! I didn’t see an injury list, wonder if Hardie is still out or if Graham has been picked ahead of him?

      • RuggersB on

        I can see Ritchie and Bradbury being very hard to displace at RWC time. Despite GTs love of Wilson…and that he played reasonably well in his 2 games.
        Ritchie and Bradbury are better players IMO. As is Crosbie. Watson is our best 7. Id like to see Matt Fagerson groomed as a 7 ..not a 6 0r 8(he isn’t big enough)
        Barclay 32 and coming back from a major injury?.. will he get back to where he was at? maybe/maybe not.
        Strauss 32 is a short term fix as an 8…in an absence of natural 8s. Id like to see Bradbury groomed as an 8 ..he has the size and game style.

      • Matto on

        I also have hopes for Bradbury to fill that role of a powerful, dynamic 8. He’s also got a bit of dog, which is good to see. I also like 8 to be a proper try scoring threat, which Bradbury is, unlike some of the competition for the number.
        If Bradbury can prove himself as a test match animal, then Ritchie, Bradbury and Watson works for me.

  16. James on

    The preview article highlighted that France have let in the most tries. With most of these coming from good tactical kicking by England I hope Laidlaw and Horne have been practicing their kicks with Seymour, Maitland and Kinghorn chasing. Although perhaps if the french are overly worried about kicks and focussing on staying deep that will leave gaps for Johnson and Grigg to attack.

    Seems a bit harsh on Harris who many on here had been saying was finding his international feet to be leapfrogged by Grigg and miss the squad completely. Particularly as Grigg has never exactly fired at international level. I really hope he’s learnt to keep in the defensive line and doesn’t fly out creating holes for a very attacking french backline to take advantage of. I take it if Grigg gets injured Horne and Johnson slide out one and Hastings comes on?

    Really looking forward to this one. As long as we don’t play like the second half against Ireland we’ve got a chance. If we shoot ourselves in the foot again in an away international the coaches will have some questions to answer.

    I hope the fitness of those just back from injury is up to it!

    • FF on

      France have an actual fullback lining up on Saturday, and a very good one at that. I wouldn’t presume we can repeat England’s trick.

  17. Sas on

    I’d like to have seen Horne back in centre over Griggs, and Weir start at 10. I’d like to see Grigg prove me wrong by running around or out stepping opposition players , rather than running straight into them, as tough as he must be , he doesn’t seem to find the angles. He a bit like one of those toy cars that you wind up and let go and it’ll only go in a straight line.

      • Sas on

        Did I say put him at 13? And yes some centres are interchangeable, not only are centres interchangeable Stu, but as you will learn as you begin to grasp how rugby is played , that players in other positions are also interchangeable.

      • Big Al on

        Most of the analysis is saying that in the last 2 games the backline was missing someone running straight to fix the defense and create space on the outside for our back 3. My slight concern is that due to the height difference Bastareaud might rip Griggs head off if he tries to round him at speed. I actually think we might see more of Kinghorn, doing a bit of a Hoggy, and coming in to the line at pace as first or second receiver leaving Maitland to cover the back field.

      • Andrew McGavin on

        Jones’ great asset has been running straight and at speed, with small but deceptive changes of direction so he can round defenders. In the last year, he seems to have lost a bit of confidence and timing and therefore pace, so has been drifting more and straightening less. I think this is why Grigg is getting more game time at Glasgow.

        Love your toy car analogy, Sas. Those things go really far really fast – unless they run directly into a piece of furniture (Bastareaud?).

    • Stu2 on

      So you want to put a 12 at 13 who is earning his 3rd cap to fit in a 12/10 at 12 and bring in a novice at 10?

      Great idea.

      • Stu2 on

        Sorry it’s worse than that – you want to play a kicking 10 who hasn’t played test rugby for 3yrs.

        Great idea.

      • Sas on

        Thank you Stu, I see your coming around to my way of thinking, yes as you are aware of the fact that Weir plays 10 week in week out and having bags of international experience then slotting in to fly half will be as natural as Bradbury coming back in at flanker. Yes all centres in the modern era are interchangeable , how do you work out that Weir is a novice? But yes I must agree with you , I do have some great ideas.

    • RuggersB on

      Feel a bit sorry for Weir. Does the best he can…but GT simply doesn’t rate him or see him play in his team structure…kinda like Matt Scott. Should just be left to do his best at club level.
      Must feel kinda mucked around.

      I think in large part because of injuries GT has little idea what his best team will be come RWC time. Other sides seem to have far more settled sides. Instead of challenging for the 6N we seem to be testing out players for test level. Injury list is worst I’ve seen.

    • Rich on

      Weir isn’t good enough. He’s playing for the 2nd worst team in England and has been found wanting at international level pretty much every time he played.

      That’s not to say he’s not a decent mid to lower club player, but he’s not suited to International rugby or a team with European aspirations.

      Running straight lines is something that Jones (for example) was praised for back when he was in form. Grigg wouldn’t necessarily have been my first choice, but I can see the merit in him and his ability to find space and break a tackle.

      • Highland Bear on

        Agree with you that while Scotland as a team have moved on, Duncan Weir the player has not. A game club player but his ability and skill shortcomings meant that he was never an international quality player. That he and Jackson gained the caps they did is an indication of the lack of depth in their position at that time. While the depth of squad has improved to the point that a reasonable team will take the field on Saturday, at fly-half Scotland has one international quality player, Russell. On his day he may even be world class. hastings has the potential to be an international quality player in the position but at present is very much a work in progress. Pete Horne has experience at international level, although his skill set make him better suited to inside centre, but is a safer bet, given Hastings’ loss of form.
        One benefit of the spate of injuries is that a number of international quality players have emerged – Ritchie, Johnson, Kinghorn – and are starters. We’ll find on Saturday with Bradbury and Grigg can make a similar step up.

  18. Not rocket science on

    Pleased to see Grigg over Harris. Would have liked to see Johnstone, but hopefully Grigg proves himself or France are woeful. Hoping DG gets a decent run out, as he’s the future. .

  19. WP Neil on

    If you could bring back 1 forward and 1 back unavailable for this test match who would it be ?

    Personally i would go WP Nel and Duncan Taylor

  20. Big Al on

    I think Toony has picked a decent team given the injury crisis he is facing. Good to see some boys coming back and a few more returning for the clubs.

    My one big concern for this game is the kicking from hand as the French would not need much encouragement to run from deep. What is making me nervous is every time Glasgow kicked the ball to Cardiff last week they scored through a combination of poor kicking and poor tackling. Hopefully Toony has had a word with Horne about when to kick and everyone has been doing tackling practice all week. Maybe they’ve had Turner trying to run over our potential 13s so see who can stop him.

    Our restarts have improved with Hogg getting lots of height and the wingers getting there to disrupt so hopefully we have a new plan or Hogg has been showing Horne the way.

    Also worry about clearing to touch as both Hogg and Russell have big boots and can make good distance for clearances. Maybe I’m just reliving the memory of Pete Horne failing to make touch against Italy at the end of the game in Murrayfield a few years back.

    Hopefully it all goes well, that memory can be overwritten, and we can consign 1999 to the record books as well.

      • Fraser on

        Presumably Horne as there isn’t really an alternative that’s better in this team. I don’t think they would put that extra pressure on Kinghorn.

        Don’t think we will be going for super distance.

        I hope we keep ball in hand and don’t try to copy England and end up kicking possession away all the time – it’s unlikely to work 2 games in a row. Keep possession and run the big french players around to tire them out, then maybe there will be more space towards the end

  21. Big Al on

    I think this French team is the most balanced they’ve put out this year and possibly the best counter attacking team in the 6 nations when things are happening for them and the weather is good. We need to start this really well or the confidence will build in their young half backs. Really need our flankers to be sacking Ntamack and Dupont from the start so they know they are in a game. Then when we have the ball we need to be forcing their big guys to keep running by keeping the ball in play for as long as possible and constantly moving the point of attack.

    • Rob on

      Then when we have the ball we need to be forcing their big guys to keep running by keeping the ball in play for as long as possible and constantly moving the point of attack….. sorry, but with Laidlaw they can walk back to their defensive position and the point of attack will be the 3 forwards just on Laidlaw’s shoulder! What scares me is what is the French scrum half going to do to us

    • FF on

      Don’t think the French pack is particularly big or immobile in this weekends selection. Doesn’t mean they are well conditioned but we shouldn’t expect a bunch of lumbering monsters to take the pitch – well except Vahaamina.

      • JohnMc on

        Someone said further up this chain that they felt we dropped the pace and intensity in the second half against Ireland.

        Looking back, and alongside a few other things that went wrong for us in that second half, it’s a good observation and made me wonder whether the side was possibly not as Test-match fit as they, and we, thought they were?

        That’s the end of my stream of pessimism. It’s a good 23 considering the number of high quality players unavailable.

        So now ready to travel with a lot of hope to a sun-kissed Paris for the weekend.

  22. Weeman on

    Fully trust GTs choice and more excited about this test than any in a long time. Admittedly lots of uncertainty but frankly looking back over the last 20 years there is so much exciting talent coming through the ranks we are way ahead of the ‘dark’ years. Genuinely think we can do this. Edinburgh and Glasgow have laid the foundations and we now know how to beat French teams. On form forget Huw, he was way off form and Grigg started ahead of him regularly.

  23. Saltire62 on

    It would appear that the answer to the question “what is the point of Chris Harris being in the Scotland squad?” is none!
    As others have said he as been in and around the team/squad for over a year now yet when the 13 shirt is up for grabs he doesn’t even make the team bus (unless he is travelling water carrier.)
    He is obviously a useful club player but to my mind has never looked comfortable playing for Scotland and always looks a bit at sea. Does this mean GT has binned him?
    Pretty happy with the selection and much as expected given availability; not sure about Grigg at this level but makes sense to go with Glasgow 10,12 and 13 and I hope he goes well. I have to say James Johnstone is the form centre at the moment and may yet force his way into the reckoning for the world cup.
    As an Edinburgh supporter chuffed to see Darcy Graham in and really hope he gets more than a token 5 minutes.

    • DesT on

      The only reason is can see for dropping Harris is the lack of familiarity with Sam Johnson and Seymour. Personally I’d have had James Johnstone as he is in form, agree with others posters who have stated that Jones was just there on reputation.

      I do think that Jones either needs to move on or fight for his place in the Glasgow team, he just seems to be marking time at present.

  24. Referendum on

    I think we ran out of steam in last ten but that was more to do with a lost cause at least realistically at that stage. I’d say ref decisions and clumsy errors took away momentum in second half more than anything. We are fit. Global gym may match us now in that department but not France. Got to be a major tactic to tire them out for last 30. They’ll be blowing by then if we’ve done a half decent job. Given that so many tackles and mainly solid defence can’t have helped so we do need decent percentage of possession.

    Hornes error with the kick was the first of 4 major errors which compounded which is what we aren’t doingo as much these days. His error was the only one you could excuse. He ripped his hamstring in the act which was the major contributing factor.

    Our defence and team work in pushing back Ireland and general organisation is the best I’ve seen from Scotland. We need that against France and stop the ridiculous which surely can be sorted easily.

    Excited. Just hoping we break through the ceiling finally. No excuses culture is well in now. Let’s take the points on offer and win this one. I’m going for a 5 try to 2 win for The Scots.

  25. Busy Little Bee on

    Think Hardie featured for Newcastle last weekend so this smacks of GG picked ahead of him on some kind of warped merit. GG had his chance against Italy and was found wanting. Still, I’ve had a bet on France so fine by me this time. What the stats in the other article tell you is that France are small details away from putting together a top performance, it somehow feels inevitable that will happen tomorrow.

    • DesT on

      If you have Hardie on the bench you’re only covering 7. He either starts or you look for cover across the back row, which GG gives us as the last man standing.

  26. Big Al on

    Any bets on Hastings coming on and doing a Toony flip to Kinghorn to score under the posts in the last minutes. That’s how to bring to an end a losing streak in Paris! :-)

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