This is the latest in a series of articles started way back with a prospective Scotland World Cup squad. I took it over updating it after the autumn and it’s now time for a revision based on a decidedly mixed Six Nations from Scotland. Some new clarity has been provided though.
It’s a 17/14 squad split as in 2015. As before this is picked based largely on the Six Nations but includes availability following the European
This still looks like a pretty easy pick for the three to travel. There isn’t yet a certainty who should replace Greig Laidlaw from the bench based on George Horne’s limited international game time, or indeed if Laidlaw should even start. Ali Price has, for the moment, secured the 9
If Edinburgh’s European defeat to Munster showed anything, it’s that their style of rugby currently isn’t going to give Henry Pyrgos much chance of a seat on the plane, but could fill a Greig role of “controller” aka The Guy who Played Slow Too Much if there was an injury. Sam Hidalgo-Clyne continues to linger in the wilderness, having gone from Scarlets to Harlequins on loan in search of game time (while of those who stayed Nathan Fowles has signed for Ealing Trailfinders and Sean Kennedy is also MIA at Edinburgh – Sam should fire his agent).
Oft-touted names like Finlay Christie (should he come north at the end of this season) or Ben Vellacott may get a chance in the next RWC cycle especially if Greig retires to the south of France, but certainly in Vellacott’s case I’m not sure that right now he’d be a better choice than the three we have.
Selected: Greig Laidlaw, Ali Price, George Horne
Unlucky to miss out:Henry Pyrgos, Sam Hidalgo Clyne,
Finn showed during the England game what we had pretty much guessed, that the current style of rugby means the tactical approach should revolve around him. He is indispensable to ChaosRugbyTM and the first name on the team sheet.
Despite not featuring much at 10 during the Six Nations tournament, Adam Hastings still looks like the closest backup to Finn in terms of style (and talent). He also unveiled a new layer to his game with a couple of stints at fullback where he looked quite at home. This versatility alone all but secures him a spot.
Pete Horne did play at 10 against France when Russell was injured but the experience was not invigorating. Horne stays in consideration as a centre and once again is likely to feature in the squad due to versatility. Greig can also cover
Selected: Finn Russell, Adam Hastings
Unlucky to miss out: no-one really, sorry Dunc.
I said back in the distant mists of, er, late 2018:
“Huw Jones, Pete Horne and Alex Dunbar are almost certain to travel. Which leaves Duncan Taylor (if he can get fit), Mark Bennett, James Lang, Chris Harris, Matt Scott and Nick Grigg fighting over one spot.”
Things have changed a bit since then and it is still the trickiest group to pick.
Australian-born but now fully adopted Scotsman Sam Johnson did more than enough during the Six Nations to get him straight on the plane. Which makes things harder for some of our old favourites, especially with the further complication of former U20 Rory Hutchinson’s blinding form at Northampton – he’s yet to feature in a Scotland squad but is Most Likely Bolter. Huw Jones being injured (and so unavailable) and Alex Dunbar’s form and fitness falling off a Northumbrian cliff recently muddy the waters further.
Nick Grigg partnered Johnson well to a point, earning the plaudits from legendary 13 Brian O’Driscoll (see below) but there was a lack of threat from his channel which keeps Finn better marked closer in. In any case Grigg recently underwent surgery, so he’s out injured.
The good news is that both Matt Scott and Mark Bennett are back fit and will perhaps be playing together soon for Edinburgh, but with no real idea of their
Pete Horne is versatile and a Townsend stalwart, so he goes alongside Johnson and Hutchinson and for now Chris Harris would probably take the final spot over teammate Alex Dunbar who is working his way back to fitness. I fully expect Dunbar, Jones, Taylor, Scott, Bennett (and possibly Stafford McDowall) to be part of the conversation ahead of the final squad this summer. Hutchinson is still young, but if his form doesn’t drop it could make him very hard to ignore even if he will have more chances in future.
Selected: Pete Horne, Chris Harris, Rory Hutchinson, Sam Johnson.
Unlucky to miss out: Alex Dunbar, Matt Scott, Mark Bennett, Chris Dean, James Johnstone, Stafford McDowall, Nick Grigg (
I was looking for Darcy Graham to shake this list up last time and he’s duly done that despite only a handful of international appearances. His raw talent and pace – not to mention tenacity for a wee guy – mean he’s now all but nailed on for a squad place and should be starting
Seymour*, Kinghorn and Jones are all currently injured so if the squad travelled today there would be some fishing around to be done from a pool including Dougie Fife, Rory Hughes, Damien Hoyland or Glasgow’s Kyle Steyn. Steyn featured most recently in a Townsend squad and has impressed for Glasgow so I’ll give him the unlikely nod.
*Tommy Seymour was pronounced fit to play for Glasgow just after this article was originally posted.
Selected: Sean Maitland, Darcy Graham, Byron McGuigan, Kyle Steyn
Unlucky to miss out: Dougie Fife, Lee Jones (
Stuart Hogg has been nailed on in every one of these we’ve written and this continues even after a Six Nations where he only played one full game.
Selected: Stuart Hogg
Unlucky to miss out: no-one, really.
Scotland Backs (14): George Horne, Ali Price, Greig Laidlaw; Finn Russell, Adam Hastings; Pete Horne, Chris Harris, Rory Hutchinson, Sam Johnson; Darcy Graham, Sean Maitland, Byron McGuigan, Kyle Steyn, Stuart Hogg.
How it looks: injuries once again mean there are a few too many bolters in the selection although Darcy Graham is here on merit. Hutchinson would be an interesting call, as one of the form centres in the British Isles currently and we could see him get a run in the warm-up games if for no other reason to tie him in. Overall we need some experience back in the shape of say an in-form Tommy Seymour, Huw Jones or Alex Dunbar- but there may not be room for them all.
How it could look: George Horne, Ali Price, Greig Laidlaw; Finn Russell, Adam Hastings; Pete Horne, Duncan Taylor, Sam Johnson, Huw Jones; Darcy Graham, Sean Maitland, Tommy Seymour, Blair Kinghorn, Stuart Hogg.
Next week: the forwards.
If you can, keep discussions to the backs selection please on this post – Ed.