Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Scotland’s World Cup Training Squad Announcement

Duncan Taylor - pic © Al Ross/Novantae Photography
Duncan Taylor - pic © Al Ross/Novantae Photography

Gregor Townsend today named a 42-man training squad in preparation for Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan this September.

Former Scotland U18 and U20 centre Rory Hutchinson is rewarded for an impressive season with English Premiership side Northampton Saints, while Blade Thomson (Scarlets) earns a recall, having recently returned to club duty, having missed this season’s Autumn Tests and Guinness Six Nations with a head injury. Saracen’s Duncan Taylor also returns to the squad having been out all season with an injury but his versatility has perhaps been too hard to ignore given the intensity of tournament rugby. There’s also a recall for uncapped Grant Stewart meaning the dream of Ross Ford’s fourth world cup is probably dead.

The biggest omission is Richie Gray who has been pulling up trees for Toulouse in the Top 14 and Europe after his return from injury. However, a further two spaces in the squad remain unfulfilled (one forward and one back) with Townsend keeping the door open for those operating “at the business end of the season” to play their way into the group.

That probably means Matt Scott and Mark Bennett are out of contention for the remaining spot as their season is over. Bennett was injured during the 1872 Cup and Cockerill expressed concern at the time but there has been no further news from Edinburgh or Scotland. Bennett was one of Scotland’s stand out players during the 2015 World Cup, earning himself a nomination for World Breakthrough Player Of The Year, however aside from an Olympic Silver Medal in the Sevens he has struggled for form after a gruelling set of injuries.

Glasgow’s Kyle Steyn is an example of someone who could yet make the wider training squad, which will then be trimmed by 13 men down to 31 for Japan.

Just under half (14) of those named today featured in the 31-man squad that reached the quarter-final of the 2015 tournament in England. John Barclay (2007 and 2011) is the only player competing for a third outing although he missed out in 2015.

There are three uncapped players (Thomson, Hutchinson and Grant Stewart).

Glasgow Warriors contribute the most players to the training squad with 17, while Edinburgh provide 13 and clubs outwith Scotland offer 12.

“We made a conscious decision to keep squad numbers low, which enables us to do more work with those most likely to be on the plane to Japan. We’re really excited to work with this group of players who will now compete hard for a place in the final 31-man group going to the world cup.

There are of course a number of very good players who have missed out – players who have been unlucky with injuries this year or haven’t hit form at the right time – while others are unlucky to lose out on some very close decisions.”

Gregor Townsend

The first block of preparations will see the squad divided into smaller skills and strength and conditioning groups to accommodate post-season breaks for those in the knockout stages of domestic or European Cup competition.

Most will then be given three weeks off to update their Instagram accounts and will return from mid-June onwards to intensify pre-season preparations at Oriam, Scotland’s National Sports Performance Centre.

There will be three residential camps in Scotland and a hot weather camp in Portugal, before four home-and-away Summer Test matches against Georgia and France (in Nice) begin in August to complete the squad’s pre-departure preparations.

There is no news yet on whether the squad will be required to kill and skin any small animals this time around.

“We look forward to building closer relationships with each other and improving as a squad during our training camps, while this opportunity to be together for longer means we can add a couple of things to our game to help us get closer to reaching our potential.”

(positional breakdowns are ours, not official)


Simon Berghan (Edinburgh) – 19 caps
Jamie Bhatti (Glasgow Warriors) – 13 caps
Allan Dell (Edinburgh) – 22 caps
Zander Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors) – 19 caps
Willem Nel (Edinburgh) – 29 caps; Rugby World Cup 2015
Gordon Reid (London Irish) – 34 caps; Rugby World Cup 2015

Fraser Brown (Glasgow Warriors) – 42 caps; Rugby World Cup 2015
Stuart McInally (Edinburgh) – 27 caps
George Turner (Glasgow Warriors) – 5 caps
Grant Stewart (Glasgow Warriors) – uncapped

Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh) – 33 caps; Rugby World Cup 2015
Jonny Gray (Glasgow Warriors) – 51 caps; Rugby World Cup 2015
Sam Skinner (Exeter Chiefs) – 5 caps
Ben Toolis (Edinburgh) – 18 caps

Back Row
John Barclay (Edinburgh) – 71 caps; Rugby World Cup 2007 and 2011
Magnus Bradbury (Edinburgh) – 7 caps
Matt Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors) – 3 caps
Gary Graham (Newcastle Falcons) – 2 caps
Jamie Ritchie (Edinburgh) – 10 caps
Josh Strauss (Sale Sharks) – 22 caps; Rugby World Cup 2015
Blade Thomson (Scarlets) – uncapped
Hamish Watson (Edinburgh) – 25 caps
Ryan Wilson (Glasgow Warriors) – 43 caps; Rugby World Cup 2015

BACKS (19)

George Horne (Glasgow Warriors) – 4 caps
Greig Laidlaw (Clermont Auvergne) – 71 caps; Rugby World Cup 2015
Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors) – 24 caps
Henry Pyrgos (Edinburgh) – 27 caps; Rugby World Cup 2015

Finn Russell (Racing 92) – 44 caps; Rugby World Cup 2015
Adam Hastings (Glasgow Warriors) – 11 caps

Nick Grigg (Glasgow Warriors) – 9 caps
Chris Harris (Newcastle Falcons) – 8 caps
Pete Horne (Glasgow Warriors) – 41 caps; Rugby World Cup 2015
Rory Hutchinson (Northampton Saints) – uncapped
Huw Jones (Glasgow Warriors) – 21 caps
Sam Johnson (Glasgow Warriors) – 4 caps
Duncan Taylor (Saracens) – 21 caps

Darcy Graham (Edinburgh) – 4 caps
Stuart Hogg (Glasgow Warriors) – 67 caps; Rugby World Cup 2015
Blair Kinghorn (Edinburgh) – 11 caps
Sean Maitland (Saracens) – 40 caps; Rugby World Cup 2015
Byron McGuigan (Sale Sharks) – 8 caps
Tommy Seymour (Glasgow Warriors) – 50 caps; Rugby World Cup 2015

(times are local)
Saturday 17 August – France v Scotland; Allianz Stadium (kick-off 9pm)
Saturday 24 August – Scotland v France; BT Murrayfield (kick-off TBC)
Saturday 31 August – Georgia v Scotland; Dinamo Arena (kick-off TBC)
Friday 6 September – Scotland v Georgia; BT Murrayfield Stadium (kick-off TBC)

(times are local)
Sunday 22 September – Ireland v Scotland; International Stadium, Yokohama (kick-off 4.45pm)
Monday 30 September – Scotland v Samoa; Kobe Misaki Stadium (kick-off 7.15pm)
Wednesday 9 October – Scotland v Russia; Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa (4.15pm)
Sunday 13 October – Japan v Scotland; International Stadium Yokohama (7.45pm)

92 Responses

  1. The Blade Runner and Hutchie are two great additions to the squad and could really add something, both will be in contention for the final cut and I am looking forward to seeing them both get capped in one of the French games in August.

    I think RG has done enough to go already but he just wants to see how Cummings performs in the pressure of the knock out games coming up for Glasgow. He has the chance to show Toonie that youth will trump experience on this occasion if he can pull out the performances of his life in those games.

    Other than Steyn, it is hard to see who the other back might be, unless he has got someone up his sleeve that we have not thought about!

    It is Toonie after all!

    1. It could be a similar situation to what you’ve described with Cummings/Gray – he’ll call up Scott or Dunbar, unless Steyn does something magical in the final stages of the PRO14, if he can get picked ahead of Johnson/Jones/Horne (think Grigg is still injured?)

      1. It seems as though Steyn is Rennie’s first choice 13 with Grigg injured so I expect him to get an opportunity against Ulster.

        I think the squad shows we are a little light on 12s, especially when you consider DT’s game time, so I would not be surprised to see Scott get the call up as the last back, though I would have liked to see Duncan Weir in at least at this stage.

        Toonie must really rate Blade Thomson considering how little he has played since he arrived in the Northern Hemisphere and that he has absolutely no international experience. Like Grahame, I am looking forward to seeing him and Hutchison get a run during the warm ups and hopefully DT is fit and firing by then too.

  2. Overall looks good.
    I’d have liked Duncy Weir ahead of Harris just as an option at 10 as Pete Horne can’t play there to international standard.
    Skinner as cover for back row/2nd row and Richie Gray ahead of Gary Graham would be preferable for me as well.
    I really hope Dunc Taylor is nearly ready to play again!

  3. I dont see the point in Richie Gray having to prove anything – he’s playing very well for a side flying high at the moment and has enough credits in the bank to be selected.

  4. Richie Gray is an odd one, unless he has an injury being kept quiet. As Stu2 says, we know enough about him, and he must be more fit than Duncan Taylor, who is only running at 60-70%, apparently.

    Good to see Thomson in there. OK, he has no international experience, but he’s an older guy and I think he offers a different style to hard running No8s like Strauss and Bradbury. Nel and Strauss both did well at RWC2015 after qualifying and having no experience at international level. And he’s young enough at 28 to make it worth tying him to Scotland in one of the friendly games, whether he makes the cut or not.

    The spare back is interesting question. Steyn may well be in with a shout, but Dunbar and Scott may still be in thoughts.

    1. I kinda hoped Mcdowall had done enough to upsurp Harris, would of like to see Dunbar play also as he can play both positions well & with good preparation like Duncan Taylor will get could excel, Surprised Kyle Steyn is not in, Rennie obviously sees something in him to get ahead of Grigg/Jones similr to how Johnson got ahead of Dunbar/Horne.

      What is then situation with David Denton.

    2. Thought so too. R Gray very experienced and much further along the road to full fitness having played a handful of matches with a top french side…i wasn’t aware D Taylor had trained at any level….bizarre

      Glad Blade Thomson is there. Really we still need a tough all action back row player and need to see if he is that.
      Hutchinson has played very well in the english league this year deserves a shot…considering we are struggling to find depth of talent in that position.

      1. Ritchie Gray needs to prove himself but Duncan Taylor who has played a handful of games in the last 2 years , is first name on the sheet ! It is not consistent is it ? We are deluded.

        At 6ft 10 our line out problems are erraticated . What is to ponder !!!

        Time to get grovelling Richie. Change your surname to Slicker. Nah – I agree with you, not worth it. Enjoy the summer in the sun.

        At the end of this world cup we will start to ask the hard questions but it will be too late for some.

      2. I think it is very likely Gray will be included unless his form nose dives at the end of the season.

        Taylor is there as he covers wing and is a much higher standard than Harris. Need wing cover for bench options but also gives more flexibility to squad selections. If you want 6 front row you probably need to lose Kinghorn and take a centre/winger.

      3. I think it is unlikely Gray will be picked. Come the RWC the squad will have ‘bonded’ so ‘no need for Richie Gray’ regardless of how fit and aggresive he is.

        I doubt Richie Gray needs Toonie anymore than Toonie needs him. Therein is the issue, no one is bigger than the boss .

        Richie Gray who is succeeding in the aggression of French Rugby. He is going to go the way of Visser, excused out. That said , respect goes 2 ways., I do get that.

        We will get by with or without, however I do think Gray has a physical presence that will distract opposition much the same way Hogg does.

  5. With the addition of decent goal kickers in Russell, Hastings and Kinghorn, I don’t think Greig Laidlaw is needed to be relied upon to kick the goals as much, giving greater degree of flexibility to play the type of game required for opposition, weather etc.

  6. Laidlaw may also end up going as the utility half back, providing bench cover for both positions in some of the pool games. I think he provides a better option at FH than Horne does and in all honesty if Horne is to go as a centre, then he needs to be worth a place there in his own right. That may well be doubtful if everyone else is fit.

    If Taylor is fit, then our best two options at 12 are him and Johnson. Jones despite his recent poor form, a lot of which can get put down to injury is surely one of the OCs and the other will be one of Hutchie/Harris/Grigg and Steyn if he comes into the squad.

    Hutchinson can also play 12, as can Russell/Hastings at a pinch.

    I am struggling a bit to see the need of a utility position for Horne.

  7. How many actually can go to Japan? I know the official squad is 31, but is there a limit to how many can go as injury cover? If permitted it would be good to have a “3rd xv” in the country getting over jet lag and being conditioned in the heat…

    1. 31 is the injury cover. Anyone else in country would have to be there under their own steam eg on holiday, package tour pundit etc and wouldn’t be allowed to attend team areas or training I would think. I would imagine for fairness’ sake that would be a hard rule across all squads. Toony’s best bet would be to rent a hoiiday villa in SE Asia somewhere and stock it with his 4-5 alternates and a fitness trainer!

      1. Its tough I think…while I wouldn’t like to see 60 man “dirt-tracker” squads roaming the land, a 31-man lockout does little for fairness overall as travel/climate demands can vary markedly…a few replacements are inevitable.

        Japan is inconvenient for most I suppose.

      2. I don’t get how they arrived at 31. Surely it should be 33 – two full line ups plus third choices across the front row, where injuries are common and you are required to have bench cover.

  8. Can someone tell me what Harris has done to warrant inclusion? I don’t watch the prem so I’m assuming he’s tearing it up every week because in champions cup and a Scotland shirt he’s done nothing special. Steyn or MacDowell are equal if not better.

    1. Toonie will never admit he got it wrong with Harris – whilst we might have been short of players last year, there is no excuse for him still being in the squad.

      1. Think my post of last night was deleted ?However no surprise for me that Harris is there . No logical reason whatsoever other than ,as you say, he cannot admit he misplaced his judgement or Harris is a good old border boy and he knows what lies inside is grit , steel and loyalty. Personally I think Harris is Championsip material but we have many years of this to come before we realise we employed the sorcerers apprentice. He must be spitting feathers picking Russell after his Calcutta cup bust up.

      2. I recall an Ali Price interview which clarified that there was no CC bust up, just a conversation. Russell said “argument” but later said that he didn’t know why and it was just the first word that came to him.

      3. Believe whatever you want, There was no reason for him to retract his statement so why do it ? I just thought it was an honest response and call it what you want, there was a difference of opinion . Now I have no doubt Finn Russelll’s ego can handle admitting to it !!!!!!

      4. I’d hope there was some forthright views being put forward at the end of that first half. But the account of the argument was Russell insisted they change tactics, Toonie insisted they stick to them but execute better, Laidlaw calmed down Russell and Price, they stuck to the plan, Russell and Price both played the best rugby of their career and we enjoyed probably the best half of rugby in Scotland’s professional history.

        If you can tell me how their tactics changed, and not their execution (like line speed and getting in position in time), then I might reconsider this account but I don’t think there were tactical adjustments.

      5. No it wasnt. Why on earth would England change their game in the second half, to allow the Scottish tactics , which they had already worked out and nullified in the first half, to overwhelm them. No logic whatsoever.

        You are all clearly men of some experience so ask yourself this. How many times have you ever seen that happen, in your entire playing , coaching , reffereeing or spectating career/ years !

        You are most welcome to swallow that all day long , I am not ,and I will not be repeating it .

      6. No englishman cares about the Scottish changing room bust up. They are trying to work out what happened in theirs. If I tried explaining ‘the second half was the first executed properly’ while getting one on down at the Racks, I will be shown the door for being inebriated .

        All I hear my Bears drinking buddies say is ‘the way you lot go on you would think you had won the match’.

      7. I just said there was a calcutta cup ‘bust up ‘and there was even if it was just a whisper of backchat, that will be enough to bring a crescendo of retaliation.

        I predict Hastings will start the Warm Up matches.

        I had never heard of the ‘Flatmates’ explanation. Very convenient IMO. If Josh Strauss were to say it, I would believe it.

  9. A propos very little of the above, I noticed the Queensland Reds on Friday had a starting line up that included Hamish Stewart, Jock Campbell and Angus Scott-Young. Are we missing something here?

  10. Looking only at the backs, heartening to see Taylor in there (hope it is a real selection) and quality back ups at 9, 10 and 15. Taylor/Johnson/Jones hopefully all fit and firing by September and super versatile. I’d always start Jones if fit. No idea what is going on at Glasgow, but no doubt it’s irrelevant come the WC. With Johnson and Taylor able to play both positions, unless Dunbar steps it up, may be moot who else is on the plane. If it was tomorrow: Price, Russell, Maitland, Johnson, Jones, Hogg, Graham. Even if fit I think Seymour and Kinghorn nudged out by Darcy. In Horne, Hastings, Kinghorn there’s cover, suitable to how we play, that could be used against the very top teams (Ire, SA/ NZ, …)

    1. you mean Price, Russell, Maitland, Johnson, Jones, Graham,Hogg ….cos Hogg on the wing makes no sense !!!

  11. I seriously hope that Richie Gray is only out because his club need to keep him around for the Top14 playoffs. He’s still our best 2nd row, and his is brother is our second best. Jonny plays better next to Richie, so to me they are one of our easiest choices for starting positions. Leaving him behind would make no sense at all.

    1. I just feel that Townshend has something against Richie Gray. Why does he have to prove himself? DT has been out all season but gets in straight away. Also, Pyrgos and Grigg !!!!!!!!

    2. Not sure about that one. Laidlaw is named even though Clermont have a Challenge Cup final and the play offs to come. That said, I think if Toony had left HIM out of the training squad, there would have been riots in some quarters (I have my pitchfork on me at all times).

      Richie Gray has been immense for Toulouse this season. Rugby pass has him still as #2 lock in the Top14, and #7 in the World. His wife is due a baby though, and perhaps there’s the thought that by leaving that space open, it’ll encourage the others to fight a bit harder for their ticket.

      1. Has anyone watched much of Richie Gray since his comeback? I watched the epic clermont game and although he did score a try he definitely looked off the pace compared to his brothers work rate and looked absolutely spent by the 50th minute but they kept him on. If you keep an eye on him (even on the highlights reel) you can see him ambling around rather than actively getting back into the lines and hitting people hard.
        It may be lethargy after coming back from injury (likely), but to me I think Toonie will want to see more bite and intensity from him. Toonie clearly attributes work rate a hugely important aspect of his players game, and to me Richie Gray hasnt been at that standard in his games so far – hence why Toonie is probably challenging him to up his form with an extra few games rather than letting him come into the squad on his legacy

      2. Watched the Racing match, 22-21 with 14 men. Richie was outstanding. He has played a lot over the last couple of months but on bench this weekend, perhaps because he’s played so much recently.
        The idea that he needs to prove himself is nonsense. He’s as good as we’ve got. There must be other stuff going on with GT.
        GT mentioned Swinson, Harley, Cummings and Davidson (!!) as contenders. Why do we need Newcastle players? Apart from Hardie who’s nowhere near the squad.

      3. Now Franco , where have you been hiding but you are wasting your breath, even them that agree dont want to think it . Is it not obvious, why he is picking Newcastle players !!!

        Richie Gray is being humiliated by this exclusion, as he humiliated Visser. Playground stuff really.

    3. For me he was our best lock 5 years ago. Then was a bit iffy but came back strongly with his brother for the few games he actually has played in the last 3 years. I seriously hope he can be the player that he was back then. But a back injury worries me and I suspect worries the coaches too.

      That said they surely want 5 at least in the long list, I mean there are as many hookers as locks at the moment.

  12. Like others have mentioned perceive it is a shoot out between Gray/Cummings with Richie being told to up his aggression and greater impact around ball carrying. Really hope he makes it as he can be world class but clearly needs to be at his best and this is what GT is trying to achieve by this strategy. For the other spot not sure Weir is properly in the running (unless injuries) – “not entirely out the picture” doesnt sound overly positive. Therefore I believe it’s someone with potentially more games to play so leaning towards either Steyn or McDowall – just my hunch!

    1. There is no shoot out between Gray and Cummings, what a ludicrous suggestion.

      1. I wasn’t meaning literally because clearly as you say that would be ludicrous!!!

  13. I’m actually beginning to wonder if it’s me when it comes to the “Where’s Duncan” comments. Yes, he’s played well in Worcester recently, but they’re still mid-table. He had his chance to prove himself in November when he got called into the squad for the AIs whilst the whole worry about what do we do if Finn gets crocked was still a thing. Namely, before Adam Hastings had sorted his head out and stepped up. Weir was released early from that squad and I would’ve thought it would’ve been clear at that point that he wasn’t going to feature, bar alien abduction of Russell and Hastings. He’s been out of the squad for too long, and doesn’t play in Scotland, so is really out of the loop. That may well be the point against Richie Gray as well.

    1. Weir has played well at Worcester who just escaped the drop. He is handy for them as his kicking can relieve pressure on a side that is used to being battered . Wrong fit for this scottish side.

      You cannot fault his effort and loyalty. Worcester have lost a few big names this season so he will feature for another year at Sixways.

  14. Find Taylor’s inclusion bizarre – yes, he’s been class in the past but how can he possibly be considered when he hasn’t played a top flight competitive match for ages. It’s a big gamble to include him at the price of say Scott, Dunbar or Steyn. I appreciate Weir is probably a bit out of favour but only need an injury to Russell or Hastings & we’re looking at Horne being on the bench as the replacement FH. Really think we need another outright 10 in the training squad & Dunc has to be next in line. Glad that Gray Snr still has a chance to claim a spot & otherwise, pretty much as expected.

    1. It is very worrying that if Finn or Hastings get injured then Horne is the go to. I would have half expected Weir to be brought along for the Samoa and Russia games…two big hitting teams and in my opinion we want Finn as far away from as possible to stand any chance of a decent campaign! Definitely do not see Sexton starting those two.

      I would imagine most countries taking 2.5 standoffs (2 out and out and a utility) and I would prefer taking Dunc over Horne and having Hastings as a player that can cover back three too. Still, there is a lot of ground to cover before the final 31 is announced and plenty more debates to have, especially in the back row. 9 really decent players selected here but I guess only 6 will make the cut? Tough calls ahead!

      1. Starting backrow has to be 6. Wilson 7. Watson 8. Bradbury its all well & good having lots of competition but at some point you have to select a first choice & give them alot of gametime so they can execute the gameplan correctly, those guys have been the most consistent.

        Same with the centre partnership has to be Johnson/Jones at this point, Townsend needs to tell Huw that he is the guy that hes gonna back for the 13 shirt to give him the confidence to rediscover his form.

      2. Wilson over Barclay? That’s madness. Wilson’s a good player across the back row, but I think Barclay is better, especially in terms of jackalling and scoring international tries!

      3. Have to agree with Neil (8.29am version, not the 6.59am version). Can one/both of you change your name?
        I’d probably go for Barclay at 6 instead of Wilson but horses for courses.
        Johnson/Jones is a mouthwatering prospect in the centres – and that partnership has to have time to settle so they can get their defensive alignment sorted. We don’t need a new defence coach, just time for the backs to get to know and trust one another.

      4. I probaly commented the in form backrow compared to what i think the back row should be leading up to WC

  15. Jock Campbell is on one of those Wider Training Camp contracts – the same type that Sam Johnston was on. (Essentially a backup squad player; and he’s now 23)
    He’s on his first season with the Queensland Reds but from reports he’s highly rated and played his first start on Friday… more a winger but can play FB.

    With a name like his, odds are he’s SQ. Like SJ he’d be worth a punt.

  16. Well i guess out of that lot this would be the current in forms (or form before injury)

    1. Dell
    2. Brown (c)
    3. Fagerson
    4. Gilchrist
    5. Gray
    6. Ritchie
    7. Watson
    8. Fagerson
    9. Price
    10. Russell
    11. Maitland
    12. Johnson
    13. Hutchison
    14. Graham
    15. Hogg

    16. Mcinally
    17. Bhatti
    18. Nel
    19. Skinner
    20. Bradbury
    21. Horne
    22. Hastings
    23. Kinghorn

    I really hope Jones/Taylor find some serious form that looks like the only thing that is off a world class backline.

    If Kinghorn & Graham can hold/force there way in ahead of Maitland/Seymour then i would say we would have the best attacking back 3 in the world cup.

    Genuinely excited with this squad just missing a good defense coach.

  17. Assuming all goes well re injuries and form in the warm-ups the squad I’d be looking to take to Japan would be:

    Props: Dell, Bhatti, Reid, Nel, Fagerson, Berghan
    Hookers: Mcinally, Brown, Turner
    2nd Rows: Gray, Gilchrist, Skinner, Toolis
    Back Rows: Barclay, Ritchie, Watson, Wilson, Bradbury
    SH: Price, Horne, Laidlaw
    FH: Russell, Hastings
    Centres: Johnson, Taylor, Jones, Hutchinson
    Back 3: Hogg, Seymour, Maitland, Graham

    – In the absence of anyone who can play on both sides its got to be six props taken in case one gets injured in the warmups, which doesn’t leave much room for choice.
    – Centres probably the most controversial / up in the air position. Got to assume Townsend regards Taylor as 1st choice when fit given he’s played no rugby this year and is straight into the squad. I’d probably agree since he’s the best all-rounder and defensive option we have provided he can stay fit.
    Hutchinson is the wild-card pick but has been one of the most important players for a hugely exciting Northampton team this season. From watching his play, nothing suggests he won’t be able to make the jump to international level. One of those players that seems to have ages on the ball and always make the right decision.
    No room for Pete Horne – backing Russell and Hastings to start two pool games each and Laidlaw (or even Hogg) to cover in a disaster situation.
    – Shame about Kinghorn who’s looked electric going forward but is probably the least defensively sound of the back 3 options.

    1. Of the uncapped I can see R Hutchinson and B Thompson making it into the 31. 1 of Ritchie or Bradbury won’t make it.
      Both Taylor and Thompson aren’t even fully fit and/or match fit and have made into the squad…so GT really rates them and sees them going to RWC.

      Back 3 is a tough one. Kinghorn has looked great going forward and suspect in defense…Seymour has done little for a long while yet seems a stick on in a GT squad. Hogg , Seymour and Maitland see certainties …Kinghorn could be the
      one to miss out… though not sure that’s a the right thing either…he has potential to sparkle at the WRC.
      R Gray should make it. He offers something different to the other locks.

      1. Hogg likes playing with Seymour & they seem to be on the same wavelength. Seymour’s form has shown signs of returning recently. Taylor surely cant make it, alas he appears broken. I like the line straightening ability of Kyle Steyn. Blade Thompson looks like exactly the back-row player GT would want too, Ritchie may be unlucky. (esp. as I think Fraser Brown is a very good 7). Finally I reckon Kinghorn may not be travelling

    2. I have a suspicion we’ll see Simon Berghan at loosehead for one of the Georgia games – he can apparently play both sides and if he can hold his own in the scrummage against Georgia, then he’ll be the “prop both sides” guy.

      Daft comparison, but I’m also 6’3″ and found loosehead far preferable to tight.

      1. I’ve thought before that he has the build of a good loosehead. Georgia have an international standard tighthead on the corner of every Tbilisi street though so will be a huge test for him.

  18. Don’t think everything is even close to being done and dusted! Some of our best players still have serious games before the end of the season! Then we have 4 internationals over the summer and a load of training! It will be a miracle if we get through that without any serious injuries!

    I also think that some of these players need to prove themselves in camp and in the summer internationals before they can be considered for Japan

  19. Do you think Steyn has been told he can join the squad if Glasgow win the Pro14? Given current form and fitness it would be hard on the lad not to go! I agree that some of the other centres have international class but some have almost no game time this year so have a lot to prove.

  20. In terms of back rows I would take:

    Skinner (also covering lock) and Ritchie for the 6 shirt.

    Watson and Barclay for the 7 shirt.

    Wilson and Bradbury for the 8 shirt.

    I really think Barclay (a natural 7) and Watson sharing makes sense. It ensures the backrow isn’t undersized at blindside and gives you incredible impact off the bench from likely Watson. In a tournament you can’t start players every game anyway and Watson should be managed carefully to ensure maximum effectiveness in the Knockouts when we can revert to Barclay, Watson and another if necessary.

      1. Watson must start against Ireland where we will need our best players on the pitch for as long as possible but I can see the logic of starting say Wilson, Barclay and Bradbury against Japan. That way Watsons explosiveness can be unleashed on a likely tiring, smaller Japanese team. He’s undoubtedly an excellent starter but I’d argue two of his best (or at least most impactful) performances for Scotland have been off the bench: against Wales in ’17 and ’19.

        I like Scrummo’s idea of rotating those 5 for the group stages. All are of a high enough level as well that there shouldn’t be a significant drop off with any starting.

        Only part I don’t like is Skinner starting at 6. Fine covering from the bench but he seems far more suited to the 2nd-row-who-plays-like-a-flanker role (Itoje, Henderson) than an actual back row starter.

  21. Bit off topic but I see Chris’s Harris has been linked with a move to Gloucester next season.

    1. Really , first I have heard of it. The lads in stand beside in the sheds are much less forgiving than many posters here and most of them have a low opinion of Harris. Fake News !

  22. Of the players listed I think the following will miss out:

    Reid, Stewart, (Toolis? If R.Gray gets in), M.Fagerson, G.Graham, J.Strauss, Pyrgos, Grigg, Harris, p.Horne, Kinghorn, McGuigan

    1. I think Toolis will definitely go, he is one of only 2 players i think that have been selected in every GT squad, Kinghorn is joint highest try scorer under Townsend perhaps also ? or since last year at some point, that might be wrong but sure i have read that somewhere, P Horne is next most likely to make the squad after that, he stepped up alot in the 2018 autumn internationals & most people were claiming he was nailed on for the plane.

      1. Yeah I think Toolis will probably edge R.Gray. Kingorn is a favourite of mine but if you are taking 4 centres and 4 back three players who misses out for Kinghorn. Maitland? Seymour? Graham?

      2. I largely agree with you although it is difficult to see them going with only 2 specialist looseheads which would suggest 6 props and maybe only 5 backrows with Skinner going as a second row who can cover backrow? If that is the case then, unless Blade does something seriously impressive in the warm ups, I’d imagine his lack of game time/exposure to international rugby might mean he is the next backrow to go. I also can’t see GT dropping Pete Horne as he covers 10 and 12 but it seems a shame when squad size forces your hand into picking players who can play multiple positions rather than players who are out and out one position. Versatility can hurt people’s careers sometimes but it seems to work in their favour come touring squads!

        I am sure that between now and then there will be a couple of injuries which will make GT’s decisions for him, but at the moment it is very encouraging for us to have the depth to leave players of such ability (who a couple of years ago would have been starters) at home.

  23. I’d like to see an actual all Scottish 31 with no imports.

    Z.Fagerson, Rae
    Brown, McInally, Turner
    Bhatti, Reid, Sutherland
    J.Gray, Gilchrist, R.Gray, Cummings
    Barclay, Ritchie, Bradbury, M.Fagerson, Crosbie
    Laidlaw, G.Horne, Shiel
    Russell, Hastings
    P.Horne, Scott, Bennett, McDowell
    Kinghorn, Graham, Hogg, Hughes, L.Jones

    Not a saffer or kiwi in sight and are we really that much weaker, I don’t think so. I know this would never happen and I do appreciate the ability and link to Scotland a lot of the unnamed players have but I really do think we need to get away from a situation where less than half the training squad were born in Scotland.

    1. I would certainly bring a better balance to the competitiveness of the top 15-18 countries if that rule was applied, specifically strengthening the islanders & weakening Aus/Nz/Eng/France & ourselfs

      In argument to your team this is the squad we could be missing out on though.

      1. Dell
      2. –
      3. Berghan
      4. Toolis
      5 Skinner
      6. Wilson
      7. Watson
      8. Denton
      9. Price
      10. –
      11. Seymour
      12. Johnson
      13. Jones
      14. Mcguigan
      15. Maitland

      It would weaken a few positions but more importantly the depth we would have.

    2. Huw Jones was born in Scotland. And Hamish Watson really should be there, it’s worth making an exception.

      You also need a third tighthead – Nicol? Welsh? McCallum?

    3. All very well, but we need anyone that qualifies, is good enough and plays the heart out in order to have depth. We would be shooting ourselves in the foot to not choose the best players on merit that are available under the current terms. Also, no Huw Jones?

      1. Agree mostly Matto, the likes of Nel, Maitland, Watson have given as much to Scottish Rugby as many of our “home-grown” players…

        In contrast Hardie proved to be a poor choice, and I’m still unconvinced by Jones.

        The main issue I think is “parachuting” players into the national setup first without even a de-facto commitment to the national rugby culture beforehand.

      2. Regardless of current form I think Jones at least deserves to be mentioned amongst Horne, Scott, Bennett and Mcdowell for past performances. His try against England at Murrayfield alone was certainly worth something!

      3. Agree Matto, he has class in attack..question is whether he “fits in” at Glasgow and can make his way in the Scottish club game.

      4. How was Hardie a poor choice? He never had a bad game for Scotland and frequently had excellent games.

      5. Alanyst is right with the issues of parachuting players in, though I am more convinced by Huw Jones. Players like Maitland, Dell and Nel really do differ from folks like Blake, Holmes and Low who were brought in because we stupidly valued them above our own players. I’d have taken Barclay, Ally Hogg and Kellock over them without a doubt.

      6. I think the combination of the following is very hard for someone to take all at once:

        1 – relocation to a new country (with potential for homesickness, climate shock and all the rest)
        2 – two new teams with which to integrate
        3 – Being tied to the decision by virtue of international selection rules – no way back if it’s not working
        4 – Potential for resentment from new teammates who have been shunted down the pecking order.

        Hence I think a cultural adjustment season is needed in a club before national selection should be considered for a SH “import”, however they qualify…

        Players in stable circumstances in NH are different as they have already a career and a network, its just a few exotic games every year, then back to routine

        Hardie was (and is) a very good addition to the national team, but it seems he struggled with life at Edinburgh Rugby. Maybe that would have happened anyway…or maybe if he’d had a season to make his mind up it would be different.

        Player welfare goes beyond physical health and game-day performance, and I think a more responsible approach to selection has more benefits than costs

  24. If you lend any credence to the RugbyPass player statistics and form guide, Scotland have 6/20 of the current best Locks in the world.
    As of today: 2-Ben Toolis; 6-Grant Gilchrist; 8-Johnny Gray; 11-Richie Gray; 14- Sam Skinner; 19- Scott Cummings
    Decent depth.

    1. Haha…don’t disagree on the last two words, but I’m fairly sure those rankings are 90% based on who got picked in the last few weeks…they are too touchy.

      In any case, if we are ranked 7th in the world you might expect 3 in the top 21…Toolis, Gilcho, J Gray I suppose

    2. Here’s our strongest possible line-up according to RugbyPass statistics:

      Hogg; Maitland, McDowall, Johnson, Kinghorn; Hastings, G Horne; Reid, McInally (C), Nel; Toolis, Gilchrist; Skinner, Watson; M Fagerson

      (F Brown, Bhatti, McCallum, J Gray, Bradbury, Price, Jackson, Grigg)

      You want Russell, Dell and Barclay in there, certainly. But it’s not far off.

  25. I was pleased RG isn`t in yet, I don`t think he is busy enough, not dynamic in his carries or dominant in his tackles, considering the god given attributes he has he could offer a lot more so it will be interesting to see if this gives him a kick up the backside. I also think Toolis has been better than Gilco this season and Kinghorn has taken a couple of steps back from where he was a year ago.

  26. Would this be the best 23 of players not so far included in Toonies extended squad?
    1 Sutherland
    2 Cherry
    3 McCallum
    4 Cummings
    5 R. Gray
    6 Harley
    7 Crosbie
    8 Hamilton
    9 Hidalgo Clyne
    10 Weir
    11 L. Jones
    12 Dean
    13 McDowall
    14 Steyn
    15. Jackson

    16. Kerr
    17. Allan
    18. Rae
    19. Carmichael
    20. Hardie
    21. Shiel
    22. R. Hughes
    23. D. Hoyland

    1. I would argue it to be:

      1. Allan
      2. Ford
      3. Rae
      4. Cummings
      5. Gray
      6. Hamilton
      7. Hardie
      8. Denton
      9. SHC
      10. Weir
      11. Jones
      12. Dunbar
      13. Mcdowall
      14. Steyn
      15. Jordan

      Cherry, Sutherland, Mcallum, Swinson, Carmichael, Sheil, Jackson, Scott

      Not a very dynamic team but reasonably Warrenballish

    1. Will Jordan, he plays for crusaders in Super Rugby & could be the unknown ‘bolter’ in Townsends WC squad, supposedly he is doing very well.

      1. We have one world class fullback in Hogg and one great prospect in Kinghorn. We also have an even better prospect in Graham who has played there a lot and really, really solid cover in Maitland.

        Why would we parachute in yet another Kiwi.

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