Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


France 32-3 Scotland

[Edinburgh, UK. November 11, 2017] Ali Price in full flight during Scotland vs Samoa at BT Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh. (c) ALASTAIR ROSS | Novantae Photography Photo Credit: Alastair Ross / Novantae Photography

Scotland fluffed their opening lineout of their opening game of this Rugby World Cup season and all but gifted France and winger Alivereti Raka a simple try under the posts for his debut; not an auspicious start in the first two minutes for the visitors.

It was a hot and sweaty affair at the Alliance Riviera in Nice and for the watching fans at least it was light on set-piece or endless kicking ping-pong. The Scots in any case were well-advised to to steer clear of the scrum, as the second of those saw a penalty kicked by Camille Lopez to make it 10-0 after the first quarter of an hour.

Maxime Medard then took France’s second try, executing a four on two overlap to slip past Stuart Hogg in the corner. It was pretty simple stuff from France while Gregor Townsend’s men looked like they were still on holiday.

The first points for Scotland came on 25 minutes with an Adam Hastings penalty (there was a lot of “offside” called by Nigel Owens against both sides). To that point Hastings had been decent for the men in sky blue (and tartan) but he undid that by getting a yellow card for a deliberate knock on (whilst offside, naturally).

French Number 8 Greg Alldritt (father from Scotland) scored an easy try from the ensuing lineout on the half hour mark, then promptly went off for a Head Injury Assessment.

His replacement? Louis Picamoles. Gulp.

The half ended with a series of scrums on the Scottish line after a frustrated Stuart Hogg had saved another near score by Les Bleues (there were a few, contrasted to a complete lack of try-scoring opportunities for Scotland).

Somehow, the Edinburgh-centric pack salvaged things to get out of jail without further scoring against them.

Half-time: France 20-3 Scotland

The second half was played at a slower pace but that didn’t seem to help Scotland any.

It was notable for the appearance of Zander Fagerson which meant that there were two tightheads on the pitch. Simon Berghan moving to the loosehead side during the next scrum perhaps gave an insight into Townsend’s thinking regarding the number of props he might take to Japan. Scotland conceded a penalty at that scrum – whether that clarified his thinking any is anyone’s guess.

Rory Hutchinson came on for his first cap, and though he spent much of it defending he was one of the brighter attacking sparks for Scotland. He came on for Duncan Taylor, who had made some excellent covering tackles but had few chances with the ball. Still, he seemed to get through it intact.

With half an hour to play both sides were visibly wilting and it wasn’t clear if either side had the energy to change the scoreboard in any particular direction.

Maxime Medard had other ideas, taking a slightly “flat” pass in a nice move set up by good hands from the French half backs Dupont and Lopez before diving over in the corner. Like Dupont’s own further try minutes later it was hard to argue the French didn’t deserve it.

Scotland got near the French line with the game all but up, but Byron McGuigan couldn’t get a pass away to the spritely Darcy Graham. Thereafter the visitors spent a good spell helping the French practice their goal-line defence without ever really threatening to score.

The Scots thrive on fast-paced, chaotic rugby but this was a reminder that France are traditionally the premier exponents of that sort of thing in the Northern Hemisphere and they counter attacked with fluid ease when Scotland couldn’t or wouldn’t keep possession.

For Scotland, more grunt is needed in the pack if any sort of back line – and this wasn’t the front line group for sure – is to be unleashed in what should be a changed side next week in the reverse fixture.

Referee: Nigel Owens (WRU)

SRBlog Man of the Match: Not a game for highlights really this one. Duncan Taylor was the pick of the first half but probably would rather not have been making all those scrambling tackles. In the second half, Matt Fagerson and Jamie Ritchie brought some impetus to the forwards in the second but by then it was all but up. SuperDunc for surviving in one piece.

174 Responses

  1. What a load of mistakes.

    Terrible kick chase and no incision.

    Might be good in the long run,but looks grim without anyone being terrible.

  2. What was the rule again, believe the hype?

    Me are making it look like the last game of a long hard season. Tired, passive and clueless. Backs haven’t looked bad with ball in hand but precious little of it.

    France look quite good, fast, sharp and a great offloading game but they haven’t been without errors which is even more worrying for us, complete failure to capitalise on any of them.

    Scrums have been atrocious, pitch is a disgrace but France are managing it.

    Our aerial game has been poor, poor kicks and France have dominated the competition in the air.

    Ah yes, it’s the hope that kills you.

  3. Awful awful awful. What else can be said. Hastings has been particularly terrible. The ultimate concern about Townsend is a plan B

  4. All of this nonsense about continuity and working on things from the commentators is total tripe.

    The French look fitter, fresher, sharper and more accurate. Better in all parts of the game.

  5. Jesus – when we were down by 10 I was justifying a 10 point loss Tom myself as being acceptable. Final scoreline is brutal. “We are bored and wanting to play”. Train harder lads cause you were blowing after 15 mins.

  6. Congratulations to anyone who actually managed to watch the whole game. Utterly embarrassing.

    Hogg, Taylor, Ritchie, Graham and M Fagerson looked good. Everyone else did not.

    1. What did we see that’s new? It’s the same old. Lack of power, lack of size and lack of plan B. QF exit and count ourselves lucky we don’t have a Fiji in our group. We’ll deal with Japan as they are basically Scotland. Watching though I worry about our ability to cope with the conditions. Greig has to start. He is the only scrum half we have who can manage the game in a way which to an extent mitigates our soft forwards. After watching our forwards get run over someone justify Ritchie Gray not being involved at this stage.

      1. Totally agree on the Greig-part. Slower or not, his distribution and decision making are still way better than Price’s. Indeed it gives us time to play our own game. Price’s kicking was awful, 75 percent of the kicks brought us in immediate trouble again.

      2. JP, the one thing Japan will have that we lack is passion. In front of a home crowd looking for a first RWC quarterfinal I’d say we should be very worried.

  7. Two months of training camp. Best available squad of players for nearly a generation. Yet we serve that up tonight against a France team that only played well once (against us, ironically) in the last 6N.
    Need a big statement and turn around at Murrayfield next week.
    We can be so much better than we showed tonight.

    1. Our defence is pathetic. England v Wales game was example of top teams defending. To lose line out & try after 2 minutes set tone. Same old noises before reality kicks in. Bhatti, Strauss, Toolis should be cut for WC also let’s pray that Russell stays fit as Hastings not ready for international level yet at 10.

      One plus was Hutchinson looks good and made impression.

  8. Ten thoughts from Neil…

    1. Awful Strip with the BT logo

    2. Typical French Pitch

    3. Good to get the hammering out the way now similar to the All Blacks last week.

    4. No stand-out individuals for the right reasons.

    5. Stock going up – Ritchie, Taylor, Hutchison

    6. Stock going down – Bhatti, Toolis, Gilchrist, Barclay, Jones, Mcguigan

    7. That old rule of earning the right to go wide.

    8. Fitness did not look promising.

    9. Berghan Playing Loosehead showing GT is looking at 5 props.

    10. No Injuries, Hurray!

    (I’ll humbly accept the comment of the week award)

    1. Barclay’s fitness was still far off, did a lot of dirty work. Pumping like a race horse just after racing in the Grand National.

      So hopefully he can work is way up the fitness ladder any time soon, as we def need his experience.

  9. France are behind us in the WR rankings.We look clueless.New players looked good.Both Fagersons made a difference.Jamie Ritchie all night long.

  10. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. GT has done nothing except tinker with systems. Scotland tonight had no leaders, no semblance of a game plan, no fitness, no strategy, no defence and no clue. GT has to go after the World Cup. He has dragged a promising team backwards and its getting embarrassing. SRU to blame for releasing VC too soon. This is awful.

    1. I agree with the above comments. GT has done little in taking the team forward with the exception of the backs being more incisive. I wonder if he is a backs coach at best. Would have preferred we kept VC in overall charge with GT looking after the backs – although such a remit would be too diminished for GT I realise.
      Hastings way off managing a game at this level. Not good enough to do something decent immediately followed by something abject. Powderpuff in the tackle at best. Price has tendency to run around like a headless chicken. Although not apparent yesterday, how many times does he need to take a tap penalty only to run up his own arse ?. These two aren’t an answer at halfback – maybe in a harum scarum game against beatable sides. Not when we need control or a plan B during the game.
      Harris selection just baffling.
      Richie Gray would have afforded us lineout security and baulk around the park.
      I sense GT won’t take counsel and only listens to himself. Foolhardy not to be able to admit to mistakes and change accordingly. This World Cup may well define him in coaching terms. Hopefully for the better though I have real concerns.

  11. I think a few players may potentially have played themselves off the plane tonight. Bhatti and McGuigan are the prime examples and I’d be surprised if either feature much in the next 3 fixtures. Strauss, Toolis, Barclay, Price, Jones, Taylor, Gilchrist and Graham should all be concerned though.

    The only player to do the opposite tonight was Ritchie. He was so clearly Scotland’s best player that they really should have given him a France top to play in before the end.

  12. Agreed they took Townsend far too early as they were afraid of looking him abroad. But ironically that would have helped him develop, to understand more options. Under Townsend we seem to be good or terrible and unable to control tight games.

  13. Questions for the coaching team about what they’ve been doing. Despite 2 months in camp still same old mistakes, mentality hasn’t improved away from home, defence all at sea, physicality not there.

    Only good news is I don’t think we have any injuries, its a hell of a wake up call for everyone, and its the first game so some time to sort things out.

  14. Lack of grunt up front.

    For some reason Scotland always start with a poor performance.
    Samoa 2017
    Wales 2018
    Even Italy 2019 which was a comfortable win but we let them back in.

    Makes it really difficult to get confidence and momentum.

    On the other hand some key players (Taylor, Jones, Barclay) haven’t had much rugby in the last season. That does make a difference.

    France might be worth a bet. No doubt they’ve got the best talent, their problem is they’re almost as flaky as we are.

    We’ll have to be a lot better next game. There is a lack of balance there.

    It is very disappointing for a backline like that to be nilled in the try count.

  15. I lost the PS feed after 60 mins, so this is based on the first 3/4.
    On a light-hearted note, I thought that Al Kellock sounds more Dutch than Tim Visser.
    The rest of it is looking fairy dour. A classic – outplayed in all areas, game – which is massively disappointing in terms of squad attitude and readiness. In particular, as with jmc80 above, our defence was really passive, whilst France’s line was generally intensely stingy.
    Also, our breakdown work was slow, lacking in intensity, and largely ineffective, bar a few inspired moments. Combine that with scrum subservience and lineout failures in key areas/moments, we really were not at the races.
    So massively improve defence, breakdown and set piece and we’ll be grand. As things stand, we look pretty poor. Very depressing performance.
    Thought Taylor was good.

    1. I noticed that our defence was inside a lot of the time, whereas France weren’t. Owens was obviously letting this slide, so why didn’t we adapt?

  16. Strauss, Bhatti, Toolis, Barclay, Price, Jones, Mcguigan….all under pressure for a spot after that debacle.

    Only positives..were Taylor…who looked our best player despite just coming back from serious injury. A cert for the 31.
    D Graham and Ritchie tried ever so hard …but really with little help for many others.
    They didn’t have great games but the effort was always there.
    G Horne, Hutchinson, both Fagersons were an improvement when they came on.

    Can someone please teach Hogg how to tackle….he is atrocious at it.

    Very sobering performance…Japan & Ireland will be excited though.

    1. Agreed. Although I’d like To think Barclay has more credit in the bank than the others. Same for Price.

      Still think it’s a joke that R.Gray wasn’t even given an opportunity for the squad of 44. McGuigan and Toolis aren’t good enough and I still think H. Jones is overrated. Johnson, Taylor and Hutchinson are all ahead of him and all 3 can cover 12/13.

      These selections prove form wasn’t a requirement for the squad so I’m really starting to doubt his judgment as coach.

  17. France have been p-ss poor for so long but they have an unbelievable amount of talent. Eventually they’re gonna get their act together and I think they’re a great outside bet for the RWC. They’ll be itching to emulate the footballers.

    As for us.. I don’t know…. there’s a worrying lack of balance and consistency there. Some key players were getting their first rugby for a long time and France away is a brutal place to get it, but still.

    I think Townsend should try to get momentum and let the spine of the team redeem itself but my fear is he’ll chop and change. I don’t know if that helps.

    We’ll see I suppose.

  18. France are going to get it together at some point, but that is irrelevant with such an emphatic defeat. We simply shouldn’t get so humped. Our inability to produce consistently intense and accurate performances shows that we are not serious contenders for any tournaments, yet. Getting to the quarters will be an achievement. Wales, England, Ireland, France, NZ, Aus, SA are all, as usual, in the class above. We strive to be the best of Argentina, Fiji, Japan, Italy…. and Georgia.

      1. NZ have the track record for that 1st test to be considered a blip. We consistently get an absolute battering, often accompanied by a series of fairly disappointing performances, every season. I will be delighted if we exceed expectations, but because we have a serious problem with consistency, my expectations are fairly low.

  19. A better team and home advantage should make a big difference next week although away games are what matter more at this point. Scotland by 3.

    The 23 to do it:
    1. Dell
    2. McInally
    3. Fagerson
    4. Skinner
    5. Gray
    6. Wilson/Thompson
    7. Watson
    8. Fagerson
    9. Horne
    10. Russell
    11. Maitland
    12. Johnson
    13. Hutchinson
    14. Graham
    15. Hogg

    16. Turner
    17. Reid/Berghan
    18. Nel
    19. Cummings
    20. Ritchie
    21. Laidlaw
    22. Hastings
    23. Taylor

    1. Not far off what I would have – would drop Hastings as Laidlaw and Hutchinson can cover 10, start Kinghorn and put Graham on the bench.

      The team tonight was poor, but not that many first choice players and we are always going to struggle wif we are missing key men (Watson, Russell etc.)

  20. No surprises here. Jamie Ritchie has to be in the 31, he’s a proper athlete unlike some of the big lumps in the squad. A reminder that Russell is our most important player as Hastings is a celebrity player, not up to it…. yet. All flashy teeth, fake tan, swirly hair and intercept passes. I’d take meat n tatties Duncan Weir ahead of him. It’s increasing apparent that Hugh Jones isn’t very good at rugby, all he does is score tries. Can’t pass, can’t defend, hands like cow’s breasts. Strauss, McGuigan, Bhatti aren’t good enough – none of them were getting in the 31 anyway. How about a start for G.Horne.

  21. Weak, passive defence. Thought they might have got it fixed by now. No ideas in attack and the backline had zero shape.

    Players did not look match fit.

    Scrum needs dealt with urgently, we are yet again kicking or throwing away all our possession when we aren’t immediately getting anywhere.

    Hastings really wasn’t being the general we need – hopefully Russell can make a difference.

    McInally didn’t seem to be doing a lot of captaining.

    Hogg trying to do it all himself like the old days (although to be fair he didn’t have much choice!).

    We really need to put out our 1st choice team next week – and I can still see us winning at home.

    A few players stood out in a bad performance, but overall it was a shocker.

    1. To be as optimistic as possible – these games are getting played for a reason, and while you never want to lose that badly, I hope that it means a lot of these issues will be gone by the time the World Cup comes around.

      Look at the difference in the All Blacks from last week to this – no reason we can’t have a similar turn around.

      Richie and Fagerson looked good, Hutchison showed promise, Taylor’s defence was very good (didn’t really get much chance in attack).

      A couple of the tight decisions on who to drop from the squad might be a bit more set now (McGuigan and Strauss for a start).

  22. Reflecting on the game (I usually watch it again but I won’t be watching that drivel again), Scotland were poor, very poor. However, they have been poor all year so perhaps I expect too much.

    I think Townsend must be under pressure as I don’t think Dodson et al will be forgiving paymasters.

    Yet again teams press and defend narrow against us with 13 (or in some cases the winger) effectively being in our line. If we can’t go round them teams know we can’t go through them.

    Richie Gray’s stats and fitness numbers must be honking if he can’t get in the squad.

  23. Bhatti- will get another shot due to lack of options. He was rank bad though
    McInally- pretty poor game. Don’t think Brown is fit though
    Berghan- third choice, played like it and looks like he is going to be flat on his stomach at every scrum particularly on cutting up pitch
    Glichrist- looked exhausted, good lineout effort on French ball
    Toolis- looked exhausted. May have played himself out of the squad
    Barclay – injury and time caught up with him? Not sure he’s going to Japan
    Ritchie – tries hard. 5th best back row on the pitch though behind all the French
    Strauss- retiring to the Blue Bulls soon
    Price- ineffective behind a retreating pack and slow ball
    Hastings- kicked poorly. Not Finn Russell. Like Price, not great behind a retreating ineffective pack
    McGuigan- I thought he did ok, mess up the inside ball for Huw Jones. Not sure he will be jettisoned just yet
    Taylor – did ok. Look blown after 50 mins, at least it is justified for him
    Huw Jones – got skinned by a back rower. Looked exhausted. Going to the World Cup or another holiday in Caribbean (unlikely to start for Glasgow)?
    Graham- buzzed about
    Hogg- looked rapid early on, weird kicks, got cramp – recurring theme re fitness across the 15?

    Bench- all tried hard. ZFag runs straight, Hutchinson did ok on debut.

    All in all the worst performance since the last one against France. Sigh

  24. I’m assuming we have a defence coach, that was as miserable a performance as I can remember since Johnstone. It’s shocking that Scotland were knackered almost from the kick off, so much for the myth of our 80 minute fitness. The players looked shell shocked all match and should genuinely be ashamed of their day’s work. I can’t see us turning this around a murrayfield the French have Townsend number and the players know it.

    1. I think Toonie’s comments about the players not being match conditioned are bizarre. His comments seem like he is puzzled by it. Compared that to Gatland who just said they had been pushed hard in the week before Twickenham and they would be better in Cardiff. Even if it was a mistake Gatland dealt with it. I am no expert but the whole team looked out on their feet so I am guessing it is a coaching issue.

  25. Posi-Rody comment:
    I do see us turning this around next week. France will sort out who will be on their plane too, and will have a weaker squad on the pitch. And us will be there with the bigger guns. Hope it will be enough!

    A gesture from me, a free tip for GT: arrange a one-way ticket from Toulouse to Edinburgh. Today! Or make a little detour with the bus before heading to the airport.

    I sincerely hope someone in the coaching staff dares to suggest this as we need it. But it seems to be a no go area.

  26. In one sense I am simply not surprised. We are slow starters in just about any context. Even vs Japan at the last RWC, we were rank rotten in the 1st half and only pulled away in the 2nd against tiring opponents who had played 4 days earlier.

    In another sense, I am bitterly disappointed that 2 months of intensive training led to THAT. The defence was woeful and, a few early breaks aside, penetration from the back line was absent.

    Earning their place on the plane to Japan, in my opinion for those who’s places are not certain, were Taylor, Ritchie, Hutchinson and Graham.

    Putting their passports back in there drawer should be Bhatti, Strauss, Jones, McGuigan and maybe Berghan. Likelihood is that 2 of those will go anyway (Jones and Berghan).

    1. Smidge, you make a lot of good points. I was too disappointed in the overall display/fitness displayed. I’d assume McGuigan, Strauss, Bhatti can put their passports in the drawer. Gordie Reid is a very solid citizen & has never let Scotland down. I still think Kyle Steyn (whilst still somewhat raw) adds a line straightening physicality to our options. I thought Ritchie was our best player last night & he is growing on me. (just as a wee prop side issue – Oli Keeble will be eligible to play V Italy in the 2020 6N)

  27. That was like watching the first half against England but for the whole game. I could have taken a rusty looking performance riddled with errors but there just looked like a complete lack of any kind of plan. Same applied in the first 40 against England, and as we know there it took Finn Russell to tell toonie his plan was **** and go out and do it his own way to get the mother of all comebacks.

    The second half was slightly better, the forwards were actually trying to compete at least (just failing miserably as opposed to not bothering). We did make ground with the ball but when it slowed down we tried to force things and inevitably cocked it up, no answer for Frances rushing defence. There was no composed thinking, no kicks from 10 to the corner to pin back their defence. We were woeful in the air, did we win a single aerial contest? I just recall a lot of too long kicks with the wingers running onto them flat out and knocking on. It took me about an hour to remember Strauss was playing, not the first time, surely his number is up now? Matt Fagerson looked good when he came on as did Cummings but was this just because they weren’t as bad as the men they replaced?

    Only slightly redeeming thing is unlike some of our recent defeats against pretty poor sides who were there for the taking (e.g. France 6 months ago) France looked very impressive, assured, fit, fast and clinical and I am away to put a sly bet on them.

    1. Why Strauss was even selected for this match is beyond me. Has done little of note for Scotland. 32 yrs old…isnt going to magically improve. What was there to learn from playing him? Would rather have seen Ritchie or Fagerson at 8. There are players from that match who should just be announced as cut now.

    2. You have to hand it to France, how many of their players played in the top 14 final/latter stages and yet looked fresh as a daisy yesterday.

  28. I’ve done some number crunching today and noticed we have an issue that is unique to us amongst the top 8 in the world.

    Experience – And its not even close…

    When lining up each nations likely starting XV for the world cup I have plotted the following. The 1st number is how many players have 30 + caps and 2nd number is how many players have less than 10 caps…

    Scotland 5/5
    England 10/0
    Wales 11/0
    Ireland 11/0
    NZ 11/2
    RSA 11/0
    AUS 8/1

    We have/had an experienced core that is fading. Barclay, Laidlaw, R. Gray, Nel, Strauss, Wilson, Seymour, P. Horne etc will unlikely be in the starting XV (and potentially the 23) which leaves us with inexperienced players shouldering too much too soon.

    If Hogg or Russell go down I think Japan will be favourites for the QF spot w/ Ireland. We need them more than ever.

  29. Starting to wonder if GT is the Scottish Stuart Lancaster and more suited to day to day coaching at club level. Head coaches at international level need to be able to send out players absolutely buzzing and be able to get every last drop out of them. Not sure if GT has that motivational side to his arsenal. Gatland clearly has it especially when we see that Welsh club sides are no better than Edin/Glas. Would love to have Shaun Edwards as our defence coach.

    1. No he is not Lancaster.
      He’s a smart coach but I wonder if he’s fixated on changing the game and ignoring convention?
      I don’t know. I just get the feeling.
      He was like that as a player.

      I think he’s a tremendous asset to scottish rugby I just wonder if he needs someone to act as a balance. Trouble is he’s going to want to be the boss.

      I think he’ll turn it around, but as a fan the lack of consistency is so frustrating.

      What Scotland team will turn up today? The one that flies out of the line, falls off tackles and goes wide too early or the one that waits for its chances, doesn’t panic and keeps its shape?

  30. Some key Scotland players have had the whole season out injured.
    Taylor has had 2 seasons out.

    That does make a difference.

    They’ve got to get better and they will.
    The team just looks a bit powder puff. Yes, it can run about and ping the ball from one end to the other but what if you come up against a team who won’t let you do that?

    What if you come up against a team (like Ireland) who’ll make you defend 30 phases?

    Townsend has turned it around before. I hope he does here, but it does look like the team is geared to play one way and it’s all or nothing.

    Contrast this with team under Vern Cotter – yes it was picked to play fast marauding rugby, that’s our natural game and always has been – but it had structures and Cotter enforced them.

    Under Toonie too often we’ve seen the team go wide too early then in defence bodies flying out of the line and falling off tackles etc. It’s all a bit harum scarum.

    Very risky.

    They can do better than they did last night. We all know that. It’s the total lack of consistency which kills you as a fan. That suggest s lack of structure and a lack of plan b to falls back on if plan a isn’t working.

    1. If we can see his petty grudges, ask yourself how does it feel to be a player ? This Tournament is one too many , time to start asking who next and who will touch us after the way we treated Cotter!

  31. Was at the game last night albeit 10 minutes late (poor visitor management by Alliantz but that’s another story).
    What can I say apart from a very deflating petformance.
    It has been extremely hot and humid for weeks now on the Riviera, a situation the French would have been accustomed to and have trained in with the Scots less so given the poor weather at home.
    This could excuse some of what looked like a lack of condition but given the WC is in Japan , which is also hot and humid we ourselves should be conditioned to this at this stage so it is a worry clearly we aren’t.
    Given we claim to want to play the fastest rugby in town I saw no evidence of it in last night’s performance.
    We lost out in pretty much every aspect of play and it was truly heart in mouth stuff every time a Frenchman received the ball in space as our defence was absent.
    Hastings Price combo offered no threat. Russel Horne will provide more spark but that’s me clutching at straws. We were completely clueless under the high ball -Which proves such a potent attacking weapon for other teams when everything else fails Why is this?
    We have talent and options available but I fail to see any progress after a promising first season under Gregor , perhaps time to go but who would we get as a replacement?

    1. Rennie, but Toonie will turn it around anyway.
      Humidity not an excuse. Scotland have been in Portugal for months.
      It was just lack of familiarity among players who hadn’t played together and some key players who’ve been out for a whole season or more injured.

  32. NZ have the track record for that 1st test to be considered a blip. We consistently get an absolute battering, often accompanied by a series of fairly disappointing performances, every season. I will be delighted if we exceed expectations, but because we have a serious problem with consistency, my expectations are fairly low.

  33. Very disappointed in that performance there did not appear to be any leadership.
    Attack shape was hit up hit up. Running into brick out houses.
    Defensive lineouts – compete them make them throw to the front use the touchline .
    Bhatti Strauss and Mcguigan thanks but no thanks .
    Z.Fagerson looked like a fat bloke lost who still can’t scrum.
    Home advantage next week which French team will turn up? However more to the point can we raise the confidence and go into the Georgia games tweaking the squad to ensure we preform at the WC

  34. Just before I take my daughters swimming, I reckon the Russell/Johnson axis is the key to Scotland’s attack. Really hope Blade T gets a game / looks good next week.

  35. It seems that GT has is unaware of the military dictum that no plan survives contact with the enemy. That does not mean that planning is pointless, but once on the ground, it is up to the grunts to keep the objective in mind and find a way of achieving it: which means being sufficiently adaptable to make the plan work. When the whistle blows, it is the leaders on the pitch who need to make the decisions.

  36. Have to agree with most posts. Very disappointed. There are mitigating circumstances (excuses) but that was awful.
    No need to throw the baby out with the bathwater (yet) but Bhatti, Toolis, Strauss and McGuigan are probably on their last chance, if that wasn’t it already.
    Huw Jones probably has enough credit in the bank to get another chance or two.
    Price and Hastings are lucky they are needed whatever they do.
    On the positive side our first choices had reasonable games, despite the result. McInally & Hogg showed well despite the odd mistake.
    Barclay and Taylor got amongst it and will only get better. Gilchrist and Ritchie and Graham all advanced their causes.
    I’m not commenting on the subs as it is always easier to look good when everyone else is tiring.

  37. Every time we play teams like France and get utterly dominated physically does it not make Toonie stop and think that maybe he needs to start selecting players capable of competing. Gilchrist and Toolis are a good example of underpowered locks – Richie is a great backrower, but he’s still got to fill out.

    Ireland will play this game against us and unless we start addressing these issues we will go into the Japan game needing to win.

      1. Ditto on Vern. I have played 9 to buddies that possess similar mindsets to GT and it’s very much always boom or bust. Japan are 45% likely to beat us (has anyone else noticed the slightly favourable scheduling to the home nation ?)

  38. With the exception of Australia, only one player in our squad, John Barclay, has even a single victory in a game played outside of Scotland against the World’s current Top 8. A single away win against Ireland by three points, courtesy of a last minute penalty by Dan Parks, nearly a decade ago. Scotland’s only away victory against Ireland in twenty years.

    Not one player has ever won an away game against Eng, Wal, Fra, NZ or SA.

    Will there be a reaction, will we be much better against France at Murrayfield next weekend? Of course we will. It scarcely matters if we fold like a pack of cards every time the bagpipes aren’t playing.

    And people are scandalised when Gatland doesn’t pick Scots players for the Lions. It’s laughable.

  39. just finished watching the first half again. It’s amazing how different your perception of a game can be when not watching live.

    Firstly – Dupont’s clearance kicks from the restarts were incredible. He was nailing well beyond the halfway line. So important for territory rugby.

    Scotland were blowing after 15 mins. There was one french break from the 22 and Huw Jones got outpaced by french 6 (Picamoles?). When the play finished he looked utterly knackered – you could tell his legs were as heavy as timber. Hogg kicked the ball into the stands to avoid the try and afterwards he looks utterly bemused. As in ‘what the hell is going on – we are all totally f****d’.

    As mentioned above – kicking out of hand was abysmal, save a nice kick through from Taylor. No pressure on the chase and not once did we compete for the ball. This is where we will get pumped unless improved on.

    Again as mentioned, leadership was non existent. We got bad calls but nobody even spoke to the ref. The team quickly became individuals.

    Duncan Taylor was good as was Ritchie. Nobody else really stood out.

    Hats off to France – very composed, clever and skilfull.

    Now for the second half….

  40. Putting everything else to the side for a moment. One of the main concerns I have is about the players’ fitness. Why did they all look so knackered? They were supposed to have been busting a gut in training to get themselves ready for intense games under difficult weather conditions but they look far from ready. They have world class facilities at Oriam. I’m just struggling to understand why the fitness coaches haven’t got them better prepared. You can talk about “match fitness” etc. but that is more to do with sharpening your eye/reflexes/decision making etc. 80 min once a week will not get you to peak physical condition. It has to be done on the training ground. I’m just so surprised how quickly they ran out of gas.

    1. We don’t know what type of training load they had in the run up to this game. They may have been under par because they have been training hard.

      1. I suppose that’s possible, but doesn’t seem like the best preparation for the game. Was hoping they would be one of the fittest teams at the RWC.

    2. Remember that Gatland does this and I think that is what happened at Twickenham apparently he had given them all a training session that killed them. Maybe Scotland have taken something from him in this but I doubt it. I hope they have.

      1. Possibly but the reports suggest more than fitness. It seems like the backs haven’t gelled and the forwards were bullied again. The former is ok as it’s an experimental side but when Hogg goes off on one, you know bad things are coming.

        We met Finn just before the Portugal camp and he predicted a bullying to my 7 year old daughter.

  41. What we saw last night was Scotland is an extension of the flat line scotland that was present in the 6N (in all but the 2nd half of the calcutta cup when the players rebelled).

    Do we have a common denominator ? I think we do , early on VC’s legacy held up but we are now in the business end of GT’s leadership.

  42. very concerned have watched GT press conference after the match, hoped he would be saying they had very tough training or something but he said he thought they were is great condition. Danny Wilson is not getting anything out of this pack, had the excuses in the autumn and 6N but has now had the players for a long block and they’re only getting worse. Bhatti, Marfo and Bergan all lost form badly last pre season, really hope Nel and Dell are in good nick. You have to wonder about the training for the props. There was a very interesting piece on off the ball from Emmet Byrne about the different types of strength required for props with the new rule changes, seems like the Scotland S&C team are trying to turn them all into cross country runners.

    1. After this I have to say I’m not impressed with defense coach, the forwards coach or the strength and conditioning team. I give GT the benefit of the doubt on the basis that he is the overall strategy and attack guy. However, if we dont produce useful ball then whats the point.

      I would also say that we have a captaincy issue. We started that match with McInally, Barclay, Hogg and Gilchrist but there was no obvious leadership on display. Why arent they fired up at the start?

      McInally can be world class but right now I would say he is lucky that Brown is injured.

      1. Didn’t see game live though have since but listened to commentary on radio where Fraser Brown was outstanding and the most articulate and knowledgeable player summariser and kept banging on about defence, defenders and the importance of stopping teams behind gain line in particular. McInally is a good player and does some good things, including a brilliant try at twickenham but his work rate is terrible, how long does he take to get back to his feet after any tackles, AND he never smashes opponents before the gain line . Brown matches him in the technical aspects of hooking but is way in front of him in physicality, hits hard in the tackle, springs back up straight away and is back ready to hold the line. I would say Scotland need a fit Brown to lead forwards from the front. Look how Glasgow’s physicality dropped in the league final against Leinster when he went off injured and how the Glasgow pack smashed Edinburgh in the game that mattered most , under browns leadership. I am a Glasgow supporter as well as a Scotland supporter. No set of half backs can dominate behind a powderpuff pack , Dave Rennie realised that after his first season at glasgow and look how they improved, Saracen games excepted. Unfortunately Brown’s uncompromising physicality sees him injured way to often but he is hard as nails and right now Scotland need a lot of his hardness to rub off on others.

      2. Agree Brown is nails and actually think he beats Rambo in the technical aspects of hooker play (scrum, darts) but you’re being overly harsh on McInally’s defence, he is frequently one of the few putting in dominant tackles on the opposition – Saturday sadly was not one of those days. His work rate is huge.

  43. It occurred to me last night just how important Finn Russell is to us in terms of our attacking shape, but also getting go forward ball. I really rate Hastings and I think he will become indispensable to us, but he’s not there yet. The French were flying up on him and cutting off his options, his passes were nearly always deep meaning the French could hit us back repeatedly behind the gain line. Finn plays so flat and defences are scared of him chipping in behind or showing and going, so they don’t fly up so fast and it gives his outside backs more time.
    In addition, we are crying out for some proper ball carrying back rowers. Watching Alldrit making metre upon metre from every carry really made me jealous. The pack looked weak, and I’m not sure whether this was accurate or not, but the French graphic had our pack heavier than theirs. If that’s true, the ease with which they pushed us around will be a cause of real concern.

    1. Also, wondering whether it’s wise to have this leadership group with vice-captains and the like. It seems like we lack direction at times and people are looking to Barclay, to Hogg, to McInally and no one seems to know what’s going on. Surely it’s better to give one player the authority to make on field decisions regarding set pieces and the like and just trust everybody to play what’s in front of them?

  44. Think we often try & “play” without earning the right to play. Hastings is very inconsistent & actually I have thought he looked better when he played FB.
    What Townsend did at Glasgow was create wonderful highs but exasperating lows. the RWC & the 2020 6N will tell me if we released Vern C too quickly (which I have always feared to be the case). I’d like to see Thomson, Watson, Bradbury in the back row on Saturday.

    1. Totally agree re Hastings fullback. Have been saying it a while. It suits his skill set much better.

    2. Hastings is a special talent at fly half who had an off day behind a pack getting minced.

  45. Another thought: I really hope Owens doesn’t get any important games in the RWC. He’s become increasingly inconsistent and wacky in the last two or so years. Still entertaining to listen to, but I can see him (or, to be fair, any of the French refs) deciding who wins the whole thing. I thought Luke Pearce was good yesterday.

    1. No , I do not agree , Nigel Owens remains a fine referee. No one was in his face yesterday protesting. The one thing that was positive was Owens. He will get important games and rightly so, he has the two qualities you need for important games, namely credibility and experience.

      1. You’re welcome to believe that. But he missed a lot (how he missed that clear out, and then refused to check it after Barclay informed him is beyond me), was inconsistent, made unusual calls and was nowhere near the level he was a couple of years ago. He’s been like it in the Pro14 and other internationals in the last couple of years, too. As I’ve said before, I think it’s his fitness.

        As you say, he has a lot of credibility, but that and his refusal to change position despite protestations is why players weren’t in his face.

  46. Need a captain who can call for plan B, with an upping of the aggression and physical commitment from the forwards.

  47. I’m not too worried about that as there were only three definite starters playing and we are not going to do anything without Finn at 10.

    Individually: Strauss and McGuigan are done. Kinghorn needs to go back to Edinburgh and sort his defence out. John Barclay looked old and I don’t think we can carry anyone in the squad.

    Jamie Bhatti struggled but Slimani is the toughest TH to scrummage against, he actually got dropped by France because refs were penalising him unfairly so it was interesting to see Owens giving him the benefit of the doubt. I would give Bhatti another chance as Reid just holds up the scrum and we need more than that.

    I thought Matt Fagerson was very good and I think we need grafter in the backrow more than we need a ball carrier like Strauss or Thompson. Scotland always defend better when Ryan Wilson is on the field.

  48. Oh dear.

    Even allowing for it being the first game in a long time for most of those players it was very bad. What was most worrying was how many players just didn’t seem up for the fight. I know it was a pre-world cup warm up but the players should have been fizzing to try and get themselves on that plane. The French players were. They also didn’t seem to be suffering from it being the first game. Why is this such a Scottish failing? Are the players just not as good as we like to think? Or is it, as some have suggested, a failure of Toonie as a coach? I fear for us getting out the group in Japan.

    1. GT post match conference said it all…dont think I’ve seen him so despondent. It was dire and and he knows it….will he turn it all around?…I doubt it. He just isn’t making progress with arguably the largest number of talented players we have ever had in th pro game.

  49. We delude ourselves that GT is a good manager because we are desperate to have a Scot in that role. Let’s be honest and say that the improvement of recent years has been due to Cotter, and I wish he was still with us. The turnaround against England last season was due to players ignoring the managers orders.
    And let’s be honest, Stuart Hogg is a poor defender, and probably has more defensive kicks charged down than any other. As excellent as he is going forward, at top level his first job is defence, and he is close to mediocre at that.

    1. This has to be one of the most honest posts I have seen in these pages, in a long, long time. 2 observations :

      ‘Deluded’ is NOT too strong a word.

      ‘Mediocre’ IS too strong a word, Hogg’s defence is desperate and that exposed only when he is in the right position to feign a tackle.

      I notice Tom English is finally calling Townsend out , about time too. .

      Townsend , you are not wearing new clothes.

      Hogg, walk yer talk.

      1. I think it’s misinformed and plain wrong. I’m not desperate to have a Scot in that role – I think Cotter deserved more time – and when Cotter was in post Toonie was getting credit because the upturn in Scotland’s fortunes happened as Glasgow were improving, and Scotland starting playing a similar style.

        The turnaround against England was due to players improving their execution and England protecting their lead.

        Hogg is as good a defender as most fullbacks – and better than some big names according to the stats – and rarely has defensive kicks charged down. And if any Scottish coach prioritised defence over attack then surely Maitland would be the first-choice fullback.

  50. Another point; Japan in Japan could be our hardest game. If we wish to get out of our group we will need to secure it before we meet them.

    1. Or we could just beat Japan?? Lets not pretend that beating Japan is impossible or that they pose a bigger threat than Ireland.

    2. Japan are about as good as the Sunwolves ie a low table S15 side.

      We’ll beat them if we turn up.

      The problem is the ‘if we turn up’ bit which, evidently, is not guaranteed.

      1. We almost managed to lose to Samoa last RWC in what was as close to a home game as we’re likely to get whereas Japan took on and beat SA, a team that beat us easily. Yes, we should beat both those teams but it’s hard to be confident and upbeat about after watching that performance.

  51. I think Hastings is an excellent ten, he just has not had enough experience playing back foot rugby, he is usually excellent in attack, remember he has only played 1&1/2 to 2 full seasons at stand-off in a team which usually is on the front foot.

    I think Hogg has not been the same attacking threat since the lions, he is still a very good international player but i think he needs to balance his game a bit more towards his strike running instead of kicking & distribution, i hope Kinghorn can start pushing him a lot harder.

  52. The team i want to see next week is the following.

    1. Dell
    2. Stewart
    3. Nel
    4. Gray
    5. Skinner
    6. Thomson
    7. Watson
    8. Bradbury
    9. Horne
    10. Russell
    11. Seymour
    12. Horne
    13. Harris
    14. Kinghorn
    15. Maitland

    16. Mcinally
    17. Bhatti
    18. Fagerson
    19. Cummings
    20. Fagerson
    21. Laidlaw
    22. Hutchison
    23. Taylor

    1. Do you really want to see Harris ? Hutchison should start and Harris on the bench. I would like to see Maitland at FB as well . The Gray you really want to see is Richie Gray, another question Tom English asked of Townsend in his BBC report on Sunday.

      1. Campbell B to answer your question, i would rather see Harris make a fool of himself now than get an easy game against Georgia and make the WC squad. ( TBH he could get in ahead of Jones at this rate)

        And yes i want to see Richie Gray in the squad but unless an injury occurs it wont happen.

        I would like to see Hutchison come on at 10/12/13 (as we look at our versatility options) for 30 minutes & start at 13 in one of the Georgia games.

      2. Was Jones that bad ? He was one of the few who was coping with the heat and he barged his way around the opposition line on more than one occasion. Dont criticise his defence, there are worse in that side.

      3. I would say that Tom English got it ‘spot on’ on Sunday re Ritchie Gray’s exclusion question. GT has not answered fully why he has been left out and is Ritchie our 6th best 2nd row????

      4. Why is Tom English spot on? Is he the coach, does he have the credentials to insist Townsend justifies his selections? I think Richie gray should eb in the squad but I also think that Kyle Steyn should still be there, and Jamie Ritchie is a 6 not a 7 but I don’t get paid to pick the squad/team.

        He can have his opinions like us all but to call out the national coach to explain himself on selection matters in laughable. Gray was out for ages and from what I seen when he was back playing for Toulouse didn’t suggest he merited replacing the established 4 in the squad, and also with the emergence of Scott Cummings (who looked good when he came on) Townsend might feel quite justified with his selection choice.

  53. Pecking order after game 1. First name being best etc.

    LH – Dell – Reid – Bhatti
    Hooker – Mcinally (just) – Brown – Turner – Stewart
    TH – Nel – Fagerson – Berghan
    Lock – Gray – Skinner – Gilchrist – Cummings – Toolis
    Backrow – Watson – Bradbury – Wilson – Ritchie – Fagerson – Barclay – Strauss – Thomson(uncapped)
    SH – Price – Laidlaw – Horne
    FH – Russell – Hastings
    Centre – Johnson – Taylor – Horne – Hutchison – Harris – Jones
    Back 3 – Hogg – Maitland – Graham – Seymour – Kinghorn – Mcguigan

    1. You got back three wrong. Graham first and the jury is out on the order thereafter. After shouting to the press all week about how critical it is to defend, Hogg came out and showed us how not to do it.

      The morale could have turned if we had stoped Medard’s first try.

      Leaders lead by example , he is no leader either.

      Stay away from the press Stuart, do your talking on the pitch .

      1. I think Hogg was at fault for his positioning during Medard’s second try, not his tackling. Few would have stopped Medard at that range. The big issue was the positioning/reading of play that left Darcy defending a 4 on 1/2 overlap and Hoggy coming in to make the tackle way too late…

  54. Blown away again physically as is so often the case. What’s the issue and how is it addressed? Are our players so much smaller than the opposition? Size isn’t something that’s coached, comes down to genetics. Wales can’t have that much of a bigger pack than ours but have the best defence in the world at the moment, Shaun Edward’s influence. Obviously comes down to coaching, and desire maybe…

    1. Sure the Welsh pack is not huge but it’s aggressive especially AWJ and Moriarty and they have huge backs.

      1. I think Wales are structured, aggressive and pretty consistent…with a couple of good strike runners in there. A good, well organized team. They are not the All Blacks…but they will achieve much more in the game the us, as we are and have been under GT, because of they are structured to compete on a consistent basis against the best teams.
        We, however, are an unstructured mess who achieve great highs when we click as a team….but mentally collapse when the opposition don’t allow us to build that flow to our game.
        There is a lack of consistency and focus about our mentality….and I think the majority of this is down to our current coaching regime. VC, whilst having his own share of poor results and performances, was clearly making baby steps to building a team with attacking flair..but that was tough to beat also. We threw that out the window with a panicked offer to GT. Now we have consistent helter skelter performances and results.
        GT is probably a great backs coach….but severely lacking in the reality of winning rugby tactics.

      2. I don’t think we’re that unstructured but because the whole team looks geared towards getting around the park you wonder who’s going to make the dominant tackle or force the error when Ireland are sending Furlong and Stander up the middle for 30 phases.

        That might reflect the kind of players we have. Scotland forwards have always tended to be mobile and rangy, but we’ve left R Gray at home who’s in his prime.

  55. Saturday is ‘do or die’ for more than a few players. All the spin coming out of the training camp over the past couple of months was shown to be just talk with no substance to back it up. There better be a reaction this Saturday or the World Cup will be as good as over before its even started. Another performance at that level would see us losing to Georgia away.

    We now know that our third choice props are third rate. Our pack is soft, but then we have known this for a few years. Our attacking threat is totally dependent on Finn Russell orchestrating the play.

    Seymour and Maitland should address the aerial defence issue.

    Major concerns are (i) we don’t know our best team (ii) fitness of the squad is questionable (iii) the defence is an omni-shambles (iv) lack of confidence in Townsend being the best person to lead the team – applies to both players & supporters.

    1. Spot on. We’re missing MacFarland, big time. Wilson needs to sort out the forwards, because they’ve regressed significantly under him, and not just in the set piece. Look at some of those same players at Glasgow – they physically matched all comers last season, yet Battie (who was keeping Kebble out of the starting XV both in terms of loose play and set piece) got prison shamed.

      I think Toonie should’ve gotten Cotter in to consult – whatever you think of Cotter’s methods, the whole squad looked in great nick this time four years ago.

  56. Interesting article by Tom English on the BBC today, Scotland’s rubbish away form, struggles against brutish physicality & somewhat tactical naivety…can’t really argue. When we get space & time (and probably playing in Edinburgh) we can be magnificent the Ireland, Wales, England, Australia games spring to my mind where in patches we were irresistible, but other games, sometimes the same game a solid defence & clever kicking (I thought the French kicker was exceptional on Saturday) frustrates us & we attack irresponsibly. We need to earn the right to do the exciting fancy stuff.
    Hoping 3 wins starting on Saturday will send us to Japan is better spirits. Some random musings…….
    IMO it is a real loss that Cornell Du Preez didn’t retain form/fitness, he had everything. Hoping Blade Thomson adds something, I like Luke Crosbie too

    1. Du Preez was finished with Scotland before he got injured – did nothing in a Scotland jersey.

    2. Agreed ..up until the Cornell Du Preez opinion.
      Had his chance when fit….was not even test level.
      Ritchie, Bradbury, Fagerson and probably Crosbie….all are or will become test level players.

  57. That was not a beating, it was a drubbing. I blame the kit. We are supposed to be the dark blues, fierce highland (and lowland) warriors. So what do you expect if you dress the team up in a pastel shade? If you look like a powder-puff you will play like a powder-puff……

    1. That kit does feel like we have sold our soul to BT, better be getting a hell of alot of cash, to suggest it is responsible for the performance is ridiculous though.

      1. Neil, That was a joke! Not a very good I admit. Just an attempt to lighten the tone amidst the gloom!

  58. I hope Townsend can get them firing.
    Worries are lack of physicality and confidence which are linked.
    Confidence comes from knowing you won’t be out muscled.

    I agree with others lamenting the absence of R Gray, but unless there’s an injury he won’t be there so who else is there?

    Bradbury is bulky and lookd aggressive but he’s callow.
    Fagerson is an aggressive ball carrier snd tackler but not bulky.
    Wilson is the same as Fagerson.
    Skinner and Thomson play/ have played their rugby in hard schools but haven’t had the game time for Scotland so we don’t know.
    Strauss is at the tail end of his career and has taken a hell of a beating in teams where he’s been our only ball carrier. Unlike some I won’t knock him.

    It’s all coming from the back row although Skinner can play lock!

    Oh well, it is what it is. Townsend is clever, no doubt, so I hope he can work it out.

    My big fear is that we’re this kind of ‘on their day’s team that can upset big teams and put smaller ones away but if things don’t go right we get gubbed (as on Saturday or Wales in 2018 or 1st half v England).

    Come on Scotland! You’re better than that garbage served up on Saturday!

  59. Johnny b I have to agree. Getting a better back row blend or at least getting all 3 of the back row fit and firing will make a world of difference. Our main issue, despite a few token turnovers, was allowing the French quick ball at ruck time. We need someone in there getting in the way and slowing down the ball. That’s the best way of allowing the defence to reset and give everyone that extra two seconds to catch their breath.
    It can be a thankless task (I don’t think “Number of rucks slowed down” is a stat often touted after a game) but it really is essential. Perhaps it’s one of the reasons that Ryan Wilson and gritty players of that ilk still get a game. It’s also something Sam Warburton was very good at.

  60. One area of our game that strikes me again and again is that our ball carriers take the ball standing still. I have never seen this worse than the last game.
    This lack of grunt and go forward hinders any chances of releasing the backs.
    Until both this and the woeful defence on show is fixed we are, just like our ball carriers, destined to go backwards and have no chance at the World Cup.

    1. My son also commented on this during the game – he reckoned that if his u18 team were taking the ball into contact like this they’d be getting a b*llocking from their coaches, so weird to see Scotland doing it.

      1. Yeah I would agree with that.
        I also find it bizarre we take the ball at standstill. Our players are not physically that much different to any other team….so you need momentum to break the gain line with things being equal. It is also energy sapping to create the same power from standstill continuously.

  61. Ha ha 32-3 loss and people are bleating about the kit???

    Scotland listed as having the heavier pack but being physically dominated once again. It’s not the size of the dog in the fight but the size of the fight in the dog. Coaching and mindset big big problems.

    Strauss and McGuigan can start booking their holidays for me.

  62. I think you can boil it down to 4 issues:

    Fitness: Can only hope this is in hand and the lack of this was due to where they are in the build up process. If not then it’s very worrying.

    Set Piece: Again we have to hope the pitch and maybe rustiness affected this. It’s a case of looking for excuses because the alternative at this stage is that we don’t have time to change the forwards coach.

    Attack: If we want guile then we have the likes of Thomson, Russell, Taylor and Hutchinson (who is a magician in midfield). If we want grunt and consistent tackle busters then we have Bradbury and Strauss and that’s about it. For me Bradbury must play to give that option then it’s over to the likes of Russell as we will break the line more with guile than brawn but you need a bit of both.

    Defence: In an age of teams adopting league style suffocating defence (see England, Wales and Ireland) I think we are miles off here if I’m honest. I dont think any of the three mentioned are impregnable by any means but you know what they’re trying to do and it’s generally effective and frustrating to face. Our strategy? I’m not sure.

    All that being said, it was one game so let’s not panic. After all we know its Russell that makes us tick and he takes us from ranging between bad and solidly stolid all the way to inconsistent but occasionally spectacular.

    1. I’m just not that convinced by Bradbury, if you take Barclay out and put Bradbury you have the same BR that played in Feb and was equally outgunned. he wasn’t great for Edinburgh at the end of last season. I’d be delighted to be proved wrong.

      1. Right now I’d say Ritchie, Watson., Thomson, Fagerson and Wilson would be my pick, I’d also take 5 props and Cummings to allow Skinner to go as a 6.

      2. You’ve never seen Thomson at international level, so how can you favour him? Not to mention he’s been out for months. And Bradbury was good against France and very good against England.

      3. Bradbury is 116kg. Barclay, Fagerson and Watson around 102kg with Ritchie, Thomson and Wilson around 106kg. We consistently bemoan our lack of grunt and ball carrying whilst Bradbury was superb after his injury return for Edinburgh and certainly added grunt during the 6N. We can’t just have Watson carrying.

    2. Everyone writing off Huw Jones who was playing his 1st game in 6 mths?
      Not so fast. He’ll be back.

  63. I favour Thomson because he wasn’t involved in Saturdays debacle and was Scarlets best player until he got his concussion, he might also be way off the pace but until I see I can dream. Bradbury was crap against France and crap in the first half against England and crap for Edinburgh as they failed to make the play off, as was Barclay. They each got nostalgic MoM award in their return games but really did very little.

    1. “He wasn’t involved” isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement. Neither was Blair Cowan. And Scarlets were pants last season. Bradbury was good against France, was good for Edinburgh and is one of our few forwards who is a genuine ball carrying threat. He’s a big lad who just needs to become more abrasive and aggressive. And I’m not sure how a young player can get a nostalgic MotM award…

      1. He gets a nostalgic Motm because he’s a long time edinburgh darling who’d been out with injury for an extended period and everyone was just happy to see him back not becasue of anything he did in that game against dragons, maybe sentimental is a better word. You don’t always need to see someone at international level ruaridh mcconnochie’s never played for england but he’s in their 31 against all that depth. Townsend wanted to bring Thomson to glasgow and has been desperate to get him in the Scotland team since he moved to Scarlets and from what I saw at the start of last season I can easily see why. Blair Cowan is not in the squad.

      2. I really hope you’re right Scrummo, wouldn’t it be great if both Bradbury and Thomson smash it out of the park when they get their game

  64. I have a technical question for anyone who’s a referee about the tackle law. I’ve noticed Leinster, Munster, Ireland, Wales, England and on Saturday France were doing it a lot. when you’re player takes the ball into contact the supporting players who are shaping to clear out don’t wait for the tackle to be completed they very often tackle the tackler and drive him back to get a very dominant collision and fast ruck ball. Is this legal?

    1. Probably not if that lot are doing it, but if the officials allow them to do so, we should do so, too. Same with us being onside so often (both internationally and in the Pro14/ERCC) – if we can see that Owens is letting the French do it, we should do it, too. We’re just not ‘streetwise’.

      1. A few things here I think and totally dependant on split second timing (and whether you have a non-Scottish jersey on!)
        If the support player binds before the tackle is made then it’s back to the old days of ‘flying wedge’ and should be pinged. If they bind at or after point of tackle it’s the beginning of a maul situation?
        What Irish and Welsh support players do is go beyond the tackle point and target the next arriving player . In attack this prevents or slows the potential jackalers arrival. In defence it prevents or slows the arrival of the clear out leading to penalties for holding on.
        Good example was Munster’s last minute penalty at home against Glasgow. Tackler assist made no attempt to attack or bind onto ball carrier but went straight for the arriving Glasgow player (going past the ball in the process). One of his chums arrived got free hands on the ball and a penalty for holding on. Or, actually, preventing release as he made no attempt to win the ball merely trapping it against the tackled players chest!

  65. Interesting seeing all the views on different players, but the real issue is the coaching. International rugby at the highest level is all about fine margins, and our team commits more basic errors than any other. The other top sides can go whole matches without basic errors; kicks charged down, knock ons when not under pressure, kicks out on the fall ( even our hero Finn commits more of these than any other no. 10). I’m amazed that our journalistic friends haven’t cottoned onto this and publish the stats. It is so hard to do well against top teams when you keep inviting them play the next move deep in your own half with their own put in.

    1. That might indeed be a coaching issue Adopted, however i think it is from constantly mix & matching the teams as opposed to training, there is no consistency or familiarity in any Townsend squad, just because we now have good depth does not mean we shouldn’t pick the best possible side, i think this will be improved over the coming weeks.

      1. Its been hard…so many players who were or should be starters have been injured about half or more of this WC cycle. We harp on about our depth but the truth is we are still behind the big guns even with our best 23….whatever that may be.

        We also have the predicament of older/perennially injured players fading while their incumbents are taking over which is no good in a WC year.

        I think we will see Z. Fagerson surpass Nel, Ritchie surpass Barclay, Bradbury surpass Wilson, Price surpass Laidlaw and Graham surpass Seymour. Great thing to have looking ahead but not now.

        This loss has really shaken my confidence in Townsend though… I’ve defended him in the past but he doesn’t seem to learn and seems stubborn…reminds me a lot of Michael Cheika for the Wallabies.

      2. One thing I got a hint of post-Calcutta Cup is perhaps his gameplan requires a high standard of execution and for some reason the team aren’t executing it under pressure? Eg say they have figured out a way to make the box kick a useful weapon but if the decision when to kick is badly timed, the kick itself is poor and the chase is poor then it negates the tactical mastery. If that were the case (not saying it is) maybe the plan should be adjusted suit the players more? Goes back to the lack of a Plan B thing too…

      3. Rory I think you are absolutely spot on about Toonie’s gameplan requiring a high level of execution.
        We basically need all our best players on form to do it.

        Having said that, by the end of the 6N and especially the 2nd half v England he had a team full of 3rd and 4th choices and players with 4 caps singing.

        Toonie is smart enough to know what to do.

        The only issue I have is that partly through injury but also partly through the Tombola selection has been inconsistent, so it still isn’t clear (at least to me) who the players he sees executing the gameplan are.

  66. It’s been a pretty dispiriting few days since Saturday in Nice. I just want to see the published 23 for the return match and then hopefully see/hear a performance at the weekend to give us some hope again. Different game and less bleak a context, but supporting Scotland at times can feel a bit like the Michael Palin character following Barnstonworth United in his Ripping Yarns series in the 1970s.
    Come on, Scotland, gies some hope!

  67. I have came to the conclusion that it is arrogance on our part to think that we can put out any old team against quality opposition away from home and assume we will compete. We need to start our best 15 every single game unless they are injured.

    1. Dell
    2. Mcinally
    3. Bel
    4. Gilchrist
    5. Gray
    6. Ritchie
    7. Watson
    8. Wilson (for some agro)
    9. Laidlaw (can’t believe I just said that)
    10. Russell
    11. Maitland
    12. Johnson
    13. Taylor
    14. Seymour
    15. Hogg

    16. Brown
    17. Reid
    18. Fagerson
    19. Cummings
    20. Fagerson
    21. Horne
    22. Hastings
    23. Horne

    First names on the reserve list are Graham, Barclay and Jones.

    1. Not far off I think. Although I wish we had another lock in the squad…..

      I think your back division will be pretty close to what we see against Ireland. If Hutchinson does ok, he might fill Pete Horne’s bench spot.

    2. Id like to see….
      1. Dell
      2. Mcinally
      3. Nel
      4. Cummings
      5. Gray
      6. Wilson
      7. Watson
      8. Thomson
      9. G Horne
      10. Russell
      11. Maitland
      12. Johnson
      13. Taylor
      14. Seymour
      15. Hogg

      16. Brown
      17. Bhatti
      18. Fagerson
      19. Skinner
      20. Fagerson
      21. Hutchinson
      22. Laidlaw
      23. Graham

    3. Agree with the sentiment 1.8T. From here on in we need to have consistency if we are to travel with any confidence.
      Think your bench lacks experience though.
      And who is Bel?

      1. Bel is the love child of Dell and Nel, the answer to all our front row issues!

        My proposed bench is perhaps a bit light on experience but if your experience is of being mediocre and losing then I don’t value it. I also believe if your good enough your experienced enough. Look at Johnson, Graham, Jones (although his stock has gone down recently) etc, zero caps and all burst onto the scene with some tries and a couple of good games and are now nailed on starters for a lot of people, previously tarred with the “their not experienced enough” brush.

  68. I’m not one for flying off the handle about a result. We’ve had a few over the years tbh but if you look at this result in footballing terms. Two teams in the top ten of the world played and one beat the other 5-0. This is akin to Germany beating Brazil in Brazil 7-1 in the 2014 World Cup. This is a worrying result. Brazil thought it was the end of the world when that happened to them and they had made it to a semi-final which is much harder to do in football than rugby at this moment in time.

    Maybe we were being fitness tested by doing tough training sessions, maybe the heat we weren’t used to (Japan is much worse) Maybe France were just epic and the new coaching regime has worked out how to play these players to their best at last. But Scotland shouldn’t be losing 5-0 to anyone at anytime in rugby.

    I listened to the radio as I drove a long way from Cardiff to Birmingham and it was brutal. All I remembered was “They’ve kicked away possession again” when to play through the hands was on. The worst one being kicking it away when we were down to 14. Who does that? Wales wouldn’t neither would Ireland. Why cause they have wisdom. We seem to lack it in spades.

    The lack of aggression came across on the radio and the lack of a decent structure in defence. It was a terrible listen. We couldn’t even finish off the 5 mins camped on their line with 4 penalties in our favour.

    I felt for the immediate future of Scotland this was must win. It was far worse I’ve lost almost all hope

  69. After Bledisoe 2 I left a flippant comment on another forum calling Australia the Southern hemisphere Scotland. Sacks of talent, lightweight pack, an ability to pluck an amazing result every now and then but ultimately getting by on the amazing ability of flattering to deceive, especially at home. Then Saturday night happened and was proven more right than I could have believed when we lost 32-3 and they lost 36-0. This isnt a knee jerk reaction to one bad performance. This is the culmination of 2-3 years of us papering over Townsends cracks with blistering performances against top teams having a bad day at Murrayfield. Townsends best came when he was riding Verns wave. I am dumbfounded to understand that we had the heavier pack on Saturday?!?!? The forwards were men against boys. The defensive organisation is non existent. Wales man for man are not that much better than us, arguably in many backline positions worse but that defence has got them to 18 wins from 19 tests. This is probably the greatest talent pool Scottish rugby has ever had and we are watching season after season of under achievement. That is coaching. It is physical, it is mental (away form is a joke in the most literal of senses), it is tactical and it is leadership. These are not gifted athletes doing their best at rugby, they are genuinely gifted rugby players whose talents are being squandered. I genuinely believe Toony would rather draw 38-38 than win 12-9

  70. Seen a lot of comments that are worried about the defence (which definitely agree with), but i think a big worry which i haven’t seen much comment on is the attack in the last year.

    In GT’s first year, building on Cotter’s good work, we finally looked like we could score tries against good teams – 3 away to Aus, then 8 at home. 3 v England and 2 v France in 6 nations, 2 v NZ in Autumn, etc.

    Contrast that with the last year, 1 v Argentina & 2 v S Africa, 1 against Ireland and Wales. 1 and then 0 in two trips to France.

    We’ve had more injuries in that 2nd period, but bar a glorious 30 mins at Twickenham we’ve stopped scoring against physical / top teams – even at home.

    The ‘doesn’t matter if you score 2, we’ll score 3’ mentality doesn’t really work when you stop scoring…

    1. I agree and I think it is the attack in the forwards. The inability to get over the gainline and punch holes to create a platform is strangling our backs. Then you get the hail Marys in the second half because they all feel like they have to conjure something up out of nothing. On top of that you likely have the pressure of the mantra we have around fastest rugby in the world and our dangerous backs. They cant do anything without the pack. How ignoring a powerhouse like Ritchie Gray is even contemplated I do not know. A tough physical forward, should be fairly fresh in a winning side with a winning mentality. He must merit at least looking at in a warm up

      1. TBH i would far prefer to see a 15-0 win this time round as opposed to some score like 53-27 etc. I just want to see an excellent brutal defensive performance for Scotland for a change, give us a foundation for consistency for christ sake, the backline will manage themselfs after that.

        1. Dell 2. Brown 3. Nel 4. Gray 5. Skinner 6. Wilson 7. Watson 8. Bradbury 9. Horne 10. Russell 11. Graham 12. Johnson 13. Taylor 14. Maitland 15. Hogg

        Thats all work rate in that pack & a shift to better defence in the backline.

        16. McInally 17. Reid 18. Fagerson 19. Gilchrist 20. Fagerson 21. Laidlaw 22. Hutchison 23. Take your pick from Hastings/
        Kinghorn & Seymour

        Power, Set piece, Game control & versatility of the bench.

  71. I thought Brown, Bradbury and Johnson are still unavailable?
    I would guess
    1. Dell, 2.Turner, 3. Nel, 4. Skinner, 5.Gray, 6. Wilson, 7.Watson, 8.Thomson, 9. Laidlaw, 10.Hastings, 11.Graham, 12 Horne, 13 Harris, 14, Seymour, 15 Maitland.

    16. McInally, 17. Reid, 18. Fagerson, 19. Cummings, 20. Barclay, 21. Horne, 22. Hutchinson, 23. Taylor.

      1. Still not convinced we need to risk Russell and Hogg.

        There must be a reason Gray and Taylor have been omitted perhaps nursing little niggles.

      2. I think you have to take the risk in playing them to ensure they are not undercooked come world cup, especially at 10 being such a controlling factor.

      3. Deep down I know you’re right but Hogg has survived one game already and if Russel gets injured our world cup is over. I’ll be holding my breath every time he takes it flat to the line. C’mon Finn!!

  72. I see that Gabrillagues has been cited and banned for 10 weeks reduced to 6 in the farcical way World Rugby operates these things.

    I missed the challenge when watching the match but the comments I’ve read seem to suggest that it was brought to Owens’ attention. Similar to Hogg being taken out in the Ireland game, why do refs not listen when our players point out foul play they’ve missed? Is this me just being a put-upon, chippy Scot looking to blame anyone but ourselves for another demoralising loss or is there something about our players that means refs don’t give them a fair hearing?

    It wouldn’t have changed the result of that game. I don’t think even a red card on the pitch could have roused some passion from the team. But it just seems odd when you see other teams asking refs to check for foul play and they do it that we don’t seem to get the same consideration. Or do we and my tartan specs have glossed over this to focus on the times we haven’t?


    I remember this challenge being highlighted hugely by radio and saying why is that not being looked at? They said Barclay pestered Owens about it and he said there was no foul play. This was not why we lost the match at all but it would have changed it I’m sure.

    The main reason it was missed I believe is because it was not put up on the replay by the host broadcasters who have a vested interest in not having certain things being shown. Play is stopped for so much these days but yet so many things are still missed. You can’t have host broadcasters dictating what is shown it has to be what is in the interest of the right outcome and that should be someone out with the TMO team and anyone with a vested interest.

    6 week ban and what they said merited a red card is not even a Peter O’Manhony or Kearney type of challenge (yellow but injures the player so he’s out of the competition so they get the full advantage without any sanction) it is a terrible incident that has to be seen especially with replays available.

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Scottish Rugby News and Opinion