Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Scotland v Georgia, Summer Tests 2019: Match Preview

Kilmarnock, . November 26, 2016. Action from Scotland vs Georgia in the Autumn Test at Rugby Park, Kilmarnock. (c) ALASTAIR ROSS | Novantae Photography Photo Credit: Alastair Ross / Novantae Photography

KO 7.30pm
Friday 6th September 2019

BT Murrayfield, Edinburgh

TV coverage – Premier Sports 1
(re-runs on FreeSports, Saturday 7th September at 10.00am and Sunday 8th September at 8.00pm)

Scotland have never lost a match at Murrayfield against a Tier 2 nation with the only blemish on an otherwise perfect record being a draw with Samoa in 1995. Of course, there was a rather embarrassing defeat on home soil against Tonga which took place at Pittodrie Stadium in Aberdeen but let’s not talk about that…

Record at Murrayfield v Tier 2 nations:

  • Canada – P1 W1. Score 22-6
  • Fiji – P4 W4. Average score 38-16
  • Japan – P1 W1. Score 42-17
  • Romania – P5 W5. Average score 36-8
  • Samoa – P5 W4 D1. Average score 36-23
  • Spain – P1 W1. Score 48-0
  • Tonga – P1 W1. Score 43-20
  • Uruguay – P1 W1. Score 43-12
  • USA – P1 W1. Score 53-6

This will be Georgia’s first time in the capital to take on Scotland with the two sides’ previous encounter in this country taking place at Kilmarnock’s Rugby Park. With three trips to Landsdowne Road and one to the Millennium Stadium, the Georgians will have completed the set of the Celtic countries’ top primary stadiums. Will the other members of the Six Nations be so hospitable in future?

Key stats from Georgia v Scotland

Kicking control

In their last four matches there’s been a bit of a trend towards more kicking from Scotland. The 25 they put in against Georgia was the most against a Tier 2 side during the Townsend era (average 18 per game).

There were a couple of strands to this. Firstly Finn Russell was looking to control the territory and make sure any Georgian possessions were starting from their own half. There was also plenty of variety in the type of kicking to exploit space. A chip in the buildup to try number 2 and a grubber assist for try number 4 being the best examples.

There was even a bit more variation in the kickers. Russell was definitely leading things here but even Sam Johnson (who averages a kick every 415 minutes during his Glasgow career) was inspired to get in on the action. Although the less said about John Barclay’s attempt to kick ahead in attack the better!

With defences these days often so hard to break down Scotland look to be using their kicking game to find where the space is. It also has the potential to check the opposition rush and create more opportunity when not kicking. The key is Finn Russell’s decision-making. Can he choose the right time to kick or twist?

Tidy on turnovers

The quality of the opposition has to be factored in but Scotland had one of their better nights when it came to hanging on to the ball. For just the fifth time in the 26 matches of the Townsend era their turnover number was in single figures. The previous occasions were:

  • Italy (2 times)
  • Fiji
  • England

Clearly, most of these strong showings have come against less intense defences. The one that stands out is the Calcutta Cup match from 2018. Holding on to possession and minimising England’s chances to get their own attack going was a significant factor in that game for Scotland.

On the day the forwards were inspired; the backs were clinical; and there was also the small matter of being on Nigel Owens’ wavelength at the breakdown as well.

Conceding less than 10 turnovers could be key in the upcoming RWC. Ireland are possession-hogs so the longer Scotland can keep the ball the better. Samoa and Japan will both counterattack from anywhere and Gregor Townsend’s side cannot afford to cough the ball up cheaply.

Problematic penalties

One area that didn’t go so well against Georgia was discipline with Scotland conceding 12 penalties. Granted there was a bit of back and forth in the scrum but there were a few too many soft pens conceded in open play.

It’s something that has actually been very good in the Townsend era. Scotland have conceded less than 10 penalties in 15 of their 26 games over the last two and a bit years. Since the 2017 Summer Tour they’ve only picked up 3 yellow cards in 23 matches.

With Scotland looking to defend high up the pitch where teams can do less damage it’s crucial to avoid giving the opposition a free shot at getting into the 22 from unnecessary penalties in midfield.

Toony will expect his players to be able to read the refs and make good decisions about when to attack the breakdown. They’ll also need to be wary of tackle heights with the new decision-making framework on head contact in place. Get these things right and there could be another slight edge to be won on Scotland’s RWC opponents.


Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant 1: Andrew Brace (Ireland)
Assistant 2: Karl Dickson (England)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (England)

A few years back M. Poite was a fiend for sin binning Scotsmen. John Barclay, Nick de Luca, Rory Lamont and Jim Hamilton were yellow carded in quick succession across 3 games at the start of this decade. Since then the dark blues’ relationship with the former plain-clothed detective has improved somewhat – although the penalty counts have been pretty borderline on occasion.

Scotland’s last 5 games with M. Poite in charge:

  • 2015 – lost to England (A)
    Penalties: 18 (For 8 – 10 Against)
    Cards: none
  • 2015 – beat Italy (H)
    Penalties: 26 (For 14 – 12 Against)
    Cards: Italy 2 YCs
  • 2017 – beat Ireland (H)
    Penalties: 16 (For 7 – 9 Against)
    Cards: none
  • 2018 – lost to South Africa (H)
    Penalties: 17 (For 9 – 8 Against)
    Cards: South Africa 1 YC
  • 2019 – lost to Ireland (H)
    Penalties: 13 (For 6 – 7 Against)
    Cards: none

The Team

It’s a scratch side for sure but one which maybe gives the first hints of what the lineup will be for Scotland’s opening RWC fixture against Ireland in a little over 3 weeks.

The twin aims here look to be protecting the frontline players and to keep a couple of the potential squad replacements involved and in game shape with no competitive matches scheduled for Edinburgh or Glasgow until the end of the month.

There were late replacements for the 2015 RWC squad before and after the tournament began. None of the omitted players should be hitting the pub just yet.

Scotland: Blair Kinghorn, Tommy Seymour, Duncan Taylor, Sam Johnson, Darcy Graham, Adam Hastings, Ali Price; Gordon Reid, George Turner, Zander Fagerson, Scott Cummings, Jonny Gray, Ryan Wilson (c), Jamie Ritchie, Blade Thomson.
Replacements: Grant Stewart, Allan Dell, Simon Berghan, Ben Toolis, Magnus Bradbury, George Horne, Peter Horne, Chris Harris

64 Responses

      1. Horne will bench v Russia. If Laidlaw or Price gets injured he will bench other games. Price will start v Russia. If Laidlaw gets injured he will start other games. Priority has to be getting Price more time starting. Horne is running the same role he will have at the RWC.

      2. The third choice scrum half will start vs Russia and unless injured play 80 minutes. There’s a 4 day turnaround before Japan.

      3. Barring injuries, this is the team we can expect to see for that Russia game:

        Kinghorn; Seymour, Harris, Horne, Graham; Hastings, Horne; Reid, Turner, Fagerson; Cummings, Toolis; Wilson (C), Ritchie; Thomson

        (Brown, Dell, Berghan, Gilchrist, Watson, Price, Johnson, Maitland)

      4. Sam :I think Neil has spotted it already. Harris will only be played outside Russell, not Hastings therefore I don’t agree he will start against Russia. He will be 1st choice or bench in the real tests. (He has to play this to its conclusion now he has snubbed Hutchinson and Jones ).

        Good spot Neil (did I really say that !!!)

    1. It’s crazy – for a start he is better than Price, but also if one of the others gets injured, he is going to be very short on game time.

      Rest of the team seems fairly sensible – don’t see the point in players not selected being involved really.

      Also trying really hard not to hope Harris or Horne pick up a minor injury so Hutchinson can go (although Sod’s law it will be Johnson or Taylor)

      1. Price started every big game for Glasgow and was their best player in 2018/19.

        Horne is great at scoring tries and running support lines but his pass isn’t brilliant, he often rushes at rucks and get caught unaware and his kicking is genuinely dreadful.

        I like him as a player but he has his weak points (if he didn’t he would be Dupont level). The idea that both Rennie and Townsend don’t understand that Horne is better than Price is ridiculous.

      2. Price has gone backwards again – his test form has been dreadful for over 18months (save 40mins in Twickenham) – his club form was good in 2019 – but this is test rugby.

        He’s a terrible SH when the chips are down.

      3. Other than the Wales game 18 months ago he has only had two starts that went well versus Wales and England and some sub appearances that went ok. The only bad game was versus France and even then he was one of the better defenders and performers overall.

        The idea that games versus Saracens and Leinster who have near Test level teams don’t count in judging form is bizarre. The fact that people bring up games from so long ago is also strange.

      4. Price is a bit of a liability, not the safest pair of hands, but when Horne comes off the bench the opposition are wilting and his injection of pace lifts the side and that often carries us through the last quarter. Horne is usually involved in the closing tries. When he comes on early he gets bullied. Just my opinion, absolutely love him and he deserves all the praise he gets, just saying , it is a balance with Horne.

    1. Yep and you can just see it coming, he must have seen the inside of more hospitals in the world than Florence Nightingale.

    2. It is but from what he said on Radio Scotland he is fully fit (injury wise) and is using this time to get extra fitness sessions in rather than working up to being ready for a match and not doing certain sessions. Still seems strange and think being on the bench here is worth getting 20 mins done at least on the test pitch.

  1. Somewhat surprised not to see more of the ‘unlucky 9’ involved in this game.
    Also surprised that Fraser Brown hasn’t been given any match fitness off the bench. Townsend made the point of announcing him in the squad as “the fully fit” Fraser Brown. Can safely guess he will be on the bench Vs Ireland so thought Townsend would have given him the chance to practice the impact role in this game.
    This is the same reason I am not surprised to see George Horne on the bench. He has started against tier 2 opposition before and its clear where his strengths are. I think the coaching staff see him as a game changer, similar to Matawalu at Glasgow. Imagine trying to defend against him in 30 degree heat when you’ve already played 60 minutes.

      1. Well Skinner would have gone but got injured so probably the most unlucky of the “9”. He obviously wouldn’t be available for Friday due to the aforementioned injury though …

  2. I think Price and Hastings are the natural bakup to Laidlaw and Russell – this last game is an opportunity for them to show some club form together. Horne (rightly or wrongly) is always going to be coming off the bench in Japan (as he does regularly for Glasgow), so replicating that scenario on Friday makes sense to me.

    Will be crossing fingers and toes that Johnson makes it through the game in one piece. Also hope we see something of a return to form for Taylor after Toonie has shown faith in him, He was fairly average against France – but who wasn’t I suppose. I’d expected him to have had more game time than he’s had, so wouldn’t be surprised to see him get the full 80 on Friday.

    Agree that the abscence of Brown is weird. Toonie seemed to make a particular point of pointing out that he’s fully fit during the squad announcement yesterday, so not sure what’s going on there.

  3. I for one am happy with this line-up. Most of these players will be second choice in their positions come the big group games (or at least the first). I think J. Gray, B. Thomson, S. Johnson, D. Taylor and D.Graham will all start vs Ireland, with the first two needing match fitness, the centres needing experience together and Maitlands age being taken into account with Graham playing.

    We’ve also managed to keep all of our big, big players out the equation and we get to see this line-up, which is probably the closest to the Russia line-up (a BP and PD must win) work togther and gain confidence against the 7th best European side. I would hope that G.Horne is given 40 as a minimum and his brother is given a chance to pair up with Harris again to show they can work together as effectively as they did vs France.

  4. Very strong side. I hope they make mincemeat of Georgia, Taylor makes it through unscathed and we get a good send off. Time to start delivering on our promise.

  5. The next step in Townsend’s dastardly plan to get Harris looking like the first choice 13…

    Play Johnson & Taylor together but not outside Russell..

  6. Nice write-up, Kevin. Also, I presume the 8 in the picture isn’t the same guy whom we faced last weekend!

  7. John Barclay’s kick brought back memories of John ‘Chip ‘n’ Chase’ Welsh.
    Stirring stuff.

  8. Pleased with this team as I was worried I would be watching a lot of players smarting from missing selection. Will be good to see Johnson and Taylor paired. Would have liked to see George Horne start. And still not over Rory Hutchison exclusion…

  9. Great article Kevin. Really hungry for proper analysis like this. Wish the Scots TV pundits on Premier would up their game to provide your level of insight.
    Anyway, really strong team even though we are missing 9 likely starters for Ireland. Hope we put Georgia to the sword of Friday. Hoping to see:
    – Wilson inspire
    – Price / Hastings play with front foot ball
    – Johnson & Taylor to gel
    Really optimistic for the Ireland game!

    1. Chance for Wilson to get off the mark in the try department for Scotland too. At least we do have a Number 8 who has scored a try now. Bradbury.

  10. Looking forwards to this match.

    The Georgians have announced their squad and the return of the formidable Mamuka Gorgodze from international retirement.

    He’s 35 now but still an absolute bulldozer of a backrow forward or lock and a bit of a talisman for them so it will be interesting to see what he’s got in the tank if he plays.

    1. Think they were stung by his easily we beat them and it has certainly dented their 6N ambitions; they probably needed a hard-fought close loss to give their campaign for inclusion momentum.

      Important for us we make this another no-nonsense, no-drama win.

    2. He is actually playing for Toon this week and joins the RWC squad next week when they fly out to japan. His highly-rated namesake Beka is playing at Murrayfield.

  11. Given no one is posting today and the dust has settled. Thought I’d bemoan the absence of Huw Jones again in both squad and tomorrow’s test- still an absolute joke.

    1. Don’t make too much noise about it. Townsend will send Danny Wilson out to say that ‘Uhu , I think it was the players own choice not to play on Friday , yeah , he could not commit, I think, maybe , he might have got a better offer, yes probably, he did, I think that is right’.

      It is unbelievable how the SRU and Glasgow have acquiesced Huw Jones into this situation. Get out Huw, The Premiership , but not Exeter.

  12. My main worry is the fragility of our main back row ball carrier – Blade Thomson, he was out for ages last season, played a few games & only lasted about an hour before another HIA. If its a leg or a back that can be mended / heal……. can a head?

    Looks like Bradbury or Fagerson will be told to have a bag packed

    1. We have an array of ‘6’ players and no obvious ‘8’. It is one of the weakest positions in our squad.
      Thompson selection is a good example of that….desperate to cap anyone with a modicum of talent.
      He has a very good rugby background …without ever getting into the ABs.
      We are trying to get better…to actually attempt to win comps…is selecting fringe players of those sides we want to beat going to get us over the line??…or selecting a raw but talented scottish player. If we are still selecting AB and SA cast offs for the next world cup…we aren’t making any progress. Hopefully Bradbury gets a shot at it soon..

  13. Why is this game scheduled on a Friday night at exactly the same time as the football team have a home qualifier over in Glasgow? That’s absolute madness, and smacks of the same mentality as providing TV coverage rights to a paid subscription service that isn’t even capable of providing a competent feed.Are we interested in developing the sport?

    1. No , they are interested in greed

      However apparently scotrail have promised no problems ! , so given their regular performance with only a Murrayfield match on a Saturday afternoon , they will obviously be properly covered for 2 of 40,000 crowds on a Friday evening.

  14. Think the key word is “acquiesced” .Earlier boards have made reference to that point. You have answered a different point .This post is not what we are looking at today but to answer your attack , he is no worse than Horne or Harris,the former has proved his mediocrity over 40 something caps and the latter is still to prove his adequacy.

  15. Halftime thoughts.

    Darcy Graham has been excellent, a transformed aeriel performance over Lyon and a very cool head for Kinghorns try, excellent play in both trys actually. Jonny Gray, a player I often slate for being ineffective, well he has been very effective tonight so far. Counter attack has been good, Taylor and Johnson both looking dangerous.

    Blade Thomson, ineffective and error prone. Handbags Fagerson, couldn’t get a grip of the scrums which have been shambolic. Ryan Wilson has been pretty quiet too and Ali Price hasn’t been great, box kicks telegraphed and too long.

    Hastings hasn’t had a bad game but his territorial game is still lacking compared to Russell but he has made a couple of good runs himself and that try saving intervention was coolly done. They need to settle down and cut out the errors, Georgia have the upper hand in the scrums so stop giving them so many.

    1. Full time thoughts:

      Scoreline flattered us. Took the tries at the end well but that was Georgian errors and some individual skill more than us playing particularly well. Scrums were infinitely better when handbags went off.

      Darcy Graham well deserved MOTM, great performance after a very poor one against France. Forgot to mention Kinghorn at half time who also played very well, possibly his best performance. We really missed two people tonight who are crucial to our game, Finn Russell and Hamish Watson. Backrow play was poor for the majority of the match, slow over the top of the ball, better teams would have crucified us.

      Good to see super dunc get through an 80mins, solid performance without being outstanding, the space was out on the wings though and he linked well. Hastings, as he often does, looks better at the end of a match, he also plays better with The Horne’s either side of him.

      Good to see the walking wounded out on the pitch at the end, didn’t see Toolis though, not too sure what happened to him but he must have got quite a wallop.

      1. What did Darcy do that was poor against France? My recollection is that he was one of the few players to do well in the game.

      2. To be fair he wasn’t along in France, seem to remember a lot of errors and poor in the air, knock ons etc, not tonight though!

      3. Well, I doubt either of us is going to go back and watch it to discover the truth of the matter! #toosoon

  16. Awesome!…another shambles.
    Fagerson total liability and still can’t scrum.
    Turner can’t throw a ball.
    Reid average loosened.
    Gray ok
    Cummings only lock we have who can actually break the gain line.
    Wilson crap
    Ritchie OK
    Thompson OK
    Price slow …good support for try
    Hastings …average/poor kicking…some good moments
    Graham Excellent
    Johnson average / good
    Taylor average
    Seymour crap
    Kinghorn very good

    We dish penalties like candy at a kids party.
    2 well taken tries.
    Georgia average …a half back who can kick penalties.
    We have no chance at RWC playing like this.

    1. We lost a few line outs in the first half (robbed and made no in roads to their throw in)

      Now what we really need is a giant in the second row, at least 6 ft 10 and 126 kgs.

      Probably at the pinnacle of his career, 30 ish , loads of experience, massive feet, the kind that hold him firm when he touches back down again.

      The kind of guy we find grinding it out in the meat wagon of French rugby.

      Why oh why , do we not have such a man…

    2. You are being much too generous towards Ali Price. Ireland and Japan has to be Laidlaw and Horne.

  17. I still think Hastings looks better @ FB.

    Blade T has lovely hands but is he the physical basher we need?

    Zander F – clearly 3rd choice.

    Is the flair of Rory Hutchinson going to be missed?

    Finn Russell is absolutely totally crucial to us.

  18. Weird game so far. Firstly, Georgia look like they’ve learned from last week – they seem sharper. Secondly, we look a bit rustier. Thirdly, Poite’s a cowboy. I kind of approve of his double yellow cards, but he’s been inconsistent – penalising Reid for offside from a knock-on but allowing other instances; not penalising a collapsed scrum in which the ball was playable, but then later he penalises it… cowboyish. And the scrums have been a mess.

    Also, if ESPN is to be believed, we’ve missed 17/40 tackles, and Johnny’s missed two of those. WTAF?! Georgia have missed 16/52, so they’re not exactly doing well, either. In fact, the stats are pretty even so far, and the score seems a fair reflection of the match. Perhaps after last week we were expecting to walk it?

    Our ‘first-choice’ centres are doing OK, but not any better than that. Kinghorn and Graham, however, have been ace. Cummings and Ritchie have been good, too, and (dropped ball aside) Tommy has been good in attack and defence. Hopefully things will get sorted at half-time, because our group rivals won’t be terribly concerned by most of what they’ve seen in the first half.

    1. Second half was also pretty weird. Tackling improved, but not by much. Georgia were in the game for 65 minutes and played a lot like we have in the past: they did all the hard work then lacked composure to finish the opportunity off. They clearly learned from last week and I really hope that they get more T1 games.

      Scrum was mental. Did better with seven men than with eight?! Fagerson needs to sort himself out. He’s been good for Glasgow (same as Bhatti), so what’s going wrong with Scotland?

      Hastings was pretty bad overall. Did some good stuff with ball in hand and had a couple of good kicks, but his handling and kicks off the tee were… concerning. He’s obviously got the talent.

      Also, the injuries are a big concern. I can’t believe we ended up playing with 14 men for the last few minutes. At least Taylor made it through.

      George Horne’s try made me laugh out loud – as if he did a roly poly before dotting it down! Mentalist. Interesting that all of our tries were scored by the backs.

      Unlike so many others, I think there are positives to take from the match and it was entertaining in the end, even if it was weird.

  19. Everyone will be only too very well aware……give Scotland the ball in open field = trouble. Keep it tight, match/beat them physically = in with a chance

  20. Sigh. Blade Thomson really is a turkey from everything I’ve seen. Powderpuff carries and tackling. Hastings is a myth too, can’t catch the ball and atrocious kicking.. Zander is a mess right now, we’re in trouble if Nel or Dell get injured.

    Surely even GT won’t pick Seymour ahead of Graham or Kinghorn.

    1. How Graham could be left out for Seymour is beyond me. GT no doubt will tho.
      Wilson not a starter and not a captain. GT will no doubt play him v Ireland.
      Cummings looks our best lock. GT will no doubt play Gray and Gilchrist.
      Im now 100% sure Hutchinson should have been in squad.
      Z Fagerson…should not even be in the 31. What an absolute liability.
      Stewart again looks better than Turner to me.
      Other than Watson…our back row is lame.
      Good luck GT …you’ll need every ounce.

      Georgia?….thats a NO to the 6 N for now…did they even get into the Scotland 22??…I can’t remember.

      1. To be fair to Seymour he was out of position for most of the game, any time I have seen him at FB before I have thought he was mince. That said his main contribution from the wing was dropping that sublime side door from Kinghorn… I doubt we will be in the same scenario again squad wise but I would seriously consider Hastings to 15 and Horne to 10 and keep Tommy in the wing.

      2. I’d rather Taylor to 15 and Horne to the centre. Although I guess it depends whom we are playing.

  21. When we had a “proper” scrum we did fine, Z.Fagerson struggled when he was on. Nel & Berghan way ahead of him.
    Do we need Harris & Taylor? – is Hutchinson a miss?
    I’ll give Pete Horne his place, handy for the 2 lesser games.
    Blade T – shown nothing to suggest he’s a better option @ 8 than Strauss/Bradbury/M.Fagerson
    George Horne – if Scotland need to go for it….why not??
    Darcy Graham a young Stuart Hogg

    1. And once again Thomson didn’t manage to complete a match.

      Other than one steal I barely noticed him.

      1. I noticed his errors, love to know why they picked him ahead of a proper powerhouse like Bradbury or the class of M.Fagerson. Thomson looks powderpuff, malnourished. His waist is well thin.

    2. Darcy Graham is humble, polite and unassuming. He has guts in the tackle, plays intelligent rugby. I don’t think he needs to be compared to anyone.

  22. Utter dog keek for 85% of that game. Really garbage.

    Listening to Kellock and Mossie you’d think we were on the road to RWC victory – neither of them add any value to commentating – utterly bereft of any insight – according to Patterson – Johnson and Taylor played well tonight. Different match to the one I watched.

    Graham is going to be a bigger star than Hoggy IMO.

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