Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Rugby World Cup 2019 Review – have we learned anything?

Gregor Townsend
Gregor Townsend Scotland - pic © Alastair Ross / Novantae Photography

That was disappointing, wasn’t it?

Another Rugby World Cup dream in tatters.

Now that the dust has settled and the Scotland players are back at home (or still on holiday), although the legal rumblings may continue it’s time for the rest of us to take stock.

The 2020 Six Nations is just over three months away. From a side that now repeatedly feels like it is repeating mistakes of the past, have we, in fact, learned anything?

No one in the current coaching set up knows how to send this group of players out, yet

We’ve had one pretty good second half (v Japan, didn’t win) and one blindingly good one (v England, didn’t win) but, by and large, this has been a massively disappointing year for the Scotland rugby team. The first warm-up against France, the Ireland pool game and the first half-hour against England are serious black marks on the character of the current squad as bad as any from the dismal early years of this site.

Should heads roll? Gregor Townsend has only been in the post for two years and forwards coach Danny Wilson around a year which may not be enough to make a serious impact in his case. Things have gone backwards in the forwards since Dan McFarland was poached by Ulster. Wilson may come good but there is a persistent worry that the coaching setup comprises nice guys who are bright, potentially innovative rugby thinkers but lacking a harder edge for the basic confrontational side of rugby.

We don’t really know what Vern Cotter is like behind closed doors (he came across as quiet and decent in press conferences but then murdered the odd rabbit) but despite a worse record than Townsend, the persisting impression remains the taciturn Kiwi was hard – he got them fired up, and Toony and his lot don’t. Hence the constant calls for a grumpy ex-Rugby League bugger to get involved – though you’ll never pin Shaun Edwards down long enough for him to sign a contract.

Vern Cotter - pic © Al Ross/Novantae Photography
Vern Cotter – pic © Al Ross/Novantae Photography

The levels of execution have also dropped. When Cotter and Jason O’Halloran were in the hot seat, yes the results weren’t much better overall but you didn’t panic every time Scotland got the ball. Attacking play felt natural and confident, not rudderless. When the team got the ball in space you’d think “it’s on”, and quite frequently it was, even on days when Finn or Hoggy weren’t playing.

Some of that verve continued into the early Townsend years (think the near miss against New Zealand or demolition of Australia) but it seems to have been replaced this year by mistimed or forced passes and endless knock-ons. We still see verve, but more commonly against underperforming or lower ranked teams. Has our current approach been figured out?

Skills coach Mike Blair may be under a microscope but the shoogliest peg looks like it belongs to Defence Coach Matt Taylor – rumoured to be wanted by former Director of Rugby Scott Johnson to be part of the post-Cheika Australia set up he is overseeing, a setup that may also claim Warriors coach Dave Rennie. O’Halloran was also recently coy about his long term ambitions here, with a young family back home in New Zealand perhaps pulling him away from a move up the rungs of the Glasgow or Scotland setups – he may even follow Rennie wherever he goes.

If we need freshness for freshness sake then that could be the most face-saving option. The possibility of another torrid Six Nations cannot be glossed over especially with Ireland (who had a poor World Cup and looked as bad against New Zealand as we did against Ireland), and World Cup finalists England first up.

Yes, you can build for the future. But to squander the talent we have now would be callous towards fans, and a generation of players hitting their peak years, in the extreme. Our coaching setup needs to serve the talent when we get it, not tick along in spite of it.

We don’t play the Fastest Brand of Rugby in the World™

Right now, Japan do. If that wasn’t patently obvious before we exited the World Cup, it is now.

Back when no-one was really doing it outside Super Rugby, a fast offloading game executed with high precision seemed innovative and fresh, and an alternative to Rugby league defences – despite it harking back to classic rugby of the past in its simplicity, and being remarkably similar to what the New Zealand teams have done for the last decade.

Now, were we to say anything of the sort was our intention, we’d just look like we were copying Japan. Under Jamie Joseph and Tony Brown they have almost perfected the system in the time it took us to conceive it and subsequently fail to master it.

Scotland do still look capable of this sort of attacking play in patches, but unlike Japan’s gameplan it is not allied to a furious refusal to let go of the ball. Our execution is riddled with knock-ons, players getting isolated in possession and scattergun kicking which takes the foot off the pedal all too easily.

With World Cup finalists England and South Africa proving that physicality and defence really are more important than attack in championship rugby, it seems difficult to show how such an approach could work today at the very top level, even 100% error-free.

Is it a plan that can work for us, or for anyone? Japan were throttled by Springbok power. Townsend seems to be retreating a little towards a gameplan that features more tactical kicking, now a requirement to take the pressure off from the suffocating rush defences that always shut us down on the big occasions.

Finn needs some help

Finn Russell
Finn Russell – pic © Al Ross/Novantae Photography

Scotland need to have threats across the backline, starting at 9 right the way through to 15 – a running threat from 9 would also give the standoff more time on the ball.

At the moment our attacking plans absolutely need to revolve around the swashbuckling instincts of Finn Russell and Adam Hastings at ten, but not to the exclusion of an attacking threat in the midfield, as seems to be the case currently.

Huw Jones, Mark Bennett and Rory Hutchinson all need to come into the conversation for the Six Nations to keep defences honest. Bennett and Hutchinson are probably the front runners at given their current club form but Jones has at least looked hungry when he is given a chance for Glasgow.

Duncan Taylor and Sam Johnson will hopefully be match fit by then too and if Matt Scott’s brilliant form continues, he may come back into things at 12, as his defence has massively improved under Calum Macrae; we could see a midfield pair starting against Ireland who didn’t even go to Japan.

Stuart Hogg may have been some way off his best but even the lowest-ranked defences found it easy to shut down the attacking moves outside of Russell as all the plays were going through either him or Hogg.

Actually, we still punch above our weight

Possibly by virtue of history rather than necessarily merit, Scotland still punches well above its weight in the world game.

Maybe not as powerful as New Zealand in terms of deciding contingency plans for World Cup games, but enough clout to veto World Cup hosts or half-baked Nations League plans. Is that too much clout?

If the world game is to be truly inclusive and grow, should the “first world” of rugby (the Six Nations) have so much power?

Off the field, Mark Dodson and the SRU are fast becoming the rugby “elite” who rail against rugby “slightly more elites” whilst swimming against the tide of popular opinion trying to protect the union’s and the team’s interests.

We’re like Frodo, if he decided the One Ring wasn’t all that bad really and could definitely be used to grow the game in the Shire. Then he takes it off and Eddie Jones has moved in next door and we’re locked out of a 17-test series between Mordor and Gondor.

In short, they’re rapidly undoing the work of a few years where we’d become many supporter’s second team due to the enterprising style of rugby played.

By and large the on-field performances keep us above water, which is not bad for a team with so few registered rugby players let alone a selection pool probably not far off 100 men in terms of the national team.

With a new system in place to collect registrations, the SRU recently announced a figure of 36,207 which is believed to be more accurate than recent amounts quoted.

It’s not a lot.

Jamie Ritchie has hit the ground running

I think I said this about John Barclay way back in 2007 (and that didn’t pan out) but Ritchie looks like he will be a mainstay of the team for years to come.

Give him the captaincy now and let him lead the team towards 2023.

Our leadership group will look quite bare shorn of Wilson, Laidlaw and Barclay – who may not retire just yet, but will not be at the next World Cup – so with only McIinally, Jonny Gray and Hogg likely to be still in the mix we need to lay the foundations now for the next batch.

Jamie Ritchie and Magnus Bradbury
Jamie Ritchie and Magnus Bradbury – pic © Al Ross/Novantae Photography

Townsend being forced by injury and form to play Ritchie and Bradbury could be hugely helpful to the development of this squad – you wouldn’t want 2023 to be their first taste of a World Cup and now, luckily, it won’t be.

With Hamish Watson still out long term, Ritchie is one of the first names on the team sheet and should be given a chance to keep learning the details of rugby at this level.

We’ve learned we are not learning

Poor tactics, poor execution and repeated failure to learn lessons. Even the players are now openly talking about how they are talking about how hard it is to figure out why they play the way they do – occasionally brilliant; usually frustrating.

It’s compounded by that need for press coverage which means media-trained players being sent up for interview ahead of games. It’s standard stuff to talk yourselves up without saying anything too controversial, why wouldn’t you – as a professional sportsperson – display a basic level of self-confidence?

Then after a dispiriting loss you can’t come out and say the things you probably realistically feel. Unfortunately has the effect of making it seem like players don’t mean what they say, because they revert to the standard media-trained soundbites about learning lessons, taking stock and everything else that happens at the end of the day.

If you look at the World Cup as a whole, very few teams actually performed consistently at their own very highest level. England reached it once against New Zealand, Ireland once against us, South Africa once in the final although they managed their trajectory best. Japan had two great games while Wales might argue they never really peaked. Scotland’s own high water marks were against Samoa and Russia, teams they should be expecting to beat.

With the Six Nations up next, there are no teams we expect to beat so we’re once again back to finding confidence in a tough learning environment. You’d think it would have helped us, over the years…

All we’ve really learned is that we’re still not really learning, and something needs to change quickly…

137 Responses

  1. Aye something needs to change, but unfortunately it’s going to take a bad 6Ns for the SRU to change it.

    Toonie just isn’t the coach we need. That much is obvious. People seem to forget it’s his second stint as a Scotland coach, and both times our attack has looked clueless and error-prone. He was blessed with great asssistants at Glasgow and Early in his Scotland career. The wheels are coming off now because he now has no-one to correct his mistakes or challenge his gameplan. He’s not as good a coach as everyone seems to think, he’s basically Scotland’s Clive Woodward. A shrewd recruiter but not a good coach and even then that’s being generous.

    So. As it stands we’ll have a bad 6Ns but hopefully a new coach come summer. That is what needs to change and we won’t see the best of this group until it does. Vern started from nothing and created a good team. After his insistance for the big boss job, Toonie took that good team and made it a failing vanity project. Not a fan at all.

    1. its his first stint as Scotland coach. He was assistant coach under Scott Johnson, quite amazing he is still coaching after working under the snake oil salesman.
      Who were the great assistants he had at Glasgow early on? Matt Taylor, current defence coach? Shade Munro? – give me a break.

      Lets get some fact right before shooting off nonsense

      1. You talk about facts while getting your own wrong. He was attack coach under Andy Robinson, not Scott Johnson. During which time our attack was possibly the worst its ever been. When eventually questioned by journos why the try count was so poor, he responded that we don’t need to score tries.

        I think he’s a decent club coach, because he gets to work with the players day in day out, but his style doesn’t work as an international coach. Contrast that to gatland who takes a bunch of mediocre club players (along with some genuine world class tbf) and leads them to grand slams. There’s very few Welsh I’d have in the Scotland team based on club performances, but they step up a gear when working with gatland. Townsend doesn’t have that, and tbh we should’ve seen it coming. 2015 aside, Glasgow regularly pooped the bed in big games. Their continual failure to do anything meaningful in Europe was criminal.

      2. Scottish fans like to skate Gatland but he’s undoubtedly one of the best coaches in the world in the professional era. His success has been really remarkable. If we could get Gatland, great, ditch Toonie. But unless we can get someone obviously much better it is probably better to give Toonie a little patience.

      3. While we must recognise the achievement that justified Townsend’s appointment, we are overlooking the obvious, he got a lot of help from elsewhere. His most successful Glasgow side (14-2015) included some immense overseas talent to augment our home players. Nakarawa, DTH, Nico , De Klerk, Jerry the prop , Tyrone Holmes an so on. In addition a strong captain in Al Kellock and we do not have anyone of that tenacity in this current Scotland side.

      4. “Second stint as a Scotland coach”

        I didn’t say head coach.

        The fact still remains that both times he’s been responsible for our attacking play, it’s looked very ineffective. I doubt that’s coincidence!

      5. NeilyB: we’ve scored more tries under Townsend than under any other Scotland coach. If that’s very ineffective attack, then I’m all for it. Instead of being so negative (and wrong), why not view it as “under Townsend we’ve scored more tries than ever, and most of our attacks break down, meaning that there’s still loads of room for improvement. If we sort that out, we could be formidable”?

      6. Chloe – You hit the nail on th e head – Irish and Welsh players who look fairly ordinary in Pro14 become world-class with their international jersey on – they raise their game. For Scotland it is largely the opposite.
        Has to be down to the coaching and the system or lack of.

  2. Excellent appraisal of the world cup and the 2019 downwards trajectory to where we are now.
    I couldn’t agree more about getting a rugby league coach in especially for defence, Shaun Wane has to be asked to do more with the senior team as we are criminally under using him at the moment.
    Always hopeful for 2020 but would rather see changes sooner rather later instead of wasting yet another 6N.
    We are worse than the sum of our parts which is in stark contrast to a team like Wales

    1. Unfortunately Shaun Wane looks set to return to RL, with an Australian agent working for him out there at the moment.

      Mallinder could have a say in the national team yet though. Depends what his role encompasses but he was a great coach for Northampton.

      1. I know Wane is really keen to prove himself in the NRL so wouldn’t be surprised to see him go soon unfortunately.
        It’s pre season now for a lot of NRL clubs so if we do get to keep hold of Wane a wee while longer we have to use his talents better, he’s a proven winner and a fantastic coach

      2. so great he was sacked.
        Mallinder had a plan years out of date, didn’t move with the times and recruited some of the worst thugs and fostered the worst culture ever to play professional rugby

      3. It’s a fair point that having stagnated badly for a while under Mallinder and post Mallinder, Saints are now flying under Chris Boyd, who’s even managed to make Naiyavoro look good…

      4. Unfortunately? Why?

        Being bald, fat and an experience of a game called hump the turf elevates some people into thinking they have anything to offer rugby.

        Mallinder’s time at Saints could best be described as meh.

      5. I was surprised when I read how much Mallinder had achieved. I recall he used to be considered the ‘nearly’ man. So near yet so far. He has the resilience for us, no question we can test that to the limit.

        Which reminds me , I think Townsend is no where near and his brand of the fastest rugby in the world is a dream too far.

        He has sheep dipped more than enough players to work out it is not for us. So maybe he should just work out his strengths and build a team around them ! Which reminds me of someone else, yes , correct, that would be Vern Cotter.

      6. As others have said, Stu2, Mallinder’s time at Saints could probably be described as anything other than “meh”.

        He got stale there, yes, but transformed a side from relegation to champions and one of the best teams in Europe.

        He also blooded and brought through a significant amount of internationals throughout his 10 year stint there.

  3. good call on Richie. He should be the future captain.
    Good call at scrum half. Laidlaw has held us back so much yet so many refuse to see the obvious. No running threat and the worst pass (accuracy and speed) in top rugby. Bergamasco only a bit worse! Oh but he kicks pens and is a great captain. he isn’t worth his place and his kicking % has been no better than Russell at club level (but all within his limited range)
    Overall a very disappointing world cup, but I think as ever we do not recognise that the players are maybe not as good as we like to think. The errors you refer to were made by players, not coaches. And no point having wonderful backs if you get slow ball slowed further by captain slow.
    The biggest lesson was one every coach makes, certainly every Scotland coach in my lifetime. Do not pick players on reputation, especially if fitness, and match fitness, is suspect. Pick on form.

  4. Seems to me that Townsend perhaps isn’t all that well suited to International coaching, and maybe operates better in the day to day environment of Club rugby. By all accounts he’s a prickly, stubborn character who doesn’t take criticism well. I’ve heard from people who’ve worked closer to him that he puts a lot of emphasis on what he perceives to be loyalty and holds grudges to an Olympic level. Apparently he feels a real sense of betrayal from guys like MacFarland leaving and anyone close to Pro Rugby in Scotland knows that very few of the players like him or get on with him….to use a football term, he lost the dressing room some time ago. Bit of a shame really.

  5. 6N (the comeback apart) we were disappointing & depended on Russell & Hogg almost entirely in the backs. Desperate disappointment in the 1st & last games in the RWC (very poor tactics, very poor initial squad selections- that stops at Townsend’s door). Need some pragmatism & patience in the forwards EARNING the right to go wide, guys like Brown, Keeble, Z.Fagerson, Crosbie, J Gray putting on phases and George Horne keeping the opposition honest & supplying quick ball for Russell, Bennett, Hutchinson, Graham & Hogg……………..There done……………sorted :-)

    1. Our tactics for 40 mins against Japan were wrong, but what was wrong with the team selected? If we’d simply kept hold of the ball instead of kicking away, we would have won, IMO.

      1. Call me old school , I will take it as a compliment. We wont win without the ball but kicking it away in the premise that we will contain the other side, force an error and we have a net gain in yardage seems to be a tactic coming from the man himself.

        The execution is sometimes that we kick badly, sometimes we cannot contain , sometimes we commit an offence and concede penalties resulting in a nett loss of yardage. It seems to me we need to hang onto the ball and only kick when it is to find touch this pulling the forwards into one place for the restart.

  6. I think we need to first of all pick appropriate players for the style of play we want.. no more average cub players.

    For this six nations

    1. Dell
    2. Brown (C)
    3. Nel
    4. Skinner
    5. Cummings
    6. Ritchie
    7. Watson
    8. Bradbury
    9. Horne
    10. Russell
    11. Graham
    12. Scott
    13. Bennett
    14. Maitland
    15. Kinghorn (I think Hogg needs a break to rediscover his running game)

    16. McInally
    17. Bhatti
    18. Fagerson
    19. Richie Gray
    20. Fagerson
    21. SHC
    22. Hastings
    23. Hutchison

    Extras in squad – Reid, Turner, Berghan, Jonny Gray, Carmichael, Crosbie, Hardie, Price, Dunbar, Harris, Johnson,
    Jones (Back 3 cover), Steyn

    A lot of those players like Hardie/Dunbar are more to improve the training standards but would do a good job if selected, they will bring that hard edge to training defensively that we miss so much.

    1. 6N squad.

      Brown, McInally, Stewart, Turner
      Bhatti, Dell, Reid
      Berghan, Fagerson, Nel
      Cummings, Gilchrist, J Gray, R Gray, Skinner
      Bradbury, Crosbie, Fagerson, Ritchie (C) Thomson, Watson
      Horne, Laidlaw, Shiel
      Hastings, Russell
      Bennett, Hutchinson, Johnson, Scott
      Graham, Harris, Maitland
      Hogg, Kinghorn
      + Dobie and McDowall on a training basis

      …and there’s room for one out of Huw Jones, Steyn or Taylor to sneak in.

      Starting centres: difficult to call. Hutchinson and Scott both starting at 12 this season. Hutchinson and Bennett can both play 13. However, we don’t want to be weak defensively. I’d say it’s a close call between those three, with Johnson an outside bet depending on how well he goes at Glasgow Warriors in the meantime. Also: we NEED a new defence coach – as soon as possible.

      1. All credibility destroyed by one selection – Laidlaw! He has dragged Scotland down for years now.

    2. This is a decent team Neil. At least on paper this is a team that should be challenging for the 6N.

      A few things I’d change:
      – I’d like to see Hutchinson starting at either 12 or 13. One of the things thats impressed me about him this season has been his distribution and we need that in the centres. It takes the pressure off Russell and allows us to get the ball quicker to our dangerous back 3.

      – Pack seems a bit underpowered. If he is playing, I would be tempted to bring Richie Gray back in. I have not been keen on the idea before now but we could really use his experience and power as we try to rebuild over the next couple of years.

      – I dont watch Top14 so have no idea if SHC is even playing. Can anyone confirm? If he is playing, is he doing well?

      1. I don’t see how that side on paper is stronger than anyone apart from Italy to be honest. It’s a strong squad for sure but we don’t have the absolute dogs up front that our rivals do and not do we have a clutch of truly world class players used to performing at the very highest level.

        Next year we have an opportunity as there is a lot of transition in y other sides. Sadly we’re coming off a rough year and need to make some glaring changes so we aren’t even putting out a settled and confident side.

      2. SHC has been released by Racing 92 after a temp contract….so that pretty much sums up where he is at. Nowhere near competing for the national side.

  7. Sam B-out- Bhatti, Laidlaw, R Gray, Harris
    -in- Keeble, Price, Hunter Hill, Seymour

    Quick ball is key, its easy to defend against when the ball is slow from 9 out. For all his attributes Laidlaw does not give quick ball. 20st of South African muscle is always handy

    1. Ah yes, sorry, I momentarily forgot Price existed. Apologies; he’d definitely be in there over Laidlaw for me.

      Kebble isn’t SQ quite yet, and I’m not sure he will be for the 6N (I could be wrong though). Harris was one of our strongest performers at the World Cup; seems a little rash to drop him straightaway, and Seymour hasn’t been playing well for Scotland for a long time. I don’t think we can afford to ditch Richie Gray quite yet, although I do like the idea of bringing Hunter-Hill into the setup.

      1. I believe Keeble qualifies before the Italy game (I think). Harris is a good club centre (not international class) & never a winger so pick the centres you have picked & a proper winger. If we are being honest none of the backs had a particularly good RWC. I like R.Gray but will he want to play &/or should we ask him? Re Hunter-Hill he has the size (which is an excellent start) & good enough for Saracens to want him……

      2. Richie Gray is gone, he refused to be last choice 2nd row in the RWC. Bad move Richie, no man is bigger than the boss.

        As it turned out , he was probably right not to leave his finger print on this debacle. Wise man, you are nothing if you do not have your self esteem IMO.

  8. Wouldn’t let me reply on the initial comment, but if you look at our stats our average tries scored per game has actually gone down from 3.72 in 2017 (when toonie began) to 3.30 in 2019. We may have more tries overall but bare in mind that we played Russia a minnow who were also absolutely knackered, and Samoa, who looked positively awful and may as well have not shown up. They contributed 13 tries to our total between them. 5 of our 6Ns tries came against Italy, meaning the rest of our games had an average of roughly 2.1 tries and that’s only because the players disregarded Toonie’s plan in the second half against England, combined with England falling asleep. 1 try against Ireland, France and Wales each. Absolutely humiliated in Nice in the warm-ups not even scoring one try, then really struggled against France in attack at Murrayfield. The world cup, plenty of time to prepare for Ireland – couldn’t even score one try. Against Japan, we really struggled, though finally managed to score 3 because they play fast and loose (but actually do it better than us). Compare that to the 2017 6Ns. Same amount of tries scored but 3 against Ireland, 2 against France, 2 against Wales, 3 against England (I know it was THAT game but that truly was a freak occurance due to lots of factors), 4 against Italy.

    I’m not being negative for the sake of it but against tier 1 we’ve gone backwards since Toonie took the reins, when compared to Vern where we were trending upwards.

      1. We have lost to USA and FIJI under Toonie , we have never beaten Ireland or Wales, I struggle to see why we have improved under Townsend. We could throw facts around all day but perception is actually reality and it may be just me, however I see no improvement under Townsend, just more change for no return. Now that perception may be a consequence of developing hope and optimism with Cotter followed by an ill conceived belief that Townsend would kick on dramatically. In truth he never had the pedigree of his peers in the 6N. At best he has kicked on sideways and we need to be patient. At worst he is in reverse. Maybe the world has moved faster while we are in a place of restructuring or maybe it is just not happening. I can not say, but perception is reality, not facts.

    1. The fact remains that under Townsend we have scored more tries than under any other coach. It is irrefutable.

      As Kevin Millar has repeatedly pointed out, the players didn’t disregard the game plan in the second-half at Twickenham. Under Toonie we’ve beaten Aus home and away, won and retained the Calcutta Cup, come within a refereeing error of beating NZ… there have definitely been highs. We’re not consistent, but our highs are higher than they have been under any other coach.

      1. And capitulated to Fiji the following week due to poor mental prep – how many times have we seen that under Toonie? USA, Ireland, France warm-up etc. The Australia success was 2017, as was New Zealand – Toonie had been in post less than 6 months, so had not put his systems in place and still had Dan McFarland as a very able assistant.

        Our highs happened 2 years ago. Have we had any since? Not really. The 2nd half at England was exciting, and let’s say it was part of Toonie’s masterplan – we still didn’t win. We still shipped 31 points in the first half. It’s just papering over the cracks of what was, let’s face it, a pretty awful tournament for Scotland.

      2. That is in your opinion and Kevin Miller is quite capable of representing himself.

        Teamcam you are clearly a passionate Townsend supporter and it frustrates you that others do not see it that way. I would love to be in that same place. What makes him the right man for the job ?

      3. I think under Townsend we look a bit lost in our play.
        It felt like Cotter made more attempt and was making progress in uncovering a playing style that suited our national psyche and implemented it…whereas GT just wants the players to play the way he sees it. I feel its just playing to a GT identity..and it looks disorganized and often clueless.
        There has been occasions its came off which is why I feel he needs another shot at the 6N…but if its just same old inconsistencies…id think he’ll have had a fair go and time to move on.
        The defense coaching needs sorted asap…its awful.
        The stats never tell the whole story…stats mean little unless they are apples to apples and are weighted.

  9. Agree Tam, I think perception is very important and another important consideration is the manner in which Townsend got the job.

    He backed himself to take this Scotland team forward playing an attractive brand of rugby and now he’s bedded in we’ve seen them go backwards playing an impatient and inaccurate brand of rugby, less than the sum of their parts.

    He has the 2020 6Ns now to make an impact but it will require a whole new approach to his coaching. This is his last chance to redeem himself and stop the rot but given our previous record with a coach who failed to pass the group stages of the WC and Toonies attitude to changing tack, I doubt he’ll be in post by the end of the season.

  10. With regard stats……wasn’t there a stat that Cotter’s Scotland lost several games by less than 7 points? Furthermore Cotter coached us to exhilarating wins V Ireland & Wales. Take away the almost England anomaly & GTs record is …………………..

    1. Tam: We do not need stats to tell us that Cotter was a superiour coach. Townsend seems to be temperamental and inconsistent. That is never the quality of leadership. Cannot wait to the next installment, it is a quality soap opera.

  11. I want to see Danny Wilson assert himself as the counterpoint to Toonie. He’s got a big reputation although he’s inexperienced at this level. I think McFarland did this role, although a bit of me wonders whether that’s why he left? I get a sense Toonie might not like another big assertive voice in camp.

    I think our forwards often don’t go into contact with the ‘latch’ and presumably that’s because they’re always looking for the offload. That’s why they get isolated and don’t make ground.

    Ball retention and patience in attack is a problem and if we can sort it then quite a few of our other problems will just go away.

    I think we have to pick an attacking centre partnership even if that introduces supposed defensive frailties. Defense can be coached, attacking flair cannot and we’ve never had a clutch of attacking centres like the ones we do now. They have to be used.

    Added to that you could then have Taylor or Harris on the bench for balance, especially as both can cover wing.

    I’d like to see more continuity in selection. Townsend has sometimes made small changes to the starting XV or bench but it has had an outsized effect on balance of the team. An example which springs to mind is when he picked Grigg at 12. That one change just narrowed our game. It’s no longer the tombola it’s the Toonie tinkering.

    Finally, focus on performance. No more Irelands or France in Nices when we just didn’t show up.

    I do think Toonie will turn it around though.

    1. Agree in parts.
      Although I dont think defense is as ‘coachable’ as many believe.
      Its a skill and mindset in its own standing..vice versa creating and attacking.
      Its like making a creative person do practical tasks…and vice versa. They can sometimes adapt but achieving consistency is very difficult because sooner or later we all revert to our defaults.
      Its more I think about getting the balance in the team right….Get the defenders to defend consistently to a high level and in the right areas….get the attackers to do the same…and get them to gel together. Thats surely what the coaches are for and responsible for.

  12. I liked Glasgow’s 1st 25mins last weekend, they leathered into contact for phase after phase after phase – this directly led to 2 Horne tries &… over. Beginning to think George Horne is an important player for Glasgow & Scotland. Scotland have brilliant attacking options behind the scrum – Hogg, Graham, Bennett, Jones, G.Horne & Russell – the forwards needs to make the hard yards/tackles that give these boys a chance to strut their stuff in a wee bit space

    1. Watching Glasgow v Sale I was very impressed with G Horne who looked very mature and I’d put him in the possible future captain box as well.

  13. For me the World Cup was picking wrong players (Too many not fit) and trying to play to a style that they couldn’t achieve (fastest rugby in the world with Laidlaw- really?).

    All of which begs the question, shouldn’t we pick the best starting 15 on form, and then pick a style that plays to that team’s strength? I know we don’t have the physical players available to play like Ireland or wales ( and god knows I wouldn’t want to!), but IMHO our best starting 15 can produce better results than provided recently.

    So assuming most of us would pick a similar 15, as per posts above, what would, or should, our style look like?

    For me I would stick with the concept of a really mobile pack, Horne junior to start all day, Finn to do whatever he wants and everyone to do their best to benefit from the ensuing madness. Centers should be based on best form over previous 8 weeks. Wingers too. Kicking should be limited to when needed and not for the sake of it. I’m sure this well thought out strategy would still see us Gubbed, but boy it would be something to watch!!

    1. Agreed. I think to be honest we should look to Japan as our model, quick rucks and ball retention (with the odd flashy move from Finn when he sees the opportunity for it).

      Against England in 2018 was probably our most recent complete performance of the last 2 years under Toonie and showed all the above attributes. Sadly this has proven to be an anomaly but it does show how we could play.

      We still need a territory game to come toe-to-toe with the big boys. That means a fully functioning lineout. A specialist lineout coach could be a good hire right now, as well as someone to work with Finn and Hastings on tactical kicking.

    2. Ali Boy -Sums it up – fastest team in the World – with Laidlaw at SH! No criticism of him, but it makes a mockery of Townsend.

    3. We’ve got to maximise what we can achieve with our pack. We need a breakdown-oriented game with a focus on ball retention and counterattacking. We need to be the side we were in 2017 – that went through phase after phase before picking the right time to go wide. And we NEED to stop kicking it away. That approach isn’t working. Our set-piece play needs to be as good as it can be.

      Hogg; Maitland, Bennett, Hutchinson, Graham; Russell, Horne; Dell, Brown/McInally (form), Nel; Skinner, J Gray; Ritchie (C), Watson; Bradbury

      (McInally/Brown, Kebble*, Berghan, Cummings, Thomson, Price, Hastings, Scott)

      *Kebble isn’t SQ yet – who do you pick? I’d take Gordon Reid for the time being; he’s easily ahead of all our domestic looseheads, easily. I’m yet to see Bhatti, Allan, Sutherland or Marfo put in a strong-enough performance in 2019; and I want to keep Berghan on the tight side.

      1. I like your thoughts here Sam. After 2017 I thought this team was really going to take off, instead we bumped back to earth. We seem to have stopped doing the basics; solid defense, accurate passing, earning the right to go wide, speed at the breakdown. I’m not sure we ever had a “solid” set piece, but the rest of our game seemed to help us overcome that, and we very much laid the foundations that allow the fancy stuff.

        In an effort to compete with Ireland and Wales we seem to have come up with some sort of kicking game that doesn’t really work. Get back to the basics and let the halves play what’s in front of them and I suspect we will go well.

  14. One thought I’ve had in the past is it seems too easy for other coaches like Gatland and Jones (possibly even Joseph at the World Cup) to get inside Toonie’s head which he then seems to communicate to the team leading to frantic and uncontrolled play on the pitch which is easily picked off by teams setup to defend.

    Having watched the Glasgow v Sale game the lack of aggression from Scotland teams is surprising as Glasgow we’re flying into tackles and rucks and were punching hard when carrying the ball. What’s different when the guys move into the Scotland camp that this doesn’t seem to come with them?

    For me, the change that needs to happen fast is better defence. Become hard to beat and the fancy stuff will pay off (assuming we stop just gifting ball back with ineffective kicking).

  15. I’ve been supporting Scottish rugby a long time now-one of my first memories is Murrayfield 1971 (?) watching Douglas Morgan pot that kick to beat the Welsh-I’ve also seen two grand slams play out for Scotland at Murrayfield. For all the high points there need to be low points-I thought the Matt Williams era was pretty bad or getting 50 point stuck on us by the English at Twickers for example, but the recent world cup has had me questioning whehter to just give up supporitng Scotland at rugby altogether. What really got me was the complete mis match between pre competition hype and the delusional self image of us as the “fastest team in the world” and then the actual capitulations on the pitch.

    On holiday recentlty I read Sam Warburtons book “Open Side”-highly recommended if you want an insight into a properly professional and mentally tough mind set-both the player and the Welsh coaching system. I’ve always disliked Gatland for his obvious disregard for us Scots and how we play rugby but the truth is he is one on the most successful coaches ever-period and I kind of “get him” now after reading this book.

    Toonie needs to learn -and quickly- how to bring that mental toughness and ruthessness into the Scottish set up. We’ve got some grat young players and I agree that Jamie ~Ritchie is the man with the dog in him to lead us throgh these changes.

    1. Goonie you mean.He won’t learn.We only need to galvanise a team ,not dismantle it.If that is what is happening on the pitch,What is it like when no one is looking.

  16. Reid, McInally, Nel
    Gray, Gray
    Bradbury, Ritchie, Thomson
    Horne, Russell
    Maitland, Taylor, Jones/Bennett, Graham, Hogg

    Dell, Brown, Berghan, Skinner, Fagerson, Price, Hastings, Kinghorn.

    – LH clearly weakest position, but Reid is a better scrummager than Dell end of.
    – Ritchie is a Lion and plays for Toulouse who else has that experience? Skinner next, unlucky for Cummings.
    – Much as we love Watson and should bring back Hardie, Ritchie+Bradbury+Thomson carries, wins ball and together has size.
    – G Horne most dangerous scrum half in the Pro 14, keeps defence honest.
    – Russell, no one in world rugby has his pass. At his best with a proper 13 and scrum half who lets him run the game (best when Machenaud off today).
    – Taylor, looking fit, strong and the defensive 12 we need when playing the must have Horne Russell combo. Johnson up next, but Dunbar should come back into consideration. McDowall maybe in the future. Scott I think is in the past.
    – Jones then Bennett, no other contenders on talent. One of them on the pitch at all times.
    – Unlucky Seymour and Kinghorn could overtake Graham. But after loosehead, need a winger soon.

    There not difficult. Some quality players plying their trade at Europe’s top clubs – best ever possible Scottish representation. Cant imagine anyone upset if that XV turned out. Nice balance of experience, youth and talent.

    GT needs to make the most of this. Rennie HAS to start playing Jones or leave now. Come on Dodson have a word!

      1. They did. Imagine Rennie had been able to sign Aaron Cruden like he wanted to, there’d be no Adam Hastings, as well as no Jones and Dunbar. At least there’s Grigg.

    1. Reid is a S6 player now and you’re picking him for the 6Ns.

      This place never fails to amuse at times.

      1. Eh your border kin picked him in the 6n when he played in the championship and took him to Japan knowing he was in the sloppy 6 this season. What has changed other than your mind. Are you Gregor Townsend?

    2. You don’t rate Hutchison? Seems a mistake to leave him out whilst his form is so strong.

      See Eddie Jones has said he thinks Scotland got their conditioning wrong at the RWC

      1. I do he looks great, nice hands, nice step, quick and definitely next up, but any team in the world wants a Jones or Bennett at their running best. Maybe it’s Hutchinson’s turn, but it’d be a mistake not to make the most of Jones and Bennett while we’re lucky enough to have them.

      2. On paper, at least, I think Hutchinson/Jones would be a brilliant partnership going forward. Not especially solid defensively but both are young enough to improve there.

        Hutch looks a great all-rounder and makes a lot of the breaks and decisive passes for Northampton and would be a perfect foil for Jones who’s obviously an excellent runner with great support lines when on form.

        For me, the key problem with our attack during the world cup was the insistence on everything running through Russell. With Hogg a bit off the pace and Johnson/Harris/Taylor, solid players though they are, inside him, Russell was basically the only creative spark in the backline and was guilty of forcing plays when he ran out of ideas. Having another player with creativity and experience at fly half inside him would take a lot of the pressure off and allow him to pick his moments more.

      3. Eddie Jones! Same one that managed his side to the final. I am listening . Gregor Townsend said he had the fittest team in the tournament and the documents to prove it.

        If you want to see anyone choking You should put that sharp wit to better use and ask Townsend for proof of his statements.

    3. I really don’t understand the obsession with Rennie HAVING to play Jones is. Rennie (touted as one of the best coaches in the world) sees other people as more capable and more valuable to his team on match day. Why he should be pressured into playing someone out of form because he might score a try against Italy in the six nations is beyond me. Even though the SRU owns and runs Glasgow, Edinburgh and Scotland, Glasgow Warriors are a seperate entity and shouldn’t be disadvantaged by being forced to play out of form players just because they have shown glimpses of ability in the past. If you are not good enough to get in the team, you are not good enough to get in the national team.

      I understand the arguments of “if we replaced Finn with a world class 10, Hastings would be nowhere near where he is now” but it is a fine line…success gets bums on seats at Glasgow (or any club) and if we keep not replacing our best players when they leave the bubble will soon burst.

    4. How can Scott be too “in the past” to compete when he’s younger than two of the other centres you’ve mentioned, Taylor and Dunbar?

      1. Fair point. I thought he’d get recalled when tearing it up at Gloucester but never quite happened…

  17. Wait, so if he’d played a training game for the Bulls before for the WC you’d have dropped him? Who did he let down at the WC? Has he become a different player overnight? Did you make the same mistake when Irish were relegated? Exactly who is pushing through in his place – at least he’ll have regular game time unlike all the other contenders not one of whom is first choice for his club. Are you still amusing yourself btw?

    1. Clearly Kebble can’t come soon enough, but that’s Autumn.. meantime I wouldn’t bet against GR.

      1. Sir,

        This is from Kebble’s wiki page

        On 15 February 2017, Kebble journeys to Scotland to sign for Glasgow Warriors in the Pro14 from the 2017-18 season.[11]

      2. I was under the impression that the residency period started when you moved to the country, so for Kebble it would be September 2017 he moved, therefore qualified in time for Autumn internationals in 2020.

        Can anyone give a definite on this?

  18. Nice to have a review of the state of things.
    On reflection this RWC should have been the culmination of Project Vern. We peaked somewhere around late 17/ early 18 and have been slipping since.
    I was slightly bemused by the predictions in the last (I think) podcast with 3rd being considered a good tournament for the upcoming 6N. Given what we have seen. England, almost World beaters; France, resurgent and should have been semi-finalists, but for a daft red; Wales – GS winners and RWC semis. Ireland – not very good, but still humped us and know exactly how to exploit our weaknesses. Objectively, even with changes in regimes aside, we are looking at a good old WS wrestle with Italy.
    As highlighted, our attack was predictable and easily closed down by tightening on Finn and Hoggy. Our centres were as out of form as we’ve seen in a while, so there is hope for improvement there. With Bennett and Scott recapturing fitness and form, and Hutchison continuing to impress, I forsee a swashbuckling rennaisance. In fact, we could put out a backline almost entirely comprised of tricky playmakers, which would be fun, if probably unwise.
    We have good/ excellent back row options. I hope to see Ritchie, Bradbury and Hamish as a well balanced startig unit.
    We have a problem with our tight 5. Good players, but not a group that dominates our 6N rivals. Personnel problems are hard to resolve. Could we invoke a ‘Gatland effect’ and get top performances from an objectively fairly average group?

    1. I don’t think we can really say that Brown, McInally, Nel, Fagerson, Gray, Skinner or Cummings are average.

      1. I rate all of those listed Teamcam, and I meant average relative to 6N Test standard players, not per se. I’m doubtful how many of them would make a 6N top 2 in their respective position; are really feared/rated by the opposition; would make the Lions etc. Brown was good at the RWC. Gray was very good against Japan. Cummings is looking very good and needs to show he can sustain his rise in form. McInally was poor. Nel and Fagerson were fine, but unremarkable.
        As a unit they are not really a dominant force. Ireland totally dominated us and were then dominated by the ABs, who were dominated by England, who were dominated by SA.

      2. Matto – think that is probably fair with the caveat that most of our tight five have sporadically shown they can mix it with the best, but we’re not getting the best from them at the moment. Dan MacFarland was doing a very good job with them when he left and we need Danny Wilson to kick in with the pack quickly or start looking for a replacement.

      3. As FF says, they’ve not generally been consistent, but I’d argue that there’s not been a consistently excellent tighthead in the 6Ns for some time. Cole is a liability, Sinckler is hugely overrated and can’t scrum, Furlong is inconsistent… Nel would definitely be in the conversation, and Fagerson is increasingly pushing to be a part of it.

        Itoje is consistently good, but the rest of the England contingent are hit and miss. James Ryan has been good but his form has dropped. Iain Henderson is definitely in the conversation. AWJ is consistently average, and the other Wales locks are anonymous.

        More is written about George and Owens than Brown (for example), but are they actually any better? Best was always a liability. Chat is excellent for France, but who else is competitive?

        On a player-by-player basis there are a couple of outliers, but generally I don’t think that there’s much between the players in the 6N teams’ tight fives. It more often comes down to how they perform as a unit, which to me is a product of coaching and systems and selection. Just look at how Glasgow’s pack dominated Leinster’s in Dublin last season.

      4. There are none of the 6N teams filled with world class players.
        They all have mixes of talent and grunt. We are no different. Our players play in the same leagues as the others.
        Our coaching, selection and organization at test level isn’t good enough though…the RWC just emphasized that.
        Either the coaching mindset changes or the personnel does.

      5. Without having any idea why, it seems clear that Nel is absolutely vital to this team. Despite some of the LHs he’s played with, he almost single handedly gives us parity in the pack. Something that has blighted Scotland for years. Imagine his ability in an English or Irish pack. Sad, sad day when he runs out of steam. Hopefully not until Fagerson has come on and Kebble or Schoeman are on the other side. Even then keep him involved.

  19. We’ve learned from E Jones and his squad of overated chockers that they respect us enough to give us some insight into our failings and that we should aspire to what Japan have done and be the best ‘small’ team in the world.

    His arrogance has no bounds…wee Skippy should worry about his own failings and that of his squad of overated chockers…who got steam rolled by an actual big team.
    Hopefully his comments are used next 6N meet!

    1. I actually thought his comments were pretty fair. We don’t have the player base or resources of other teams so we should focus on playing to our strengths which is speed and skill

      Not a fan of Eddie by any means but the headline from the BBC was out of context and deliberately looking to sh*t-stir imo

      1. I also thought it was fair comment on Scotlands seemed poorly thought out and executed.
        …but then the verbal diarrhea drips out …with ..we need to be strive to be the best ‘small’ team like Japan…after his big boy team just got shredded by proper big boys.
        If he became Scotlands manager id need a good set of noise cancelling earphones for every time his lips moved.
        I think he’s got his own set of failures he should be focussing on instead of blabbing on about coaches efforts.

      2. We are used to a coach who opens his mouth and either nothing or verbal pi+h comes out. “Fastest team in world ” or ‘fittest team” .Why not have one who has experience and can wind the others up.

  20. Why is Eddie Jones showing so much interest in Scotland ! Feels to me like the obvious guy to get us playing to our strengths. We might not like him but he has a track record behind him.

    1. I’d be OK with Eddie Jones taking over, at least in terms of his results. His persona, however… I actually think he’d be an excellent Lions coach.

      1. I’d love Eddie Jones to coach us. He’s a world class coach, he demands high standards and he surrounds himself with innovators. His record speaks for itself.

        Obviously he’s also a d***.

    2. Now that the worst kept secret is out and Rennie officially confirmed as Australia head coach, maybe Eddie could be the national forwards coach to replace Danny Wilson?!?! Awaiting the article on Glasgow’s latest coaching appointment/allocation with interest.

  21. Oh well, as a mate pointed out, with the surprisingly stern complete test series for next year announced, the team/coaches have a golden opportunity to make amends for the RWC failure by reaching World number 1 by the end of 2020!

  22. Just calmed down.
    I was in Japan and have followed Scottish rugby for about 40 years. My conclusion is that all of the coaching staff should go.
    poor selection, predictable tactics, no plan B, cant motivate the team, we concede too many tries (bad tackling) and still (after 2-3 years) we cant defend a driving maul.
    selection: Townsend got all of the difficult ones wrong – captain, back row, centre combination (Harris and PH- really!??) and scrum half. Every other position picked itself.
    tactics: every coach knows how we play and they set up accordingly, there is no plan B. Watching us play side to side until we knock on, pass forward or get isolated is tortuous.
    motivation (lack of): how else can you explain Ireland at the WC, France in the WC warm ups, Wales in 2018, Ireland in 2018 and (in my opinion worst of all) France in Paris in 2019?
    defence: with this defence and set-up we need to score about 30 points to have a chance of winning against a tier 1. See above for how likely that is…….when Ireland get into our 22 and start a driving maul everyone in World Rugby knows it’s going to be a 7 pointer….and it’s not just Ireland that can do that to us…..what are our defence/forward coaches doing?? Against Japan, Johnny Gray made 26 tackles, Jamie Richie 24 others in the back row made < 10 and Gillespie made 9……..Hogg makes 50% of his tackles yet we've thrown Huw J to the wolves……….
    We need a new start.

    1. Brilliant post Hugh, but you are throwing your pearls to swine in here.

      I cannot believe Hogg actually manage as many as 50% ? What is more than that he would have needed to be in position to make or miss a tackle.

      Just wait till you read some of the responses to your post, you will realise just how far we have fallen.

    2. Superb post Hugh, I agree with the bulk of it, selection was definitely misjudged too many average, not fit guys selected, Hutchinson, Crosbie, Strauss, Jones should’ve travelled. The tactics V Ireland & Japan were mystifying – I have said on previous post that it really looked like NO preparation was done for the Ireland game and trying to outspeed the Japanese was madness. teams have worked us out, Hogg has been the worst victim of this, teams don’t kick long to him, he’s double teamed (by backs) and you can see his frustration. AGAIN it appears little thought has gone into how to utilise Hoggy productively (letting him pop up (in an almost Shane Williams way), letting him play 10 for parts of the game, Scotland need Hogg to be productively involved. The games you mention were hard to stomach & even worse is the feeling its not going to get any better. Losing Skinner & Watson was a real body blow & perhaps some mitigation!!! Attempting to play a fast game with the slowest 9 in world rugby is interesting. Bennett, Hutchinson, Crosbie need to be heavilly involved….

      1. He misses tackles, sometimes in wrong place at right time, was between clubs and unsettled IMO. Scotland paid the price of not having a settled team and there is only one man who has continually and subliminally told his players they are not good enough by dropping them and replacing with someone who rarely raises the standard.

      2. No one has mentioned the unfit guys that went on the trip , not just unfit for international rugby but unfit for a game with the Edinburgh Northern 7th’s and am sure one of them will post to tell me Duncan Taylor wouldnt even have got a game with them on that form.

        Taylor, Horne and Harris while Hutchinson and Jones, stay at home. The three he took were nearly men of Scottish Rugby : I doubt the three of them combined could have scpred more tries than Huw Jones, they are nearly adequate. Hutchinson doing just fine with the Championship bolters. Goonie really does look like a right chump now.

      3. Crosbie too! It’s easy to say that John Barclay wasn’t our starting blindside after the fact, but he was in fantastic form for Edinburgh and many people here wanted him to be our captain (myself included). Fagerson was ahead of Strauss.

        I think these were the wrong squad decisions:

        – Wilson over Bradbury
        – Horne over Hutchinson
        – Harris over Jones

        However, I agree totally with the statements about Hoggy. He should be popping up often.

    3. He also binned Richie Gray and sent Danny Wilson out to put the facts in the wrong order and make it look like it was Gray who left Scotland.

      1. Hello Sam (It ‘s Sam today) I am not sure I understand the question ? I am not sure you are asking the right person as I never made anything up . Danny gave the offside line an interview and let me be clear on one thing, I have no doubt what Danny said was not factually incorrect , however the sequence of events was so ambiguous that we are not clear at what point Richie Gray did extract himself (I do believe he extracted himself )BUT what I cannot decide is in what circumstances. Sometimes you need to read between the lines.

      2. Hello Bass, yes it’s Sam today, as every day. Is that another attempt to read between the lines? If so you’re just making stuff up again and demonstrating my point nicely.
        There are lots of legitimate criticisms to be levelled at the Scotland coaching team right now, I’ve made plenty myself but the Richie Gray fairytale is not one of them.
        By all accounts GT wanted Richie in the training squad from the start if he had got his way then in all probability we’d be adding Gray to the list of Taylor, Barclay, Wilson and Seymour and making the legitimate criticism that GT had given too much priority to experience over form and fitness. As it was, Richie chose not to be there for his own reasons.
        There are plenty of valid criticism of GT. You don’t need to make stuff up it just devalues the argument.
        There are people on here who are so fanatically anti GT that he could win a Grand Slam this year and they’d still be banging on about bring back VC. Yawn.(perhaps they need a big stern father figure to make them feel safe in their beds at night? I don’t know, I’m trying the read between the lines thing. Did I get it right?

      3. With John Barclay retiring this week – it brought to sharp focus one of the benighted Vern’s most moronic decisions – dropping Barclay for some London Irish nobodies.

      4. Has Barclay ever come out and said what went on between him and Johnson so that he wasn’t picked for a few seasons?

        Remember being incredibly frustrated it at the time and the whole Hugh Blake / Blair Cowan preference does look very fishy in hindsight.

        Hopefully now Johnson has gone to Aus and Barclay retired he might shed a bit more light.

      5. Probably an unjustified lack of belief in our own Scotland-produced players.

        Hugh Blake, Blair Cowan, Dave Denton, John Hardie, Tyrone Holmes, Kieran Low, Josh Strauss & Tom Ryder were all brought in during that era – only Denton, Hardie & Strauss became mainstays. I’m not saying that these lads didn’t deserve call-ups at the time, because they were worth a punt; I’m merely speculating that Johnson prioritised these players over Scotland-produced ones. Barclay was unduly ignored (he definitely should’ve been in the RWC15 squad – not just as a replacement for Gilchrist but probably over Strokosch in the initial squad) and I think Roddy Grant probably should’ve been capped by Cotter. Adam Ashe was brought in during Johnson’s time but that’s about it in the back row.

      6. tbf i thought blair cowan did a fantastic job, including when called into 2015 world cup… even more so Hardie and Dento in that era. Strauss meanwhile was a stalwart for Glasgow and Scotland

      7. Sam, I still do not agree with you, but having a different opinion , is not the same as ‘making things up’ .

      8. Yeah. Denton, Hardie and Strauss were all class for Scotland. I just think Barclay was probably worth a punt over Cowan who also did well.

    4. Agree with post except I’m for a second chance where GT is concerned and there’s a lack of alternative options (save Cockerill whose mission at E not finished). Major improvement in selection and defence needed. Rennin should still go now though – let’s have Nak, Jones and a new coach please.

      1. I disagree NRS. Hugh is right IMO , we need a new start and that needs to be a completely neutral coach, not a scotsman. Townsend has to go, we are a small playing nation , punching above our weight. We must play to our strengths and build on those strengths . Townsend has broken all his toys and cannot put them back together again. It is time for a new start with someone who has no afiliation to the old guard.

      2. Stu 2 : I agreed with Barclay being dropped back then, he was a liability , penalty after penalty. I recall one of NRS comments calling him a ‘penalty machine’ He had no rapport with referees.I will say he changed and came back stronger , he had excellent rapport with the referees and was a good captain. Blair Cowan did not last long but deserves more credit than that IMO.

  23. My 2020 six nations matchday squad
    (without the egos)

    1. Bhatti
    2. Brown (C)
    3. Nel
    4. Skinner (VC)
    5. Cummings
    6. Ritchie (VC)
    7. Watson
    8. Bradbury
    9. Horne
    10. Russell
    11. Graham
    12. Hutchison
    13. Bennett
    14. Maitland
    15. Kinghorn

    16. McInally
    17. Dell
    18. Fagerson
    19. J.Gray
    20. Crosbie
    21. Price
    22. Hastings
    23. Steyn

    Unless Hogg is willing to give up his ego and be open to covering 10/13 for injury circumstances then i don’t see him making the bench ahead of Hastings or Steyn, offers no versatility and is a one trick pony at fullback who has been worked out. Kinghorn is on better form, and we surely learned our lessons from the world cup regarding that… right ?

    1. I bet we have not , not a single one, come the 6 nations we will be back to the captains run at Murrayfield with the like of Ali Price and ruck inspector Gilchrist waving them through. It is a pity , we had a coach in Vern and then just handed the ball away like Price at Cardiff. I now doubt we will see another great scottish side in my lifetime.

    2. We can’t afford to drop Hoggy. He’s a class player, starting to perform well at Exeter, and superior defensively to King Blairhorn as of yet. I also think Toonie could get more out of him. I’d love to see him used like NZ used Beauden Barrett at full-back during the RWC; as someone who sometimes comes forward to make carries at first receiver which give the team the go-forward that it needs. He’s also a handy distribution option. Hoggy at 15 is another of these backline threats that we’ve talked about needing, so he shouldn’t be treated as a one-trick pony who only ever trucks it up from backfield or kicks to touch. He can create space for his teammates and we know he can pass and offload well as well as play shorter kicks through. Let’s evolve his method of play and his place in the Scotland team in order to keep defences guessing. Like I say, he’s a class player – and certainly capable of it.

      Other than that, I have few complaints.

      – Dell might not be playing much at Irish but he’s still our best loosehead. Gordie Reid has earned the #17 shirt; Bhatti’s flattered to deceive of late with Rory Sutherland being picked ahead of him most games. I think Cockerill can make Bhatti into a monster though

      – Thomson over Crosbie, love them both but Thomson is class, he was very good at the RWC and could really bring havoc off the bench

      – We need one of those VCs to be in the backline so I’d be tempted to give Scott a game with one of the other two on the bench

      1. I would agree on the Dell thing actually, i have just not seen him or Reid play at all is all.

        I forgot about Thomson, he would go in ahead of Crosbie.

        I originally has Scott in one of my squads, but i think both Hutchison & Bennets form makes them undroppable. I would make Russell a VC if i had to pick one.

        I wont change my mind on Hogg, he may be playing well at Exeter but his play style has been worked out under Townsend for last 2 years, I question that he is a better defensive player also.

      2. “his play style has been worked out under Townsend for last 2 years”

        Which is why I’m suggesting we keep starting him and CHANGE his playing style. That’s my main point I think.

      3. According to ESPN Hogg has only played three games for Exeter , 1 win and 2 losses. On what basis do you think he is being treated as ‘a one trick pony’? and if he is , who is responsible for that ?
        You have not convinced me and you have not convinced Neil.

  24. I quite liked the fake Neil , he got something right, he wants to burn the drama queens and foot stompers and allow team rugby.

  25. Oh I see , he is taking a break from criticising referees , defending Townsend and talking up the biggest conman of them all and I do not mean Dave Rennie .

    Now you mention it, I get it now. Keep posting Neil, but , I think Bhatti is miles off right now and McGuigan was just a pawn in the game.

  26. Toonie is staying – you’d be be better calming down, dowsing your flaming torches and chilling out – it really cant be good for your BP to keep parroting the same thing over and over.

    By all means march on Murrayfield if we have a poor 6Ns – but until then, wheesht, it’s boring.

    1. Yep. Toonie’s going nowhere for now. Into his third season as national coach, it’s been a mix of good, bad and indifferent.
      We’ve got a good pool of players to use in the upcoming 6N. Let’s see how that goes. Would be nice to kick off with a win in Dublin.

      1. JohnMc, it is more like a B Western film ……. The Good, the Bad & the Ugly ….. but I feel the B Western is more entertaining ………

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