Scotland 2020 Six Nations Squad Announced

Stuart Hogg will captain the 2020 Scotland Six Nations squad, leading the team into a hugely challenging year of fixtures that will make or break Gregor Townsend’s career as coach.

Townsend has selected one player less than last year in his forwards group, while taking one more winger and one less centre. In each case he could have perhaps added an experienced head like Ryan Wilson or Pete Horne but clearly seems to be looking towards the future, with half an eye on who is in form.

That is all as it should be, but it does leave question marks about the level of experience in the squad. Excuses about “this is a young group, we’re still learning at this level” etc are not what we want to be falling back on come March.

There are recalls from the wilderness for Rory Sutherland, Matt Scott and Cornell du Preez. The former is perhaps down to lack of alternatives at loosehead but given his troubles with injuries since 2016 he should grasp the opportunity fully.

Scott and du Preez are rewarded for their fine form. Du Preez has not started for Scotland since the near-miss in 2017 and will hope that he might get a couple more cracks at them this year. His last cap came in the Cardiff drubbing of 2018.

The six uncapped players include four new faces in Gloucester lock Alex Craig, Edinburgh’s Nick Haining and Glasgow players Tom Gordon and Ratu Tagive. Luke Crosbie and Kyle Steyn have made previous training squads but not a Scotland 23.

Haining’s journey from the Western Force Academy, via Jersey Reds and Bristol, is an interesting one – he marked Sean Maitland on the wing during the Lions tour of 2013, having toyed with a switch to the centre. His barnstorming carries from Number 8 are why Scotland need him though.

Tagive qualifies on residency and has impressed now he’s finally fit and playing for Glasgow. The rangy winger offers something different to the other options in the back three and is the most “Tombola” like selection.

Tom Gordon was born in New Zealand but qualifies through a grandparent and has represented Scotland at U20s and Club XV level already.

A number of previous squad stalwarts miss out, including the oft-debated Wilson and Horne, as well as Sam Skinner, Gordon Reid, Mark Bennett and Duncan Taylor. Bennett is probably the unluckiest in the backs with a glut of 13s in fine form and Kyle Steyn offering further cover from the wing.

Up front Matt Fagerson fans may feel aggrieved as he and Blade Thomson miss out, and while you can argue about quality, the number 8 options picked ahead of him have been selected on form. His time will come – and Glasgow could use him at the moment in any case. Richie Gray continues to be absent in what could well be his last chance to add to his caps while Sam Skinner is still on the comeback from injury and could well be involved later in the tournament.

Overall it does feel like quite a raw squad, but there is a freshness to it and some selections, like the excellent Rory Hutchinson or Tom Gordon point to the future under Townsend – or anyone else.

Scotland 2020 Six Nations Squad

Forwards (21)
Jamie Bhatti, Allan Dell, Rory Sutherland
Fraser Brown, Stuart McInally, George Turner
Simon Berghan, Zander Fagerson, WP Nel
Alex Craig, Scott Cummings, Grant Gilchrist, Jonny Gray, Ben Toolis
Magnus Bradbury, Luke Crosbie, Cornell du Preez, Tom Gordon, Nick Haining, Jamie Ritchie, Hamish Watson

Backs (17)
George Horne, Ali Price, Henry Pyrgos
Adam Hastings, Finn Russell
Chris Harris, Rory Hutchinson, Sam Johnson, Huw Jones, Matt Scott
Darcy Graham, Sean Maitland, Byron McGuigan, Kyle Steyn, Ratu Tagive
Stuart Hogg (capt), Blair Kinghorn

Club Breakdown:

16 from Edinburgh – including their top two tightheads, their first choice second row pairing and 2/3 of their starting back three. Ceciarelli has also been called up by Italy.
13 from Glasgow – including their first and second choice hookers, scrum-halves and centres (at least while Huw Jones is in favour).
1 from the Top14 in France.
8 from the Gallagher Premiership, including 2 from Gloucester.

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107 comments on “Scotland 2020 Six Nations Squad Announced

    • TeamCam on

      It’s an interesting selection. Don’t think too many people can complain about it. Two much-maligned players omitted, lots of dynamic players selected, some calls that I imagine a fair few didn’t see coming… Classic Toonie. You can build some solid 23s out of that squad. Hoggy as captain is an interesting call, too. He seemed too distant from the action in the game vs. the USA, but you can’t question his commitment and I guess the VCs will be communicating with the referee as well. I’m disappointed to see Matt Fagerson miss out, though: I’m not sure Haining or du Preez have performed better, but presumably Toonie has a plan.

      • Fraser on

        Worrying trend of agreeing with everything you say developing for me Cam!

        I for one am glad Townsend hasn’t picked Pete Horne or Ryan Wilson – it shows he is looking more to the future.

        Fagerson definitely unlucky, although I haven’t seen what du Preez is doing so maybe it’s justified.

        Will see how Hogg goes as captain but I have a few reservations.

        Skinner presumably not picked as not fully fit yet – wonder if we will see him later on (and maybe a couple of others….).

        Bennett unlucky but all the other centres deserve their places (including Harris apparently on club form but I’m still not convinced…).

        The only other one I’m not that happy with is Pyrgos – would have much rather get someone young/new in than picking someone who is really just another Pete Horne (solid but not outstanding and never going to push us up to top level).

      • Rory Baldwin on

        Townsend just confirmed M Fagerson has a fractured rib which will keep him out for a few weeks. More from the press-conference third hand: James Lang, Richie Gray, Blade also missing out through injury.

      • TeamCam on

        Might want to see a doctor about that, Fraser…!

        Bennett vs. Steyn or Harris is an interesting one: Bennett’s played on the wing before and he’s got the pace for it. He’s also scored more tries that those two this season and has a bit of ‘x-factor’ about him. I don’t think he’s any worse defensively, either.

        Presumably Pyrgos is fulfilling the ‘game managing scrum-half’ role, but he can play quickly when it’s on – he has for Edinburgh this year and did for Glasgow (including in their glorious grand final defeat of Munster). So let’s disagree on that.

        Shame that Fagerson’s out injured, but it’s positive that his exclusion isn’t down to soiling Toonie’s rug or something.

      • Shona on

        “Don’t think too many people can complain about it” might be the most optimistic comment I’ve ever seen on the blog ;)

    • FF on

      Think it says more about our desperate lack of wingers than anything else.

      It’s not like there are many available wingers that have been left out that we can suggest instead. Hoyland? Lee Jones? Robbie Nairn? Cupboard looks pretty bare

    • Alanyst on

      7 in squad for the 4 back 3 spots, plus a few centres who can cover the wing. Enough to play 1s v 2s in training. 3 or 4 people, presumably, would need to be crocked before Tagive actually makes the 23.

  1. Stu2 on

    How exactly is Haining, Gordon and CdP better than Matt Fagerson?

    Other than that quite please with the squad, some players stinking it up because of lack of options – cough Pyrgos – but he’s picked on form. Bennett is better than Harris and always will be, but Toonie can never admit he is wrong.

  2. Referendum on

    Hogg Captain is a risk. If he steps up and doesn’t let it affect his game great but I fear it will. For Scotland he needs some outstanding performances as he’s not had one For a while. Whether that is due to him being closely marked allowing others to flourish or other reasons I’m unsure.

    • Stewart on

      I personally think Maitland would have been an excellent captain (if his place in the team is guaranteed), as both a respected senior player and leader.

  3. Squid Ink on

    Not going to lie I was more than a bit worried about the squad announcement, but I’m pretty excited about the team combinations that can made there and Hoggy as captain. I’m comfortable that the three LHs picked are the best available (to my knowledge) but all three lack game time and it is definitely our weakest position. Hopefully whoever is picked in the team will rise to the occasion!

    Skinner is a big absence but with no game time since pre-world cup it seems a sensible decision and I’m glad Toonie now admits fitness and form should be a much bigger consideration in picking a team/squad. At last!

    • FF on

      Hmmm we just sent our strongest ever squad to the World Cup and got humiliated. Now looking at this squad I’m not filled with confidence. We can put out a good 23 but a few unfortunately injuries and we start playing guys who’d never get a look in with our rivals.

      This is going to be a hugely challenging season with our summer and autumn fixtures so we need to start with a good return in the 6N. I hope the SRU have feelers our for a new coach as Toonie may not survive.

      • TeamCam on

        To be fair, FF, that squad was populated with players who weren’t on form and/or didn’t have significant recent game-time under their belts. I actually prefer the look of this squad – lots of energy and snarl and strong form. Remember that our rivals passed on some gems like Hamish Watson (and their fans still make outlandish claims about their equivalents being better!).

        I hope this squad is about Toonie building for 2023 and learning the value of picking on form. I hope we see a lot of continuity in selection, too.

      • FF on

        Ultimately, I think coaching is more important than personnel when it come to success at test level and we do have a squad just about good enough to compete for the title.

        When Toonie was getting sparkling performances out of the likes of Darryl Margo it looked like he had the magic touch – we need to see Scotland highly competitive in every game and confident in what they’re doing. And for the love of god we need the defence to tighten up. If he gets them playing on song we definitely have the players to hurt any team.

      • TeamCam on

        Totally agree about coaching. Look at Wales: They have a couple of world-class players (e.g. Faletau), a solid number of very good players (e.g. Owens) and the remainder are a bunch of journeymen (e.g. Moriarty), but Gatland et al. made them grand slam winners and got them to 4th in the RWC.

        I think the only refinement I’d make to our shared position is that mental fortitude seems to be what’s lacking most. Whether that’s coaching, I don’t know.

      • SD on

        Do you really mean ‘strongest ever’? 1987 vintage were pretty strong nd much the same squad as had won a Grand Slam in 1984 with a world class back row and Roy Laidlaw and John Rutherford as half backs, 1991 squad had won a Grand Slam the year before and reached the RWC semi-finals. 1999 were Five Nations Champions. Current bunch have great potential, but can’t (yet!) point to that level of actual achievement.

  4. Sam Laycock on

    Rennie will be delighted, Cockerill Fuming.

    Glasgow Forwards; Brown, Z Fag, Gray, Cummings, Gordon,Turner. = 6

    No Room for M. Fag or Wilson? but room for Tom Gordon? Interesting

    Edinburgh Forwards; Bhatti, Sutherland, McInally, Nel, Bergan, Gilchrist, Toolis, Bradbury, Ritchie, Watson, Haining, Crosbie = 12

    C.Du Preez back for Thomson.

    No Room for D. Taylor, M. Bennett or P.Horne in the center’s.

    Ratu Tagive? really? What has he ever actually done on the pitch?

    I have to say I am a little bit dissappointed in some ways as there seems to be quite a lot of developmental inclusions which I feel a bit (world cup cycle)ish. I think he should forget about the next world cup until the end of 2021. Right now he should just try to put out the best team he’s got. Anyway If he’s rewarding form then fair enough.

      • Jontymo on




        Bare bones…but you’d imagine we’d get some players released back who aren’t in the top 25/26 for a given 6Nations match…

      • Sam Laycock on

        I Had expected Edinburgh to do well over the 6N but I hadn’t counted on loosing
        Bhatti and Sutherland
        Haining and Crosbie

        That changes the complexion a lot.

        Glasgow on the other hand will look to power through the 6N. Any news on Grigg and his injury?

      • Sam Benedict on

        Bradbury/Crosbie/Haining/Ritchie/Watson (there’ll always be at least one going spare – maybe more – most likely Crosbie, or Haining once Fagerson/Thomson is fit)


        Hickey/van der Walt
        Baggott/Dean (when fit)/Taylor
        Bennett (who should be there)/Johnstone
        van der Merwe
        Hoyland/(possibly one of Graham/Kinghorn if Harris or Steyn makes the 23)

  5. Take the 3 on

    Not too bad, I feel better about this squad than I would have thought last night. A number of players picked on form and a few new guys is no bad thing. I’ve confidence in the pack as I believe they will train by scrumming against Mark Dobsons wallet.

  6. Brizzlekicks on

    Squad looks good overall. Not sure about picking Steyn or Tagive and leaving people like Bennett at home, but I don’t have all the info on those two. I have pretty serious reservations about Hogg as captain. All the other 6N teams have battle-hardened, mature warriors as captains. I just don’t know that the calm, clear-headed authority and the ability to inspire those around him when backs are to the wall are really his strengths – Scottish legend level player that he is. I want him to focus on getting back to his best form (I read on here previously an opinion that he may have lost a yard of pace – which is something I had been worrying about for the last year or so – it would be devastating to his capabilities if so – anyone else got opinions on that? Would explain his lack of tries over the last 18 months or so.

    • Wee AL on

      I’m sure he’s lost some pace. He never sparkled in the World Cup. But he’s still quick. He also became a touch predictable, and maybe now we can see more variety bringing people, like Tagive or Steyn into the mix. There’s plenty of options with this group. I think this young squad could be really great, I just hope they just believe in themselves enough. And of course, I hope Tandy is hammering them on defence. He’s a class coach.

      • Rory Baldwin on

        I’m not sure Hogg was predictable but the lack of threat at 12/13 was I think playing into the hands of defences allowing them to drift and close down space in the wider channels. Put someone who is going to attack the line at 13 (and 12 too, maybe!) and suddenly Hogg gets a little bit of extra time to work.

  7. Tam tm on

    Its going to say a lot for Hoggy’s maturity and patience come the moment when under pressure and we’re chasing a game. His presence, attitude, passion and energy are qualities which will influence others around him. I think its a good call. However, its Toonies game plan which I hope has changed massively is what I am looking forward to. We will see I believe the real qualities of him as a coach if he has reviewed things correctly since our last few outings. Otherwise….!!

  8. Rodb on

    McGuigan and Tagive but no Bennett? I think Bennet is the form centre at present. Really worried about lack of players and back up on one side of the front 3 which could hurt us badly. Backs look good and we actually in a few positions have quality replacements not chosen. Our big big problem since Townsend arrived is a very leaky defence. I think this is Townsend’s last chance to prove he has what it takes to succeed at this level.

    • septic 9 on

      Bennett is a centre, those 2 are an out and out wing and a guy currently playing on the wing.
      I assume its Townsend’s fault that we are struggling for LH props.

  9. Sam Laycock on

    On Bennett’s Omission it’s great to see him playing regularly, fit and healthy but I still don’t believe he’s back to the level he was at in 2013 -2015, fingers crossed he can get there. We will see if Matt Scott can finally repeat his club form on the international stage.

  10. Scotty on

    Very pleased to see Toony going with form for this squad. I think for the match 23 it largely still picks itself but will be great for the new boys to get some experience and act as injury cover. The big discussions for me are, obviously, who starts in the centre and who provides the backrow cover.
    Would like to see Scott and Hutchison but wouldn’t be surprised by Johnson and Jones either. I think Harris may have the bench spot locked down.
    For backrow cover (assuming Ritchie, Watson and Bradbury start) I would have liked to have seen Fagerson (hopefully later in the tournament) but reckon Crosbie has got bags of potential. Haining maybe quite old to be getting his debut though he is a power player which is something we are always a bit short on.

    All in all pretty promising stuff, though the hope could all come crashing down after 5 minutes of the Ireland game!

    • RuggersB on

      Playing Jones and Johnson together v Ireland will be like world cup deja vu.
      We need to select a side that will front up and get stuck in.

      • john martin on

        Exactly sir, thinking about it – we try & play “rugby” , they defend high, restrict the space, employ the short kick (to tactically move Hogg into traffic) & simply don’t let us play. I do think we need the like of Crosbie, DuPreez & maybe even Scott to keep them honest & put them on the back foot. We simply can’t play into their hands

  11. Busy Little Bee on

    Classic Walter Mitty. Tough year coming. Hogg ain’t no captain, doesn’t have the brains and reeks of handing it to the star player no matter how ill suited he is. Like Messi for Argentina.

    Leaves out the west coast Scots boys – Ried, Bennett, R.Gray and picks obscure foreigners instead. They’re taking our jobs, aided and abetted by Walter Mitty.

    • Jonny Blake on

      I would agree , Hogg is no captain but the alternatives are few. All his players are fit so we should expect high things from Toony and Hogg. This is it , the stage is theirs.

    • Sam Laycock on

      Hmm where did you read the list, on the bbc sport website it is out of order but on the SRU website it appears to be in it’s correct position so maybe just a typo by the bbc.

      However as that’s no fun the bbc had him fit in between Maitland and McGuigan so someone with an M. mmmm Mallinder???

  12. Highland Bear on

    Toony has gone all-in with his squad selection and has it all to do to build a team able to restore national credibility after the RWC fiasco. His biggest fan is the guy who appointed him, SRU Chief Executive Mark Dodson. The same Mark Dodson who brought Scottish Rugby into disrepute in Japan, so that the governing body was fined. The Dodson who 2 years ago was criticised by an employment tribunal over the SRU’s dismissal of the director domestic rugby.

    The disclosure this week of Dodson’s eye-watering salary and bonus, particularly in comparison with the financial packages for other rugby governing bodies, is a blatant challenge to the sport in Scotland. One can only assume the bonus is attributable to meeting target indicators for financial performance since the playing performance across national teams has been poor for the period in question.

    Should Townsend fail this year, how many other last chances will he be given? What would be the tipping point to his dismissal?

    We may want the national team to perform well but such an outcome will only entrench Dodson. The Super 6, sold as a means to bridge the gap between top level club rugby and the professional arm of the sport, will take some years to bed in. While it could potentially bolster the professional side of the game, it is likely to undermine amateur club rugby which at present is supposed to run the SRU for the benefit of the whole sport.

  13. Rory Baldwin on

    Folks if you can keep the Dodson chat to a minimum here please as this post is for discussion of the Scotland squad, we’ll be discussing on the podcast tonight so your thoughts on the matter will be welcome on that post when it appears later this evening/tomorrow morning.

  14. Stripe on

    It’s a bit of a curate’s egg: good in places.

    On the positive side, it’s good to see Matt Scott and Huw Jones back in the fold, but the omission of Mark Bennett and Gordy Reid makes little sense to me. The men they’ve been left out in favour of, Chris Harris and Rory Sutherland, will undoubtedly try their hearts out but, alas, are found wanting at international level.

    There’s also a case for arguing that Duncan Weir deserves another chance (as back-up to Finn) on the basis of his form for Worcester over the last 18 months or so. He’s the sort of player that can be relied upon to keep a cool head and close out a tight game, something that we’ve not always excelled at. And he’s pretty accurate from the tee, an attribute that isn’t in great supply now that Greig has called it a day.

    Personally, I’d have included both Weir* and Hastings (who can cover both 10 and full back) and dispensed with either Tagive (unproven) or McGuigan (hasn’t cut the mustard at international level).

    *Assuming that he’s now got over the jaw injury he sustained a couple of weeks ago.

    • Stu2 on

      Rory Sutherland hasn’t played enough test rugby for us to judge whether he’s been found wanting. In view of our LH issues his selection makes perfect sense.

      • Rory Baldwin on

        Not sure it applies to Harris either. He’s not flash but has improved each game he’s played at International level, to the stage some people on here actually liked him for a while!

      • Johnny B Lake on

        But there are just as many who never took to Harris and still haven’t. Let Toony and Hogg sort it out between them.I think a bad choice of captain but I hope I am wrong.After all,I can afford to be wrong,What does it cost me to be wrong ! This has to be Townsends last stand, 2 home games , with varying levels of difficulty,Italy away is not the threat it was.3 wins are enough for me

      • Stu2 on

        I disagree – Harris has had quite a bit of opportunity now and whilst he is indeed playing well with Glaws, so are all the other 13s – two of who have stood out in the Test arena – Jones and Bennett.

      • Stripe on

        He’s had few opportunities, I grant you, but he’s not set the heather ablaze when he’s had the chance, however limited that may have been. Reid, on the other hand, has done pretty well for Scotland when called upon.

        Maybe Sutherland will turn out to be someone who blossoms with maturity, but for the 6N I’d rather stick with Reid.

  15. RuggersB on

    I think its a good selection. We’ve got what we’ve got.
    We lack quality depth at LH, 8, and wing.

    Sounds like Flockhart may be seen as a future 8…but again needs to fill out for that role.
    DVDM will no doubt play wing as soon as is qualified.
    Would really like to see Sutherland step up… he has really underachieved at LH.

    Crosbie I really like whenever I watch him play. Has the aggression and sheer will in addition to ability needed to play well at test level. Fagerson Im not sold on at test level…and definitely not at 8.
    Haining will be an interesting one. Could well fill the gap at 8…he sounds very keen to prove his metal at Int level.

    Glad PHorne and Wilson no longer selected. Not good enough… getting on…and we need to find something better.

    GTs position probably on the line in this 6N. Not sure which criteria he’ll be or should be judged on though. After such a poor year in 2019 anything will look better.

  16. john martin on

    Well has GT realised that for Russell, Hogg, Jones to strut their stuff they need space & has picked exactly the type (DuPreez, Crosbie, Haining) who have the capability of knocking the opposition defence onto the back foot?? Whether those 3 will play is interesting, personally I’d start Crosbie & certainly be considering Du Preez @ 8. Hogg as captain is a gamble but little choice. Add Kebble & VDM to the mix & we are certainly looking stronger

  17. Lochinverboy on

    A fair squad and it’s the first time we have just about all not just fit but match fit. Gordy Reid and Bennett may consider themselves unlucky but Bennett in particular needs more time at a sustained level to show his excellence. I’m excited about Alex Craig. Playing very well with a recent mom award. Our centre problem has turned full circle and who do you play now at 12? Johnson, Scott or Hutchinson? All playing very well though Johnson and Jones play regularly and might be the duo. All that said, it is our defensive alignment and line speed which needs improving regardless of individuals. Get that sorted and we will compete. Feel sorry for Weir. These games are often decided by kicking and Weir is top drawer. But out of favour. I hope Dunkie Taylor and Simmonds kick on as they are likely to be called up at some point.

  18. JohnMc on

    I remember during the 00s and early 10s looking at each of our published 6N training squads and just hoping for the best that the handful of proper Test standard players in there could carry the rest on their shoulders. As results proved, it was too much for them to bear.
    My first look at this squad shows to me 16 players of genuine Test pedigree or real Test potential distributed throughout backs and forwards – a count unthinkable a decade ago.
    I see the biggest challenge here is the coaching of each chosen 23 taking the field to profit from their own strengths, exploit opposition weaknesses and apply intelligent game management at all times, home or away and when on top or up against it. Yes, other 6N sides have got better too in terms of player strength, but I don’t think we’re that far if at all behind the other home nations and France in terms of talent.
    So the coaching is critical, and this 6N will be a huge challenge for Toonie and his supporters, a bigger challenge than he faced in the 18 and 19 6Ns when he was still coming to terms with coaching at international level.

  19. Big Al on

    I think the key to the upcoming six nations is not so much about the squad selection rather how quickly the players selected can pick up the new defensive patterns under Steve Tandy. If we can get our defence sorted and keep our attacking patterns then we might be able to do something positive.

    Really wish Hoggy well with the captaincy. Hastings (senior) captained Scotland and Lions pretty well from full back.

  20. Scottie on

    As always, very excited before the start.

    I think there’s great options with our forwards, starting against Ireland, caveat injuries and coaching, but bulk and desire are there:

    My 1st 8 with their replacements, based on what I’ve seen season so far.

    Sutherland/Dell (Bhatti needs development but got the raw material)

    Appreciate could be Bagatelle or Steamroller either way but some real class in most positions.

    SRU needs to focus on our props, seem to be fizzling out. Hope Grant Stewart continues his development too.

  21. Johnny b on

    If picked on form then difficult to see why Bennett left out + I’d have R Gray.
    Other than that it’s as expected with some novelty Toonying for interest.

  22. Take the 3 on

    I think a number of us having endured a very disappointing 2019 were awaiting the squad announcement with a little trepidation, but fair play to Toonie its one of his best overall selections since his time in charge. Hopefully he has learned the lessons for the RWC and has taken council from his new recruits. It will be interesting if we play more pragmatic rugby, playing rugby further up the pitch and only forcing the play when the opportunities present themselves. Good luck to Hogg no one can doubt his heart and commitment and I hope that he can avoid his annual Irish inflicted injury and thrive under the responsibility.

    • Big Al on

      Its a good point regarding injuries. I’m always slightly concerned that we pick up injuries to Hogg and Russell in the first game of the six nations. Kinghorn and Hastings aren’t bad replacements but if we really want to do something in the tournament we need our stars fit and firing.

  23. Keith on

    Good squad. Nice mix of freshness, form and experience. I think Hogg is mature enough now to be Captain, but do worry that he is a little remote from he the action. I would still have risked it on Richie but I won’t complain about Hogg. It may all backfire, but right now it makes sense. I’m pleased he’s cleared out Wilson and P Horne who just don’t quite have the ability to excel at international level consistently and he’s largely rewarded players in form. Those that have missed out (Faegerson, R Gray etc) seem to have missed out due to injury rather than any bias as suggested by some posters. So I’m optimistic. This is near enough our best squad, with only as few reservations. They ket will be whether Toonie can select a match day 23 based on form and player playing in their best positions. That is where I think he’s made his biggest errors in the last 18 months. If he gets that right then I think we’ll do well. Ireland is a big test, but they seem to have gone with experience over all else (Sexton as captain even though he’s barely played?) so you never know, we might turn them over against expectations. If we can play as we did 18 months ago and play with less fear, more aggression and a semblance of defense then I think we could surprise people. If not then it’s going to be a loooooooong championship.

  24. 1.8T on

    Interesting, it seems the Tombola has returned. Backs I’m pretty happy with, Mark Bennett must be pretty unlucky as what I’ve seen of him he looks in decent form although perhaps not quite at his excellent best.

    Hoggy is captain material but I’m not a fan of backs as captain, especially a fullback miles away from the action. There’s no doubting his talent or commitment but is he composed enough to captain? How’s his current form? I don’t watch the premiership and unfortunately missed Glasgow Exeter.

    A starting back row of Ritchie, Watson and Bradbury excites me but none of the other back rows do. I haven’t seen or heard of Du Preez since he completely failed to turn up for a pumping a couple of years ago (think it was Wales if my memory serves) presumably he has come into some form? Skinner will also presumably come in after he gets some game time.

    It’s a squad I am not comfortable with, perhaps it’s the lack of old names, but then again the old names didn’t do much for us last year! Maybe I did love Greeg after all?!

    I think I’ve fully given up on being optimistic and hopeful but anyway as usual best of luck to the guys I’ll be cheering them on!

  25. Sam Benedict on

    Predicted 23 for Ireland:

    Hogg (C); Graham, Jones, Hutchinson, Kinghorn; Russell, Price
    Dell, Brown, Nel; Gilchrist, Gray; Ritchie, Watson; Bradbury
    (McInally, Bhatti, Fagerson, Cummings, du Preez, Horne, Hastings, Harris)

    It wouldn’t quite be my preferred team; I’d pick Scott at 12 (though I’m not sure who I’d put outside him), Horne would be my starting scrum-half, and I’d go with Sutherland over Bhatti, and Haining over du Preez. I’m guessing that Maitland won’t play against Ireland because of the whole Saracens training camps fiasco (which is why Taylor is missing from the squad; I wonder who he’d have replaced (maybe Steyn or Tagive?)).

    Mark Bennett should absolutely be in the squad to me. We don’t need Hogg, Graham, Maitland, Kinghorn, Steyn, McGuigan AND Tagive, plus Harris, in the back three; I’d have chosen Bennett over one of them, most likely McGuigan or Tagive. Other than that, no complaints; except Gordon Reid can count himself a little hard done-by, so I’m guessing he’s out of the squad for the same reason that Batman and Peter Horne are.

  26. Andy F on

    Looking at it from the point of view of likely 23 and then the wider squad there isn’t much to quibble about for a change.
    I don’t think any of us are under the illusion that Tagive or Steyn for example will feature on match day so no harm in having there initially when the pro-teams are not active.
    Since the squad size isn’t restricted as it was at the RWC, and others will probably be invited to train, we could theoretically name as many as we want. In that case why not just include Bennett? Then the question about who has been left out and why doesn’t even arise.

    Anyway, Captain – Hogg is the most experienced in the group so can’t really argue against it even if he lacks any real captaincy experience. I’d expect Brown/McInally/Ritchie being closer to the coal face and consequently the referee to be heavily relied on. As long as the ref understands that. Hogg is our “identity player” & known to Ref’s so should have their respect – he is know to some for other reasons as well though!
    Leading from the back so to speak, as others have pointed out, didn’t stop Irvine, Hastings or Paterson. The modern game is slightly different relying as it does on being in the ref’s ear. That would be my only concern.

    • Ben F on

      Well thought out comments. I think it would be unfair to take Bennett from Edinburgh if there was no intent to play him. Toony worked the side weary before the RWC what would be the benefit for Bennett in that situation. I would much prefer a tight knit squad who get to know each other and the new coaches intimately over a large squad making up numbers.

      Hogg is not Irvine or Hastings, they were leaders in every side they played for. Hogg is worth a try , it might just work out, everyone else has already had a shot, and no one stands out , even Hogg, but for whatever reason (it is not that relevant) , he never got another chance till now, what has changed would be my challenge!

  27. Scrummo on

    Whilst Sutherland is on the comeback from injury I don’t think there is a big disparity in gametime between him or the other two looseheads this season.

    I really hope he has a couple big games for Edinburgh between now and the 6N and starts as first choice as he’s a great player and could lock down that shirt at least until the South Africans qualify.

    • Sam Laycock on

      Yeah from the comments Toony made in the press conference it sounded like Sutherland could start, at least its between him and Dell with Bhatti being third.

  28. Johnny b on

    Who’s favourite to start at 12?
    Johnson, Scott or Hutchinson?

    They’re all quality and in form. Hutchinson is the bolter. From what I’ve seen he’s been in incredible form for Northampton. Has he sorted his defence?

    • Scotty on

      I think Scott has done enough do merit another chance, though Finn often plays better with another ball player outside him (like he did with Pete Horne at 12) so he could stick with Johnson. Alternatively he could play Scott with Hutchison at 13 and the latter could come in as second receiver in some plays. I think in recent weeks all have been solid defensively. 100% the biggest call he has to make!

      • Rory Baldwin on

        Pretty much any pairing works for me, I’d go for Scott and Hutchinson as they have great form, are both cutting great angles and offer mixed options for Finn to work with. Some other sample combos:

        Scott/Jones: see above, probably most similar style of 13 to Bennett for Scott to play off.
        Hutchinson/Harris: another good balance, puts a playmaker at 12 with defence at 13. I think we need more of a threat at 13 though. Have only seen Harris picked at 13 this year.
        Johnson/Jones: Club familiarity of combinations. Fairly balanced but Johnson has perhaps the least form aside from a great game against Exeter.
        Hutchinson/Jones: all out attack but could leave holes. Probably the closest to a Horne/Jones type combo in terms of a baller at 12.
        Scott/Harris: the solid (stodgy?) option. Best for defence maybe
        Johnson/Harris: where’s the fun in that?

      • Big Al on

        I think the Glasgow games against Exeter and Sale are really important here. Certainly the Exeter game was close to test match intensity and both had good games (one dodgy offload and bouncing balls aside). If Johnson and Jones play well and stay uninjured I think they will start as the six nations pairing. I would say that both are aware that there is a lot of competition for the 12/13 shirts and they need to perform every week now. I would also say that Steyn has a chance if those two start as he’s starting to tune in to them.

      • FF on

        I want to see Hutchison given the chance. So I’d pick Hutchison with Jones, otherwise Scott with Hutchison.

        I’ve not been that impressed with Johnson at test level and our midfield in the RWC was very stodgy.

      • Johnny b on

        Hutchinson is a different level in attack.
        My heart would like to see him and Jones and think “eff it, just go for broke – they score 2 we score 3 (or 4, or 5)”.
        Hutchinson was loaned to Bedford to sort his defence. Tendency to run up for the big hit and create the dog leg.

        The pundits say that’s all sorted now and he’s one of the best defenders in his league.

        I’ve only seen highlights which tend to show what he does in attack!

        I am a bit gutted for Mark Bennett. I’ve always said Harris is a better player than he gets credit for, but Bennett is just class.

      • Tony B on

        My concern with Hutchison is how much mentally the 2 games that Northampton played against Leinster will affect him if he is in the mix for the Ireland game.

    • Bazz on

      I’d really want to see Scott and Hutchinson at 12/13 as I think they deserve it most but there’s a big lack of continuity and we need to have cohesion and make things as easy for Finn as possible. If he plays well, so does Scotland.

      Scott hasn’t played outside Russell in years and has never partnered any of our 13 options.

      Which is why I think we should stick with Johnson who has found some form again at Glasgow and offers continuity both with Finn on his inside and either Harris or Jones outside him (WC, and club level respectively).

      • Tam tm on

        continuity yes Bazz but I question Johnsons’ and Harris’s confidence and mental focus. I would argue that there is a limitation of ability to see beyond the point with the way both players lack a perspective of edge that is needed and required at international level. I know that Johnson has had flashes of wonderful skill at international level. But something is lacking. I felt for him during the world cup where to me he seemed distracted and lacked confidence. I would be interested to see also a Scott and Hutchinson or Scott and Jones partnership. Get this right early and we could have something special that we have been lacking for many years for a centre partnership at international level.

  29. Stu2 on

    Richie Gray on his way back to Glasgow next season – hopefully back into the Scotland squad at some point too.

    • TeamCam on

      Gray and Cummings has the potential to be an excellent and athletic second row pairing. Think we’ll still miss JG (and Nakarawa), but this signing does give me confidence. With Glasgow’s player management protocols hopefully he should be less injury-prone, too.

  30. Johnny b on

    I don’t understand why we don’t use a 125kg lock who’s been a key player in the top team in the french league and who’s just at the prime age for a 2nd row forward.
    There are whispers that he is injured, but Scotland don’t produce many specimens like him.

  31. The Emperors New Clothes on

    If this does not go well I take it we will all accept that the new coaching team takes time to bed in.Well that buys Toony 2 more He didn’t have to change his team out,but he did. You lot have all resigned yourself to 2 more years of Townsend.I wish we woukd just man up and do it.

    • Alanyst on

      And if we win- a 5 year contract?

      The whole Toony thing needs a defuse. I’ll be happy with 1 win, if we get beaten by better teams.

      What needs to stop is the feeling we are beating ourselves. Players also responsible here.

      • The Emperor's new clothes on

        Alan : What is win ? Win the Grand Slam or win three games ? Alan, the ‘whole Toony thing ‘ will never defuse. It started from a bad foundation IMO and as any builder will tell you , the more tiers you put on a bad foundation, the worse it gets . No amount of patches, in this case player swap outs, excuses and coach sackings, can change a poor foundation.

        At the minute every side bar Italy is a better side, IMO. All progressed in the RWC, they all are ranked higher in the World Rankings. We fans accept the WR Ranking argument when it suits us, but do not consistently recognise it has any credibility, so what is better ?

        We can beat France at home, have done so in the last year, we are confident of taking England at home, it is the one side Toony has managed to sneer at. Beating Ireland or Wales would be brilliant , however as we are away from home, Toony will be granted one more year’s grace as we cannot ‘win on the road’. As for Players taking responsibility, which players? the team is never settled so there is no accountability just threat and fear to motivate. We have just appointed Hogg as captain, who admitted he spent his free time in Japan reading the Exeter play book. I do not think it matters how many years contract we give Toony, it is not material.

        Incidentally this is a man who drops players from one game to the next, brings in long term injured players over fit capable players. Why should we give him the stability of a long term contract.

      • FF on

        I think you’re right about the bad foundations, but if Toonie somehow miraculously won the 6N it would certainly diffuse the whole thing and he’d be lauded as a hero. I doubt we’ll get the decisiveness of that outcome though. Let’s face it, given all the disadvantages we face, 3 wins would again be an excellent return.

      • TeamCam on

        Toonie has brought in form players over long-term injured players. You can dislike him but you can’t ignore that he has learned from that particular mistake.

      • Alanyst on

        My point is that the emotion of “sack the coach!” is not helpful.

        Results have not been forthcoming, but “sack the coach” doesn’t identify what the issues really are…it could be any number of things.

        Maybe Toony needs to change his plans, or maybe Tandy has the answer in defense, or maybe players need to be more aggressive/precise/calm..maybe it’s a systemic issue.

        The SRU (presumably…) have reviewed 2019, and have acted. Let’s see what happens. Success or failure, it’s not all down to one man.

      • The Emperor's new clothes on

        I wonder if he has learned from taking players from hospital beds in the hope they would play better than fit ones playing below form. Is that a lesson a Senior Coach needs to learn, is that not obvious? In the process he turned off the men left behind, that is what I believe is really damaging. I will never get behind him but do accept the argument is not all one sided , thank you for your comments.

  32. Teamcan on

    The referees for the 6N have been announced and we are at last getting decent referees.

    Ireland : Raynal
    England : Gauzere
    Italy : O’Keeffe
    France :Williams
    Wales : Gardner

    Suddenly it is all going our way. Brilliant referees, availability good, almost Injury free , the players for the new brand of Scottish rugby available and an enthusiastic , eloquent captain. This has got to be our best six nations ever.

  33. Belter on

    Harris is adequate because of Cipriani. Now the aging stalwart Twelvetrees is fit to start , it is bench time for Harris. He will eventually drift out of the Scotland squad. Toony will have done his part to hype a border brother to a few more years in the game and in the process snubbed a few others, in the ill-conceived belief they will welcome a telephone call from him, when he is ready . Well Richie Gray didnt and that is why he will never dawn the navy while Toony is the boss. Toony is not really a people person , is he !

    • RuggersB on

      Harris was a late starter in Pro rugby…. he has improved at every level he has played at. Is he or should he be a starter for Scotland?…probably not..centre is looking stronger again based on club form.
      GT clearly has struggles in his management style….but then many do. Not many nail it.
      He does, from a distance, seem to struggle with player relationships…and accepting when his methods and selections failed. He really needs to have taken a few steps back after last years failures..listen to good advice from people that matter and make the changes needed.
      His squad selection suggests to me he is at least trying to do that…whether its enough time will tell…and wether he has much more time will no doubt depend on this 6N.

  34. Tryhard on

    Pretty much all been covered here already but this seems to be the best squad available at the moment. Bennett would be in for me personally but probably wouldn’t be in the 23 anyway so not too fussed.

    I’d go with:

    Hogg, Kinghorn*, Hutchinson, Scott, Graham, Russell, Horne, Dell, Brown, Nel, Gray, Toolis, Ritchie, Watson, Bradbury
    Subs: McInally, Sutherland, Fagerson, Cummings, Crosbie, Price, Hastings, Jones

    – would have Maitland but Saracens gotta Saracens
    – Hutchinson’s got to start imo. Does the whole 2nd playmaker thing well which will complement Russell. Want to see him and Jones start together (v Italy?). But need a bit more solidity against Ireland so Scott gets in.
    – Really gone off Gilchrist recently who’s been too ineffective for me. Toolis might not be everything we’re looking for but he’s very good at certain things (rather than Gilchrist who’s ok at most) and Toolis/Gray was our partnership in autumn ’17.
    – Bench is mainly about impact. Gone for Crosbie who’s aggressive and powerful which will be needed to counter whoever is on thebench for Ireland (likely Deegan or Doris)

    Main problem during the world cup was the neuturing of our strengths in favour of perecived solidity and experience. This ended up making us look slow and stodgy as well as underpowered. Townsend has always been about fast rugby and lets face it we’re not going to beat Ireland by playing their game so let’s just pick a team to play our game rather than counteract the oppositions.

  35. Alanyst on

    Attack wise the backline needs to be built around the most undefendable skillset of Russell: being the left to right miss-pass & the kickpass off the right foot. So we need an outside centre and right wing combo who can capitalise on that- Jones and Kinghorn for me. To stop the drift we need a good straightener at 12 for the inside pass – Scott for me (Johnson fine too. I haven’t seen Hutchinson play). On left wing Graham picks himself, always makes something happen. I see Hogg as a decoy and support runner/controller…

    Harris on the bench probably gives the most options.

    Price probably bought himself the 9 shirt.

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