Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Scotland v France – The Teams

Scotland v France
pic © Scottish Rugby Blog

France have made a number of injury-enforced (or enabled) changes with the threatening Damian Penaud returning from his injury in place of Teddy Thomas and prop Jefferson Poirot in for the injured Cyril Baille. It’s now a very dangerous looking backline indeed that Steve Tandy’s defence will have the task of shackling.

Hosts Scotland meanwhile have opted for more of the same in terms of the starting XV with Grant Gilchrist the only man yet to start this tournament and an unchanged backline; the other two changes, Nick Haining and Fraser Brown – set for his 50th cap – are restored to the starting XV but having already played in some of the games.

On the bench there is a fair amount of change though with Sam Skinner, Duncan Weir and Kyle Steyn all new to the matchday 23, since what we’re terming the Tombola 2.0 that started in February. 11 of the side will have started all four tests, so maybe a key feature of the new tombola is that it only applies to a couple of spots on the team or the bench while everything else sticks?

Weir has not featured for Scotland since the 2017 championship and his return in the absence of Finn Russell is perhaps the starkest symptom yet of the safety-first approach, but it does leave the bench looking short of backline game-changers, aside from George Horne.

Of course, with France on the hunt for a Grand Slam, the bench may not get much of a say in the matter. The hope will be that it’s tight going into the final quarter. Drop goal anyone?

Part I of Kevin’s Scotland vs France preview can be found here. Part II will appear shortly.

Scotland: Stuart Hogg (capt), Sean Maitland, Chris Harris, Sam Johnson, Blair Kinghorn, Adam Hastings, Ali Price; Rory Sutherland, Fraser Brown, Zander Fagerson, Scott Cummings, Grant Gilchrist, Jamie Ritchie, Hamish Watson, Nick Haining.
Replacements: Stuart McInally, Allan Dell, WP Nel, Sam Skinner, Magnus Bradbury, George Horne, Duncan Weir, Kyle Steyn.

France: Anthony Bouthier, Damian Penaud, Virimi Vakatawa, Arthur Vincent, Gael Fickou, Romain Ntamack, Antoine Dupont; Jefferson Poirot, Julien Marchand, Mohamed Haouas, Bernard Le Roux, Paul Willemse, Francois Cros, Charles Ollivon (capt), Gregory Alldritt.
Replacements: Camille Chat, Jean-Baptiste Gros, Demba Bamba, Taofifenua, Cretin, Baptiste Serin, Matthieu Jalibert, Ramos.

80 Responses

  1. I don’t understand Horne and Weir on the bench, surely Horne should start with Hastings to take advantage of their playing styles and have a less electric SH on the bench.

  2. WTH does Scott have to do get included in the 23? Harris can cover wing so could very reasonably have Scott on the bench at least to cover 12 & 13. Hugely disappointing but will be interesting to see what Steyn can offer. Not sure that Gilchrist for Toolis is a great move as Toolis is a better line out operator IMO, but at least Skinner is on the bench. Other than that, reasonably ok with selection; at least the forwards subs look good.

    1. Scott has clearly never been rated by GT…Im not even sure why he bothered wasting a squad spot on him. Scott has been playing well at club level…but its never going to be enough.
      Hutchinson not in as at least 10 12 13 cover I find bizarre.
      Gilchrist instead of Skinner another bizarre one. Gilchrist and Toolis are nothing better than squad fillers.
      Thought McInally played pretty decent against Italy. Maybe Brown seen as better scrum option and McInally’s pace an advantage later.
      Haining deserves a start again….did nothing to deserve being dropped after the Ire match. Bradbury , I want to be great BUT he just hasn’t been…he’s been ok at best. Haining offers more right now.

      1. Hahaha Toolis and Gilchrist are nothing more than squad fillers… Toolis had 2 lineout steals, 2 maul turnovers, took pretty much every attacking lineout, was 3rd in total tackles. Every time Toolis has started he’s played well and then Gregor drops him. That was the first time the lineout didn’t look terrible but hey terrible player.

  3. I understand this selection even if it is not quite what I would have liked to see. I think we all wanted a bit more potency in attack but Vakatawa does need proper consideration, as well as the French backline in general. I support Haining’s return; I really want Bradbury to ‘train on’ and fulfil his potential but Haining seems more savvy at this moment. Gilchrist to me remains uninspiring but probably on a par with Toolis. I think George Horne played himself onto staying on the bench with the first 15 minutes v Leinster, which was horribly similar to the first 15 of the 2nd half against Exeter.
    As much as about the selections, our ability to attack will be dependent on what counter strategies we use v the Sean Edwards fast rush. We will need to kick behind then at times, as well as use deep lines behind the forward pods also.
    Excited, hopeful and, of course, it is the hope that is so painful at times for us.

  4. The line out functioned much better with McInally and Toolis in Rome so it seems bizarre to go back to brown and bring in Gilchrist.

    1. Yep 100% every time Toolis plays the lineout functions well but apparently a good set piece which all the best teams have isn’t important to Gregor.

      1. How is Gilchrist better in the scrum? The scrum was excellent again with McInally and Toolis in there and the latter is often packing down behind the TH which suggests he is the better scrummager.

    2. Good to see someone knows what they are talking about. Toolis almost exclusively packs down on tight head side which would indicate he’s the stronger scrummager. Gilco may have broader shoulders but Toolis definitely has bigger pins and given his jumping ability it’s fair to assume he’s stronger. Important to note as well scrum didn’t look great with Gray and Cummings together.

  5. Clearest message is that he is worried about Hastings.. when he went off the boil last week Toonie had no choice but to leave him on as he clearly wasn’t comfortable bring hutch on at 10… now he is having to dedicate a bench spot to 10 cover leaving Steyn to cover centre and wing option.. shame for hutch as it would have been good to get him a proper run out

  6. Your right but Gilchrist brings a little more ballast. The short ball off the ruck given to him and Cummings will be the plan to hit through the defensive line, suck in players providing quick ball and providing attacking space. That’s all I can take from the change – unless there are reasons – whats everyone else’s thoughts? I also thought McInally played well in Rome!

    1. I’m not convinced Gilchrist’s ballast is that useful as he never seems to punch the holes you’re talking about. Hopefully this weekend he’ll prove me wrong and be smashing through the French defence with every carry!

      1. Gilchrist is the Ruck Inspector General allied with feeble ball carrying I dont really understand why he’s there. Toolis helped enormously in Italy with the lineout and did little wrong.

        Townsend tinkering again as we can see from that underwhelming bench.

      2. Gilchrist’s ballast….lol….in 30 odd tests …has he ever ‘punched through a hole’?
        He only ever seems to drop like a sack of tatties.

      3. Gilchrist is underrated. He offers more around the pitch than Toolis. He is someone who puts in a number of ‘hard carries’ per game. Just because he’s not busting defences and making 20 metre breaks it doesn’t mean he isn’t a useful carrier. He often carries near the ruck where the defence is more packed. He’s the closest we have to Jonny Gray in his playing style.

      4. Against Cardiff last Friday, Gilchrist went to ground immediately on every contact. May be useful in the scrum, but he is neither a ball carrier nor a tackler.

    2. Dave, Gilchrist does not offer more around the field than Toolis. BBT is more athletic, a better defender and hits more rucks not to mention he is by far the best lineout operator and it’s not close… baffles me how he’s not a mainstay in the starting team. There’s more to rugby than just carrying the ball which your general fan believes. Compare Cummings to Toolis and the only thing Cummings is better at is carrying mostly because thats all he does, hangs in the backs waiting for the ball. While other locks actually do the dirty work.

  7. Surprised to see this many changes but can see some logic in it.

    Looking forward to seeing Steyn come off the bench. He’s been in good form recently for Glasgow and was one of a very limited number to come back from Leinster with positives.

    Also glad to see Weir given another chance. Hastings has been sitting back more and kicking and if that’s the game plan Weir is probably the best we’ve got for that. If it comes down to a drop goal in the final minutes then he’s your man. Probably cursed him now!

    Think Haining is worth another start too. He was good in the first half against Ireland and it means Bradbury has something to prove when he comes on.

    1. Just thinking a bit more about it. If kicking really is the game plan then probably should have started with Weir and let Hastings come off the bench in the last quarter for all out attack with George Horne to play catch-up.

      1. That seems the more sensible approach having ready Part 1 of Kevin’s match analysis – defence and safety in the first quarter with all out attack in the final quarter.

    2. Really pleased to see Townsend has finally realised that you need ballast to win tier one test matches. Would have liked to see McInally at Hooker but otherwise looks like a really strong starting 15. Apart from sitting a bit deep at times Weir has a great all round game and is generally underated. Fancy us getting a result now.

  8. This is so uninspiring. I have tried not to moan about Townsend but he is useless. Just look at what the options are and then what he does with the starting 15 and the replacements. Harris should not be starting. He’s decent but we have better options. Steyn shouldn’t be there either, Jones, Matt Scott, Hutchinson all better options. The game plan Toony is playing is restricting our backs and creativity.
    Price doesn’t seem to listen to hastings or have much confidence in him and I think we need to be picking Horne to give him experience for the future
    I like Haining but Bradbury needs a run of games….he gets better with each one.

    1. Jones had a stinker against Leinster last weekend. Toony and Tandy clearly rate Johnson above Matt Scott but we could debate that all day. I like Johnson and I think his relationship with Hastings at Glasgow is helping Hastings. Harris is improving at International level but he’s not as good in attack as Jones was 2 years ago but I could argue that his defense has always been better.

      1. Im a fan of Johnson too. No issues with him at 12. Its the lack of creativity we have our line breaker at 13. Its a stretch to say Jones is back at a good level but its also hard to judge him on the Leinster game as they whole team were well beat. He was fine against Ireland and the England game isnt one to judge. Harris,IMO, is not getting better. He is at a decent level and thats it.

    2. Not to mention Toolis gets dropped completely after tallying 2 lineout steals, 2 maul turnovers, 13 tackles 0 missed, hit considerably more rucks than his second row partner. First time lineout has looked decent and he gets dropped. Makes no sense at all.

      1. Agreed. I thought Toolis was very prominent and especially in an area where we had struggled.

      2. Not getting at you guys but there was quite a backlash I remember when Toolis was brought in from the cold. But I agree it’s strange after such a strong performance.

  9. That team will not beat France. We probably wont get beaten by much but we will not triumph.Some bizarre changes in the forwards, Haining is not one of them. What can you say about the backs that hasn’t been said before. I despair.

      1. For negativity substitute realism. I hope I’m wrong. Lets reconvene on Sunday.

    1. Realism is we might win despite the clear and obvious problem with our head coach.The Tiger speaks the truth. We are past the stage of blind loyalty ,admirable as it is.It is time to deliver.Home game and a side with a questionable travel record.If Toony does not pull it off , when will he ?

  10. Hm Scotland continue to go backwards. Don’t buy all this rubbish about Tooniev2 or sacrificing attack for defence. Reality from the high points of WC QF 15 or NZ loss, all we needed to do was graft in the players coming through naturally – into existing systems. Ie loose head, no 8, second row, scrum half and Darcie. We were progressing. The problem is Toonie shuffled the deck too many times systems, midfield and momentum became confused. Now Finn and morale has gone / is going. Way too easy to over complicate. Time for this debacle to be brought to a close. Who will be next manager (once we’ve lost to France)? Cockerill – think we need a back to basics manager. That why Cotter would go well again…

    1. NRS : Correct , Toonyrev2 is not credible. I do not think the French are beyond having a bad day and the debacle will continue , you should prepare for anything, do try and enjoy the ride. But where have you been in the last few weeks ?

      The likes of you and I, we are known as ‘the Toony Out Brigade’ . Our thanks for presenting impenetrable arguments on the subject. We still have a few who want to have Toony’s Baby’s.

      But I disagree that we will seriously consider Cotter just now, big job in France, mixed result’s , will have learned from that, now coaching the flying Fijians , who arguably have the fastest brand of rugby on the plant.

      Oh the irony of it all, 2 years from now Cotter will have the experience of the brand that Toony promised 3 years ago.

    2. I don’t know.
      Sometimes I think there’s a bit of Andy Robinson about Toonie.
      No doubt technical coaching and innovation is up there but it’s offset by the tinkering and the failure to take pressure off the team.
      All very characteristic of Robbo.

      But then Toonie has proved me wrong quite a few times and I can see what he is trying to do.

      The team do not look demotivated either.

      People talk about Toonie losing the players but teams where the dressing room has gone usually flop about the pitch like the players can’t be bothered and our players are not doing that.

      I think Toony might be close, I just want to see more consistent selection and when you’ve got the players at the top of almost every pro 14 attacking back play stat in Matt Scott, Bennett and later this Summer vd Merwe you should flipping well use them….

      1. Jonny B : What ? Ha ha ha , I get it, you are having a ‘Blake Westwood moment’. Hello readers welcome to the Twilight zone.

        ‘People talk about Toonie losing the players but teams where the dressing room has gone usually flop about the pitch like the players can’t be bothered and our players are not doing that.’

        Really ? Prove it ? Coaches that lose the players don’t get results.

  11. More positivity from Not Rocket Science! Its the game plan systems that have created the issue and having confidence in the players to carry them out which had been the issue. When it seemed we had really turned the corner we hit a period of having so many injuries it re-shaped the game plan and the team culture. It sadly effected the vision of how the coaches felt things were going to work which is what then influenced the game and the players carrying out the plan. BUT we are in a better position now than last year (in some ways!). This Sunday will tell us where we really are. Have some faith boys!!

  12. This is a selection designed to secure a losing bonus point.

    I agree that there is muddled thinking if you just want to sit deep and kick the leather of go with Pyrgos and Weir.??

  13. This is about as good a team as we can field at the moment. Nothing to get delirious over, but if they can put in 80 mins hard graft we could keep them in sight. Obviously we need more attacking options, and DG will help provide that when he’s fit. 12 and 13 are still uninspiring but not sure what would really make the difference. My gut says Jones is the class player and has more pace than Harris or Johnson. But I think GT is letting Tandy call this one and we’re hoping to just survive through good defence, and maybe a bit of luck. I’d like to see what we can do in the summer with Finn, Darcy, playing, and maybe experimenting with Scott and Jones.

  14. Agree with the above re Gilchrist.

    So GT reckons we’re going to beat France with defense, why else would that center pairing be picked?

    No attacking threat at 13. Harris is a decent strong player & solid enough, is that enough??? & where did the idea ever come from he can cover wing?

    For GT not to be under huge pressure his team (his selections) have to win.

    Weir is there because Hastings hasn’t set the heather on fire, its a despairing move, Hogg should be alternative 10, at the very least it would make the French think/keep them honest Weir has failed as an international.

    1. Assume he’s got Weir on bench in large for his goal kicking given Hastings kicked poorly v Italy.

  15. Why Gilchrist over Toolis? Toolis played well again against Italy and generally looks better than Gilco. No issues with Harris for this particular match with Vakatawa such a threat in that position. Much prefer Steyn to McGuigan too even before we consider his added versatility…begs the question why pick McGuigan 2 weeks ago.
    Watched the interview with Townsend, he seems to overcomplicate stuff and a lot of it is random and lacking in logic. Talks up Haining but why then leave him out for M.Fagerson, who gets 20 minutes then is out the picture again. Hutchinson hasn’t had a proper chance and is out for…..Duncan Weir, who everyone said was not suitable for the way we play and his inclusion in a 23 seemed risible just a few months ago, folk were making jokes about it. There is no point in Weir on the bench, not an impact player. Confused.

    1. Haining played well on his debut…..M Fagerson has played more minutes for Scotland and done nothing with them.

    2. Agree with all of this. Its baffling.
      Tried to stay positive for too long and it’s just frustrating seeing us waste such a good crop of players

  16. Underwhelming . Centre selections constantly leave me scratching my head. However lets see Sunday, Fingers crossed. I would also love to see what Turner could do in last twenty. I know his Darts are no t great. But are anyone’s worse then Browns !

  17. McInally played fine against Italy, his darts are more accurate than Browns. Toolis played fine against Italy too, a secure line out jumper and made some hard yards. Can only assume benching them both is designed to add ballast /solidity to the scrum as this is becoming a weapon at last.
    Centre pairing as ever is causing most concern. No problems with Sam Johnson he gives it his all, is an able defender has an eye for a break and runs good lines. Harris is Marmite but until Jones discovers his attacking mojo we can’t afford to carry him so we must accept Harris’s defensive qualities. Would’ve liked to see Scott and Bennet given a chance though. I’ve seen nothing from a Hutch to suggest he’s a game changer we know Weir can run a game at 10 and will kick any nervy 3 pointers to close the game out and deserves his place on the bench.
    Haining deserved to keep his spot after Ireland so glad to see him return but would’ve had no qualms if M Fag had been selected.
    Bench has quality and would feel secure if any of those players come on (unlike seasons past). But no real game changers.
    Only negative I can see is Townsend repeating how well training has went this week, Which we all know is like a curse to the Scotland team.

    1. Toolis isn’t even on Bench has been dropped all together after dominating the lineout which is one of the main reasons we won…

      1. That is Toony for you.The French will intimidate Gilchrist from the first lineout.The return of the ruck inspector.

  18. I’d have picked Rob Harley ahead of Gilchrist, the Irish hate playing against him. He makes the hard yards and brings much needed ballast.

    1. I’m not sure what Chris Fusaro has to do to get in the team. He is a way better 7 than Watson who hasn’t exactly set the heather on fire of late

      1. I’m really not sure how GT isn’t giving Hugh Blake gametime. I mean, what does he have to do to get into the side?

      1. Carries, tackles, turnovers, penalties conceded, rucks hit not great but he was quality otherwise.

    1. Absolutely, here’s hoping she is on the mend soon. Perhaps the right thing to do is call off the tournament altogether. Theres more important things than sport when theres a pandemic on the loose.

  19. So let me get this straight every time Toolis starts and plays well Gregor drops him. I remember in 2017 when he strung 6 games together in a row he was our most consistent player never put in a poor shift. How can a player gain any confidence or momentum if they aren’t allowed to play consistently… Toolis secured 2 lineout steals, 2 maul turnovers, dominated lineout in general and was 3rd on tackle count vs italy and he gets dropped completely. (His previous 80 min performance in 6 nations vs Eng: 24 tackles(most in game) hit 55 rucks and put up a clean sheet in lineout). Literally makes no sense would be extremely frustrating for him especially when cockerill seems to love him.

    1. totally agree. Gilchrist is more ‘sack o tatties’ than ‘ballast’ as mentioned above, he’s just OK. I just don’t see what part of his game is more effective than Toolis. He’s bigger but never seems to use it. Beginning to think Cockers knows more about the game than GT.

      1. Gilchrist does fine but never sets the heather on fire. Assume we will see skinner back in situ when fit, hopefully in Cardiff.

  20. Funny how we have gone full circle from wanting to play like the Harlem globetrotters to now prioritising defence. Don’t get me wrong, it’s been refreshing to see the impact the specialist coaches have had in defence and scrum but anyone who watches the premiership must be scratching their heads as to how Hutchinson cannot get a game for Scotland. He’s been consistently excellent for Northampton and would provide the spark the backs desperately need, along with Finn obviously. Harris has gone ok and clearly his organisational skills and defensive game are keeping him in the side. Going forward though I think we need to be integrating Hutchinson into this side in order to progress. Going back to the scrum, let’s hope de villiers stays on for the summer tour as muted in the press. This is has probably been the best scrum we have had in some time, Sutherland and Fagerson have been excellent and probably benefitting from specialist coaching at club and international level. Perhaps we may see a line out specialist brought in the near future? Would makes sense given it’s been a weakness for us in recent times.

    1. The line-out always looks fine to me when Toolis plays (better with McInally), but he’s been ditched after a typically excellent all-round performance in the last match. Hard to comprehend.

      1. Exactly. I’m all for the horses for courses argument but I can’t see what these horses bring to this course on Sunday.

    2. Surely you’re having a laugh about a lineout specialist being brought in. Literally have one of the best lineout operators in world rugby in the squad. Games against NZ, SA, Aus and Eng in recent years when Toolis has been running the lineout he’s come out with a clean sheet and seems to get at least 1 steal in most games. But again is not one of Gregors favourites even though the only time he’s not put in at least a good performance was in opening test vs Wales 2 yrs ago.

      1. Apologies, thought you meant player… but yes can’t go wrong with bringing in set piece specialist coaches we don’t seem to invest in that area as much as other nations.

  21. Outstanding effort last night I thought from the U20s.

    You can watch the whole match on YouTube. A great contest with some superb defense, attack and composure. Some quality players coming through it seems.

    1. Yes I watched it.
      What a game.
      As usual there’s a little bit of confidence missing which would get them over the line in single score games like this.
      Where does that come from?

  22. A better Scotland Starting XV that is not starting this week..

    1. Jamie Bhatti
    2. Stuart Mcinally
    3. WP Nel
    4. Jonny Gray
    5. Ben Toolis
    6. Sam Skinner
    7. Thomas Gordon
    8. Magnus Bradbury

    9. George Horne
    10. Finn Russell
    11. Byron Mcguigan
    12. Matt Scott
    13. Rory Hutchison
    14. Kyle Steyn
    15. Darcy Graham

    Cmon Toony pull the finger oot.

    1. Sutherland >> Bhatti
      Fagerson > Nel
      Watson >> Gordon
      Haining > Bradbury on form
      Ritchie >> Skinner
      Kinghorn >> McGuigan
      Maitland > Steyn
      Graham is injured

      but aside from that…

    2. It’s not, though. And posting team is pointless unless you also post what your gameplan would be.

      1. The game plan would be based on Cotters fast-rucking controlled Chaos gameplan.

        And it is. Prove me wrong otherwise i win.

        I will now try to post more game plans along with my squad posts from now on – thank you for the suggestion.

      2. Well, you’re not making a lot of sense, but I’m glad you took the suggestion.

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