Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Scotland Squad for the Autumn

REPRO FREE***PRESS RELEASE NO REPRODUCTION FEE*** EDITORIAL USE ONLY 2020 Guinness Six Nations Championship Launch, Tobacco Dock, London, England 22/1/2020 Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend and captain Stuart Hogg Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Here we are in October. Where did the year go? Was that really a season? Oh wait, another one has started.

Edinburgh’s league season was ended by the boot of Ian Madigan, and their European run was ended by repeatedly shooting themselves in the foot during that quarter-final in Bordeaux.

Both teams are now into a new PRO14 season (Edinburgh are still shooting themselves in the foot). For the exiled cohort there are still some important games to play. It’s not your usual October; there’s even Scottish interest in Europe with Finn Russell for Racing plus Exeter’s four Scots still in contention for both the Champions Cup and Premiership titles.

For the rest, attention now turns to Scotland with the new Autumn Nations Cup (sponsor: J Bezos?) now taking shape to follow the conclusion of the Six Nations. Even if we don’t yet know who against or where some of the games will be played, the prospect of international rugby in November is at least familiar.

Thus far (lockdowns notwithstanding) it looks like Scotland will face Wales, plus a warm-up friendly against Georgia (some teams have more than one 6 Nations game to catch up on), then three Autumn Nations group games against Italy, France and Fiji followed by an unspecified final “away” fixture* to determine final placing.

It is a nice simple format and with games extending into December should give us something a little different in the run up to Christmas, even if it could be extremely wintery rugby by the final round. Six tests in seven weeks is quite a workload for the players though who have already had their off-season massively shortened – even if March – August was a write-off.

With that in mind, what will Gregor Townsend, spotted with mask and cap on watching from the stands in recent weeks, have made of it all so far?

* (if we are placed 4th in our group there is a fixture against Georgia at BT Murrayfield going a-begging).

Finn Is Back

First the headlines: there are three uncapped players in there (Harlequins scrum-half Scott Steele, plus recently qualified Oli Kebble and Duhan Van Der Merwe), Stuart Hogg will captain and yes, Finn Russell is back.

So you can breathe out, like Finn after he takes his top off to pose with his Racing mates on Instagram.

Russell aside, who else is back? There are recalls for Duncan Weir, Cornell du Preez, Richie Gray, Rob Harley and perhaps most surprisingly Blair Cowan. Some of those names may have seemed like relics of the Vern Cotter era (despite making odd cameos here and there), but it turns out they may still have a part to play in Tombola 2.0.

James Lang and Nick Grigg also return having missed out on the (smaller) 6 Nations squad while Damien Hoyland also makes a return after some fine form for Edinburgh.

Who Missed Out?

Rory Hutchinson is the most obvious name on the injured list although Magnus Bradbury missed the most recent Edinburgh game through concussion and is likely to be a part of that group. Ratu Tagive and Tom Gordon played brief roles in the 6N squad

The Matt Scott drum has been well and truly banged around these parts, and Mark Bennett was good for Edinburgh at the weekend, but both have been edging towards the thinking of Townsend’s thoughts of late. Pete Horne is absent, as he was in January. Despite not playing any rugby, Sam Johnson is in.

One player who is arguably in form up there with his best is Exeter’s Sam Hidalgo-Clyne and is probably the hardest done by. He may not be starting for Exeter, but he’s probably played more high-intensity rugby than Steele and George Horne put together of late.

Pick A Team

Possible Scotland XV: Hogg (capt), Graham, Harris, Lang, Duhan van Der Merwe, Russell, Price; Sutherland, Brown, Fagerson, J Gray, G Gilchrist, Ritchie, Watson, Fagerson.

Any questions?

Yes, namely the following:

Was it too soon for Thomas Gordon, again?
How many times per game will Finn Russell kick-pass?
What does Sam Hidalgo-Clyne have to do for a recall?
Who plays Number 8?
Who is the most insidey inside centre given that Johnson hasn’t played any rugby and Hutchinson is injured?
Who plays in the back three beside Hogg and Graham and do we really care about defence all that much?
Have you checked your Wikipedia?

The Squad

Forwards (23)
Simon Berghan (Edinburgh), Jamie Bhatti (Edinburgh), Fraser Brown (Glasgow Warriors), Blair Cowan (London Irish), Scott Cummings (Glasgow Warriors), Cornell du Preez (Worcester Warriors), Matt Fagerson – (Glasgow Warriors), Zander Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors), Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh), Jonny Gray (Exeter Chiefs), Richie Gray (Glasgow Warriors),
Rob Harley (Glasgow Warriors), Nick Haining (Edinburgh), Oli Kebble (Glasgow Warriors), Stuart McInally (Edinburgh), Willem Nel (Edinburgh), Jamie Ritchie (Edinburgh), Sam Skinner (Exeter Chiefs), Rory Sutherland (Edinburgh), Blade Thomson (Scarlets), Ben Toolis (Edinburgh), George Turner (Glasgow Warriors), Hamish Watson (Edinburgh).

Backs (17)
Darcy Graham (Edinburgh), Nick Grigg (Glasgow Warriors),
Chris Harris (Gloucester), Adam Hastings (Glasgow Warriors),
Stuart Hogg (Exeter Chiefs) CAPTAIN, George Horne (Glasgow Warriors), Damien Hoyland (Edinburgh), Sam Johnson (Glasgow Warriors), Huw Jones (Glasgow Warriors), Blair Kinghorn (Edinburgh), James Lang (Harlequins), Sean Maitland (Saracens), Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors), Finn Russell (Racing 92), Scott Steele (Harlequins), Duhan van der Merwe (Edinburgh), Duncan Weir (Worcester Warriors).

Listed Injured: Duncan Taylor, Rory Hutchinson, Kyle Steyn, Byron McGuigan, Alex Craig and Luke Crosbie are all unavailable for selection due to injury.

207 Responses

  1. Some players not included.

    Hunter-hill, Gordon, Bradbury, Crosbie, Hidalgo-Clyne, Pyrgos, Jaco VDV, Scott, Steyn, Bennett, Hutchison, Mcguigan, Tagive

    1. Underwhelming squad selection in some ways.
      Other nations taking a valuable opportunity to introduce promising talent….we on the other hand select
      …Blair Cowan.. a 34 yr old?? ahead of a very promising home grown Crosbie or Bradbury. Even give Tom Gordon a try out.
      What on earth has Ritchie Gray done to deserve a call up??..other than not getting injured. No Hutchinson or Bennett??

      Like I said…some pretty uninspiring players in that selection..nothing other than good club guys some of them.

      1. I think a number of the missing players are injured but agree it’s surprising that Cowan and Gray snr have been called up. I would’ve thought Callum Hunter-Hill and/or Glen Young may have been asked to at least train.

        The most concerning position for me is 12. With Johnson missing the first two Glasgow games, Lang is the only one with regular game time at 12 and he’s hardly set the world alight, though I’m sure will be solid enough.

        Good depth in the forwards though and overall we will have a very strong starting xv with some strong impact from the bench.

      2. I think Toony uses the broader squad mainly as a chance to explore options…most people’s picks for the XXIII are in there…

        The rest are a mix of trusted old dogs and possibles. I think the aim is to motivate the young guys to prove they can best the old dogs, and to learn from their experience. Neither of these groups is very likely to challenge the 23.

        Mid career players like Bennett, Scott, Horne snr & SHC will get a call if needed, and can slot in.

    2. Lewis Carmichael is injured too. He’s often picked in these squads, so I’m guessing Rob Harley is the player he would have been up against.

    3. Y’know, looking at it with a clear mind – on reflection…

      …Townsend’s decision not to pick Rory Hutchinson for the World Cup squad was utterly, utterly daft. Downright bonkers. There is no justification for it.

      He was literally our form *CENTRE*. I know we shrugged it off at the time because we all wanted Duncan Taylor back, but Townsend really should have found space, somewhere, even if it meant omitting someone else. It’s an utterly baffling choice. Hutch was tearing up the Prem and could have added a new dimension to our attack. Taylor’s best at inside centre, and we’d already picked two of those. It’s a baffling decision in any kind of sight, let alone hindsight.

      We didn’t need Pete Horne to cover fly-half. We had Hogg and Laidlaw who could cover fly-half in an emergency situation, and Kinghorn could have filled in for the last half-hour against Russia – we literally beat them 61-0. Hutchinson could have done that two.

      We sacrificed our most established 13 (Jones) and our form 13 (Hutchinson) for Taylor, whose versatility wasn’t needed as we already picked 5 in the back three. It’s decisions like this that really make me question Toonie’s squad choices sometimes.

      Now we’re heading into the first round of the Autumn Championship with three 13s and only one match-fit 12…someone hold me…

      1. Sam, welcome to the dark side , now you have found your voice, do not lose it. I know it is hard to believe, but that was an obvious howler. Toony subliminally told his squad he had more confidence in a man who had not been on a pitch for a year than the guys he picked. Those left at home must have been completely demoralised. That was always going to end miserably IMO.

        The consequences of the RWC exit mean tier 3 and a much harder job to progress from the pools in 2023.

        We have developed a squad of very capable players, what we now need is someone to galvanise a team.

  2. Cowan?! That’s just about the most tombolla selection ever, thing must have been spinning in overdrive! How’s he been playing recently, if it’s on merit then fair play to him, he was good for Scotland about 5 years ago but I’ve heard nothing about him for yonks. 12 scares me a bit, Johnson is clearly first pick but who comes after that? Mad cats at the rave time?

    1. He has been very good for London Irish in the last couple of years. At the very least, he will be great in training as opposition in preparation for the Wales game.

    2. Cowan filled in at scrum-half once for London Irish. But yeah, he’s been very good, and deserves this call-up (plus the new breakdown laws could make him a useful addition).

      At the same time, it does feel strange to clear out the old, established players (Wilson, P Horne, Reid, Swinson, Seymour, Barclay)…and then replace them with OLDER, previously-established players like Cowan.

      (I was going to say Rob Harley, but he’s still only 30! And just a few months older than Gilcho. Fair play to him, he’s been around and established for a good long while now.)

  3. Very sorry not to see Bennett, Scott and Hidalgo-Clyde among the backs. Difficult to understand. Blair Cowan a surprise, but he is a good player. Been going well at London Irish.

    1. Simple reason why SHC’s not been included: Exeter’s final. After that, Hogg, Gray, Russell and Skinner should join up with a squad with which they are already familiar; Hidalgo-Clyne needs to learn the setup, however. I wouldn’t be surprised if he were to make next year’s Six Nations squad, but this one is just a little too soon for him.

      We’ve all forgotten Charlie Shiel, too. I would have had him ahead of Scott Steele as well, so watching Steele is going to be intriguing (if he does crack the 23).

      A few Toonie regulars seemingly discarded; Bradbury, Carmichael, Gordon, Pyrgos, Scott. I have a feeling Bradbury might get called up only after he’s played a game for Edinburgh, as happened when he was injured at the start of the 2019 6N. (Alternatively, they accidentally left him off the injury list. Carmichael wasn’t there either, or Pyrgos; all three, however, have been injured recently.)

  4. Good squad. A bit rag-tag but with injuries and the fact there hasn’t really been the opportunity to introduce anyone new, that was to be expected.

    Matt Scott and Hidalgo-Clyne are the biggest omissions for me. The former is injury prone but given the relative lack of options at 12 would have been a reassuring presence and was in red-hot form for the portion of last season he was fit. SHC has mentioned before that he was keen for a bit of continuity and consistency so may well have turned down an invitation in favour of playing more for Exeter. Steele’s looked good as well so don’t really have an issue with whichever of them is in the squad tbh given they would both be 3rd choice.

    I think we’ll see a team pretty similar to the following for the big games:

    Sutherland, Brown, Fagerson, Gray, Cummings, Ritchie, Watson, Haining, Price, Russell, VDM, Johnson, Harris, Graham, Hogg

    Mcinally, Kebble, Nel, Skinner, Fagerson, Horne, Hastings, Jones

    1. That’s also my 23.

      Except maybe Thomson for Fagerson? That would mean we could bring on Skinner in the row or the back three, and still have another replacement who can do the same.

      It’s possible Townsend might prefer Berghan to Nel, as he did initially in the spring.

  5. There’s not been much rugby this year so not that surprising that there aren’t many new faces – or young ones anyway as they won’t have seen a lot of them whereas residency players are a different story.

    Cowan is certainly an odd one, at least Richie Gray is a proven quality international.

    Seem to have gone from having buckets of great centres to choose from to it being a worrying position again.

    Few players not picked through injury so need to ear that in mind as well.

    First choice back 3 should be Hogg, Graham and Maitland. Difficult to judge when to try VDM – don’t see the point against Georgia as I’m sure he will look good, it is against top tier opponents that there may be a question mark. Risky putting him on the bench and likely rules out Kinghorn if they do so Hastings/Maitland to cover 15?

    Great that Russell is back, I worry that the players around him won’t be able to react the way they can at Racing and things won’t come off the way they do there (wouldn’t surprise me to see some interceptions etc.). Hopefully his form carries through.

    Think we will see some conservative selections to begin with at least.

    1. Most of the players with whom Russell will be playing are pretty familiar with his style and have kept up with him in the past, to be fair. And Cowan’s not exactly a newbie at international level. Totally agree about the centres, although we’ve left out two very good 12s and a 13, so it seems more like a choice than anything else. Who knows, maybe Toonie will play Jones at 12 again…

    2. Hutchinson’s injured, Duncan Taylor’s injured, Scott and Bennett were fit but snubbed, likewise Dean, McDowall, George Taylor. We also have an established first-choice pairing now (Johnson and Harris).

      It’s not a problem position, though I do feel that some of Townsend’s selections don’t bode so well (seeing as we’ve got three 13s in the squad, why not call up another 12 like Scott?) – especially as he’s tried both Jones and Grigg at 12 before, and both of those selections failed pretty atrociously. But then, I think Hutchinson will get called back up when he’s fit – so picking Lang as your backup 12 kind of makes sense; given his positional versatility – he’s not a specialist – you can bring in Hutch when he’s fit and still have a good reason for keeping Lang around. (Although Jaco is training with the squad and will become eligible for international honours in November.)

  6. Given the paucity of fit 12s and number of tests coming up, you have to imagine a cap was there for Redpath if he wanted it. Presumably he’ll soon join Dingwall as one that got away.

    Really not sure what to expect from the autumn series – our pro-sides have started slowly but Russell is back and I think we can put a very strong side out so who knows. Wales game is obviously the big one and it’s hard to say what shape they’ll be in either.

  7. Blair Cowan has been playing well and appears to be driving a much improved side albeit the results are mixed. I suspect Cowan and RG are selected for their experience.

  8. 1. Oli Kebble
    2. Fraser Brown
    3. Zander Fagerson
    4. Jonny Gray
    5. Sam Skinner
    6. Jamie Ritchie
    7. Hamish Watson
    8. Matt Fagerson
    9. Ali Price
    10. Finn Russell
    11. Duhan Van Der Merwe
    12. Sam Johnson
    13. Chris Harris
    14. Darcy Graham
    15. Stuart Hogg
    16. Stuart Mcinally
    17. Rory Sutherland
    18. WP Nel
    19. Scott Cummings
    20. Rob Harley
    21. George Horne
    22. Adam Hastings
    23. Huw Jones

    1. Rory Sutherland pretty much has to start, Neil. He’s in amongst the Lions reckoning now, he’s even benching Pierre Schoeman (who is himself better than Oli Kebble).

      Kebble is a fantastic replacement option, mind.

  9. Every squad selection, EVERY TIME – “aye but where is – player who is injured” “and why have we no picked – player who is injured”


    1. I take your point, it frustrates me too but Bradbury, SHC, Tom Gordon, Matt Scott and Mark Bennett are not in the unavailable due to injury list and to take Cowan, CDP, Steele, Laing and Sam Johnson who hasn’t played since before lockdown instead is surprising.

  10. Blair Cowan or Tom Gordon? All reports were that Cowan has been performing excellently at Irish and deserves his place.
    SHC or Steele? To my mind SHC has done enough for a recall but bear in mind it would be surprising for the 3rd scrumhalf to get any caps, barring injury. And if there is an injury then I’d expect SHC to get called up anyway. The fact that Exeter have a couple of big games coming up probably swayed it.
    Bennett needs to keep performing consistently to get a recall and I haven’t seen much of Matt Scott. I’d have maybe taken Pete Horne as an inside centre instead of one of the outside centres, but that’s a personal call.

  11. Cowan is an interesting one but before lockdown he was leading both the tackle count and turnover count in the Gallagher Premiership. He is also his club captain and brings leadership & experience that some alternatives don’t!

    1. I agree with Al. Cowan’s leadership is noticeable and it might be my eyesight but he appears to have bulked up. He is also disruptive in the maul. Is that an answer to Rory’s question reference no 8 ? Yes , I know that makes no sense to you. I think it makes sense to include Cowan, he has something to offer the squad. That’s all folks.

    2. I’m glad he’s got the call-up, quite frankly. It means Townsend’s at least paying *some* attention to form.

  12. I think Johnson will be straight in for the first game if he’s fit! No one else in the centres has any kind of telepathy with Russell and we need to get that axis to working if we want to do well this autumn. The alternative is to have Hogg popping up on Russell’s shoulder more often in attack! Having said that Russell and Hogg have finals to play in so I suspect they won’t be with the squad that much in the next couple of weeks!

    1. I hope not, on both suggestions. Russell has outgrown Hogg on his shoulder and Toony should learn from his mistakes. He has been over confident before. The names ‘Duncan’ and ‘Taylor ‘come to mind. But it is a habit , keep doing the same thing over an over again, and expect a different result. That’s all folks !

      1. Do Zebo and Russell have a telepathic combination ! I believe they might.I would need a bit of convincing that Russell and Hogg are connected in that way.

    2. From what Toony was saying over on The Offside Line Russell is expected to join the squad the Sunday after his final (this Sunday) and reading between the lines will need to train fully on Monday (ie no boozing) to be eligible for selection for the first one. The Exeter boys will not be fully in camp though will be briefed via videos, Zoom call etc. Wouldn’t be surprised to see Finn on the bench for Georgia and possibly no Hogg or Gray for that one (though Hoggy, in particular, will be itching to go). Though if Johnson is fit they might pitch him and Finn in to that one to get them up to speed.

      1. Rory, Hogg and Gray have the small matter of the Premiership final the day after the Georgia game. So, no matter how much Hoggy will be itching to go, I don’t think even he will manage two games in 24 hours!

  13. Harley has been a menace to play against in the games this season, must be first name on the team sheet.

    Townsend doesn’t rate Scott does he. Hard to understand.

    Hidalgo-Clyne. Think there’s more to it than meets the eye. Nobody really wants to keep him in recent years. Is he a weird bloke or something?

      1. The logic around SHC seems pretty sensible when you read it laid out.

        He has barely featured for Scotland for a long time for one reason or another, he would miss 2 weeks of camp because of the upcoming Finals so wouldn’t be up to speed, sense.

        Townsend name checked him when speaking about the squad, he will likely be back in by the time 6 Nations squads come around/by the end of this window of games.

      2. Much as I would like to , I do not concur with you William. Toony name checked Tim Visser when he dropped him from the autumn internationals despite being among the Premiership’s top scorers at the time. It was anticipated he would be back for the 6N and that is well documented in these pages but he was not and never played for us again.

        On that occasion, it is rumoured, he was asked to work on his tackling , so to answer Rory’s question, ‘who cares about defence that much anyway ? ‘ I would conclude, Toony cares.

        Personally , I think Price has had game time and is average, his kicking behind a stable pack has improved. No one seems to take a risk on George , but SHC has been playing in the school of hard knocks, with some talented peers, will play a part in both the European Cup Final and the Premiership final. When was the last time we had any scotsman with 1) that experience ? and 2) that experience but still omitted him from the showcase.

      3. TENC – I would take a guess that the last time that happened would have been Kelly Brown between 2015 to 2017 when they won two Champions Cups and a Prem title!

        The English Prem is not as good as the English (and Welsh) like to think, and the Pro14 is significantly better than they seem to realise. SHC playing as a reserve for Chiefs impresses me no more or less than Horne playing as a reserve for Glasgow.

      4. David: I understand your view on SHC V GH, that is fair enough. It is the inclusion of Steele over SHC that raises eyebrows.

        However unlike you , I believe the Premiership and Top 14 are stronger leagues at present. It is no surprise , to me, that both the European Champions and Challenge Cup finalists are French and English sides. Leinster were unbeaten in the PRO 14 and were well beaten in the quarters.

        To reiterate my intial point, I believe we need another SH, basically they all all average IMO. If given his current pedigree Toony overlooks SHC , I doubt he will be grafted in later. That was all I was saying.

    1. By the time Visser had stopped being selected for Scotland he was barely even getting a game for Harlequins, his club form was a driver behind him not being selected. This is a guy who players asked to sing his debut song on the bus back from the Wales game at Murrayfield, after years of playing for Scotland, Maitland and Seymour he was not.

      I would say the SHC thing needs tempered slightly, he has joined an already outstanding squad late in Exeter, who were most likely making the League Final with or without him (recent history shows they are capable of that) and thanks to the additions of Hogg and Gray were widely seen as a side capable of competing for the Champions Cup. It hasn’t changed because of the addition of SHC admirable as it is he is around that environment, it is a squad place though if taken by either Horne or Price would see a serious upgrade.

      In answer to question 1, 6 Scottish players in this squad with that experience of European Semi and (soon to be) Finals, it has a few of them now.

      Numerous with the recent history of domestic Finals, including Price.

      A lot of the squad just now have a lot more domestic and European cash in the bank than SHC in reality. The rest have been playing in Europe and helping sides top domestic leagues while he has been bouncing around teams, can see why he needs to have a bit more there to merit being ahead of a few others. Albeit he will likely be in the squad at some point soon once Exeter tidy up their season.

      1. William, your recollection and mine are different. My recollection is Visser was scoring consistently at the time he was overlooked. This blog was full of it. One commenter even suggested Quins would like to have rotated him, but such was his consistency , they dare not drop him.

        Incidentally according to ESPN Visser has scored 14 tries in 38 matches and Maitland 15 in 48 matches. Perception might feel like that gap is wider, but it is not.

        I am not surprised we are trying another 9 , however I think if not now, then when for SHC ! The Premiership and TOP 14 are not places for an also ran, IMO.

      2. Price is one of Townsend’s undroppables. Horne can score as many hat-tricks as he likes and he still won’t get a start against a Tier One team, sadly.

        And yes, it took Sean Maitland a long time to find his scoring boots for Scotland. That golden patch started in 2017 – he was among the world’s best in 2018/19.

      3. If you are judging wingers based on the number of try’s they have scored in the Aviva I’m out.

      4. Wm: Yes you are out , that is out of your depth on all points IMO. Visser was indeed scoring ties for fun when snubbed. That was why there was a hullabaloo in here. He has a decent number of caps for Scotland and a remarkable score tally all things considered.I have no idea what that team bus story was all about !

      5. European Cup final , SHC turnover on his own line and the momentum changes. We have all seen it. Key moment in the showpiece final.

        Nothing has changed, an in-form scot overlooked.That’s all folks.

  14. I think I saw SHC say a couple of months ago he wanted to focus on continuity at club and given the turbulent nature of his career in the last 2 years I don’t blame him, especially when he is 3rd in the pecking order (for now).

    I’m shocked at Scott’s omission especially given Johnsons serious lack of game-time and Hutchinson’s injury. I’m happy for Lang but I believe Scott deserves a place.

    Bennett is a better player than Grigg.

    I had Haining as the nailed on No8 but he has had a few shockers since rugby commenced so I’d say the 8 shirt is up for grabs between Fagerson and Du Preez.

    Thomson looked ordinary for Scarlets and even if Bradbury was fit I’d think twice before including him, he has been bang average. With that said I actually think Ryan Wilson is a bit unlucky although he probably doesn’t make the 23 so better for Glasgow to have him.

    Here is my 23.

    1. Sutherland
    2. Brown
    3. Fagerson
    4. Cummings
    5. J. Gray
    6. Ritchie
    7. Watson
    8. Fagerson
    9. Price
    10. Russell
    11. DVM
    12. Lang
    13. Harris
    14. Graham
    15. Hogg

    16. McInally
    17. Kebble
    18. Nel
    19. Skinner
    20. Du Preez
    21. Horne
    22. Hastings
    23. Jones

    My concern is that the backrow is a bit small so there’s a few permutations that I’d be happy with from 4-8.

    I wonder also if Toonie will try Skinner at 8. If he goes well there we could have

    6. Ritchie
    7. Watson
    8. Skinner
    20. Fagerson

      1. Maitland might struggle to make the six nations squad if the rugby championship hasn’t started up by then, unless he gets a loan move away from Saracens sorted.

      2. Why it will be a while before Maitland is removed from sides? Because he is still a class operator. He was arguably Scotland’s best player the last game they played, he was excellent only a few weeks ago for Saracens v Leinster in just about every element of his work on the park he still performs at a high level. I think someone like VDM will have a bit of work to do to take the shirt of him, he (Maitland) is still even now Scotland’s most complete winger and part of the leadership group. I don’t think there will be a great rush to remove him from the first 15.

        The volume of International Rugby about to take place between now and the next 6 Nations means he will have played often at a high level and then have a decent rest period which will likely be a blessing. It is the anomaly of how this season falls, Championship Rugby for Saracens is going to remove very little edge from those who have stayed with them such is the volume of high end games up coming in a short space of time. The players are likely only going to be out of International training camp about a month and a half by the time Autumn ends 5th Dec, and 6 Nations resumes, squads typically gather the start of February. A couple of run outs in the Championship during that time should seem him pretty fresh for the 6 Nations to go again. I just can’t see Saracens letting their players become blunt even with the league they are playing in, the likes of Itoje, Farrell and co will still be featuring for England come 6 Nations time

      3. I totally agree William, Maitland has been (and for the time being) is still our best wing option, however if the Championship isn’t starting up until January at the earliest, can we be confident that the Maitland that turns up at Scotland camp will be fit for 80 minutes of international rugby. I hope he his for our sake as we will need players of his quality, however my fear is that he might not be in a physical position to play every game in that tournament.

      4. William and the enthusiastic Bruce : Maitland is a great player and a class operator, I agree with you entirely on that. One we have really not made the most off IMO. During his occasional transition to 15 he has been excellent and we played some of the most balanced and exciting matches of recent times. The Twickenham draw and Australian 14 man humping come to mind. But that is another point and I digress.

        Far be it from me to let common sense stand in the way of your strong opinions , but lets look at the obvious. Maitland is 32 , Saracens have just been relegated. To compare Tommy Seymour, also 32, has already retired from International rugby. I doubt he will be around for a ‘while’ . He may even call time himself.

      5. Maitland’s a Scotland legend now, or close to it. He’s kind of in that Simon Taylor/Jason White tier, below the likes of Tom Smith.

        Let’s not forget Maitland is a Lion, too! (Although I’ll stop there, as any reference to Warren Gatland opens wells of utter hate, fury and resentment that I didn’t know I had in me.)

    1. Haining is the incumbent internationally and has performed very well for Scotland. At the moment, the shirt is his, and he’ll have to perform poorly to lose it again, I think.

      Some great options in the squad. Cowan deserves the call-up, even if he IS older than John Barclay. The new breakdown laws could make him a handy weapon against slower sides.

  15. Not sure about Lang and Du Preez off the bench but think the rest of the team is bang on. I know Sam Johnson hasn’t played but Toonie loves his tried and tested combos.

    I also think Fagerson is now the first choice number 8 and Haining off the bench.

  16. I’m quite excited by the dynamism of a Sutherland/Kebble job-share in the no 1 jersey. Both are powerful in the loose and great scrummagers. Key will be timing the change to get maximum impact.

  17. My team v Georgia – Jones, VDM, Harris, Lang, Graham, Russell, Price, Haining, Watson, Ritchie, Toolis, R.Gray, Fagerson, Brown, Sutherland
    Reps – Maitland, Hastings, Horne, DuPreez, Cummings, Nel, McInally, Keeble.

    Sam Johnson getting an hour (or more) for Glasgow v Ospreys

    1. Please ladies and gents if you’re going to post a team (allowable on squad posts) can you do it like The Most Excellent and Exalted John has above (as a paragraph), rather than in a single column so it doesn’t take a year of scrolling on a mobile to get past it?

      1. Yes papa. When will you be back on the podcast btw Rory ?
        For Georgia
        – Kinghorn, Maitland, Jones, Johnson, DVDM, Hastings, Horne, Haining, Watson, Ritchie, Harley, Cummings, Fagerson, Mcinally, Kebble
        Reps – Harris, Weir, Steele, Cowan, Gilchrist, Berghan, Turner, Sutherland

        For Wales
        Hogg, Maitland, Harris, Johnson, Graham, Russell, Price, Fagerson, Ritchie, Skinner, Cummings, J.Gray, Fagerson, Brown, Sutherland
        Reps – DVDM, Hastings, Horne, Haining, Watson, Nel, Mcinally, Kebble

      2. I’ve got some scheduling stuff on a Tuesday these days that interferes with the usual recording night, but hope to be back on at some point over the autumn.

      3. No point in breaking up our tried-and-tested Ritchie-Watson flanker partnership for the Wales game. We absolutely need them both to start if we’re to be in with a chance.

  18. My team for Georgia:

    Kinghorn; Graham, Harris, Lang, van der Merwe; Hastings, Horne;
    Sutherland, McInally (C), Z Fagerson; R Gray, Toolis; Ritchie, Watson; Haining
    (Turner, Kebble, Berghan, Cummings, Cowan, Thomson, Steele, H Jones)

    For the subsequent matches, Hogg, Russell, and J Gray should start. Price should too; I’ve not put him in the team here because I think it’s a good opportunity to give George Horne another cap. Brown should also start the subsequent games; McInally’s in because our usual captain isn’t, and that’s, incidentally, why Richie Gray is also included. (Plus I think it’d be a decent idea to give him an international run-out again.) If we can’t use Hogg, then it makes sense to keep the Edinburgh back three intact for Duhan’s debut.

    Full-strength XV:

    Hogg; Graham, Harris, Johnson, van der Merwe; Russell, Price;
    Sutherland, Brown, Z Fagerson; Cummings, J Gray; Ritchie, Watson; Haining
    (McInally, Kebble, Nel, Gilchrist, Thomson, Horne, Hastings, Maitland)

    Pretty fearsome side. The inclusion of only one pure 12 (Johnson) makes me wonder whether Townsend is going to double up Hastings-Russell as a 10-12 pivot option. I hope not. We finally have two quality stand-offs for the entire 80mins.

    To be quite honest, our full-strength side is pretty great. Bradbury is the shock omission here, but it’s easy to forget how assured Blade Thomson looked at times in Japan. I think that, with him and Haining, we’re pretty set. It’s just centre that’s the worry.

  19. The biggest selection questions are going to be:

    1) Who partners Jonny Gray? (never MIND the Georgia match)

    2) Who gets the #19, #20, #22 and #23 shirts? There’s no-one in the squad who can play at both 13 and 14 to a high standard, so will the replacement fly-half also be considered a centre? With that in mind, will the starting inside centre need to be able to cover outside centre? Is *that* why Lang’s been called up as Johnson’s backup?

    To be completely honest, it’s refreshing to have the bare bones of a settled side after all of this Toonie tinkering. (And Duhan-Hogg-Darcy should ABSOLUTELY be our starting B3. Maitland and Kinghorn are quality backups, too, and Damo has thoroughly earned the recall, I’m very happy for him.)

    1. I cannot see Harris being omitted against Georgia. He was selected initially as our defence was poor , what has changed ? Not much, IMO, so why omit him for the starting 15 ?

      I am not endorsing the decision that he should ever have been our starting 13 but he is now and the one thing most of us want from Toony , is , consistency.

      1. I would not be surprised to see Jones start at FB against Georgia, to continue the experiment, particularly as Kinghorn has been injured the last few weeks (albeit he looked sprightly in the video released on social media this morning).

        As others have suggested, Johnson needs minutes on the pitch, but whether that should be against Georgia or for Glasgow against Ospreys, I’m not sure.

        I wouldn’t be surprised to see a XV against Georgia along these lines:

        Kinghorn, Graham, Harris, Johnson, VDM, Russell, Price; Kebble, Brown, Fagerson, Gray, Cummings, Ritchie, Watson, Fagerson.

        Reps: McInally, Sutherland, Nel, Gilchrist, Cowan, Steele, Lang, Jones

        If Johnson plays for Glasgow, then Lang into the XV and Hastings on the bench. Getting Finn back up and running with the squad ahead of the Wales game is imperative.

      2. I would be trying to get as close to our full strength squad planned to play against Wales as possible, shake as much ring rust as possible even again a weak side.

        Reps – Mcinally-Kebble-Nel-Toolis-Fagerson-Horne-Weir-Jones

      3. I picked Harris for both of my teams, TENC. Think you’re replying to the wrong person here.

    2. Hi Sam, don’t you think Jones’rebrand as a full back makes him the perfect bench option covering centres and back 3?

      1. That’s a decent shout, actually. And I’m sure he could do a stint on the wing, too.

  20. I’ve said this before but my grizzled old England Navy hooker mate insists Hastings is a better 12, certainly a very interesting play-making/distribution option given the firepower we have in our back 3

    1. His running game is more suited to a centre and his skillset/defence matches as well. Certainly an option that should be considered, although i would keep him at 10 for the most part just due to our depth.

  21. First choice side.
    Hogg(C)- Maitland – Jones – Hastings – DVdM – Russell – Horne – Du Preez – Watson – Ritchie – Skinner – Gray – Fagerson(Vc) – Mcinally – Kebble
    Kinghorn – Johnson – Price – Haining – Gilchrist – Berghan – Brown – Sutherland

    Graham while good for Edinburgh, is to small for international rugby.

    1. Well he seems to be doing alright so far. 6 tries in 10 matches, including 2 against England and 1 against Wales. He’s not been lacking in defence or aggression, either, and he’s pretty good at rucking.

      1. He does not make dominant tackles and is average at best with his kicking game & high ball contests.

    2. Jamie, I’m not going to beat about the bush here:

      You’re being utterly delusional.

      Darcy Graham is our best winger. I wish people on this blog would drop this bizarre fixation on our players not being ‘big enough’.

      Hamish Watson and Graham are two of our genuine stars at the moment – and both are in Lions contention at the moment, Graham especially. No way is Darcy Graham “too small for international rugby”.

    1. He was not John, however Shane Williams played in a different era where the physicality was not comparable to today. He also had a naturally more stocky frame compared to Graham, your comparing fruits to vegetables here.

  22. “Graham while good for Edinburgh, is to small for international rugby”

    That is not backed up at all by his performances on the park for Scotland.

    Haw Kolbe get away you…

    1. He is a good attacking player, but his technical skills are not good enough, by that I mean kicking game & his height when contesting high balls will always leave him at a disadvantage. Maitland, Kinghorn & Van der Merwe are all superior in these aspects and they are crucial parts of the modern day game.

      1. He is fantastic in the air, far superior to Kinghorn – he (Graham) competes in the air like a man twice his size – Kinghorn often shrinks in the air. He competes like a player far bigger than his size, he can bounce of players (see his trys v both Wales and England in the corner as examples) . He is an absolute grafter at a ruck.

        His height doesn’t impact on his ability to kick, his kicking game is fine.

        I am finding what you are saying about him here complete nonsense.

      2. DVDM might have a better kicking game than Graham, but we’ll never know until he actually kicks one from hand. Rarer than hen’s teeth.

      3. I think people saying Graham is on the Lions’ plane are absolutely delusional. He deserves to be in the Scotland squad and is a good finisher and grafter but one of the best two wingers in the the UK and Ireland, or indeed one of the best 7 or 8 back three players who will likely tour- come on….

      4. Have to agree that the size myth for international rugby has been proven to be nonsense many times (maybe not so much in the front 5….).

        In the games I have seen, Graham has been better under the high ball than most much taller players – particularly going forward – and has had some fantastic takes. I certainly rate him much higher than lanky Kinghorn who doesn’t have nearly the same commitment.

        For me, Graham is the 1st winger on the sheet (for the record I would pair him with Maitland and have VDM on the bench for now – at least until we see how he performs at international level against tier 1 teams).

  23. Darcy Graham is a gutsy guy who can score . He is brave enough to get in position and make the tackle. A bigger man should win the battle in the air however I think he has learned to make the most of his stature.

  24. Have to agree with Jamie here, Graham isnt up to test level rugby. Too small and not dominant enough to make yards against the likes of Watson, May, Stockdale, Adams.

    1. Graham has broken a tackle every 2.6 runs on average for Scotland, according to everyone’s favourite spreadsheet wizard Kevin Millar. How’s that for too small?

      1. I think Dan misunderstood the reasons I said he was to small for international rugby. My point is that his ability under the high ball is poor due to his stature his kicking game is not good enough regardless of his height.

        Looks at the statistics to back up your arguments, not a few flashy highlight reals which do not address my point.

        Darcy is the 5th choice back-three player as an all rounder.

        Hogg/Maitland/Kinghorn/Duhan & then Graham/Steyn are competing for that 5th spot.

      2. William I will encourage you not to be lazy and
        do your own research, I already know the stats and that has backed up my reason to leave him out the squad.

      3. That’s not how burden of proof works, Jamie. You’ve made a claim, you need to back it up or accept that your claim is baseless. And if you already know the stats, why not just share them? Could it possibly be because you don’t know them and are just making stuff up, I wonder…

      4. Teamcam I have already stated my position on this, I know the facts & I know the stats, I feel no need to convince fanboys otherwise.

        The burden of proof is on you now.

      5. It really isn’t. Until you provide evidence to support your position, it is on you. Until then, your posts are meaningless.

      6. Jamie, I get that your opinion of Darcy Graham is that he is too small for International Rugby, however to claim that his “ability under the high ball is poor due to his stature” is definitely a weird call, his ability to catch a high ball has nothing whatsoever to do with his size.
        Unless of course, within your big pile of stats that belittle Darcy are some stats that show that being 5’9″ impacts on ability to jump.

      7. BruceP,
        Just look at the worlds best high-jumpers. All are very tall men and women.
        Graham is to small to compete, he gets away with it against mediocre wings but not at international standard.

      8. He isn’t competing at high jump though. He is playing Rugby, high ball ability isn’t solely about height, a player can shrink a man quickly with their ability to asses flight and movement of the ball.

        This height thing is gibberish. He is of comparable height/taller than the likes of McKenzie, Kolbe, Larmour Halfpenny and Nowell who have all played wing and could full in it at fullback at International Level.

        Halfpenny has been one of the best fullbacks under a high ball for the last 10 years, he is 2 inches taller than Graham.

        Evidence doesn’t validate the claims being made here, he has yet to be found out under the high ball at International level – against Wales at Murrayfield last year he had North on toast under the high ball.

      9. Hangtime…is the square root of (height jumped (in inches)/48).

        So a 2 ft jump…takes 0.707 seconds…

        Therefore timing of jump trumps height…you can gain 2ft+ in under half a second.

        Height wins when neither player jumps, if lifting is allowed, or if both take off at the same time.

        Being 6 inches taller gains you maybe 1/4 second leeway max.


      10. My apologies Jamie, I should have finished my comment with ability to jump “for a high ball.”
        As others, HT Chris & Alanyst, have eloquently put, competing for a high ball is about so much more than the individuals height, and from the games I have seen Darcy Graham play, in my opinion, he competes sufficiently well enough, against (your words) mediocre* wings in the Pro14, Champions Cup and Challenge Cup to justify his position within the squad.
        *The wingers he plays against in these competitions also play international rugby too, I doubt highly every team Edinburgh play against go down the local park on a Thursday evening with the thought that as he’ll only be going up against wee Darcy, lets just get Joe Bloggs to line up opposite him.

  25. Jamie you have said stats should be used to back up an argument given you have no stats does that mean you have no argument by your own logic?

      1. But in reality there is no substance to what you are saying is there…. no stats to back it up…nothing at all really to back up what you are saying.

      2. Jamie: Just tell them that is your opinion and you are sticking to it, You don’t need to evidence an opinion and it has substance , because it is your opinion. You are in danger of feeding them.

        I do not agree with your opinion , but I am not precious about it, why should you not have a different opinion to someone else.

      3. No such ‘ignorance’ here.

        Jamie is being utterly bizarre. And those of you backing him up (thankfully, just two) are as well.

        Graham’s our best winger. He regularly puts ‘bigger’ and ‘better’ players down on their arses. He may not generate many linebreaks – we have Duhan for that (and for Scotland it used to be that Seymour generated linebreaks and Maitland/Visser finished the moves) – but he’s secure under the high ball, decent enough when kicking from hand (which, incidentally, I’ve never seen Duhan do, and which Seymour and Visser did very little of as I recall), v e r y fast, offloads well, and excellent at stepping and fending. Oh, and he’s the best winger in the Home Nations at the art of finishing the tries he gets on the end of. (And no, this isn’t what ‘fanboying’ is. I’m simply stating a player’s OBJECTIVE attributes here. I’m not calling him the ‘GOAT’ or making dubstep video edits of him dummying past Finlay Bealham and Ultan Dillane in the Pro14.)

        You might not rate short players, you might not rate Edinburgh players, but quibbling about how you don’t *feel* you have to SHOW the stats you’re referring to, and trying to discuss semantics…that isn’t the way to win over anyone here. Instead, it’s a purely fruitless exercise that wastes both your time and others’. Come on, you can do better than that.

        Let’s instead talk about Damien Hoyland, whose first call-up in a few years shouldn’t go unnoticed. It’s thoroughly deserved I think, he’s really earned it. With Hogg in the form of his life, Duhan coming in, Darcy on fire and Blair Kinghorn and Sean Maitland able to deputise all over the back three (plus Hoyland and Steyn), we look pretty set for a while now.

      4. He’s good enough to make the squad, which is the POINT of…calling up a wider squad. It’s to do with these things called injuries? Point is, Hoyland’s selection has been earned, even if I don’t think he should make our first-choice 23.

        And no, he’s not too small. If you don’t stop calling players too small, I am going to put my RWC19 Scotland top in the shrinkwash. Don’t make me do it.

      5. It’s not trolling to engage in a conversation with someone and ask them to explain their logic when they claim it is stat based….. it is part of being in a forum community that you would normally share that with folks….

        I agree re the support of Hoyland, he has been playing well lately, no harm in having a few capable of playing wing around the squad, it is an area we are never far away from disaster in.

      1. Ah, I’m daft. Came within a literal 2 seconds of being able to edit my comment, too.

        Dingwall is in, then. Never mind. Cheers.

      2. In fact redpath’s non-selection stands out even more as tuilangi is injures, slade is still with Exeter and he still can’t make the training squad with other non/capped centres ahead of him.

        If he doesn’t make the 6N squad in spring there is surely an opportunity there for Toonie given our lack of depth at 12

  26. Redpath is a good player with lots of potential, but he’s not yet consistently had a run of pro rugby appearances, so it would be too soon to hail him as the messiah in his position. Both Taylor and McDowall look good and have potential, and more pro appearances I think, so we have as much reason to think they’ll fill out our depth at 12.

    1. McDowall if he develops the way we all hope could be something special. A decent passing / running 12 who can also take a crash ball line. I’m desperate to see him kick on as he seems to have all the tools.

      Taylor strikes me as an archetypal 13 though. Strong, hard attacking lines, very good over the ball in defence, hits rucks like a 6. He is Dunbar’s heir apparent if he keeps developing like he has over the last year. Dunbar made Scotland and Glasgow tick for 3 or 4 seasons, so let’s hope I am right!

    2. No one is saying Redpath is the messiah – but he’s a very talented player and we have very shallow depth in Scottish rugby and it is impossible to predict how a players career will pan out.

      Look at how much talent in the centres has failed to fulfil early promise – Bennett, Taylor, Dunbar all top class centres and all have had careers marred by injury.

      Scotland would be crazy not to bring in redpath and cap him if given the chance, regardless of how good McDowell will hopefully become at test level.

      1. My point is that Redpath has done nothing in pro rugby that both Taylor and McDowall haven’t also done and so it would be far too early to say he is the answer to a lack of depth at 12, when we have two guys at our pro clubs who might also be the answer. And that’s even assuming he can be persuaded to represent Scotland.

      2. All valid points, however we are in short supply of a NZ style 2nd 5/8th, I’d have had Redpath in the squad (to get him capped / have a look at him) & omitted Grigg.

  27. In other news, Maitland is going to play for the BaaBaas against England on the 25th. Seems like an odd way to prepare to play Wales.

      1. Especially if he plays them by himself on the 24th, given that the rest of the squad are playing Georgia on the 23rd ;-)

    1. Maybe not a bad thing and must be with permission from Scotland – was always likely Townsend would cap some new players for the Georgia game so gives Maitland a top level game before Wales and lets the younger guys get more familiar with Scotland.

  28. France have just come to a deal with LNR for player release which means that no player can be involved in more than three match day squads across the 6 autumn games (warm up, v Ireland, autumn cup). Interesting to see if we get makeshift teams across all games or the first team against Ireland, us and the final round and the second team against Wales, Fiji and Italy.

    Either way it’ll be a very disjointed way for them to prepare. Let’s hope Scotland keep up our good home record against the french without to much fuss.

  29. On another vaguely relevant note.

    Hopefully all Scottish players do well in the Exeter-Racing game (and don’t get injured), but I have to say I will be supporting Racing and Russell, and hope he has a blinder to set things up for the autumn tests.

  30. Scotland v Georgia live on ITV4.

    I reckon a back 3 of Hogg, VDM & Graham is potentially the best Scotland back 3 in my rugby going life.

    I do think the Graham haters either don’t watch /understand rugby or are trolls (maybe both)

    1. I hope to be proven wrong, but I think people are getting a bit too ahead of things with VDM.

      How many players have we seen that look great in domestic rugby but don’t make the step up to becoming quality internationals?

      Don’t get me wrong – he deserves his shot and has been a stand out pro14 winger, but I don’t think we should drop him in the deep end with massive expectations as we have seen a lot of players ruined that way.

      I also think he will look very good against Georgia – presuming he will play – but will withhold judgement until he plays a tier 1 team and performs well for 60 minutes plus and in attack and particularly defence.

      Until then, I think Maitland and Graham are first choice.

      1. I agree with you Fraser i think we will see him start the georgia game but be benched for the wales game. In my opinion he still has to improve his defense he doesn’t make enough dominant tackles for someone of his physique. Maitland is still just about the smartest and best positional winger about.

        The great thing tho about VDM which we haven’t had before is that you don’t need to create an overlap for him you just need to number up and leave him 1 on 1 and more than 50% of the time he will score, that’s a huge weapon.

      2. VDM’s issue was always that he didn’t go looking for work, although thankfully that seems to have changed these days. I think he’s more of a Seymour than he is a Maitland, so to speak.

        We’ve got a nice stable of wingers going at the moment. Good contrast between them. I think Duhan’s physicality will be needed against Wales, though obviously Maitland being with the Barbarians could help our opponents to prepare.

    2. Big Duhan was born for international rugby, what are people smoking. There’s never been a safer bet. Meanwhile Darcy put to bed doubts (if there ever were any) about size at Twickenham, simply electric. I think Maitland remains class. DVDM, Darcy, Maitland, Kinghorn, Hogg is about enough depth and a nice mix of experience. Tempted to include Jones but we all know he should be at 13 with Taylor inside.

  31. Interesting Fraser,

    It appears to me VDM has Vissers nose for a try with added huge physicality (for a wing).

    You may be proven to be correct Fraser but I reckon VDM may well be better in a team with Hogg & Russell in it (& a team where a box-kick is not a primary attacking tactic)

    1. He may well do that and be great – my point is he has to show it at that level before we pin him down as our 1st choice winger.

      I think he is an excellent player, perhaps needs a bit of work in defence but we do need someone who can score like he does – something that teams like England have had and have made a huge difference in close games and that we have lacked.

      Long term, if VDM well, I can see Maitland being the old head on the bench and covering the back 3.

      1. I remember how people were complaining about our back three depth being shallow back in the spring…now we’ve Hogg (in the form of his life), Darcy, Duhan, Sean Maitland AND Blair Kinghorn. A fantastic winger is going to miss out from each 23 from now on.

        Then we’ve got the likes of Steyn, McGuigan, Hoyland and Lee Jones. They’d all have started for Scotland around ten/twelve years ago.

      2. Sam, is there a particular contributory factor that has escalated Hogg to the ‘form of his life’. Let’s be clear this guy was already a lion and several times player of the 6 Nations. I believe you have a point, he is thriving. But what has escalated Hogg to such a level given he had already achieved what most have not?

      3. Bert…Hogg, Russell, J Gray, Dave Rennie, all thriving.

        You can figure out the common link…

      4. Alan : Oh I worked it out. Good to know you get it as well. But Shhh, keep quiet. Lets just watch and see who else does or does not.

        Shall we give them another clue: Huw Jones, our most talented player , bar none IMO , his career in freefall , hardly thriving , in Scotland. In fact, being humiliated .

  32. This is the side which i would like to see against Georgia (not what I think is the best)
    1. Oli Kebble
    2. George Turner
    3. Zander Fagerson
    4. Richie Gray
    5. Grant Gilchrist
    6. Rob Harley
    7. Jamie Ritchie
    8. Matt Fagerson
    9. George Horne
    10. Finn Russell
    11. Duhan van Der Merwe
    12. Adam Hastings
    13. Huw Jones
    14. Darcy Graham
    15. Damien Hoyland
    16. Fraser Brown
    17. Rory Sutherland
    18. WP Nel
    19. Scott Cummings
    20. Blair Cowan
    21. Ali Price
    22. Sam Johnson
    23. Blair Kinghorn

  33. Well, Gatland has his excuse not to pick Russell now. Farrell/Sexton/Biggar it is. Even though Russell’s been nominated for European Player of the Year.

    Let’s just watch everyone blot out the first stunning Zebo try that Finn created, in favour of the Nowell interception of the ‘mercurial’ Russell’s pass. He’s had a great game, actually. Kicked very well. But it doesn’t matter, because he’ll be blamed for the result if Racing lose. At least Hoggy just won a turnover.

    It’s s**** being Scottish. Hoping Racing win this, somehow.

    1. Russell showed the best and worst of his game really. Most of his passing and command of Racing’s attack was sublime, but that totally unnecessary interception, his charged down grubber that eventually resulted in a try and spilling the ball in the in-goal area were all costly mistakes (although for the latter the pass wasn’t particularly sympathetic).

      It was a frustrating game, Racing beat themselves really. Even after overcoming their horror start, almost every time they scored they messed up the restart and piled pressure on themselves then they had a golden chance to win the game and blew it (although SHC turnover was never legal).

      They would have won comfortably if Machenaud had started.

      1. Personally though it was a cast iron YC.

        Also thought Racing should have got the kick off at the end, you can’t just guess the time you go by the clock whether or not the timekeepers messed up. Nigel was making it up as he went along.

      2. Spot on – I was thinking the exact same thing about MM. Iribaren was rubbish against Saracens, and he was beyond rubbish today.

        I think his grubber was rubbish, but his intercept was a combination of great defence by Nowell and the contemporary disregard for the offside line.

    2. Thing is, Biggar, Sexton or Farrell would have made no difference to the result. If anything, Racing would have lost by more with one of those in charge. Exeter are, on average, worthy of their title and I’m glad for them – branding aside, they have a great culture and proficient staff – but their best players today were Iribaren and Owens. Simmonds getting MotM was a joke, though – Nowell was much, much better. For all the pelters Russell’s getting for that intercept, it’s worth noting that it was a great read from Nowell, and that he started offside. But Simmonds was anonymous.

      Overall, though, it was an entertaining game, and I’m glad some of our best players got that experience and generally acquitted themselves well.

  34. Exeter 31-27 Racing.

    Russell played well and so did Hogg and Gray, Hogg especially. Skinner came off the bench, and Hidalgo-Clyne won a decisive penalty when he came on.

    The Scotland captain is a European champion!

      1. Sorry I take your point, getting like my grandad , repeat everything and haven’t a clue about technology.Now be kind and don’t tell me I haven’t a clue about rugby.

      2. Ah, don’t worry :) apologies, I was a bit irritable earlier.

        It was Hogg’s first real indifferent game in an Exeter shirt; normally he’s far better than that.

  35. All the scots played an amazing part in the Final. We must be on the edge of something special. So proud of them. Well done , great to see our lads so involved.

  36. On the face of it that SHC turnover could have gone either way. Owens never explained it. Racing never made the most of playing against 14. Good experience for our lads.

  37. Racing have a touch of the Clermont bridesmaids about them – 1 trophy in 30 years and shot themselves in the foot today.

    I really hope Finn wins something with them, his talent deserves so much more than one pro12 winners medal.

    1. He certainly won’t have a Lions cap. Is he the best player to miss out on a Lions call up, I wonder?

      1. He got one in 2017, so no. But he definitely should make the weekend 23 – which he won’t, sadly.

      2. True, sadly. I think if he doesn’t get one this time, then we’d be absolutely justified in screaming blue bloody murder about it. I’m fed up of deferring to Gatland’s biases because of his record; now the time for that has passed.

  38. Really surprised Russell didn’t set up for the drop goal in R92’s last attack. I know he’s scuffed a couple in the past, but dull as it may be, it’s a tactic made for moments like that, and he (and Scotland) needs it in the repertiore.

    1. There were also overlaps to the right 2 or 3 times if they had moved the ball out instead of keeping it with the forwards at the end of the game. Finn potentially lost that game for them with the no look intercept pass down in their red zone. He needs to control better. Ball should have been booted out of play or way down field.

  39. To Jamie and all the other individuals who think Darcy is too small and a liability under the high ball.

    Darcy – 1.76m

    Shane Williams – 1.70m
    Jason Robinson – 1.73m
    Cheslin Kolbe – 1.71m
    Filipo Daugunu – 1.75m

    Damian McKenzie – 1.77m
    Larmour – 1.78
    Halfpenny 1.78

    So Darcy is taller than the 2 best home nations wingers in the professional era, the worlds best winger and Daugunu who just a week ago played and excelled against a pretty good team called the All Blacks…

    It shouldn’t matter anyway, let his performances do the talking. The height he jumps, the timing and co-ordination more than make up for it.

  40. Russell had a good game – the majority of his issues were down to Iribaren. The only major error he made was the intercept pass which was fairly bad, but equally he made 2 tries from very risky passes so overall it worked out and they probably would have done worse if he hadn’t tried any of them.
    Also, they were unlucky not to score from several other kicks/chips/passes he made.

    Russell’s flat gain line play is exactly what we missed in the six nations.

    Iribaren in the first 20 minutes killed Racing. After that they were mostly the better team.

    Rest of the Scots did well, didn’t see much of Hogg in the first half but that was Exeter being dull. Important turnover in the 2nd half.
    Can’t wait for Georgia next week.

    1. Perhaps some of Russell’s intercepts/mistakes where down to the Scots players knowledge of how he plays in better detail, makes it easier to read.

      Overall I thought he had a positive game against the top European club of the season, his pass to Zebo in particular was insanely good, if any regular fly-half had executed that pass people would be in shock.

      1. Finn rarely gives out intercepts at all.

        Someone predicted it upthread and I guess they were right.

      2. Russell has intercepted both Sexton and Farrell in recent seasons, so these things happen.

        I think the issue is the timing, Racing were in the ascendancy with plenty of time on the clock and looked like they had reeled Exeter in. It was a real get out of jail free card and there was no need to force the game at that point. It was bad game management from Russell and it wasn’t his only mistake on the day.

        But on the other hand, he was really instrumental in dragging Racing back into the game against allegedly one of the toughest defences in Europe – and he did it without making it even look very hard. I don’t think there are many 10s in the planet who could have orchestrated Racing’s comeback in the manner they did. I just hope Russell gets a European cup medal in the future, let’s face it he looked effortlessly a class above Joe Simmonds who left with the plaudits and will inevitably be talked about as a Lions Bolter.

      3. Agree wit FF – ‘It was bad game management from Russell’. This is the most probable reason why his Lion’s selection will most probably not happen. It is his ‘achilles heel’

      4. Joe Simmonds didn’t really do anything all game. If good game management is missing 40% of your tackles, making 0m in attack and basically letting the rest of your team do all the work, then Joe Simmonds was right up there with the best on Saturday…

        Are far as I can tell, ‘poor game management’ means not taking a drop goal, which he should have done, but how many 10s would have taken that option? Sexton, maybe. Duncy Weir, almost certainly.

      5. TC: Missed 40%, well at least he was in position and dropped them 60% of the time. Worse than some , better than others. He would be better playing out of the firing line, out wide or back three.

    2. Does it really matter? I don’t think Finn can play his way into the Lions first XV.

      Gatland hates risk-taking. He really cannot handle it. Even if it works, to him it is ipso facto the wrong way to play.

      Simultaneously, Finn is the wrong fly half for the game plan they will have.

      Gatlands woeful Chiefs experience highlights his inability to employ open rugby.


    Shows all Russell’s touches and demonstrates he had an overwhelmingly positive game.

    Risk is heavily dependent on competance. If you ever watched the movie free solo you see a guy like Alex Honnold engaging in an action that is ostensibly very risky until you understand his back story and look at the competance he has built.

    Finn has repeatedly demonstrated that he has the competance to throw these passes so it is reasonable for him to take that risk.

    Can’t wait to see him back in a Scotland Jersey.

  42. Good afternoon, looking forward to Friday, Mrs is out, beers in the fridge! My team for Friday: Kebble, Brown, Fagerson, Cummings, Gray (R), Thompson, Ritchie, Fagerson, Steele, Russell, Van der Merwe, Hastings, Harris, Graham, Maitland
    McInally, Sutherland, Nel, Gilcrest, Haining, Horne, Lang, Kinghorn

    1. Team for Georgia, not wanting to risk some, need to also blood others or bring back in:
      Kebble, Turner, Berghan, Gray R., Toolis, Thompson, Cowan, Fagerson M., Horne, Russell, Van der Merwe, Lang, Jones, Hoyland, Kinghorn.

      Bhatti, McInally, Nel, Gilchrist, Haining, Johnson, Weir, Maitland

  43. My Scotland team for the autumn

    Hoyland – Maitland – Jones – Johnson – DVdM – Hastings (C) – Horne – Du Preez – Watson – Ritchie – Skinner – Gray – Fagerson(Vc) – Mcinally – Kebble
    Harris – Lang – Price – Haining – Gilchrist – Berghan – Brown – Sutherland

    Have to say the champions cup final really showed a lot of flaws in our ‘star’ players.
    Hogg was anonymous or missing tackles and Russell buckled under the pressure (from which I don’t think he will recover).

    I just want a defensively solid side with consistent players, that’s what we need to win, not players who don’t front up when it’s needed.

  44. My Teams
    VS Georigia
    Sutherland – Brown – Fagerson -Gilchrist – Cummings – Ritchie – Cowan – Fagerson – Horne – Hastings – Johnson – Harris – DVDM -Kinghorn – Graham.
    REP Keeble – McInally – Nel – Toolis – Haining – Price – Russell – Jones.

    Vs Wales
    Sutherland – Brown – Fagerson – Gray – Gilchrist – Ritchie – Watson – Fagerson – Price – Russell – Johnson – Harris – Maitland – Graham – Hogg
    REP Keeble – McInally – Nel – Skinner – Cowan – Horne – Hastings – DVDM

    1. Why risk our best front row ( potentially ), in a friendly? Likewise, Cummings, Ritchie, Graham? Just asking. Would be great to see an inspired Gray brothers tear in to Wales, but those days may be past sadly.

      1. I view it as a warm up rather than a friendly. i don’t think any of the Scottish based players are close to being overloaded and most of them still look a little short on form and fitness. With Wales round the corner i’d be giving them every chance to play themselves in.
        Both front rows are strong enough to give them 40 minutes each.
        The second row picks itself the only real argument for me is Gilco or Toolis to start.
        Ritchie needs game time, Fagersons earned his place. Watson I would say can be rested and let Cowan get a feel for it again.

        Horne and Hastings play better alongside each other and probably and could do with them game time and the optics of just dropping Finn straight back in aren’t great plus he’s had a bigger workload. I’d give him a half just to help him move on from the final and get back into it before Wales.
        Johnson defo needs game time. what’s the point in him being in the squad if he’s not going to play against Wales so he defo needs the Georgia game. Harris hasn’t played so much with Gloucester not being in the playoffs so should be good to go and keep the continuity of their partnership. I’d have Huw on the bench tho in case of johnsons fitness.
        back 3 all Edinburgh and all need game time IMO as i think they’ve all missed a few of edinburgh games with injury.

        so there you have it.

  45. Sean Maitland – Darcy Graham – Harris Chris – Sam Johnson -Duhan van Der Merwe – Adam Hastings – Ali Price – Matt Fagerson – Jamie Ritchie – Sam Skinner – Scott Cummings – Jonny Gray – Willem Nel – Fraser Brown – Rory Sutherland

    Replacements – Stuart Hogg – Finn Russell – Sam Hidalgo Clyne – Hamish Watson – Grant Gilchrist – Zander Fagerson – Stuart Mcinally – Oli Kebble

  46. Exeter boys can’t play, they play Wasps on Saturday in the play off final. I’ve put a team in on another thread but my selection
    VS Georigia
    Sutherland Brown Fagerson Toolis R.Gray Ritchie Watson Haining
    Price Russell VDM Johnson (Sam L made a good point re Johnson) Harris Graham Jones
    Maitland Hastings Horne
    Keeble McInally Nel Cummings Fagerson

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