Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Wales v Scotland: Six Nations Coaches & Captain’s Preview

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

Georgia last week was just the amuse bouche, now we prepare to dine on some tournament rugby, albeit in these “unprecedented times”.

Scotland head to Wales with confidence, as we’ve tended to do recently and ended up with a carton of eggs on our faces, but there’s a lot different this time, and not just in the Wales’ coaching set-up.

As if the concept of a Six Nations game in November wasn’t alien enough, the match will not feature the usual cacophony generated by the Millenium/Princinpality Stadium Choir, however both Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend and skills coach Mike Blair were keen to downplay the significance of the crowd on the match outcome.

“Those factors, you don’t know if they’re going to have an influence, it’s ultimately about how you play”, said Townsend.

“We’ll be up against a highly motivated Welsh side. They’ve got some great players, they’ve won championships, and whether you’re playing with 70,000 or 70 people, you want to win for your country.”

Blair, part of the side that lost the epic match of 2010 at the then Millenium Stadium, said “I don’t think it’ll be an advantage (to Scotland) in its own right, but compared to playing in a packed-out Principality Stadium, there is a big difference.

“Crowds, whether they’re for you or against you, create energy. A big thing for our players is to create our own energy in a very quiet Scarlets’ stadium.”

Chief among those energy producing, noise-makers will be captain Stuart Hogg, coming off the back of European Champions Cup and Gallagher Premiership glory in the past few weeks.

“I have been given the opportunity to play in a Scotland jersey and that is enough to get me highly motivated and ready for a game. There is no better feeling than winning in it. I have been given the opportunity to lead this team, and I have to make sure I am in the right emotional mind set and be ready to lead the troops into battle.

“I am enjoying my rugby. I enjoy playing every week. I have missed a fair bit of rugby over the past three years, but yeah, I feel good, fit and ready.”

Gregor Townsend’s match-day selection will see three Hawick “Teries” involved, with Hogg joined in the starting XV by Rory Sutherland and Darcy Graham.

“It’s a pretty special moment for us. I think it’s been 29 years since three Hawick men took the field together so I’m absolutely delighted. Suz has been working really hard over the last few year to get back to where is and Darcy is just a phenomenal talent.

“You can see how much it means to them when they’re given an opportunity. Suz was potentially our best player in the Six Nations and hopefully he can continue that form. Darcy is just a bundle of energy and I love having him around camp. He keeps everybody on their toes, myself included.” (Does this mean John Barclay has passed the “Scare-cam” mantle on to a padawan?)

While Sutherland and Graham’s form meant their inclusions were likely, there were a few debatable positions to fill. With weather conditions in Llannelli forecast to be as cataclysmically s**t as those of the Scotland v England match at Murrayfield this past February, Townsend’s opinion has been swayed by the likelihood of a scrappy affair, as was confirmed by Blair.

“We’ve referenced that (England) game a lot this week in terms of the conditions. , I don’t want to give a heads-up to Wales, but there’s certain lessons we’ve taken from that which we’ll look to implement if the weather’s as we expect tomorrow.

“Playing in tough conditions, finding kick space is really important, and we believe that Finn is fantastic at finding kick space and being able to execute.”

Try-scoring debutante, Duhan van der Merwe will have to settle for a spot on the bench, with Blair Kinghorn moving to the left-wing to accommodate Hogg at full-back.

“I think it is reward for how Blair has played for us in the Six Nations. He really took to playing on the wing and the way he defends as a winger. I thought he was one of our best players in the Six Nations, and if there is more high balls and kicking, then having played at full-back he can help in that regard.”

The Scotland no:8 jersey – a piece of attire seemingly trying to match Superman’s cape in cursing its wearer – will be filled by Blade Thomson, with Cornell du Preez keeping his spot on the bench from last week, as a ready-made replacement.

Both men have suffered horrendous injuries in the not too distant past, minimising their chance to impress on the international stage, but with Matt Fagerson again picking up a knock at Murrayfield early in the game, they are both given a chance to show their worth.

Townsend said: “Blade has a lineout presence and an awareness of a few of the players in the opposition team. Also, I thought he had a very good World Cup for Scotland and this is the first time he has been available since then. We see him having a big impact. We also see Cornell having a major role to play off the bench. He is one of our strongest ballcarriers and strongest defenders and given the weather forecast we believe a lot of the game will be around the tight areas.”

James Lang’s inclusion at inside-centre ahead of Sam Johnson may raise some eyebrows, but with Johnson’s lack of match practice compared to Lang’s, and the Quins’ man’s boot, gave him the nod.

Perhaps the most left-field choice, was at replacement scrum-half, where George “Horneito” Horne has been left out to make way for the uncapped Scott Steele.

While making note of crediting Horneito’s attacking qualities and the improvement to his kicking game, Townsend described Steele as “one of the best defending 9s in the world”, which former World Player of the Year nominee, Blair expanded on.

“Scott’s a great story. He picked up his Quins contract pretty late, and we just love his mentality. Very similar to George Horne and Ali Price in that sense, that competitive nature. The difference between George and Scott for this game was looking at the weather. Scott is a fantastic defender, not just tackling but he works hard on the ground and he’s a top jackaller for Harlequins.”

Looking beyond the Six Nations, but not beyond (BaarBaar) the elephant in the Zoom, Townsend confirmed that Sean Maitland could potentially play a part in the remaining autumn fixtures, despite breaching Covid-protection protocols.

“Sean was very disappointed in himself, he showed lots of contrition and understands the situation was a serious one. Everyone makes mistakes, so not being involved this week is a blow for him and he’ll come back into our squad when he is next available.

 He has been a good player fort us over the last few years, he is close to 50 caps, he had an outstanding game in the QF when the Saracens beat Leinster and he was good again in the semi-final loss to Racing, so he is still in very good form and we do see him coming back into the squad.”

65 Responses

  1. Interesting to see Wales online give it 7 v 7 on Falateu v Thomson. “Scotland haven’t seen the best of Thomson, but when he’s at it he’s a quality performer with ball in hand and will make ground…” Sounds right for an almost AB who impressed pre and during WC.

  2. Mike Blair’s logic goes a long way to explaining the team picks in some of those areas of dubiety, however no reference to Toolis warming the bench rather than on the park. It does seem like they are betting the house on playing a defensive game in a downpour and hoping Finn gets the ball into space on the odd occasion when it’s on and hoping Kinghorn and Graham will run on to it rather than through the hands.

  3. *Babar the elephant (showing my age).

    It is a bit worrying that they have made every debatable selection based purely on defence – shows a lack of faith in our ability to attack and play in potentially poor conditions and I don’t believe we will win games like this with a mindset of only defending and stopping the other team scoring. Would rather see more of a balance.

    Personally I thought Thomson looked pretty good before his injury problems so lets give him a chance and see if he is the answer at 8 – haven’t really watched him in the Pro14 but apparently he has been decent and the other 8’s haven’t really set the world on fire.

  4. Well a lot of comments, pessimistic and optimistic, a lot of anticipation. This is it, this is the day the 6N 2020 closes. The day we look at that table and say, has Toony made a difference.

    It is rare we can say this so lets just say it while we can, ‘it is all going for us’.

    European Cup winners in our side,Premiership winners in our side , the talk of France at 10, we even have ‘three Hawick Teries’ in the side ! (I sniff Toony sees a 3 plus 12 make up in the team), no injury concerns, had complete free choice to pick as necessary, it is an away game against a fading Wales side with a disjointed coaching staff and no championship to play for. With no crowd or a roof on the stadium. We have our world class full back as captain, leading by example.

    Today , is the best chance we have to show progress. I look forward to this evening, I look forward to seeing the table reflect the optimism.

  5. Classic Scottish self destruct here, throwing to the back of the line on our own 10m. Behind, Russell off, squandered a dominant first 30 minutes, FFS

    Who said we were a dream to play againsT? Looks that way today

  6. Harris and Brown combining beautifully for Scotland here. He loves that lose the game back of the lineout throw. Clueless. No running threat in midfield. Turn off now or turn off later? Russell off too :D

  7. Why the **** would the lineout call be to throw to the back in those conditions, it makes absolutely no sense, so stupid. And no Finn is injured aswell.

    Defence has been good overall and scrum is weapon. Attack has been useless, no centres who can attack is backfiring.

  8. Cant wait until steele joins. We will have a dynamic attacking backline to fix this.

    Steele – Hastings – Lang – Harris. The stuff of dreams.

    1. You’re clueless Neil. As if the backline is the reason we are struggling. The terrible decision making from our so called on pitch leaders is the difference here.

  9. What a frustrating half, so much ball and territory but so slow and cumbersome around the breakdown. One good chance and we fluff it, they get one chance on a platter and nail it.

    We can still win but no real confidence we can manage the game correctly

  10. Harris looks clueless when he gets the ball (dropped ball was 50% Hoggs crap pass so will let that one slide).

    Forwards generally looking on top – forced a lot of penalties – just need the backs to do their bit.

    Idiotic line out decision changed the game and cost us Russell.

    Hopefully can get momentum back as up until then we were the better team.

  11. another miss kick from Hogg, results in lineout on our line, throw to the back just like world cup 2015, over throw to the back. try. compounding errors. poor decisions.

    grubbers along the ground to pin them back and pressure the mistakes and for god sake hoof the ball when you’re in your own half. simples.

  12. Perhaps if Hogg was not so obsessed with looking after his hair he could spend some time learning what it means to lead a team.

    Wee Darcy showing why he wont cut it against teams like wales – he is to small and has missed 2 high balls (so far)

  13. Let’s get DVDM and McInally on. Win the game up front or on the wings and hope the lack of midfield can be played around. COME ON

  14. Cannot be doing with our number 2. Constantly stupid and petty. Including with own teammates.

  15. Anyone else glad Price got pinged for not using the ball? Clearly told and constantly slowing things down.

    1. Don’t mind the running game from stand-off now it’s Hogg and VDM is there. Another maul try would be nice…

      1. I thought Hastings played well when he came on, made two excellent breaks and generally there wasn’t a drop off from Finn (who is clearly a superior player).

        Thought price was mediocre but he managed the final quarter very well

      2. Yeah agreed on Price at the end, gonna take some flack, but stepped up when it was down to him and Hogg.

  16. YESSSS!!!!! Finallly :DDD All about the forwards, massive swing with McInally and Kebble. Saves blushes/deficiencies elsewhere. Well done!

  17. A win is a win – shows resolve given losing both 10’s – Hogg did very well at 10 and stepped up like a captain should.

    Nothing has really changed my pre match opinion though
    Forwards are now as good as anyone (Brown had a bad day though) – Ritchie and Watson are world class.
    Backs need a shake up badly – Price is too slow, Lang was too anonymous, Harris is just not good enough, Kinghorn is not a first choice winger.

    Hastings did some good things (interception aside…) but Russell is so important.

    Credit to them for digging deep and winning away, but that Wales team is poor and we almost shot ourselves in the foot again.

    1. Harris’ value is in the last 15 minutes. He is the defensive captain and that has been a huge difference in Scotland’s game this year. He doesn’t offer much going forward but that’s not his job in the system they are playing.

      1. For the record I saw zero evidence of this. Which tackle, which phase, point out the timings and will go back and watch? Because he sure hell offered nothing else.

      2. Johnson is usually the defensive captain. I think, in his absence, Harris had to play.

    2. Agreed Fraser -Ye Gods, Price is really slow. And I’d rather have had seen Duncan Weir on for the last 20 mins than keep Hastings on the pitch.

    3. Price has got to be gone in spring. He’s STILL not kicked on, and he needs a rocket up his rear. Horne had been held up far too long.

  18. Obviously a strange match but our substitute forwards played really well and scrum looked good. Gatland – make sure you have a long hard look at what the Scottish pack can do!
    Going forward, really need to sort out our midfield; good in defence but just not providing much of a cutting edge. Johnson in when fit might help.

  19. Any form of win would have done there today. Great last five minutes of virtually continuous possession. We closed out a tight game. Help ma Boab!

  20. Fantastic to get the win, don’t know why but I’m strangely muted, maybe because I’m sat at home watching the game rather than in three sheets to the wind in the boozer like a normal super Saturday!

    Wasn’t a great game by any stretch. We did well running the clock down at the end, I thought we had blown it yet again when price kicked to touch and Wales took the quick throw. Price was slow and predictable all game, hopefully one of or both of Russell and Hastings are ok, toonie didn’t sound too positive though… Lack of cutting edge in the centre. Forwards were generally excellent though, scrum was good and thought the front rowers got around well in the loose. After the first few squint ones and stupid throw to the back on our line, the line out wasn’t too bad, don’t know if the ref calmed down a bit or what, there was plenty more squint looking ones from both sides later on that went unpenalised.

    3 wins in the 6N and two could have / should haves, we’ve done that without, perhaps harshly, ever really setting the heather on fire. Maybe that’s just the sign of getting better, how often have you seen Ireland, Wales, England win a 6N without being particularly good, they do it by being good at winning, something we have not been good at.

    1. I think the suspicion is that this Wales team were there for the taking, by more than a few points. A fluent performance from front to back and it could have been a heavy win. That’s why muted. But the satisfaction is the performance by the forwards, with changes. Hope we can add a backline to the mix, considering the available options. Still don’t know why Taylor as the best defensive centre (or Johnson) and Jones (or Hutchinson, Bennett) as the best attacking centre are not paired. DVDM did enough, in one run through the middle, to show his value. Looking on the bright side, maybe with an away win, Toonie won’t be too butthurt to make changes team crying out for!

      1. Think that is a bit unfair tbh

        Conditions were very challenging and whilst the welsh pack was weaker than normal they still put out a team packed full of experience, Lions and younger players with big reputations. It wasn’t a gimme by any measure

  21. Our forward pack…our bite in defence…our physicality…we bullied them.

    I always knew we would batter Wales.

    1. yeah we battered them from start to finish but only won by 4 with a last minute penalty.
      There is so much room for improvement with the players we have but the base is well and truly there.

      1. Agreed….we won but made many mistakes….deserved it but shows you don’t need an 80 minute performance to win.

  22. Will Garland be convinced now that Scotland can win away from home and select a few of our players? I’m getting a bit fed up of Fraser Brown giving away penalties!
    Well done Scotland thoroughly deserved win and but for silly mistakes and penalties and injuries, it could have been by a lot more.

    1. Brown wasn’t alone in giving away penalties. McInally’s one was pretty dumb, and Brown’s first is often overlooked.

      Gatland will say that the game didn’t count.

      1. I though Wales deserved a card , too many penalties. What a great win. I am old enough to remember winning in Wales and today was as pretty as it gets.

    1. Still don’t think Ritchie will get picked for the lions although he’s been outstanding in these big games for a couple of years now

      1. Hasn’t he been M0M in three six nations game this year? If he’s not in the Lions squad it would be outrageous.

      2. Trying to be subjective, there are a lot of excellent backrowers eligible for the lions but he should absolutely be in contention as should Watson but they cant all go, some world class players will get left behind. Unfortunately Scotland players don’t get picked in 50/50 calls by being as good as the opposition, they have to be head and shoulders better to even be in with a sniff, and even then only go as tourists, at least until Gatland goes anyway.

  23. Credit to Scotland for getting the win, regardless of the overall performance that is a big monkey off the backs.

    My question to you all is where do Scotland go from here ? Is that performance good enough to beat in-form top teams ?

    I think not.

    My challenge two weeks from now away to Italy is for Lang and Harris to shows what they can do in attack.

    My team for Italy (Assuming all fit)

    Stuart Hogg – Darcy Graham – Chris Harris – James Lang – Duhan van Der Merwe – Finn Russell – George Horne – Cornell du Preez – Hamish Watson – Jamie Ritchie – Scott Cummings – Jonny Gray – Zander Fagerson – Fraser Brown – Rory Sutherland

    Replacements: Huw Jones – Adam Hastings – Ali Price – Matt Fagerson – Sam Skinner – Simon Berghan – Stuart Mcinally – Oli Kebble.

    Brown is someone lucky to stay in if you base it purely on the performance (and i don’t mean line-out) One below average game does not negate his previous performances.

    Away in good conditions to a poor Italian side seems like a good game for George Horne to get more experience. Price can steady the ship if needed.

    1. I have been a big advocate of Horne for a long time.
      At this point, I think even those that like (in a rugby sense, he’s clearly a pillock in real life) Price would have to agree that dropping him to the bench for a couple of games is probably the kick up the bum he needs to pick up his game.

      Would like to see a few other changes for Italy – I think we need to use the autumn games to give other combinations a go.

      Will be interesting to see who comes in at 10 if Russell and/or Hastings are out. Weir is in the squad, suspect Pete Horne will get a recall – I forget which other players play 10 regularly? Hutch/Lang?

    2. I think we have to assume Russel and hastings will be injured, when exactly does VDW qualify? to be honest we have the game to win with a kicking 10, Weir and VDW to the fore. maybe a re-call for P Horne?

  24. Trying to be subjective, there are a lot of excellent backrowers eligible for the lions but he should absolutely be in contention as should Watson but they cant all go, some world class players will get left behind. Unfortunately Scotland players don’t get picked in 50/50 calls by being as good as the opposition, they have to be head and shoulders better to even be in with a sniff, and even then only go as tourists, at least until Gatland goes anyway.

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Scottish Rugby News and Opinion