With this weekend’s 1872 Cup fixture cancelled due to a mini-outbreak of Covid-19 (thanks, Exeter) former Scotland captains John Barclay and Chris Paterson were looking at the bigger picture during a conference call this week arranged by Pro14 broadcasters Premier Sports.
Monday 21st December marked the anniversary of Paterson’s international retirement and the record points scorer feels that the national side has improved since he hung up his boots.
“I would say that – without thinking too deep about it – is that the depth of the squad is far better. I think we’re more competitive in all areas of the field really.
I think we’re more consistent as well, in all honesty. The Scotland team now have the ability and have won big games and been more consistently competitive than in my era.
There was periods in my career where we did win big games; England, France, Australia, South Africa, but we didn’t have the depth or consistency to back it up and I think that Scotland are getting more towards being able to do that because of the depth of personnel and the understanding of what it takes.
We had the “high highs” but there’s a wee bit more consistency in depth of player base now that allows Scotland to hopefully build well for the future.”
With Covid-19 taking a large chunk out of the SRU’s funding for next year, Barclay took a pragmatic view of the talent drain which has seen Adam Hastings confirm a move to Gloucester for season 21/22, and rumours that the likes of Duhan van der Merwe and Hamish Watson are soon to follow him out of Scotland.
““If the fans are worried then I fully understand that. I had a similar thing in Wales where we were one of the lowest funded teams. Due to some shrewd recruitment and academy stars coming through we ended up with quite a handy team. But bit by bit the bigger teams started to pick these guys off. That’s the economics of the situation.
“You can’t blame guys for wanting to go if they’ve been offered more money and want to experience different challenges. The guys who have left Scottish clubs have gone to some quality teams and played some great rugby.
“I’m concerned. I won’t be if the guys are replaced, but I have to say so far Glasgow haven’t replaced some of their stars who have gone on to do great things. There’s hope rather than expectation for Glasgow now given the landscape with Covid and the financial implications.”
One of the potential replacements mentioned for Hastings would be another Warrior returning to the Scotstoun scene in Duncan Weir.
“I know Duncan was disappointed to leave Glasgow, but he’s thrown himself into and his game has evolved from playing in a different league, playing against different players, some of them world class” said Barclay of his former teammate.
“I really like Duncy. He was a young boy at Glasgow when I was there. Now he’s got his own family, he’s mellowed out, he’s matured – he’s 29 so he’s still relatively young, still fit and hasn’t missed much rugby in the last couple of years. It’s quite exciting for Glasgow and it’s always nice when someone returns to their own club.”
One of the other names mentioned as a replacement for Hastings is Munster’s Scottish-qualified Ben Healy, who Chris Paterson rates highly.
“I’ve seen a lot of him and been really impressed. There’s a lot of good young 10s in Ireland, but Ben Healy’s probably overtaken one or two of them. His physicality, he takes the ball to the line well, he kicks well, he looks unphased at his goal-kicking.
“I love the fact that with his goal-kicking, he just puts the ball down and hits it. I love that approach to goal-kicking, obviously he goes through his process and his routine, but it’s just: ‘Bang. Get down and kick it’, and it’s such a pure strike.
“Similar to what we were saying about Duhan and guys leaving, it’s what’s right for the individual: where they feel they can develop, where they feel they want to go, and go personally. I think he would develop in Scotland well, he’s got the raw materials and wherever he ends up playing his rugby to being an influential player.”
Although pleased with Scotland’s depth, Paterson acknowledged there’s a bit of a gap emerging at club level which has seen the number of project players capped by Scotland rise.
“Edinburgh wanted to have more depth at No10 this year with Jono Lance but he had visa problems so couldn’t come. So they’ve had to fast-track Nathan Chamberlain who hasn’t played a huge amount of senior rugby.
“Jaco is first-choice. He fought for that with Simon Hickey over the last couple of years. And he’s important to how Edinburgh play: he’s physical, he kicks well, and controls the game. He played slightly differently for Scotland in terms of his distribution so he’s adapting based on how the respective coaches want to play which is the sign of a good player.”
“It’s (project players) something you have to look at if it helps. And if everyone else is doing it, it would be foolish not to take part in that too. Jaco has served his time with Edinburgh and been committed. He’s progressing well. You want to strike a balance and produce your own players as well. I wouldn’t say it’s a necessary evil – it’s just part of the game. And it’s important that we have as much depth as possible.
“Nathan Chamberlain is next there and after that you’ve got guys like Cammy Scott, Harry Paterson, Nathan Sweeney and Ross Thomson. So there are young Scottish guys there too knocking on the door.”
SET A CHRISTMAS TV DATE WITH PREMIER SPORTS – WITH 15 HUGE FESTIVE RUGBY DERBIES LIVE
Chris Paterson and John Barclay are joined by Jim Hamilton, Dougie Vipond, Rory Hamilton and Jenny Drummond for the big 1872 Cup clash on Jan 2 live from BT Murrayfield on Premier Sports 1 from 2.30pm.
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