Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Townsend adjusts squad ahead of France

Rob Harley - pic © Al Ross
Rob Harley - pic © Al Ross

Positive Covid tests have adjusted the makeup of Fabien Galthie’s squad ahead of this weekend’s mid point fixture in the 2021 Guinness 6 Nations, and Gregor Townsend too has shuffled his player group although thankfully not for the same reasons.

Injuries sustained so far see Cam Redpath, Gary Graham and Blade Thomson return to Bath, Newcastle and Scarlets to continue recuperation.

The Toony giveth and the Toony taketh away in Bath’s case, with another sneak attack on promising England U20 talent this time seeing uncapped Bath back-row Josh Bayliss (Aberdonian granny) hitch his personal saltire to the mast. Bayliss has featured for Bath in every game of the 2020/21 season so far so he’ll be a miss, and Toony has also borrowed Jamie Bhatti from them for good measure.

The other exciting call-up is the very talented but very raw Inverness-born Jamie Dobie (yes, I will be milking that one), who joins the squad properly this time, having been previously invited to train with the group. He was impressive at the weekend for Glasgow although a couple of rash passes did hurt his team. No doubting his potential though.

Also returning are Cornell du Preez, Rob Harley and Sam Johnson. Adam Hastings never left, it seems, but he’s now fit to play.

Tighthead prop Zander Fagerson is not listed in the latest update; Scottish Rugby plan to appeal the ban of four matches issued last week following his red card against Wales.

France meanwhile look like they will be without World’s Best Player™ Antoine Dupont, as well as players including skipper Charles Ollivon, Cyril Baille and Brice Dulin who have been withdrawn from the squad after contracting the virus.

The new cases take the total number in the France camp to 14, including coach Fabien Galthie and may begin to cast doubt on whether the fixture can be fulfilled – would playing be a risk to the Scottish players for future rounds? Would a rescheduled fixture still allow access to exiled players such as Jonny Gray, Stuart Hogg or Finn Russell?

UPDATE: From 6 Nations this evening: “The [Tournament Operating Group] will reconvene on Wednesday 24 February in the evening to review the situation. A decision on whether the France v Scotland fixture can go ahead will be made at that stage. Ensuring the health and safety of all players and staff is our number one priority. Should the decision be that the fixture cannot go ahead, the match will be rescheduled for the earliest possible date.”

21 Responses

  1. France have now reported 10 cases of covid within their squad and three within management.

    I really can’t see how this game can go ahead.

  2. Apparently there has been discussion that postponement would be preferred to cancellation of the France fixture and they are looking at the fallow week…which Scotland do not have an agreement in place for release of Premiership of Top14 players.

    Hopefully, common sense would prevail and postponement would be until the autumn. I can’t see the game going ahead next week but postponement to the following week under any circumstances that would deprive Scotland of players defies any notion of fairness.

  3. Got to really cross the fingers the game goes ahead but I suspect there may be more covid cases to come and that it may be postponed.

    If it does go ahead I’ll be very interested to see the back three/bench. All 4 back three players have been excellent so far, I reckon Darcey drops to the bench but does that mean no place for Huw Jones? Or does Jaco drop out with Lang covering 10 (assuming he starts at 12 again?) or even Hogg covering 10. Seems a waste of a bench spot having someone who you will only put on in the event of injury where you could have Jones and Graham giving a point of difference when they come on. Don’t know much about the Bath lad that’s come in but it does seem odd we overlooked Skinner due to covid bubbles and him having to go back to Exeter, surely Bayliss will be the same?

    1. I don’t see how COVID bubbles have anything to do with Skinner’s non selection at this point. Didn’t Hogg play on the same team as him at the weekend?

  4. I would prefer a sensible postponement to potentially derailing the rest of our 6N.

    It’ll be Thursday at best before this is “through” the French squad…any positives after today and there’s a risk our guys get infected.

    For me, better to stay healthy and fresh for Ireland and Italy, and maybe face France in the summer with three wins behind us, Zander will be back, Hastings fit again also McInally or Brown.

    Maybe we can play them in the Lions window…both sides should be almost full strength.

  5. I have to disagree that the match will be cancelled/postponed. I don’t see how covid is any different from any other illness or injury just call up replacements and play the damn game. They’re not a club side they have ample depth.

    1. Sam, it may be more about the lurking Covid in the French camp and it’s transmissibility to the Scots – on that note the Irish camp has been quiet , did the French lads sneak out for a sly Guinness when in dublin !

      1. Maybe but given the fact that even some commercial airlines require a negative covid test within 4 hours of boarding and that’s possible for the general public en masse surely they can all be tested an hour or two before kick off and the idea that they would return a negative test but become infectious during the game seems far fetched.

    2. Postponing may cause Scotland unfair issues with getting some players released form the their respective clubs.
      Why should Scotland team suffer in any way considering they have dealt with COVID very well?

  6. France put up an entirely different team against England in the autumn nations cup and should have won. Why can’t they do they same here ?

    They have over 14 professional teams full on french players.

  7. I can sense already that we are not going to get a favourable outcome here. Either Ireland will have an extra week’s rest or we won’t have a full squad at our disposal to face France if the game is pushed back a week.

    1. Let’s hope, whatever happens, Dodson acts with more grace and integrity than he did in Japan. I just saw a statement from the SRU saying we would be disadvantaged if it was pushed back a week so it looks like they’re already warming up for a fight.

      1. That is a ridiculous take on the SRU statement. It highlights that Scotland will be without 10 or more players the following weekend because it is not within an international release window. It also includes a caveat that the game must take place on Sunday if it is medically safe to do so.

        It would be an absolute nonsense to postpone the game by a week because 11 french players are unwell with covid to a weekend that 10 Scottish players are unavailable despite being fit and well.

        It should go ahead on Sunday or be delayed until another international window, as happened last year.

      2. Why would the SRU feel the need to highlight it at this stage then?

        You seem to often make the mistake that these decisions are made by rational, logical people.

        Scotland have already filled their calendar for the Autumn window and they are not in a financial position to turn down a home international with fans so the most likely outcome is it’ll be out with the window.

      3. Without refreshing, the SRU had no choice to speak up in Japan in time. They were not minimising the tragedy of the typhoons they were not occupying the time of those involved in rescue efforts or risking those in a badly affected part the country. They simply made the point, rightly, that they would enforce legal rights to ensure the Scotland team were not sent home from a four yearly tournament without a ball being kicked (in a country where typhoons – or hurricanes in the West – are a regular occurrence every season), when Scotland still had the chance to and should have qualified. Frankly following the Joubert travesty it had to be done. All the hand-wringing afterwards only occurred because the Scotland team on the pitch were bigger pushovers than the SRU who have duties to ensure the team’s interests are protected. In zero way did their actions negatively impact anyone in Japan; if you look at the outcome were massively benefited in the end. So can we stop the whinging. Either you accept we are in the professional era (clubs will demand back players and equally the SRU must make statements to protect its interests). Or we slip back to being quasi amateur. If we can be a bit tougher on and off the pitch and, hard luck to the rest of them, that would go a long way. Consider just a moment how our main rivals – England, Ireland, France, NZ, Aus, SA would behave in these scenarios. For too long Scotland have not got the rub of the green and it isn’t acceptable when in our control.

      4. Agree with you Not Science.

        Moreover, the SRU are not being provocative or spoiling for a fight now either. They put out a moderately worded statement to set out that a postponement to next week would not be possible for them. Why did they need to? Because 6N organisers were briefing to press that the fallow weekend would be an appropriate option when it would be highly discriminatory against Scotland and contrary to fair play.

        Why is this an issue at all? Because even though this issue is totally predictable when trying to run an international tournament in the midst of a pandemic, the 6N committee have not put in place adequate processes and guidelines – they are content to make it up as they go along

  8. Your right FF. Let’s just wait until tomorrow evening. The boys are ready to go and so are we!!

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Scottish Rugby News and Opinion