Scottish Rugby News and Opinion

Search

Wherefore art thou, Scotland?

Gregor Townsend
Scotland Head Coach, Gregor Townsend - - pic © Alastair Ross / Novantae Photography

Though it’s often misunderstood, when Juliet opines from her balcony, “wherefore art thou, Romeo?” she’s not asking where the lad’s run off to, perhaps wondering if he can pick her up a Big Mac on the way back, but rather why he is who he is. The problem for Juliet is of course that she’s in love with a Montague; the enemy of her Capulet father. The problem for Scotland rugby fans is they’re in love with Scotland; the enemy of all that is joyful and virtuous in the world.

Scotland fans are often wilfully naïve of rugby because naivete is the only guaranteed solace from reality. And this year has provided reams of data for the sporting sociologist because there was no shortage of fans in pubs and in print eagerly suggesting that this could be Scotland’s year.

So far, so typical. This happens all the time. It’s happened right here. But this year seemed stranger because it never seemed to make any sense.

This might be Scotland’s greatest group of players in a generation, but it’s basically the same ones they had last year – and they fluffed that.

Oh yes they did: last year was Scotland’s best chance in two decades to win the Six Nations.

A good group of players, a rock-solid defence, transitioning opposition, and crucially, empty stadia when they travelled.

And they couldn’t get it done, because this squad of players lack the nous to perform when it counts.

Beating France at the death in 2021 may well have been impressive, but the game meant nothing. Scotland’s tournament was over. By far the more important game was Ireland, and Scotland fear Ireland the way props fear vegetables.

The Autumn wasn’t bad, but in a very good year for the Northern Hemisphere, it was Scotland who looked the shakiest. Beating Australia looks good on paper, but everyone beat Australia. Vengeance against Japan at 29-20 sounds nice, but Ireland threw 60 past them and only conceded 5.

Ireland also beat the All Blacks, and a week later the French stopped playing like “France” and started playing like FRANCE and wiped the floor with the Kiwis. Did anyone who watched those matches really think Scotland were in a position to contend with these teams?

Wilful naivete.

This year’s Six Nations, some would have you believe, started well. Scotland beat England and that’s always a welcome result. But England were very bad. Scotland’s performance was nothing to get excited about, indeed Scotland’ performance barely lasted more than twenty minutes.

But what’s in a performance? A win by any means still smells as sweet.

So on to Wales. Wales, as everyone now realises, are terrible at rugby. If there are still any who feel it unfair to label their success last year as a Jam Slam, 2022 has some notes for you. And still, Scotland couldn’t rise to the occasion in Cardiff. Weeks later, even Italy would.

Next up France, and far too many people who should know better were happy to write this off as a valiant loss to the best side in the world. Excuse moi, mais non. France were, for sure, at times pretty damn great to behold. But in this case “at times” means “for about fifteen unconnected minutes over the course of the game” because for three quarters of it, they were barely awake. And that’s not really a criticism, because they didn’t need to be awake to slap Scotland silly.

Then there was Italy. A team Scotland should have thrashed. Do not let their joyous win against Wales deceive you. We’ve already covered this: Wales are terrible at rugby. There’s a reason they’re still wheeling out Alun Wyn Jones to play at 150 years old.

Scotland should beat Italy every time they meet and it shouldn’t even be close. Everyone else does it. Why are Scotland so uniquely suited in Tier One rugby to making Italy look like contenders? Scotland fell off this game so hard and fast Italy almost won the damn thing.

It ended against Ireland at the Aviva. And the same thing that happens every time it’s Ireland at the Aviva happened again. Scotland stood surrounded by three stands and a greenhouse filled with Dubliners and defecated in full view of the entire world.

Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy. Scotland is something else entirely.

So what’s the problem, or more accurately since we don’t have all day, what are some of them?

Well when so much of your gameplan is predicated on the notion that Finn Russell gonna do Finn Russell things, you really have to hope he does that, because as was made staggeringly clear when he was replaced by Blair Kinghorn against Ireland, there is no Plan B.

Russell had a terrible tournament. Was he out of shape? Would that be a more palatable explanation than the popular, “he doesn’t care” cliché? Well given that we should have moved on from that nonsense by now, it seems more likely.

He wasn’t alone though. Stuart Hogg has been terrible. He shouldered a lot of unfair criticism for not catching a poor Chris Harris pass against France but made plenty of his own mistakes to match, none more galling than an indecisive and ultimately selfish pelt for Ireland’s corner when he had three – THREE! – players inside him all ready to score. That would have been 14-12. That would have been a different game. The captain butchered it, and not for the first time.

Quite how Kyle Steyn got two games in a row on the wing is a mystery, but it seems unlikely to happen again given how badly he played in them.

Zander Fagerson remains a penalty waiting to happen, Ali Price has been running hot and cold, Darcy Graham seems determined to run into every opposition player on the field, Duhan Van der Merwe has all the higher rugby brain function of a PlayStation 2 character…

Too harsh? Perhaps but we need to be exactingly clear on this. This was Scotland’s worst Six Nations performance in years and the only reason they weren’t dead last is because there are two teams in the world called Italy and Wales. Wales, you’ll recall, are terrible at rugby.

There are no positives to take from this tournament, and scrambling about in the dirt to find them is demeaning. It was terrible. Scotland were terrible, and the first step in rectifying that is accepting that it’s true.

Stuart Hogg’s petulance in the post-match conference in Dublin and Gregor Townsend’s stated “delight” that Scotland had a good week of training despite the final result suggests they have yet to do so.

But if failure is the best tutor, Scotland should be fielding PhDs in the future. First up, they can never again afford a Jamie Ritchie injury. The man must be protected at all costs. Change the laws of physics if necessary, because it has been made starkly clear that this pack doesn’t work without him holding it together.

More than that, make him captain when he returns.

It’s presumably difficult for any Fifteen to command the game from the rear of the field, but Stuart Hogg has shown time and again over years now through brainless decision making, petulant snipes at teammates, robotic post-match interviews and the collapse of Scotland’s Forward game that he can’t do it all. Ritchie is going to be around long after Hogg has gone and leads by example, bloodying his brow at the first opportunity in the thick of the action as his position dictates. He can be the rock this team builds on for the next two World Cup cycles.

France spent their game against Scotland playing silly-billy in their lineouts, holding the man up for far too long and after Scotland three times in a row conceded penalties for taking the man in the air, a change should have come. That it didn’t shows no one told them to, because there was no one with enough knowledge of the Forward game and natural authority to do it. The penalties continued. Would things have been different if the Scotland captain was actually in the lineout and knew exactly what was going on? One can only hope so.

Far beyond the lineout however, discipline has been all but absent all tournament. Again this speaks to lack of leadership. It shows a failure to adapt to (and influence) referees, and a breakdown of very basic rugby skills. The game may be complicated to the average person on the street; these men live it and have no excuses for not following the laws.

Of course this lack of discipline extends off the field as well. Led by the supposed leaders of this team in Hogg, Russell, and Price, a group of players violated the players’ rules (that were agreed by players; not coaches) and decided that scraping a win against Italy was worthy of a night out on the town.

If you’re minded to think there’s nothing so terribly bad about rugby players having a few beers after a game there are plenty who would agree with you, but the bubble rules were in place and either these players simply had no care for the wishes of their teammates who had voted against nights out, or they felt unable to openly disagree with them.

If your captain feels he doesn’t know how to speak to the coaches or the players, once again we’re back at a failure of leadership.

And what of Gregor Townsend; where does this leave him?

Well he’ll have eighteen months to turn it around because the SRU seem unlikely to dump their coach this close to a World Cup. But none of this looks good for him.

If the captain is leading this sort of ill-discipline, there’s a very real problem at the root of the team and ultimately the coach is where the buck stops. Perhaps he has a group of “stars” who think the rules don’t apply to them; it’s his job to ensure they do. Alternatively, perhaps he’s been too heavy-handed in the control he exerts over them and they felt they had no option but to rebel.

But to paraphrase Dylan Hartley, it’s not the 80s anymore. This is not an amateur game. It is a professional sport. This team is staggeringly unprofessional and either it’s the head coach’s fault for allowing that to happen, or simply his responsibility to fix it. In either case, public scrutiny for once is warranted.

Scotland can be better than this, yes. But the stark truth is that right now they are not, and there have been no signs of anything but regression. The poor results this year are a direct reflection of the poor performances Scotland have turned in. This is a shell of the squad that was, and the squad that was didn’t win enough when it mattered either.

Scotland’s future can only be glanced at through the murkiest of mirrors and it looks absolutely grim. Far too often this year they have reminded us of the Bad Old Days of a decade ago and beyond. When they were far too easily seen as the worst Tier One nation in the world.

Whether you’re minded to say that today depends largely on how you view Italy, and mercifully, the existence of Wales.

Wales are terrible at rugby.

But Scotland are something else entirely.

175 Responses

  1. I agree with all of it apart from any criticism of Darcy Graham.

    Hogg has to go as captain and the lip service to “honesty” has to stop.
    Don’t agree with much Jim Telfer said, but, honest players please stand up.

  2. Sadly I have to agree with your assessment. I say sadly because I agree the SRU will do nothing about Townsend until after another 4th or 5th place in next years 6N and another group exit in the WC. What you omitted to mention is that one of the reasons we struggle is that we are weak in 4 positions in the pack, TH 2nd row and no. 8. What you also failed to mention is that potentially we have the best backline in the 6N unfortunately Townsend fails to pick them. The fact that Steyn , Kinghorn, Johnson and Harris were selected on Saturday is grounds enough for Townsend to be binned.(although I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt that a couple of selections were due to injuries and suspension.)

    1. That’s only three positions, or do you mean both locks?
      But also (via Kevin): in Scotland’s last 20 games they have won 10, lost 2 with Sam Johnson in the lineup and won 3; lost 5 without him. In short, currently Scotland play better with him in the team than not.

      1. Yes. Johnson is a very consistent performer. He isn’t eye catching in his play but he is a reliable 12. Similar can be said of Harris. What I don’t think works to Scotlands advantage, is playing them together. To me there is a clear lack of creativity in midfield, when they play. It gives opposition one less area to focus on.
        It’s a real shame Redpath can’t get himself healthy as yet. In his short appearances he looks a difference maker. We at least need to recognize his type of player and have a back up to that and stick with it imo…chopping and changing per opposition does not really work.

    2. Its tricky because I think the back selections are broadly right and they are the best available in their position (apart from Steyn, (Vellacott unlucky too)) but despite being endlessly talked up by themselves and the coaches their decision making and handling skills and contact are letting them down something rotten. It felt like almost all the backs made a hash of something at the weekend. Glad they had one of the best training weeks ever. GT fatigue?

  3. Correct both locks. When was the last time we has a world class lock. And yes perhaps mentioning Johnson in that group was a little harsh.

    1. Yeah.. we find the ideal modern lock difficult to find in Scotland…like we just don’t breed them.
      The closest current player imo ..that has the potential to have the right level of aggression , athleticism, power, leadership..is Alex Craig. If not him.. that’s the type we need in the pack I think.

  4. Chris. I’ve just posted a link to your article on Wales On Line. That should get your circulation figures up. No, no need to thank me.

    Only jesting………

    1. I like to think there’s a dartboard over there with my face on it.

      But jokes aside I’m sure Wales will turn it around. I’m far less certain about Scotland.

  5. What a great piece! I’ve read a lot of very angry posts on various forums but this one is balanced, thoughtful and pretty much nails it.

    That was a crushingly disappointing 6N; I feel similar to the way I did after the 2019 WC. We were just clueless across the entire board. Finn and Hogg look physically and mentally exhausted. This is the challenge of not having centrally contacted players like the Irish. Finn clearly needs a break. And I do feel the last 2 years of the pandemic have been tough on players, especially with the bubbles.

    But ultimately the mistakes on the pitch and the mistakes by the coaches fall on them. Some kind of reset or deep intake of breath is needed. Toonie needs to decide on a consistent game plan and make consistent selections. The Tombola must go. Stop being so defensive. Recognize you must be better. The players needs to decide if they really do care or if they don’t. The bar visit is the last straw. Grow up or go away. Be professional. The penalties and countless mistakes are on the players. Talk about standard is cheap. You have to do it. You have to want it.

    And yes, Richie for captain. It was obvious in 2019 when he was the only player against Japan to stand up. He’s a proper Test match animal. Build around him.

    As ever I live in hope. Will this be a watershed moment. God, I hope so.

    1. Yes..a major problem for Scotland …is the fact ..many of our top players are playing in different leagues ..simply because 1st they pay more 2nd they offer something fresh for the player.
      1st choice players having to travel to clubs throughout the 6N is a difference maker. Ireland players look fresh every match…for that very reason.
      They control the well being of the core players and allow the fringe players to return to clubs for their fitness & form..and keep their clubs competitive.

      1. Well, yes, but they can’t all stay at Glasgow & Edinburgh if we want more than 2 players available, and with no spots in the team what would we do about player development and who would they learn from?

        I agree that there is a fair bit of filler at both clubs, without being mean, mediocre players with neither a future nor a past in dark blue. I presume they are good for the budget…

      2. Yeah … we need to think outside the box just to get parity..lack of comparable funds for infrastructure and an additional side is a huge inhibitor. I’m just not sure we are doing enough.
        Im not a fan of paying for too many overseas players to supposedly keep our clubs competitive during test series and comps. It hasn’t really worked …what actual success has come from that? We might as well have developed youth in those positions ..it would have cost less and we would have had the same lack of success…but actually developed players professionally. Some good quality OS players sure…but we’ve gone overboard I think…too much mediocrity taking up development space.

      3. We don’t have good enough locks to reach better international performance levels …so what do Glasgow do…pre contract another Sth African lock who bench fills for Sale. Yep that’ll help! It’ll be the same mullering from Leinster & co with or without him I think.

    2. I think you’ve put your finger on it – it’s pretty obvious the Scotland camp is a pressure cooker, and it must be stressful as hell. No wonder they’re an exhausted disaster with coach-killer performances. I think they only beat England as they hated England more than each other.
      Either the mindset needs to change – which may involve some difficult conversations – or, if they cannot change, the toxic elements have to go. They’ve got themselves into a right state.
      Townsend clearly cannot fix it. Hard to see how they can replace him given team look uncoachable. Best bet is bring in some kind of conflict resolution specialist. Or therapist. Or that lady from cheer, who would have benched all 3 of hogg price and Russell, told them firmly it was for their own good and kept them there until they got their heads sorted.

  6. Nice article, Chris. It’s a harsh assessment but I mostly agree with it.

    Genuine question: Have any of our players been the same since the Lions? Price, maybe? Against Italy at least. The rest have been pretty abject. Hogg, Russell, Fagerson and Watson look half the players that went out.

    All of them should be given the summer off and we need to focus on finding alternatives for when they aren’t performing. Cannot be good for them to feel they are so important, they will start even when they’re playing like they are currently.
    This should mean more caps for Schoeman and Darge, first ones for Ollie Smith and recalls for Hastings and Thompson.

    The Kinghorn experiment, while interesting, needs to end and he needs moved back to the position he was so good in a few years ago. Hopefully his time at 10 will have helped work on the deficiencies he showed at fb (lack of vision, poor first-up tackling) and he and Smith can each get a run out there.

    The quest for some form of attacking threat in the centre will need to continue with Bennett, Jones, Hutchinson and (hopefully) Redpath given time there and winger depth is clearly not what we thought it was with Steyn’s poor performances. Would like to see Mclean back and Kyle Rowe given a shot.

    As the article says, Toonie ain’t gonna be canned before the WC but other elements need shaken up. Not entirely sure what AB Zonagh has been doing but it isn’t working at all and needs reevaluated. Hogg needs to be removed from captaincy, which it seems he has, and it given to Ritchie. Also would like an inquiry into why our defence and scrum have gone from positions of strength bordering on weapons, to weaknesses.

    First time in a while I was wishing the 6N was over with two rounds left to play. Let’s not have that happen again please Scotland.

  7. The article says “Scotland were terrible, and the first step in rectifying that is accepting that it’s true.” Now I don’t blame you for this, given the only other two practical solutions in the article are “make Ritchie captain” and “change the laws of physics”, but I assure you as someone that’s been reading the comments on this site: accepting that things are terrible is not the issue.

    You’re absolutely right in a lot of your comments though. Last year was our best chance in the 6N era of winning the thing. If Duhan had gone over at the death against Wales, and everything else had stayed the same, we would have done it. We couldn’t keep relying on the other teams not getting their act together, and France and Ireland cranked it up a notch this year.

    1. I don’t think anyone here has any delusions about the state of Scotland, but the post-match presser in Dublin suggests that Townsend and Hogg (so presumably a majority of the squad) were upset at the questions posed. “There was a lot of good out there,” “one of our best performances,” “[the press] are focusing on the negatives,” etc.

      If there’s no acceptance of failure from them, there’s no indication they even recognise that’s what it was, and so know how to put a halt to it.

      1. It’s utterly depressing if they genuinely believe the performances improved during the comp culminating in “our best performance against Ireland”.If they think that is the level we need to perform at then we are more f…..d than I thought.At least Eddie Jones had the decency to admit that England’s results were his direct responsibility and he was therefore underperforming.

  8. It’s hard not to think the following.

    Lockdown – managed, little social contact, decent displays

    Able to drink after games without it being managed – back to a poorer level of display.

    I think some have to come to terms with the two things.

    The coach has his limits,
    This generation isn’t that golden

  9. This is a golden generation on talent – quality starter and coverage in every position and in terms of personnel it seems about to peak.

    Not necessarily in this order to start:
    Schoeman/Sutherland/Kebble
    McInally/Turner
    Fagerson/Nel
    Gray/Gray/Cummings/Skinner
    Ritchie/Watson/Darge
    Dempsey/Fagerson
    Price/Horne/Vellacott
    Russell/Hastings
    Taylor/Johnson/Harris
    Jones/Bennett/Hutchinson
    Hogg/Duhan/Darcy/Maitland/McLean/Kinghorn

    Too many players have been discarded or offended randomly, the dressing room has gone, tactics redundant and results flatter to deceive after a WC everyone has kindly chalked off.

    General consensus seems to be a
    change of coach – there are less sides looking at the moment so it IS the time to attract maybe a top club coach who wants a guaranteed step up to national level (or return to tried and tested BBVC).

    Bring in an O’Gara, Prendergast, MacFarland or BBVC and attacking coach (Mike Blair) on truncated cycle of one Six Nations and the World Cup. A feel good wave, inject some fun into things and see if the honeymoon period yields any surprises as major underdogs. Maybe Blair takes it on after this if the head coach wants pastures new.

    To complete the picture, Ritchie, Watson or Darge to captain every game: captain, vice captain and captain in waiting – all working with each other. Give Russell the backs as co-vice captain (Hastings/Thompson to take over whenever he plays). Succession planning might help grow some leaders in the right places.

    No time like the present, many of these players fall off the chart after this WC.

    Shot to nothing.

    1. I liked Vern Cotter he was making progress and creating a team and he had less talent and depth of resources. At the time putting Townsend was a decision based on a concern that he was going to go South to manage rugby. Scotland have never recovered from that decision.

      1. Did he have that much less depth and talent? Always find that slightly difficult to asses given where players can be in their career.

        Nel, Dickinson, Barclay, Laidlaw, Seymour, Maitland, Taylor and Dunbar of then when their bodies had less miles in the legs would all walk into the current side IMO

        relative to their talent at the time I would argue there isn’t a great difference at all between the squad of now and 2017

      2. Dickinson/Grant
        Ford/Hall
        Murray/Nel
        Hines/MacLeod
        Hamilton/Murray
        White/Brown
        Rennie/Barclay
        Taylor/Beattie

        That pack utterly rinses the current incarnation I’m afraid.

      3. So we should get Andy Robinson/Scott Johnson back? Also, results might beg to differ as to the success of that group of forwards despite the cumulative talent in there…

      4. Come on Rory, bit of critical thinking please. Unfortunately the comparison with the backs would be very different and would stir up some memories best forgotten.

        However the original point was to illustrate how wild these remarks about a golden generation are. Backs, vastly improved. Forwards have declined.

      5. Take Zander Fagerson’s most destructive scrummaging performance, Euan Murray was destroying scrums to that extent or more routinely.

        Hines was feared by opposition packs and could play as well.

        Jason White was the archetypal captain and Brown was in the same mould. Giants among men in every sense.

        Ross Rennie and Simon Taylor were absolutely outstanding talents too often missed through injury admittedly but unbelievable players.

        5 world class players straight away with other contenders right in there too e.g. Dickinson who was a top, top loosehead for a long period and Scott Murray who was peerless at the lineout.

        Current pack? Hamish Watson with Rory Darge hot on his heels, that’s it. Schoeman is very good and might join them.

        We’ve something of a golden generation (of Billy big bollocks) in the backs but our forwards aren’t as good as other packs we’ve out.

      6. The short point is we couldn’t scrum for toffee until a certain WP Nel which takes you to 2015. He’s still around, there is a worthwhile successor (*ducks for cover – while reminding you of NZ), and we have the imperious Pierre Schoeman at loosehead. Two hookers that can hook. As well as Ritchie, Watson/Darge and Gray. The incoming Dempsey and most improved Fagerson. Some golden age thinking right here.

      7. Couldn’t scrum for toffee until 2015? Oh dear you’ve had a mare.

        You obviously never seen the Jacobsen/Dickinson/Grant, Ford, Murray units then.

        Far, far more destructive than anything since, apart from on Sundays.

      8. Absolutely agree, we need him back or a similarly respected coach from the Southern Hemisphere. I would also drop Hogg and Russell, whatever they think they should respect the coach and fellow players. None of this ill discipline off the field would have happened under Cotter. The Toonie Tombola is a joke which is also sadly reality. The best Scottish teams in the past have been settled, taken a few big defeats but held together got the experience and won Grand Slams. It’s the only way with limited resources.

    2. Double down on the point that the scrum never functioned with any consistency until Nel came along. 2013-2015 was disastrous. Earlier during Cuttitta’s reign it only fizzled – Euan Murray could be world class when he chose to play, when he didn’t it was a steep drop off and were duly humped or booted out the WC by the Argentinians. Chunk was good on the other side but often injured and early career Dickinson was not as good as late career Dickinson – who did his best work with Nel (incidentally who qualified after Murray had retired – so your depth at tighthead is a fabrication). Prior to Cuttitta and back to Frank Hadden, and then to turn of the century, it was a pretty sorry story on the whole – guessing that is long before you were born. As for hooker, there is no need to re-hash the long-standing debates about Ford.

      Maybe you will waive the odd game against Australia, or wooden spoon confounding win against Ireland but they were exceptions to the rule.

      1. Ooooph you’re still having a mare here. It’s OK to admit you never saw those units at work.

        Murray was a far superior scrummager to anyone we’ve had since including Nel, Murray used to obliterate opposition front rows. And Ford for all his faults was a potent scrummager.

        Cross and Low as his understudies, yep drop off but nae much worse than Berghan and better than Sebastian or Rae.

        Anyone the point is that the days of woe in the scrum aren’t pre Nel they are post Smith and pre Murray when Kerr, Douglas, Craig and so on frequented the frontrow.

      2. Riiiiiight, who is Craig who frequented the front row for Scotland – lol did you watch this era or read names on a page?

        Irrespective, to your point, you are saying, Scotland only struggled in the pack between Tom Smith (loosehead) and Euan Murray (tighthead), ie 2006 (despite actually finishing 3rd that year and beating both France and England); Cuttitta was appointed in 2009 for no reason; and Scotland were not bullied out of both 2007 (Murray and Ford playing) and 2011 WCs (Murray chose not to play) by Argentina.

        Don’t get me wrong the backs were largely awful until the golden generation (and comparatively worse than the forwards if you can say that), bar Patterson and couple of pairs of brothers. However if you talk to a fan of any other nation, especially England/Wales, about the last two decades they will flag Scotland’s inability to get parity in the forwards and as Rory says this matches the results.

        There was a sea change with Nel’s introduction and consistency and it brought out the best in Dickinson, and really should add J Gray’s emergence to that in terms of all round forward play.

        Back to the starting point of all this – once the golden generation of J Gray, Hogg, Russell have gone that is a missed opportunity for Scotland and do not see anyone coming along who will fill their boots. Nel, being the cornerstone at tighthead, is very much part of that generation for Scotland but is at least transitioning to Fagerson. This is the last World Cup where that group is still in their peak years (apart from Nel who is still good enough to do a half against the best sides in the world).

      3. Oops I meant Craig Smith! And unfortunately I did watch this era.

        I don’t think the forwards or in particular the scrum were the issue in those days. Euan Murray was the best tighthead we’ve had thisbside of 2000 and he had a competent supporting cast most of the time.

        The issue was the turgid gameplan that seemed to bank on Dan Parks kicking in play and Paterson kicking penalties because our backs were so limited. You won’t win much with any combo of Henderson, Craig, Morrison, Di Rollo as your midfield.

  10. At a loss how anyone who has often watched these players, not just for their International team, but also club sides can claim this is a golden generation, relevant to the utter dross Scotland have served up in the past, yes they are better than some groups, but it is a very, very low water mark which by no means makes them golden

    This squad v the other sides they come up against are the 4th/5th best group in the 6N, by quite a comfortable distance.

    The reality is, they just aren’t good enough for what people want them to ultimately achieve in the 6 Nations, and as well as not being as good as, don’t take it as seriously as others, Finn for instance cares, but he doesn’t care enough or as much as the 10’s of the other sides in the 6 Nations, and such small detail is why this group will keep failing.

    1. I think the comparator is the other generations of Scottish players playing at the top level – to be considered golden for our purposes! This is a group that has variously had: club success at top clubs (Saracens, Exeter and even Glasgow) in Europe and domestically; outstanding pockets of games against other international sides and the southern hemisphere (which includes what should have been a run to WC semi under the old regime); unprecedented Lions representation; best ever U20s WC (who can forget the Darcy try); and two players who have legitimate claim to be in the top 3 in their position in the world, one of whom just happens to play fly half for the club side with biggest budget in the world. If you can’t recognise that is golden for Scotland, despite this last tournament and all the problems, I feel for you.

      1. Golden generation is a bit of a dead saying if you aren’t speaking about rivals though or haven’t won much gold, what the teams they are up against do is massively relevant to how golden a generation is, a “golden generation” also generally has a fair bit of gold to show for it, and not use mention of a side who finished 5th in a tournament as some kind of validation of “gold”

        How many of this squad were part of that Glasgow team for instance? I can tell you, 3, the others who play for Glasgow and Edinburgh now have been involved in the same general stumbling about failure to grab the gold displays Scotland get themselves involved in when the pressure really comes on and it really starts to matter in Europe AND the league. They aren’t sides winning gold, there is little evidence in what they do to suggest sides on the brink of much amazing, even with another coach

        Evidence shows how most of them perform regardless of who their coach is.

        There is as much in this squad to say they are a golden generation as there is say Scotland have a “golden coach” based on the logic of what Glasgow won and the coach leading the side to those results you make mention of (they have neither golden coach or generation)

        There are as many winners in an utterly flogged and now over the hill Welsh side now as there is in the Scotland one, probably more in all honesty given Scarlets won the title, way way after that Glasgow team, who won it when? 7 years ago, again, 3 of them, Glasgows side is a mile removed from that one now.

        The Lions representation was massively in part because of the coach who went, the coach who seemingly isn’t good enough for the National team, which is all a bit chicken egg, which creates a who is the biggest dafty in that group scenario given the events of the last week, they also went on a Lions tour when the Lions were a bit crap, and wasn’t that gold at all either.

        The side with the biggest budget in the world, who, stumble about, chuck in the odd decent and entertaining display, but don’t win gold, which sounds a bit familiar.

        The FB who, when his side have needed to win gold has been dropped before..and who in reality, is pretty overrated by a fair few Scotland fans, and deep down, most know it.

        “golden”

        It’s a decent enough group, they aren’t winners, and the harsh reality is this 6N compound by the rank attitude shown by players the last week has exposed and turned up the volume on the nagging doubts most have always had, and it is reflecting from the mood drums from most fans now.

      2. There is no golden generation. But Toony needs to make a radical decisions to prune some very experienced players now to make room for 15 green shoots to grow.

    2. I agree… there just isn’t enough to back up saying it’s a ‘golden generation’. It’s really just a feeling many of us have that these players can perform at a higher level than what they have been.
      They have won zip that matters….that’s the reality. The comments and pre match statements made by coaches and ‘ex captain’ have not helped one bit.
      I think we’ll be a better team in ‘27 than in ‘23. I’m more optimistic about players being developed than this squad.
      I’m not much of a Hogg fan ..he has had his ‘great play’ moments. He is one of those players you could easily put together a great highlights real…but for me he lacks the composure needed to win anything of note. He isn’t a team player when he needs to be. His mistakes often come from being greedy and selfish in possession. His many mistakes have cost Scotland at critical junctures of critical games. On top of that , even as captain, he f’d up…he seems to have make constant apologies to everyone on and off the field. I’m just saying that he is seen by some as part of this ‘golden generation’ …and one of those players who just hasn’t backed that up.

  11. Someone on here asked after the Wales game for discipline stats for each player during the 6N:
    We averaged 12 penalties per match. Needs to be in single figures for us to be competitive.
    Of those that played more than 60 minutes our worst offender was unsurprisingly Zander with 7 penalties – an average of one per 38 minutes played. Nel was just as bad if not worse, though with 6 at one per 25 minutes. Turner and Gilcho were the next worst offenders on 5 (every 46 and 74 minutes respectively).
    The cleanest forward was Darge. No penalties over 271 minutes, which as a flanker is impressive. Maybe he wasn’t trying hard enough? Lol. Compare that with Ritchie who gave away 2 penalties in the 60 minutes he was on the pitch.
    In the backs Hogg and Graham were worst with 4 each, both having played the full 420 minutes of the series (Inc injury time). Price is our cleanest back, with just a single penalty in 324 minutes. Finn was similar but his penalty came with a yellow card!

    1. Z Fagerson is a liability. Will still be in development when he 32. He plays because we are ridiculously short at TH. Our best next up is a player is well past his prime.

      Our atrocious penalty count is telling… but even more so are the % that were totally avoidable. We just gift possession and points like it’s Christmas. We’ll never stand a chance of success doing that.

      Darge ..like Ritchie… is a player to build a team around…and we should be doing that moving forward. Both natural top test level players with a winning attitude.

    2. But this is the point the number of pens isn’t as crucial as the stupidity of them. Penalties happen particularly when scrambling in defence and at scrum time when you can be correct and dominant but penalised.

      Did Nel do any stupid penalties? I doubt it. Did Zander? I remember 3 obvious ones right away that were less than braindead. Why do them? It added nothing at all?

      Turner diving off his feet in Italy was crazy and the sealing off when we were dominant I think against Wales by Christie when he just came on was criminal.

      We’re not far away really yet miles away….

      We are arguably the top of the second tier of the 6 teams at present and but a few moments and ref decision from winning a grand slam in 2021.

      Mistakes happen tries will be lost and chances not taken. But as in the penalties its the reason behind them.

      You make a team decision throughout the match and take offence like Edwards does in losing a try and keep ur head. It’s not as hard as folks think and effectively we did this in 2021.

      I don’t think we came 4th in 2021 due to incompetence but fine margins and ultimately a ref call against Wales. We didn’t buckle with 14 we fought and competed and deserved a pen to seal the win.

      This year is different….and in truth autumn too. Autumn looked good from my view because we won without playing well which is crucial at times for a winning team but we have now won 5 matches from 9 and have we played well in any of them truthfully? That is worrying.

      Fix stupid pens and team decisions and we have a team to compete. It’s not hard yet too hard for many of these players it seems

  12. TH is the position of most concern for me. The incumbent is an ill disciplined penalty machine and Nel surely won’t last much longer at test level.
    The SRU need to make use of the new 3 year rule and scour the globe for a decent TH with a Scottish Granny who hasn’t played international test rugby for three years.

    1. Maybe but cant help but feel that Fagerson will do well in a team which is performing and in good spirits – he certainly has phenomenal experience for a TH of his age which is half the battle; Nel did a job against England which is not to be overly sniffed at.

      1. I’m not so sure. We were in control against Wales and held a decent lead in last year’s 6N and he went and got a red card for a daft and unnecessary challenge on Wyn Jones which arguably cost us the game. He also struggled with the Lions in the summer.

    2. Fagerson is a liability, the collapsing the first scrum to see what the ref thinks thing which is often spoke about, if true, total nonsense, looked utterly rank on the Lions tour and like a player who most knew shouldn’t have went

      Another who is just overrated and doesn’t perform close to the reputation some speak him into, can’t be trusted

      If you weren’t Scottish and Welsh or Irish you would be waiting on the mistakes coming from him, they generally tend to come.

    3. Yep, cupboard is super-bare at TH, especially with both Kebble and McCallum opting for loosehead for their clubs this season.

      We’re obviously looking elsewhere – this Angus Williams guy looks all right – bit we’re an injury away from a genuine crisis at all times. Javan Sebastian anyone?

      But this is what I don’t get about the negative folk. They seem to simultaneously think that our players are all lazy talentless penalty machines, and that they’re a golden generation being squandered by Townsend. Schrodinger’s rugby squad.

  13. Chris, what a fantastic article, wish I could have written it.
    We are indeed in a sorry place. I have been following Scottish rugby for over 30 years and like many, did think we at last had a Golden generation of players who could perhaps achieve something good and perhaps win our first 6N.
    Sadly, after this years performances ,I feel we are no nearer now than previously. I stopped going to international matches some time ago as wins in my presence were rare as hens teeth and instead took to watching behind the sofa.
    I fear now even this is too much and am considering getting behind another sport. I am fed up with watching our professional players do the wrong thing at the wrong time , give away needless penalties or simply fail to show the aggression which our Welsh and Irish cousins bring to the party.
    As an aside, Hogg has had a mixed bag as captain but I am surprised at the number of posters who seem to think Ritchie is the answer. Has he any proven experience in the post to suggests he is the answer, if not the weight of responsibility can implode a player as happened to Jonny Gray at Glasgow.

    1. Yeah but Johnny Gray isn’t a great example either…. Never a captain either. I wouldn’t have selected J Gray or Hogg… Gray is not commanding or vocal enough to be a good captain….Hogg is emotionally too unstable to be a captain. Ritchie makes some mistakes…who doesn’t?.. but he gets over them quickly , mentally moves forward and is vocal and bonded with his teammates.

      1. I have no problem on Ritchie the player, he is one of the few automatic picks , just don’t want to see his form dip with the weight of responsibility as seems to happen to many.

    2. Fans are shouting for Richie as there is very few standout candidates, who are guaranteed a place. Richie can be a bit aggresive IMO. If Toonie continues as he has Harris is a possibility IMO. He seems calm, not the most dynamic however mature enough for the role.

    3. For me the choice is Ritchie based not just on on-field performance (Watson is also excellent, for example, having clocked something like his two millionth successful tackle in a row at the weekend), but also his mentality.

      He has an aggression which is too often lacking in Scotland players (Gray is a good example – great worker but seems to lack the belligerent ruthlessness that leads to success for so many other teams), and behind the scenes his personal life and attitude seem to contribute to a maturity that belies his years. He’s also been honest in the past about Scotland’s failures, rather than brushing them under the carpet which is a refreshing change of tact.

      Clearly the staff feel he’s a leader as well, as he was named captain for the Summer last year.

      1. Completely agree re Ritchie, been saying it for a while: Captain! I also think Cummings has that edge, and Schoeman looks like he has some leadership too. A forward captain may also fix Russell to some extent who needs that solidity to play off. Hogg needs to work on his game, and his humility, he overestimates his talents which, though prodigious, are not enough; teams win games. He is a truly awful Captain.
        At this stage I think we need to stick with the Toonmeister but hopefully he’ll recall some of the exiles like Jones and have an open mind. I would like to see a quiet, aggressive team that don’t hype up their hopes of world domination, but with intensity, accuracy and pure doggedness start to deliver wins.

  14. article might be a bit harsh in places but reality is there for all to see – we remain also rans in grand scheme of things and dontt seem capable of stepping up, for whatever reason

    Tom English article on BBC website isnt saying much different

  15. If Townsend had the backing of Hogg, Russell, Graham, Price, Johnson and Tuipulotu then I suspect they wouldn’t have gone out after the Italy match. There’s a growing unease brewing and it’s clear even on the pitch. Oh to be a fly.

    1. If those players really wanted to “make a nation proud” I doubt they would have went out

      1. Yep it’s like they’ve formed their own knitting circle….I can’t be bothered with that divisory stuff…it’s a bit cowardly and disruptes morale. It’s a team sport. I honestly wouldn’t select any of them until they all grow a set and start acting like proper men.

  16. Harsh but a fair assessment. The Wales game was the most troubling, as that is a bad Wales team in need of rebuilding.

    I would bet my wages that Hogg will be stripped of the captaincy. Albeit he should resign. Not so much the error in judgement on going out on the town but became he is not a leader and is not an inspirational source for a very flat team. That is clear. His selfish decision to go for the line at a pivotal moment is an indictment. After making the decision not to throw the pass he had to score.

    I have generally believed that forwards are better captains. There are exceptions but not many. Therefore Ritchie, Gilchrist are the favourites.

    Townsend needs to go but won’t. The SRU should never of hired him so early in his managerial career. He was still learning, and well has now stopped learning and looks lost. How many backline options will he try, players have no chance with the complete lack of selection consistency. But I fear that Townsend will stay until after the world cup which will invariably be another failure. I was hoping that defeat against Ireland (it was always about how many points) would have been bigger to force SRUs hand.

    1. I think Gilchrist would have become a very good captain from when Cotter was HC. It’s unfortunate how injuries and changes altered that path for him.
      He is too old now I think… he won’t be starter in the longer term…and the next captain needs to be at a good mid 20s age to allow them to grow into the role.
      Ritchie is the obvious candidate. I an see Darge and M Fagerson being future captains too. Watson is a very good player but I’ve never thought of him as a captain…and again wrong age for me. I’ve also a hunch vellacott would be a very good captain….if he ever gets a chance to play.

      1. Yeah if my memory serves me correct Vern appointed Gilchrist captain as soon as he took charge but then Laidlaw stepped in after Gilchrist got injured. Although he was a ponderous SH I though Laidlaw did a decent job as captain and seemed to have good leadership attributes. Hogg doesn’t have the same leadership qualities IMO and has a petulance and immaturity about him. It also doesn’t help that he’s a walking advert for cosmetic surgery especially when you compare him to previous captains like Jason White and Kelly Brown who were absolute warriors.

  17. I am wondering, as WRU struggles to sustain four clubs, and we struggle to find opportunities to develop talent with just two…if there is value to be gained from some arrangement for a shared URC team based somewhere there is actually some rugby money. Would that be feasible?

    True, WRU and SRU are not friends but the real enemy is us both sliding inevitably backwards while IRFU punch on.

    Obvious place would be to try to tap into exile community in South East England (including key market of SA exiles)…Would piss the RFU off massively, but I don’t see how they could actually stop it?

  18. 2 points.
    We changed attack coach this year from Mike Blair to AB Zonda. Went from highest try scoring meanest defence last 2 6 nations to mince . Coincidence ? Players not liking new gameplan ?
    Ali Price – (apart from Italy game v inferior opposition) Slow pass from breakdown, endless box kicks giving away possession. Compare and contrast with speed and play of Gibson Park on Sat . What would Russell do with that speed of ball and line breaks by scrum half?

    1. I’m minded to agree. Thought Gibson-Park was exceptional at the weekend and provided a stark contrast in speed.

      I tend not to write a huge amount about Ali Price because he has plenty of fans within and outwith the game, and I’ve never really understood why so have accepted that I’m just missing something that everyone else sees.

      But looking to the past, the confidence that I had in Blair, Cusiter, and Laidlaw (even in inferior squads) just isn’t there.

      As for the coaching change, it does seem likely that’s a big factor in Scotland’s anaemic attack. It is true that teams that kick more tend to win more, but Scotland’s kicking (box or otherwise) has been poor this year.

      1. A big part of the pace JGP was able to put into the game was due to Ireland’s exceptional ruck speed. He is quick to the breakdown, but he is also often mistake ridden and can be a bit of a headless chicken. It’s only in the last season or two he’s been accepted by Irish fans as a quality player because of this – strangely coinciding with when Irish forwards have been able to put the ball on a plate for him and punch holes around the fringes he can slip through.

      2. Interesting you say this about Price, I wasn’t a fan with the way he changed to become a younger Laidlaw when he began starting – ponderous and aimless kicks.

        Then he played with the Lions and I saw what others did. He hasn’t kicked on from that in the 6N through apart from the Italy game. The balls he gives from the breakdown aren’t as good as they could be given where he was last summer.

        The issue for me is that Toonie is very loyal to his starting nine and rarely gives the competition a chance to improve. Vellacott was a breath of fresh air in the minutes he played against Italy, and Ben White has impressed too.

        They have to be given the chance on the summer tour with Ali rested IMO.

  19. I want you I need you but there ain’t no way I’m ever gonna love you(like this).

  20. Excellent article if I still disagree with parts. But it had to be said and all ppl involved in the first team would do well to read this.

    Mistakes and penalties happen but if you watch Ireland they make honest ones and professional ones that have to happen to their overall advantage….we are brainless selfish and dumb….

    It has too change. Please will someone help this to fundamentally change? I’m begging now.

  21. Wales are not terrible at rugby.
    They had a poor championship but would’ve beaten France if Jon Davies had taken a lollipop, outscored England 3 tries to 1 and…. beat Scotland.

    Even v Ireland their scoreline was about the same as ours.

    Oh, and they did enter the tournament as Champions, something we’ve never done.

    One of our problems imho is that we have a messed up perception of our level in relation to other teams.

    It leads to the wild expectations, complacency and inevitable doom n gloom that characterises our game and looks so weird to outsiders (there’s a reason the Irish press are on our case. We look nuts and it’s good copy).

    This attitude is not healthy. It doesn’t help us maximise what we have.

    A respectful appreciation of what we’ve got to do to win might be better. Regarding Wales, even ‘bad’ Welsh sides rarely lose 6N games in Cardiff. We had no right to win there, and I’m not sure the pervasive and apparently persistent attitude that it was a gimme helps us.

  22. What has amazed me about this 6N is that we do not have a single comment written with positive platitudes (worth checking the meaning of that word- it says it all). Every year we get some in trying to diffuse the passion. Not one , yet we should have !

    Why ? Because this 6 Nations is no different to the others .

    Have we witnessed MORE: less obvious selections, un-forced changes to teams, players sent back to club, players brought in to the squad, players frozen out of the squad, new caps tested, poor decision making on the pitch, ego clouding judgement, breaches in protocol.

    As for the breaches of protocol, easy , leave them out this summer. We are deluded if we think we cannot do without those guys.

  23. The top teams do the basics very well. How many try scoring opportunities were missed by simple passes not going to hand? Compare how Ireland and France look after the ball at the breakdown, how many opportunities did Watson, Darge get to jackal? Very few. How many opportunities did Ireland/France get to jackal? Many. Leading to increasing penalty count. These are basic issues that shouldn’t be the Scotland coach’s problem.
    The Lions should be rested over the summer. In the past most teams with Lions have struggled the following year, seems to he a regular hangover, and as was pointed out by many before the Lions tour, Scotland’s defensive and attack strategies used on Tour will be used by other nations against us.
    I agree the Captain should be Ritchie, with the others like Darge/ Matt Fagerson(most improved player?) given leadership roles in Argentina.
    All this talk about the World Cup being only 18 months away. Who really cares. Scotland will never get close until we make progress in the Six Nations so it’s pointless even thinking about it.

  24. I think we need to forget this nonsense about building towards the World Cup. Before that we have another 6 nations to endure and unless we undertake change now we will be having a similar debate next year at this time. Quite frankly the Toonie tombola cannot continue. The nonsense he spouts in after match press conferences has to be brought to an end. Toonie has to go. He is in a results driven business and the results have been poor. I have seen no progress since the last World Cup. The senior players in the squad need to up their game. Younger players need to start showing what their made of and they need to look at what the top players in the world in their position do to reach and remain at the top. The culture within the squad and the SRU needs to change. Mediocrity is no longer acceptable to the paying public.

  25. As part of the “penalties” debate Merlot gives useful stats on who and how many in the 6N matches. Do the players ‘rated’ give away a similar number of pens when playing for their clubs ?
    If not , why not ?
    If they do why are thy selected for the national team?

  26. I do think that our pack needs a relaunch and an alternative to Richie must be Skinner. Skinner has been at the heart of the Exeter pack for the past 5 years after being captain of a Bucs winning Exeter Uni side. He knows what makes a tough pack and he is coming up to Edinburgh to build his career so I think lets give him the critical 2nd row and skipper role. Back row options look fine between darge/Watson, fagerson/ Dempsey, Richie/Baylis we have a decent back row 1st and backup choices … what we are missing is 3 more tough bruiser second rows … not sure where we go … Do we bring Hunter Hill back in from the cold? Can we get Gray some tattoos? I actually think Argentina tour is perfect timing .. Lions can stay at home and we can get some game time into Vellacott and Hastings and a fullback option Smith or Kinghorn and centres hutch, Bennett, redpath, … I might start to enjoy watching Scotland again … until the 1st penalty!!

    1. IMac : Townsend opened by saying how the Lions experience would be beneficial to Scotland. Nah : just more superfast talk. Skinner is captain material. Lions out but Duhan should tour.

    2. That’s not a bad shout. Ashman at hooker, Skinner at lock and Ritchie at 6 is the spine we should build the pack around in my opinion. Darge at 7 also but he’ll have Watson to see off first.

      1. Yes I agree on Skinner …again though….if he ever gets a consistent selection , which GT seems incapable of doing. Why Ashman wasn’t given match time really surprised me too…played well on his debut only to be another promising player dumped out the 23.

  27. I remember the tour of Argentina where G Horne and Hastings were on fire and we played some great attacking stuff down there. I remember thinking it was some of the best rugby I’d seen from Scotland in a long time. I think the hard pitches suit a fast attacking style of play. Vellacott would thrive IMO and it’ll be a good opportunity to try out some other options across the backline especially 10 and 15.

  28. Some things i would sort if i were the coach (Ha!)

    1. Force an agreement to happen with premiership/top14. They allow us to retain our players in the six nations gap weeks (the tournament which matters). And we don’t pick those exile players during the Autumn Internationals (the games where the Toony -Tombola should be happening) Its a win-win.
    Look after our players.

    2. Be consistent with selection in the six nations! Swapping an entire front-row for Wales… why?!. Picking an outside Centre at Inside centre, who also has less than 5 caps… in the Six Nations… why?!. Playing a recently converted 15 now 10 against one of the in form world teams… why?!

    Let him prove himself in the Summer/Autumn games.

    3. Experiment selection in the summer/Autumn Internationals!

    4. Have the captain be one of Watson/Ritchie/Darge. I think it’s important the captain sets the tone physically in contact. I also think it’s important that the captain plays in Scotland for the people and not money grabbing abroad (which i don’t blame people for).

    Look at Kolisi, could be making a fortune abroad instead he would rather represent his country and communities and make less money.

    5. Play to our strengths and what Cotter identified as Scotlands traditional style of play, ‘Organised Chaos’. The players embraced that style of expressive play, they do not look happy with this boring style of play these days.

    6. Give the players more free reign to enjoy themselves without going overboard. These are people at the end of the day, (most) players who went out for a drink to celebrate Price’s 50th cap have shown to be true professionals over the years, it must be a miserable environment where players can’t have the mental release they need to play well. Improve the culture.

    A team i’d go with for Summer Tour
    *Some rested*
    Captain (J.Ritchie)
    Loosehead – Schoeman, Sutherland
    Hooker – Ashman, Turner, Matthews
    TH – Fagerson, Berghan, Walker (both sides)
    Lock – J.Gray, Meihuizen, Craig, Cummings
    Backrow – Ritchie, Crosbie, Darge, Richardson, Fagerson, Muncaster, Bayliss
    SH – Vellacott, White, Horne
    FH – Kinghorn, Hastings
    Centre (12) – Hutchinson, Redpath
    Centre (13) – Bennett, Jones, Steyn (his real position)
    Wing – Van Der Merwe, McLean, Graham, Rowe
    FB – Maitland, Smith

    1. Meihuizen recently retired from rugby due to repeated concussions, not to mention he never opted to play for Scotland.

      Why no Sykes, Young or Hodgson?

      1. Glen Young is an excellent shout i forgot about. I would have him in.

        I’m not sure what it is about Hodgson but i’m not convinced he will make it as a top international yet, what’s his point of difference or is he doing better than any of the other options?

        Sykes looks big and physical but i have not seen enough of him recently.

    2. 1. will never happen.
      2. selection generally is consistent there is a group of about 12/13 who are bank to start if they are fit, any changes other than injury are generally slight tactical alterations at best. The “why” re the Kinghorn thing is evidently in part driven by the behavior of the guy who has been playing 10.
      3. That does happen, @ontopofthemoon is a decent reference for how much Townsend attempts to grow depth.
      4. the top two teams in the 6N Captains this year played 9/10.
      5. It’s an incredibly overhyped era of Scottish Rugby and bizarre some still cling to a comfort blanket of a 6N when Scotland shipped 60 points in a game, as recent 6N history would show that is incredibly difficult to actually achieve.
      6. they are professional athletes living in a professional era, they should embrace that far, far more than they do, the “conditioning” of Finn is a complete joke, it is staggering to me some still think these players should be treating the 6N like the 80’s, sport at the highest level is in a completely different place now, the notion of players having a release and how that must include beer during a high level tournament is utterly bizarre, they have far more release time than most, more so given it isn’t a “just a beer” culture, it is a “kick the arse out of it” culture after the first game of the tournament.

      If the players can’t embrace a modern, elite high class sport environment they should be told to p*ss off, that should be one of the first changes a coach makes.

    3. No Kebble? I’d also rest vDM as well.

      Personally my 23 would be:

      Schoeman
      Turner
      Fagerson
      Skinner
      Gray
      Ritchie (C)
      Darge
      Bayliss
      Vellacott
      Hastings
      McLean
      Hutchinson
      Bennett
      Graham
      Maitland

      Subs:
      Kebble, Ashman, Walker, Cummings, Craig, White, Kinghorn, Jones

  29. It was a disappointing 6N and understandable that it has provoked a great deal of disenchantment.

    In my opinion though, Scottish rugby has much bigger problems. Italy has recently fixed its youth system and will soon be reaping the results. Our u20s have meanwhile plumbed new depths of uncompetitiveness. If the SRU don’t address this crisis in the next few years we can look forward to going back to the doldrums except this time without the comfort blanket of an Italy to spare our embarrassment.

    I understand covid has had a serious financial impact, but we should be enjoying new funding streams from CVC etc. If a significant proportion of this doesn’t going into transforming my rugby at the youth grass roots and aiming to raise levels at u20 in the next 5 years we will have squandered our moment to put Scottish rugby on a sustainable footing.

    We know what happens next, the inevitable decline and slow death that we’ve seen with Scottish football.

  30. A lot of spot-on points there Chris. I’d also add that Wales may be looking at a fairly steep short to medium term decline with key players getting too old/retiring and the regions a mess, but I’d not be surprised if they bounced back fairly quickly. And if Italy can get Polledri and Minozzi fit again, and keep bringing through talented youth players, this Wales game could just be the start of them posing a much more significant challenge for other 6 nations teams.

    I think key players have a lot of responsibility to shoulder, in particular the 3 leaders in the backline, and would agree Ritchie has to be named captain. The leadership troubles contribute a lot to the poor decision making, the basic errors, and ill-discipline that cost us so much It often feels that rather than setting and driving high standards amongst their team-mates Price, Russell and in particular Hogg spend a lot of time frustrated with their team mates and trying to do it themselves, with predictable results (Finn making more daft mistakes, Hoggy getting smashed behind the gainline because he’s obviously the only person getting a wide ball).

    There are massive coaching and game plan issues as well, however. The breakdown and attacking lineout have been struggles throughout the tournament, our lineout in particular often seems to turn to jelly when we are in the opposition danger zone, and we have relied on more and more unorthodox methods to raise our success rate as the championship has gone on.

    Our attack in general is incredibly anaemic. Rightly or wrongly GT shat out of “The Fastest Brand of Rugby on the Planet” in 2019, but while the 3 years since have seen some excellent results (though performances never at the level of the back-to-back Australia wins, the close run thing against NZ or the 2018 England win; and often these wins have been in empty stadiums) we have never really looked like a confident attacking side, instead relying on good tactical kicking and the Steve Tandy defence to win games by never being out of the reckoning. The France and Ireland games this year is an indication that this will no longer suffice.

    As a friend of mine put it, we don’t attack with enough speed to disorganise an opposition defence, but we also lose our own structure leading to the breakdown woes and penalty/error count we see on our own ball. I think some of the cultural/squad harmony problems could be partly due to key players buying into this model despite their more attacking preferences; and then seeing that not only will they not be allowed to go for the jugular more against weaker teams, but that the keep it tight and snatch it plan cuts both ways, both of which were the case against a poor Wales team. Add in that teams seem to have worked the defence out to an extent, that the defence has not been adapted to new laws (see the number of 50-22s we conceded) and teams working out that they can neuter our kicking game by putting it into touch, and we look pretty silly. The ironic thing is the gameplan we chucked away when it was still being developed is fairly similar to how Ireland and France are now playing – high intensity, attacking rugby; while we are playing closer to how the best teams did 3-4 years ago.

    GT is going nowhere at this point anyway, so hopefully he can improve the situation. Appointing Ritchie as captain would be a good start. The centres need a complete rethink as well. Rightly, Redpath is considered the next thing at 12, he’s a triple threat in attack. If he is unavailable, Hutchinson is the closest direct replacement. If GT doesn’t fancy Hutchinson, then I don’t think Harris can play. Johnson is an excellent all rounder but if Harris is outside him teams simply do not need to worry about what our centres can do. If that’s a Bennett or Jones, or even a more crash ball option like Sione or Steyn, then so be it. If the defensive system relies so much on having a particular player at 13 then it’s not a good system to begin with imo.

    1. I agree in that when we hired Tandy our defense improved exponentially..but systems get analyzed such that an algorithm can predict our patterns more accurately each time we use them. It’s like we thought ..hey ho this is great let’s keep doing the same and we’re on our way…when ,yet again , we have not adapted and adjusted those systems to stay ahead of the opposition. We’ve got this tendency to spend too much time self congratulating ourselves for small successes instead of quickly getting back to improving. GT went from focusing too much on attack ..to..focusing too much on defense …resulting in no balance. Now we look look like we have no identity again and aren’t very good at either attack or defense.
      Whats happening with the u20s is very concerning… they’ve got themselves into a real tangle there. Dropping a tier…lack of quality opposition and development …not even at the right fitness levels to compete.

  31. Great article, I can’t help think our failure boils down to one thing, that is we hope we can win, the likes of Ireland know they will win and challenge you to prove them wrong. They concentrate on their game plan knowing they are already in your head, no one worries about what Scotland brings because we’ve proven that we can’t consistently front up. Lastly only teams that consistently loose sight a “Good weeks training” as a positive.

  32. When will the summer tour be announced?

    We should leave the bevvy merchants at home. There is no ‘I’ in ‘TEAM’. I cannot wait to see them sidelined and a team built on tour. I might actually get enthusiastic once again and be more forgiving of Toony. Let’s take the hit now I say.

    Do it , close the door and leave it closed on all of drinking buddies. A new clean cut, well led, unselfish, Scottish Team is needed now.

  33. So after all the moaning and demanding Toonie is sacked who do people think Scotland should try to replace him with, who is a realistic candidate in the short term?

    I’ll nail my colours to the mast and say we should throw the chequebook at Dan MacFarland and try to prise him away from Ulster in time for the summer tour. Doubt he’d move without a decent contract though so it would need to be at least until mid-RWC cycle so post-2025 6N.

    1. I’ve heard Traffic cones are still affordable ..even with the effects of global inflation.

    2. Pat Lam has gone a long way since he left us. Now appointed Director of Rugby and signed a 5 year deal.

      He was a consistently good player and has succeeded in coaching.

      I am not convinced Toony is done yet. A guy who can survive this long , has something. I think he should have one last clear out before he goes.

  34. More concerning is the state of the grassroots game. The under 20s have been whitewashed for the second season in a row. That’s what needs attention now. Both Glasgow and Edinburgh have “fixed” themselves albeit Glasgow have not hit the hits of when they won the league and the jury is still out on Wilson as a coach but they are doing reasonably well in the league. The youth game needs a major review. A successful under 20s feeds into confident players so when the take the next step up to senior rugby they have that taste and belief of success. At this point without action now Italy will be surpassing us in a few years unfortunately. I think we should link up with them, under 20s Zebre, Bennetton, Glasgow and Edinburgh tournament, crossborder S6 and Italian league competition, pool our resources.

    1. This to me is the absolute nub of the matter. The ugly truth is that, outside of a few border towns and a few posh schools, people in Scotland don’t care about rugby. But this is treated like an immutable fact of life, when changing that fact should be the number one raisin d’etre of the SRU.

      1. Sorry, but that is complete and utter nonsense

        there is perfectly reasonable and often excellent numbers of kids playing Rugby across the Lothian area even post Covid, there is an interest there, admittedly it can tail off as kids reach high school, but there is an interest and numbers there to play.

      2. Rubbish: If you compare the number of players in Scotland in the 70’s and 80’s and compared to today, we are well down in terms of players today. Comprehensive Schools played then, no attachment to a club, the sons ( no women back then playing) from both rugby playing and non playing families were playing rugby at school. That is what is needed. University towns need to work on the follow through. Basically sports clubs such as Hillhead Jordanhill work well as there is a critical mass of men and woman’s sports meeting there to allow more social activity to attract them in .

        Not everyone is going to play international rugby, we just need people playing , putting money in and bringing their kids up with an appreciation of the game.

        Easy to say, for me , easy to see, but making it happen is tougher.

      3. Down, yes, but to state people don’t care about Rugby is just silly.

        The “sold out Murrayfield” line doesn’t happen as often without “care”, the attendance at Celtic Park, the 1972 Cup games at Murrayfield, Edinburgh v Munster, these games are attended by far more than the post suggests, there is “interest”.

        Attend a mini tournament around the Lothian area when they are next on…. it’s far from “rubbish” to say these are heavily attended by kids who play Rugby from a young age, that is evidently accelerated by a form of “interest” the drop of comes as kids reach closer to high school age which suggests pathway issues but the base “interest” is there and there are enough numbers playing that it should be taken advantage of.

        Some speak about Rugby clubs like they are attended by 2 men and a dug, in a lot of areas, in particular with mini Rugby that is just complete nonsense.

      4. Sorry ? Rubbish , is it ?,really ? Dig out the numbers, if you can find them?

        Just look at the evidence, how may clubs have needed to amalgamate to survive, Clarkston, Hutch ,Aloysius being one, GHK another, Hill Head Jordan hill a third, Murrayfield Wanderers and on and on.

        That was 10 clubs back then, self sustaining , with various tiers playing, now , just 4 clubs ? There are loads of others , Corstorphine etc.

        We do have less people playing now. In 70’s and 80′ s comprehensives were playing and feeding those local clubs. You just need to join the dots.

        Don’t rubbish me. Just in case you are thinking about it dont tell me how the east and west are different. Like it or not , the majority of the population are in Glasgow , if you want to see the game grow, there is your fertile ground. I am not sure what is happening North of the Forth but that was always a good rugby playing area as well.

      5. Where did I make any mention of East and West, what are you talking about and who are you even replying to with that?

        I am not denying numbers are down ….more so at adult level, but by that age it isn’t having a huge impact on the National side.

        At a young age level in this country there are plenty of kids up and down the country playing Rugby each week up to P7 then there is generally a pretty massive fall away, that is the issue that needs addressed

        You are making reference to mergers that took place the best part of 30 years ago.

        The game has been given the platform to grow in Glasgow, and the Warriors over the years have generally reflected that and the platform of growth i.e the mentioned Pro Final shows a very decent level of “interest” in the sport in the West.

      6. Is Neddy saying he preferred it when women didn’t play? Odd call out.

      7. Woof, wasn’t expecting that to kick off to that extent. Sorry, I was obviously overstating the case. Obviously SOME people care, we’re all here aren’t we? Just, way, way less than any of the nations we’re competing with.

        Based on average attendances at pro games, more than 3 times as many Irish people go to a rugby match, and more than twice as many Welsh people. Even though Scotland is bigger than both those countries in terms of population. Compared to those two countries, we aren’t that bothered.

        It’s great that you’re seeing kids on the ground enjoying rugby, but according to Sport Scotland, more kids aged 8-15 regularly do ice skating and badminton.

        You’re absolutely right that a massive dropoff in interest at High school. It’s the 11th most popular sport in Scotland (in terms of participation) for kids, 24th most popular for adults. The SRU have a huge amount to answer for there.

        Like I say, it sounds like you do a lot of rugby work in the community, didn’t mean any disrespect to you or anyone else that gives their time to the game. But in terms of the fostering and development of interest in the game, people like you are being let down by those at the top.

      8. I am talking to you , shoooo. I am old enough to have witnessed the comprehensives playing and the drop off when they quit. I can assure you that the men and schoolboys playing rugby , against another club or school, back in the 70’s and 80’s , was more numerous than today when we have men, women, boys and girls playing . That is the point , we do have less people (combined at every tier) playing today than when Scotland won The occasional Triple Crown on Grand Slam in those years. In 22 years of professional rugby we have won nada.

        The east west thing was just me anticipating your next point as I can only recall more sides that have been forced to amalgamate in the west that the east, however some have, so it is not just a drop off in the west of Scotland. You are correct you never mentioned it, I answered a question that was never asked as I could see it coming, if not you by someone. Talking of which :

        Scrumdog Milionaire: I never said I ‘preferred it when women didn’t play?’ I never, even hinted at it. You did, Very naughty . So just for the record, I never said that, YOU did and there was no need for that. Yours was the ‘odd comment.

        I will add women and girls playing actually adds to my argument about how to grow the game. it is a very good thing as males and females playing , builds a much wider appreciation of the game than when it was a male game.

        When Comprehensives played , boys who grew up thinking rugby was a game played by private schools and borderers , actually played rugby and probably, ultimately sent their kids to mini rugby. That is how the elitism of rugby was broken. However that vital grass roots feed in the comprehensives, to men and women who have had no background or family members or friends that play rugby, is now barren. Bear in mind the kids at mini rugby today were probably infiuenced by parents.It is really important that everyone at School level regardless of it being a fee paying or non fee paying school gets some appreciation of rugby.

      9. Fair enough. Just wondered why you had mentioned it in the first place, calm down.

      10. Scrum Millionaire: Thanks , glad we are ok on that. It is a great thing for rugby, it just arrived too slowly is my only gripe about the female game TBH. Long may it continue and grow. I can see a huge future for women’s rugby. I see a more gloomy future for the men’s game. But that is not for here.

      11. There are points you are making that are valid @Neddy but you are turning the horse into a bit a camel to be honest, you are replying to points no one has even made.

        You are speaking about it not being about people playing, but also about mergers of clubs it’s just a bit all over the place.

        Go down most mini tournaments, go to Murrayfield, Scotstoun, most Rugby clubs across the country it is far removed from ” few border towns and a few posh school” the idea it is that is what is complete nonsense.

        There are kids across the country playing the sport now week in week out, I can only assume you don’t attend the grit and dirt of clubs often if you don’t think there are given it can literally be evidenced with eyes.

      12. Shoooo : Comprehensives do not play rugby any longer. When they did, every child attending School had an opportunity to play rugby.

        Your point is that today every child attending a rugby club has the opportunity to play rugby? and there is no shortage of them. Which I have never challenged!

        Everyone goes to school. Not everyone goes to the rugby club. I say there is a difference you are not convinced.

        I say that rugby is trying to win hearts and minds in the wrong place. I actually don’t think you have thought of it that way. Not a problem for me.

        I get that you want to defend / support the mini rugby tournaments up and down the land , however there is no need. I agree they, from the little I have seen, are well run and applaud those who get on and run the show. Grass roots rugby depends on enthusiastic parents and it is a selfless task.

        I wont be changing my mind , however hopefully this is clearer.

      13. I am at a loss to what you are going on about or what points you are even replying to, you come across like a total Rugby Da TBH

      14. I think you mean, thanks for help with the blind spot Neddy.

        You come across less confident that alternative views to your own are ‘complete and utter nonsense’

  35. When I first got into Rugby in late 60’s, there was always a cyclical element to it, although Scotland’s finest moments were always a bit rarer than the others even then. Sadly we havent really challenged for anything for more than 20 years – taking longer to understand what professionalism meant didnt help, but all our false dawns show no sign of getting closer to greater times

  36. Another observation about the end of this 6N. The language of the commenters has changed.

    No one seems to be calling Hogg : ‘Hoggy’ anymore.! You all know who you are. By way of contrast Townsend is still being called Toony! Both have their fans out there.

    If anyone has the answer , let me know , please.

  37. The thing that keeps going through my mind is fast forward to next year. The 2023 6 nations preview shows. So Scotland what do we think? Cue rolling of eyes, platitudes of talent we have etc. A lot of it , this year at least, honest. Then Groundhog day.
    Its so depressing and inevitable. in fact Wales saved us from compete ignominy and full barrels this year

    In fact I really hope we don’t have Italy up first game.

    What hope can we have and what message does it send that a leathering in Dublin and the coach actually suggests it was our best performance . Surely I am not alone in finding this completely staggering?

  38. What is the point of keeping GT to the next World Cup ?. Can someone tell me what good this does? He’s been shoite/ mediocre over his tenure at best. Achieved nothing and I do mean nothing. Happy to be corrected.
    Our World Cup Group – he / we have never beaten Ireland. We won’t beat South Africa under his stewardship and never have. He is inconsistent, fractious and I suspect egotistical. He can never be wrong.
    Keeping him is sleep walking into an early exit. Chances are we won’t get out of our group I realise anyways. This is all but guaranteed with Townsend, however.
    If we agree GT isn’t getting us out of the group / progressing more generally what is the point of keeping him?. I / my Mrs/ my sheepdog/ my goldfish/ would do better with selection, tactics and team spirit. Time for Dobson and his cronies to earn their corn. GT might be a yes man in their eyes but employ someone with some nuts and better ability.
    After five years we need something different and so much better.

    1. There’s no point.

      He’s had his chance, but it’s not worked out as well as he would have hoped. Yes, there have been victories against Australia, France and England, but RWC 19 was a fiasco; his team and squad selections have caused more heads to be scratched than a dandruff epidemic (if such a thing were possible); his tactics and systems have been a triumph of trumpet over actuality (whatever happened to ‘the fastest rugby in the world’?); and his relationship with the players would appear not to be all it might be.

      If the SRU leave him in post then all he’s likely to achieve is the dubious honour of becoming the first Scotland coach of leading his nation to consecutive RWC group stage exits. And that, as the saying goes, isn’t a good look.

      Better, then, that he leaves, returns to club rugby and (hopefully) rediscovers the spark that saw him lead Glasgow to the Pro 14 title in 2014/15. His star can rise again.

      For Scotland, replacing Toony now would see to it that the new coach would have a summer tour, autumn internationals and a 6N campaign in which to stamp his mark on the team before entering the lion’s den that is Scotland’s group in the RWC.

  39. My final word on the debacle that was the 6N campaign – the BBC article on Rob Baxters take on the wee drink in Edinburgh, sensible, low key, pragmatic. Stating its a non issue caused by ambiguity. If Baxter is correct the Scottish camp did well to make a mountain out of a mole hill.

  40. Keep searching the headlines hopefully for rumours of a replacement coach. Zilch.

    1. That decision to replace Cotter with Townsend meant we look like a bit parochial on the world stage. Everyone wants Toony’s job , don’t they ! Do a good job and your out. Do a bad job and you are in for life.

  41. The first thing I’d do is replace Dodson and then let the new man assess whether or not a change in HC is needed now. We also need a CEO to repair the relationship with World Rugby so that they don’t keep screwing us over. Won’t happen of course as paying off Dodson would empty the SRU coffers.

    1. Dodson is also an excellent CEO… reduced our debt. Scotland team compared to when he first took over is way better, Stadium are selling out, we have a semi-pro league now coming into play… the SRU are pushing to have a pro womens team in the English premiership now… why exactly do you want him replaced?

      1. Dodson’s regime has largely been positive, despite his fairly obvious character flaws. Whether he leaves a positive legacy or not will in my opinion be determined by whether the youth system is turned around under him. At the moment it is more or less in crisis and in 5 years or so that could leave us slipping behind Italy, instead of pushing on to be a regular 6N contender.

        I understand from other commenters we’ve recently recruited John Fletcher to oversee professional pathways and he comes with a very strong pedigree, so maybe it is in hand. But we are not in a position to be complacent.

      2. Not sure I’d give him too much credit for the stadium selling out when all the other home nations stadia also sell out despite indifferent form and results from the likes of Wales and England. It’s probably 6N organisers who deserve credit for boosting the profile of the tournament. The U20’s have just been whitewashed and so the signs for the future aren’t great. His decision to replace Cotter with Toonie hasn’t proved to be a successful one – we haven’t kicked on like many of us hoped we would. His careless media comments in Japan resulted in World Rugby screwing us over with the seedings which will likely lead to another group exit. I’ll give him credit for reducing the debt although it would have been reduced further if his salary wasn’t so big.

      3. Without those careless comments, we would not have had the chance to qualify for the quarterfinals.

        You really think world rugby purposefully punished us with the seedings and it have nothing do with Covid and 2023 world-cup preparations? C’mon now do you hear yourself?

      4. Neil : Iike you , am fed up listening to excuses and the language of victims. We lost the pool and frankly it was a ill thought out campaign.

        We arrived there burnt out trying to play the fastest rugby in the world, while taking guys like Duncan Taylor who was just not match fit while leaving others behind.

        All we had to do was come second in our pool and we met a Japanese side at home, on a high, while we could not get any continuity and had no settled side to build on.

        There was a lot going on , some of which could have been better. But we are not victims, it was in our own hands.

      5. We didn’t help ourselves by failing to get out of the group but yes I do think World Rugby purposefully punished us with the seedings. They dislike us and that’s thanks to Dodson’s lack of diplomacy. If he was a skilled operator he would have sorted things out behind the scenes instead of blurting out threats to the media.
        The football world cup in Qatar starts this November and the draw is only made 5 months prior to that. You think WR were justified in locking in the seedings 3 years in advance because of COVID and travel preparations? Do me a favour

      6. Saint : I don’t share your opinion but you are entitled to have one. But for 80 minutes it was in our hands. I blame Toony, I see no point in fancy conspiracy theories, I prefer to make my mind up with what I can see. He got it wrong.

  42. On the assumption that nobody on here is an SRU place man some people are incredibly accepting and have a low benchmark of what signifies success. Dodson has achieved no more than any competent CEO would be expected to especially given his remuneration package. For the vast majority of people the success of rugby in Scotland is measured by the national team results.As others have said for what to many was inexplicable a guy who appeared to have brought some credibility back to the national team was binned for no obvious reason and the job handed on a plate to Townsend.We have endured 5 years of snakes and ladders rugby. For those fanboys who trumpet about his win rate being the best of any coach strip out all the meaningless friendlies and focus on competition games and the win rate plummets to a significantly lower figure. This is not reflective of success nor was Dodsons handling of world rugby which has seen us get shafted for the next WC although had the national team been successful enough to be in the top 8 in the world we would not face the mountainous task to get out of the group. When all is said and done both Dodson and Townsend have had a reasonable time in office. Neither have been a complete failure but neither have they been a success. Time to move on. Step up the alikadoos.

  43. Step 1:

    Schoeman, Ashman, Fagerson, Skinner, Cummings, Ritchie (c), Darge, Fagerson.

    Step 2:

    Price, Hastings, VDM, Hutchinson, Bennett, Graham, Hogg.

    Step 3: PROFIT.

    1. John: with respect I do not believe it is tenable for Hogg to continue ? He is not going to take the relinquishing of captaincy lightly and as a new captain , I would not like the old one around in these circumstances.

      It was pretty obvious he should have passed to his team against Ireland and the long pass which he knocked on against France , both times the ball should have gone through the teams hands.

  44. Tremendous win by Edinburgh, managed the game very well, was as wet as an otters pocket but throughally deserved their win.
    Lovely breaks by Bennett and Muncaster preceded 2 of the tries

  45. Epic win by Edinburgh. Some performance by Kinghorn-two tries,astute kicking and put his body on the line.Muncaster was seriously impressive against a pack choc full of Springboks.

  46. Edinburgh impressed me today…Sharks ttried to outmuscle them …but failed.
    Kinghorn played really well.
    Muncaster looks a proper 8 in the making.
    Bennett played well too…actually they all did.
    Blair and co showed GT how you play against a physical SA team.

  47. BBC Headline :Stuart Hogg fell foul of Scotland ‘ambiguity’, says Exeter Chiefs’ Rob Baxter.

    What is that about ! Scottish rugby matters , are Scottish Rugby matters. It is not for Rob Baxter to comment IMO?

    Why is Hogg talking to Rob Baxter ? I expect Toony to deal with that , right away.

    1. I think it’s probably Baxter trying to take the heat off Hogg so that he doesn’t have a disgruntled player on his hands at Exeter.

    2. Is Hogg disgruntled ? Is Rob Baxter questioning his choices on and off the field ? That is a lot of strain for Hogg IMO.

      1. Did you see his post match interview after Ireland? He looked pretty disgruntled to me when asked about the night out in Edinburgh and his decision to go for the corner.

    3. I thought when I read it a few days back it was inappropriate comments by the Exeter coach. He also said more than he should have on the matter.
      If that is what Hogg’s version was ….he should definitely be stripped of Capt if he hasn’t already. He really comes accross as far to immature a man for his age and definitely not a team captain.
      I wouldn’t be surprised …considering Hogg’s demeanor at the press conference ..if he retires from International rugby. If he doesn’t …he’s at least considering it…imo

      1. He’s got nobody to blame but himself. Poor decision making off and on the field gave the journos plenty of ammunition to fire at him. The one thing that might motivate him to keep playing for Scotland is one last Lions tour in Australia.
        On Russell I do wonder if he will become the Scottish Cipriani. I have a feeling Toonie might want to give Kinghorn a run at 10. He looked really good against the Sharks yesterday and showed great football skills in tough conditions for his second try.

      2. Danny Cipriani was trumpeted as the most talented player of his generation but his train wreck of a career has resulted in 16 caps despite debuting as a 20 year old. Russell has been a mainstay in the Scotland team for going on 8 years, is a British and Irish test Lion and has already cemented himself as one of Scotland’s best ever FHs. Whatever his faults, how do you imagine he could turn into our Cipriani???

      3. Whilst I wouldn’t say Russell has blown his career. There is a general feeling that considering his skill set and experience that he is underachieving. That’s the only commonality. Cipriani totally tossed his career and achieved nothing worth mentioning…other than a modest amount of caps..followed by being a rugby mercenary.
        Russell needs to show more respect to rugby and get himself fit enough to actually look like a professional sportsman. He has skills that he is wasting because of his attitude.
        I think, with the RWC 18 months or so away, we are at a crossroads with him.
        I think GT saw this happening and hence seems to be moving towards developing Kinghorn.

      4. Fair enough. I agree that the Cipriani comparison was off the mark. I agree with RuggersB’s assessment about Finn being at a crossroads. He had a poor 6N by his standards and his body language just looked plain off. I could be wrong but I do wonder if he struggles to be part of a system with Scotland and doesn’t like being told what to do by Toonie. At Racing he has a free reign to play as he sees it on the pitch. He needs to improve his attitude with Scotland and show better body language if he wants to continue being our starting 10 otherwise Toonie may well decide to give Kinghorn a run.

      5. Cipriani comparison is not that far off the mark. Dont concede that so quick, Finn has done well but has a decision to make IMO. I think being forced to play in a way you are not happy with will ruin your career anyway, so I am not in the same place as other commenters on that matter.

        Baxter and Hogg. What is going on there? Anyone out there willing to break confidences ? That one needs prodding IMO.

      6. Yeah Saint…I agree Russell totally seems to struggle with being told how to conduct himself on and off the pitch. I do wonder if joining Racing92 culture was the right move for Finn. They seem to have a group of talented players who never achieve what people think they should.
        I think a properly coached , disciplined Finn could be an outstanding world class 10…but things definitely have gone pear shaped with him. He’ll either be that or he wont…and right now I can’t see him changing…I get why Kinghorn is being developed and watching his last few 10 starts its looking like a shrewd coaching move. I think Finn gave GT no choice but to throw Kinghorn into the Ireland match..which was clearly too early for him…but on the flip …he will have learned a lot.
        I honestly think Scotland will be a better overall team without Hogg and Finn…they have talent but just seem toxic to me. I know many will disagree a with that…but I do feel that.

      7. Russell is definitely struggling at the moment, but I’m not sure it is so obvious why. At the end of the Lions tour he’d silenced most of his doubters in the English press and after the 6N had won new-found respect for his game management.

        Whatever the reason, v few players go through their career without any significant dips in form, he looks exhausted as well as out of shape. I don’t see why he can’t have a decent summer break and bounce back tbh.

        On the drinking incident, a tweet by Rob Robertson of Scottish Daily Mail said, “ He (Hogg) is unjustly being made the fall guy by the Scotland coaches and the SRU. After looking into this closely I feel he is being set up and should retain the captaincy.” Interesting take.

      8. FF: In my opinion none of the Lions has been on form this 6 nations , not just the scots.

        Rob Robertson? a journalist trying to develop another angle on a story that is yesterdays chip papers, come on, we are old enough to know better.

        Why would the SRU be making Hogg a fall guy ? and for what reason? He only has half a story which is not a story at all. Makes no sense. Not interesting to me , however thanks for sharing the tweet.

        Back to the question SRU business , being reported to the BBC , by Rob Baxter. That is very Naughty, IMHO.

      9. Part of the issue Russel struggles with is, he is fat, for the level he is playing at he is without question fat and quite out of shape.

        That’s not sustainable.

      10.  You forgot to mention the skinny arms. Dan Biggar is nowhere Russell when it comes to natural ability and rugby brain but what Biggar does do well is work his backside off on the strength and conditioning side of things and make the most of what he has got.

  48. Sharks v Edinburgh highlights now available on Youtube for anyone who is interested.

  49. If I were Baxter , I would be concerned about Hoggy’s motivation for not passing (Ireland) and calling for a long pass (France). He is already is Scotland all time try scoring record holder.

    Mind you , the game has changed since he arrived. Hookers are the most likely people to rack numerous tries in a short duration these days. How the game has changed.

  50. I agree with TENC’s earlier post. None of the Lions tourists looked good, maybe with Jamie George and perhaps Itoje as exceptions in a dire English team; maybe with Biggar too. Furlong being taken apart by Genge is as good a proof as Hogg or Russell or Watson underperforming.
    Let’s hope it’s just a post-Lions hangover. We’ll be back, they’ll be back in time for 2023.

  51. First up, the SRU coordinated ‘pile on’ to Hogg boils my p*ss! Through all of this I wonder if anyone has thought to ask Hoggy if he’s OK. At the end of the day he’s a guy trying to do be the best he can for his club, country and most importantly his family. Rugby is a team sport, you win as a team and you lose as a team. If players we expected to shine didn’t, then we have to look at why within the context of the team, the tactics and the communication of the game plan. We don’t need to be scapegoating individuals.

    Having said that – I might now be about to scapegoat Townsend.
    Overall, the catalyst for the recovery from the World Cup debacle looked like Mike Blair, and I don’t think it’s any coincidence that his departure has seen a return to pre World Cup levels of toxicity in the national squad. Scottish rugby is a very small world, and anyone connected with the game knows that Townsend is a difficult character and prone to taking the huff (just ask Hastings). Perhaps Blair was a buffer for the players (and possibly also the other coaches), but the answer isn’t to give Mike Blair the role of cleaning up Townsends mess. He needs time to develop his own skills as a head coach. We need to look for a strong, stable character who will demand respect from the players, not because of his position, but because of his behavior…for what it’s worth, I’m totally on the MacFarland band wagon, but I reckon he pissed off Dodson and Townsend by taking the Ulster job so might have to be a post Dodson appointment.

    1. Why are the SRU ‘piling on’ to Hogg ? I don’t understand that , about what and why ? What is the benefit of them doing so ?

      1. They briefed the ‘leak’ on the Edinburgh six. They put him front and centre of the media scrum. They had plenty of opportunities to be completely transparent but haven’t. They’ve refused to corroborate his version of events. They’ve painted a picture of unprofessional conduct in the face of ambiguous (at best) ‘rules breaches’. The benefit to SRU is deflection from the main issue…as per usual.

      2. That is a lot of harassment for the Edinburgh 6 including Hogg . But what are the SRU hiding and why put them through it as a lead into to the Irish game. That feels like the wrong time to publicly harass them.

      3. I have been in situations where someone questions what we are doing and peer pressure usually comes into it: ‘the ref will not send us all off etc’. However , I was not there , but I have to imagine someone questioned it.

        I still do not understand is Rob Baxter’s involvement. They are not a bunch of school boys.

      4. The SRU had to address the story because it was coming out in the wider media one way or another, it had been spoken about for days before it was made public.

        Players wandering about a night club in town will get attention.

        The easy out in all of this for any player involved was to, not do it.

        If player don’t want to be seen to be acting unprofessional, don’t act unprofessionally. I suggest people actually look into what Why Not is if they think the players were just kicking about low profile in a quiet pub.

      5. Totally agree with you Shooooooo . They brought it on themselves. Then could not handle the media pressure when it leaked. They should not have been there, they knew it, they knew they would be noticed. Not very mature IMHO.

    2. They know, better and their indignant attitude stinks.

      There was no vagueness. Russell excluded himself previously and I believe ‘Hoggy’ was one of the ‘Senior Players’ who oversaw the incident and the consequences.

      It annoys me that they believe we are gullible enough to consider it was their employers ambiguous rules.

      Surely one of them considered it was a bad idea.

  52. Strikes me that, as international coaching gigs go, the Scotland Mens job would be pretty near the bottom of my list.

    The team is not good enough for a real chance of winning anything much.

    But they’re not bad enough that ‘progress’ and the odd scalp will cut it…you need to actually win stuff.

    The core of the team is the ‘right age’ so you can’t easily get the broom out…and yet they don’t perform.

    Its a hiding to nothing.

    1. Alternatively it’s a team with potential, crying out for direction and identity yet with no expectations whatsoever of getting out their World Cup group. It is by definition a shot to nothing. Pull anything off and you are a hero, look decent failing and your reputation is enhanced, look awful while failing and that’s no more than par for the course. Good chance to get international or northern hemisphere experience.

    2. There is a very limited pool of coaching gigs with tests sides that aren’t a total hiding to nothing.

      Coaching Scotland puts you on one of the biggest stages in the 6N. After SA, NZ, Aus, Fra, Eng, Ire, Wales, there’s Scotland in terms of attractiveness. So only seven other head coaches in the whole world with better test roles.

      Scotland can afford to pay decent salaries too so I really do think we can get a proper quality coach (if not one of a handful of proven winners at test level), it’s simply about supply and demand.

      Where else is someone like Dan MacFarland going to get test experience at head coach level? Even Shaun Edwards has failed to convince anyone to give him the top job.

      1. FF : McF and Edwards cannot get a top job but Vern Cotter has stepped into Head Coach roles twice now. Shaking my head in disbelief.

      2. That will be disbelief that we let him go you mean! Why would we go for another untested coach at that level. Have we learned nothing from appointing Toony. Which does leave the options sparse.

      3. Another interesting question is do those 8 nations currently have the top 8 head coaches in the world. It’s obviously very subjective due to varying levels of experience at that level but looking at the incumbents I would say only 4-5 are in the top 8. Opinions may vary but I’m not convinced that Toonie, Rennie, Pivac and Eddie Jones are in the top 8. It’s difficult to assess how much France’s recent success is down to Galthie given that Edwards is also there.
        Grumpy: Andy Farrell and Joe Schmidt were untested as HC at test level and things aren’t working out too badly for Ireland.

      4. Saint : We got it wrong before , two wrongs do not make a right.

        So are you suggesting we take the risk again ? Nah , not for me, not in my name.

      5. Grumpy: I’m saying that Ireland are an example of a country who have got it right. There was no difference between Toonie’s appointment and Joe Schmidt’s. One was a successful HC at Glasgow and the other at Leinster. Succession planning is normal for the AB’s too. Put simply, I’d rather take a chance on Dan McFarland or Shaun Edwards than say Eddie Jones. It’s on the SRU leadership to do their due diligence and make the right call.

  53. I do wonder if part of Townsend’s recent – shall I say – ‘lacklustre’ coaching… has been due to personal circumstances, not his own but those of his friends, Doddie Weir and the legendary Tom Smith.

You might also like these:

Gregor Townsend has named a largely experimental squad for the summer tour of the Americas. It's not a question of who misses out, but rather who is actually going, writes Rory.
Iain is joined by Jonny and John to discuss the penultimate round of URC fixtures as well as the recent Scottish Rugby Writers' Awards
Craig is joined by John on the injured reserve list to have a wee look at the URC action from the weekend.
World Rugby has taken steps to ban Dupont's Law amongst three new law changes to be brought in in July.

Scottish Rugby News and Opinion

Search