Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Podcast: Episode 196 – Big But 69

On this week’s podcast we chat about Scotland’s historic qualification for the World Cup and review Scotland Men’s loss to France and ask whether it was due to a failure of coaching or execution.

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The Scottish Rugby Podcast brings you the best in informal chat and discussion about Scottish Rugby. Each week during the season we put out a 40 minute podcast suitable for all listeners, covering all the latest news and key analysis of the big matches. 

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72 Responses

  1. Perhaps Harris isn’t ideally suited to the Italy match where Bennett is? With Johnson or Hutchinson at 12 in Redpath’s absence.

  2. Perhaps poor Harris in no ideally suited to any game?!?! With Jones, Johnson, Steyn Tuipulotu, Redpath, Hutchinson and Bennett available now and likely Hutchison, Currie looking good it would be time to try something else now.

    1. You think so …… lol! Toonie’s first names on team sheet begin with H. Will not change unless injury trump’s his selection.

    2. You say this with the team being in the match before he goes off and then completely outplayed defensively when he leaves at halftime. From my uneducated eyes Bennett did well in attack did we miss Harris? Seems like its.

  3. Hugely impressive win against Connacht but looking at fixture list wouldn’t be a surprise if Edinburgh only win 2 or 3 more games this season (Lions A, Zebre H, maybe Glasgow H look most winnable). That could leave them really struggling to qualify for play-offs.

    If they want to make the play-offs they are going to have to win some big games like Sharks (A) and Ulster (H).

    Boyle and Muncaster look like they are enjoying their recent exposure to first team rugby; Boyle showing why he was rated every bit as highly as Darge at age grade.

    Kinghorn looking very dangerous at FH but still not convinced he’s ready to start a test there, which given Finn’s recent travails makes Townsend’s exile of Hastings all the more baffling.

    1. Do you mean home advantage on the playoffs FF? Would be a pretty unlikely set of results for Edinburgh to miss out altogether.

  4. The France game kinda reminded me in some ways of the Ireland game at RWC 19.
    I think we performed better v France than in the Ireland game but the atmosphere and general feeling that things might be a bit stale was similar.
    I remember looking at the team before the Ireland game and thinking ‘what’s new?’
    I had the same thought v France.
    I’m just a fan and I think Toonie generally gets things right and is innovative but I think if you don’t find a way to freshen things up from time to time you can get worked out.

    Last season we brought in players like VdM and Redpath. I think little changes like that forced opponents to think and good form of players can give others a lift.

    There are players in good form but who also play a little differently than incumbents that Townsend could bring in.

    Just a thought.

  5. Stopped watching Glasgow. They are clueless and embarrassing. Ryan Wilson just keeps giving away penalties – needs replaced! Duncan Weir is poor and doesn’t really get the back line moving.

    1. Oli Smith has been good again at least.

      I’d argue he is the in form Scottish full back at the moment.

      1. Good for you Neil. Scotland have always been about Hogg and the others and he is never going to allow a levelling up to use the in-phrase. Time to see how we get on with a more traditional full back. It really embarrasses me when I her some saying how ‘he is the best Full- Back we have ever had’. He has done a great deal , but I feel it is time to see how we might fare with another.

    2. It did not improve. There were hints from Danny Wilson before the game that preparations were disrupted and selections changed over the week. The BBC are reporting that Brown, Dempsey and Johnson left the field due to “illness.” It just all fell apart once Scarlets scored. Agree that Weir is not playing well – I do not understand why Ross Thompson did not start (unless whatever illness is in the team had affected him meaning best not to start him). Dobie played well and Johnson started well and then faded. The one big plus for me was Murphy Walker playing 70mins, scrumming against Samson Lee and looking the part. I do not think we have 2 fit LH props available for the 1872 Cup game. On the evidence of the past two evenings Edinburgh are strong favourites at Scotstoun on the 18th March.

      1. Yes, Walker as LH. Bhatti, MacBeth and Lambert all listed as unavailable. Now Kebble is concussed and has a possible broken nose I am not sure who Warriors two LH would be for 18th March in the 1872 Cup.

    1. Yes reckon on viewing this on BT that pretty clear red so he looks bound to miss Italy and Ireland. Not many obvious left wingers in the squad so who knows Kinghorn could indeed be in with a shout! (I’d go for Maitland even though would seem a backward step,)

      1. We have wingers queuing up. No way will Toony call up Maitland after he told him he wasn’t joining the squad to hold tackle bags. I can see his point but last person Toony will invite is someone with a mind of his own and an attitude to back it up. I cannot say I blame him either.

        We are in danger of underestimating Italy in Rome. I don’t think they have played too badly , the high scores are just errors compounding , pretty much the way we used to play even when we were improving. ( Did I just imply we have stopped improving – Answers on a postcard please.)

      2. Townsend is Scottish rugbys downfall, he has no natural human instinct in personal relationships and can’t bond with people. That’s is the number 1 credential of any successful coach. The players have had enough of Townsend’s false promises. Let alone the fact that he doesn’t know who are key players for Scotland. It seems to me that Townsend thinks that he is more important than Scotland. I see a mutiny about on the horizon!

      3. I wonder how morale is in this squad ! I think this is one of those moments to say nothing and reflect on yet another bebacle.

    1. Edinburgh’s style of play vs Connacht (eventually) last week would be a good model for Scotland, and a sound argument for Blair as HC. However it took some time for Glasgow to impose themselves on the opposition and if Blair can correct that weakness, especially against stronger teams than Connacht, then he could indeed be a creditable candidate for the Scotland job.

      1. I’ve generally been supportive of Toonie but I do think this year he’s run out of ideas to take us forward. He’s tried to be too clever by half rather than let Scotland play out own style as well as possible. The Wales and France games smacked of strategic mistakes and players that didn’t quite buy into what they were being asked to do.

        Blair however is nowhere near experienced enough to take over and has no record of success. Give him a few years at Edinburgh at least and see if he can keep developing their game and win something.

        Cat among the pigeons time – we should try to appoint Gatland. Or give Shaun Edwards a head coach post after France win the RWC. I want someone who knows how to win, with a hard as nails attitude, who is has a genuine world class credentials.

      2. This Year FF? To me it looks like something has not been right since the start of the Autumn series (except Tonga) … What was Mike Blairs role with Scotland again? Seems to me we have dropped off since he left.

        Even the wins against Australia and England… we won, but we did have brilliant performances.

      3. I agree, Neil. Blair was ‘skills coach’ but it sounds like he was doing a lot of the attack. AB Zonagh replaced him towards the end of summer as an attack specialist.

        Surprisingly enough, it’s our attack which is the biggest issue at the moment.

        Could be teething issues adjusting to new systems but after 7 games, it’s not really good enough.

    2. FF: Welcome to the dark side, what kept you ! You have always backed Townsend or Townshend as you prefer to all him, to date. He is not on the edge of a breakthrough as we all expected / hoped, is he ?

      But he does has put a lot of players through the system, it depends on how you see that , positive or negative!

      Just saw another reminder last night : Blade Thomson ( How many have we capped and let go) Should they have been there in the first place, would we be better to grow the experiences of a few or take the Toony approach , there is always another one out there ! Do we know what shape we want !

  6. Dusted down the old ‘time machine’,put a fuse in and im ready to go…anybody else want copy’s of Toonie’s,Hoggy’s and Russell’s biography’s??

    1. I expect Russell’s will be the most fun to read and the most insightful regarding whats been going on for the last few years.

      I actually think Russell will make a better attack coach longer term than Toony if he gets the right backing.

  7. Far to often in the past we have seen talented new Scottish players have their natural abilities suppressed in the interest of tactical planning which is inflexible, badly co-ordinated and at times unworkable. If this attitude is down to the coach, then the coach should be replaced; but I suspect with Scottish rugby there is considerable interference from the hierarchy. I remember the shambolic transition to professionalism in Scotland, where the same old faces who opposed the change remained in charge and so ensured decades of failure for the national team. Plus ca change.

  8. Inexplicable performances/plays v Wales and then France, Is GT overcoaching Russell and Hogg, especially Hogg, he seems to run into contact (maybe better defended against). Russell doesn’t look happy, the 38-38 game (when Finn allegedly ignored GT) keeps on coming into my mind. Personally (and you can check on historic posts) I’d have had GT sacked after the embarrassing RWC Japan. However we have beaten England Wales France away, however………………………………..

    1. He could also just be mentally and physically fatigued playing physical top 14 games every week there is not an intense six nations match.

      One of the drawbacks of star players playing abroad.

      Not something i would usually recommend but Ronan O’Gara defended (somewhat) Russell on some Irish rugby show about this in detail.

  9. Enjoyable as always boys, and a lovely veneer of class brought on by your American friend.

    The only thing I’d pick you up on is the idea that Scotland were unlucky in their draw for the WWC. I’m not sure I’d swap for either of the other two. Pool B has Italy in the third slot, and we know all about how good they are. Pool C have England and France, who are both likely to rack up serious scores against the other teams in their group.

    Scotland meanwhile, have Wales, and an Australia side that haven’t played a competitive international for almost 3 years. The Ozzies are favourites in that game, but if Scotland can beat Wales and keep the score down against Australia, that might well be enough to get to the quarters.

    It’s going to be bloody difficult, but if you offered it to me, I wouldn’t swap for either of the other groups. And with the togetherness and determination that they have developed and crystalised in the qualifying process, I feel like there’s reasons for that most hideous of things for a Scotland fan – hope.

  10. Chris Harris’ selection hackles many supporters however his inclusion has boosted the Scottish defence. However, as Tandy has shown, better defence can be taught but speed, change of pace and footwork cannot. Our backs have lost some of their try scoring ability with Harris onboard. At 31 years old, Harris is nearing his end and he should be teaching the other centres how to improve their defensive organisation. In terms of who comes in, we should look to next RWC, as well as the future. Redpath (22 y/o) and Tuipolotu (25 y/o) are the youngest international centres with most potential, barring injury. I prefer Tuipolotu at 13 and ball playing Redpath offering an alternative pivot at 12. Redpath has had a run of injuries in the last two years and lets hope he can enjoy an injury free run into the RWC. Of the other centres, Bennett, Jones and Johnson are all 29 y/o. They will be fine for next year’s RWC but will have already lost some pace and are not the future. Matt Scott at 31 y/o is too old now to be considered for the national team. Kyle Steyn has been underused. He is quick, can play centre, wing or full back and can score tries. At 28 y/o he could be around for another 5 years. We are 18 months away from the RWC and need to settle on our centre pairing. I think Redpath and Tuipolotu are the future, with Harris imparting wisdom over the next 12 months and Steyn offering cover as a utility back.

    1. I don’t think Matt Scott is good enough at test level.

      However, how come he is too old for the RWC in 18 months time because he is 31, yet 28 year old Kyle Steyn might have 5 years left in him???

      We do need to work out our best centre partnership, shame Redpath seems to be perma-crocked as he could make a real difference. Shame too Stafford McDowell’s progress seemed to stall a year or two ago. Matt Currie is also highly rated so might emerge more strongly after the RWC, Hutchison will eventually get another chance too.

  11. Blair as head coach?
    The only people who need a ‘head’ coach are those who think this would be a good idea.
    I mean… FFS… is this his 1st or 2nd season as Edinburgh head coach?

    He’s nowhere near ready and Townsend has plenty of credit in the bank.

    1. I’m not sure if Toonie does have plenty of credit in the bank. He recovered from the RWC debacle well but we seem to have stalled, I expect he’ll go to the next World Cup, fail to get out of the group and then there will be little argument to keep him on. On the one hand, the RWC group is a total nightmare, but on the other, if we aren’t challenging for 6N and not getting out of the group then after 6 years I think you need to freshen things up.

      If we lose to Italy in Rome on Saturday, I think Toonie will be hanging on by a thread. Win in Rome and Dublin and he’ll be back to safe as houses, where he was at the start of this championship.

      1. Yep, after the WC feels like the logical point to take stock on Townsend.

        The Blair stuff is hilarious though. If you look on the France game fallout, people are talking about Wilson because last week, Glasgow happened to win.

        Townsend had five years at Glasgow, and won the Championship, before he got the Scotland job.

      2. Let Mike Blair concentrate on Edinburgh and maybe even get some experience at a top 14 or premiership club 1st.

        Even Townsend probably wasn’t ready when he took the job.

  12. Hastings and Thompson added to squad (along with Gray and Young). So, after deciding we didn’t need three FHs in the original squad we now need 4???

    Presumably this means Kinghorn to wing, Hastings to bench…

    Thompson to er, not sure.

    1. I think i have finally had enough of Townsend tinkering. He started the campaign with Russell as 1st choice fly half with Kinghorn getting the nod as back up and jettisoned Hastings with Thomson deemed too green for the 6 nations and here we are half way through and it’s about face. Russell has been POOPY to be fair but Kinghorn hasn’t been given his chance. I have no problem with Hastings or Thomson , they should have been in the squad from the start, its just the about facedness of these selections

  13. Very interesting who lines up on Saturday, Bennett at 13, Steyn replacing VDM (if he is suspended), Bayliss partnering Darge at flanker, Hastings and Kinghorn on bench?????

    1. Does anyone know the where about of Finn Russell ? He wasn’t in the Racing 92 matchday squad.
      Perhaps he will be rested for the Italy game since Hastings and Ross Thompson have been brought in.

  14. Given he played on the previous Sunday night for Racing then last Saturday afternoon I was assuming Racing were having some concern for the welfare of their star player and giving him a rest at the weekend. But I take your point and the inclusion of four stand offs in the training squad where there were only two for each of the first three 6N matches might suggest that one or other of Russell or Kinghorn is a doubt for Saturday.

  15. Interesting call-ups, especially re Hastings & Thompson; Finn on the naughty step again? Assuming VDW suspended for rest of 6N and assuming no other injuries, I could certainly see Steyn or Kinghorn on the wing vs Ireland, with the other benches and possibly a 6/2 split. For Italy, who knows but don’t want too experimental as really need the win. Back row could see some kind of mix though; 2 x 7s with Darge & Watson with Bradbury at 8 and Christie on bench or go with Bayliss again. Also not sure if M Fagerson still injured? Bit surprised no additional front row cover with Kebble out; looking very stretched there, but not many options other than perhaps McCallum who has played both side. This tournament has gone from virtually full strength squad and high optimism to a series of injuries/bans/loss of form and fighting to ensure at least a fifth place. Ouch.

    1. Do we need to win this? We can’t win the championship anymore, what are we fighting for?

      Italy are a terrible team even by there own standards at the moment. They are not deserving of respect at this time. I say experiment with some combinations to prepare for the world cup. Our 2nd choice players in most positions are good enough to get a win here but more importantly valuable experience.

      Townsend not going to get the sack until at least after the world cup, may as well prepare for that.

      1. Yes, we will destroy any morale and credibility we have if we become the first 6N side to lose to Italy since 2015. If we have any pretensions of being a title challenger we cannot afford to lose.

        Italy can definitely beat us in Rome if we don’t take them seriously. 2 years ago only two late tries put a gloss on the 17-0 score line. 4 years ago we won by two points.

        Italy are hugely flawed but have talented players. The 6N is no time for experiments, it’s time to fight tooth and nail to win every game.

  16. Finn didn’t play for Racing at the weekend (not even on the bench) and they have called up two extra FH’s when up to now they apparently only needed one specialist in the squad. I suspect there’s something about Russell we aren’t being told….injury, covid or toys out of pram after the media backlash from the Wales game.
    It would be ironic, after all this, if Hastings started against Italy. The entire rugby fan base of Scotland have been calling for him since the squad was announced in January. There’s been something up, that’s for sure.

  17. A loss to Italy would be a disaster and totally agree with FF on the reasons for this. Use this game to establish a proper controlled and controlling game plan which hopefully enables us to dominate for once and get front foot ball which the backs can then use to show what they can do and get some flair and confidence back. To do that we need a strong pack, especially front 5. Dirge’s form and some absences mean we can look at changing the back row a bit. Redpath injured so hard to see a play maker at 12, same choice between Johnson and Tuipulotu probably despite understandable calls for Hutchinson, who had some good plays from 15 at the weekend. We need a good win and the team needs to prove it can deliver the goods.

    1. James Lang is in the squad as a 12 option. Not a flashy player but solid defence, better distribution that Johnson/Tuipolotu, been in good form for Edinburgh.

  18. Stuart Hogg – Darcy Graham – Mark Bennett – James Lang – Kyle Steyn – Blair Kinghorn – Ali Price – Matt Fagerson – Rory Darge – Hamish Watson – Grant Gilchrist – Sam Skinner – Zander Fagerson – George Turner – Pierre Schoeman

    Sione Tuipolotu – Adam Hastings – Ben White – Magnus Bradbury – Scott Cummings – Willem Nel – Stuart McInally – Allan Dell

  19. Why Price? He was eaten up and spat out by DuPont-not fitting for a ‘lion’.

    1. Yep. Outplayed by the world player of the year and the best scrumhalf of any nation and by some way. Should be ashamed of himself.

  20. We should be picking our pack based on arm size, we can’t afford to look undersized. I think this is why Cummings isn’t in the squad.

    Schoeman, Ashman, Fagerson, Skinner, Gray, Bayliss, Watson, Bradbury.

    I think that’s the best gun show we can put out but we need Alex Craig I to the swuad ASAP in my opinion and others to get in the gym.

    1. Brilliant. We should also be picking our backline based on shoe size. Everyone knows that’s the best indicator of how good a side-step they’ve got.

      1. This is the same guy who had that tired Dan Parks coach bit a while ago (Busy Little Bee, maybe?), I wouldn’t take any notice.

    2. Alex Craig : another one tried out and now where? It is no wonder we are going nowhere. We pick guys and dump them (in the case of Hastings for no good reason) but Harris was dreadful in his first game but Toony stuck with it. So inconsistent. It just does not make sense.

      1. He was injured for a fair while, has only recently returned to action for Gloucester.

  21. Bennett to be starting then the weekend.can’t wait to see how different the back 3 play with his turn of pace and ability to break the defensive line.

    1. You never seen that coming. What I find funny is that supporters still try and make smug-predictions with Toony around . He wears a Tin foil Hat. Now Italy are facing yet another changed back line and their preparations were all in vain. You need to be really smart to outsmart him.

  22. Is Bennett definitely starting this weekend ? He has just called up Hastings and Thomson ! What I find funny is no one ever mentioned Bennet’s star qualities last year. Redpath was the commenters safe choice as I recall.

    Toony will need something special to get us to our usual 4th perch this year. I will give you that.

  23. Not sure I want a win against Italy. All it does it is breathe air into this dead end set up: without it meaning anything to anyone. Let’s have an embarrassing loss and complete reset please.

    1. No, a win wouldn’t breathe life into the set up. It is the absolute minimum expectation. A win in Dublin might overshadow the disappointments against Wales and France, but not a win in Rome.

      On the other hand, a loss would plunge Scotland into an abject crisis and be a total humiliation. I think a Scotland fan who welcomed this needs to ask themselves some questions tbh.

      1. I get it, he just wants the same as many here. To see the back of the unfathomable Townsend. Lot’s of fans see the big picture, a minor win against Italy just prolongs what they believe to be a major problem. It doesn’t mean it wont hurt losing , it is just a case of deciding how quickly we want to change. Assuming you believe we are in a rut.

      2. Asked myself some questions, Dad, and still think a coaching replacement is needed. An Italy loss potentially leads to a replacement coach and ultimately refreshing/regrouping. An Italy win and Ireland loss most likely maintains the status quo.

        A bit of clear outcome-orientated thinking is probably too much to expect from some Scotland fans or the powers that be.

    2. Also it’s painful, wasteful and maybe even damaging to prolong things. Watching the last couple of matches it looks like he has lost half the dressing room and signs have been there longer.

  24. DVDM suspension:

    I’m struggling to understand how this was not overturned by application of the ‘low danger’ mitigation. He clearly makes contact with the head, but it is low force, tackler onto tackled player, and with his forearm. Was this really dangerous play deserving a 3-game suspension? I don’t think so.

  25. Bradbury move to Bears: good move for him, will maybe benefit from a fresh challenge which he needs to push himself forward to get more caps. Player who hasn’t quite lived up to his potential so far. Pat Lam too is going to have to rebuild his side so potentially Bradbury can play a major role in that.

    Good for Scotland as will give more chances for Muncaster. Possibly even time to move big bill on and invest his salary costs elsewhere.

  26. 100% agree FF , Perhaps a career defining move for Bradbury, Muncaster, Kunavola very capable players to cover

  27. Team Prediction for Italy.

    Hogg – Graham – Bennett – Johnson – Steyn – Russell – Price – Fagerson – Watson – Darge – Gilchrist – Gray – Fagerson – Turner – Schoeman

    Tuipolotu – Kinghorn – Vellacott – Christie – Skinner – Nel – McInally – Dell.

    I look forward to not getting it correct again consecutively since the Townsend era began.

  28. 3 areas Scotland need to improve

    3 round total England france ireland Italy scotland wales
    offloads 22 25 23 21 16 25
    dominant tackles 17 17 15 13 7 15
    penalties conceded 35 30 25 30 38 35

    lowest offloads..least dominant tackles..most penalties conceded

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