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Scotland v Italy: Six Nations 2023, Match Preview pt I

Scotland v Italy
© Scottish Rugby Blog

KO 12.30 at BT Murrayfield
Saturday 18th March 2023

Live on BBC1

Scotland are aiming for their twelfth consecutive win against Italy – this would take this streak out on its own as the dark blues’ longest run of victories against any nation in Test history.

Scotland’s longest winning streaks against the other members of the Six Nations:

  • England – 4 (1893-1897 and 1970-1973)
  • France – 5 (1925-1930)
  • Ireland – 11 (1882-1893)
  • Italy – 11 (2015- )
  • Wales – 5 (1923-1928)

Italy Scouting Report

Six Nations Struggles

Victory against Wales at the tail end of last season’s tournament finally snapped Italy’s 36-match losing streak in the Six Nations. After also turning over Australia in the autumn, Kieran Crowley’s side must have been relishing the start of the 2023 edition.

Things definitely haven’t gone to plan though. While they made life difficult for world numbers 1 and 2, Ireland and France, ultimately they only came away from those games with a single losing bonus point. They will regret not testing a rebuilding English side and their error-strewn performance against Wales.

That most recent defeat will really sting. While the head coach has deflected the focus onto the referee, he and his players will know that they created more than enough breaks and opportunities to vanquish the Welsh but simply made too many costly errors.

The double whammy that Scotland could face is that if the visitors get their psychological preparation right they will be able to combine the desperation for a victory with the knowledge that these kind of results can be in their own hands if they just execute their skills and the game plan they have been sent out there with.

Can We Kick It? No, Non Puoi

During the Six Nations, Italy have gained 2,415 metres through kicking the ball – by far the lowest return for any team in the tournament. That’s more than a kilometre less than Scotland and 1.7km less than France and England who are within 2 metres of each other at the top of the table for this stat.

Every other team in the championship has gained more ground from kicks than they have through carrying the ball. Italy have made nearly 800m more running than they do kicking. The commitment to their attacking shape is admirable but not playing the percentages on a regular basis has put them in defensive trouble on more than one occasion.

Scotland will need to be on their guard though. Fewer kicks mean fewer counter-attacking opportunities of their own for one thing. The Azzurri’s willingness to test defences has also seen them find holes to flood through, particularly when exploiting some pretty ropy midfield defence against Wales. The Huwipulotu partnership has drawn plenty of plaudits for their attacking flair but they have also combined for 78 tackles at a completion rate of 88%. They will need to be on the money again on Saturday.

Miscellany
  • Italy are the only team in the tournament to receive 4 cards (all yellow).
  • Sebastian Negri is the only forward with more than 50 carries in this season’s Six Nations.
  • The 32 lineout takes for Federico Ruzza are 14 more than anyone else in the championship. The Benetton lock is responsible for more than 50% of his team’s catches on their own throw-in.

Previous results

This will be the 12th time the two sides have met in Edinburgh for a Six Nations’ match. The head-to-head looks like this from Scotland’s perspective:

W W W W W W L W W W

Most recent meeting at Murrayfield:

Scotland 52 – 10 Italy

Significant stat
48 defenders beaten by Scotland – the most in the Townsend era. The corollary of this stat is of course on the other side it means the Italians missed 48 tackles. There were another 40 defenders beaten / missed tackles when the dark blues took a comfortable win in Rome last year as well.

The Azzurri themselves have 121 broken tackles in this season’s Six Nations – second only to France on 124. While it won’t exactly be defences optional, these are two teams set up to attack and, if the weather plays ball, this game could be a real tear-up to close out the tournament.

The Scottish Rugby Blog match report from that game is here.

Officials

Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant 1: Matthew Carley (England)
Assistant 2: Craig Evans (Wales)
TMO: Brett Cronan (Australia)

Last week, Scotland’s streak of 10 games without losing the penalty count was snapped by Ireland (6 pens for to 10 against) but history suggested that was always likely to be the case against that opposition! It’s essential that the team get back onto that good recent run of discipline against an Italian side who are in the middle of the pack for penalties conceded in this Six Nations.

Where the Azzurri do fall down in particular is at scrum time (10 pens – the most in the competition, compared to 6 for Scotland) and offside (9 pens – behind France’s 11 and Wales’ 10 but considerably higher than the 2 given up by Scotland).

Scotland’s previous game with Mr Gardner in charge:

  • 2021 – lost to South Africa (H)
    Penalties: 24 (
    For 9 – 15 Against)
    Cards: none

Part II of the preview, including the head to heads, will follow on Friday after the team announcement on Thursday.

The Teams

Scotland: Ollie Smith, Kyle Steynm Huw Jones, Sione Tuipulotu, Duhan van der Merwe, Blair Kinghorn, Ben White; Pierre Schoeman, George Turner, Zander Fagerson, Sam Skinner, Jonny Gray, Jamie Ritchie (capt), Hamish Watson, Jack Dempsey.
Replacements: Ewan Ashman, Rory Sutherland, WP Nel, Scott Summings, Matt Fagerson, Ali Price, Ben Healy, Cameron Redpath.

95 Responses

  1. Good to see Ashman and Redpath in the match day squad. Disappointed to see Kinghorn at 10. As we all know apart from GT it’s not his best position and we have a reputable 10 in Healy warming the bench. Price over Horne yet again, Horne is the form player, I despair. Watson needs to find his form in club matches first. GT selection is always perplexing.

    1. No Horne, why o why o why? What does he see in Price that is better than Horne … maybe speed of service a la Laidlaw

  2. Well teams out nice and early, Kinghorn, Smith, Skinner and Watson in and a totally revamped bench. Obviously Toony has taken a dim view of what the bench added against Ireland and looking at today’s bench it looks so much more impactful.

    I hope Kinghorn plays a blinder – we’ve obviously decided to stick with our game plan which is fine, but if the game becomes helter skelter Italy will love it. We still need to manage the game effectively and that means putting Italy back in their half and inviting them to make mistakes and pressurising their set piece IMO.

    1. Toonie should be having a good look at himself before he looks to others. His selections in this 6N have been a mixed bag – some big wins like huwipulotu and Ben White. But some costly loses (called with foresight by many folk) like dropping Crosbie and Horne, Berghan over Nel for Ireland

      And now we go back to Kinghorn kicking the goals while missing the chance to look at him playing in his best position. To quote the title of an article on this site last year “do we ever learn anything?”. I still think we’ll win but I don’t trust Townsend as a selector which is where a HC most influences winning/losing games for their team.

      1. well will we win ? I think we should have a kicker and just build the score board before breaking loose and crushing them. Our lineout may not function again, so where does that leave us? Running tap penalties !

      2. Of course we will win Bass Rock, im predicting 50 points on them.

        This Italian side may have improved but they have lost to the worst English and Welsh side in history on top of that they have lost their star player in capuozzo, they have a 10 playing FB now.

        Our depth is not great but theirs is awful.

      3. Neil, come off it , 50 points , never , we have lost our star player as well. We have had to put his replacement in to play at 10. We don’t have a kicker. What on earth makes you think we can win by 50 without Hoggy in the side ? You are having a giraffe. Stop it, now.

      4. Bass I’m nervous and optimistic

        Neil Italy seem to play better against the better teams…if it’s close at 60 are we mentally tough enough to put them away?

        I hope so. It’s likely Kinghorn leaves points out there and the team do so with Line-outs.

        So we’ll see a fast start would help

    2. Reading Kevin’s analysis , they are not for kicking the ball away, so we will need to tackle and win turnover , time for Richie and Watson to step up.

      Sutherland and Price on the bench, sometimes, in fact all the time, I just do not get Toony. Who is coming off to give Redpath a game ? He doesnt fit does he ? So what is that about ?

  3. Kinghorn at 10, he’s shown he is a very good back 3 player but he cant control a game. Only 1 kicker (whom you can trust) in the 23.
    Watson was a great player but hasn’t shown anything this season, at least Crosbie can say in his 1st 6n he never missed a tackle.
    It’s almost as If we will try and play fast loose rugby and ????……..hope for the best.
    Oh to be be Scottish

    1. Kinghorn to take the kicks when Scotland could have Horne playing. What’s the lad done wrong.

      1. If it comes down to kicks then we’re really in trouble.
        Like the look of this team, given the injuries and opposition.

      2. You have to ask the question. He brings everything we can not expect from Ali Price but frozen out. He is just not the teachers pet , is he !

    2. Is Ben Healy a kicker ? Omitting George Horne makes no sense, he could keep the score board ticking as there will be cards and I mean both ways

  4. I saw a post from Kevin Millar this morning on twitter that pointed out that BK has had more starts at 10 than Healy at any level this season. I would like BK to be playing 15 as well, as he’s impressed there but let’s hope that he does the business.

    The frustrating things for me are that Ashman has only been on the bench for this game and that Horne is missing again. The two games we won so far were partly because of the impetus he’s provided off the bench, Price is simply not in the same league.

    Is Crosbie injured, because if not, then he’s another person who played well as part of a winning team who has been dropped.

  5. Despite the changes this should be a very comfortable win, when we last played them at home Hogg was at 10 the the loss of Russell isn’t an issue. kinghorn has been great when he’s come of the bench and I’d argue he is choosing better running lines than Hogg currently who doesn’t seam to be coming to the game line at speed and spends a lot of time trying to jinks left and right. I for one hope has has a good game at ten and gets over the Australia failings.

  6. Completely agree with the Kinghorn at 10 grumblings. It feels negligent going into a meaningful international without a high-quality goal kicker. Plus a fast and loose game is right down Italy’s street, a more structured 10 like Healy would appear to better fit our needs.
    On a positive note front row reserves a vast improvement.

    1. Eh ? Sutherland . He has had a terrible time with the demise of Worcester. Short on game time IMO but 20 mins of the bench may work. Lets see how it goes.

  7. Getting into position to execute the maul inside their 22??
    Need to get 2 scores ahead of them or the fragility in the squad may be shown come the last 1/4

  8. Horne is a mystery.Great performances off the bench against England and wales then dumped for Price on the basis of him having a good 20 mins for Glasgow.Made no impact in the defeats against Fr and Ire but still no recall for Horne.
    Ditto similar comments re Crosbie-albeit he was a satarter in the two victories.
    And yet Toonie finally saw the light and selected Jones over Harris,Tuipolotu over Redpath/Johnson,brought bach Ritchie Gray,started Crosbie etc.
    Now he reverts to “safe” favourites Price and Watson.Disappointing.At least he’s brought in a whole new front row bench that looks much more secure than last week.

  9. Twitter chat is all BK10 anguish. I agree it’s pretty foolish to not have a top-notch goalkicker on the pitch, but there’s obviously more than the Italy game going on here.

    Basically whatever happens, we finish third. Toonie’s made it clear in his selections that the big plan in the world cup will be Russell at 10, KH on the bench covering 10 and back 3, and likely to come on at fullback or wing. Overall, I think this plan has been a huge success – Kinghorn’s been great coming on, and it’s allowed us to be so flexible with our bench (we can go 6:2, we can pick an out-and-out centre on the bench)

    KH is only going to be called on to play 10 in a big game if Finn gets injured. But Finn could get injured. So giving Blair as much time as possible playing 10 in more low-profile games is important, so if Finn goes down after 5 minutes against South Africa, Kinghorn’s got as much experience as possible under his belt.

    I’d class Italy at home with nothing at stake to be a low-enough profile game to let Kinghorn make his mistakes in. You may disagree, and I’m not belittling Italy – we could lose the game. But Kinghorn having more minutes as a test match 10 might just become vital later in the year.

    There may be other factors at play (maybe for his first cap, Townsend wanted to give Healy the chance to get a feel for the game before coming on. Or maybe he just feels Ollie Smith’s form should be rewarded). But if you do feel that Kinghorn on the bench is working, getting him comfortable at 10 is an important part of that plan.

    1. I really hope this isn’t the reasoning because there is a world of difference between 3rd and 3 wins and 3rd with 2 wins and a loss to Italy. It would make our efforts to be credible title challengers laughable. The 6N is important and we should fight tooth and nail to win every game.

      RWC warm ups are the time to give people minutes. I think Toonie has chosen Kinghorn as he has more experience than Healy at this level and plays a more similar style to Russell. I’d like to see Healy given a go, but more importantly I want Toonie to solely be concentrating on winning this game.

      1. Fair enough. You certainly make a good case for Kinghorn being in on merit over Healy, which is nice to hear. To hear some comments, you’d think he’d chosen Berghan at fly half.

        I don’t think that there’s anything like the pressure in RWC warm ups that there is in six nations games, and dealing with that pressure is something KH is learning. For me it’s a perfect game for him.

      2. Angerine: Its a no brainer unless you call up Duncan Weir etc and that is not happening. It was always going to be Kinghorn, we know his limitations and it is a low risk. He will manage it fine and hopefully he covers elsewhere and we get Healy on at a decent time to enjoy the last 20 mins.

    2. You’ve been sucked in by GT’s eccentric ways. To experiment for a year moving a 15 to 10 just for this dream concept is extreme. If you have a Barrett who can chop and change then great. But 10 is such a unique position and it’s much easier to be a 10 and play out wide than the other way. Having your 2nd best 9 and 10 on the bench is important. A 10 on the bench is more likely to provide cover in the back 3 and perhaps the centre positions. Hastings is a good example. Our centres can interchange and Steyn can play 13. Graham’s had some time at 15.

      I’d like to see the BK project dropped and let him focus on the back three where he’s better placed.

      1. Our pool of 10s is puddle deep. BK doesn’t have to be the best 10 in Scotland to make the conversion worthwhile – he just has to be good enough to sometimes be called upon. Which he is.

        Hopefully Healy will emerge as a serious test player but he hasn’t even had the opportunity to be the main man at URC level yet. Let’s give him time.

        We need at least 4 test competent FHs to not be caught short at times given injuries in the modern game. Would still like Finn Smith to come to the dark blue side, I wonder if there is still a possibility.

      2. FF very level headed reply thanks. You’re right about not enough depth at 10. A common theme in numerous positions. I guess until we can have more than 2 professional sides we’re always going to lack depth.

        Feedback from Munster is Healy is good and he’s had reasonable game time with them. He’s an out and out 10 so I was keen to see him getting game time. Fingers crossed he gets a good numbers of minutes on Saturday.

        Would be great if Fin Smith could be added but for now he’s holding out for England. He’s always welcome to change his mind.

      3. Yes I have high hopes For Healy too and Munster fans do seem to rate him highly. They just have a very promising player who has leapt ahead of him and Carbery, who has slightly flattered to deceive but the IRFU has invested a lot of time into.

        I am hoping that the absolute bin fire of a campaign under Borthwick will have dissuaded Smith, not to mention that Borthwick seems to have messed around all three FHs ahead of him and apparently included him in the squad but not really considered him anywhere near starting a test. We’ll take 3 10s including Russell and Kinghorn, so Smith could legitimately be a candidate for that last spot – it’s wide open considering Hastings injury struggles.

  10. Kinghorn has been outstanding for Edinburgh at ten and he is the obvious choice for this match. I’m glad Townsend has got that call right and Smith deserves a start at 15.

    I feel bad for Crosbie and G. Horne who did well and have been rewarded by being bombed out of the squad.

    1. He obviously has a lot of faith in Watson, which is fair enough in one sense but Watson has to pay it back. I hope Toonie doesn’t take out of form players to the RWC last time because he trusts them – Watson could struggle to get into the squad if Darge finishes the season strongly.

      1. It is obvious we need jackling on Saturday to halt the Italians and get them frustrated. They aint going kick us gifts, nope that is our game, kick perfectly good possession away and tackle till we wear our forwards out.

        Watson, when on form is not half bad in the Jackling department. Thought you lot adored ‘Pinball’. It is going to be a grind.

  11. Is it a pre -April fools team selection?…..We have no chance in RWC with GT as coach.

    1. Absolutely correct Ruggers, Townsend should be shipped out asap, and bring Vern back. I’m sure we’d vastly improve ready for the world cup. It would give the team the lift they deserve for sure.

      1. SAS : Wakey , wakey, you will miss the boat. Nope you have missed it, that ship has sailed and we look like a right bunch of Charlies. We bumped a guy who was rated, why would any class coach want Toony’s job now. Like most people, they want stable employment and to stay around long enough to have a positive legacy.

        Why the negativity, we will win on Saturday, we will get a bonus point, we will end 3rd and be 5th in the word rankings. What is so very bad other than the way we are doing it.

  12. Yep let’s play a 15 @ 10 …one that hasn’t played there for a long time.A player who can’t kick penalties to save a granny. Let’s just keep playing the guy because surely eventually GT can say he was right. We have a natural 10 who is an excellent place kicker sitting on the bench who will no doubt get about 2 mins of action courtesy of GTs awesome sense of timing using replacements. Lets leave the other good kicker and in form SH out of the 23 also…who did well in our only 2 wins.

    Let’s play Meek Johnny …who has struggled to look anything better than ordinary his entire test career. He does like to say yes though and cares for his team mates.

    Let’s play an aging dedicated 7 who has been out of form for 18months or so……instead of a player who is in form ,was in back to back winning sides, tackled impeccably ,did nothing wrong, offers a lineout option and can play 6. Watson has apparently been on the pitch in the last 2 matches …I never would have known.

    Winning tomorrow is expected sure….this was also a competitive opportunity to build our squad for the RWC and next years 6N. Its the same trophy for 2nd as it is for 4th..Frustrating and disappointing selection for me. A new contract for GT?…absolutely not imo

      1. Harsh on Gray. One of the best players on the pitch against France. Against Ireland he carried, passed, offloaded, counterrucked and, obviously, tackled. Part of a front five that went toe to toe with the best front five in the world for 55 mins. Any two of Cummings, Skinner and Henderson would also leave us pretty underpowered in the scrum, an area we’ll want to target against Italy.

      2. We all have different interpretations of players…I just don’t see J Gray in the same way. To me he looks cumbersome in movement…doesnt take initiative at the ruck..shows no ability to break the line…receives the ball and essentially flops to the ground. It’s a position that requires a ‘hard as nails’ mentality and in these times far more athleticism than he has ever shown. Not a test level starter imo…a 4th or 5th back up. Would have been a good opportunity to try out Henderson from the bench at least…a player that I think has a far higher ceiling.

      3. I agree on Henderson, I think he’s a real talent. I just don’t think Skinner and Henderson work as a test level partnership. You need a dynamic strike runner and lineout threat, and a big lump/workaholic.

  13. Agree re J Gray, looks as strong as an ox but almost passive in his actions, simply hasn’t progressed and for me it would be touch and go if he’s in rhe RWC squad.
    Crosbies’ exclusion is the worst selection for me, Watson is still in a Lions hangover mode.
    Whilst Kinghorn is not a 10 (he is a hood player) given a wee bit off luck and Italys more expansive style he may do well.

    1. The exclusion of Horne and Crosbie especially is atrocious player management imo…additionally players the likes of Hutchinson, Bennett, Bayliss many others.
      It sets a negative message to players looking for a pathway into our national side.
      It appears both Horne and Crosbie have taken previous criticisms of their play and gone out to correct them to such a degree that they have taken their games to a higher level. Playing excellently for their clubs. They have gone into the test side and performed to a high standard in winning back to back performances only to be immediately dropped.
      GT is an awful player manager…and his selections set Scotland back more often than they push us forward.
      His win rate % often gets touted in his defense….but I often think if a better coach had been there that % would and should have been much higher.

      No doubt we’ll scrap out a win against an Italy side that whilst improved were comfortably swept aside at home by one of poorest Welsh sides I have watched. Im however sure we’ll hear all about how great Italy were and suddenly a world class side. If we win it’ll be despite this selection…not because of it.

      1. Oh dear gawd, Toony’s gone and done it again.

        With Russell out, you’d think he’d look at the Italy Test to give Healy a run at 10. But did he? Hell no, why select a dedicated 10 when he could revive The Kinghorn Experiment – y’know, the one that didn’t work.

        As for Mr. Kinghorn, he should be playing at 15, not least because, y’know, he’s quite good there. I like Ollie Smith as a player but right now he’s behind Kinghorn in the pecking order at FB.

        Where next? Ah yes, SH. I’d like to celebrate Toony’s wisdom in including Horne in the 23. After all, he’s full of pep and is pretty hand off the kicking tee. Well, I’d like to celebrate it but…Toony’s picked Price instead. If you know why he’s done that then please send the answer on a stamped addressed CV to SRU HQ.

        And then we’ve got the curious case of Crosbie. Ah well, Mish has been pulling up trees since the Lions tour, hasn’t he? Anyway, it’s not as if we could do with another line-out option, is it?

        That leaves Jonny Gray, whose athleticism in the loose really, er, doesn’t exist to any noticeable degree.

        On the plus side, Ashman, Nel and Redpath are all in the 23. At best, though, Toony has presented us with yet another curate’s egg, albeit one with fewer good parts than we might have hoped for.

    2. That seems like a bit of a reach on Henderson. I accept he has had injuries but he’s just turned 23 and has started 16 top level matches in his career. By the time he turned 23, J. Gray had started 61 times for Glasgow (including being a central part of the pack that won the championship), captained the club and won 32 caps for Scotland.

      1. They used to call Jonny ‘stat boy’ in here. He looks like a much bigger lad. You cannot have it all, I would think he is stronger in the scrum. Now lets throw another one in for Toony – Where is big Chewy ?

  14. I’m a very positive person but often find it hard to remain positive with GTs management. 4 months ago Finn Russell was 4th choice, then he’s 1st choice and match winner v Argentina England Wales, this is inspite of GT, his continuing picking of Harris at 13 (as a defensive general) has been shown to be misjudged- see what centres who can play can do…..Bennett Hutchinson Jones were available.
    Now Crosbie Horne are jettisoned see RuggersB (above).
    Whatever the stats say GT must go in 6 months.
    Whatever the stats say it “felt” better under Cotter

    1. Yes…. and let’s not forget…would Russell ever have been selected again had GT not lost his choice FHs to injury? Russell a multi generational FH talent at that.

      Cotter wasn’t a coaching messiah …but he was a far far better player manager than GT. He also inherited a team that was utter garbage with no identity and direction and was on the verge of taking us further than we have been. GT inherited simply a better group of players in his time.
      Would be interesting to know who the players would want to play for given the choice.

    2. Simply incredible. He cannot win. He doesn’t change anything and he’s playing favourites. He changes things and it doesn’t work, he’s a misguided tinkerer. He changes things and it does work? Well that just shows how wrong he had it before.

      I do get the feelings thing – Townsend has never been good at connecting with the fans, or indeed many of the players. Like Cotter, he’s not the messiah.

      I also wouldn’t have got rid of Cotter, it was a stupid decision by the SRU, trying to keep Townsend in the country when broadening his horizons would have probably done him good. That’s the SRU’s fault. They messed up hiring Cotter, leaving us in limbo for a terrible year in 2014. They messed up firing Cotter, leaving Townsend with a mountain to climb mid-world-cup-cycle. They are, as we speak, messing up the transition from Townsend to the next guy.

      But none of that is Townsend’s fault. It’s ridiculous to compare him to the Cotter era that happened in your imagination, especially given the fact that – by every metric other than your precious feelings – we have got better under Townsend.

      1. Have we got better under GT?..and if we have… how much of that is due to his coaching abilities…and how much to the talent pool he has.

        Cotter took us from being absolute garbage and couldn’t buy a try ..to within a minute of our best ever finish at the RWC. GT inherited the base of an improving side and squad depth….and his effort at the RWC I can’t even quantify how much of a fail that was.

        I’d say he’s done somewhere between poor and average considering he has selected form what is widely believed to be the most talented overall squad of players we have had for a very long time.

        I think it is fair comparison …he immediately followed Cotter and inherited the same group of players.

      2. Rugguers Bee-hav yourself young sir: Hear , hear, hear , hear. Absolutely right. Having no real baseline other than his pals, Hoggy, Darcy, Sutherland, Price, Brown , Ryan Wilson, Toony made so many changes we could not actually measure success. Just fog, smoke, mirrors and a whole load of very , lets just call them peculiar, man management skills.

      3. Yes, he was within a minute of the best ever finish of the world cup. He was also within five minutes of the worst world cup ever. We almost lost to a bang average, fourth in the group Samoa team. We got insanely lucky that Japan had to play us four days after the biggest game in their history against South Africa. Japan smashed Samoa. If Cotter hadn’t had that slice of luck, it could have been the worst RWC in our history. That, after a whitewash six nations, and he’d probably have been out, and remembered as a coach that made Matt Williams look like Geech.

        I’m not knocking luck, it’s a part of any successful manager’s story. If we’d happened to have been drawn in groups c or d this time, we’d be talking about the semis as a serious possibility.

        I just don’t get the whole “he should have done better with this player pool” stuff. He’s made us 5th in the world, and it’s pretty undisputable – the last time we played each team below us in the world rankings (and had our whole player pool to choose from) we beat them. So for you to say our playing pool should be doing better – which of the top 4 do you think has a smaller, less talented player pool than us? Just to recap, your options are Ireland, France, New Zealand and South Africa.

  15. 6 years on and still mourning Vern Cotter. He didn’t really want to go either, he was keen to stay with the squad and get the best from them. I wonder what happened back then. Toony is a bit more short term in my opinion.

  16. Not really mourning Cotter sir, didn’t agree with it at the time, haven’t changed my mind.

    1. Who did think it was right John? Ah yes , I recall, a few lovely , beautiful, well meaning, naïve souls . Any of you out there ever said the words ‘in Toony we trust’.

      Well you did, and I told you that was not wise , I cringed, you laughed, you mocked, well your not laughing now are you !

      You never know who will wear your jersey next week in Toony’s side. That cannot be a nice place to be.

      But we are 5th in the world now, and it is that that will be remembered. Where could we have been with Cotter. Probably the same place, just sooner more consistently and what a legacy IMO.

      To his credit his TV interviews are much better, he seems relaxed, much better and more likable, But underneath, still doing it his way.

  17. Suspect Skinner got the nod over Humming, Strumming and Cumming due to his less skinny arms.

  18. Kinghorn has to be the starting 15 at the RWC. Hogg has lost his pace and his dancing feet into traffic gains no meters. The treatment of Crosbie and Horne has been shocking. Toonie’s old pals act will cost us again. Remember Barclay and Duncan Taylor running through treacle v Ireland at the last RWC? I sense deja vu.

    1. Yes…exactly ..its looking like deja vu…its a toss up who will be the Taylor replacement …Watson or Hogg.

      It’ll be the very same anti climatic embarrassment…absolutely rolled by SA and Ire ..challenged by Tonga …and leak a few tries to Romania.

  19. Ticketed up for Sco vs Ire in October and after a period of stability where everyone from the armchair was screaming (correctly, I believe) for the picks Townsend made that have largely worked in the 6N, now fearful for what squad we will have by then. Another chance here for Kinghorn at FB, gone. For Horne to start or on bench, gone. To replace the inimitable Watson, but not on form, gone. Worse, when we have a few players back, the spin may well begin again. This Italy game was at least a chance to make smart strategic replacements, gone. I am hopeful we might scrape something out of the SA game first, but by God we need some more thoughtful selections in the few games we have left before the WC to ensure the (only recent found) stability.

    1. We have one once in the last 15 v SA …and 1 in last 14 v Ireland …we’ll need more than hope…
      I actually think SA will top the group..not Ire. Our best chance …and its faint to say the least is a win v Ireland imo.

      1. Seriously – Who cafes about the World Cup. I agree with some of the comments in here. It is a S*1T show , Southern Hemisphere led, all others are Just cannon fodder the the big 3 in the other side of the equator plus the next big thing: Japan.

        WR, dropped them and gave us a moony, post Japan and we made it so very easy for them by turning up with our squibs burnt out and damp due in enigma of superfast rugby. What do we care , use it as a development plan.

    2. Charlie : You will learn, it is his way or no way. Just enjoy it , Good food, European beer, in with fellow enthusiasts. This time is coming to a close. What concerns me is who will want that job.

      1. Oh, I agree that I’d have liked Horne and Crosbie rewarded but once you called the World Cup a %$% you lost me. The game needs to grow and its a great fans event.

      2. Ok Sannox :: How can you be lost , go out your house , turn right or left , follow the road for 20 or 30 something miles and you are back where you started? how will the world cup grow the game here in Scotland ? Happens every 4 years , not been in Scotland since ? I think we were building the west, north and south stands last time it was here ? a construction site. How is that going to grow the game. It is me who is lost by that populous comment? are you on the wind up – one of us is on an island with no ferry .

        Next please ! How can I help you .

  20. Blimey there are some dour souls commenting on the blog at the moment.
    Only two months ago we were fearful of this weekend being the wooden spoon play-off. But we beat England (again) at Twickenham, thereby winning the Calcutta Cup for the 3rd year in a row for the first time since 1972. We hammered Wales, getting that particular monkey off our back, and what a shock – we lost to the top two sides in the world.
    Townsend has finally settled on his selections, and it is (generally) paying dividends. Those same people who complained about Toonie Tombola are now complaining that Townsend is sticking with “his buddies”.
    For those bemoaning Watson’s “lack of form”, he’s played a total of 24 minutes in the championship so far – subbed after 10 minutes against France thanks to Gilcho’s red card, and then on as a sub at 66 minutes when the game against Ireland was already lost. Difficult to prove your form in those circumstances. Of course I feel for Crosbie after a stormer against England. But he hardly shone like a star against Wales.
    Equally, I think Horne should have been given a chance here against Italy, but it’s hardly scraping the barrel to have Price on the bench instead.
    Come on guys – try having a pint that is half full for a change.

    1. I don’t have much issue with Watson being given a chance to prove his form as he was very unlucky to be subbed off against France.
      The main issue for me was not giving BK a chance to start at 15 prior to this weekend with the RWC in mind. Hogg has had a poor 6N and his dancing feet into traffic isn’t enough. On the other hand BK has looked like a significant upgrade as a replacement. BK should be much improved as FB with all the experience he has gained playing 10. Let’s get the benefit of that instead of persisting with Hogg. I also feel that Horne is far more likely to have a similar impact of the bench to the one JGP had for Ireland last week. He did well IMO when he came off the bench at the start of the 6N and then disappeared. I understand that Toonie is trying to give everyone minutes and that it’s not easy keeping a big squad happy but come the RWC I just want to see a 23 picked on merit.

      1. The thing with Watson…and I’ll preface by saying that he was a really good effective 7 for a couple of years in his prime….is that what exactly has he done in the last 18 months that justifies dropping an inform player who played well in back to back wins who frankly brings an ability to at least play 2 back row spots to a high level.?
        Ditto…Horne v Price …as you point out. Why pick Price?…he hasn’t been playing well and we all know what he does and doesn’t do…surely it’s an opportunity to further develop Horne for the RWC squad in a competitive fixture.

        Agreed …Hogg arguably played his best years of rugby at the wrong time for us…though he was also a shining light when the cupboard was bare. He looks like he is running in treacle now. Nothing that is his fault…just his body is giving notice. I fear we might be re witnessing the Duncan Taylor RWC..and GT will persist out of loyalty. The one thing imo that has been good is Kinghorn learning 10 spot..is its made him a better 15. He still isn’t a test 10 though. He is ahead of Smith at the moment at FB…though I think Smith will become the better overall FB.
        One of the frustrating things for me …is that GT keeps making historical references when justifying his selections…players he believes ‘played well for Scotland in the past’. I am half expecting him to select John Jeffrey in the RWC squad.

    2. Totally agree Merlot. Alas it’s the Scottish psyche to think we should be way better off than we are, and find someone to blame.
      Ultimately this is the best group of players and coaches we’ve had in as long as I can remember, and the best run of results. People have short memories….remember when we got excited because Sean Lamont broke a tackle that went… nowhere? Dark days indeed, and here we are beating England and Wales, getting close with the top 2 in the world, and people call for a new coach……! Madness.

      1. Hey you, happy optimists : Why did we throw away the second half last week ?

        What happened at half time?

        What happened when we brought on the bench?

        Why did we change the bench this week?

        We all spotted it last week , we went to print on our concerns about the bench.

        This blog documents it all. Don’t you read !

        Listen to the Podcast , Berghan and Brown should never have been there and Bhatti is a good open play prop , but Irelend are aggressive and experienced in the scrum.

        He picked the wrong bench in the wrong game.

        This team is good enough , to be second : tomorrow could / should have been a three way scrap.

        What happened ? I think the Head Coach got it wrong , how many times have we been here.

  21. Since professionalism we have served up, for the most part, absolute dross whilst handing out the odd bloody nose.

    Townsend can be infuriating at times, the ever-turning tombola, the perceived man-management issues with some players and the occasional stubborn streak regarding certain selections that seem to defy form or sense (see RWC 2019). I am in no doubt however, that overall he has been a success. The way the whole big VC saga unfolded was undoubtedly harsh on Vern. He was a great man-manager and did a great job in turning us around and getting our confidence back etc etc. Who knows whether he would have done a relatively better job – there’s no point in looking back. All those calling for Townsend to go need to be careful what they wish for.

    We can see by looking at Glasgow that getting the wrong coach in can massively set you back. If we do get a new coach in, he will need to be pretty special in order to maintain our current levels and also squeeze out that top 5% we are currently missing (probably mental as much as anything else). Who is that, who knows? Will that even be enough to win something? Maybe not.

    Yes, we have the best set of players in a generation – unfortunately our rivals are in the same boat. Who thought the POC and BOD team would be bettered so quickly? The French are outstanding all over the park. Italy are improving rapidly even if results don’t yet show.

    It’s great that we are now going into games with genuine expectation & not just shreds of hope but perspective is needed. If we can win tomorrow with a BP, it’s been a very good tournament.

    1. I think GT has self created much of his negative perception.

      Player dramas…an epic fail of a RWC…anticlimatic performances and results…not delivering on high reaching performance statements.

      GT and players such as Hogg keep making preeminent statements of our abilities in the press (granted the press are looking for it.. but they say it nonetheless). Therefore, if you keep saying we can beat anyone ..our performances and results must be compared to that. Hence, this 6N, if we win the Italy match v Italy …we can’t say it’s been ‘very good’..it has been average. We lost matches that we needed to win to back up what we said about ourselves. Just like previous 6N. If we lose….

      If we keep doubting our right to a better quality coach …then that is what we will get.

      1. I agree that Townsend has been responsible for the negative perception & much of it deserved – it was only a few weeks ago people were saying he had finally listened – Huwipolutu, Horne, Crosbie, no unforced changes – only to revert to type over the last few weeks, and double down on it.

        My point re: a better quality coach is that we don’t really know how someone is going to work out. People were not overly enthusiastic about Franco Smith when he started but he has done a great job so far. When Rennie took over from Townsend it was widely lauded and accepted that he was a step up, having won two Super Rugby titles. Was he though?

        Players will always say ‘we can beat anyone’, usually followed by ‘on our day’. You can consider it an average tournament but I see it differently – matching our best ever six nations finish doesn’t scream average to me, especially when losing only to the world 1st and 2nd ranked teams.

        Before the tournament if we’d been offered 3rd place, I think the majority of us would have gladly taken that. Don’t think too many would have said, nah, we’re better than that.

        Anyway, it’s all a pointless argument if we don’t win tomorrow!

    2. Cotter got us from last place to 4th in the 6N in 3 maybe 4 6N.. Toony has taken 6 years to get us to hopefully 3rd (thats just one place better) but in a year where both England and Wales have been in meltdown. (The welsh players are about to lose their jobs).

  22. Starting Healy would’ve been a massive risk.
    Sorry folks – reality – he doesn’t usually start for Munster.
    Carbery does.

    If he was Munster’s starter and Munster were in incredible form he’d probably start.

    But he’s not and they’re not.

    He’s only just come in. Let him establish himself as Edinburgh starter.

    Hastings and Thompson would be the other candidates but they are injured.

    So reality is it had to be Kinghorn.

    We know he’s a threat at the line.

    I think he’ll be fine.

    1. I told them that yesterday , it had to be Kinghorn, he is good enough for tomorrow, he knows the calls, the moves, he will do. Of course he will be fine.

    2. Healy might be 2nd or 3rd at Munster…but Ireland teams have much greater depth than we do. Anyone who has watched him play can see he is a better player than our options beyond Russell.

      1. I’ve heard a couple of Irish rugby supporters say that there is virtually nothing between Munster’s three FH’s. They are all of similar quality but Healy for some reason just seemed to be less favoured by the IRFU given that he was omitted from their emerging talent squad. If he develops with Edinburgh I think he could be the heir apparent to Russell given his age.

      2. Totally agree Saint.

        Healy is IMO the FH with the most potential in Ireland.

        In a couple of years I reckon the Irish fans will be incandescent that their blazers didn’t tie him down.

        I remember watching him almost single-handedly destroy Edinburgh a couple of seasons ago in Limerick. A class act.

  23. I think we need to win with BP, I know that will not be easy before Irish pundits cry arrogance, but i think we need to finish strongly. Glad to see Ashman and Redpath, still unsure why Hutchison and Johnson are ignored, granted centre is a strong group for us.

    The Kinghorn thing baffles me. We have only 3 FH i guess? But tomorrow really should have been a chance for Healey from the off for me. I like Ollie Smith so happy with that.

    A 5 point clinical win on balance is an Ok tourney. The World Cup i just cannot see us getting out of the group. I think we will need to beat SA . The group is a joke from World Rugby. Don’t think French will be overly pleased that one of us, SA, Ireland not making the QF, with supporter numbers etc.

    What a ludicrously laughable lopsided draw.

    1. The draw really is a laughably inaccurate reflection of world rugby approaching the RWC..

      Band 1 : Wales (9)? England (6)? …haha
      Band 2: Ireland (1)? France(2)? Japan(10)?…haha
      Band3: Scotland(5)? Fiji(13)?

      Its soo inaccurate its worth redrawing…

      1. WR only need Australia, NZ, SA, Japan, Italy and France. The home guard and nations with room to expand. All others (the founding nations) are making up the spectacle. If anything we are losing professional sides in England and Wales are in financial difficulties, we are even less attractive to the businessmen at WR.

    2. andy c :It is not the French’s world cup, they only host it. WR own it , they dont care , Japan have a fighting chance and more room to grow the game and it’s revenue stream from Japan . Good business by WR.

      We do we need Redpath, What positions is he covering ?given Hutchinson filled in at Full back, he plays centre regularly he may have been worth a call, I agree with you , so once again I ask, what is Redpath doing there. Old Chum?Would you mind scratching my back ?

    3. We will win with a BP. Dont let the grunters put you off, the penalty’s will be coming thick and fast . We would be put of site by half time if we had a kicker.

    4. It’s crazy that two of France, NZ, SA and Ireland will get knocked out in the QFs. Well done WR. FWIW I think Ireland could get well lose to SA and get dumped out by either France or NZ. Sexton isn’t durable enough to go deep into the tournament and they’ll be lost without him.

  24. Cotter got us from last place to 4th in the 6N in 3 maybe 4 6N. Toony has taken 6 years to get us to hopefully 3rd (that’s just one place better) but in a year where both England and Wales have been in meltdown. (The Welsh players are about to lose their jobs).

    It is kind of boring but don’t warn people to be careful what they wish for. What do you think you are ?

    Toony has made us look like laughing stocks, every nation wishes us well, they hope this is our year , they all see it, they all are willing us on , and we just do something wrong every time.

    We could have had Ireland last week! What went wrong ? What happened at Half time? What happened in the first half of the 38-38 draw ? What happened in the second. Selections that make our eyes spin and results that leave us feeling humiliated.

    Take another look.

    1. When you say he took us from last place, he was coaching us when we won the wooden spoon including losing to Italy in Murrayfield. The season he took us to 4th we also got battered in Twickenham conceding 60pts. So a bit less of the cherry picking please.

      1. You didn’t deny e has made is look like inadequate imbeciles.less of the cherry picking yourself .Toony lost to the USA and all the rest. So stop cherry picking yourself and do not take that serious attitude with commenters. They have an opinion, so do you. It ain’t win / loose in here. What has been said is factually correct and here is another one . Cotter beat Ireland. Toony did not. How about that for cherry picking.

      2. How dare you accuse commenters of cherry picking. Cotter beat early in his tenure , Toony did not. This could go on all night. I am surprised at you FF choosing to pick on people on cherry picking.

  25. How dare you accuse commenters of cherry picking. Cotter beat early in his tenure , Toony did not. This could go on all night. I am surprised at you FF choosing to pick on people on cherry picking.it is your modus operendaii young sir.

    1. Horrace you fail to say that when you look at our clash with Ireland, it was there to take,at home, in front of a great crowd, with the best team we have ever fielded against Ireland. That was Toonys legacy , to take the world number 1″s. It was his to ito take , but could not motivate he team sufficiently to capatalise on the opportunities presented IMO.That would have really been a head turner

  26. Not sure I agree with some of the chat here. Italy are a much improved side, and the struggles we had are mirrored by Ireland and France, both of whom struggled with Italy.
    My takeaway is that any side can on the day cause huge issues and upsets because of the quality of analysis that goes in to figuring out defences in preparation. Scotland were good, defence in particular was great, Jones has the full game now. Looking to the WC we need to maintain depth and for the most part Toonie has done this by giving players a shot, even if it doesn’t always work out. But at least we now know for example that Ashman replaces Brown on the bench. Ritchie Gray and Gilchrist start with Cummings Skinner on bench. Dempsey 8, with Fagerson backup, and BK starts at 15 but is an option if Russell gets injured. Rest of backs are settled, though would love to find a way Redpath can be included, he is class.
    Will we get out of pool stages not an easy task, but it’s not imo going to be a reflection on our coaching setup, more the way the WC groups have played out. But ever the optimist I have my tickets for Ireland Scotland Oct 7th….!

    1. I have to disagree :Jones always had the full game, he never came from obscurity , he played for a Currie Cup winning South African side.

      I hate to say it, but he was always going to be the new big cheese in Scottish rugby.
      He was never going to fit in at Glasgow 1st time out, was he ?

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