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Scotland’s Rugby World Cup 2023 squad – ins and outs

Gregor Townsend - pic © Peter Watt/N50 Sports
Gregor Townsend - pic © Peter Watt/N50 Sports

1,444 days after naming his selection for the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan, Gregor Townsend has unveiled the 33-man group to tackle the Pool of Death in France during the 2023 edition of the tournament.

While the turnover in players is more than some of their rivals (although not getting anywhere near Eddie Jones’ levels of ‘transition’) there is a solid core with previous RWC experience, complemented by some of the best and brightest who have burst onto the scene in the last four years.

Here is how the make-up of the squad has changed when compared to the initial 2019 selection:

Late call-ups to the 2019 squad:

  • Magnus Bradbury in place of Hamish Watson after Round 1
  • Henry Pyrgos in place of Ali Price after Round 1

Caps

2023 squadScotland caps2019 squad
0
7
8
11
7
Uncapped
1-10
11-25
26-50
50+
0
7
8
11
5

There are 15 players in the squad who have previously featured at a World Cup [2019 – 13].

The 33 players were given their Scotland debuts by:

  • Gregor Townsend – 24 [2019 – 10]
  • Vern Cotter – 7 [2019 – 10]
  • Scott Johnson – 1 [2019 – 8]
  • Andy Robinson – 1 [2019 – 2]
  • Frank Hadden – 0 [2019 – 1]

The squad members with more than 50 Scotland caps to their name are:

  • Richie Gray (75)
  • Finn Russell (71)
  • Grant Gilchrist (64)
  • Ali Price (63)
  • Zander Fagerson (59)
  • Hamish Watson (58)
  • WP Nel (56)

Blair Kinghorn (46), Chris Harris (43) and Jamie Ritchie (42) could (theoretically in some cases) reach their half-centuries prior to the end of the World Cup.

Average number of caps per player for each RWC squad:

  • 2023 – 31
  • 2019 – 29
  • 2015 – 23
  • 2011 – 35
  • 2007 – 27
  • 2003 – 24
  • 1999 – 16
  • 1995 – 18
  • 1991 – 16
  • 1987 – 15

Clubs

2023 squadClubs2019 squad
14
14
1

2
1
1







Glasgow
Edinburgh
Gloucester

Bath
Toulon
Unattached

Ayrshire Bulls
Clermont
Exeter
London Irish
Racing 92
Saracens
Scarlets
12
10
1





1
1
1
1
1
2
1

This is the largest Scotland Men’s squad picked for a World Cup but the 5 players playing outwith the Scottish pro teams are the fewest for any selection for an RWC in the professional era.

Player numbers and game time

The total number of players included in Scotland men’s Test squads during the Townsend era is 135 [2019 – 90].

Ali Price is the only man who has played some part in each of the previous series during Gregor Townsend’s time in charge (Price was unavailable for selection in the 2021 Summer Tour squad but, ultimately, no games went ahead).

108 different players have seen game time in Scotland’s Tests since summer 2017 [2019 – 72].

No one has featured in all 69 matches since the start of the Townsend era. Ali Price (58 games) has made the most appearances – 8 more than any other player [2019 – Ali Price 21 out of 26, 1 more than any other player].

Age

2023 squadAge2019 squad
4
11
11
7
23 or younger
24 – 27
28 – 30
Over 30
7
9
9
6

Average ages

  • Full squad – 28.5 [2019 – 27.8].
  • Backs – 27.5 [2019 – 27.4].
  • Forwards – 29.3 [2019 – 28.2].

WP Nel is the elder statesman at 37 years and 4 months – after being the 2nd oldest in the previous RWC squad [2019 – Greig Laidlaw – 33 years and 10 months]. He is the oldest player selected for any Scotland’s Men’s squad for a World Cup.

There are 12 players who will be 30 or younger when the 2027 tournament kicks off, including 3 players born in the 2000s – Ewan AshmanRory Darge and Ollie Smith [2019 – 12 players who would be 30 or younger for the 2023 RWC, 9 of whom are in the current squad]

Smith is the youngest in the squad (23 years and 0 months) [2019 – Darcy Graham – 22 years and 2 months].

Scoring

2023 squadTop try scorers2019 squad
Graham – 19
vd Merwe – 18
Jones – 16
Kinghorn – 13
Turner – 9
Russell – 8
Steyn – 8
Watson – 7
G. Horne – 6
Harris – 5
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
Hogg – 19
Seymour – 19
Maitland – 12
Barclay – 6
Kinghorn – 6
McInally – 6
Russell – 5
Graham – 4
Gray – 4
P. Horne – 4
Laidlaw and Turner also had 4 tries prior to the 2019 tournament

The squad have combined for 146 Test tries [2019 – 120].

42 have been scored by forwards [2019 – 34].

104 by the backs [2019 – 86].

The squad includes 2 men who have scored over 100 points in Test matches – Finn Russell (306) and Blair Kinghorn (123) [2019 – 3 players: Greig Laidlaw (695); Finn Rusell (137); Stuart Hogg (107)]

Captains

Jamie Ritchie takes over from 2019 squad captain, Stuart McInally. Ritchie is the 6th forward and 2nd back row to fill this role.

Scotland’s Rugby World Cup captains:

  • 2023 – Jamie Ritchie (flanker)
  • 2019 – Stuart McInally (hooker)
  • 2015 – Greig Laidlaw (scrum half)
  • 2011 – Alastair Kellock (lock)
  • 2007 – Jason White (flanker)
  • 2003 – Bryan Redpath (scrum half)
  • 1999 – Gary Armstrong (scrum half)
  • 1995 – Gavin Hastings (full back)
  • 1991 – David Sole (prop)
  • 1987 – Colin Deans (hooker)

And Finally

Here is a best guess (with the emphasis on the guess!) at how the Depth Chart for the current squad stands ahead of the RWC:


2019 caps, ages etc. are all as the date of the squad being named – 3rd September 2019.

33 Responses

  1. Sad for McInally. He was good against France and I thought would make it ahead of Ashman. Ashman was poor in his last game but I guess his past form means he has credit in the bank. Can’t help but think that McInally announcing his retirement before the RWC played a part in the decision

    1. I agree. I don’t think the lineout mix up late in the France game helped either although not sure that was down to a bad throw. I would have picked McNally ahead of Cherry

    2. Difficult one, I thought Rambo played pretty well when he was on for the last few games, probably better than Ashman. However Ashman is a talented lad and represents the future, Rambo is yesterdays guy.

      Dave Cherry was superb so he definitely needed to go.

  2. Not a very controversial selection. Added to the McInally who I would have selected, I think Baylis is unlucky not to be selected over either Watson or Crosbie. Hopefully Hamish shows class is permanent. Crosbie has not made the impact for Scotland I was expecting based on the rave reviews of his Edinburgh form. A breakthrough tournament would be great. Strong looking squad where vast majority look fit and in form.

  3. Given where Scotland “are” I find it hard to give much of a different opinion, Watson Harris out Bayliss Hastings in perhaps but apart from that.
    Ashman is not to be fully trusted presently but he may only be playing v Romania.
    A really fascinating tournament awaits

  4. There is only one RWC 2023 so Ashman being “one for the future” is surely totally irrelevant? (and Townsend won’t be coaching us in 2027 so he’s not really interested in building for that. Just pick the best three hookers today-and in my view McInally just edges Ashman.
    Likewise Crosbie/Bayliss must have been a 51:49 call.

    1. Rambo is the better option right now. Ashman’s time will come.

      Can’t argue too much over the other calls save for choosing Healy over Hastings.

    2. not sure the crosbie bayliss decision matters as i doubt either make the match day 23 for the 2 big pool games

      1. Sure but just needs an injury-so perfectly possible Crosbie could end up playing in either of those games.

      2. IMO Crosbie needs a run of games to show his best form, for one reason or another he hasn’t had that for Scotland. For me a fully fit firing Crosbie starts for Scotland

  5. Given where we currently are at hooker I would have picked the same 3 as Toonie.
    McInally not around post RWC. Turner & Cherry, I’d imagine will be there last one. Turner will be 35 during next RWC and Cherry will be 36. Ashman is the future along with lads like Paddy Harrison and Elliot Young (trust me) and to have no hookers at the next RWC with any experience can’t be good.

    McInally was a fine servant and that try against England in the 38 all game will be shown for years but I can’t help feel his retirement decision went against him as much as Cherry’s performances every time he gets a chance.

    Controversial, but I would have went with Bayliss over Watson. Bayliss offers a point of difference in attack with his footwork and pace, whereas, Watson will play 2nd fiddle to Darge and Crosbie is more than able to take on Tonga and Romania, and covers more of the back row than Hamish.

    Final one, if Ben White was 100% fit, I’d have taken Dobie over Price.

    1. Very good points. For all the criticism we all give coaches, it must be hard, it’s easy to say just pick your best 15/23 there and then but if you don’t give young guys experience, even if it is just to tour and maybe play the “easy” teams then it jeopardises the squad of the future. It’s a fine balancing act and on this occasion I think Toonie has done pretty well.

  6. Like everyone else, can’t really fault the selections.

    McInally very unlucky to miss out after recent cameos, along with Baylis. Ashman’s form has been a bit down, but he’s going to be our starting hooker for the years ahead. A few comments saying Mish is maybe a bit lucky to be picked, but I thought he looked a lot sharper than he has in a while versus France. Not back to his pinballing best, but still very good, and his experience/leadership seems to be valued by the coaches.

    Think the backline pretty much picks itself. Really good combination of attacking threat and versatility, with a few guys able to cover multiple positions. If White isn’t 100%, I think you have to hand the keys to Horne now. Price is solid and highly experienced, but we play with more zip when Horne is at 9.

    All in all, if it wasn’t for a nightmare group, I’d be incredibly excited about this squad rather than cautiously optimistic.

  7. I see Wales are rolling out Dan Lydiate again for their game vs South Africa. Over the last 4 years Wales have repeatedly been able to negate South Africa’s power game by deploying a specialist chop tackler in their back row. What can Scotland learn from this? A real shame Andy Christie got injured.

  8. Horne is currently playing the best he ever has. he’s developed his game hugely over the last year. he as fast, fit and tenacious as ever but the speed, accuracy and distance of his pass off the base of the ruck seems to have really improved. His box kicks are more consistent with a very snappy quick action thats hard to charge down. And then of course he’s added his goal kicking. I’m guessing the only reason he’s not started a game yet is that he’s still considered a target in the defensive line.

  9. I am disappointed that McInally has missed out. He has experience and a cool head. The others deserve a place as well, I just think we are letting more go than we are gaining.

    I do not think he has suffered by announcing his retirement before the tournament. It is just a coaches decision and a hard one , I bet.

    Out of interest, if we got injury, could he be called back ?

    I am a McInally fan , I will miss him, but I am sure he will, like me, remember only the positives and remember all the great places this game took him, with pride.

    I will never forget the role he played in leading by example in the draw with England and I really believe that was a watershed day for Scottish rugby. The day the wine glass , became half full.

  10. In response to John Martins post and Crosbie I feel Crosbie would benefit from some coaching around his strengths and to focus on these but also increase his self-belief in terms of his potential. It reminds me of Magnus Bradbury who also has sadly hit a level way below the levels he could strive for.

  11. Whilst sorry that McInally is missing out, I believe GT has made the right decision having learned the lesson of 2019. He took John Barclay, just back from injury and little game time, over Matt Fagerson, who had come off a great season for Glasgow and a Pro14 final.

  12. Wales truly atrocious today. South Africa didn’t look that great, and couldn’t hit a barn door in terms of penalties. If Pollard isn’t fit then there is a clear route to victory, in being relentless and keeping the scoreboard ticking over. If he is fit, out play them anyway.

  13. England looked pretty poor against Ireland. Ireland seemed a bit rusty and there were mistakes there, but they are a machine. We are in a better position than we have been for years, but beating and/or Ireland will take almost everything to go right for us.

    1. I don’t know.

      Frankly, nothing about Ireland is particularly intimidating. Tadhg Furlong maybe, but he’s no Schoeman and won’t bother Nel.

      James Lowe is class but no Duhan. Ringrose ain’t Huw Jones, and Aki has not the skills of
      Tui.

      They look like a team past it or in transition, not at its peak.

      Rudderless, unspectacular and as you say rusty. And without knowing who will be their 10.

      Usual cheating at the breakdown and poor in the line out.

      Man for man – Scotland are a better side XV. The Irish don’t think it, but it’s true and been a while coming. Can’t wait to stick it to POM.

      1. I agree with what you say, but history says we get out hopes up and Ireland find a way. I think we can gain parity in the scrum, but they did a number on our line out last time, with a flanker throwing in. The SA scrum looked way too strong for Wales, so we need to play to avoid scrums and keep the ball in play.

        Seeing Wales and England at such a poor level makes the draw a farce, which has been said before.

      2. I hear you but Ireland are a great team though as in they are greater than the sum of their parts, there’s no getting away from that. I would agree that there aren’t necessarily that many players I would prefer over ours man for man but they are a winning machine, they find a way, if someone goes off or gets injured their game doesn’t fall apart. They do cheat at the breakdown, everyone does to a certain extent, but its up to us to find a way of dealing with that, whinging that the refs all let them away with it doesn’t do any good, even if it is true.

        It’s something we have struggled with for a long time, we have had good players but we never seem to play to the players full potential, we are getting there though.

        I do hope they have done their usual though and peaked too early. I’m certainly not scared of them in the same way as the Boks, we can definitely beat them but it won’t be easy, they are ruthlessly efficient and can strangle the life out of any team if they are allowed to, we never seem to do well against that type of play, the heads go down, start trying to force it and the mistakes creep in.

        What is looking positive is we look fit and fast, we had France knackered in both games. Compared to 4 years ago (I know the Japanese climate was different obviously) but our guys looked like they were running in treacle and blowing after half an hour, we look much better this time.

  14. What strikes me is that when you look at Scotland and see the majority of the players are from two
    clubs who have nothing in the last 20 years..they lose year after year to 2 Irish clubs( who make up most of the cheating Irish team). Ireland are in decline so much that have won successive under 20
    grand slams). Not science should take off his tartan glasses and make less biased posts.

  15. Can’t see anything other than a loss to both SA and Ireland…If we haven’t came up with an innovative way to deal with their structures and physicality ..it won’t even be close. We’ll get smothered out the game. That said I don’t see either winning the RWC….NZ look the best team I have watched this year.

  16. My post is based on yesterday’s game and the last one in the Six Nations. I am talking about the senior national team, and you can only put XV on the pitch.

    Scotland have a rare group of in form players right now (which extends into the wider squad). If fit and firing – with Russell, Gray, Nel and Schoeman – will compete at the set piece and have the better half-back pairing (I’d take White / Russell over Gibson-Park / Bryne). In fact would take the entire Scotland backline. I also think our pack has quietly come together, and Dempsey is key too. Ireland do not have a better XV man for man: in truth it is two very good sides. Murrayfield was a missed opportunity by a decimated team, where the lineout fell apart without Gray, and Russell was playing injured.

    At the end of the last season Munster, Healy’s Munster, was a missed opportunity for Glasgow. Having beat them a few weeks previously, along with Ulster and Connacht, the game was settled by cards. Not that it is particularly relevant but Glasgow of course have topped the table enough years, and Finn took them through Ulster and Munster to the title. Leinster are a bit of bogey team. However, Scotland really goes up levels in drawing the best combinations from the clubs and (*ducking for abuse) I’m not sure the Irish XV is much better than Leinster.

    France have won the last two U20 World Cups. This team just beat the senior side. They are confident, fluid, consistently selected and in harmony.

    If Ireland are a grinding machine, which tends to choke and stutter during world cups, this Scotland team is poem whispered into our ears by a choir of nymphs on a lunar eclipse. Enjoy the magic while it lasts.

    “Take off Tartan glasses”. I’m putting on tartan pyjamas and tartan slippers with a little lion rampant too.

  17. Qualification out of the pool may certainly lie with how we perform against Ireland. I read everywhere now how South Africa are focusing on the Scotland tie, perhaps they view their Ireland game as lost as well. It’s the last thing we need as I think we are focusing all efforts on the SA game.
    Disappointing but you can’t expect players who get mullered week in week out when playing for their clubs by Leinster, Munster and Ulster to believe they can beat them because they pull on a Scotland jersey. Sure, Russel can sprinkle a bit of stardust on the team but it’s still basically the same players looking over at they guys that beat them every week.
    Take your pick , Ireland getting the better of the ref and getting away with cheating at the breakdown and offside line, or S.A dictating the nature of the game slowing it down and going from scrum to scrum and the kick fest.
    I’m just not sure how we impose our game on these top 2 sides.

  18. From what I watched yesterday , France are not as well prepared as they could be . Will the pressure of a home tournament get to them. Still a great side and I hope they do it as we have the beating of them, while we struggle to beat sides they dominate. On the form I witnessed , I might give France the nod over Ireland when and if they meet.

    Scotland are well prepared and confident , they have maintained , maybe even improved, their 6N form. We are certainly a balanced side . I like the look of Redpath and Horne from the bench. Ireland are Ireland, probably capable of more but not showing it, yet . England and Wales , really dire, demonstrates what a daft move it was to make the draw so long ago. Fiji great to watch, big hits in fact topo big, leaves the attacker isolated and in a place where offences happen.If they can concentrate on the basics , they will spring a surprise, a fun side to watch. I have to say France gave as good as they got, but it was costly.

    I think Scotland are well capable of a big game, however consistency and sustainability are not quite there. Winning is not a habit, yet!

    Not science : you are taking the tartan thing too far !

  19. After 3 days on the beautiful North Yorkshire coast here are my ramblings
    We can most certainly beat South Africa, their forwards are formidable (so we have to match them) but their backs (especially without Pollard) can be got at. IMO, re the forwards this is where Crosbie needs to announce his arrival onto the international stage, his physicality can be key.
    V Ireland – we most definitely can match them – in the last 6N game we physically beat them in the 1st half – poor decision making cost us big time thereafter.
    We are underdogs but GT seems to have learnt and is lucky to have a peaking Finn Russell at 10.
    Bring it on

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