Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Townsend Narrows Scotland Rugby World Cup Squad

Dave Cherry - pic © Peter Watt/N50 Sports
Dave Cherry is making a late case for inclusion - pic © Peter Watt/N50 Sports

Following the insane comeback win over France at the weekend, Scotland Rugby head coach Gregor Townsend has reduced the current Rugby World Cup training squad to 37 ahead of the return fixture in St Etienne this weekend.

Centre Stafford McDowall, standoff Adam Hastings, lock Cameron Henderson and utility back Kyle Rowe have returned to their clubs ahead of the return match against France in St. Etienne next Saturday.

McDowall and Henderson probably suffered from a lack of experience while in Hastings and Rowe’s cases a lack of match sharpness following long injury layoffs probably denied them the chance to clearly state their case for inclusion. External factors probably played a part too – Ben Healy having a decent debut, and the retirement of Stuart Hogg and Blair Kinghorn looking utterly at home in the 15 shirt have cleared matters up in the back three considerably.

The final Rugby World Cup squad will be named on Wednesday 16 August when it will be cut down by a further four names to the allowed number of 33.

The result of the disciplinary hearing for Zander Fagerson’s red card – the first upgraded from in-game yellow under the new TMO review process – will also have a bearing on the squad who might need to face the Springbok front row without their first-choice tighthead. The need to keep an extra prop around for that game and beyond might impact on who gets cut from the back row, especially with any ban hopefully not extending the full group stage. It maybe depends on the level of trust in the other tightheads in the group.

The hearing is today (Tuesday) and hopefully World Rugby will not take all week to announce the outcome.

The back row is going to be the area that likely sees the most dramatic choices made. Will Mish’s reputation be enough to keep him on board? Has Bayliss done enough with a late try against Italy? If Toony needs props, will he have to chop two from a very talented group?

Also in the pack, questions persist at hooker. Turner is comfortably first choice but there are arguments for both retaining or dropping any of the other three names in contention.

In the backs, things are fairly settled with perhaps one scrum-half set to be dropped, but Ben White’s injury might again play havoc with selection plans if he’s 50/50. With players mostly only allowed to swap out for injury Townsend, may opt to keep White in squad with Dobie available if a like for like replacement is needed.

Probably we’re looking at a scrum-half, a hooker, and possibly a prop and a back row or two back rowers with a nervy week ahead…

Updated Scotland training squad (4 to be cut):

Jamie Bhatti (Glasgow Warriors) 31 caps, Zander Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors) 59 caps, WP Nel (Edinburgh Rugby) 54 caps, Pierre Schoeman (Edinburgh Rugby) 22 caps, Javan Sebastian (Edinburgh Rugby) 4 caps, Rory Sutherland (Unattached) 24 caps, Murphy Walker (Glasgow Warriors) 3 caps

Ewan Ashman (Edinburgh Rugby) 8 caps, Dave Cherry (Edinburgh Rugby) 9 caps, Stuart McInally (Edinburgh Rugby) 48 caps, George Turner (Glasgow Warriors) 36 caps

Scott Cummings (Glasgow Warriors) 27 caps, Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh Rugby) 63 caps, Richie Gray (Glasgow Warriors) 74 caps, Sam Skinner (Edinburgh Rugby) 26 caps

Back Row
Josh Bayliss (Bath Rugby) 4 caps, Luke Crosbie (Edinburgh Rugby) 5 caps, Rory Darge (Glasgow Warriors) 9 caps, Jack Dempsey (Glasgow Warriors) 10 caps, Matt Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors) 35 caps, Jamie Ritchie (Edinburgh Rugby, Captain) 41 caps, Hamish Watson (Edinburgh Rugby) 58 caps

Jamie Dobie (Glasgow Warriors) 2 cap, George Horne (Glasgow Warriors) 21 caps, Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors) 62 caps, Ben White (RC Toulon) 15 caps

Ben Healy (Edinburgh Rugby) 2 caps, Finn Russell (Bath Rugby) 70 caps

Chris Harris (Gloucester Rugby) 43 caps, Huw Jones (Glasgow Warriors) 37 caps, Cameron Redpath (Bath Rugby) 7 caps, Sione Tuipulotu (Glasgow Warriors) 17 caps

Darcy Graham (Edinburgh Rugby) 35 caps, Blair Kinghorn (Edinburgh Rugby) 45 caps, Ollie Smith (Glasgow Warriors) 4 caps, Kyle Steyn (Glasgow Warriors) 11 caps, Duhan van der Merwe (Edinburgh Rugby) 29 caps

25 Responses

  1. I predict the following 4 will be dropped.

    Fagerson (i’m expecting a six game ban).
    White (Injury)

    1. Well I might be immediately proven wrong but I’d be shocked at a 6 game ban, which would be totally disproportionate.

      Mallia was suspended for two games for a reckless charge down that knocked out Grant Williams cold and he has still not recovered from his brain injury. Fagerson’s contact might have been potentially dangerous (head contact) but didn’t even require a HIA given it was relatively low speed low force impact. If the refereeing team thought otherwise a HIA should have been required.

      The outcome must have some relevance if we are talking about danger and risk (I.e how can a challenge that causes no injury be considered more dangerous than one that did?)

  2. For me McInally in. Ashmann out.
    Otherwise everything else-even number of back rows- riding on length of Fagerson ban and projection for White’s recovery.

  3. SA squad announced today without Pollard, Am, and De Jäger due to injury/illness.

    SA have one FH, with fewer than 10 Caps (Manie Libbock). He’s quality but SA fans in crisis mode as he is less suited to their style and far less reliable with the boot.

    At least it’s not just us with the pre-RWC challenges!

  4. And remarkably ZF is now eligible for the SA match! (Four match ban reduced to three for “mitigation” then a further one week reduction for the “course”.
    He is a very very lucky boy!

  5. Well it looks like Zander must have taken the same biscuits as Saint Jonny to his hearing. A very very lucky boy, hopefully that serves as a lesson to him.

  6. That’s huge. We had every reason to be concerned. Altogether, an excellent day on the Scotland-SA news scale.

  7. Huge relief on Zander! it someways it could not have worked out better. France away is a bit of a free hit. So let Walker and Sebastian get the experience and see how they go. If they do well it would boost their confidence. I’d pick
    Bhatti, McInally, Sebastian, Skinner, Cummings, Ritchie, Darge, Dempsey, Horne, Healy, Steyne, Redpath, Tuipulotu, Duhan, Smith.
    Turner, Sutherland, Walker, Gilchrist, Watson, Bayliss, Price, Russell.

  8. Further to FF – very interesting news that Pollard not in the SA squad, without question SA are very formidable but their backs can be “got at” I’ve watched Edinburgh and Glasgow in SA and Scotland have shown they can match the best (for 40mins anyway) and look upon the opening game as an opportunity……
    Need to hit all our jumpers, get parity in the scrum and in the forwards.
    Get Finn some space

    1. Apparently Neinabar has told SA media that should those players recover in time as expected for the Scotland game then they can be added to the squad in the event of an ‘unfortunate’ injury. So maybe we’ll see the trio against Scotland after all.

      It’s a bit weird, but not exactly the first time SA have games the rules.

  9. I’m pleased, relieved, but also a little disgusted. Malice and remorse are – or should be – irrelevant. You don’t get sanctioned for being a bad person, but because your technical incompetence endangered another player. A decision like this undermines the long-term re-education programme that rugby players are going through.

    1. I get where you’re coming from but the system for reaching the sanction is what it is, ZF has been treated the same as any other player – the incident was really not particularly serious compared to other recent examples. To that extent, it is a fair sanction.

      Agree about the re-education – weird you get mitigation for agreeing to go on the course, rather than it just be required for every player who is RC for dangerous play. But there you are – it is the system in place and ZF has been treated just like any other player as far as I can see.

      The online pitchforks that have been got out all over social media is pretty unedifying for a trivial incident IMO. No one got hurt, time to move on.

  10. With regard to hookers . How is the decision to be made ? Logic would suggest that the two who do not play Saturday must be in the 33 man squad. Turner is the only sure pick , so how is this going to work if he plays ?

  11. I would have to counter RR on previous comment
    Think the only hooker that played well over these last two games was Dave Cherry
    The rest I would score as no more than 5/10 for their game time
    Added to the fact that as well as great movement and go forward around the park his light-out work was pretty much missing any errors – would take that for 60 minutes against SA or Ireland tbh

  12. It is fairly clear who will be going to be dropped:

    -White is fine by all accounts so, Jamie Dobie is gone
    -Ewan Ashman was poor at the weekend so is out, whereas Cherry was game changing. McInally can also cover back-row against ‘lesser’ teams so is in.
    – Sebastian or Walker from the props.

    1. I agree. I would play Turner this Saturday to see if he hits form against the French.
      Cherry was good at the weekend, and must surely stay in the squad, but looking towards South Africa we need Turner’s power.
      I wonder if Townsend dares play Sebastian and Walker against the French, so they can shoot it out together. The danger is they both get minced by the French pack.

  13. Don’t disagree with you John but Ashman has his best rugby ahead of him while this is the last hurrah for McInally. I think Ashman starts against Romania. Watson seems a shadow of his former self much like Barclay 4 yrs ago.

    1. The challenge is that Turner equally blows hot and cold. I felt that Ashman showed the best and worst of him last week, and brings something to the loose at least as good as Turner.

      Best at set piece is Cherry
      Best in the loose I feel is Ashman
      Turner is capable of being good at both, but is inconsistent.

  14. Chris Harris seems out of favour. He doesn’t really cover anything other than centre and could be one of the unlucky ones. But I do think, depending on White being fit, we might be looking at; Dobie, Ashman, Walker and Bayliss missing out.

  15. Disappointed that Crosbie has not had any game time. I would keep him even if it has to at the expense of Watson
    Dobie Walker Mcinally and Watson or Bayliss

  16. Why is Harris in the squad? We don’t start by defending so why finish by defending and scoring 0 , world class teams don’t start games or close games out with defense only players. Bennett should be in for Harris.

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Scottish Rugby News and Opinion