Autumn Test Series: Five takeaways from this weekend’s action (29th October)

Insert variable Iain Morrison runs the rule over Scotland's agonising home loss to Australia with a wee look in at Japan versus New Zealand, too

Scotland stan-off Blair Kinghorn is consoled by George Horne after his late penalty miss versus Australia. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Scotland stan-off Blair Kinghorn is consoled by George Horne after his late penalty miss versus Australia. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

1. Follow the numbers … stupid!

Blair Kinghorn had a very decent game, arguably Scotland’s best player, but still Scotland would probably have won Saturday’s Test had Finn Russell started at 10. It is, of course, impossible to prove but I am just mulling probabilities here.

Never mind the game management and Russell’s extravagant distribution, the exiled Scot has unearthed his kicking boots of late having taken over the duties for Racing 92 ever since Maxine Machenaud left the club in the summer. Russell kicked seven from eight off the tee last weekend against Montpellier, including one boomer from several meters inside his own half, and he kicked a whopping 23 of Racing’s 43 points on Saturday when the Parisians beat Brive on the road.

In contrast, Kinghorn kicked the conversion of his own try but missed the early conversion of Ollie Smith’s try. The Scotland 10 also kicked one penalty on 54 minutes but infamously missed a late attempt to finish the game, ending up with a 50% success rate in front of posts.

Gregor Townsend is always telling us how matches are won and lost by small margins yet he insists on picking Kinghorn who is markedly less successful off the tee than Russell and does not even kick for his club team Edinburgh.

The coach might be better off looking at his own decisions rather than blaming the match officials for Scotland’s loss.

And when Scotland and Australia play it almost always goes down to the wire so the decision not to kick those first half penalties, two sitters right in front of the posts, also looks suspect.

 

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2, Japan proves the All Blacks are vulnerable

Japan are a much improved team but they still sit in a relatively lowly 10th place in World Rugby’s rankings, six full places below New Zealand who nevertheless got a fright at the weekend, beating Japan by 38-31 but only after a late penalty, with the clock in the red numbers, gave them some breathing space. Just for the record, as recently as 2007, Japan lost 51-3 … to the Junior All Blacks.

Yes, admittedly, the world class lock Brodie Retallik saw red and the Kiwis finished the game with 14 men but only for the final 15 minutes. And, yes, Japan rode their luck a little, but the Cherry Blossoms also played some startling good rugby, they scored four tries (to New Zealand’s five) and they made nine clean breaks (to New Zealand’s five).

Fiji are placed 12th in the World Rankings, exactly six below Scotland (as of Sunday). We pundits can look ahead to the All Blacks game but Scotland’s players cannot afford to do the same with Fiji looming large.


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3. Scotland’s defence stands up.

Scotland’s discipline was non-existent on Saturday, the hosts conceded 14 penalties and one yellow card, when a good number has to be in single figures. (Australia were even worse, conceding 15 penalties). Discipline was the first thing that Vern Cotter sought to address when he took over and he succeeded to a significant extent. Remember that the next time you hear about the “progress” this squad is making.

Where we do see progress is in the team’s defence. It restricted a dangerous Australian attack to one try over the 80 and even that only arrived when Scotland were reduced to 14 men, with Glen Young in the sin-bin.

Looking at the replay, Australia’s try appears to have come from a poor decision by the veteran WP Nel who bit in and double teamed an attacking player who was already covered by Jack Dempsey. With Nel jamming in the man outside him, Sione Tuipulotu, was forced to do the same, leaving a gap for James Slipper to score.

The Aussies had an extra man on the right flank had they needed him but at least the conversion would have been trickier. Small margins remember.

 

4. A coach has one task …

And no, it is not to coach his side to victory, although that can happen. Success or failure will depend, at least to some extent, on the opposition that you play each week. If Scotland, by a quirk in the fixtures, were scheduled to play the top ranked team in the world over the four Autumn weekends we would not expect too many victories.

The one task for any coach is to cajole, inspire and, yes, coach their team to perform at, or very close to, their full potential every time they take the field regardless of the opposition. (That ability is what made Sir Alex Ferguson what he was). It may be harder to do against less prestigious teams but the expectation is always there regardless. Scotland may not always have the most skilled players in the world but we compensate by emptying the tank every time, playing smart, expressive and ultra competitive rugby.

Or not, as the case may be. When was the last time you thought that Scotland played really well, at or close to their full potential for the full 80 minutes rather than just in bursts?

It wasn’t against the Wallabies on Saturday, that much is certain. I don’t believe it was in Argentina, although the second Test was a big improvement on the first and may qualify? It wasn’t during a disappointing Six Nations series. Scotland showed spirit to come back from behind to beat England at Murrayfield but they were poor when allowing the visitors to build a lead and only really shone in the final quarter.

So the question is, when exactly did Scotland last get their jotters marked somewhere around 90+, percentage wise? Answers on a postcard please?

 

5. Duhan duped.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me … as President George W. Bush famously mangled in front of the cameras.

Duhan van der Merwe made the same costly mistake not once but twice against the Wallabies. First up he (and Ollie Smith) allowed Bernard Foley’s penalty to bounce in the field of play before heading into touch to give the Wallabies an attacking line0out. Full-back Smith being behind van der Merwe was probably more at fault, since he should have called for and taken the ball.

And again at the very death another Wallaby half-back, the extravagantly moustachioed Nic White, drop-kicked a twenty-two that bounced harmlessly into touch to end the match when Scotland would have expected one last bite of the cherry. Small margins Duhan, small margins.


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About Iain Morrison 146 Articles
Iain was capped 15 times for Scotland at openside flanker between his debut against Ireland during the 1993 Six Nations and his final match against New Zealand at the 1995 World Cup in South Africa. He was twice a Cambridge ‘Blue’ and played his entire club career with London Scottish (being inducted into the club’s Hall of Fame in 2016). Iain is a lifelong member of Linlithgow Rugby Club. After hanging up his boots, he became rugby correspondent for The Sunday Herald, before moving to The Scotland on Sunday for 16 years, and he has also guest written for various other publications.

36 Comments

  1. There was far more to the Ferguson playbook than enforcing rules.

    In any event, they say the two are in regular contact so maybe he’s just being rested with the 6N and WC coming up.

    Sore on the fans but not getting any younger and club is his livelihood.

  2. Mention of Sir Alex Ferguson – who famously got rid of star players who wouldn’t stick to his rules, is ironic.

    The difference between Sir Alex and Gregor Townsend is that Sir Alex had freedom to buy players in and the conveyor belt from his academy sides.
    Scottish rugby doesn’t have that.

    One side of the coin is that Gregor Townsend is the coach. The players have to stick within his boundaries and it sounds like Finn Russell doesn’t.

    The other side is that Gregor Townsend doesn’t give the impression of being a very consistent coach. He’s implemented at least 2 and possibly 3 significant changes to the way the team plays in 5 seasons and players are often in and out of the squad.

    I can well imagine that might leave some players not fully understanding where his boundaries are. If Finn Russell if a guy who’s inclined to push boundaries (his playing style suggests he might be) then that’s just not going to work for him.

    As a fan I hope they can sort it out. There’s probably not much more to say.

  3. Great summary. When Townsend started, his plan for fastest rugby in the world was a good idea but it had no pragmatic balance. He then switched right around to a strategy of just kick, because the stats said it led to top teams being successful. That is because those teams have large packs, which we don’t. Our smaller size was the reason for fast rugby. It just looks as though Townsend is making it up as he goes along. He doesn’t engage his senior players. Will the SRU act? Probably not, given that Dodson is in charge. Such a sad waste of a talented generation of players. The crowd love seeing Finn play. His Racing coaches speak very highly of all he offers on and off the field.

  4. It’s Monday, October 31st and Townsend is STILL coach of Scotland’s National rugby team!

  5. I read and reread the first part of Iain’s summary and wonder if he was aware that Finn wasn’t available for this match so even if Gregor was aware that Finn is a better kicker than Blair he couldn’t have played no matter what. I’m sorry if I’m misunderstanding what he is saying. Totally agree on taking the points when available, I believe the decisions rests with the captain and senior players.
    I am but a simple prop but I suspect Gregor knows Finn is quite a good player, probably very good. I presume being a high level rugby player and now coach of his country he probably is quite keen to win. So I then start to wonder why Finn isn’t going to play in the last 3 Autumn tests. Maybe Gregor doesn’t want to win, just a thought but then I believe he is very single minded and competitive Maybe he is just trying to be fair and give the opposition a chance, very sportsman like but again that doesn’t sit comfortably with me!
    Maybe I’m missing some other possible reason that we’re all missing! I am reasonably well informed about incidents that have gone on in the recent past but I’m sure the rugby journalists and other rugby experts are far better informed than me!! However if I believe what I’ve been told then my feelings are that none of the coaches I played under would be acting any differently than Gregor is. Of course I can’t be sure of that because none of the players I played with would ever have put the coaches I worked under in that position !

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    • Ian, You clearly know a lot more than probably any of us on this forum, but i guess that’s part of the frustration. If GT would just be a bit more truthful and respectful towards rugby fans, rather than offering up guff like he picked the 10’s based on form and consistency the we could perhaps understand and get on board.

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      • Agree but why Gregor is taking all the flak when it seems to me the player has created this situation. I haven’t read of any incidents involving the coaches or back room staff that the players are having to sort out or are being questioned over 😊

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      • When the press are not publishing the facts you can be pretty sure it is because it is to the benefit of the establishment.

    • I want to see Finn Russell in the side as much as anyone but if Finn isn’t going to play to Gregor’s rules then I don’t see what choice Gregor has.

      Ironic that Iain mentions Sir Alex Ferguson. He was famous for getting rid of star players like Cantona and Beckham when they decided the wanted to make the rules.

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    • At risk I suggest that anyone starting out a sentence with ‘I am but a simple’ normally suggest that the individual thinks anything but, I have used it myself on more than a few occasions.
      Of course Iain Morrison knew that Russell wasn’t available before during and after he wrote the article.
      With regard to who takes the kicks, on the field and on the day it is I would have thought down to the Captain, as it was Ritchie’s first outing and if the ‘instruction’ had been ‘Kinghorn takes the kicks’ is he going to risk offering up George Horne just on the field who is a significantly better kicker on form shown? Possibly not, but the odds would have been better than evens that Horne would not have been under the immense pressure that Kinghorn must have felt.
      Consider then Townsend allotting the kicks to Kinghorn, your suggesting somebody doesn’t know about Finn Russell, well perhaps you could suggest Townsend doesn’t know who takes the kicks at Edinburgh!
      Then we arrive at the ‘I’m reasonably well informed’: I’ve also used that in the past as well, but I am reasonably sure of one thing, if the episode with Russell, Hogg and a few others had been anything other than a convivial couple of beers the word would have got out into the mainstream media, mainstream, the social media would have gone ballistic, so perhaps that clears up one of your latter comments regarding ‘I’m sure the press must know’ in this day and age the press get a great deal of their information from social media.
      Apart from anything else neither Hogg nor Russell were ‘kicking’ the Calcutta cup down the road, but then that would never have happened in your day: would it?
      There are so many of us on this and other forums that don’t have the contacts and relationships that you must have from your playing days, it’s just a pity that we don’t seem to be able to get you on board with regard to questioning why one of the best group of players since your days are loosing to an Australian side that frankly were not very good and the intransigence of Townsend’s effort to ‘manufacture’ and in the process inhibit the abilities of a decent player by attempting to make him a ‘faux’ Russell.

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      • On the who kicks question and assuming BK had been kicking reasonably in training, it would have been a big call to change kickers. At that point, the first kick may have missed but the last two had been successful. The alternatives were probably to give the kick to Horne, who is not his club’s first choice kicker (though he has surprised everyone by slotting a good percentage in a few games for Glasgow recently) and has little experience of kicking under international pressure or Bennett also not a recognised club or international kicker and has missed his fair share too.
        So I doubt there was really too much discussion.

      • Michael C – I can see the point that you are putting forward but in a way, in my opinion anyway, it only confirms my point of view regarding the problem of Townsend’s determination to prove that his selections and protocols are correct.
        I suggest that ‘kicking reasonably well in training’ isn’t the reality of kicking during a fixture, even prior to a Club level let alone an International when it is critical to be consistent.
        I feel sorry for the position [no pun intended] that Kinghorn has been placed, he can’t say no to the Jersey either to Townsend or Mike Blair but the pressure that the final attempt for the 3 points must have been immense and would have ‘Tested’ even the best of Kicker’s.
        As regards ‘lack of discussion’ I think I clarified that when I suggested Ritchie probably followed GT’s directive, that said there needs to be improvement for the Fiji match, will he stick with Kinghorn with Hastings on the bench, who knows but belligerence on the field of play is one thing, off the field in selection is another matter entirely, especially when it is being shown that the plan doesn’t work.

      • Hi George, agree on the difference between training and international pressures but I suppose training would be the only yardstick available on BK since the Argentina internationals when he was reasonably solid.
        I suspect GT may stick with Kinghorn for the next game as he will expect less reliance on goal kicking might not learn much from performances against a different level of opposition. Hastings perhaps on bench and gets 30 mins.
        Not saying it is the right decision – as I would like to see more of the squad get some meaningful action to see what they can do – but there are few games to experiment in before the serious stuff next year. Damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t.

      • Michael C – certainly don’t think it is the correct decision and is this the time to experiment, not sure need to be settled for 6N never mind the World Cup and if you keep chopping and changing the selected players it is a bit easier to say that you are ‘experimenting’ for the greater glory that doesn’t arrive.
        He has the players he should select them, what happens if the experimentation goes pear shaped and we have an unsettled squad and a lousy six nations, is that the way into a World Cup?
        As my wife says to me when I’ve not done the housework, “I’m fed up with excuses” – well I feel the same every time I hear GT trotting out ‘We will learn from this’ a bigger load of Gonads I’ve yet to hear.
        Perhaps you can guess I’m in one of my belligerent moods, but at least mine don’t screw up Scottish Rugby.
        Cheers – no doubt we will chat on Sunday.

    • If the player is the problem, it does not explain why his most suitable replacement, Adam Hastings, has also been ignored in the past, when fit to play. Of course players can be below their best, but if you replace them with someone who has not regularly produced at club level, never mind the highest level, you have some explaining to do. If experimentation is the idea, why then ignore highly accomplished players in other positions for a tour squad?

      I am confident everyone knows Russell was not available outside the window, it is his complete exclusion from the squad, repeated general selection issues and Townsend’s baffling tactics that have exasperated Scottish rugby fans. If the fans are exasperated, which many clearly are, it is unsurprising if players are too. It appears Russell is a constructive and professional team player for his club, so perhaps being constantly overruled or ignored by his national coach exhausted his patience. That certainly appeared to be the case in that game of two very different halves at Twickenham in 2019. With the player resources available to Scotland, destructive personality clashes are going to be more destructive, but there are two sides to every story and whatever you might have heard from within the SRU, a different perspective might be helpful. Players put a lot of preparation into their own game, how would you feel if you were repeatedly told not to use your skill to the team’s best advantage?

      Townsend should want to win every game, yet the team that takes the field is often ill-prepared to do so. There have been too many lows under Townsend, the warm-up for the last World Cup and subsequent trouncing by Ireland being notable. He may be lucky on occasion, such as playing England at Twickenham when Eddie Jones fielded a team that was nowhere near match fit, but I have no faith whatsoever Townsend will select and adequately prepare the best team available to him.

  6. Perhaps Gregor doesn’t want his legacy as a great 10 being overshadowed by Russell and Hastings???

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  7. Given that Townsend is nothing but pig headed, you can only imagine that he’s going to double down on Kinghorn over the next 3 games.
    Meaning that hilariously, we’ll take on the ABs with no kicker and attempt to beat them by scoring more tries.

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  8. Jamie Ritchie, whom I think will make a good captain in time, ought to have stepped in to over-rule Kinghorn taking the kick. He passed up opportunities for points too but he will no doubt have learned lessons. If i recall correctly Kinghorn himself turned down a chance to kick at goal because he didn’t fancy it. So Ritchie stepping in to delegate the kick to Horne would’ve had little bearing around Kinghorn’s confidence being hit in my view because of that foregoing.
    On Kinghorn, well, he doesn’t pick himself as kicker: Townsend was adamant, as his pre-match interview, verging on defiant, made clear. Kinghorn played well, some nice touches indeed, and i am far from his number one cheerleader. As someone astutely mentioned below, the stuff he produced can come from him playing another position; for me winger, and for me a sub winger when we’re at full-strength. His tackling is nothing like good enough for last line of defence at FB. But, before the righteous jump down my throat, he is proving he merits a place in the squad and he is indeed improving. More time at the ten helm needed for Burg.
    Elsewhere, I was impressed with Glen Young again – yellow aside – as some of his work is what we’ve sorely being missing at lock. The yellow card in of itself in a roundabout, warped way demonstrated he is capable some real brute nastiness.And that’s all good moving forward, just rein it in slightly and add a dash of cuteness. Powder puff locks like Cummimgs and R Gray don’t work as things stand in international rugger.

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    • Donald, if you think any captain under this coaching regime has anything other than a minimal say in decision making, then you are sadly deluded. It is quite clear where the power lies.
      Tonny and his team are in complete control of all aspects and the players know this. Hence Hogg losing captaincy and Russell being dropped.

      By the way I agree Richie will be a good captain once he is allowed to be!

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  9. On the 10 debate I feel sorry for Blair Kinghorn. He is being shoehorned in to a position not of his making. GT has decided he won’t or is unable to manage Finn Russell. Some would say he is being thrawn. It might be GT has an ace up his sleeve that he is not telling us because we would not understand or maybe we are not worthy?
    The only conclusion I can come to is that GT would rather potentially lose games than pick and manage in his squad a world class player.

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  10. As I have said elsewhere, almost all of Kinghorn’s good moments happen when he is not playing as a 10 / 1st receiver.

    On Saturday, the lovely soft pass for Smith’s try happened when he was 2nd receiver.

    His try came when Scotland were in their defensive pattern and the ball happened to bounce in his direction (from that position it really ought to have bounced towards Darcy Graham and it might have been him racing through the Oz defence). But, anyway, it was a reactive, instinctive piece of play resulting in a brilliant try.

    But, when he is playing as 10 / 1st receiver, he fails to make the right decision far too often. His wide, looping passes are ineffectual against a defence that is drifting. As a case in point, Tuipulotu fumbled that pass because he was going to be nailed when he gathered, so he tried to rush the take. Kinghorn could probably have got over the line himself in that situation given his pace and he certainly would have got over the line if he’d used the man outside him but instead he tried a miracle pass that was never going to result in a score. I have no doubt that Russell or Hastings would have made a try every time from that position.

    When I watch Edinburgh, the team looks completely unbalanced when BK is at 10. I didn’t watch much of yesterday’s match but I really do wonder if the team would have played that way and got the win if Kinghorn was playing. For my money, the side has looked much more natural and at ease when Savala has been playing.

    You have to get more than moments from your 10 at this level. I’m afraid BK has not shown any sign of improving his attacking decision making or that he is learning how to manage games (the last two internationals were lost from what should have been unassailable positions and Edinburgh always seem to lose close matches).

    On the other hand, I think he offers a much greater running threat than Hogg does from 15. The discussion really should be about whether we want Kinghorn’s running threat or Hogg’s kicking game from 15.

    Card on the table; I am a big Russell fan but I would have no problem with a coach preferring Hastings for games inside the international window; there is at least an honest discussion to be had about that.

    I don’t think the current situation is credible, I don’t think it is doing Kinghorn any favours in the long term and it does not reflect well on our coaching team.

    One thing is for sure though, whoever ends up playing 10 in the next few weeks, they and the rest of the team will need to be better if we are to avoid an Autumn whitewash.

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    • Well Garry, that load of rubbish is the most one eyed comment I’ve ever read on TOL and that’s saying something. Tuipolutu dropped a sitter, I know that doesn’t suit your extremely biased narrative but it’s true and every fair minded person knows it. That alone puts the lie to the remainder of your jackanory drivel.

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      • So one-eyed in fact that I continue to help pay BK’s wages through my Edinburgh and Scotland season tickets.

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    • I concur with your comment…” For my money, the side has looked much more natural and at ease when Savala has been playing.”

      I think the same.

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      • That would be the same Savala who’s lack of distance kicking from hand drew rather negative comments from the TV pundits would it?
        But please, don’t let that spoil your wee fantasy 🤣🤣🤣

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    • Its starting to get a bit vindictive Gary – show some balance. You even try to criticise the good things he does and suggest anyone would have done the same – give him some credit. I don’t suggest he should start ahead of FH – thats not what its about but be objective with your comments. As an Edinburgh season ticket holder I have seen some great performances from him in the last year.

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      • Sorry it is coming across that way. It is not intentional.

        My frustration is maybe coming out; I see what BK can offer (and what he did contribute on Saturday) but I also see that all of that can be captured without him playing at 10 and sacrificing a proven game manager and tactical kicker.

        I think he is best deployed at 15. I understand that that is a different problem given Edinburgh’s options there. But, for Scotland, I would back him over Hogg every time because I think he is genuinely a far more dangerous runner and can offload better.

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  11. Well, it seems that just about everyone has turned against Townsend – apart from the clowns who run the SRU, whose brilliant decision it was to replace a coach who darned near took us to a World Cup semi-final with one who has failed to get us out of one group stage and is bang on course to repeat that achievement. And that is precisely why nothing has been done – it would be an admission of one of the most bonkers decisions in recent international rugby history. This may sound bitter, but as a proud Scotsman it hurts me deeply to see my country achieving so much less than it really, absolutely and without question should. We currently have one of the best crop of players we’ve had in years, but many of them are now heading towards the end of their careers and will almost certainly not see another World Cup after France ’23. In mitigation, a few of our most talented lads require careful handling to separate the nonsense from the brilliance (just ask Racing), but clearly Townsend does not have the required stamp of authority and on-pitch indiscipline is just one manifestation of that particular problem. The tactics are not great either, but worst of all is the utterly bizarre selection policy. In all the time he’s been in charge I don’t think Toony has ever selected our strongest side, preferring instead to treat top-class rugby as an opportunity to perform experiments that achieve nothing other than unsettle his players and destroy any prospect of cohesive, consistent performance. No onew knows who will be dropped next – or why. For example, you would think it goes without saying that you never evergo into a test match without a proven goal-kicker on the field – and it is hardly fair on Blair Kinghorn to put that weight of expectation upon his shoulders. ‘Falling outside the international window’ is only partly an excuse. It was Hastings who got the cold should for the Argentina tour, while Russell was ‘rested’. The same player has now been omitted for the autumn international squad, despite having the best form of just about any stand-off in Europe. The selection errors continue. Magnus Bradbury is another not even to make the squad, despite his brilliant form since moving to Bristol. Ditto Rory Hutchinson, who impresses every time he runs out for Northampton. Not even in consideration. Am I living on a different planet or is it time that Scotland’s chances were enhanced significantly by removing a coach who is so obviously out of his depth? It will be interesting to see how Vern Cotter’s boys comport themselves against us this weekend.

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    • Great summary. When Townsend started, his plan for fastest rugby in the world was a good idea but it had no pragmatic balance. He then switched right around to a strategy of just kick, because the stats said it led to top teams being successful. That is because those teams have large packs, which we don’t. Our smaller size was the reason for fast rugby. It just looks as though Townsend is making it up as he goes along. He doesn’t engage his senior players. Will the SRU act? Probably not, given that Dodson is in charge. Such a sad waste of a talented generation of players. The crowd love seeing Finn play. His Racing coaches speak very highly of all he offers on and off the field.

    • Was just thinking of Rory H – also an outstanding 10, kept Hastings out of the shirt at U20 iirc. Offers far more than Kinghorn.

      Re Russell and being ‘rested’ – he was injured in June, knee in a brace when I saw him. Can’t see why he’d be that bothered whether he plays for Scotland again – loving life in France, playing in a way that suits him and none of GT’s nonsense to frustrate him. Fair play.

  12. Russell was never going to be available for this game, but the crucial fact is there was an accomplished place kicker on the pitch for Scotland to clinch that game, George Horne. Horne’s record is good as kicker for Glasgow, Kinghorn should always be second choice to Boffelli for his club. Kinghorn was ok on Saturday otherwise, but offered little of note apart from the try. I noticed one or two weak tackles, but perhaps I was looking too hard for fault.

    As to the Russell suituation, I happened upon Le French Rugby Podcast on YouTube over the weekend. Rory Teague, backs coach for Racing 92, discussed Finn Russell and what he offers his club. Taking Teague at his word, Russell works hard for his team and has adapted to a different team strategy this season, his points haul in recent weeks confirming his kicking accuracy as a significant asset. I have my own bias and it has not been as an enthusiast for Gregor Townsend’s time as Scotland Coach. Yes, Russell can be flaky and appear simply careless at times, but his club coach describes a player who would be an asset for his team, even only as part of the squad. Not only has Townsend refused to include Russell in his plans, he appears to have a problem with Hastings, having ignored him too in the past. It is quite clear to me Townsend is the problem, not the players, and that should have been addressed before the build up to the World Cup started.

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  13. I reckon the players “knew” and it doesn’t take the crowd long to “know” that this was a team cobbled together and awkward, strange tactical decisions, no kicker, a 13 at 12. I don’t like to drone on and on but at least it shows I care, stop droning and i stop caring.
    Edinburgh yesterday were properly coached and players in their comfortable natural positions. Dean is playing by far his best rugby and deserved his MOM. Venter, Crosbie and Mata led from the front.

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  14. Some players played well, but the “team” didn’t. They were nowhere near the 90%+ discussed above, and strangely neither were the crowd, the quietest I’ve ever heard Murrayfield for an International…. Yes, they are paid professionals, but was that a game too much? I won’t be rushing back for any game outwith the window again…. unless it is v the BaaBaas or South Sea islands and cheaper.

    Going back to the 90% question, struggling to think of one – but I do find myself thinking back to last few games for Vern…

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