Autumn Test Series round four takeaways

Iain Morrison runs the rule over a weekend which produced some tight contests and a big surprise

Sione Tuipulotu carries for Scotland versus Argentina. Image: © Craig Watson -
Sione Tuipulotu carries for Scotland versus Argentina. Image: © Craig Watson -
  • There is a village somewhere missing their idiot.

Marcos Kremer ruined what looked like being an absolute cracker of a game at Murrayfield, exiting the stage with the score at 7-8 and both sides looking to play. His stupidity ruined the game but, given the need to crack down on foul play, when will World Rugby adopt the 20 minute rule that they trialled recently, allowing a replacement player onto the field after 20 minutes to ensure the match remains a contest?

Murrayfield wasn’t the only venue where cards had a big influence.  Georgia scored their only try of the match when Wales were reduced to 14 men and England’s astonishing fightback at Twickenham was prompted by a yellow for Beauden Barrett.

Unless the authorities rapidly adopt the new 20 minute rule regarding red cards they risk seeing next year’s RWC ’23 dominated by referees rather than players.

Premiership takeaways from Saturday 19th November

Scotland v Argentina: Scotland player ratings

Scotland v Argentina reaction: Townsend pays tribute to Russell’s all-round game

  • Scotland backs impress, forwards…meh.

It was difficult to read too much into a Scotland performance that was against 14 men for much of the game. Yes, the Scottish backs are dangerous if given the sort of time and space that Argentina gave them but we probably knew that before Saturday. And Gregor Townsend may have found his first choice centre pairing, which would at least offer some certainty, even if it still relies on Finn Russell for creativity.

And hasn’t Scotland’s fly-half made astonishingly rapid progress in the last two weeks, going from fourth choice fly-half and not in the national squad to first choice fly-half and man-of-the-match! Good work fella!

Let’s hope that Townsend can keep him onside from now until next September because Russell very obviously can’t be dropped on current form. Darcy Graham is also a keeper and Hawick can claim four of Scotland’s 8 tries on the day, three for the diminutive winger and one for full-back Stuart Hogg. With the club sitting pretty at the top of the Premiership table, it’s a good time to be a Teri!

One note of caution amidst all the hullabaloo that follows a record score (and we aren’t even going to mention conceding a try to a 12 man Argentina). Scotland’s forwards still struggle to defend their line against opposition pick and drives as Argentina scored two tries that way and both of them occurred when the attackers were fielding just seven forwards. You can be sure that England’s analysts have picked up on that ahead of the Calcutta Cup.

  • Stop sniggering at the back.

World Rugby are trying to do away with the entire concept of tier one and tier two countries and it’s understandable. It’s a little patronising these days classing a nation as second class.

However, it remains a useful handle for relative minnows like Georgia who enjoyed their greatest ever victory at the expense of Wales in Cardiff. I have always thought that Georgia’s strength was, well, Georgia’s strength, especially at the set-piece and, sure enough, the winning penalty was earned by dismantling Wales’ set scrum with brutal efficiency. However the most startling statistics of the afternoon were the defenders beaten where the visitors bested Wales by 14-8 while also winning the clean breaks battle 5-2. Not that they have any realistic chance of getting into the Six Nations any time soon, just ask the money men.

Meanwhile, spare a thought for Welsh flanker Jac Morgan who scored two tries that no one will ever remember.

We do enjoy little more than a chuckle at Wales’ expense but it may stifle our laughter somewhat when we realise that Georgia achieved something, a win in Cardiff, that Scotland have failed to manage since 2002.


  • Why did Eddie Jones look so happy?

Yes, admittedly, everything is relative and relative to trailing New Zealand by 25-6 then snatching an unexpected draw is a big boost for them, but should a team like England really be happy with a draw against New Zealand at home?

This New Zealand side is good but very obviously vulnerable. They have already lost a series at home to Ireland and a first ever Test defeat at home to Argentina. A team with England’s resources should surely have been targeting a win in their own backyard against a team ranked just two places above them.

And they would almost certainly have got it had Eddie Jones not started the 21 years old scrummy Jake van Poortvliet instead of the veteran Ben Youngs and played like halfwits for the first 60 minutes of the match. Incidentally, both men play for Leicester Tigers and both hail from Norfolk, van Poortvliet was born in Norwich, Youngs just 13 miles up the road at Aylsham.

  • America no more

Jones is rumoured to be joining the USA Eagles post World Cup and it may just be the type of underachieving underdog that will benefit from the little Australian’s tough love … if only briefly. Someone needs to pick the Eagles up and give them a shake as they are missing out on next year’s World Cup in France after Portugal salvaged a late draw against them at the weekend to progress at their expense. So Portugal will appear with Australia, Wales, Fiji and Georgian in Pool C. It is the second time Portugal have qualified, after appearing in RWC ’07, the last time France hosted the event.

Samuel Marques was the local hero, the little Carcassonne scrum-half (he is French/Portuguese) kicked 11 points including the penalty to draw the match with the clock in the red and Portugal’s superior points difference did the rest.

  • HIA is MIA

World Rugby can crack down on foul play all they like but their desire to be seen to take head injuries seriously is seriously undermined by unfathomable errors, two of which were on show at the weekend.

Australian scrum-half Nic White took an obvious blow to the head and appeared to stumble on his way off the field, twice, only to be allowed back on having passed his HIA! He has since been stood down for 12 days, so it seems he got his bell rung after all.

At Murrayfield, Sione Tuipolotu made a tip tackle on Juan Cruz Mallia whose head can clearly be seen bouncing off the turf while the referee, medics, fans and coaches are all looking at the same interminable replays of the video nasty. Tuipolotu was shown yellow for the illegal tackle, no one insisted that the Argentine full-back leave the field to be further assessed.

  • A close call

Ignoring the Italy/Saffas’ final score, a good many results at the weekend were mighty close. Japan gave France a game despite the eight places separating them on the ranking system. Australia pushed Ireland even closer although they sit seven places behind the top ranked team in world rugby. Johnny Sexton is proving a difficult man to replace and has probably done more than any coach to push Ireland’s standards sky high … Finn Russell might like to note. England/New Zealand could not have been any closer and Georgia pipped Wales by one point. No one talks about a North/South divide anymore, which has to be good for the game, but if there is little to choose between many of the top teams an upset or two would be a welcome relief in next year’s RWC. You can normally pencil in the quarter-finalists from the off and you can probably still do that in Pools A and B but, thankfully, Pools C and D look a little more open.

Premiership takeaways from Saturday 19th November

About Iain Morrison 148 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.


  1. Strongly disagree with the idea of a 20 minute red card. This is just watering down the impact of serious foul play. Instead of reducing the impact of a red card players need to change their habits and avoid foul play.

    We are trying to protect players from serious head injuries and yet nearly every game I watch I see a dangerous clear out or a head on head impact in the tackle. I get really frustrated in particular with the head on head where TV pundits regularly try and justify these as accidental rugby incidents.

    Players need to lower their tackle heights and this needs to be coached. If they cant do this and end up getting sent off then they deserve it and the team deserves to suffer for the rest of the game. Only by teams suffering will the players perhaps learn to change their technique. There are many players who can tackle low so there is no excuse.

  2. Talking about HIA, did Ritchie have one after the red card incident? If player was sent of for significant force direct to the head – and just watch the replay for the obvious blow and Ritchie lying flat on the turf – then surely the victim of the foul play has to be assessed? Just don’t get the logic.

  3. high hits are a result mainly of coaching – to hit the ball to try to dislodge it, or simply to prevent an offload and slow recycling.
    You do not change that coaching by allowing that team to get 15 men on the pitch. Hammer them with red cards and proper suspension and he coaching will change – none of this pandering to aussie pundits or reductions for completing a tick box computer course

    Wreckless hits flying into rucks are mainly a result to refs not penalising every player who does not attempt to stay in their feet or attempting to bind an opponent (as per the laws). Penalise every time. Rec card every human torpedo and it will stop

  4. I recently watched the rugby league, contests for the ball in the air from numerous high kicks, high tackles to stop the player and to stop the offload, no ill discipline, good technique, nothing dangerous and no cards. Leave the laws and the red cards we need to make our game safer for all it’s up to the coaches and players to learn and they won’t do it if we soften the punishments.
    Clear out at the ruck, simple, bring back rucking, no hands on the ball, no jackling. 🐻

  5. On cards, there’s an obvious difference between an intentional foul play and a technical mistake which results in an incident. Red card for the first, orange card (20 mins then replacement) gets the right balance between team and individual consequence I reckon, and keeps spectators onside.

  6. Our forwards lack power but have done for as long as I can remember.
    They have their qualities. They are mobile but they are not going to barrel through 3 opponents from 2m out to score. I thought the fact that the All Blacks do have forwards who can do this was the reason they ultimately prevailed against us last week.
    There are no obvious ball carrying giants coming through and while players like Luke Crosbie are obviously abrasive in contact who would you drop to pick him?

    We’re going to have to find some way around this.

    Maybe focusing on mobility, retention and having a deep ruck where we use collective power and body positions to suck opponents in can make up for lack of individual power just enough to let our backs cut loose. Or a Richie Gray swansong where he fulfils every bit of his potential.

    Any other ideas?

    • This has always been the case in Scottish rugby that’s why we have to play fast and loose, the deep post to create quick ball and move away from the physical confrontation is the way forward, watch the AB’s, they’re doing it.

    • About “Our forwards lack power”
      I agree, i think they could score IF they come at pace from deep, they almost walk, much easier to defend.

  7. “allowing a replacement player onto the field after 20 minutes to ensure the match remains a contest?”

    I’m not sure. Better minds may have more context to offer.

    In this particular case it was reckless and in any event this kind of action needs to be removed from the game. Rugby is plenty physical without brutal pot shots.

    There are some headshots that look less than deliberate, split second decisions. Maybe a 20 minute timeout?

    In any event, the game needs to be rid of that any which way.

    • I’m not in favour of the 20 minute red card. A player could take out your playmaker/best player, who could be off for the rest of the game, and the offender gets to come back after 20 minutes. Some coaches/players would take advantage of this.

      • technical point. The offender does not come back on, but another player from the bench. It is a bad idea though


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