Five takeaways from Saturday’s Summer Tour matches

Iain Morrison casts his eye over the weekend's action and concludes that Scottish rugby is in a tough spot and Eddie Jones got something right

Eddie Jones got the selection of Henry Arundell right this weekend but not much else. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Eddie Jones got the selection of Henry Arundell right this weekend but not much else. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

1. Ignore the results, the chasm in class between the best and the rest remains as wide as ever

I know, I know. The Welsh put up a big fight in South Africa and chapeau to them for doing so. However the Saffas obviously prepped for this clash by binge watching Italy beat Wales on the final day of the Six Nations and their sides were still sore from laughing to compete properly in the first half. Wales are nothing if not proud and proved as much at Loftus Versfeld but does anyone really expect a victory next weekend in Bloemfontein? Japan gave France’s reserve XV a fright but that was all it was, a fright. RWC’23 looks like a three-way fight between the hosts France, New Zealand and South Africa.

2. Stefanos Tsitsipas displayed more fight when imploding against Nick Kyrgios than Scotland managed against Los Pumas

Halfway through the rugby, Junior popped up on the family WhatsApp and announced that the tennis made for infinitely better viewing. He was right. To be fair, things improved after the break but there was still the usual catalogue of unforced errors and Buster Keaton-esque pratfalls. The game we were watching looked very different from the New Zealand v Ireland encounter first thing … a Bonobo monkey in comparison to a mountain gorilla … related yes, but very different animals.

I don’t think everything England cricket is doing at the moment is right but at least Ben Stokes understands that he is in the entertainment industry. Combined with the under-20s’ abject failure against Italy (and everyone else for that matter), things look a bit bleak for Scottish Rugby at the moment. Is it time for some radical thinking at age-grade while turning London Scottish into a cut price Connacht?


Argentina v Scotland: Pumas power to victory in summer Test series opener

That was the month that was: June 2022

Six Nations U20 Summer Series: young Scots steamrollered by Italy


3. Eddie Jones got something right

No, really, stick with me here. In the past Eddie Mince has generally included Scottish qualified players in England squads primarily with a view to annoying as many people as possible, including his Scottish counterpart and the patsy player … see Gary Graham and Ben Vellacott for further details …whom he has no intention of capping. However, in the case of flyer Henry Arundell, the gobby Aussie may have hit upon a rare winner. The London Irish speedster (who was, until Saturday, Scottish qualified) came off the English bench in Perth late in the game and scored a stunning solo try with his very first touch of the ball. We knew he was quick, just ask any Toulouse fan. We did not know he was so strong, brushing off twin tackles before scorching his way to the line. He is definitely one to watch. Sadly for England fans, that was the only thing Eddie Mince got right on Saturday. Twickenham hired a hot air balloon instead of an international coach.

4. What is it about Ireland and timing?

Ahead of this last weekend Ireland had beaten the All Blacks in three of their last five encounters which is a record that any team in the world would be proud to own. Now things look a little less promising for Andy Farrell’s side, perhaps because the World Cup looms large. In November 2018, Ireland beat the Blacks 16-9. One year later they lost to the same opposition at RWC’19 by a whopping 46-14. Ireland always peak between World Cups, never at them. In fact, they have never been beyond the quarters, which for a team of Ireland’s pedigree is astonishing. Their current troubles started when Leinster, who provide the backbone of the national side, lost twice in quick succession. The first time in the final of the European Champions Cup to a physical La Rochelle side and the second time, two weeks later, to the physical Vodacom Bulls in the semis of the URC. The combined losing margin over both games was four points but the damage to Irish confidence ahead of RWC’23 could prove critical.

5. Mark Bennett comes in from the cold

Why do Scotland unearth gems like Mark Bennett only to ignore him for goodness knows how many years? Actually the answer is (almost) four long years. He shone at RWC’15 when he scored against Australia in that dramatic quarterfinal and was nominated for the  Breakthrough Player of the Tournament Award. But he was unwanted by Scotland from June 2018 through to February 2022, only making a comeback against France off the bench in this year’s Six Nations. He was the pick of Scotland’s backs on Saturday, longside Rory Hutchinson, and I imagine I am not alone in wondering how that pair would gel in the midfield. Bennett is just one of many good players to get themselves established just before being given the cold shoulder and, when they are placed on the spot, the relevant coaches always mumble something about “work-ons” before shuffling away with a hint of shame about them.


Argentina v Scotland: Pumas power to victory in summer Test series opener

About Iain Morrison 62 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.

21 Comments

  1. Consistency counts and Townsend just isn’t consistent.
    Hutchinson played well but has he got a long term future at 15 when he doesn’t play there for his club and Hogg will return?
    Wouldn’t it have been better to pick him at 12 and Kinghorn at 15 with Hastings at 10?

    Argentina are not the kind of team Scotland can mess around with. There isn’t that much between them and they’ve leapfrogged us in the rankings after a decade of being behind us. That could become settled if we’re not careful.

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  2. The state of the U20s is very concerning. It wasn’t long ago – 4 or 5 years – that they were a consistently competitive outfit. Not world beaters or even likely 6N champs, but not the gimmes they’ve become either.
    The U18s look OK, is something happening in the transition?
    If it’s down to other countries professionalising at a younger age then maybe they can catch up, but if it’s down to talent then difficult to see how that doesn’t translate to the pro and senior teams…..

  3. How would London Scottish Work as a cut price connacht?
    They’d have to reaffiliate surely and would they just walk into the league without objection?
    If they stay in the championship salaries are p*sh. £20k is about right. Most of the players are not full timers. You’re not going to get people relocating to London unless they get a central contract or the team is centrally funded so it can pay players enough to live in a home counties house share or there is some other means of feathering the nest like a 50k part time job.

    I’m sceptical.

  4. Arundell was a handful for our U20s last year and he does look like a star in the making. I had to laugh when the Aussie commentator called him a freak.

  5. Presenting Gary Graham as an example of Eddie Jones playing the Scots is laughable when they’ve capped him just twice since. With SQ players, don’t think enough thought given on whole to fact players like HA may have no intentions of playing for anyone bar England. Potential of some decent points raised perhaps lost to childishness mentioned above.

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  6. Jones in an awkward place now. He’s picked “his ” team and failed, now he’s picked the the guys all the pundits wanted (Care, Smith Farrell Billy V etc) and couldn’t beat 14 Aussies. Where now?
    Bennett played well for Scotland, there boards will combust when Harris comes back in the Autumn

  7. There may have been some good points in the article but to me they were lost in the childishness. “Eddie Mince”?

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  8. Looking back on the weekend after 4 games of international rugby, I watched them all and was so impressed with the standard of the first 3. Ireland, England and Wales didn’t know when they were beaten and gave a great account of themselves despite the losses – playing punchy rugby, defending well and set piece resembling a captains run through.

    Scotland on the other hand…I was disappointed in all honesty. first half looked as if they had no interest in attacking, silly errors and just lack of desire or fight. it would be easy to blame Townsend, to blast Kinghorn at 10 but the reality is it comes from the top of tree – those who were responsible for that performance were sat in a sizeable drawing room in Murrayfield. Townsend works with the tools provided, and lets be honest is not going to walk away from Scotland set up after loosing, he is a positive, competitive and pro active person – you’d have to be to achieve everything he has in the sport.

    the simple fact is this – a coach who had been at any professional side for 5 years and fails to get out of group stage at WC, underperforms at 6n, doesn’t show squad progression and fails to make use of the academy system must be dealt with.

    It is nothing short of an insult to suggest that the second choice 10 is a chap that normally plays FB. SRU are failing to do their job in that case. Look at the Scottish qualified players in the premiership, look at the super rugby scots qualified, look at the super 6 and get them assigned to one of our pro sides, look at Ross Thompson, look at the academy but for goodness sake don’t be lazy, which is exactly what it looks to be.

    I feel for Kinghorn getting as much grief as he is – this isnt his fault. of course he is trying his best.

    SRU take action, We are miles off where we should be.

    just my 50p, slow Monday..

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  9. Been saying for years that the top SRU are paid too much and not enough going into grass roots rugby in Scotland

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  10. Good column Iain and I support your Connacht model of a low budget London Scottish presumably taking the place
    of Welsh team in the URC. This would give more game time to young Scots and Scottish Exiles and be commercially viable in London with Irish , Welsh , Boks and Italian as well as Scots fans supporting .

    • Im not sure you could parachute a team from bottom of Champ on a low budget to a league where other two Scots teams are currently way off top. Using the Champ as the framework in which to develop the opportunities you rightly mention would be place to start. Decent league that has important part in English development pathways.

      • The GK Championship is indeed a decent league but there is a huge gulf from Ealing down to London Scottish unfortunately, Scottish had over 160 points racked up against Ealing in their home and away fixtures last season.

  11. A Bennet and Hutch centre combo could be frightening in attack but I think Toony relies too heavy on the defensive abilities of Chris Harris.
    I don’t think he’d drop Harris for either of them when picking the team for the world cup final…

  12. Nice take Iain. I’m sure the Northern Hemisphere sides are looking ahead with some intrepidation to their remaining tour matches and the upcoming Autumn tests.

    I wonder if Jones will last if England get whitewashed in Australia? Looks like the Babas result wasn’t an aberration.

    Robert Kitson has a very good piece in the Guardian about England that could equally apply to Scotland. Just what sort of rugby team are we supposed to be? Obviously the playing the fastest game went by the wayside when it didn’t work. We don’t seem to be the most physical. We have never been the biggest so can’t just grind the opposition down. What is it we are supposed to be doing?

  13. I thought that Mark Bennett fell out with the powers that be when he decided to go for the 2016 Olympic 7s tournament. That seem to lead to him changing clubs and not appearing for Scotland again for years.

    • It was a few years ago, think that GT may still have been coach at Glasgow when Bennett tripped up on that silly astroturf placed over the running track at Scotstoun, and dropped the ball when trying to ground it one handed. Maybe a bit strong but that try would have got us a long way towards a home semi final in the playoffs that season – don’t think that he was ever forgiven for that it that’s what it looked like anyway…. Rennie also seemed to shun a few in his time HJ being one – for one I struggle to see why we seem continually to focus on the 5% that constitutes “work-ons” and fail to maximise the benefit of the 95%…. Maybe a flaw in our Scottish psyche but we don’t celebrate what we do well enough of the time

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      • ‘Dropped the ball when trying to score one handed’? Hogg v Ireland was forgiven quick enough

    • he was encouraged to play Olympic 7s.
      In xvs, a few things coincided. SRU sent Huw Jones to Glasgow, announced around same time as Bennett to Edinburgh.
      At Edinburgh he has had a lot of time out with serious injury, couple that with Townsend’s belief that his defence is suspect and he has been out of the reckoning for years. TBF he has only this season shown the real Mark Bennett, and that’s a proper player.
      One who scored a try against the Argies that Harris would never have, simply does not have the pace

  14. Good stuff Iain. Our U 20’s are /have turned into a slow motion car crash. Can coach Kenny get them out before they slide into the crash barrier?
    Don’t fancy their chances against the Georgian pack – definitely silver backs against our wee bonobos.
    One point of information, it was Toulon that suffered from Arundell’s Steve Austin impression not Toulouse.
    Otherwise spot on.

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