RWC23: France v Scotland: Scotland player ratings

Big marks awarded to Blair Kinghorn, Kyle Steyn, Finn Russell, Jamie Ritchie and Jack Dempsey

Jack Dempsey had a big game for Scotland against France. Image: © Craig Watson -
Jack Dempsey had a big game for Scotland against France. Image: © Craig Watson -

15. Blair Kinghorn – 9

“The king is dead – long live the king!” Excellent game – rock solid in defence – dangerous in attack. Great pass to put Kyle Steyn in for his first try. Blistering pace down the middle regularly set alarm bells ringing in the French defence. Boxed clever with his restarts.

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RWC23: France v Scotland reaction: Townsend bullish after narrow loss

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14. Kyle Steyn – 9

Maybe his best game in a Scotland shirt. Took both his tries brilliantly. Constantly looking for work both sides of the ball. Great effort to check Gabin Villiers in the lead up to Olly Smith’s tremendous try-saving tackle. Darcy Graham will need to stay on his toes.

13. Huw Jones – 8

Tidy and contained for the first hour, working hard in tandem with Sione Tuipulotu to neutralise Gaël Fickou and Jonathan Danty – then exploded into the game with a searing break to set-up Duhan van der Merwe’s try – and followed it up with two or three chirpy carries which went a long way towards changing the general tenor of the game in Scotland’s favour.

12. Sione Tuipulotu – 7

The game did not go his way, but worked tirelessly with Jones to neatly restrain what is arguably the best centre combination in world rugby, and he was always there to give Finn Russell the crucial out-ball.

11. Duhan van der Merwe – 7

Hot and cold. Made some excellent yards but his ball retention was not great – nor, at times, was his body language.

10. Finn Russell – 9

World class. Skill, vision, courage and commitment. The main man in his natural habitat – pulling the strings and happy to mix it. Precise imaginative use of the boot, wonderful hands with each pass demanding an answer and happy to stick his body on the line should the need arose – most memorably, when 23 stone Uini Atonio came calling.

9. Ali Price – 7

Picked up a costly yellow-card when he gave away a needless penalty after the referee had issued a general warning – but there is still life in the old dog. The box-kick is going to be critical against South Africa and Ireland and there is no better proponent of that art. And Finn Russell does not appear to be particularly inconvenienced by his service.


1. Pierre Schoeman – 7

More or less kept the scrum honest in the face of the gargantuan French onslaught – and he worked hard around the park, carrying strongly – but his performance will be remembered for his nightmare knock-on straight from the kick-off at the start of second half which swung the game dramatically in France’s favour.

2. George Turner – 8

55 minutes hard in Julien Marchand’s face. Busy, strong, uncompromising. Superb throw to the tail at the first line-out sparked the initial surge and set the tone for the splendid darts which were to follow to help establish something like parity at the line-out.

3. WP Nel – 7

A tough night at the pit face but he met the challenge with typical insouciance. What we got was what it says on the tin – and more than enough to confirm his current hard-earned status as second man in.

4. Richie Gray – 8

Just about held his own against the formidable Cameron Woki at the line-out and contributed handsomely around the park. A careless penalty for not going through the gate early on, but a big steal when the pressure was on just before half-time.

5. Grant Gilchrist – 8

Another big game from a big player – the donkey’s donkey, grinding away beneath the radar.

6. Jamie Ritchie – 9

Back with a bang as he led the charge against the much-vaunted French back row. A born warrior, he covered every inch of Stade Geoffroy-Guichard and fought tooth and nail for every ball. A born leader – but his referee-comms might still be a work in process.

7. Rory Darge – 8

The coming man stepped up to the plate in impressive style in the most inimical of environments. Aggressive and quick to the root of matters as all great No 7s must be, he has left Gregor Townsend with a tough call when the live bullets start flying next month. Took his try very well.

8. Jack Dempsey – 9

A monumental game – influential and inspirational – completely overshadowing La Rochelle legend Gregory Alldritt in what was maybe the key confrontation of the match. Explosive ball in hand – and very much the steadying influence when the big French scrums came thundering in.

Replacements –

16. Stuart McInally – 8

Slipped seamlessly into the turmoil of the front-row after replacing george Turner on 55 minutes and more than held his own there, whilst putting himself about purposefully. One bad line-out – but it looked as though it was maybe down to the call rather than the throw.

17. Rory Sutherland – 7

Arrived in the game at the same time as the giant Antonio with 25 minutes to go, and though he got caught out to concede the fateful penalty in the last scrum, he generally looked very comfortable. A couple of good carries. Injured by an off-the-ball cheap shot just on the final whistle, but should be okay to be in Wednesday final squad selection.

18. Javan Sebastian – 8

Very much looked the part in both tight and loose – a big, and somewhat unexpected, bonus.

19. Scott Cummings – 7

Slotted in comfortably for the final quarter of an hour, as one would expect, with a couple of good takes and one big carry – though involved in the troublesome call when the chips were down.

20. Sam Skinner – 7

Got stuck in as per usual but little opportunity to show, although his pass to set up van der Merwe’s try was excellent.

21. Josh Bayliss – 5

No real chance to get make an impact during seven late minutes..

22. George Horne – 8

Big impact. Upped the tempo dramatically just when it was needed and a beautiful a prod through for Kyle Steyn’s second try.

23. Ollie Smith – 7

An impressive cameo with a bone crushing tackle on Gabin Villiers saving a certain try.

RWC23: France v Scotland reaction: Townsend bullish after narrow loss



  1. Cannot fathom the hostility directed at Kinghorn. For years people sniped irrationally at Hogg. Then at BK when he was tried at 10. Now he’s back at 15 the pile on continues. I suppose some people can never be satisfied. My own view is that the time BK spent at 10 has made him a better 15. He is now a world class full back within a world class back 3.

    • Tend to agree. Both him and Smith are excellent options. Smith probably a slightly better defender and Kinghorn a slightly better attacker. Not many nations could lose a Hogg and still be well served at 15. Add in Steyn and we have great strength in depth in back 3 and plenty of teams would love our options. I really like both Smith and BK, but suspect that teams would prefer not to have to defend against BK counter attacks so I would give him the nod on balance. It’s a fine margin though. England are convinced Steward is world class but I don’t think he’s even close to BK or Smith.

    • I am sorry DVM and Kinghorn are certainly not world class rugby players but are fantastic athletes and destructive runners. Darcy Graham is a natural rugby player who truely understands the game and his role offensively and defensively and is heading swiftly towards being world class and will light up the world cup. Lets be honest we all know that both DVM and Kinghorn for international rugby players are extremely fragile defensively, technically and positionally.

  2. Can’t we leave BK alone? In the 1st half of game one everyone made useless too long kicks to the French back 3 with very little kick chase. Are you commenting on the others who did the same thing? Hoggy was a mighty 15 and in BK we are lucky to have a very dangerous replacement. I never favoured BK at 10 but at 15 he is really coming into his own at test level. Stop knocking the guy, we need him confident and upbeat for RWC23.

  3. In attack Kinghorn is infinitely better than the last couple of years of Hogg.
    However, as well as being a hesitant defender who doesn’t relish a full on tackle ( see Villiere’s handoff for an example) loose kicking also directly led to two French tries, one in each game.
    At Murrayfield he kicked too long, easy catch under no pressure from Dulin, spun it wide and after a break from the young outside centre, Gaeliton, Coulloud scored under the posts.
    Then yesterday he kicks long ball bounces out near the 22, Ramos takes a quick throw in to Dupont, they work their way upfield past a static Kinghorn and pass inside to Ollivon for the try.
    Doing it once is careless, doing it twice is dumb play.

    • his restart kick offs have been consistent – consistently part of a tactic which the coaching team have developed. Kinghorn has a terrific restart kick with huge ball in the air hang time which allows the chasers to nail the catcher and pin the opposition in their 22. It won’t always come off 100%, nothing ever dies, but this is NOT down to Kinghorn
      On the long aimless kick leading to the Olivon try, yes it was poor. As was the kick chase across the team. We did not regroup nearly quickly enough. Kinghorn bore much responsibility but not all.
      Now I say this as someone who has always had concerns about his positioning and defence and at times woeful passing, but he played really well against France, nailed the position. Lets criticise him proportionately and accurately!

    • You could blame the poor and misaligned chase from the whole back line for these tries. There was also lots of long kicks in both games from both sides which didn’t result in tries.And how about the Ollivon try when the last defender was – yes Finn Russel who slipped off his attempted tackle. Not worthy of mention and I’m not trying to criticise Finn who played well but there are mistakes made by everyone in all games If you want to find fault in any player you can do so but a bit of balance is needed. Blair was not without his mistakes but to try and blame almost every try on him as you and other posters have done is ludicrous.

  4. Appreciate this is very subjective and a bit of fun really but think these scores are at least a point too high for everyone. We had a yellow card that’s cost us points, fell asleep for the first 5-10 minutes of the second half and didn’t close out to at least tie the match or possibly even win. Let alone the number of pens, some of which wee at least were genuine offenses!! Yes, it was another great comeback but it’s not good enough to be in that position in the first place and still have some shaky set pieces I just don’t get it, most of the squad are now fairly experienced but we still have the frustrating tendency to fade badly somewhere between 10-50 minutes in. Get the mindset right and we can be really competitive with the best.

  5. Lots of talk about keeping the penalty count down, When the ref gives a penalty for the jackaller being ‘too long’ and another for the prop losing his footing it’s just the same old, The bigger, favoured team can’t be doing anything wrong therefore I’m going to,penalise the wee team, it’s obvious they must be cheating.

    • Yeah there’s times when our discipline has been poor but the red yesterday was horrendous. The Darge one was as bad a decision as I’ve seen in a long time. Ref essentially had decided he was going to give a pen no matter what so he could give us a final warning. French were allowed to go their feet at multiple rucks with total impunity.

    • Heard the phrase ‘too long’ a couple of times. Does that mean the player wasn’t supporting his own body weight?

      • Believe so (another bit of referee jargon up there with ‘chasing your feet’). Thing is though in this instance the replay clearly showed Darge was supporting his weight and was totally legal. Berry is one of the refs who makes too many decisions before the kick off rather than judging incidents on their own merits. We are all aware of how tough the group is and we are rightly focussing on the selections we need and the standards we have to hit to upset the odds, but actually the ref in both SA and Ireland matches will be a huge factor. If we get a Berry style performance we are sunk.

  6. Feels a little like the Hogg detractors have immediately turned their attention to Kinghorn. Guess some folks just don’t like fullbacks. Let’s be honest though, he looks fantastic, such a classy runner, massive boot and good defensively. A top all round athlete. Saw a solitary loose pass in both games and don’t begrudge him that. Can’t understand why anyone wants to have a pop, but didn’t understand why anyone wanted to have a pop at Hogg either!

    • Kinghorn brought players into the game, personally the team is better balanced now. The Blairswitch project has verily likely brought him on in leaps and bounds as a 15.

  7. We have just played two French teams and scored eight tries against them, if we can manage this against the boks and Ireland but keep the penalties against down then we have a fighting chance of progress out the group. I think Ritchie is a great player but hope we will let Finn captain the sides as he doesn’t rub the refs up like Richie does, let Ritchie do his stuff and Finn can smooze the refs

  8. Smith over Kinghorn any day. Kinghorns kickoffs are impressive but they don’t change the oppositions reception and not do they lead to any advantage for Scotland. I also felt he was indecisive in defence for 2 French tries – he certainly would never had made the try saving tackle Smith did on Villiere! And Smith can also attach, see the try he scored against Australia. Bring on Kinghorn at the same time as Horne and for the same reasons.

    • Really cant pin the French tries on Kinghorn alone. The defence was caught short a couple of times but just because BK was in the vicinity and France had created the overlap. Others were just as much to blame or in fact give France the credit. He didn’t miss a one on one tackle. What about Russel missing Olivion for his try about 20 yards out – haven’t seen a comment on this – if BK had missed him I suspect we might have heard more.

    • Agreed. Kinghorn isn’t willing to put his body in the way in defence. He is too often posted missing. Some glaring examples in the match.
      His strength is running at speed in space. But I think there is a real lack of defensive skills and guile if we place Duhan and Blair in the back 3.

  9. Recognising the hard work that Gilco does at last, massively important in forward exchanges. Though I don’t see France pairing Woki and Flament in the World Cup. The ballast of Willemse and Toafinenua provides better balance

  10. I’m not sure Kinghorn deserves the 9. Sure he puts the wind up the opposition when he’s running at them but his defence was suspect and he was at sea for the French tries. I think it should be Smith for 50 when we are trying to contain the opposition then bring Blair on for his pace.
    Russell for me should have been a 10. Never put a foot wrong, the French were in his space all game long yet he got the ball away, taking the right option all the time.
    Dempsey was outstanding, one of the few forwards to break the gain line.

    • I agree about Kinghorn, caught in no mans land for their 3 tries, without laying a hand on any of the attackers, and the one where Smith made a try saving tackle. Needs to address that to be the complete full back.

      • Kinghorn is in credit because off all the good work he does going forward. But the official stats for the game say he didnt complete a single tackle during 80 minutes on the field.

    • Kinghorn’s defensive is much better than Hogg’s – yet people on here still go on about his defensive. He’s also much better in attack (at least the last two years). I think he fully deserves the 9- the tries were not his fault. He is our starting 15 no doubt about it.

      Glad to see gilchrist and Ritchie recognised. Two of them hae really stepped up- must be freeing being able to play and lead without the negative energy and ego of Hogg.

  11. Its worth noting that in the past week Scotland are roughly +30 points when Horne is at scrum half and -30 points when he isn’t.

    Whilst this cannot be attributed solely to him I do not feel this is coincidental and I’d like to see him be first choice scrumhalf in the opening match. Even if the challenge posed by the Boks differs to that from France.


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