Scotland v Australia: Steve Tandy focusses on selected stand-offs for Autumn series

Defence coach says door is not closed on a Finn Russell recall but insists focus is on players who are already in the squad

Steve Tandy puts the Scotland squad through their paces. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Scotland defence coach Steve Tandy at a squad training session. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

FINN RUSSELL is clearly going to have to do more than set-up three tries and kick 18 points to help his Racing 92 team topple French league leaders Montpellier – as he did on Saturday – if he is going to force a recall to the Scotland set-up this Autumn.

Russell was a shock omission from the 40-strong training squad for the campaign when it was announced last week, with head coach Gregor Townsend claiming that his absence was down to form.

Russell’s performance at the weekend received widespread praise from across the rugby landscape, but Scotland defence coach Steve Tandy wasn’t in a position to comment earlier today [Tuesday]. “I haven’t pulled up the game from the weekend,” he admitted. “I’ve just obviously been looking at the boys who were coming in for this week and the 10s that were here.


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“Gregor has [seen it] – he has been on top of the performances,” Tandy added. “I think we are always watching as coaches, particularly in the attacking end of the game.

“So, we would never say never, but first and foremost we’ve got to really concentrate on the boys who are in and what they are going to bring over the Autumn period.”

Tandy added that he has full confidence in Ross Thompson – one of the three stand-offs named in the squad – being ready to play at international level this Autumn despite his professional game time so far this season being limited to just 21 minutes due to a back injury.

With Adam Hastings one of the exile players not available for this Saturday’s game against Australia because it has been scheduled outside World Rugby’s international window, it is likely that Thompson will be named on the bench behind Blair Kinghorn.

“Ross is pretty mature and level-headed – he just comes in and gets on with it,” said Tandy. “He’s really consistent around his performance, both in training and when he plays.”

 

Tandy also confirmed that Jack Dempsey has recovered from the illness and rib injury which combined to side-line the No 8 in recent weeks. The Glasgow Warriors man is now expected to make his Scotland debut against the country he previously represented 14-times.

Dempsey has become available through World Rugby’s controversial new birth-right transfer rule which allows a capped player to switch allegiance to another country they have “a close and credible link via birth-right” to once they have completed a three-year stand-down period.

“These events are massive and for Jack it will be maybe a little bit bigger than normal, but he’s played in big games before, and I think his form has been outstanding,” said Tandy.

“With these boys now, they focus on their own performance and what they can control, and I’m sure Jack will be no different if he does have an opportunity.”

“You see what a good player he is, and you are always looking to add depth to you squad, so that it you pick up a bump or two you can keep the same level of performances.”

“We’re really excited to have Jack in our environment, and he’s going to add value and increase competition in an already really strong position for us.”

Meanwhile, after Monday’s confusion over whether mind coach Aaron Walsh had been recruited to help Scotland over the next year leading up to the World Cup, Tandy confirmed that the New Zealander is indeed going to join the squad on Friday.

“Aaron will be coming in. He’s arriving on Friday,” said the Welshman. “The game is evolving. There’s a lot of mental skills involved in big Test matches.

“I think if he can help the guys in big moments and help them perform better, that could add value to us.”


Scotland’s Autumn Test squad: Finn Russell omitted, Jamie Ritchie captain and Jack Dempsey called up

About David Barnes 3911 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including he Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.

32 Comments

  1. In my opinion I think Gregor should sit down with Finn and ask him for his opinion on tactics to see if they can have an approach that they both agree on for the good of the team taking into account the opposition that they are facing in that particular game. In that way there would be a cohesive unit rather than two different ones. Just a thought.

  2. Jings it is a mission trying to get anything coherent out of lots of the comments above. The Finn debate is moot for this weekend as he couldn’t have played in any case. The only other experienced 10 to back up Kinghorn is Jako and his star appears to have waned so Ross Thomson it is.
    Like loads of you point out Russell is a fabulour player but many seem unwilling to face up to the fact that his attitude and conditioning has not been where it should be. His conditioning in particular has nothing at all to do with his relationship with Gregor. Finn is on record as saying that he doesn’t need to train as hard as other players. I can’t imagine, Sexton, Farrell or Biggar coming out with that.
    There was a comment about having Redpath play this week as he isn’t playing for bath, “Surely we could’ve sorted that out”. Em… not really as that is due to the International protocals surrounding the recognised test match periods.It isn’t a local agreement that can just be set aside.
    Anyway. See you all on Saturday at Murrayfield.

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    • Has Finn Russell’s suggested lack of conditioning / fitness ever affected his performance significantly. I’ve seen him have a few off days but more often than not it’s just because some of the things he tries don’t come off. I have rarely if ever thought that he doesn’t look fit enough or tackle his weight.
      Just because he doesn’t have a six pack doesn’t mean he is significantly out of condition. He has sufficient pace to create problems for defences and more importantly a willingness to use it.
      I find it refreshing to see a player who is not a gym bunny but has genuine guile and sublime basic skills. Far too few of these types of players in the game nowadays as the individual flair is steadily coached out of them. It is great that Finn Russel has stayed true to himself and as a Scottish supporter he is one of the few I would pay good money to see in todays game. It’s a travesty we are being denied the opportunity to watch a player who plays the game the way it should be played.

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    • I couldn’t swear to it but I would be prepared to put ‘Folding Money’ on the bet that a Club like Racing would not have an out of condition out of form Fly Half playing week in week out, and although he isn’t available for fixture 1 of 4 he is available for the remainder, the more I think about it, the more convinced I am that there is a pattern here.
      Just a thought.

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  3. Memories are short. Finn Russell is a phenomenal player who last season looked out of shape and swanned around the pitch not trying very hard (and probably not fit enough to). He looked like a player who thought he had a right to be picked + he’s had a few disciplinary issues.
    What should Townsend do?
    I’m sure he’ll be back.

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  4. Gregor Townsend was unceremoniously dropped from the National set up aged 30, the same as Finn Russell is now. At the end of the day, responsibility for selecting the team lies with the coach. If the team fail to deliver, the coach will lose his job. I have no doubt that Gregor is acutely aware of that.

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    • You think so. Why is he still in a job then. He appears to be untouchable no matter what mediocrity he presides over on and off the pitch.

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  5. Rugby is in the entertainment business , I don’t want to be paying £100 to watch a game with either the second or third choice stand off. Finn Russell is an absolute box office player and the fact that the Scottish support are being denied the opportunity to watch probably the most exciting player Scotland have produced in years is truly scandalous. We want to be entertained and the paying public should not be disadvantaged because of petty personal grudges and this selection signifies it’s time for Gregor Townsend to go.
    The explanations for omissions , not for the first time , just make no sense and it is insulting to the intelligence of the Scottish Rugby supporters that GT expects them to buy the nonsense being trotted out.
    Gregor Townsend , through some of his selections for the Autumn tests has really put himself on the back foot from minute one and this is a pretty hard group of games to have to get results from and he is on a very self inflicted “shoogly peg “. If results don’t go our way in the Autumn tests I think he should go. The expectation for the World Cup under Townsend is already very low so I don’t think Scotland would suffer adversely from a coach change a year out from the World Cup.

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  6. Perhaps this “mind specialist” can convince Townsend he’s lost his and re instate the best fly half in a generation? I’m sorry but Townsend as coach or Russell as 10? It’s an easy decision. Thanks Gregor.

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  7. While we’re on the subject of form, what about Townsend and Tandy’s form? Who is judgig that?

    It can’t be the CEO as we all know Dodson only has Townsend in place in order to provide himself a cushion, and jettison him after our inevitable RWC exit. So will it have to come down to the Murrayfield spectators to make their views known more vocally? It may require that come the 6N as I’m only seeing a win against Fiji coming up here.

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  8. Scottish rugby in the headlines for all the wrong reasons yet again. A coaches job is to man manage a range of different personalities and from the outside looking in, gregor has failed to do that time and time again. fall out with FR1, club after a win, FR gate 2 he has failed to manage him, and its no ones fault but gregors. you take the cheeky, devil may care attitude out of russell and you get a diluted player simple as that

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    • Spot on teej. The player isn’t faultless but it’s about man management. I’m not saying it’s the same but look at how Fergie handled Cantona and you get the same in the workplace every day, different people need different management styles. Let’s hope the new mind coach/hypnotist can use his mind powers to sort this out.

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    • I’d agree. Too much drama surrounding Toony’s reign which is an utter distraction from the business at hand. Between him and Dodson it does not make for a consistent and defined period of success.

      I’ve had enough of all of this and I have no confidence we will do well in the Autumn series or the 6 Nations.

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    • Yes exactly as you say. I thought Townend’s explanation that he was picking “on form” was really poor. It is a deliberate insult that an injured Ross Thomson, who was given so little game time in Argentina and is returning from injury after playing S6, is “in form” while Russell playing at top level in France is apparently not “in form”.

      So not only does our coach not pick our best fly half, but he also insults him by a utterly silly negative comparison with a younger, less experienced players who are playing in a different league.

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  9. The Scotland team is more than just Russell but it’s plain to see that his omission is very less to do with form and more to do with his relationship with Toony. Ross Thompson has little game time. Kinghorn has so much talent but only shines for Edinburgh when the game is wide open and struggles with game management during the big games. Hastings deserves a shot and hit a wonder drop goal at the weekend. Scotlands so called golden generation hasn’t quite done it and I wonder how much that’s down to Toony. He does little to get the fans excited or even the players who have bent the rules on his watch and caused unnecessary distractions (just imagine them doing that under Telfer, Cotter or Geech). NZ were there for the taking this year and I wonder if the absence of a big game Russell will impact us and more importantly we need harmony and the whole team pulling in the right direction to make an impact in France next year.

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    • Also bloody annoying that Redpath and Bayliss will be sitting playing x box on Saturday as Bath have no game. Surely we could’ve sorted that out.

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    • Just a thought about the ‘distractions’ would it have been an ongoing problem, if a problem at all under the 3 you mention? I rather imagine if it had been anything more than some convivial beers in a pub after the game I am sure the ‘diabolical’ breaches of Townsend’s authority would have been well publicised by now.

    • “we need harmony and the whole team pulling in the right direction to make an impact in France next year.”
      You’re right Don,
      The problem is Scotland can’t gel because of the players turn around.
      Good to have depth, however there are too much players with a couple of caps, but not a core of steel.

  10. I’d assume the proof of the pudding is in the eating, realistically we can/could’ve expected a 75% success rate in the next 4 weeks.
    The negativity caused by the Russell debacle and GT bone headed rationale for omitting unquestionably Scotland’s #1 10 has not helped.
    What happens if a 25% success rate is the result of this wee series?

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    • Australia and Argentina have improved and on their day gave an admittedly and arguably and underperforming NZ a wake up call, NZ are NZ and Fiji could be a Banana Skin. What happens if it doesn’t even offer up the 25%, I doubt if the obvious contingency plans are being considered but if the Autumn Tests and the 6N don’t offer up at least ‘Performances’ then I fear for the draw we have in the World Cup being in the same group as Ireland and South Africa, two very tough fixtures in order to qualify.

  11. It’s Gregor Townsend’s performance that we should be focussing on – Townsend has taken this crop of players as far as he can – under his stewardship they have plateaued . It’s time for change –

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    • To be fair, looking at the majority of comments he is well in the ‘Frame’ regarding this latest selection.

  12. Fascinating insights there. International coaches getting more like politicians.

    Another addition to the headcount at Murrayfield. This seems contrary to the CFOs comment about needing to balance the books.

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  13. Mr. Tandy seemingly dancing on a Pin there with his response to questions, however regardless of whether he has viewed the Racing game or not I am sure somebody has told him of Russell’s performance. I wonder whether his “we would never say never” comment was offered up with or without Townsend’s knowledge.
    I also totally overlooked the fact that Hastings was also unavailable for the Australian fixture and consequently Townsend has Ross Thomson as back up [who else is there?] with 20 odd minutes game time. What happens if Kinghorn is injured or having an off day and Thomson possibly coming on early doors, a professional player or not with the game time he has had since injury that just puts tremendous pressure on him, unfairly in my opinion, against I think it is fair to say a resurgent Australian side.
    The more I think about it this latest offering from GT with a few bits of editing it could be the outline of a chapter in Michael Green’s The Art of Course Rugby.

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    • Russell’s latest game came after the squad selected, so in terms of that selection irrelevant. The Aus game is outside the window – indeed Racing have a game on Saturday – unlikely he would have been released

      After that, of course no one is ruled in or out

      As to Russell’s form to date, he’s been ok, no more. Even last week’s game, he did some really good stuff, and some less good – including a couple of interceptions. His goal kicking was very good – as it nearly always has been – but it wasn’t one of Finn’s out there performances, and I say this as one of his biggest fans

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      • Good morning @Septic9,
        All reasonable points, however regardless of the Russell saga I would repeat a comment of some days ago, this isn’t the time for ‘wild cards’ selections leaving out Russell and Hastings not being available either and with a somewhat embryonic Kinghorn backed up with a player with limited game time at a significant level does offer up a ‘quizzical’ question, what is going on here?
        As I suggested with an even more difficult draw in the World Cup surely it is a time for Squad building and the suggestion that Russell will not be in the final squad by his omission from this squad, along with the comments to the Media that he has to pick up his game is somewhat lacking in ‘Man and Media management’ in my opinion.
        Kinghorn, is by any standard a decent player but by any criteria not the finished product at 10: he might even have reached a Plateau in that position, who knows? There again it isn’t doing Ross Thomson any favours with regard to pressure.
        Never mind Aaron Walsh ‘Mind-coaching’ the players, perhaps he should deal with the Suits in Roseburn St. and the Coaching staff before they make the next call following on from the Australian game.
        Anyway all the best to the lads on the day and the Offsideline contributors for the weekend, no doubt one way or the other Keyboards will be Red Hot on Saturday evening.

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      • Some good points from George and Sceptic but what isn’t mentioned is the Edinburgh/Glasgow fixtures taking place during this time 🤔. I’d say that it’s a no brainer to pick Kinghorn and Thompson, if even just to have cover at 10 for our 2 pro teams. And that would still be true whether Russell was selected or not.

    • @Shug55, understanding your point but do you not consider that it is more important to get a ‘W’ first game up for a bit of impetus, just a thought.

      • Of course, George, we’d all love a win first up but with this game being outside the official window, I think GT would have a hard time convincing Mike Blair he needed 2 of his 3 fly-halves.(2 Pro teams etc, etc……..)

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