Six Nations: Scotland hopeful Stafford McDowall does his talking on the pitch

Inside centre is in a shoot-out with Cam Redpath to replace injured Sione Tuipulotu in dark blue No 12 jersey

Will Stafford McDowall replace injured Glasgow Warriors club-mate Sione Tuipulotu in the Scotland No 12 jersey this Saturday? Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Will Stafford McDowall replace injured Glasgow Warriors club-mate Sione Tuipulotu in the Scotland No 12 jersey this Saturday? Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

STAFFORD MCDOWALL insists he isn’t overthinking his chances of breaking into the Scotland squad for the Six Nations finale, but he hopes Glasgow Warriors team-mate Johnny Matthews is rewarded at international level for his flying club form.

Starting Scotland centre Sione Tuipulotu was ruled out of the rest of the Championship last week after sustaining a knee injury in the Calcutta Cup victory over England.

While the news came as a blow to national team head coach Gregor Townsend, it created an opportunity for others to claim a starting spot, with Cameron Redpath the frontrunner to fill the No. 12 shirt after coming off the bench in all three Six Nations games so far.


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However, McDowall gave a timely reminder of his ability by putting in a man-of-the-match performance as he captained a youthful Glasgow side to a 19-9 victory away to Benetton on Saturday.

The centre, who won his one and only Scotland cap in last summer’s World Cup warm-up win over Italy, scored one try and set up another as Warriors became the first side to win in Treviso for a year.

Now he has returned to international camp to battle it out with Redpath and Rory Hutchinson for a place in the matchday 23 against the Azzurri on Saturday.

“I was just focused this week on playing for Glasgow and doing a job for them,” McDowall said on Saturday afternoon after the game.

“This club means a lot to me, this is the first time I’ve ever won out here in Benetton. There were a lot of boys outside of me who could have got man-of-the-match today, so I won’t take too much from that. A lot of the forwards put in a big shift, especially the young boys.

“I won’t think too much about going forward [to the Italy game]. I’ll be back in camp tomorrow night, so I’ll see what happens next week. But I’m massively proud of the performance today.”

Although he wouldn’t talk up his own chances of selection, McDowall did back Matthews for further international recognition after the hooker continued his astonishing try-scoring form in Treviso.

The 30-year-old pounced on an overthrown lineout to claim Glasgow’s opening score and take his tally to 11 tries for the season, the highest in the URC.

It was an impressive all-round game from the hooker, who scored a try in his one and only Scotland cap against Romania at the 2023 Rugby World Cup but is yet to feature in a Six Nations matchday squad, with George Turner and Ewan Ashman the preferred pairing.

“Johnny is a massive part of our team and his try scoring record keeps us in a lot of games,” McDowall said.

“I don’t know what he does at the back of that maul, but he seems to command it pretty well! He got a chance to go out to the World Cup and experience that, I think he’s really hungry for more and you can see that with the way he plays.

“There is a lot of stiff competition there and the other two boys have been going well, but everyone at Glasgow would be happy to see Johnny get a run.”

 

 

The Scots travel to Rome on the back of two wins from three in the Six Nations so far, which could have been a perfect hat-trick had a controversial TMO call not denied them a late match-winning try against France.

Townsend’s side, fresh off a dominant 30-21 Calcutta Cup defence against England at Murrayfield, sit second in the standings and victory over the Azzurri would send them to Dublin to face unbeaten Ireland on Super Saturday brimming with confidence.

Scotland go to the Eternal City as big favourites, having won their last 13 meetings with the Italians over nine years.

But McDowall doesn’t believe there is any chance of complacency creeping in after watching Gonzalo Quesada’s side take a draw away to France last time out that would have been a win had Paolo Garbisi’s last-second penalty not struck the post.

“The boys know how good Italy are, whether it’s home or away,” McDowall said.

“They went to France last week and probably should win the game, with Garbisi so close. I don’t think there will be any complacency from Scotland.

“We know how fired up Italy are going to be, but Scotland need to win to create a showdown with Ireland at the end and have a chance. Both teams will be fired up about it and it’ll be a good game.”

The trip to Rome will be a second journey to Italy in a week for McDowall and his Glasgow team-mates.

He said: “I may as well just stay and book into a nice hotel in Rome! If I get the chance to come back out, whether that’s just with the squad or playing, it will be another awesome experience so it’s another one to add to the experiences I’m getting.”

 


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16 Comments

  1. Like to see both Mathews and McDowell on the bench …

    Ashman’s line out is improved but enough?

  2. Be interested to see if we see him at 13 going forward. He seems to fit what Townsend is looking for there a little better than 12 (in that he’s best at hitting hard lines with slightly weaker distribution) and we have a few 12s currently with few major options at OC.

    If we’re having an easier summer tour to the US/Canada/PIs then it would be great to see him and Redpath/Hutch together in the centres.

  3. If all fit no chance of Rowe being selected ahead of Hutchison or Macdowall given that leaves us no proper cover in the centre ( Jones can cover wing adequately).
    Whilst I’m more and more impressed with Macdowall I suspect Hutchison may edge it as he could slot in at FB easily (with Kinghorn an option on the wing).
    Having saud that Macdowall’s physicality could be a big asset in Test rugby (certainly in the Irish match with Akhi being such a handful these days).
    Great to have all thse realistic options despite the loss of Tuipolotu.
    (And remember we’ve arguably now lost Graham,Tuipolotu,Gray and Crosbie from our first choice lineup but still looking competitive.)

  4. One thing about Gregor he does not change his match day 15 much. So much as I’m a Mathews fan he will go with Turner/Ashman. I cannot see him going with anyone other than Redpath , if only for his crucial role in rescuing Finn’s charge down and turning it in to the VDM 3rd try. I think he will go 5/3 because Italy are more of a running team than the forward team they used to be. One of the bench places will be Horne then Healy because he is Gregor the third place would be between Rowe, Hutchinson or McDowall and I have no idea who he will pick, I like all 3 and I don’t think anyone would let us down. This is going to be a tough game the Italians disastrous RWC seems to be behind them, they should have beaten both England and France and they always turn up for Scotland. I think this could be the best game of the weekend.

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    • If all fit no chance of Rowe being selected ahead of Hutchison or Macdowall given that leaves us no proper cover in the centre ( Jones can cover wing adequately).
      Whilst I’m more and more impressed with Macdowall I suspect Hutchison may edge it as he could slot in at FB easily (with Kinghorn an option on the wing).
      Having saud that Macdowall’s physicality could be a big asset in Test rugby (certainly in the Irish match with Akhi being such a handful these days).
      Great to have all thse realistic options despite the loss of Tuipolotu.
      (And remember we’ve arguably now lost Graham,Tuipolotu,Gray and Crosbie from our first choice lineup but still looking competitive.)

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    • Definitely will be a tough game, we rarely beat them comfortably. Think Italy in the RWC suffered from a disastrous strategy by Crowley, who’d already lost his job and looked like he’d lost the dressing room.

      Not as impressed with Italy so far though – they never looked like beating England really and couldn’t beat France despite the red card, some calamitous finishing from the French and Jalibert being injured. Their defence was strong but ultimately they had the game offered up on a plate to them and they let it slip.

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      • That match between Italy and France was really poor imo. I thought that was the worst France performance I have ever seen..and I have no idea how Galthie still has his job.
        If we don’t win v Italy and win convincingly we have little chance of doing anything against Ireland on their home patch.

  5. I would also like to see McDowall given a chance off the bench – surely Redpath will slot in as starting 12 given his experience, club partnership with Finn and the form he’s in – and even with a 6-2 split, Kinghorn could cover FH and Jones has played in back 3 relatively recently so not inconceivable. I actually think that McDowall has more to offer than Hutchinson at the moment (though still think Hutchinson has been undervalued at international level) and Healy as the only back’s replacement in addition to scrum half doesn’t make sense as you could see Healy at 10 with Finn moving to 12, as per the other week which really doesn’t work other than a real sticky plaster job. Also see McDowall as adding something different, as he can smash it up the middle as well as offering a great skill set in terms of kicking and offloading. As an aside, would like to see Christie start with Darge and Dempsey, Fagerson on the bench but not sure Toony sees either midfield or back row in the same way.

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  6. Interested to see what happens on the bench for this game. Will they go 6/2 or 5/3. Will Healy still get a spot or will Kinghorn cover 10 and free up space for someone like McDowell to cover the centres and Horne to cover the wings?

  7. He is playing really well for Glasgow and offers something different.

    I’d love to see him, Hutchison and Redpath all involved in the 23 this week but that would probably mean not selecting Healy on the bench and Townsend seems hell-bent on doing that for some reason.

    • You could argue that Harris is a specialist 13 (like Jones) so that’s why he isn’t in the frame – at least for the Italy game.

  8. Stafford has all the assets and skills to slot into the 12 position on Saturday, none more so than the leadership that he now brings to a team – again credit to Franco for seeing the potential and bringing the best out from his players.

    I’d love to see Stafford making a huge impact from the bench, but…. can see him understandably losing out to Redpath for the start and he may unfortunately lose out to ano (Hutch?) for the bench especially if they go 6/2 but he deserves his shot.

    Christie also deserves a start at 6, with Fagerson back in squad from bench for me.

    Unfortunately, can’t see Matthews getting into matchday squad, with Ashman eventually playing to his potential from the bench v England.

    Let’s see how the tombola turns out…. Tough game ahead.

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  9. He deserves his opportunity. after years of development he now looks the real deal. I hope redpath starts, but also hope McDowell is able to come on to show his ability

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    • I would like to see him get a go too, but suspect Hutchinson can cover more positions from the bench. Might depend on the split and whether Healy keeps his place. Sure to add to his cap on the summer tour though, if not before.

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