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Scotland World Cup buildup

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Post by Highland Shaun Mon 20 Mar 2023, 11:00 pm

Scotland v Italy
Saturday 29 July

Scotland v France
Saturday 5 August

France v Scotland
Saturday 12 August

Scotland v Georgia
Saturday 26 August

I think it's only fair to start another thread for this topic because I can see it being a popular topic in terms of discussion Smile.

First things first is that 3 wins from 5 and a 3rd place finish probably exceeded expectations because most would have said 2 wins and the 4th place win, the one that most would have called was England to beat us as they were at home so imho we certainly deserve enormous credit for that one because we played very well against an England team that also had their moments, in fact I could already see improvements from the Eddie Jones era during that game and until DVDM clinched it at the death, I was still pretty worried we wouldn't win so was understandably over the moon that we did win.

The Wales and Italy matches were mixed bags tbh but we did get 5pts from both which was crucial, the Welsh game we didn't really perform first half and were in fact fortunate to go in at half time ahead but second half we were excellent and deserved the bonus point win.  The Italy game was a mixed bag in terms of; we had patches where we did well and others where we were hanging on, such as the last 2mins, I also felt that in that game our top centre pairing of Huwipulotu were quiet in attack though DVDM was a bit more involved that he had been in the previous few weeks before.

The France game was bloody frustrating because we showed glimpses of how well we can play especially in the second half for large parts but we were guilty of missing key opportunities and indiscipline from the captain of all people was our undoing which is where the frustration comes because as fans, we expect our captain to know what the ref will tolerate in terms of backchat!

The Ireland game was a game of 2 halfs, in the first half we were going toe to toe with them, it was probably the best we've played against them in a very long time; second half was a completely different story, we basically just capitalutated and handed the game to them with basic errors and more stupid indiscipline.

In terms of the coach, I have made my feelings known and really hope that the situation is resolved by at least mid to late April as we really need clarity on the situation!

Finally, for the summer warm up matches I'd like to see fringe players like Cameron Henderson, Ben Healy, Stafford McDowall, Kyle Rowe and Ollie Smith get some game time to see what they can offer either at the world cup (unlikely) or next 6N in 2024 Smile.

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Post by NeilyBroon Tue 21 Mar 2023, 6:23 am

Before Saturdays performance I'd have said we're on a B minus. Now I'd say C plus after a very ropey performance against Italy, and very immature given we refused points on offer. I think we've had a decent tournament, but a lot has been left out there in the last three games. On balance other than against England, the second half against Wales, and in flashes against France our execution has been left wanting. I still can't see us getting out of the group stages unless Ireland do their classic world cup choke.

I read Toonie is already in negotiations with the SRU. To be honest I think that's a mistake. He's not our Gatland, it's not like we have a cabinet full of silverware other than the "everyone wins one" individual match trophies. Just as it'd have been kneejerk to fire him in the autumn after finngate, it's kneejerk to keep him on after an alright tournament. I still think we need a new coach to take us the next step further. Look at Andy Farrell and Ireland. I don't think anyone expected their level of success after he took over but he's instilled a very robust winning mentality, something I'm not sure Toonie is capable of in the long term.

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Post by RDW Tue 21 Mar 2023, 9:33 am

https://twitter.com/topofthemoonGW/status/1637922095676940289?t=r2RB_ZwYH6j4JdJFXrYteA&s=19

Some good stats here, which show by most metrics Toonie is the most successful coach we've had in the 6N era across his tenure. Worth bearing in mind he's also had the most talented group of players in the 6N era during this period too.

Whether that's enough for him to stay is a difficult question!

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Post by Tramptastic Tue 21 Mar 2023, 9:38 am

I feel Scotland have made a statement this tournament. They went toe to toe with France and Ireland and came away having left easy points on the field, which is something that can be remedied, and showed boatloads of class in all games (even Italy who are much improved and who also went toe to toe with Ireland and France. In five years they will be sitting 3rd instead of us.)

Player/s of the tournament: Huw Jones and Tuipulotu who took creative pressure off of Finn Russell, created space for each other, the wings and Russell. We haven't had a properly functioning midfield since 2018 so they have been immense to watch.

Surprise of the tournament: Kyle Steyn - rock solid. different player to graham and VdM but he's our new Maitland. will put in a 7/10 every game (hooray for depth on the wings!)

Redemption arc of the series: Some would say Huw Jones, I say BK23. Excellent super sub, arguably on better form than Hogg. As long as he wears 23 or 15 he's great. While he wasn't as good as Russell at 10 (who is) what he's shown is that as a 2nd play maker available to Scotland, if he starts at 15 with Russell at 10, he can do some awesome damage as both a running, kicking and distributing threat. Genuine alternative to Hogg who was maybe a bit rusty/tried too hard (hooray for depth at fullback!)

Villain of the series: Gilchrist? feels a bit harsh considering he played very well otherwise... Hogg for not supporting VdM in the Ireland game and leaving 7 points on the field going in to the half? Maybe no villain this year

Match of the series: 2nd half against Wales. Monkey off Scotlands backs, Wales put to the sword, after a decade of losing to Wales who, whilst playing an effective power game, were always dull to watch despite the backline talent available, Scotland put away with style.

Thoughts on Toonie: He should move on and run France's attack. I want to see that coaching Ticket of Galthie, Edwards and Toonie. I would support that France to the bitter end.

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Post by BigGee Tue 21 Mar 2023, 9:48 am

Nice article by Mark Palmer in the Times about Scotland FB dilemma going forward?

Is Hoggy done?

Does BK or Smithy replace him if he is?


Hoggy has an awful lot of credit in the tank, but you would like to see some true form from him prior to the WC.



For more than a decade, Stuart Hogg has monopolised the Scotland full-back jersey to the extent that 99 of his 100 caps have come from starts.

Pete Murchie, Greig Tonks, Ruaridh Jackson and Sean Maitland have all made a smattering of appearances in the shirt, but the rule has been that if Hogg is fit and not away on Lions duty, he plays.

The Hawick man’s returns have generally been so impressive that there has been no real need to cast around for alternatives, which is just as well given how few have been apparent. However, both sides of that equation now appear nowhere near as set in stone as was once the case.

Hogg had been the one Scotland back to struggle to make any kind of impression in this Six Nations before he missed the final round win over Italy due to injury. Both Ollie Smith and Blair Kinghorn did enough at the weekend to suggest that they can at least make full-back selection a point of genuine discussion for Gregor Townsend and his assistants heading into the World Cup.

In truth, Hogg has not been at anything like his scintillating best on a consistent basis in Test rugby for a while now, and his injury troubles leading into this tournament did nothing to get him back fully firing. Dropping him down the pecking order at this stage would not be without risk, but it feels healthy for all concerned to be having the conversation.

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Few have ever been in doubt that Kinghorn is a quality full back, and what he did against the Azzurri only augmented this knowledge even though he started at fly half. The powerful close-range finishes the Edinburgh player produced for his first two tries and the devastating run that brought his third after Ben Healy had come on at pivot and Kinghorn had dropped deeper are threats he would continue to bring to the table with a No 15 on his back.

The flip side is that Kinghorn showed nothing to imply that he is close to replicating Finn Russell’s ability to manipulate a defence, control a game or bring others into it from stand off. Townsend would surely be best served by using the four World Cup warm-up matches to position Healy and Adam Hastings as Russell’s back-up, and Kinghorn as a genuine challenger to Hogg.

Hogg has rarely been on sidelines for Scotland
Hogg has rarely been on sidelines for Scotland
MALCOLM MACKENZIE/PROSPORTS/SHUTTERSTOCK
Smith is more than capable of forcing himself into that particular picture as well. The 22-year-old’s positional versatility makes him a strong candidate for a place in the 31-man squad at the very least.

Smith came through as an outside centre and, indeed, is sickeningly young enough to have been a schoolboy fan in the early part of Huw Jones’ Scotland career. “Does that make him feel old when I tell him? Yes it does,” said Smith with a laugh.

He is now settled at full back, where the elusive running remains but is now underpinned by increased upper-body strength which gives him the option of seeking contact as well as looking to evade it. He has started three big games for Scotland — last summer’s deciding Test in Argentina, the autumn match against Australia, and now this Six Nations finale — and has shown up well every time.

Asked whether it had been frustrating playing second-fiddle to Hogg, Smith gave a well-pitched answer. “I mean a wee bit, obviously when you’re in the squad you want to play but being understudy to Hoggy is no mean feat. It’s going to be difficult to try to get him out the squad so to speak but whatever is best for the team. I’ll happily wait for my chance and hopefully take it when it comes.

“The chat from the coaches is that they back everyone in the squad whenever they get the opportunity. They back everyone to put in a good performance. In terms of not playing to then coming in to start there’s not been much conversation. They have confidence in me and I’d assume they trust me to put me in in the last game.”

Depending on what Townsend decides to do with Hogg, Kinghorn and Smith could well end up going head-to-head for the utility back bench spot in France this September and October. Even though they are rivals, Smith views the former Hearts youth footballer as a “role model” too.

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“He’s obviously been coming under so much criticism for playing 10 and 15 and I think when he’s come off the bench in the first four games he’s been outstanding, especially the England game and the Wales game coming on so early and putting on a good performance. I think it just shows the class that he’s got, that he can play anywhere 10,15, wing — it doesn’t matter where you put him he will put in a performance.

“You look at a player like Blair who can cover the wings, full back and 10 as well. I feel comfortable on the wing, 13 is obviously a bit different, full back and wing are obviously a bit interchangeable but wherever I get a run whether it be Scotland or Glasgow I’m happy to play wherever. I’m pretty fluid.”

The cameras showed Smith with a tear in his eye during the anthems on Saturday. The little look skywards which he gave as the singing stopped reminded us that there was more than one thing at play.

Smith has spoken warmly of honouring the memory of his late brother, Patrick (known universally as ‘Patzo’), who died in 2019 aged 21 after falling from a third-floor window at a house party in Edinburgh, where he was studying chemical engineering. The day before the Italy match, March 17, family and friends had taken to social media to post their own “St Patzo’s Day” tributes, and that little nod was Smith’s.

He has had to grow up fast and, when it comes to Test rugby, it seems safe to imagine he will not be serving an apprenticeship for much longer.

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Post by BigGee Tue 21 Mar 2023, 9:58 am

I am genuinely torn about the Toonie situation.

Before the tournament, I was happy for it to end, but now I am not so sure, as he finally seems to have gotten everyone signing from he same hymn sheet.

I also saw the Top of the Moon stats and you cannot say he has not done well with us from where we came from.


I suppose part of the problem is not knowing what the alternative would be (clearly not Scott Robinson now!) and just how it would pan out for a new coach.

I suppose a lot will come down to whether he really does want to carry on, he has played a pretty closed bat on this so far, but he is probably the safe pair of hands and a new coach the gamble and I would imagine if he does want to carry on, the job will be his, with maybe the option of a break after 2 years if things are not working out.

The bulk of this current squad have probably got another WC cycle in them and this is undoubtedly Toonie's team now. He may want to stay with them for that journey.

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Post by RDW Tue 21 Mar 2023, 10:04 am

I think it's a bit of a stretch to suggest Smith is a utility back option for Scotland. He's played 3 tests at 15, and basically plays all his games for Glasgow there.

He raises a good point about Kinghorn's deadly finishing from close range. He provides a pretty lethal threat from 5m out - huge range to reach out given he's 6fr 5, enough heft to power over and the speed and step to give himself the half gap he needs.

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Post by BigGee Tue 21 Mar 2023, 10:11 am

RDW wrote:I think it's a bit of a stretch to suggest Smith is a utility back option for Scotland. He's played 3 tests at 15, and basically plays all his games for Glasgow there.

He raises a good point about Kinghorn's deadly finishing from close range. He provides a pretty lethal threat from 5m out - huge range to reach out given he's 6fr 5, enough heft to power over and the speed and step to give himself the half gap he needs.


To be fair I think OS says himself that he sees himself as a FB who can play on the wing, though I think he has subbed for Glasgow at 13 and played there as a youngster, so could cover it at a pinch, though prefereably not against Ireland or South Africa Very Happy

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Post by Tramptastic Tue 21 Mar 2023, 10:12 am

Toonie is so difficult - he's spent two world cup cycles learning how to head coach at international level. If he had come in to head coach post-2019 WC we'd all be saying "yup, he's been good, give him 4 more years". However, it still rankles that he came in earlier than expected, supposedly demanding the job, failed in 2019 and couldnt manage his squad properly.

It's been bumpy to say the least, but, as BigGee has said, he's finally developed in to a proper head coach to can bend his approach to the game to suit, whether thats man management, tactics, assistant appointments. It seems foolish to chuck him away... But 2019 still hurts.

Give him a 2 year contract. If he's crud then we've got time to find a replacement, if he's good then 2027 can be his final hurrah

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Post by George Carlin Tue 21 Mar 2023, 10:25 am

So much of this depends on whether you're working from the presumption that someone needs to usurp Toonie or whether we need a very good reason to keep him.

The key thing which we all noticed at the start of the tournament is that Toonie chose players on form rather than reputation and therefore for him, this was a novelty. The fact that our form players sustained that form throughout the tournament was a key factor to being able to dig out results. Leaving aside the fact that whether or not we win relates to far more than merely team selection, what are we to make of that?

Is Toonie to be applauded for changing his selection strategy and achieving a good result with it? Or can we point to the fact that he could/should have done it years ago.

I would get him out and give someone else a chance. The players will learn more from another coach.
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Post by RDW Tue 21 Mar 2023, 8:28 pm

Hoggy saying he'd love Townsend to stay on as coach. Says the whole coaching team over the last while has been much more settled compared to the first few years of Townsend's reign, and says that's a big part of the results we've been having.

Being cynical about it, he's not going to say much else given he has a World Cup with Townsend coming up!

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Post by TJ Tue 21 Mar 2023, 8:55 pm

Tramptastic wrote:Toonie is so difficult - he's spent two world cup cycles learning how to head coach at international level. If he had come in to head coach post-2019 WC we'd all be saying "yup, he's been good, give him 4 more years". However, it still rankles that he came in earlier than expected, supposedly demanding the job, failed in 2019 and couldnt manage his squad properly.

It's been bumpy to say the least, but, as BigGee has said, he's finally developed in to a proper head coach to can bend his approach to the game to suit, whether thats man management, tactics, assistant appointments. It seems foolish to chuck him away... But 2019 still hurts.

Give him a 2 year contract. If he's crud then we've got time to find a replacement, if he's good then 2027 can be his final hurrah

Pretty much this but after the WC. Decent performance at the WC maybe extend. Otherwise he needs to be gone.

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Post by George Carlin Wed 22 Mar 2023, 6:26 am

If we have a good showing in the RwC (failing bravely, etc) then I don't have too many issues with extending, but I think we should treat him in the same way FES treats his domestic staff.

If they stain the Wilton rug or they get the blend of sir's afternoon pink gin fizz wrong, then he's out.
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Post by BigGee Wed 22 Mar 2023, 7:41 am

It's not going to be after the WC though, neither party wants to wait that long.

It is probably not really fair to judge him on the WC either. With the group we are in, we could play really well and still not qualify.

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Post by NeilyBroon Wed 22 Mar 2023, 9:29 am

BigGee wrote:It's not going to be after the WC though, neither party wants to wait that long.

It is probably not really fair to judge him on the WC either. With the group we are in, we could play really well and still not qualify.

No but I think it's fair to judge him on the last 3 years over one tournament, which have still been very mixed. You could also argue we had a great chance with the previous WC but blew it and our seeding is a result of our one step forwards two steps back approach the last 5 years. It's not like when he was in charge of Glasgow and we saw steady progress until their pro 12 win or whatever it was at the time.

I think it's time we moved on from Toonie after the world cup, give someone with a fresh perspective the reins.

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Post by George Carlin Wed 22 Mar 2023, 11:16 am

I suppose it really depends on whether we think we can find a better replacement than Toonie and actually get them to sign up at a salary we can afford.

Crazy talk, I know.
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Post by bsando Wed 22 Mar 2023, 12:36 pm

Good discussion! Going by the media and pundits Toonie is likely to remain in his post. As we’re in a good and stable place then it seems like a good idea to stick. The thing that is beginning sway me most is that the players seem happy. That was possibly not the case this time last year.

A two year extension would be fitting I think.

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Post by Hazel Sapling Wed 22 Mar 2023, 2:46 pm

Agree with GC. If Joseph, Lam or McFarland want to sign-up, then I am happy to move on. I struggle to think of a good coach for the resources we have otherwise.

The Six Nations was a par performance for us but it is clear we are merely the best of the rest at the minute and England and Italy will improve in the near term (Wales are early in the rebuild).

We need to keep expanding our talent base and work on our mentality. We also could do with someone to teach line-outs. For whatever reason, either our hookers can't throw or our locks can't jump.

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Post by Collapse2005 Wed 22 Mar 2023, 3:03 pm

BigGee wrote:Nice article by Mark Palmer in the Times about Scotland FB dilemma going forward?

Is Hoggy done?

Does BK or Smithy replace him if he is?


Hoggy has an awful lot of credit in the tank, but you would like to see some true form from him prior to the WC.



For more than a decade, Stuart Hogg has monopolised the Scotland full-back jersey to the extent that 99 of his 100 caps have come from starts.

Pete Murchie, Greig Tonks, Ruaridh Jackson and Sean Maitland have all made a smattering of appearances in the shirt, but the rule has been that if Hogg is fit and not away on Lions duty, he plays.

The Hawick man’s returns have generally been so impressive that there has been no real need to cast around for alternatives, which is just as well given how few have been apparent. However, both sides of that equation now appear nowhere near as set in stone as was once the case.

Hogg had been the one Scotland back to struggle to make any kind of impression in this Six Nations before he missed the final round win over Italy due to injury. Both Ollie Smith and Blair Kinghorn did enough at the weekend to suggest that they can at least make full-back selection a point of genuine discussion for Gregor Townsend and his assistants heading into the World Cup.

In truth, Hogg has not been at anything like his scintillating best on a consistent basis in Test rugby for a while now, and his injury troubles leading into this tournament did nothing to get him back fully firing. Dropping him down the pecking order at this stage would not be without risk, but it feels healthy for all concerned to be having the conversation.

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Few have ever been in doubt that Kinghorn is a quality full back, and what he did against the Azzurri only augmented this knowledge even though he started at fly half. The powerful close-range finishes the Edinburgh player produced for his first two tries and the devastating run that brought his third after Ben Healy had come on at pivot and Kinghorn had dropped deeper are threats he would continue to bring to the table with a No 15 on his back.

The flip side is that Kinghorn showed nothing to imply that he is close to replicating Finn Russell’s ability to manipulate a defence, control a game or bring others into it from stand off. Townsend would surely be best served by using the four World Cup warm-up matches to position Healy and Adam Hastings as Russell’s back-up, and Kinghorn as a genuine challenger to Hogg.

Hogg has rarely been on sidelines for Scotland
Hogg has rarely been on sidelines for Scotland
MALCOLM MACKENZIE/PROSPORTS/SHUTTERSTOCK
Smith is more than capable of forcing himself into that particular picture as well. The 22-year-old’s positional versatility makes him a strong candidate for a place in the 31-man squad at the very least.

Smith came through as an outside centre and, indeed, is sickeningly young enough to have been a schoolboy fan in the early part of Huw Jones’ Scotland career. “Does that make him feel old when I tell him? Yes it does,” said Smith with a laugh.

He is now settled at full back, where the elusive running remains but is now underpinned by increased upper-body strength which gives him the option of seeking contact as well as looking to evade it. He has started three big games for Scotland — last summer’s deciding Test in Argentina, the autumn match against Australia, and now this Six Nations finale — and has shown up well every time.

Asked whether it had been frustrating playing second-fiddle to Hogg, Smith gave a well-pitched answer. “I mean a wee bit, obviously when you’re in the squad you want to play but being understudy to Hoggy is no mean feat. It’s going to be difficult to try to get him out the squad so to speak but whatever is best for the team. I’ll happily wait for my chance and hopefully take it when it comes.

“The chat from the coaches is that they back everyone in the squad whenever they get the opportunity. They back everyone to put in a good performance. In terms of not playing to then coming in to start there’s not been much conversation. They have confidence in me and I’d assume they trust me to put me in in the last game.”

Depending on what Townsend decides to do with Hogg, Kinghorn and Smith could well end up going head-to-head for the utility back bench spot in France this September and October. Even though they are rivals, Smith views the former Hearts youth footballer as a “role model” too.

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“He’s obviously been coming under so much criticism for playing 10 and 15 and I think when he’s come off the bench in the first four games he’s been outstanding, especially the England game and the Wales game coming on so early and putting on a good performance. I think it just shows the class that he’s got, that he can play anywhere 10,15, wing — it doesn’t matter where you put him he will put in a performance.

“You look at a player like Blair who can cover the wings, full back and 10 as well. I feel comfortable on the wing, 13 is obviously a bit different, full back and wing are obviously a bit interchangeable but wherever I get a run whether it be Scotland or Glasgow I’m happy to play wherever. I’m pretty fluid.”

The cameras showed Smith with a tear in his eye during the anthems on Saturday. The little look skywards which he gave as the singing stopped reminded us that there was more than one thing at play.

Smith has spoken warmly of honouring the memory of his late brother, Patrick (known universally as ‘Patzo’), who died in 2019 aged 21 after falling from a third-floor window at a house party in Edinburgh, where he was studying chemical engineering. The day before the Italy match, March 17, family and friends had taken to social media to post their own “St Patzo’s Day” tributes, and that little nod was Smith’s.

He has had to grow up fast and, when it comes to Test rugby, it seems safe to imagine he will not be serving an apprenticeship for much longer.

Hogg looks like he is behind Kinghorn for me now anyway. Scotland players have only twice scored a hat trick in the whole history of the six nations. Both hat tricks were scored by Kinghorn.

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Post by BigGee Thu 23 Mar 2023, 1:27 pm

We finally get the Ben Healy interview, courtesy of Mark Palmer in the Times. He comes over as a thoughtful young man who has come to his own decision about what is best for his career.



In one sense, Ben Healy’s first experience of Test rugby is a thoroughly modern parable. The way he describes it, however, is a tale as old as time: full of meaning, warmth and worth.

The 23-year-old from County Tipperary became a bit of a cause célèbre in January when, having come up through the Irish system and experienced all his age-grade representative action with a green shirt on his back, the fly half committed his future to Scotland, the country for which he qualifies through his mother’s side of the family.

Healy, who steered Ireland Under-20 to a grand slam in 2019, was called up to Gregor Townsend’s Six Nations squad in January, less than two weeks after agreeing to move to Edinburgh from Munster in the summer. It was in the Scottish capital that he made his international debut last weekend, replacing Ollie Smith for the final 13 minutes of the 26-14 victory over Italy.

“It was just an outstanding experience, on multiple fronts,” he says. “Plain and simple, making your international debut: you’re now an international rugby player. But also playing for Scotland is so special and unique. There are a lot of traditions there. If you asked anyone if they would fancy making their international debut in a packed-out Murrayfield, they’d bite your hand off.

“Everything about it, how the bus leads into the stadium behind the bagpipes, the anthem, all that kind of stuff. Then on top of that I was able to have both sides of my family there, the Scottish side and the Irish side. Jamie [Ritchie, the Scotland captain] presented me with my tie in the dressing room then I got my cap on stage at the post-match function. It was a very, very special day in so many ways and I’m just delighted with how it went.”


Although it took an injury to Finn Russell for Healy to make the matchday 23, the Scotland coaches had spoken warmly of the impact he had been making behind the scenes both in training and in the team’s general preparation. John Dalziel, the man in charge of Townsend’s pack, said that they had been using Healy as a “coaching tool” due to his “mindset and intelligence around the game” and that he had all the tools to “really add to our group . . . [especially] in the next cycle.”

Healy, for his part, was struck by the difference in approach between the Munster and Irish systems from which he emerged and what he heard from the Scotland coaches over the past two months.

“The four provinces are all slightly different, but there’s definitely an Irish identity of how to play the game. I found when I went to Scotland that there’s clearly a Scottish identity as to how to play the game as well.

“Being able to fit into that, learn from players who have played that way their whole lives, work with coaches who see the game plain and simply differently from how it’s viewed in Ireland and Munster — that was something I really enjoyed and something I’m really looking forward to next year and going forward.




“When I join up with Edinburgh, they’re going to look at the game completely differently to how we do with Munster and the Irish ethos around the game. It was great for my development from that side of things, and then the Six Nations as a whole is just a different beast.

“I was told that before I went in: a few people in Ireland said obviously international rugby is different, but that Six Nations rugby is different again. The first experience for me was getting the bus into Twickenham [for Scotland’s first game of the championship]. Straight away, the crowds outside the stadium — you just couldn’t see any empty space. That’s when it hit me that the Six Nations is just different gravy.

“In terms of the actual style, Irish rugby is a little bit more structured. That’s our identity and something that is obviously working for the national team at the moment and the provinces are going quite well.

“The Irish way in the past few years and at the moment is very, very structured. In Scotland, it’s a little bit looser because that’s how they feel they can win games. For me, it’s been about understanding what works for them, how they want to play the game then being able to go out there and execute it in training and then when I got my opportunity.”


Patience has been a virtue for Healy at provincial level, too, with Joey Carbery and Jack Crowley also available to the head coach Graham Rowntree when he ponders fly-half selection. Yet as much as the men in red strive to honour their heritage in the way that they play, it has long been obvious that Healy is more than capable of — and more than willing to — inject the sort of tempo and unpredictability that Townsend demands from his own backline.

“Absolutely,” he agrees. “When I was in camp with Scotland, I was encouraged to express myself and play to my strengths. I found that after a day or two it clicked with me, the way they want to play and how I can insert myself into the game. I felt I did that when I got my chance against Italy. I didn’t have much to do, but the touches I did get, I felt comfortable and felt that we did what we said we were going to do.

“I can’t stress how excited I am going forward. I want to play for Scotland again and I’m just so excited to join Edinburgh and the way they play. I can’t wait to get stuck in there and see where we can take things.”


Healy has never previously spoken in detail about his decision to go in a very different direction with both his club and international rugby. It was, he says, the product of much agonised deliberation.

“A lot of thought and consideration went into it,” he says. “A lot. It wasn’t an easy decision at all. I’m very grateful for the support network I have around me, who are impartial to loyalties to either side or the other. Obviously at home I’ve my mum who is Scottish and made herself quite clear as to what she would prefer, but I’ve been blessed throughout my career to have really strong mentors who are able to give me the best pieces of information.

“Not necessarily always the things I want to hear, but on this decision and others throughout my career, they are the people you want in your corner who will tell you the truth about how things are. I’m not shying away from it: it was a tough decision but I’m very, very happy and comfortable with the way I went.”

Healy had been presented with the chance as far back as 2020, when it was Glasgow who offered him a contract when he was still in the Munster academy.


“A few years ago when it was initially put on the table, I wasn’t necessarily well established in the game,” Healy says. “You would be going somewhere basically to start again. You’ve no skin in the game, and to me I felt that at the time I was just starting to build at Munster.

“I don’t regret my decision, because I’m on 51/52 caps [Munster appearances] now and hopefully will have more by the time I leave. I really now feel that leaving and going to Edinburgh I can add a huge amount from what I’ve learnt here. The last two or three years I’ve developed a huge amount and I’m really excited about what I can bring to Edinburgh.

“At the time, the Glasgow offer, I obviously felt I could impact the club a lot and make it better, go and express myself. But it just wasn’t the right time. I felt I had a lot more developing to do. I’m happy and comfortable with the decision I made.”


Healy’s mother, Maria, was born in England to two Scottish parents and moved to Turriff, a town 30-odd miles northwest of Aberdeen, when she was still of nursery age. His father, Fergal, met her on a visit to Scotland with friends, and when they decided to make a go of things, they settled on the west side of the Irish side.

“My grandad still lives in Turriff and so does my aunt,” Healy says. “As a kid, as a family, we went over there several times a year. I’m well-connected with my Scottish family and I’ve always been well aware of Scotland and all its traditions, that kind of stuff. My mum’s been cooking haggis for dinner since I was young, there were always Scottish shows on TV when I was growing up, Scottish meals, all that kind of stuff: I’m well embedded in the culture.

“The Scottish side of the family will get to see me a bit more now and they’re incredibly proud that I’m representing their country.

“My Irish family have seen my progression from playing in school, getting into the academy, playing for Munster. They come to the games and they love it, but it’s been a steady progression, whereas the Scottish side haven’t really seen that, and all of a sudden I’m over there and after a few weeks I’m playing at Murrayfield on a Saturday afternoon.


“It’s all new and it’s great for them. I’m looking forward to them getting down to Edinburgh to watch me play next season, and hopefully for Scotland in the coming years as well.”

With all the noise about his switching of allegiance, the grumbling from the traditionalists, I wonder if Healy felt an added burden to hit the ground running so as to avoid any team-mates new or old from jumping to the wrong conclusion around his motives.

“No, I honestly don’t think I did,” he replies. “There are pressures all around you in professional sport. I’d like to think I am quite stoic in my decision-making and how I view the game. I’m pretty good usually at taking the emotion out of it.

“I didn’t feel pressure but I suppose from my point of view, I’m very, very grateful to a lot of people in Scottish Rugby and Edinburgh Rugby who have put faith in me and shown a lot of interest in and respect to me over the last number of years.

“A huge motivation for me is paying them back, literally trying to win as much as possible with Edinburgh and hopefully Scotland over the coming years. Nothing is set in stone, but I want to play for Scotland and win things with them and I want to win things with Edinburgh. Paying those people back is a huge motivation for me.


“There have been numerous sources. I’ve been in continuous communication with Gregor over the last number of years, he’s just one person on that side. Initially it was Glasgow and I ended things there on really good terms. I made my decision to stay here, but I was grateful for that offer that was made, even though a lot of people on the Glasgow front will be my rivals next year — as they have let me know!

“Everyone at the SRU I’ve been very, very impressed with and it’s been great to meet a lot of them in person when I was over during the campaign. I knew that Edinburgh was a good city and had been a few times, but obviously we were based there during the Six Nations so to get in and around it, I was blown away. That’s something I didn’t even consider, to be honest, but once I’d made the decision a few people said it’s a great place to live and it was only once I fully got in there, I realised they’re right. That’s something else I’m looking forward to hugely as well.

“I got little bits sorted out. I did bits and bobs but like I made clear at the time, I’m very much a Munster player until the end of the season. There were a few bits of off-field stuff to get right, but I didn’t want to have that life over there waiting for me, because I think it would distract me from what’s going on here.

“I’ve not had too much stick from the Munster boys, to be fair. They’ve been quite good and quite understanding. Decisions like this, it’s professional sport at the end of the day. They understand you have to make hard decisions and they’ve been good with me.

“I’m fully invested in Munster and very much living in Limerick until the end of the season. There are good people in Edinburgh who are going to take care of me when I need to make all the rest of the off-field stuff happen.”


Munster have three games in South Africa coming up, one of them a Heineken Cup last-16 tie against the Sharks on April 1. Before that, however, is Saturday’s United Rugby Championship visit of Glasgow, the side who sit two points above them in the race for a home quarter-final.

There will be delicate selection calls for both coaches to make hard on the heels of the international window, but Healy is tickled by the prospect of potentially going up against some of those who have been colleagues during the Six Nations.

“There’s been a lot of talk the last two weeks in camp because we knew this fixture was coming up. Trying to figure out who will play, who won’t play, all that kind of stuff. If I do get the opportunity, it will be good to play against those boys that I’ve been training with the last few weeks.

“We’re coming into the business end of the season and we have a few challenging fixtures coming up, starting with Glasgow. I’m hugely excited for the remaining games and can’t wait to see how far we can take it so I can hopefully leave on a high note.”


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Post by BigGee Fri 24 Mar 2023, 9:02 am

Just seen an interesting clip on twitter of the NZ media basically asking Leon McDonald about his potential interest in the Scotland job.

He seemed very keen not to answer that question, 'I don't want to create a headline' was how he put it.

Read into that what you might?

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Post by TJ Fri 24 Mar 2023, 9:05 am

Nice interview from Healey. Was I wrong about him being a mercenary?

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Post by NeilyBroon Fri 24 Mar 2023, 1:32 pm

BigGee wrote:Just seen an interesting clip on twitter of the NZ media basically asking Leon McDonald about his potential interest in the Scotland job.

He seemed very keen not to answer that question, 'I don't want to create a headline' was how he put it.

Read into that what you might?

I've also seen him being touted as Robertson's right hand man. I expect this is more likely!

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Post by BigGee Fri 24 Mar 2023, 2:02 pm

NeilyBroon wrote:
BigGee wrote:Just seen an interesting clip on twitter of the NZ media basically asking Leon McDonald about his potential interest in the Scotland job.

He seemed very keen not to answer that question, 'I don't want to create a headline' was how he put it.

Read into that what you might?

I've also seen him being touted as Robertson's right hand man. I expect this is more likely!


Depends how much he fancies being an assistant again I guess, but yes, it is certainly the alternative hypothesis!

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Post by George Carlin Fri 24 Mar 2023, 5:56 pm

TJ wrote:Nice interview from Healey.  Was I wrong about him being a mercenary?
Issues of nationality and identity are always more complicated than they look.
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Post by No 7&1/2 Mon 27 Mar 2023, 1:52 pm

Wow. Hogg retiring from rugby after the WC.

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Post by No 7&1/2 Mon 27 Mar 2023, 1:58 pm

George Carlin wrote:
TJ wrote:Nice interview from Healey.  Was I wrong about him being a mercenary?
Issues of nationality and identity are always more complicated than they look.

Why is Healey getting grief more so than the rest of the people with dual qualifications?

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Post by Hazel Sapling Mon 27 Mar 2023, 2:02 pm

The Scottish player of his generation, Hogg has been involved in all the highs and lows of the last decade. His decision making has not always been the greatest (dropped at Glasgow for acting like a prima donna, the Edinburgh drinking incident, the teeth/hair combo) but, to be fair, he has probably made the right choice for him and Scotland.

His form and injury records has been patchy for a couple of seasons and the debacle last year around his going out after in Edinburgh and breaking the rules as captain...Hogg will be missed but it removes a headache about when we would have moved on to Kinghorn and Smith.


Last edited by Hazel Sapling on Mon 27 Mar 2023, 2:04 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : Missed that he is retiring fully and not just international)

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Post by BigGee Mon 27 Mar 2023, 2:19 pm

No 7&1/2 wrote:
George Carlin wrote:
TJ wrote:Nice interview from Healey.  Was I wrong about him being a mercenary?
Issues of nationality and identity are always more complicated than they look.

Why is Healey getting grief more so than the rest of the people with dual qualifications?

Not sure he is

For some people 10 generations of Scottish ancestry is not enough, unless you are directly related to Christopher Lambert

His mum is Scottish, he is qualified. I think most people are happy with that and understand he had a decision to make.

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Post by king_carlos Mon 27 Mar 2023, 6:13 pm

Really surprised by that news from Hoggy. I half expected the Mish to make that call. I've been emotionally preparing myself for that by growing a mullet out of respect for one of my favourite players to watch. Do I now need to dye it a ludicrous colour for Hogg...?

He's been an incredible player for Scotland and has done so through many different sides and also different iterations of himself as a player in ways. As the game has changed so did Hogg by refining his kicking game enormously and improving in contact a lot.

Whilst living in Edinburgh from 2012-2022 I attended many Scotland games and some of the individual moments Hogg has produced are truly spectacular. A true great of Scottish rugby.

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Post by TJ Mon 27 Mar 2023, 8:35 pm

BigGee wrote:
No 7&1/2 wrote:
George Carlin wrote:
TJ wrote:Nice interview from Healey.  Was I wrong about him being a mercenary?
Issues of nationality and identity are always more complicated than they look.

Why is Healey getting grief more so than the rest of the people with dual qualifications?

Not sure he is

For some people 10 generations of Scottish ancestry is not enough, unless you are directly related to Christopher Lambert

His mum is Scottish, he is qualified. I think most people are happy with that and understand he had a decision to make.

My initial impression was he is a mercenary without any real feeling of scottishness.  Perhaps I was wrong. I want people to make the country their home if they want to play for us.

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Post by BigGee Mon 27 Mar 2023, 10:49 pm

TJ wrote:
BigGee wrote:
No 7&1/2 wrote:
George Carlin wrote:
TJ wrote:Nice interview from Healey.  Was I wrong about him being a mercenary?
Issues of nationality and identity are always more complicated than they look.

Why is Healey getting grief more so than the rest of the people with dual qualifications?

Not sure he is

For some people 10 generations of Scottish ancestry is not enough, unless you are directly related to Christopher Lambert

His mum is Scottish, he is qualified. I think most people are happy with that and understand he had a decision to make.



My initial impression was he is a mercenary without any real feeling of scottishness.  Perhaps I was wrong.  I want people to make the country their home if they want to play for us.


Correct me if wrong, but I am pretty sure he is moving to Edinburgh and I imagine plans to live there!

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Post by BigGee Tue 28 Mar 2023, 9:17 am

Not a bad summary of the slightly flawed genius, otherwise known as Stuart Hogg and his contribution to Scottish Rugby. From Mark Palmer in the Times. He is especially right in that it won't be easy for him to keep his hands on the 15 shirt for this upcoming WC.



It was well over a year ago that Stuart Hogg revealed in an interview with The Times that this would be his last World Cup. What we didn’t know at that stage was that he would be calling time on his entire playing career at the conclusion of the global gathering in France.

To call it a bolt from the blue would not be entirely accurate, however. Not when the Exeter Chiefs and Scotland full back has been giving off strong and semi-regular signals that everything was not as it once had been in his relationship with the game he has so often made look so easy down the years.

Whether in taking spiky issue with social media criticism of his penchant for cosmetic work or admitting that he had previously fallen out of love with rugby to the extent that he had considered quitting when in his apparent prime, there has been a clear sense of a man approaching the end of his tether.

It is impossible to say whether this exasperation caused, coincided with or was influenced by Hogg’s relative lack of sparkle on the pitch, but it is fair to surmise that in the past couple of seasons, the 30-year-old has not shone anything like as often or as brightly as had previously been the case for more than a decade.

You also imagine that it pained him more than he will ever publicly admit to lose the Scotland captaincy after last year’s Six Nations in the wake of the infamous ‘Boozegate’ episode which had seen him lead an apparently unauthorised visit to an Edinburgh bar in the hours after the team returned from a match in Rome.


Such daft, unthinking behaviour sat squarely at odds with the pride Hogg took in the traditions of the role and the seriousness with which he attempted to honour its responsibilities. It should not be forgotten that Hogg volunteered to take on the captaincy amid the toxic fallout from the disastrous 2019 World Cup campaign at a time when Gregor Townsend and Finn Russell were pulling in different directions and the queue to succeed Greig Laidlaw as skipper did not exactly stretch round the block.


Hogg weathered the early challenges of the position — including his own high-profile on-field howlers in successive games against Ireland and England at the start of the 2020 Six Nations — to lead his country to landmark away wins over Wales, the English and France.

All told, he has been a quite magnificent servant: his country’s all-time leading try-scorer, and the provider of countless priceless moments for supporters at Murrayfield and well beyond. He is also that absolute rarity in the professional era: a Scotsman who has won multiple trophies and managed to have cut-through beyond the traditional rugby audience.

His appeal owed much to how accessible and relatable he seemed, how normal he looked and sounded even as he produced things that were routinely out of this world on the pitch. For a while, however, there was a fine line between confidence and conceit, most notably in the period when he openly flirted with Ulster, was sent off for Scotland in Cardiff and was dropped by Townsend for Glasgow’s 2014 Pro12 final.

These were unedifying times, but Hogg showed the maturity to get through them, just as he did to ditch some of the poor lifestyle choices that he freely admits hampered his fitness in the early days.

Truly, Scotland has seen but one other talent like his - Russell - since the game went open, and both these men stand ready comparison with the very best of those who went before them too.

The Scottish rugby scene will be the poorer for his absence, and it is to be hoped that the “new career” Hogg referenced in his retirement announcement means that we will not be without him for long. Exeter have a proud tradition of involving recent former players in their coaching set-up, while Scotland could do far worse than ask him to continue to influence their attack as part of the backroom team.

And what of the on-field team? Hogg has already made clear his intention to go out with a bang at the World Cup, but it just so happens that after him having enjoyed effectively a clear run at the number 15 shirt for upwards of ten years, both Blair Kinghorn and Ollie Smith are now pushing hard to remove him from the starting XV a little sooner than he would like.


Even though he started the Six Nations closer against Italy at fly half, Kinghorn’s contribution to the game strengthened his case to be the starting full back, with his powerful close-range finishing and ability to really push those long levers from much further out both naturally suited to the deeper role.

Smith, meanwhile, is a rapidly developing talent whose ability to play on the wing or at outside centre makes him a strong bet for a place in the World Cup squad at the very least.

By making the announcement now, Hogg has ensured he will go out on his terms. But by the same token, he will be well aware that his last few caps may end up being the most hard-won of his entire career.

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Post by bsando Tue 28 Mar 2023, 10:15 am

Yeah he’s going to have to work really hard to be in great shape for the World Cup. You can tell he’s starting to fade physically, much like Seymour and Dunbar did. His footwork and kicking are his best attributes now but he lacks the pace of Smith and Kinghorn (at his current level of fitness). Kinghorn had his best game for Scotland bs Italy and Smith was a key performer against Munster at the weekend. It’s a great three way tussle for the 15 shirt and all three should make the final squad at the expense of Maitland who may well retire soon as well given his lack of involvement since 2021.

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Post by George Carlin Sat 01 Apr 2023, 6:43 am

Nice interview with Duey. You can hear the accent come out when speaking with a South African interviewer.

By all accounts a very nice, quiet guy who had to dig deep into his self belief.



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Post by BigGee Sat 01 Apr 2023, 11:52 am

Enjoyed watching that a guy who wears his emotion on his sleeve.

A really nice interview.

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Post by RDW Sat 01 Apr 2023, 12:07 pm

BigGee wrote:Enjoyed watching that a guy who wears his emotion on his sleeve.

A really nice interview.

Agreed that was a great interview and a side of him we haven't seen before. Also shows how in the modern world national identity isn't so black and white, and I have no issues at all that he cares enough to play for Scotland. Helps that he's one of the best wingers in the world of course Laugh

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Post by king_carlos Sat 01 Apr 2023, 2:54 pm

That's a cracking interview.

I met Duhan a couple of times when a friend worked for an Edinburgh yoga spot that he'd come to occasionally. He's an absolute gent in person as well from that experience.

He seems to really love it in Edinburgh. In an odd way he might be a player who gained slightly from the Worcester situation if he's so happy up here.

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Post by jimbopip Tue 04 Apr 2023, 4:35 pm

Interesting article ob the Beeb today; pparently Dodson has decided that Toonie can only keep his job IF he convinces the bufties at HQ that he has a plan to "take Scotland to the next level". Dodson also acknowledges hat the players all want Toonie to stay.

So there's the post World Cup excuse already in place. "It's not my fault he promised me he'd do it. And the squad all said he would."

However, keeping the Tombola is probably our best bet. Blarehorn at 10 notwithstanding.

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Post by RDW Tue 04 Apr 2023, 10:15 pm

It comes across as a very arrogant Dodson, but we all know that. It also reads to me that Toonie is on his way out.

I did like this but though:

What I've got to do and what [performance director] Jim Mallinder's got to do, we've got to zone all that out - what the supporters feel, what the websites feel, what the players feel almost - and actually take a holistic view, coolly and dispassionately and have a look on paper. What is the best voice to take us forward?

If you're looking on here Dodson - we don't have a feckin clue what you should do either! Laugh

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Post by Highland Shaun Tue 04 Apr 2023, 10:38 pm

RDW wrote:It comes across as a very arrogant Dodson, but we all know that. It also reads to me that Toonie is on his way out.

I did like this but though:

What I've got to do and what [performance director] Jim Mallinder's got to do, we've got to zone all that out - what the supporters feel, what the websites feel, what the players feel almost - and actually take a holistic view, coolly and dispassionately and have a look on paper. What is the best voice to take us forward?

If you're looking on here Dodson - we don't have a feckin clue what you should do either! Laugh

That is my thoughts too, it really sounds like Mark Dodson is putting as much pressure on Gregor as he can, so much that he can't win in the situation. I mean how can poor Gregor "prove he can improve Scotland "

The fact he's sounding out replacements (one of which has been public knowledge for a while now) is another worrying sign.

Poor Gregor doesn't deserve this treatment but I really do hope he finds another good job because he certainly won't be short on offers.

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Post by jimbopip Wed 05 Apr 2023, 10:10 am

The best voice to take us forward? Very Joan Of Arc.
Where is the World Cup being held?
I predict a fire.

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Post by BigGee Wed 05 Apr 2023, 1:56 pm

Seems like Andy Christie unfortunately broke his arm in the Sarries game against Ospreys.

A shame for him as he has been on very good form and probably unlucky not to add to his caps this 6N. Hopefully he recovers prior to the WC squad selection.

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Post by George Carlin Thu 06 Apr 2023, 5:56 am

Highland Shaun wrote:
RDW wrote:It comes across as a very arrogant Dodson, but we all know that. It also reads to me that Toonie is on his way out.

I did like this but though:

What I've got to do and what [performance director] Jim Mallinder's got to do, we've got to zone all that out - what the supporters feel, what the websites feel, what the players feel almost - and actually take a holistic view, coolly and dispassionately and have a look on paper. What is the best voice to take us forward?

If you're looking on here Dodson - we don't have a feckin clue what you should do either! Laugh

That is my thoughts too, it really sounds like Mark Dodson is putting as much pressure on Gregor as he can, so much that he can't win in the situation. I mean how can poor Gregor "prove he can improve Scotland "

The fact he's sounding out replacements (one of which has been public knowledge for a while now) is another worrying sign.

Poor Gregor doesn't deserve this treatment but I really do hope he finds another good job because he certainly won't be short on offers.
Yes, I can see the entry in Dodson's diary when he got up that morning: "Start to hedge position in the press in preparation to kick out Townsend but look anguished but magnanimous whilst I'm doing it".
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Post by TJ Thu 06 Apr 2023, 6:51 am

I thought it a good interview and did not see it as pre judging. ah well

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Post by RDW Thu 06 Apr 2023, 7:02 am

I mean, the very fact they've been openly looking for someone else suggests that they're not exactly clamorouing to extend Toonie's contract, whatever way he justifies this. I don't know when Andy Farrell's contract expires, but they're not exactly going to be doing the same.

I think Toonie's gone.

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Post by Highland Shaun Thu 06 Apr 2023, 9:47 am

Even Tom English tried to get "an exclusive " by basically stating that after everything Mark said (during the pod) he is sensing Gregor is staying yet the CEO still didn't deny or agree with Tom though my take on what was said was exactly the opposite of what Tom thought Sad.

I just want this to end but will likely have to wait until the start of next week as they are only meeting in the next 2 days (they did say this week).

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Post by Hazel Sapling Thu 06 Apr 2023, 11:20 am

Dodson probably is worried about the RWC. After the disaster last time, and the group being horrible this time, we are likely to go out in the group stage.

At the end of it all, what has Toonie achieved in six years. A few Six Nations of winning three games and finishing third at best. Potentially two group stage exits at the RWC. There are always ifs and buts, looking at the overall record though, it is not exactly inspiring.

Whilst I have started to lean towards keeping Toonie as he unfortunately did his learning on the job and is now a good international coach, I can see why Dodson is thinking maybe a new coach could get us over the hump.

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Post by BigGee Thu 06 Apr 2023, 11:36 am

It is hard to quite know what Dodson means by 'the next level'

We are currently 5th in the world and look at the teams ahead of us! Keeping us at this level is gojng to be a hell of an achievement, let alone improving on it.

We could play the best rugby we have ever played under Toonie (as we did in the 1st half againgst Ireland) in our 2 WC group games and still get blown away.

In terms of silverware, yes we may not have acheived anything, but I sm not dure thst is how you should be judging a country like Scotland, who in reality are a small fish jn a big pool of sharks!

I was on the fence about Toonie as well and even now that I am probably leaning for him to stay I am realistic about what he, or just about anyone else who might coach Scotland would achrive with our resources.

What has encouraged me this past 12 months has been the improvement in performance even more than the results. We are now definitely winning games we would have lost a few years back and teams are having to play very well to beat us.

Some of the credit for thst has to go to Toonie.


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Post by RDW Thu 06 Apr 2023, 11:40 am

BigGee wrote:It is hard to quite know what Dodson means by 'the next level'

We are currently 5th in the world and look at the teams ahead of us! Keeping us at this level is gojng to be a hell of an achievement, let alone improving on it.

We could play the best rugby we have ever played under Toonie (as we did in the 1st half againgst Ireland) in our 2 WC group games and still get blown away.

In terms of silverware, yes we may not have acheived anything, but I sm not dure thst is how you should be judging a country like Scotland, who in reality are a small fish jn a big pool of sharks!

I was on the fence about Toonie as well and even now that I am probably leaning for him to stay I am realistic about what he, or just about anyone else who might coach Scotland would achrive with our resources.

What has encouraged me this past 12 months has been the improvement in performance even more than the results. We are now definitely winning games we would have lost a few years back and teams are having to play very well to beat us.

Some of the credit for thst has to go to Toonie.


This. Exact same points in response to people saying 3 wins and 3rd in 6N is underwhelming. How TF are we realistically ever going to be better than the current France and Ireland teams?

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