Back in the good old days, before I was cut down in my literary prime by consumption, I once said ‘Man is what he believes’. By that, I of course meant that a human being’s personal beliefs give you a vital insight into their soul. A man who believes in a hateful god is likely to be a hateful man, for instance. A person who believes in astrology is probably a few samovars short of a picnic. That sort of thing.
So, what to make of the Scottish fan who, year after year, still believes that his team is capable of performing well in the upcoming Six Nations? Despite all evidence to the contrary, this belief persists among many Jocks. Alas, we can only describe this sort of person using a 21st century colloquialism that I am very fond of. He is, most definitely, like, totally batshit insane.
Nevertheless, I have taken it upon myself to examine the chances of the Scottish team via an in-depth look at their likely players. I have reached these conclusions with the help of a Scottish friend of mine, a rubbish spy now exiled in London, and they are likely to be as poignant and melancholic as one of my short stories.
Prop – LH
Nailed on: Ryan Grant – This man may as well have the loosehead jersey tattooed onto his sizeable frame. Or, a number ‘1’ shaved onto his ample Viking beard. A great ball carrier, a superb fringe defender and a beast in the Glasgow and Scotland scrum. He’s been the find of 2012 for Scotland, watch out for him on the Lions tour.
Others: Um, let’s see, who else. Chunk has retired. Jon Welsh is brilliant but injured. Ally Dickinson is terrible. Cross and Low are primarily TH’s. Grant Shiells at the Toon and big Gordy Reid at Glasgow are uncapped. Basically, don’t get injured Ryan.
Prop – TH
Nailed on: Euan Murray – Big Euge. The Rev. Mr Angry Face. Seems to have found his mojo at Worcester, and nailed on at TH if he’s fit and it’s not a Sunday. Why couldn’t Hugo Southwell have been the one to catch the Jesus bug?
Others: Moray Low, the man with the squarest face this side of Brad Barritt, has been unlucky with injuries but is doing well of late. Solid scrummager, decent in the loose. Geoff Cross is decent in the loose but poo in the scrum. Hurry up and qualify, Mike Cusack.
Nailed on: No one. Ford is injured and has had a gash season. MacArthur has been very good but is uncapped, and Hall has been ok.
Others: You stay where you are at shit London Irish, Scott Lawson. Stay, dammit.
Nailed on: The Small-Faced Chaos Machine, rising high above the ocean of mediocrity that is Sale Sharks. Also a blog contributor (sort of). Nuff said.
Others: Jim Hamilton adds ballast, Ali Kellock adds leadership. Gilchrist is rising high above the ocean of mediocrity that is Edinburgh rugby at the moment, but is uncapped. Ryder and Swinson at Glasgow are very outside bets. Look out for Jonny Gray for Scotland ‘A’!
Nailed on: Brown will stay at captain and stay at 6, and Beattie and Denton will share the 8 spot, with the loser making the bench. Openside is a concern, with Barclay, Fusaro and Rennie struggling for fitness. Brown may move across from 6, with Denton going to 6 and Beattie staying at 8. That would be a sizeable backrow.
Others: Harley has been playing well at Glasgow, and has been covering 7 of late. McInally’s done himself no favours at Edinburgh, and Stroker will probably stay in France.
Nailed on: Laidlaw will play in some capacity, probably at 9 given the injury to Cusiter and Blair’s retirement. Jackson has been superb lately, so he’ll probably start as well.
Others: Pyrgos has been his usual solid self at 9. Weir is improving with his time off the bench, and Heathcote seems to be doing well at Bath.
Nailed on: Matt Scott. He’s been one of Edinburgh’s better performers, though Bradley insists on playing him at 13. He’ll play at 12 for Scotland.
Others: Horne, Dunbar and Morrison are all outside bets for 12 is Scott gets injured. 13 is a tough one. Alex Grove is a great defender and can attack intelligently. Sean Lamont can’t do anything intelligently, and thus offends my very soul, but he can smashy smashy. NDL is injured, as is Ansbro. Dunbar could play at 13, but is just back from a niggly injury.
Nailed on: Visser and Maitland. Goodbye try drought! Hopefully!
Others: Lee Jones’ form has fallen off a cliff, S Lamont could do a job for us off the bench, and Seymour has been ripping it up for Glasgow. M Evans can stay in France, he’s terrible.
Nailed on: Hogg. Poor start to the season but picking up nicely now.
Others – Tonks has been one of the best Edinburgh players this season, and Peter Murchie has been solid enough.
So, where does this leave us? Despite being a perceptive student of all human emotions and interactions, I have nary the slightest fucking clue what kind of a team Scott Johnson will pick. So, with the help of the rubbish spy, here’s my favoured line-up for a Saturday game with the Rev available and Barclay and Rennie not fit. Shameless bench-sitting for some bench selections
7. Brown (c)
Subs – Shiells, Ford, Low, Kellock, Fusaro/Harley, Pyrgos, Weir/Heathcote, S Lamont, Seymour.
And with that, I bid you a cheery do svidaniya! Remember Scots fans, hope springs eternal, then kicks you in the balls 80 minutes later, so don’t forget to line up a nice bottle of vodka (or whisky, or whatever you savages drink) to cheer yourself up afterwords. Za zdorovje!
As told to Chekhovian over a crackly phone line from some cemetery in Mother Russia.