Scottish selections from a dead Russian

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

1.       Grant

2.       MacArthur

3.       Murray

4.       Gray

5.       Hamilton

6.       Denton

7.       Brown (c)

8.       Beattie

9.       Laidlaw

10.   Jackson

11.   Visser

12.   Scott

13.   Grove

14.   Maitland

15.   Hogg

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.

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596 Responses to Scottish selections from a dead Russian

  1. yosoy says:

    @ sagmog

    Shame. But that shouldn’t stop Emyr Phillips (Llandovery hooker, google him) claiming his Lions spot.

  2. sagmog says:

    Quite like that one Larry.
    Played with Donovan a good few years ago.

  3. Baldy says:

    Yosoy – you can’t honestly believe that a cpl of decision whether or not to go for a driving maul – when the stats show that only 5% or some such end in tries, and England haven’t scored one for 7 years – compare even remotely to what Wales have been doin, not least to handing games to aus repeatedly and losing to them 6 times in just over a year..

    The press got massively carried away with those..

    But robshaw showed real leadership & and ability to learn, something Wales never have..

  4. Boanova says:

    @ yosoy
    If Robshaw had been owned by warburton last year, as you’re implying, Wales wouldn’t have needed one great bit of individual skill in the last few minutes to win the game. There was nothing really between the teams that day.

  5. sagmog says:

    Sag – did you just say something complimentary about a Harlequin?!

    I’ve been nice about Brown too.
    I must be coming down with something.

  6. yosoy says:

    @ baldy

    If Wales were a few points down to a SH team (stay with me) with a couple on the clock, we’d kick for the corner and score from our AMAZING 13 man lineout.

    @ Boanova

    “There was nothing really between the teams that day.”

    Correct. Just night and day between the 7s.

  7. Baldy says:

    Yosoy –

    Of course I believe that, the only reason you don’t is your in utter denial cos Wales have done something ridiculous like won only one AI game in 10 years.. Which shows how good your players really are at the top level.

    The AI’s definitely count for more, it’s beyond question, why…

    Cos they are vs the SH.
    And the lions are playing the aussies, who are from the SH
    And with one victory in 27 games vs the SH, wags probably pretty damn excited about coaching some players who can actually beat the SH

    Christ, your boys have lost to the Aussies 6 times in a year, your mad if you don’t think that counts for a lot!

  8. PlanetoftheChimps says:

    I don’t really want to get involved in this debate.


    Baldy, don’t get too carried away by 1 game against the AB’s as proof of Jizzy Throbshaw’s awsomeness. Great win, but it was on the back of losses to Oz & SA. Let’s see him back it up in the 6N, then we can all do a George North on him.

  9. LarryMilne says:


    Ulster to out-flag Glasgow to pieces, by 10
    Sale to not be total shit but still lose at home to Montpellier by 8
    Saints to outmuscle Castres (just!) and win by 8
    Quins to beat Connacht, taking the most of their chances to slightly overinflate the score in what still amounts to a handy victory by whatever measure. No disgrace for the bogmen. Bloodsuckers by 18.
    Zebre to continue their upward trajectory but also continue their losing streak, Biarritz by 6
    Toulon to beat the (improving) Cardiff by 17. Not a crushing.
    Racing to be assimilated, just about (3 points)
    Leinster to keep their tenuous grip on qualification alive by beating the Scarlets by 19 (won’t get through though)
    Clermont to smash Exeter by 25
    Embra to get into a winning position against Munster, then lose by 6
    Having that bit extra to play for proves important as Tigers win at the Liberty, one point ahead of the Os
    Toulouse to beat Treviso by 10

  10. yosoy says:

    You’re missing the point, baldy. I know we’re not that good. I know our limitations, and I also know that when Gatland says “I’ll pick on the form of the AIs” that he’s fibbing. If he’s telling the truth, only Halfpenny will go from Wales. Can you see that happening?

  11. sagmog says:

    then we can all do a George North on him.

    I want no part of this.
    None whatsoever.

  12. Boanova says:

    Correct. Just night and day between the 7s.

    Erm, right…ok.

    There were some convenient stats brought up around the time of the wales vs aus game, showing how poor warburton had been since the WC, does anyone have them to hand to show Yosoy that it’s not 2011 any more….

  13. Baldy says:

    Yosoy – If Wales were a few points down to the SH with a cpl minutes left… They’d lose

    If Wales wee a few points up vs the SH with a cpl of minutes left… They’d lose

    If Wales were 20points up vs the SH with a cpl of minutes left.. They’d lose

    If Wales were wearing jet packs, carrying light sabres and had an army of androids vs the SH.. They’d lose..

    WAG will pick players which meet his game plan, but the first thing right at the top of his game plan is:


    so not so many welsh guys then..

  14. yosoy says:

    On a serious note, I could do without this Lions tour. I’m a big fan of the Lions, but from a selfish point of view it’d be best if the Welsh national coach wasn’t in charge and he didn’t take players who need a summer off.

    Roll on 2014/15.

  15. yosoy says:

    Ah, stats. I’ll dig some out which show that Robin Copeland does more than that useless **** Gorgodze. Context, man, ffs.

    “so not so many welsh guys then..”

    I sincerely hope not. Good job the tour is this year and not last.

  16. LarryMilne says:

    @yosoy – yes, it’s actually a bit daft having your own coach bugger off to take charge of the Lions. Now, I reckon Gatland may well have walked from the Wales job if that wasn’t the arrangement, but maybe that would be better than the current situation? It’s just so messy.

    Of course, the reason the Ireland coach was in no danger of being chosen is because he’s been presiding over a shambles for most of the last two or three years. So, could be worse.

  17. Baldy says:

    Yosoy – I could see only 1/2p & toby making the team..

    1/2p, Toby, lydiate & dr Roberts are the I ly welsh players close to being the best in their positions. And with Roberts that’s only due to no other options

    There’s a bigger concern for you Yosoy – in 2001 t Henry lost the welsh players confidence cos he didn’t select them, then he lost his job (that’s ridiculous though cos in 01 the English were so much better it was beyond question)

    Same could happen this year, then you could lose your coach, and be left with howley..

  18. yosoy says:


    It’s daft, but the WRU should have told him to go if that stipulation was necessary for him to stay. Plus, from a less selfish point of view, there’ll be accusations of bias and stuff floating around come selection time (which probably won’t be unfair criticisms).

    I hope it’s the last time that a current national coach gets the gig.

  19. sagmog says:

    it’s actually a bit daft having your own coach bugger off to take charge of the Lions.

    I think it’s poor form from the Lions management to approach an in-situ national head coach for the job.
    It’s obvious it fucks up said nation.

  20. Same could happen this year, then you could lose your coach, and be left with howley..

    Ouch. Now you’re just being nasty.

  21. Boanova says:

    Of course, the reason the Ireland coach was in no danger of being chosen is because he’s been presiding over a shambles for most of the last two or three years. So, could be worse.

    I quite like the idea of Deccie picking the Lions, it could act as a mass testamonial… must have 10 years of international experience to qualify….

    Gethin Chuter Jones
    Ryan Jones Easter Williams

    Gomersall Wilko Shane D’Arcy BOD Balshaw

  22. yosoy says:

    “There’s a bigger concern for you Yosoy – in 2001 t Henry lost the welsh players confidence cos he didn’t select them, then he lost his job (that’s ridiculous though cos in 01 the English were so much better it was beyond question)”

    See, this is why it’s not a popular decision in ‘the valleys’. It’ll happen, perhaps not quite so immediately, but I’m convinced it will. I look forward to a(nother) long losing streak leading to Gatland leaving in the summer before the 2015 WC.

    And Phillips. He’ll go, maybe not the test XV but he’ll go. Bayonne won’t be in the playoffs (and I think he’s out of contract then, anyway). I think he might have taken Charteris if he wasn’t crocked. Adam, if fit probably, but unlikely to be in the test team. I’d be surprised if JD and North don’t tour. Astounded if any of those, plus the ones you’ve mentioned, don’t go. But that’s it. If Hibbard or someone plays out of their skin they’ve no chance.

  23. PlanetoftheChimps says:

    Absolutely, should have non-one attached to a national set-up coaching the Lions. Gives rise to all sorts of problems.

    I’d have been quite happy to volunteer. Can’t be that hard shirley?

    Stage 1: Select the squad / team. With players in correct position.
    Stage 2: Get them to run about & catch the ball without falling over
    Stage 3: Tell them to run on the pitch & win.

    Or is there more to it?

  24. HairBearHero says:

    After all, he tried to pick as many English as possible whilst coach of Wales

    Baldy, when you spout shite like this it makes it very difficult to take your other (quite accurate) comments on Wales seriously. It’s a dull and inaccurate windup, similar to the “England Saffer & Pacific XV”

  25. I think being head coach of the Lions, whilst being an absolute honour, is always going to be a bit of a poison chalice if you’re currently the coach of one of the home nations or Ireland.

    You’ll be damned for your selections either way. For bias on picking your own players or, worse still for the said coach, damned by your own players for not picking them.

    Henry’s position was completely untenable when he returned from Aus. Could the same happen again?

  26. yosoy says:

    @ HairBearHero

    He’s just proud to see more Englishman playing international rugby. Let’s not tell him about Hallam Amos.

  27. HairBearHero says:

    What about Hallam Amos? Apart from the fact that it’s fucking depressing seeing somebody with a 1994 birthdate playing top-flight rugby…

  28. LarryMilne says:

    @sag – figured you and Donovan may have crossed paths at some point, and also that (if you’d sprinkled half-lies amongst the truths about your good self) there was a small but non-negligible chance that you might actually be him.

    And, can I cut in on the nationalistic arguments, I think the AIs showed that Australia are, right now, better than all the Home Nations sides. I wouldn’t back any of us to win a three-test series there. So, we’re going to need to work together on this one and, if we do, I think we could not only win but possibly win well.

    Also, re Aussie back row:

    6. Pocock, 7. Hooper, 8. Marzipan bones Palu

    That’s what I’d be trying to make happen if I were Dingo. Palu’s hardly ever fit though, which doesn’t help.

  29. Karl1976 says:


    Short of dragging Mr Telfer out of his retirement to do the gig, I can’t think who I’d want it. The obvious candidates are all in club roles – O’Shea, Schmidt, etc. I don’t particularly want Jake White as Lions coach.

    I’d quite like the idea of seeing a coach stepping down from a national side, or one who has been groomed for it. Once Quins have emulated Leinster and won 3 HECs on the bounce, Conor is sure to want a different challenge before heading across the road to take charge of the Saxons, before taking over from Lancaster at the end of the 2019 RWC.The Lions would be a perfect challenge in that respect.

    (extracts tongue from cheek)

  30. MichaelVaughanMyLord says:

    Healy, Best, Cole
    Gray, Parling
    Lydiate, Robshaw, SOB
    Youngs, Sexton
    Dog Knows, Tuilagi,
    Visser, Bowe, 1/2p

    Bench: Jones, Corbisiero, Hartley, Launchbury, Ferris, Marshall, Farrell, Goode

    Now stop arguing

  31. yosoy says:

    @ HairBearHero

    Full name Hallam Amos
    Date of birth 24 September 1994 (age 18)
    Place of birth Stockport, England

    It’s okay, though, he’s played for the 7s team so is now tied. If only we could have kept the Vunipolas.

  32. PlanetoftheChimps says:



    Bit of generalisation there. There is a team with home & away wins over Australia in their last 2 matches. Might as well just send the Scotland team to go down there to do the business (again).

    *tries to extract tongue from cheek but it’s got firmly stuck*

  33. So, we’re going to need to work together on this one and, if we do, I think we could not only win but possibly win well.

    I think Gatland has already made a mistake though by selecting Howley which I really couldn’t/can’t understand?

    Wales attacking play hasn’t been great for a couple of seasons and when left in charge of the national set-up both in Aus and during the AI’s they’ve gone backwards. What exactly qualifies Howley to be on the Lions coaching ticket?

    I think he’s missed a trick in not making sure he got Schmidt on-board.

  34. sagmog says:

    there was a small but non-negligible chance that you might actually be him.

    I’m quite a bit younger than him.
    Actually, after a quick googling, it turns out I’m quite a bit younger than his daughter.
    He did have good hair though….

  35. sagmog says:

    I think he’s missed a trick in not making sure he got Schmidt on-board.

    He was never going to take Schmidt though was he?

  36. Baldy says:

    Ahh come on, that was a fair barb to throw considering the debate was about how many welsh players wag would pick for the lions..

    Yeah I’d be supposed if North doesn’t tour, though I think cuthbert could other take him soon, strikes me as a more effective player, and he’s only been committed to rugby fairly recently, been one hell of a leaning curve, expect he will be a very good player when he’s got more experience.

    Jones will go if fit, gethin probly not due to Toulon being in the final. Phillips… Maybe have to see how he does 6N, and how care & Youngs do in the 6n & HEC, although they are similar.. & murray & laidlaw.. Yeah Philips will probly go.. 😦

    I’d like to see beck get game time & push as he is another genuine 12, isn’t he injured though ATM?

  37. Baldy says:

    Don’t think Leinster would release Schmidt, word is he tried to get him as attack coach.

    Can’t see any club releasing their head coach for the entire summer, would be a disaster, and I think it was decided after SCW he needed to be active in rugby, and after Geexh tried to do both wasps and lions that it was mainly a full time role.

    Tis a difficult one. Maybe the lions need to scout in advance and appoint someone on a 2year full time contract, no other work, so quit your other job and let’s go!

  38. LarryMilne says:

    I still think Graham Henry was the best man for the job and might actually have said yes.

  39. yosoy says:

    gethin probly not due to being overweight, thanks to Bernard Laporte trying to make him a scrummaging prop and age catching up with him, more like.

    Beck is rated doubtful for the weekend. I don’t think it’s long term. He’s been playing 13 since this time last year for the Os, played 12 in Australia. He’s a nice footballer, has really good footwork just before contact and is one of the better offloaders here, but I don’t know if he’ll ever go on to become a good test player – he does lack a bit of pace for 13 and isn’t bosh enough for a (Welsh) 12. I like watching him though.

    Isn’t Twelvetrees in the England squad now?

  40. flaviafamkesandwich says:


    Italy lost to Aus by 3 in last game, England lost by 6….should the rules be changed to get a load of Italians in to help the Scots and Irish beat Australia, given the amount of Welsh involvement in the coaching I also propose to change the name to the RABO PRO 12 LIONS and make them wear blue

  41. Baldy says:

    Yeah, moving to glaws seems to have helped 12trees loads. He always had all the talent & skills & size & pace, just lacked consistency, and seemed to lack confidence

    (I don’t think tigers under cockers is the place to play if you lack confidence! And being moved everywhere probly didn’t help with consistency)

    Playing outside burns at Glaws seems to have helped both of them, and is the only genuine 1st & 2nd 5/8th playmaking combo I can think of ATM, very excited about what those two might achieve under Nigel Davies, rate him massively.

  42. flair99 says:

    Re. Jenkins: Toulon being in the final is certainly not a done deal. Clermont, Toulouse and Montpellier will have their say. And the H-cup should take its toll as well. Actually Toulon’s place among the first two is not guaranteed at the moment, so they may even have to play a bruising quarter final.
    Re the “Wales are shit and England is great” debate, it’s true that Wales should’ve closed at least two games vs Australia. But apart from a spectacular win over NZ, I thought England was particularly poor vs both Australia and SA. (and these teams missed many important players). So let’s see what the 6N has in store. I doubt Wales are as bad as portrayed here, nor England as good…

  43. Baldy says:

    Rabo pro 12 lions, I like it..

    Ain’t gonna help too much with the half backs & 12 dilemma though..

  44. LarryMilne says:

    Ulster: J Payne; A Trimble, D Cave, P Wallace, C Gilroy; P Jackson, R Pienaar; T Court, R Best, J Afoa; L Stevenson, I Henderson; R Diack, C Henry, N Williams
    Replacements: R Herring, C Black, D Fitzpatrick, N McComb, R Wilson, P Marshall, M Allen, C Cochrane.

    Glasgow Warriors: P Murchie; S Maitland, A Dunbar, P Horne, DTH van der Merwe; D Weir, H Pyrgos; R Grant, D Hall, M Low, T Ryder, A Kellock, J Eddie, R Harley, J Strauss.
    Replacements: P MacArthur, G Reid, N Campbell, T Swinson, N Matawalu, S Wight, S Hogg.

    Given we’ve five players missing – two Lions, a World Cup winner, and two other internationals – that is a handy enough side. Squad depth, how I’ve missed you.

    For the weegies: ‘Ogg on the bench?

  45. flair99 says:

    BTW, why didn’t the Lions choose Mallett for head coach? Or even a French guy? Hand it to Noves, he won’t be with Toulouse for ever. (or PSA next time).

  46. yosoy says:

    There is Amlin rugby on tonight. Mont de Marsan v Not Nots and Bayonne ‘B’ v the Dregs 2nd XV. The latter is on tv (and internet links)

  47. HairBearHero says:


    Beck is actually deceptively quick and a lovely footballer. Picks some great lines and got excellent footwork. Can actually pass as well, which is nice. Would like to see him more involved in the Wales setup at 12, but the Dr is an insta-pick when fit for Gatland. Shame, as I reckon a Beck-JDII combo would be pretty tasty and offer a little more variety than the current Welsh midfield…

  48. LarryMilne says:

    Ain’t gonna help too much with the half backs & 12 dilemma though..

    If we’re talking all Pro12 players, then I think the Pienaar-Sexton combo works very nicely. Make ’em Ozzies sit up and take notice, anyway.

  49. yosoy says:

    @ Larry

    “that is a handy enough side”

    You don’t know how lucky you are.

  50. david_puddy says:

    I like that Ulster have a Red Herring in their squad #mindgames

  51. yosoy says:

    @ HairBear

    He’s quicker than he looks, but still not quick enough for 13. I think he’s still running in that intercept v Samoa (bit harsh maybe).

    Like Larry said earlier, Dr Roberts is a very, very good defensive 12 – organisation and reading more than his big, strong, manly muscles. The first choice pair are miles ahead of the competition for me (Scott Williams is shocking this year).

  52. LarryMilne says:

    @yosoy – oh, no, I really do. Ulster have spent many years in the last ten being shit.

    That said, there was always a stable base and it was our own fault we languished for so long. The Welsh regional game, for which you have my sympathy, is riddled with issues. No idea how to solve it without huge upheaval.

  53. HairBearHero says:

    Don’t get me wrong – I love the Dr, and he’s far more than the “bosh bosh bosh” he’s made out to be. Superb defender and great direct runner, but he’s also added a few subtler touches to his game.

    Still, I’m of the opinion that he and JDII are very similar players, so Beck is a nice option to switch things up. Never been a fan of Scott Williams. Good finisher but doesn’t seem to add much else when I’ve seen him (not often outside a Wales shirt).

  54. dermott says:

    Oops. You buggers post so quickly. So it doesn’t get lost.

    New blog up.

  55. yosoy says:


    It was less than a year ago that, in the second game back at the Arms Park, a Cardiff-minus-their-national-squad-players beat an Ulster-minus-their-national-squad-players which I can’t imagine happening now. I had tipped you to get to another HEC final until you lost to the Stains. I’ll put the hex on again next year.

    “No idea how to solve it without huge upheaval.”

    Burn it. Burn it all. No idea, either, other than to keep plugging away (attendances are up on a few years back, incredibly) and hope the Union invests properly/I win the Euromillions. The Scottish teams are better funded. The Scotch! I don’t want the teams to be run/part run by the Union or we’ll have 15 Wales fixtures a year, 2 teams in the HEC and a pointless development region in the North which will last 2 seasons before folding. That’d be the end of it for me.

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