Jonny Gray set to make 50th cap for Scotland

Jonny Gray

Gray excited for Wales clash (Credit: David Ronney)

Glasgow Warriors lock, Jonny Gray will start against Wales on Saturday and will join an illustrious club of players who have racked up a half century of caps for Scotland rugby team.

The 24-year-old made his first full debut for the national side back in November 2013 and since then has impressed spectators with a number of solid performances. He is quickly catching up with older brother, Richie Gray, who has 62 national caps and one for the British and Irish Lions.

So far this tournament Jonny Gray has played 134 minutes making 15 carries and 37 tackles as part of the first line of defence against Ireland and France.

Jonny Gray is proud of his achievments but was quick to emphasise the weekends match will be a team effort. Wales are currently the only unbeaten team in this years Six Nations tournamnet.

“It’s not about me. This week is huge, last week was very tough to take.

“To be here is such a special feeling. It’s something I never thought that I would do when I was younger. To be here I’m very lucky.”

Even though Scotland can no longer challenge for the championship title, Gray insisted that playing for the country was an honour.

“When you are playing for Scotland there is always something to play for.”

 

Wilson: Scotland can bounce back against Welsh

Matt Taylor

Danny Wilson is confident Scotland can put on a good performance in front of a home support (Credit: Bryce Donaldson)

Scotland Rugby Assistant Coach, Danny Wilson, believes his side can return to Edinburgh with a win against Wales after a disappointing 27-10 defeat in Paris.

The Scots will face off against a grand-slam hopeful Wales on Saturday at BT Murrayfield.

A number of key players have returned to the squad in the past week and many in the Scotland camp are quietly confident they can cause an upset and delay celebrations in Cardiff.

Wilson said: “We know we didn’t do ourselves justice in France but we need to bounce back this weekend.

“We had a blip in performance, and we have to make sure that we raise our performance to a level where we can put Wales under huge pressure.

“There is no better opposition to bounce back against. The motivation levels should be through the roof to play a side that is coming [to BT Murrayfield] and looking for a grand slam.”

Scotland will undoubtedly start the match as underdogs but Wilson doesn’t believe this is necessarily a bad thing.

He added: “From my experience, when Scotland have been underdogs they have been pretty dangerous and have produced some outstanding performances against some of the best opposition out there. That’s what this weekend is about.

Finn Russell and Greig Laidlaw

Finn Russell comes back into the Scotland lineup while Greig Laidlaw has been dropped to the bench (Credit: David Ronney)

“This is an extremely passionate group of players. As a collective, coaches and players, we weren’t happy with our performances at the weekend against France and we have come back very keen to make sure we put that right this weekend. That starts first and foremost with a performance full of identity and passion.”

Scotland currently sit fifth in the table, above only a pointless Italy.

Should Wales be triumphant at the weekend they will still be on course for their first Grand Slam since 2012, whilst a Scottish victory (and a favour from Ireland) could see them leapfrog last weeks opponents. To do that, Wilson knows the importance of home form.

He said: “The pressure of playing in front of a home crowd is an important one, a driving one and we will want to put in a performance that will make that home crowd proud.”

If Scotland are able to live up to what they claim they are capable of it will restore confidence in the squad after back-to-back defeats.

Though Scotland are out of the running for the championship there is still a chance for silverware. Their reward, regardless of result, is sure to be a contentious final game at Twickenham against England to defend their title as the current holders of the Calcutta Cup.

Townsend drops Captain Laidlaw as Russell returns to Scotland lineup against Wales

Gregor Townsend

Gregor Townsend has made the surprise change by bringing in Ali Price over Greig Laidlaw (Credit: David Ronney)

Scotland Rugby Head Coach, Gregor Townsend has left out nation captain, Greig Laidlaw in his first XV as part of four changes ahead of their match against Wales this weekend.

Ali Price is preferred over Laidlaw at scrum-half as Finn Russell, Willem Nel and Darcy Graham all come into the starting line-up.

Scotland host Wales at BT Murrayfield on Saturday as they look to stop the visitors hopes of a Grand Slam this Six Nations Championship.

With Scotland unable to win the tournament this year, Townsend explained why he made the changes to the side that lost to France two weeks ago.

He said: “We looked at every position. We also reflected on the fact that we are out of the championship now, so if there is someone out there that has really earned his opportunity.

Grieg Laidlaw

Greig Laidlaw has started the last six tests for Scotland (Credit: David Ronney)

“This is a good time to see if it helps the team.”

Russell is a welcome return to the squad after missing the match against France due to a concussion. His creative flair was greatly missed and despite his absence the play-maker still leads in the tournament for most try assists. His total currently sits at three and he will be looking to add to this account in front of a home support.

Price is set to earn his 23rd cap in Scottish colours and Townsend praised the Glasgow Warriors player.

He added: “Ali [Price] is one of the best in the game at moving the ball away quickly, through his own speed but also through his accuracy of pass.

“He has started this season in really good form.”

Gregor Townsend

Scotland have conceded 69 points in three matches this Six Nations (Credit: David Ronney)

Despite criticism Laidlaw has received for his inability to get the ball away quick enough from the break-down, Townsend still sees him playing a pivotal part from the sideline.

He said: “Greig [Laidlaw] is the only player who has started our last six tests so he is a key part of our squad. He is obviously going to play a different role this week from the bench but we see him playing an important part of the game on Saturday.”

Nel returns for his first appearance since coming off injured in the first week of the tournament. He will be a welcome addition to the forward pack which has struggled in the scrum, despite having the heaviest squad in the competition.

The prop only played 49 minutes against Italy but made six tackles and will work to stop a leaky defence that has conceded 69 points in three matches.

Graham makes his first start for Scotland after previously making two appearances as a substitute. He comes in place of the injured Sean Maitland and will join Edinburgh team-mate Blair Kinghorn at the back. The young winger turned full-back has impressed this year scoring three tries and leading the tournament in most carries, metres gained and clean breaks.

Tommy Seymour completes the back three and joins Jonny Gray to earn a half century of caps for his country.

Therefore the squad looks as follows:

Screen Shot 2019-03-07 at 19.38.59

The squad facing Wales (Credit: David Ronney )

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The SFA should move to Murrayfield for the fans’ sake

It’s been a question which fans of the Scottish game have pondered for years.

 

Should the home of Scottish football be Hampden or Murrayfield? The answer might not be so far away.

 

Hampden is the National Stadium and has been the regular home for Scotland internationals and domestic cup semi-finals and finals. Murrayfield is the home of Scottish rugby and has very rarely hosted football matches over the years.However, having been a temporary home for Hearts in the last few months while Tynecastle Park is renovated, the Scottish Rugby Union (SRU) have made a case to the Scottish Football Association (SFA) that Murrayfield becomes the new national football stadium once the SFA’s lease at Hampden expires in 2020.

 

South Stand, Hampden Park. Source: Google

 

For many, that is a decision which should have been made years ago. Since its completed redevelopment to an all-seated stadium 18 years ago, Hampden has been anything but ‘fan friendly’. If you’re unfortunate enough to get a ticket in the east or west stand during a game, then you’ll find yourself an unnecessary distance from the pitch. The stadium’s design means that any talk of a good atmosphere isn’t usually what you hear after a match. For supporters who travel by bus, it can be a good 25-minute walk to the stadium too.

 

At Murrayfield there’s an opportunity for fans visiting home internationals or domestic cup finals to experience something in a much more enjoyable environment. The move to Murrayfield for the SFA would mean more seats for bigger crowds and public transport on tap. Those crowds would be closer to the pitch too, which means better atmospheres.

 

It’s also worth noting that the rest of Britain’s national stadiums are all in the capital cities (London’s Wembley, Cardiff’s Principality Stadium and Belfast’s Windsor Park) so the shift from Glasgow to Edinburgh for the national team would follow a trend. One of Scotland’s best ever players, Kenny Dalglish, has this week backed the SFA to stay put. “How can Scottish football move from Hampden? It’s home,” he said.

 

Scotland’s national team first started playing there in 1906 so it’s clear why traditionalists aren’t keen on the change. But Scottish football needs a shake up from top to bottom and a vibrant new home for the SFA should be heavily considered.

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