Now that the dust has settled and the burning disappointment of an early Rugby World Cup exit has receded (only a wee bit), it’s time to rate how the squad performed across the whole tournament. From the lows of Ireland and Japan, to the highs of Samoa and Russia – a lot of rugby was played. Who stood up and who fell down? Who staked a claim for the future and who’s probably played their last game?
Let us know what you think. If you disagree you can add your own rating and reason as a comment under each individual player.
At 31, this will more than likely be Maitland’s last major tournament Whilst forwards can rumble on well into their mid 30’s, when a wingers loses his speed, like a racehorse, he’s put out to stud. Recently it’s been clear Maitland has lost a yard or two of the pace that lit up highlight reels for the Crusaders, but what he lacks in out-and-out motor he makes up for in positioning, footwork and sheer determination. Like every Scotland player, he had a bad day at office against Ireland missing 2 of this 3 tackles. He finished a nice try from Finn Russell’s cross field kick against Samoa, but there weren’t the searing runs or defenders beaten of old.
The lanky lad from Lanarkshire, whilst only 22, looks every bit the International lock. He actually made his Glasgow Warriors breakthrough when the stars were away during the 2015 RWC and hasn’t looked back since. He didn’t get the chance to show off his rampaging runs in this tournament, with only 14 carries and 22 meters made, but he did the nuts and bolts stuff well. A shrewd line out operator and a strong scrummager, he also made his tackles. Whilst not quite at Jonny Gray levels of consistency, the pair make a strong partnership.
Very rusty. Townsend has made no secret of his admiration for the Saracen. He’s been an integral part of the coach’s planning for this World Cup and he was parachuted into the warm ups having not played for Scotland since 2017 thanks to a run of injuries. Unfortunately he didn’t look like the player of old and Townsend’s patience finally broke choosing to play him against Russia and not in the final crunch Japan. He made 4 handling errors and, whilst strong in defence, didn’t offer the attacking threat that we had all hoped.
Nel is the solid as granite rock on which the Scotland scrum is built. The man has never let his adopted country down and had another good RWC following his breakthrough in 2015. Played a part in all 4 games and looked good throughout, never more visibly than his 30 meter break against Russia and his pushover try against Japan. Got pinged a couple of times by the referee against the Irish, but conversely led the tackling count displacing Mr Reliable Jonny Gray. Will hopefully have a well earned break before rejoining Edinburgh.
His stats were similar to fellow second row Scott Cummings but, where the young Glasgow lock is finding his feet, Gilchrist should be stamping them. At 29, you would expect the former Scotland captain to be in his pomp wrestling games Scotland’s way. Instead, he was rather quiet across the 4 games. He made a fair few tackles, missed a few and did well at the line out, but they weren’t the big hits that the likes of Jonny Gray were making. He wasn’t knocking people to the ground or ripping the ball from mauls. And it’s a shame, because he’s a talented player. I just wish he was a bit more aggressive.
A solid, if unspectacular showing. You have to wonder if all of Scotland’s talented centres were fit and on form, whether Harris would have been in Japan. Saying that, Townsend has clearly seen something he likes and has put a lot of trust in the former Newcastle man. His defence is certainly good, although his tackle success rate has dipped to 85%, and we saw a lot more of him in attack than we had previously. He made 119 meters from 22 runs and played in all 4 matches. He didn’t set the tournament alight, but he didn’t let anyone down either.
If we left scrummaging out, his rating would be higher. Unfortunately, when you’re a prop, scrummaging comes first. The South African Scot was very good at ruck and maul time and showed a level of aggression, particularly against Japan, that we haven’t seen from him before. He was also second in the tackle completion rates just behind Jonny Gray. But, and it’s a big but, he got penalised too many times in the scrum. Some may say the calls were harsh, but he didn’t adapt and it cost Scotland against both Ireland and Japan.
Since David Denton left the scene and Josh Strauss went off the boil, Scotland have been searching for an out-and-out no.8 and ball carrier. It looks like the hunt may finally be over. Considering he only made his debut a couple of months ago, he looked surprisingly at home in the international arena and made 77 meters in 3 games. There has been a lot of excitement around the inclusion of the former Hurricane, so much so that eyebrows were raised when he wasn’t picked to start for the opening game. But he looked good when he came on and did particularly well against Samoa, winning 2 turnovers and making 30 meters. He didn’t get into the Japan game as well, but overall a good tournament debut and bodes well for the 6 Nations.
Only started one game against Russia, with his other two appearances coming from the bench, which confirms where Gregor sees him in the current pecking order. To be fair though, he is only just back from injury and had his work cut out to break back into the team. He made his tackles, scrummaged well and made a few runs against the Russians. His highlight was the well taken try from Jonny Gray’s miraculous offload against Japan. There’ll be more to come from him soon.
Is this the end of the road for the last of the Killer B’s? Shorn of the captain’s role, he was outshone by the younger back rowers in the squad. Didn’t turn up against the Irish, wasn’t involved in the Samoan match and was dropped to the midweek test against minnows Russia - ruling him out of the final crunch game. It seems he’s fallen out of Gregor’s graces and, despite an audacious dummy try, he only secured 1 trademark turnover across both the games. Going home now will be terribly disappointing for a player with his passion for the thistle.