Looking back on an up and down 2022 for Scotland - and ahead to 2023

Darcy Graham willl be a key man for Scotland in 2023
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If you had said to the Scotland management and players - as well as the supporters - that 2022 would start with a win over England and end with the team scoring over 50 points against Argentina, then everyone would have been intrigued to find out about the 10 Tests sandwiched in between.

Sadly, only three of those other Tests - against Italy in the Six Nations, Argentina in the summer and Fiji in the Autumn - have garnered wins.

Losses came against Wales, France and Ireland in the Six Nations, two defeats came versus Argentina to lose the summer series 2-1 and Autumn setbacks against Australia and New Zealand have followed since.

The win against England, 60 minutes against Australia, an hour against the All Blacks and cutting loose against the shorthanded Argentineans last Saturday showed glimpses of what Scotland are all about. We just have not seen that form regularly enough.

So, what are the main things to look at ahead of a very busy 2023 which begins with a trip to Twickenham on February 4 and ends with the Rugby World Cup in France later in the year?



Pierre Schoeman has been a great addition to the Scotland front-row in recent times and if Rory Sutherland’s knee injury is not too bad, then having those two men covering loosehead in any matchday 23 is solid. Jamie Bhatti has done well off the bench in the loose recently too.

Hooker is an interesting one because nobody has made the number two jersey their own of late. Fraser Brown has had his injury issues, but the 33-year-old is now the man in possession after the last couple of weeks and he is looking very determined to extend his international career. Whether Stuart McInally can get back in the mix remains to be seen and George Turner and Ewan Ashman are options also.

Zander Fagerson is only 26, but has over 50 caps to his name and is the nailed on starting tighthead. If he gets injured though, Gregor Townsend may have a problem because WP Nel is now 36 and needs to be managed and Murphy Walker only has two caps and struggles for game time with Glasgow. Javan Sebastian of the Scarlets and D’Arcy Rae of Bath may be needed.


At the start of 2022, few would have thought Richie Gray’s Scotland career had any legs left in it, but after the way he performed in the Autumn (pre-suspension) he may well be one of the first names on the team sheet come February. Scott Cummings was the main man for Scotland in this area from 2020 into 2021, but injuries have blunted his progress.

It would be great to see him and Gray senior link up at some point while with Jonny Gray, Grant Gilchrist, Sam Skinner and others in the country are well-stocked in this department.


When Rory Darge gets fit again, it will be interesting to see what combination Scotland go for in this area. As skipper, Jamie Ritchie has to start while Matt Fagerson has been one of the better performers this year at No.8, but now has real pressure from Jack Dempsey. Darge could well be competing with Hamish Watson for the starting seven jersey, but whatever trio is picked, Scotland need to get more regular carries out of this talented section of the team.

Back line potential


Ali Price is the man in the number nine jersey just now, but London Irish’s Ben White is knocking on the door after looking good whenever he has joined the action off the bench. You also have to feel a bit for George Horne. He came back from injury and had a cameo against Australia a few weeks ago only to never be seen again in the Autumn. He still has something to offer at this level for sure.


The most discussed thing in Scottish rugby for the last six weeks or so. It is clear that there are still issues between Townsend and Finn Russell, but hopefully they have had time over the last couple of weeks when the latter has been playing to talk things over.

If more conversations between the duo are required between now and February then so be it because Scotland need Russell happy and firing if they are to head into 2023 feeling as optimistic as they can. Feel for Blair Kinghorn, Adam Hastings and Ross Thompson being stuck in the middle of this soap opera.


Chris Harris of Gloucester has been Townsend – and defence coach Steve Tandy’s - go-to man at 13 and that shows little sign of shifting going forward.

Who plays 12 is an interesting one and at the moment, Sione Tuipulotu is the man at the front of the queue having done well in the Autumn and scored a couple of tries versus Argentina. Sam Johnson is a Townsend favourite and he should be back from injury come the Six Nations, but you just feel that Scotland need the directness that Tuipulotu brings.

And it is still a mystery to many why Rory Hutchinson hardly ever gets a look in with Scotland.

Back three

Whoever plays in the midfield for Scotland, their main job has got to be to create space on the edges and get the ball to Duhan van der Merwe and Darcy Graham.

The former has now scored 14 tries in 23 caps for his adopted country while the latter is the name on everyone’s lips north of the border just now, his hat-trick versus Argentina meaning he has 16 tries in 33 appearances for Scotland.

They are bankers to start if fit while Stuart Hogg showed in patches during the Autumn that he is getting back to his best at full-back. And with the Exeter Chief now just four caps away from 100 for his country, expect a massive 2023 from him.