In today’s edition of ‘Starting XVII’, we focus on Scotland.
The Bravehearts suffered a disappointing World Cup campaign in 2017, with a 14-all draw against Samoa in their final group game the highlight of their tournament.
After two big wins in the Qualifiers last year, though, they’ll be full of confidence going into the 2021 competition.
Here’s how we think they’ll line up…
Fullback – Lachlan Coote
The St Helens fullback has been a revelation since arriving on UK shores at the start of 2019. He finished last season as Super League’s top goal scorer with 106, as well as helping Saints to the League Leaders’ Shield and Super League title. He first played for Scotland in 2016, with injuries preventing him representing them since, but will help to control games with his kicking and passing abilities.
Winger – Matty Russell and Lewis Tierney
The Super League pair not only provide backup for Coote at fullback but offer plenty of quality on the flanks. Russell and Tierney both have bags of pace and finishing ability and will be go to players on attack. They’re also pretty handy returning the ball from their own half and will give the forwards a breather early on in the set.
Centres – Euan Aitken and Campbell Graham
Still just 24, Aitken has made over 100 NRL appearances for St George since debuting in 2015. He’s strong, stocky and able to burst through gaps at pace. Gun South Sydney Rabbitohs outside back Graham would be a superb coup should the Scots manage to get him on board. Qualifying through his Glagow-born father, the 20-year-old is yet to pick up a cap for Scotland but was included in their extended train-on squad ahead of the 2017 World Cup. The one stumbling block is that he featured for Australia at the World Cup 9’s and may to choose to pledge his allegiance to the Kangaroos instead.
Halves – Callum McLelland and Ryan Brierley
Leeds Rhinos youngster McLelland was a standout for the Bravehearts at last year’s qualifiers, scoring three tries in the two games he played, and has a very calm and composed nature for such a young player. Livewire Hull KR halfback Brierley is arguably one of Super League’s most evasive runners and will complement McLelland’s game with some added excitement and creativity.
Props – Dale Ferguson and Ben Kavanagh
Luke Douglas’ retirement and the uncertainty surrounding Adam Walker’s availability means Scotland have to nominate two new starting front rowers. There are several options from the Championship, League 1 and Scottish domestic competition but the experienced duo of Ferguson and Kavanagh are likely to be leading candidates. Scottish captain Ferguson has bulked up and transitioned into the front row for Featherstone, after spending most of his career as a second rower, while Kavanagh has played all across the forward line throughout his 300-game career.
Hooker – Liam Hood
Leigh hooker Hood has been involved in the Scotland setup since 2012 and is a solid option at hooker. He’s had Super League experience with the likes of Leeds and Salford, as well as amassing over 150 career appearances following spells with Swinton, Dewsbury and Widnes. He’s a smart player, often finding overlaps and gaps to run at from dummy half, while his defensive positioning and tackling technique is textbook.
Second Rowers – Kane Linnett and James Bell
Centre-turned-second rower Linnett is one of Hull KR’s main leaders and brings similar qualities to the international stage. The 31-year-old has over 200 career appearances to his name, as well as an NRL Premiership, and will be a crucial part of Nathan Graham’s side. Bell, meanwhile, has been a mainstay in the side since debuting in 2017. A nuggety, determined forward, his strong running and aggressive defence make him an asset to have either in the middle of the field or closer to the edges.
Loose Forward – Danny Addy
Scotland’s unsung hero, Addy will be entering his third World Cup next Autumn, having featured for the Bravehearts in both 2013 and 2017. A natural ball-playing back rower, his handling skills have seen him fill in at hooker, centre and the halves for the Scots in the past, making him a useful utility player. Operating at loose forward he’ll assist halves Brough and McLelland in attack, as well as doing the hard yards.
Subs – Alex Walker, Sam Luckley, Ben Hellewell, Kieran Moran
Wakefield fullback Walker is an odd choice, admittedly, but he simply can’t be left out of the squad given his quality. He’s probably the best defensive fullback they have, and so can be brought on should Nathan Graham wish to push Lachlan Coote forward into a halfback-type role. League 1 forwards Luckley and Moran have been excellent leading the line for Newcastle and Keighley respectively in recent years, while Hellewell can drop in at both centre and in the back row if required.