As I have mentioned earlier in this series, Scotland like to use the grubber kick close to the wings. In fact, they like it a lot.

It is too much of a coincidence that this play occurs to be a random act. And it just so happens that Scotland has the players for this tactic built from confidence to work. Players like Finn Russell, Huw Jones, Stuart Hogg, Tommy Seymour and Sean Maitland.

When Scotland kick via the grubber, they have two objectives;

  1. To pressure the sweeper into touch, thus allowing the opportunity to launch the next attack off set piece.
  2. To regather with the speed men and score the try.

This is why they kick so often that close to the wings. They not only bring up the backfield men and force them to take the ball to touch rather than risk the turnover in broken play, but their back three are fast and can outstrip wingers who are turning on the spot.

To achieve this, they have three principles to enhance chances of success.

  1. The kicker must kick as flat to the line as possible.
  2. The chasers are as flat to the kicker as possible.
  3. There must be as many chasers as possible.

The combo of these three allows the Scots to gain a couple of metres on the turning defensive back 3 and makes the chances of the try far likelier.

Example 1.

When a forward is allowed to put the grubber in, you know it’s a pretty accepted philosophy of a team. Barclay makes the kick, and it is chased by the flat runners.

Scotland and their grubber kick in action. Will we see this in the Six Nations?

It is not regathered but is put into space, which allows the offensive chase to pressure the back 3.

Scotland and their grubber kick in action (part 2). Will we see this in the Six Nations?

Example 2. 

This is the grubber that causes Huw Jones to go in for his try.

As we can see here, Hogg kicks just as he is about to be tackled. Principle 1, checked. This means that Seymour has the edge on Ioane in front of him, who has to turn whilst Seymour is at full tilt.

Scotland executing another grubber. This time against the All Blacks

The players are also flat to Hogg when the kick is made. Principle 2, checked. The below is the result of this, they are on the ball before the All Blacks are.

Scotland executing another grubber. This time against the All Blacks

Lastly, there are 2 players in support of Seymour when he regathers the ball, Principle 3, checked. This means said players are on his shoulder to take the ball to the line. Which is exactly what they do.

Scotland executing another grubber. This time against the All Blacks


That is it for Scotland, but from what we can see, they are definitely improving their ball in hand attacking game and are particularly potent against teams who don’t use Rush 13. Their big test will be beating that defensive system this weekend at Murrayfield and The Aviva the following weekend. Regardless, Scotland are now prime contenders and can be counted right up there in the form teams of Europe. Continue their progress like they have been and they will be a dangerous proposition for the World, not just Europe.

If you haven’t seen the rest of the Scotland patterns and tactics series, you can see it here – Part 1: Tenets, Part 2: 1-3-3-1, Part 3: 3-tip-on-3, Part 4: 3-3-tip-on and Part 5: 3-1-tip-on


Author: Conor Wilson

Recently retired from the Military, Skydiving and rare Steak Enthusiast and Player of the beautiful game of Rugby.

Joe Schmidt, Will Greenwood and Rod MacQueen are my heroes, and my proudest moment was putting Jason Robinson in for a try at a promotional Rugby day. It was truly beautiful.


  1. Conor,

    Anything you noticed after this weekend! I love the progression of what Scotland does! Let’s hit our first pod of three and our second pod of three. Then let’s use our first pod of three as a screen to hit our second pod of three and be more in the middle of the field. Then let’s attack wide after the first pod of three punches up! Then if we get wide let’s use the space behind the line if it is not on with the hands. It is the modern rugby game on display! You suggested they needed another playmaker and I wonder can Peter Horne become that person and if they do how much more can this system work? Scotland may not have won against Wales but they would have played a better game with Horne in the centers, allowing Jones back to his normal position and Gilcrest/Wilson in the pack. In addition Maitland on the wing and Laidlaw at scrumhalf. It is truly truly amazing how much selection is so important at this level. Eddie right now has to see his weaknesses possibly in selection and it will be interesting the changes he makes for France!

    • Hi John,

      Mainly my focus was on the breakdown! Their attacking game was brilliant. Helped a little by us, but. They ruthlessly took advantage of any weaknesses. And that must be thoroughly applauded.

      Jones also has to stay at 13. He is a brilliant prospect and player in all honesty, and to be honest if an AP Club had only signed him as he was raised and went to School here, we might’ve seen him in the Red Rose! Dependent on whether he wanted too of course. Regardless, the clubs should be kicking themselves that they let him get away. I’d rate him above Joseph in his attacking game by far!

      Laidlaw was also hugely important. He calmed down the teams, and tempered their natural excitedness with a cool head. It was an impressive perfomance. And a ruthless display at the breakdown and in defence in particular.

  2. Conor, what a fantastic series of articles. Not only the Scotland tactics but all of the other home nations ones as well. I have thoroughly enjoyed everyone one of them and learned so much from them. The clear use of examples has helped illustrate exactly what you are describing and allowed me to watch out for the patterns you have described. I’ll be reading the Irish and Scots series again over the next ten days to prepare for what looks like a championship deciding game in Dublin. Should be an epic struggle between the most structured team in the NH against the least structured. Well drilled precision against organised chaos… epic!

    • Thanks Paul. Really glad you enjoyed them mate 🙂

      I’ll concede that is a brilliantly nerve wracking game! One of two left in the championship deciders. Though after last weekend I won’t rule France out either. Congratulations must go out to you and your boys. You were sensational against us, and ruthless to any mistake. Particularly the breakdown. Well done indeed.

      Just looking forward to the games between Ire/Scot and Ire/Eng. Hoping you do a small number on Ireland for us and yourselves! Though in a way I don’t want the Irish pumped when they come to Twickers. We will be pumped and out to right some wrongs with a lot of intensity after the Calcutta cup, but i’d rather have them not be. 😛


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