Vern Cotter and Warren Gatland have unveiled their respective Scotland and Wales teams ahead of this weekend’s Celtic clash in Cardiff.
Dan Biggar has made a speedy recovery from his ankle injury last weekend to retain his starting berth while more notably, Duncan Taylor has been drafted into the Scotland team to start at inside centre. Taylor has been in superb form for Saracens this season and his call-up is richly deserved.
It is known that Scotland have no lack of depth in the midfield with Alex Dunbar, Matt Scott, Mark Bennett and Peter Horne also at Cotter’s disposal. Given that they are spoilt for choice in this particular area, Taylor’s call-up speaks volumes about the hard work and good form he has shown at club level.
Taylor will be no stranger to the fierce competition in the Scotland squad as he is regularly rotated in and out of an even more competitive Saracens squad along with players like Chris Wyles, Marcelo Bosch, Brad Barritt and Charlie Hodgson. He has made the most of his opportunities though, making four appearances in the pool stages of the Champions Cup including the away game against Ulster where he assisted Alex Goode with an outrageous offload.
Standing at 6ft 3in and weighing 93 kg, Taylor could definitely add a physical dimension to Scotland’s backline and he will have every opportunity to prove his worth as he man-marks Jamie Roberts.
The 26-year-old Scotsman has shown that he possesses all the necessary skills to thrive in top flight rugby. His strength, paired with his electric pace, makes him a handful for other teams. He is a very good footballer and can vary his game to keep the opposition on their toes. Saracens will be delighted to know that Taylor will be at their service for the foreseeable future after signing a long-term contract with the Aviva Premiership champions.
In what could prove to be an intriguing battle in the midfield, one would expect Taylor to cope and even flourish against the tried and trusted partnership of Roberts and Jon Davies. While Roberts’ brawn and supremacy in collision makes him a marked man for most test matches, Davies has matured into an intelligent territorial kicker in the wide channels as well as being an elusive runner.
On paper, it looks like it could be a long 80 minutes for Taylor and last year’s Breakthrough Player Of The Year nominee, Mark Bennett. But write off the Scottish backline at your own peril, for they can create something from nothing through their dangerous counter-attackers.
Taylor has the potential to be chief amongst the backline as he enjoys to get involved early and grow into the game from there.
We here at Pundit Arena are certainly looking forward to seeing Taylor establish himself in the Scottish set-up.
Gavin Spillane, Pundit Arena