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Why Crosbie beat Christie, Bayliss and Dempsey to the Scotland No.7 spot

By Chris Jones
Luke Crosbie during a Scotland Rugby training session at the Oriam, on January 24, 2023, in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Photo by Ross MacDonald/SNS Group via Getty Images)

England have been warned Scotland flanker Luke Crosbie has the “super strengths” to make a major impact in the Calcutta Cup clash at Twickenham.


Crosbie, 25-years-old and 6ft 4ins, is the latest in a long line of raw boned Scotland back row forwards who revel in physical contact, including Finlay Calder, John Jeffrey, John Barclay, Kelly Brown, Jim Calder, Roger Arneil, Jason White and Blair Cowan.

Recently it has been Crosbie’s Edinburgh team mate Hamish Watson who has been putting his body on the line for Scotland and the 31-year-old flanker is now back in the squad after being concussed while playing against the All Blacks in November.

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However, against England it falls to Crosbie, making his Six Nations debut, to turn the break down into a minefield for England and he impressed in that role in Edinburgh’s Heineken Champions Cup 20-14 win over Saracens on January 22. Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend wants Crosbie and captain Jamie Ritchie, two of Edinburgh’s five forwards in the Scottish pack, to help make it a third successive win over England.

Picking Crosbie, Townsend said: “Luke is a form selection. It is a tricky one because you look at how well Andy Christie, Josh Bayliss and Jack Dempsey have been playing, but Luke has really stepped up.”

Gareth Baber, the gold medal winning former Fiji Sevens coach, has been helping Crosbie hone the skills that have earned him a third cap as part of the Edinburgh coaching set up and he is confident the flanker will impress on the Twickenham stage.

Baber told RugbyPass: “Luke is right in the heart of the game – that physical battle – and is very accurate about understanding his role defensively and also in attack showing his ball carrying ability. His work around the breakdown ensures speed of ball and at Twickenham I can see him being right on top of those elements of his game. Those are his super strengths that set him apart from others.


“He sees the physical battle as part of his job and against England he will also be equal to the task of ball carrying, getting his hands on the ball multiple times in the game and challenging the opposition. On top of that is the number of rucks he will be hitting, when others have carried, to create that speed of ball. His footwork into the break down, recognising how to remove opponents to ensure quality of ball plus making multiple tackles to put pressure on, are real strengths.”

Crosbie will have Ritchie, the abrasive Scotland captain, alongside at Twickenham and Baber expects the pair, together with No8 Matt Fagerson, to have a significant impact on the match. “Jamie has that ball playing ability that creates balance and he knows Luke well,” added Baber. “When you go down to Twickenham you are going to need that understanding.

“When I arrived at Edinburgh, I knew about Hamish Watson and less about Luke, but I recognised the squad had a number of good back row players with lots of competition.

“Luke has had a couple of injuries and is quiet and unassuming. What is particularly impressive is the way goes about his business, developing and challenging himself. Even though he is in one of the most combative positions it is his level of emotional control that filters through to those around him.


“Playing on a 4G pitch, speaking from an Edinburgh perspective, lends itself to playing a quicker game and that challenges our skills because we can train regularly at that level.”

Crosbie has been a professional with Edinburgh since 2017, having joined from Premiership club Currie with his first experience of rugby coming with Livingston. He was called up to Scotland’s squad for the 2019 and 2020 Six Nations Championships, eventually making test debut against Tonga in 2021.


The flanker, who captained Scotland ‘A’ against Chile in June 2022 in Santiago, was named Edinburgh’s 2020-21 Player of the Season, a significant achievement for someone who has described himself as “a big skinny drip” when he started playing – something that he changed with significant gym work.

Crosbie has also shown his ability to multitask by studying for a marketing degree at Heriot-Watt University but his main focus is now on rugby and holding onto the club and country No 7 jersey with Watson now back in the selection mix. Baber said: “ Knowing his temperament and how he responds to challenges on and off the pitch, I am really excited to see him in one of the best stadiums in the world.”


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Mzilikazi 2 hours ago
Is the Six Nations balance of power shifting?

An hugely interesting article. Thanks, Nick. Some seem to find this a poor 6 N, but I think it has thrown up a number of fascinating contests. Ofc the falling away of France is always going to be a major point of discussion. The loss of both half backs has hurt them for sure. But they should still be better. Both France and England could easily have been sitting with three defeats right now, especially France. In England’s case, I thought the try Mitchell scored against the Italians was lucky, as he was clearly held in the tackle , but carried on to the line without releasing and regaining the ball. The English blitz defence being talked about so much is still a work in progress, and Ireland, with their powerful men in both backs and forwards can do damage there. I also thought in last weekends game against Scotland, England were pushingtheir luck at the breakdowns, turning them into a chaotic brawl. A different referee may not see it their way so much against Ireland and France. Ireland’s front row does concern me. The starters have not always looked in control, and Andrew Porter is a worry, as he will now be very closely watched in these next two games. Tadgh Furlong is not the player he was at the set piece, and will need to be on his mettle against the very streetwise Genge at Twickenham. I really enjoyed the stats heavy approach in this article. So much that passes one by are brought starkly into the light of day. Finn Russell’s deadly accuracy, the significance of the Welsh backrow duo, Italy’s attacking drop of under a new coach, as they are coming much closer to winning in these games this year.

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