The next King of Scotland?
May 20, 2009
Edinburgh coach Andy Robinson looks set to be named as the next Scotland coach © Getty Images
Not for long. Brewer has quit Scottish rugby after just one season after not being offered a second interview and Robinson is the cast-iron certainty to land the top job at Murrayfield. Well, he was until last weekend when it emerged that a little competition had moseyed into what everyone assumed was a one horse town.
Twin World Cup-winners in the form of Australia's Eddie Jones and South Africa's Jake White have both thrown their hats in the ring. Crikey! It was Jones who took an average Wallaby side to within kissing distance of the William Webb Ellis trophy in 2003, when they had no right to be mentioned in the same breath as a great England side. Admittedly he had a little help from the referee, who policed the scrums as if he were a health and safety officer, but Jones' men made England earn that silverware the hard way.
Jake White then hired Jones for his Springboks' campaign in 2007 and the little Aussie won plaudits for bringing a little subtlety to the Boks' back play. He also won a Springboks' blazer (White refused to wear his until Jones was presented with one) and a World Cup winner's medal at the second time of asking.
For his part White won the Junior World Championship before taking his South Africa side to World Cup glory and he triumphed in 2 out of every 3 Tests that he coached at international level. In contrast, Robinson won 40% once he'd taken over from Sir Clive Woodward as England coach. So why is the Englishman still the front runner for the Scotland job?
Robinson arrived in Scotland in October of 2007 with his reputation in tatters after England had suffered a miserable time of it; some of the flak was undoubtedly deserved. The Mathew Tait affair, when he plucked the teenager from nowhere and then dropped him after a Test mauling at the hands of Gavin Henson, was not his finest hour.
It was Twickenham's eye for a fast buck that led directly to Robinson's downfall. When they booked the All Blacks for a fund-raising Test immediately ahead of another three autumn internationals against top class opposition, they hastened their decline.
England's poor players were bush-whacked and they duly lost to Argentina before sharing the spoils 1-1 with South Africa. Had everyone known that the Pumas would shortly finish third in the World Cup, which the Springboks would win just 12 months later, they may have been a little more forgiving.
Robinson walked out of Twickenham and for the sake of his sanity it was surely the right decision. The proud, angry and frustrated little man has been looking for a shot at international redemption ever since and he may just get it with Scotland.
He has slowly and painstakingly re-established himself as one of the UK's leading coaches after taking a very average Edinburgh team to second spot in the Magners League. The league is still not taken quite as seriously as it should be, although Munster did at least win the thing this year, but second is still a vast improvement on anything that any Scottish team has managed before. The previous best was 4th place…by Robinson's Edinburgh last season. In his last year (2005) as Edinburgh coach Hadden's side finished seventh with a much better team (Scott Murray and Nathan Hines, Todd Blackadder and Brendan Laney included).
Robinson took over Edinburgh when they were stuck firmly in the doldrums, viewed alongside the Heineken Cup's Italian contingent. For Edinburgh substitute Scotland. A good team of grafters but not one that is chock-full of world beaters. The Scots see themselves in the top eight of world rugby and getting there via two or three wins per Six Nations is a perfectly feasible target should he be handed the reins.
Everyone is hoping that Robinson can replicate with the national team what he has done at club level with Edinburgh and, if so, he will be crowned King of Scotland, whether this proud Englishman wants the accolade or not.