Scottish rugby in the mire
March 20, 2012
The pressure is on Andy Robinson after a demoralising Six Nations campaign for the Scots © Getty Images
It's a mess. Another disastrous season over and another cat kicked; the Scots not only lost on Saturday but they failed to turn up altogether.
If they were playing to save their Andy Robinson's position they could hardly have made a clearer comment if they'd hired an aircraft trailing "Bugger off back to Bath" behind it. Sorry if I sound bitter, losing brings out the worst in everyone.
In the build up to the Italy match the Scots did some live work against the Scotland yunder-20 squad and it was nip and tuck who won that war. Incidentally big Richie Gray was up against his little brother Jonny Gray although little is relative in the Gray household.
Evidently Jonny and the rest of the juniors didn't do half bad against the senior team who were a little less focused than you might expect for a team that were on a run of six defeats. The youngsters won several turnovers off their elders and betters before stopping their driving lineout dead in its tracks more than once.
Coach Andy Robinson had seen enough. He dismissed the junior squad, gathered his players around him and lambasted them in terms that would put a blush on the face of a fishwife. The coach completely lost it with his players and, instead of the reaction he wanted, the Scots were still feeling sorry for themselves come kick off.
Gone were the ultra-competitive pack who had stood toe to toe with every other eight in the tournament. Instead Scotland were left reeling on the ropes in the first half and any thoughts of a Mohammed Ali rope-a-dope comeback in the second half were dashed when Nick De Luca saw yellow just before the half-time break and Italy scored just after it.
It's the law of unintended consequences at work. Everyone assumed that coaches would have more power in the professional era but the opposite is true. Such are the margins at Test level that if the players drop their collective effort by just 5% then they will lose to almost any other half decent team. The coach has to keep his players on side and, even if you suspect as I do that the Scots are just a tiny bit precious, Robinson very obviously failed to do that.
Scottish Rugby Union boss Mark Dodson is still backing Robinson but, if the player feedback in the end of term assessment is overwhelmingly negative, he may have to change his mind which is when the real fireworks begin.
If Robinson stays he has already burnt his bridges with so many players that his credibility is shredded and a comeback hugely difficult. If Robinson goes we are left with the structure he put in place...Scott Johnson/Matt Taylor at national level, and Gregor Townsend/Michael Bradley at the two pro-teams....but without the main man at the helm.
It would be Hamlet without the prince (Hamlet without the baldy man if your cultural references run to cigar advertising rather than the Bard) or Rooster Coburn without Big Leggy himself, it simply wouldn't work.
Would these men join Scottish rugby without the man who hired them? Would they all need paid off? Would some walk while others joined? What of Robinson who is contracted to 2015? Can the SRU afford to sack him or, if he has lost the trust of his team, can the SRU afford not to show him the door?
It's a mess and it needs sorting, preferably before Scotland travel to Australia and the South Seas this summer to play what looks like increasingly tricky tests against the Wallabies, Fiji and Samoa.
Scottish Rugby is in the mire. Throughout the entire Six Nations they played a total of fifteen matches across the board including senior squad, women's XV and the under-20s. They lost fourteen of those matches.
The only success came when the Scots under-20s, complete with Jonny Gray, beat Italy and that only happened because Italy failed to kick the ball dead after the final hooter. Instead they kicked it long and Scotland got a try at the death. You have to think that it's not a mistake the young Italian will repeat.
The Scots have fallen to a new low of 12th in the IRB rankings and serious opposition no longer consider Scotland serious opposition. This summer the Wallabies have granted Scotland a one-off test ahead of their three-match series against Wales. The Scots are playing in Newcastle (think England's Newcastle but warmer), the ground belongs to rugby league's Newcastle Knights and the match takes place on a Tuesday. Yes, a sodding Tuesday. Oh, and that humiliation was arranged before the Scots' latest on-field flop.
Right enough, it's a mess.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.