Telfer Hits Back At Critics
February 27, 2000
Former Scotland coach Jim Telfer refuses to blame the influx of overseas talent for a dismal start to the Six Nations and claims critics of the national team should look closer to home.
Telfer, now the Scottish Rugby Union's Director of Rugby after leading his country to Five Nations glory last term, admits the defeats in Italy and Ireland were unacceptable.
But he feels the responsibility for those below-par performances has to be shared throughout the Scottish game, which is failing to provide enough home grown players.
He said: "I've heard a lot of comments about national identity, but when we were winning last year I didn't hear any complaints at all. I think the likes of New Zealanders John Leslie, Martin Leslie and Glenn Metcalfe have brought a new dimension to our game. If there were more I might be worried, but I think we need players like them in the team to compete at the highest level. They were outstanding last year.
"I would prefer fully-blooded Scotsmen born and bred here and I can assure everyone if we had guys as good as the Kiwi players they would be in the team. I think Scottish rugby has to look at itself right down the line and ask how
accountable they are because there is a shortage of quality players being produced. There are a lot of people working in Scottish rugby who just shrug their shoulders and claim not to be accountable. I don't think the Scottish public realise how poor our record is at under-age level."
"After two defeats everyone is going for the jugular, but Irish schools rugby is much harder and faster than ours and we have to look at that. We need to be developing more and better players because sometimes it's like drawing teeth - Scottish rugby seems to be carrying so much baggage."
Telfer defends Ian McGeechan's decision to appoint John Leslie as skipper, conceding he would have done the same and emphasising he has been bemused at the outcry.
He added on BBC Scotland: "I was astounded at the reaction. John is an established part of the team and the biggest find of the Five Nations last year. I would have chosen him as captain as well. He's a fine player and when you pick a team you want the best player as captain. Ian was very careful to ask the advice of senior players about it and was assured the choice was right. John was only able to play around 12 minutes against Italy before going off
injured, but he knows what the game is all about and that will show through in time."
Telfer admits, however, that the players need to realise they have let themselves down in the Six Nations to date and wants a marked improvement against France at Murrayfield on Saturday. He said: "I'm disappointed and concerned about what has happened because these players got results last year. We need more confidence and commitment on the pitch. I do feel that certain players go away after playing to their clubs in France and England and don't see what is going on in the Scottish press and don't meet their pals. It's relatively easy to go away and forget about things then come back a week or so later and say `the slate is wiped clean let's go back again'. A lot of these guys are in their second season now and the team were outsussed by Italy and Ireland who knew how they would play. We were predictable in Dublin and the more we tried the more predictable we became."