Welcome to the precipice. In front of you is a sharp drop. A fall from grace. Behind you is a queue of people waiting to push you off. That same queue of people that always said Scottish rugby wasn’t very good. You always ignored them. Hoping that the glory days would return. Now you have to listen to their deafening chant and you can’t fight the urge to look down…
At the weekend Scottish rugby had to take a look at itself. After results like the ones we had on Friday, Saturday and Sunday things are looking bleak. If Scottish rugby was a TV show it would be on hiatus by Wednesday. However, the show, no matter how patchwork and ill-motivated its cast will now be, must go on.
In high performance sport there is an onus on review. Even semi-professional clubs in Premier One use video analysis. We must see where, when and why things went wrong.
The issue with this is that everyone in the country, including those at the SRU, know what the problems are. Edinburgh and Glasgow have no money and a limited playing pool to select from. The national team have even more of a shallow pool to pick from. We only really have 4 props, 2 hookers and 3 second rows good enough for International rugby. We only have a couple of wingers, a few centres, 2 full-backs and –judging by Dan Parks’ fairly selfish excuses, and his woeful decision to kick rather than take contact in the dying minutes of the game –only have one stand-off able to run a game.
This may seem harsh but the truth is that as a nation we can only call on a certain number of players, and a lot of them are not good enough for test match rugby.
During the game against Argentina, though, we could have won the game. I will never say we should: if we should we would have. Talk of offsides and slowed ball is infantile, though, because in a performance driven sport we are fully aware that if Dan Parks took contact instead of opting to swipe his left foot at the ball we could have set up a ruck and continued to work. Furthermore, and most importantly, we would not have needed to kick points in the dying minutes if players like Chris Paterson and Jim Hamilton had made their tackles on Amorosino.
The try was not a moment of magic. It was three or four moments of sloppiness from the Scottish defence.
So why should this hurt so much? Argentina are ranked higher than us in World Rankings and were 3rd at World Cup 2007. Well, it hurts because it shows us two things: 1) That the players that are good enough to play Test rugby were certainly good enough to win on Sunday and; 2) Scotland must now start planning for a complete rejuvenation of its rugby.
I felt that, on Sunday, Andy Robinson made some terrible decisions. He took off a Ruaridh Jackson who was finally growing into a Test player, and put on Dan Parks. He also removed captain and vice-captain Rory Lawson and Ross Ford. By the time Kelly Brown left the field, injured, none of the key decision makers that had started the game were able to impact on proceedings as Scotland went down to a weaving try.
I have no doubts in my mind that if Jackson was on instead of Parks he would have taken contact as Contepomi rushed out of defence. I also feel that if we had substituted Chris Paterson 20mins into the second half, as he was kicking possession away rather poorly and had knocked on, and had Ansbro starting at 13 we would not have missed the tackles on Amorosino. Instead we let Argentina win.
Andy Robinson has done many great things for the team since coming in, but in reality his record is no better than his predecessor’s. Brian Moore once said of Robinson that he was a great coach but a terrible selector. We saw the truth in this statement on Sunday. He does, however, have a long-term contract and he and Graham Lowe have a huge few years ahead of them.
At the moment Scotland need to beat 6N champions England. A team that only conceded four tries during that tournament. We also need a favour from Georgia or for us and Argentina to win heavily. It is a massive ask. Scotland have made an Everest for themselves from a game they were winning by 6 points, 72 minutes in.
If we fail –which I would never say is a certainty –we must face facts. It would be our worst ever showing as a nation and Robinson would have led us to that. At home we would be faced with two pro sides that had lost to two Italian teams. One coach, Lineen, has already said to me that he has had to deal with kids and a new team every season. The other had allegedly admitted to a group of coaches in the summer that the way Edinburgh play and with their personnel they are either set up to thrill or to take a hammering.
There needs to be a plotted course for our sport. Mark Dodson, Lowe and Robinson have an unenviable task of trying to salvage Scotland. We need to find more players. Better players. We need to make them. If we create great youth players we have the chance to nurture competition when we reach the international level. Our great white hope Mark Bennett has severely damaged his knee whilst in France with Clermont Auvergne but we are capable of producing exciting talent. We just need more.
For the team out there just now we need a performance greater than any we have seen from Scotland in the last four years. We need to take the right decisions and be brave with them. That counts for the coach, too.
We need to conquer England or we will fall off the International map.