Ouch! Scotland games must come with a health warning in future as Sunday’s debacle against the French has left a very severely bruised ego. I was confident going into the game that Scotland would have too much for the French and come out better in this Auld Alliance battle. Shows what I know about rugby! Scotland failed to get out of first gear and were punished heavily for it. When ‘Chunk’ is your greatest attacking threat you know you are in trouble (no disrespect to Chunk who was in fine form). Very few Scotland players could leave Murrayfield with anything other than a distinct sense of shame and deja vu as, yet again, when expected to produce, they turn in a abject display.Before going into slightly more depth about Scotland, a word on France. Was impressed with the French in patches and think they will fancy their chances of topping the group – indeed they may now feel the Grand Slam is a possibility. There was flair in bucket-loads and they have some devastating finishing power. Yes, they got the luck of the bounce (and the ref) but players need to put themselves into position to take advantage of any luck that comes their way and the French did that in deadly fashion. Also, great support from the travelling hordes who I’m sure enjoyed the Scottish hospitality – on and off the pitch.
Now to Scotland and some thoughts:
Scrum – as soon as Hamilton went off it crumbled. In the first half they pushed the French about, won the ball against the head, and made the most of their 7kg (or thereabout) weight advantage per man. Second half, Scotland strap on the flip-flops and crumble in the scrum. A unmitigated disaster and a total mess – in military terms it was FUBAR. Major work needs to be done before Saturday, at least though we ain’t playing the English forwards who would murder us in the scrum.
Dan Parks – as schizophrenic a performance as you will ever see. Great drop goal and 2 great kicks into the corners, but also a missed penalty, a kick-off straight into touch and an attempt to kick a ball clear that my grandmother (94 and with a bad hip) would have done a better job with.
Andy Henderson – getting his 50th cap and lucky to not be punished of the day or cited after. Showed passion but allowed the French to get to him and his game suffered.
Jason White – another disappointing display from White. He’s not vocal enough to be captain when the team is struggling. If he plays well he is able to lead by example but when the crap hits the fan he provides little leadership. I think his game suffers with the responsibility and a review is needed of his captaincy.
I really could go on and on. Why are our basic skills so bad? Catching a rugby ball should be a basic skill for a club player yet our international representatives treat the ball like its on fire. Again too many tackles missed and we got bullied around the breakdown. Very disappointing.
A final couple of points on Sunday. Alain Rolland (the Rat?) was, in my opinion, poor. The lead up to the first try included a pass that was so forward it wouldn’t have been out of place in Sunday’s Super Bowl. He was about 10 feet away yet missed it. The line judge also needs to look at himself as he should have a had a perfect view of both the lob forward and also Traille pulling back Andy Henderson. Generally felt the refereeing was fairly poor and at present the standard of refereeing at international seems to be on the slide. Bring back Jim Fleming. Finally, a note on the home support who were back to the usual quiet unsupportive best. The loudest the home support got was moaning at Dan Parks. If the guy is having a shocker how about trying to support him rather than moan? It was a frustrating performance but if the players needed inspiration they got none from those in the stands.
Onwards and upwards then. Wales on Saturday and I still think we can get something out of the game. De Luca needs to retain his place, the pressure will be off and I think you’ll see more of him away from home. Frank Hadden needs to just let the players play their own game, no tactics to stop the Welsh lets just attack them from the kick off. Scotland can still go on and have a good tournament, the players I had so much hope in haven’t become poor overnight, they just need to keep it simple and keep it going forward.
Sunday was hard to take but I’ll be cheering on the guys on Saturday and I’m sure they will get the backing from the full country! Good luck Scotland!