So That’s The End of That, Then

Another year, another pretty miserable Six Nations for Scotland. Our celtic cousins over the sea celebrate their shiny new Grand Slam – created out of gritty Munster-like determination (and a missed penalty) rather than any sort of fantastic rugby – and those in Wales cry into their Brains after slumping to fourth in the table despite being in with a shout at the end of a fantastic deciding match. France were their usual schizophrenic selves, Italy look like they may be going backwards and England seem to be starting to develop a little unit cohesion and some decent backs whilst maintaining that indisciplined streak that lets other teams back into matches.

And so it was for Scotland in the Calcutta Cup, where Paterson and Godman kept us just about within touching distance, and a little bit more vision/ruthlessness/Ugo Monye having one leg might have seen us snatch an unlikely victory. Once again Al Strokosch put in a powerful performance, but it’s about time someone else steps up to his intensity levels. Euan Murray gave England a tough time in the scrums, but was not totally dominant even once Vickery went off. He started to show up in the loose again too, which is good. Mike Blair had probably his best game of the tournament, but that’s not saying much and sad to say that may not be enough to put him on the plane to South Africa, where in the autumn he was a certainty. Thom Evans once again set a stadium alight with a try that almost was, but he has now become the Shane Williams of Scotland – marked heavily wherever he goes. World Class Phil Godman seems to have put the “who should play 10 for Scotland” debate to bed, but the Scottish attack is still not setting the heather on fire, let alone the sunny turf of Twickenham. Credit must also go to England who finally look to be adding the ruthlessness to their game that has been missing for a while. No sense in dwelling too much on the past, so here’s what I would like to see in the future, Six Nations wise.

Let’s Have More Of:

Scotland’s Defence, for the most part. In the first half against Ireland, much of the France game and all of the Italy game the defence was solid and convincing. Al Strokosch may not put in the crowd-pleasing big hits that Jason White did, but his work rate is phenomenal – it’s the little hits, all the time, phase after phase that help us. We turned over a lot of ball with Scott Gray at 7 too. Barclay is undoubtedly the future in the position, but Gray was probably the standout man in blue during the Calcutta Cup match and it’s good to have competition for places.

Scotland scoring tries. Well, for a while at least. It was good to see Simon Danielli coming on to some form after some pretty cruel luck in the past, and you fancy in the autumn there will be real competition for back three places from the Lamont boys, Evans boys, Malkovich, Mossy etc. The A Team tour to Romania in the summer should be interesting too. Unlikely you’ll find it on TV though.

Chris Cusiter. I hope he has a couple of blinders for Perpignan to round off the season, and I hope Geech is watching.

Euan Murray destroying opposition scrums. Yeah, something to cheer about!

Andrew Cotter. Is he the new Bill McLaren? Maybe even some more of Lawrence Dallaglio who was balanced and fair in his assessments. Rob Henderson, Andy Nicol and Philip Matthews were also pretty good. The rest sadly fall into the second half of this article.

France playing sexy rugby. That first half against Ireland was brilliant, no matter what Marc Lievremont thinks.

Brian O’Driscoll being good, and like the Murphy’s not bitter. Seems to have lost the chip on his shoulder that he got from Tana Umaga, and in perfect time for the Lions.

Let’s Have Less Of:

Scotland Being Rubbish. Okay so we have a tiny player base compared to say England (apparently approx 30,000 vs 715,000 or so), but we have some decent players once it is just 22 vs 22, so why do they perform so inconsistently? Sorry Frank, but I think it comes down to coaching and confidence in their selection based on form or position. We need to be a bit sharper in midfield too. It would be interesting to see whether a new coach would persist with bruisers at 12, or go for someone with more varied angles of running and distribution like Ben Cairns or De Luca – assuming he can get over the handling issues he still seems to suffer at international level. Sir Clive Woodward probably would have brought in a team psychologist now to get to the root of it, and maybe it is ingrained in our national psyche but something needs to be done to sort it. Even change for changes sake, which worked last time.

Not picking second rows in the second row. It started off being about injuries, and ended up with the selectors painted in a giant corner in a fetching shade of red face. Kellock and Hamilton both restored balance and ballast to the lineout – think what they could do with a proper second row. Nick Mallet picking Bergamasco at 9 falls under this umbrella too.

Bickering BBC Pundits. Brian Moore, Eddie Butler, Austin Healey, Jonathan Davies – leave us alone please. Give us some pundits who can keep their flags in their back pockets and pronounce people’s names. John Inverdale telling Rafa Ibanez to be quiet because they wanted to talk about England was one of the worst things I have seen from a BBC punditry team that often seems over-burdened with “faces” – some people might use another term…

Indecision over the ball being in or out of the ruck. One thing Moore-oh gets right. Half-backs sitting guarding a ball that is clearly no longer in the ruck kills the momentum of the game. If they can put their hands on it to pass it, the ball is out. Else they are handling in the ruck, no? Let the defence at it. If a ref is shouting “ruck” every so often, it’s only a couple of extra breaths to shout “ball out” and remove the indecision.

Diving. Italians and pseudo Italians (Nigel Owen’s “drama school” quip after Danielli took a tumble was classic), I’m looking at you.

Aerial Ping Pong. Is it really the ELVs? Not really. Is it actually that the breakdowns are now (mostly) refereed according to the laws in existence and it has become a lot easier to turn over ball in contact that causes the “you make a mistake – no you make one” dialogue between full backs.

What about you? Please add your own in the comments here below. Thanks for reading during the Six Nations, we’ll be back soon with the results of the nailbiting (for the six of us involved) fantasy rugby. Then it is time for the big daddy of tours set to dominate the rugby world from now until June – the British and Irish Lions in South Africa. Check out Planet Rugby for their analysis of who’s in form now after the Six Nations has finished. Good to see a few Scots in there, I’m sure if they make the tour they can make an impact.

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7 comments on “So That’s The End of That, Then

  1. Ian on

    If Scotland are going to play a bruiser at 12 let it be Lamont Snr. Otherwise introduce some pace and quick hands to pass the ball wide. I think Morrison had a pretty good 6N. He did what he was told to do. But, sadly, I think the planning and tactics let Scotland down. Like you I think it’s time to say “Thanks Frank, All the best now”. Frank Hadden has rebuilt Scotland as a team but no longer has the vision to take them forward.
    Or,
    If we are to give Mr Hadden the benefit of the doubt, let him taken the summer and autumn off. Hand the autumn internationals to Lineen and Co. and tell Frank to come back in time for 6N training. With a game plan.

    I just found you/your blog at the end of the competition but I’ll be lurking in the future. Thanks!

  2. Jenny on

    Sorry, but in my opinion Andy Nicol was as cock-eyed in his summations as some of the worst of the pundits. Awful. Not as bad as Gordon Bulloch though! With him it’s obvious ‘we’ this and exclamations of ‘yes!’. Quite unprofessional. :(

  3. Allan on

    One thing we learned from the tournament is that Paterson is finally revealed to be not up to test rugby level, no real pace or power and a chronic inability to retain possesion in the tackle or to read where he should be in the defensive lineup. As soon as Rory Lamont is fit, straight in at fullback. Godman can kick a football, we dont need Paterson any more (did we ever?) Also, England have a ball-player at inside centre, so do Wales, why cant we? NDL or BC in place of Morrison. Hope to god the SRU do the sane thing and offer Steve Bates the job as head coach, someone tells Townsend to go and learn how to coach cos I didnt see any evidence of any new backline moves in the last few weeks, and finally that the BBC lose coverage of the 6 nations, they are an embarrassment. The money they spent getting the rights to the ED (who gives an) F cup could have bought Magners league rights for three seasons, disgraceful bias towards a single audience demographic.

  4. Derek on

    Don’t know if I’d go quite as far as to say we completely don’t need Paterson any more, Allan, but your point does highlight that it’s simplistic to say he should be accommodated in the team for his kicking, and that you have to look at both sides of the balance sheet, so to speak…for example, at Twickenham he kicked 9 pts (great) but he also missed his tackle on Monye in the build-up to the latter’s try (not so great). So his net contribution on the day could be said to be 4 pts.

    BBC Scotland don’t buy the ML rights because they see the crowds on ML nights at the Castle and the Skip and consider there not to be enough demand to justify doing so. Which they would have a point about if they were a commercial broadcaster, but unfortunately for them they’re not…!

  5. Duncan on

    Does anyone else think the commentary would be better if the pundits were only given matches their own teams weren’t involved in? Having said that, I thought Brian Moore was surprisingly enjoyable last weekend – it’s quite endearing the way he takes it as a personal affront every time the referee makes a mistake at the scrum. He’s better without Eddie Butler, the two of them are too much of a pantomime act together.

    Completely agree that we need to ditch Morrison asap, he just negates anything creative we try to do in the backs. It was painfully obvious that Godman had realised the only way the ball would ever get to Max Evans was by throwing cutout passes to him (and even then Morrison still tried to intercept one of them…).

    Godman is kind of frustrating – he’s always looking to get things moving and likes to vary the play, but too many wrong options, too many turnovers when he runs and he rarely judges the more delicate kicks right. Still so much better than Parks though.

    One other thing – our support play did seem to be improving; our problem seems to have evolved from not making breaks at all (last 6N) to making breaks that aren’t supported (AIs) to the person making the break failing to find the support runners or take the right option.

  6. Rory on

    Welcome everyone and thanks for discussing. Jenny, I suppose we give Andy Nicol a bit more slack as he rarely gets a chance to say anything positive about Scotland, but at least he would like to – unlike most of the rest of them…

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