Panic seems to have hit Martin Johnson. Shontayne Hape?! Well we’re used to this in Scotland. Every time Scotland sees a decline in talent in certain positions there seems to be a desperate snatch for anyone Scots qualified, by the SRU. While some might question Andy Robinson’s desire to put in a long term plan for Scottish youth there is almost something admirable in his declaration of interest in the long-term progress of Ayr’s Frazier Climo: a man not eligible for Scotland until 2012. Then there is Dan Parks.
The much derided stand-off has been written off more times than his motor (allegedly), but he keeps coming back for more. As Phil Godman struggled to kick himself out of his shadow and was constantly caught with the ball in his hands during the 1872 cup matches against Glasgow, his opposite man, Parks, had put the ball wherever he wanted and ran the game with metronomic rhythm.
While this may have delighted Glasgow fans you could hear the rest of Scotland groaning. Perhaps not because Parks was back in the frame for a Scotland call up but because the transitional period is set to continue at 10, for us. Parks has, at pro level, the ability to control a game but with rumours he is only interested in reaching a 50th cap and his attentions soon turning to Cardiff’s fortunes the future seems unsure.
This creates an interesting situation. Many believe that Kiwi Climo will slide into Parks’ vacated position at Glasgow while calls to sign up Hutton are increasing in Edinburgh. Every outcome suggests a few more unsure years for the fans regarding the Scottish fly-half berth. While it is obvious that the SRU have no problems bringing in a ‘foreign’ player for the two pro teams it creates a fascinating precedent. Do we really want another situation where a Matt Mustchin is called up for a Scotland tour because no young Scottish players are deemed good enough? Do we want another like Boroughmuir’s Fergus Pringle playing on tour for Scotland ‘A’, maybe the most developmental stage of Scottish international rugby, while talented, if not a little inexperienced, kids stay at home like a few seasons ago?
This situation possibly says more about the state of the pro set-up in Scotland, but it is also true that the infiltration of ‘foreign’ players is evident in all aspects of the Scottish game. Almost every premier club in Scotland has at least one player who is not Scottish qualified. Some teams have more than three every game. What this means is that a disparity occurs. If we are being honest, players like Hutton, Jackson, David Blair and even Climo are too good to play amateur rugby every week but what is coming up behind them is not encouraging. What’s more, most clubs are more interested in league positions, cups and getting one over their rivals. Some cynics can say there is not as much concern about strengthening Scotland as a nation as much as there is an internalized drive to make ‘my club’ stronger. There could be some substance to this. Of course there is the by-product of younger players learning from experienced foreigners. This helps, but it becomes much harder when the best Scottish talents are whisked away by the SRU, or worse, head down south to earn their stripes because there are no places north of Hadrian’s dyke.
The age old shocker of a question arises: what the hell do we do?!
Finally, I’ve known a few overseas players who have landed on their feet in this country. What would I do in their situation if I was asked to play for Scotland? Alex Tait is thinking about it. Even if I had a silver fern tattooed on my arse would I take the cap/pay rise/accolades? Maybe. On Tuesday Paul Tito said “If Wales were in massive dire, dire need I’d probably have a think about it [playing for them].” Doesn’t sound like a definite NO, does it?
What would you do?