Change, it’s a wonderful concept that has seen men elected to the highest offices and inspired development of technology from the Model T Ford to the Toyota Prius… so not always a positive thing!
For those who watched Scotland play France this past Sunday however there must have been a horrible feeling that some things never change. Scotland were fairly beaten by a strong looking France side but Scotland had their chances. Early in the match we failed to capitalise on being metres from the French line and on a number of occasions men would break through the French blitz defence (particularly Beattie and Lamont) only to find themselves isolated and unsupported….a bit like Gordon Brown at a Labour Party Conference. The French on the other hand destroyed the Scottish scrum and from that they were able to build a super-solid platform from which to attack Scotland. In Bastareaud the French have themselves a mini Lomu who, once up at full speed, was as difficult to stop as the aforementioned Prius. In saying that, his second try, was embarrassing for more than one Scotland player as attempts to tackle were either woeful or just plain non existent. This is a particularly Scottish problem in the 6 Nations, where we seem to specialise in missed tackles at key moments. All in all Sundays’ game was a game that demonstrated that some things never change; it was a typical Scottish 6 Nations story…a case of what could have been.
So, looking forward Andy Robinson has been swift to embrace the idea of change and has switched the playing staff and, undoubtedly, the way Scotland will play the game this coming Saturday against a Welsh side, who themselves, are a way off top form. Key to Saturday will be to winning the battle up front and the reintroduction of Euan Murray should provide the Scots with a much more stable platform. If Scotland have any aspirations of winning this game they should also be looking to target the Welsh lineout which against England was nothing short of a disgrace. The professional era has brought us many advancements, bigger, faster player, more accurate kicking and slick BBC montages but apparently it has also ushered in an era of hookers whose ability to throw into a lineout is highly questionable. On Saturday, time after time, the Welsh were turned over in the lineout. I would imagine this is an area Andy Robinson will be keen to attack particularly with rebirth of Dan Parks in a Scotland jersey. This indicates (as do comments from Robinson himself) that Scotland will try and play in the Welsh half and if we can get to the Welsh lineout if could be a good source of ball in attacking positions. The other change, I, like I’m sure all Scotland fans would like to see is Scotland finally finishing off moves. We are very good at getting close and then blowing it. This needs to changes and hopefully Saturday will see the Scottish efforts get rewarded.
I want to also take a quick moment to welcome Dan Parks back to the national scene. Parks is much criticised in the Scottish game, indeed I’ve been known to given him as a hard a time as anyone, however this season he has been largely magnificent for Glasgow in the Magners League and his tactical kicking is some of the best in the world game. I remember sitting in St Etienne after the Scotland v Italy WC2007 match and praising Parks for being the reason Scotland squeezed out of its Group. Indeed, Rory and I had a conversation in Paris a week later (the same night this blog was born) discussing whether Parks was a candidate for Scotland captain such was his influence that tournament. He has his flaws but he’s not half as bad as many people make out – he became the pantomime villain for the frustrated Scotland support. I hope that he gets the full backing of every Scotland player this Saturday and I hope that Parks put of a performance that shuts up the critics and shows his new employers (Cardiff) just how lucky they will be to have them in their squad.
Good luck Scotland – we are due a result in Cardiff!
- Head: Scotland lose by less than a score (typical) – +5 Wales
- Heart: Scotland win by a couple of tries after things start to click – +10 Scotland
- Arse: Scotland start well but don’t get over the line, Wales get the luck of the bounce and Scotland leave themselves open trying to chase the game – Wales + 15