When you’re picked to start on the subs bench of an international rugby fixture you probably dream of coming on and altering the course of the game, being the catalyst for a turn around, drastically changing the outcome of the fixture. Scott Lawson and Phil Godman did just that.
Phil Godman is a man who doth protest too much about “the penalty that shouldn’t have been.” The reality is he shouldn’t have been one of Scotland replacements. His inclusion on the subs bench was the oddest element of Scotland’s selection for the vital match against Wales.
He could have been on the bench for one of two reasons. Either Robinson fully expected (dare I say hoped?) that Parks would crash and burn, and that Godman could come on and save the day, thus justifying the snubbing of Parks at international level for the last year and a half.
The player who had most cause for complaint for being left out of the replacements for Cardiff was Hugo Southwell – along with Chris Paterson he is Scotland’s most versatile back and although his favoured position is full-back he has passed a recent test at stand off with flying colours in the Scotland ‘A’ fixture against Tonga late last year.
Had Southwell been selected in place of Godman , Scotland would have included three men who could capably fill the number ten slot in Parks, Patterson and Southwell along with, in Mike Blair, the specialist cover at scrum half, a player more comfortable at ten than on the wing.
So that means four men who can play stand off, with each man, apart from the chosen starter, comfortably being able to occupy a number of other positions. Phil Godman is at best only a stand off, and some would argue that at international level he’s not even that, and his inclusion in the matchday squad was a massive risk that ended up turning into a disaster.
A player who normally breeds uncertainty when playing in his favoured position was always likely to do that in a position he did not favour. Scotland looked the better team with their best team on, however, it is impossible to expect a makeshift set of backs like that to stay in contention.
At the lowest levels of club rugby you might expect to be asked “Can you play wing?” or “Have you ever played centre?” to which the reply is, “ach I’ll have a go” . You don’t expect to see that kind of thinking in international rugby however. Scotland’s selection of Godman evidenced the absence of a proper contingency plan and threw the Scotland backs into chaos, all, essentially, so Phil Godman could save face. Scotland fans must ask themselves which they regard as more important – a 6 Nations win or Phil Godman’s feelings.
Luckily for Robinson, he won’t have to worry about Godman’s feelings in two weeks time as he’s likely to regard himself as forced to pick him as a replacement due to the horrendous injury list among the first choice backs. Simon Danielli and Max Evans are favourites to replace Rory Lamont and Thom Evans while Robinson is likely to have no alternative but to turn to Hugo Southwell at full back . Assuming Robinson’s mysterious aversion to Alex Grove continues this will leave room on the subs bench for Godman. Hopefully that will cheer Phil up. He’s probably a bit down about the Wales game.