Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Calling Out For a Hero

In my last post a few weeks ago (Club Success Deserves Recognition) I suggested that dropping the pro sides might be a good idea for the development of Scottish rugby.

Unsurprisingly this provoked a bit of a reaction with several good points being raised in support of the professional sides.

One of these comments has stuck with me in particular.

It suggested that better marketing was the answer to boost the profile and attendances of the teams and suggested Leinster as an example of a successful promotional campaign.

It is undoubtedly true that Leinster’s profile has risen considerably in the last few years.

However, their marketing men had a considerable head start over the SRU’s.

We’ll call it the BOD effect.

Having a player like the iconic Brian O’Driscoll in the ranks is always going to boost the viewing figures and generally the results on the park will improve as well further boosting the teams profile and so on upward and upward.

Where is the Scottish equivalent?

Of course O’Driscoll is a one off talent, the greatest player of the last decade and one of the best to ever grace a rugby field.

A Brian McDriscoll would be too much to ask for but most of the other so called top tier nations have their own iconic figure.

What we’re talking about is the kind of player that defines an entire rugby nation.

Think of Ireland, the first name you think is O’Driscoll.

Wales have Shane Williams, for England it is still Jonny Wilkinson, New Zealand are so good they have two, Carter and McCaw, South Africa being a rugged bunch have Victor Matfield, even Italy have the extraordinarily gifted Sergio Parisse.

Admittedly the French for some bewildering reason still idolise Sebastian Chabal but the point still stands.

Every other national team has their iconic figure so who is the Scottish equivalent?

Chris Paterson is the obvious candidate.

A complete professional, a supremely gifted goal kicker and fiercely committed as his two famous cover tackles in the six nations proved.

But is he really the kind of player that defines a rugby nation?

Very possibly considering the current state of the national team.

Hardworking, tenacious and reliable but not exactly exciting, though he is always faintly worrying (for his own fans) when on the ball, he may well define Scotland

The Scots have a full team of grafters but there really isn’t a player who provides the X-factor in the way that the stars mentioned above do.

Richie Gray may well be the totemic figure that Scotland have been waiting for – with his height he could literally be seen as a bleach blonde flag for teammates and fans to rally around.

It’s a big ask for a man who is, despite his exceptional displays in the six nations, very much in the infancy of his international career.

He does have the potential to be Scotland’s first genuinely world class player for several years but does he really have this mysterious X-factor?

Very few do clearly but all these other nations have their icons who boost their nations standing and performances simply by being there with the potential to produce magic out of nowhere.

It’s something that Scotland lack now and it has been the case for a while.

Where is our hero and who is the player that best defines Scottish rugby just now?




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5 Responses

  1. Richie Gray is the only Scottish player with the potential to become world class. I really like Chris Paterson as a player, he is the model pro, but you are right in the fact that he is not an exciting brand player who can represent a nation single-handedly. The main reason for respecting him is that he often battles so hard for a losing cause.

    Max Evans is a very exciting talent who, with the right guidance, could also become world class. Once again, however, he is playing as part of a back-line with extreme limitations, thus making it a lot harder for him to flourish.

  2. My solution to Glasgow and Edinburgh’s marketing problem is a simple one. Outsource it to marketing firms who actually know what they are doing. Marquee players are helpful but they are not a necessity.

  3. I’m gonna come over all ‘Dark Knight’ here but with all these examples (with the exception of Parisse, perhaps) it is a case of “the player we deserve, not the player we need”.

    All of these guys are almost an embodiment of the nation. Chabal is unpredictable- you will see him crush someone or gallop upfield, but the very next phase he is spamming the ball forward or conceding penalties with only a gallic shrug to show how he feels about this.

    Wilkinson is workmanlike and in his pomp he was metronomic. Precise. Never happy with what he had done. He had a stiff upper lip. He was English.

    Shane Williams defied logic, much like Wales do, because they shouldn’t be competitive but are. Most importantly, though, his play feeds off emotional energy like a Millenium Stadium crowd.

    O’driscoll keeps pulling it out of the bag and Carter/McCaw have everything.

    So as underdogs we probably deserve Paterson; that’s probably why he is so loved in Edinburgh and the Borders. He’s honest and hardworking but will never take a match to the heather.

    For the future it is probably fitting that we have landed ourselves a West Coaster. Gray is gallus and brash and you’ll pick him out of a crowd. All those other icons have a supporting cast of characters, though…

  4. Thom Evans could have been our brand man if it wasn’t for the injury. He was a genuinely exciting player, gave the crowd a lift when he got the ball.

    Current candidates would be Gray, Beattie and Jackson with maybe a shout out to the Lamont Bros – god I hope Rory can stay fit next season.

    Mind you, to improve the brand, whether it is a player or a club, you have to make people realise it exists. I bet most Scots wouldn’t recognise a Scottish club or international player if they walked past them in the street. Most of my peers at school didn’t even know Edinburgh had a pro rugby team. Basics come first, people.

  5. I don’t think that the BOD effect can be demonstrated by a 2nd row. As vital as it is to the game of rugby, i dont want to see a game of line-outs and scrums. First time viewers dont either. Pace and power of Lomu, SBW, habana or shane williams or the “rugby brain” of carter or wilkinson is what draws in crowds not scrummaging prowess or lineout dominance. Jackson is probably our best hope out of the current crop.
    Putting some money and effort into 7s might produce such a player. Get some players appreciating space a bit more rather than hulking up in the gym.
    Combine that with getting the SRU to relax their idea of using Murrayfield for every event. Just back from the melrose 7s, better atmosphere, better pitch, possibly a bigger attendance too, than the edinburgh 7s will get in a month or so. Edinburgh playing at Netherdale or Greenyards might give them a 16th man rather than playing in the echoey emptiness of murrayfield.

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Scottish Rugby News and Opinion