One word, over all others, seems to have dominated the 6 Nations so far. Arrogance.
Andy Robinson told us that the English were arrogant when they played Scotland in the World Cup and that he’d be using this to fire up the team in advance of the Calcutta Cup.
Then, in the build up to the Wales game, Gwyn Jones called the Scots “inert” and “so lacking in the basic skills that I would be disappointed if they were to score tries against us.” The Scottish Rugby Twittersphere went into meltdown with calls for Jones’s comments to be pinned to the Scots dressing room wall with that word “arrogance” being mentioned more than once. Now Jonathan Davies is at it in the build up to their match with England.
And yet so far on the Scotland copybook it’s “Humble Scotland” 0 – “The Arrogant Bastards XV” 2.
So, as I salted my Sunday tea with the tears of defeat once more I got to thinking about this “arrogance” that we seem to despise in Scotland. Look at all the great successful sportsmen. Name me one that wasn’t arrogant.
Muhammed Ali? “I’m not the greatest; I’m the double greatest. Not only do I knock ’em out, I pick the round”. If he’d been Scottish you can be sure his pre-fight press would have been a hell of a lot duller. “Aye, the boy I’m fighting’s good. I better be on my game.”
Michael Schumacher? “I’m Michael Schumacher. I don’t need to test my driving ability.” Contrast this with David Coulthard… “I am not motivated by recognition, I just do things I like doing – racing, shagging, eating and drinking.”
Tiger Woods? (Removed on legal advice – Ed.)
Arrogance isn’t a bad thing. It’s a belief that as an individual or even as a team you are superior to the opposition. It’s a belief that your own abilities and those of your teammates will lead to success. Of course this can breed complacency but if channelled correctly it can achieve wondrous results.
A prime example is the England World Cup winning side of 2003 (which of course included a Mr A Robinson as deputy coach). They weren’t the best side at that tournament and yet they still won primarily because the team believed it could beat anyone. The trouble is that the accuracy of Wilkinson’s boot masked a host of frailties and England’s poor showing at the 2011 World Cup can be traced back to that win in Sydney. The arrogance got out of control and the knighthood went to Clive Woodward’s head culminating in the disastrous Lion’s Tour of 2005 (to which Woodward brings Arrogant Alistair Campbell as his press relations officer – you can’t make it up can you?). The England players became complacent, believing their own press, and an inability to build on the World Cup success led to the manager’s role becoming something of a poisoned chalice. England will come good again, but rugby’s 2003 may yet be football’s 1966.
We Scots can do arrogance when we put our minds to it. You only have to look at Sir Alex Ferguson, Jock Stein and Bill Shankley, three of most magnificently arrogant and successful managers ever to grace the touchline. Our Rugby players used to be able to do it too. Prior to the 1990 Calcutta Cup, John Jeffrey infamously claimed that he didn’t like living in the Borders because he “could see England” from a hill near his house. Asked why he didn’t move the Great White Shark said that he didn’t trust anyone else to defend the border.
There are signs of it in the current Scotland team. Just look at Stuart Hogg’s dazzling run through the Welsh defence on Sunday. You don’t tear apart the World Cup semi finalist’s on your International debut without a certain amount of arrogance. And how many of us might have let the Forwards continue to batter the Welsh defence instead of sneaking over try line like Laidlaw? If Robinson can manage rather than suppress these tendencies then the tries will keep coming.
Maybe it’s cultural or maybe it’s part of our DNA, but the team, pundits, past players and the support all need to start showing a bit of arrogance. It’s easy to be downhearted after the last two results but there’s also plenty to be proud of, especially in light of the Wales game (ignoring the yellow cards of course).
Perhaps as an exile living in England I find myself having to be more arrogant than most Scottish fans. Sure it’s easy for you lot to be introspective and maudlin when you’re surrounded by your fellow Scots. But there’s no way I’m letting anyone down here tell me we’re crap. The Calcutta Cup? Laidlaw’s try should have stood and a couple of English players should have been off for my own imagined infringements. Sunday’s game? Take away the points scored when we had players in the bin, change the referee and we would have won the game.
Next up the World Champions in arrogance. The French. In fact they invented the word. So when my English friends ask me about our chances what will I say?
“Terry Does a who? Never heard of him. We’ll stuff ‘em.”