The Hollow Reality

This is a curious feeling, this one. It reverberates with the familiar hollowness, sure, but it doesn’t ring with the same sharp pain. The pain is slightly more dull. Like it was expected, but really it is much more pleasant that that crushing failure against the English…

The aftermath of Scotland’s defeat to France was played out like so many rehearsed functions before it. Five losses in a row meant that the press pack were duty bound to ask about Robinson’s position. He did not shy away from the question. His players, however, were close to recoiling.

“Everyone is just a bit bored of this feeling,” Ross Rennie said after the match. “”It’s very frustrating. We are improving week to week and I think the games are showing that. Some of our attack was really good.”

Lee Jones also said to me how players who were told they had press duties where left asking, “What do we say to them?”

The circumstances may be different, but the outcome is the same. “We lacked a bit of composure at times,” Rennie said. How many times have we heard that? “I got away from his [Malzieu’s] fend but he got through me,” Jones accepted. He and Laidlaw slipped off a few tackles and France punished Scotland.

It is incontestable that Scotland played lovely rugby at the start, but France sapped them of all their strength in the dying minutes of the game. Scotland were competitive in the first few scrum exchanges, but by the end France had them reeling. Stuart Hogg and passes from Laidlaw did have holes appearing, but France simply had to draw a one on one tackle and they had a scoring opportunity.

Improving? Yes, things are, but improving is not cause for handing over Championship points and unpopping corks.

So we come clunking back to Robinson’s question. Is he one to throw in the towel? He doesn’t look like the type. He is a proud, almost stoic character at times, more prone to jutting out a lower jaw than gurning. True he did offer a critique of Barnes when he suggested the turning point of the game was a penalty given to France when Rougerie himself had allegedly infringed, but you could tell his heart was not really in this. That did not force his own front row to give away penalties.

He will not be pushed, that is for sure. All other signs suggest he will not walk. He has finally tried to mould a back-room staff in his own image, asking a man he says he respects, Scott Johnson, to come in as well as replacing Steadman with someone he is alleged to have said is better. He is unlikely to jump ship before he gets a chance to test these guys out on a summer tour.

It is also prudent to point out that by finally selecting his own staff, he is trying to shake off his tag of ‘poor selector’. He is putting his foot down and taking loyalty out of his thinking, as he is coming round to doing the same with his team selections.

He is a man who takes his ghosts everywhere with him. When he said Scotland’s backline on Sunday was almost as good as that of Calder, Jeffrey and White you knew he was a man who holds on. He is unwilling to throw in a youngster because of his experiences with a young Matt Tait and England. He is apprehensive about chucking out coaches when he was part of a long-serving, surviving England backroom team.

He finally has some exciting young players at his disposal. He is also yet to say Matt Scott is ready and he is still to have an internationally cleared Tim Visser with him. The problem is that before he gets to that point he is fast sliding down the World Rankings. There is very little else anyone else could do about that, though, isn’t there?

In the end it comes down to what the players buy in to. They are the ones that are failing to see off games, after all. It has taken three games for Robinson to pick the most exciting players, but he is there now and with injuries there is no real surprising back up. There will be no bolters and no stars bursting in.

So with the squad as it is and with Robinson about to have the backroom staff he wants there is little chance he will jump ship or that Mark Dodson will punt him. The only way he could take his leave is if the players stage a coup. Fitting, then, that the normally reserved Ross Ford felt the need to point out to the press that the players wholeheartedly backed the Robinson Project.

Results are poor, but they do not belie Scotland’s standing in World rugby. Robinson has not pulled off any miracles and he has lost the tight games. He now has some kids at his disposal and some staff to come in the future. If injuries ravage Ireland then maybe Scotland can turn them over a week on Saturday, but now he will be looking at Italy and the summer tour. It is doubtful that he would quit before his project enters the next phase.

Are the Scotland faithful happy with that hollow reality?

Nothing shocking came from that France result…


Dundonian Alan has played rugby all over the world for various teams including Dundee High School, Heriot's and the Scottish Club International. Now writing from London he covers all issues international and unreported.

22 comments on “The Hollow Reality

  1. Rory Baldwin on

    I’d like to see him stay, there is definitely work in progress now. Of course you could argue that it has taken far too long to get to this stage, but perhaps wins over Ireland and Italy would help stave off the naysayers until after the summer.

  2. Big Al on

    Ach, he has to stay. He’s frustrated as much as he’s pleased with his team selections. I personally feel that the poor World Cup was largely down to his selections (Ansbro missing v. Argentina…ghads!) and somewhat negative game place however he’s getting there and the project is surely now to bleed in the young players.

    In the long run some of the knocks and injuries might work in favour of long term development. Whilst nobody wants to see any (yes, I mean any!) player to suffer an injury the injuries in the Scotland ranks have meant the likes of Hogg get a chance. I’m not sure Robinson would have made these changes on his own (although in fairness he did pick Jones from the off). There are certain players in a Scotland jersey who have not performed particularly well…in my opinion Rory Lamont, Max Evans and Allan Jacobsen seem to be getting picked on reputation rather than performances in the national jersey.

    Robinson is crafting a side that will compete. I commented on Sunday that no team can put in performances like that and not start to win games. I was encouraged and think we just need to show some patience – there is a longer term project here than this 6 Nations.

  3. The Pigeon on

    Financially the SRU are stuck with him whether we like it or not as he signed a long term deal after the World Cup and is getting paid a lot of money. The only way he will go will be if he leaves out of choice. When he came in initially he was a breath of fresh air and seemed to get something extra out of a group of players who were struggling. Now though, he has a group of players who are as good as Scotland have produced in the professional era and he continually picks players out of position or out of form and it then takes an injury for him to put those in that deserve a shot. Individual players have taken the flak for small errors that cost us defeats and yet he is the one picking the team and strategy. Im sorry but one decent performance against France should not hide the inadequacies in his team selection for the England and Wales game. Professional sport is about results and sadly he has failed to deliver hugely. This Scotland team have to get everything right and then get some serious luck to beat Ireland. They then face a potential wooden spoon decider in Italy and we know how well we have done there recently. Ideal situation is Bath come looking for him, Scotland get some compensation and he heads south…

  4. Borderer on

    I hope he stays, the side has improved a lot in the last two years. Some of his selections are wrong and loyalty to some players has contributed to some of our losses. I believe he has the respect of his players, which is very important. I still think he needs a more experienced backs coach to help him.
    If the so called ‘Tait’ selection is clouding his judgement, and I can’t believe it is, look at Hogg and his own unenforced choices Gray and Denton!

  5. Rory Baldwin on

    If you look at his pack selections they have mostly been right for most of the time – barring Chunk who is part legend part liability – and I think Johnson will help massively in getting the right balance in the back division. Robinson probably wants a co-selector who knows what he is talking about.

  6. Alan Dymock on

    Bath is the rumour I have heard, but the thing is: he is finally having the support cast he want. He says he respects Scott Johnson, and despite how he faded at Ospreys he has at least shown in the past that he is a man of conviction. He backs his beliefs. Robinson likes that and is taking him on, so hopefully he and the Aussie go head to head on some selections and end up picking the right players.

    The issue? We have chronically limited resources. That 9/10 battle will be the same in 3 years as it is now. The front row is doomed to be a sparse field for the next 4 years at least (unless Shiells of Newcastle keeps improving and gets a shot at another, more competitive team).

    The names destined to be nailed on for test starts in the next few years: Ford, Jacobsen, Gray, Denton, Brown, Ansbro, Hogg and Visser. Do we have any other stand outs…. any? No? Ok…Laidlaw and Weir will scrap and Rennie and Barclay will duke it out forever…

    If Robinson goes could someone else do better with that scenario? Dodson, by appointing Johnson and ‘someone better’ as defence coach, has shown he can throw big money at it. Will this become even more impressive and likely to succeed with another helmsman? Doubtful.

    Anyway, who else would there be? The list of credible England applicants, by all accounts, is pretty stunted. No one want to take up the poisoned chalice. Would a list of Scots applicants be much better? Sure you would have the same folk that always apply, but would any of them be better than Robinson? Maybe, if they are hopefully they bring with them some props and a centre or two…

  7. Fraser on

    Scotland are clearly getting better. Surely everyone can see this. Robinson has done and is doing good things. Keep the faith. When was the last time we had so many promising players under the age of 25? Sacking him will do no good – who will take over?

  8. Rory Baldwin on

    Exactly! When you look at the timeline of years gone by no team barring New Zealand has a consistently good or great team, they come in waves when circumstance brings a good bunch of players together for a year, or perhaps even a decade (Wales in the 70s). For Scotland the paucity of our resources dictates these periods (1984, 1990) come around rarely but we are definitely building towards something positive, where we win more than we lose.

  9. Iain Stewart on

    Just watching the Ireland game. Agree that Andy Robinson should stay as Coach. The team have great promise and, next season, will prevail. We are losing more games than other teams are winning the games but they are also using the rules much more to their advantage. The spinning scrum, which only happened when Ireland were in a penalty kicking position, was a travesty of the rules’ intention yet were perfectly legal. Something needs to change on the rules front to allow referees choice when teams use the margins to get advantage.

    • Hamish on

      Team does have promise but will not win consistently until the defensive errors that blight our game. We work like nothing to get points, and then consistently gift them to the opposition.

      There is very little positive to take from yesterday’s game.

  10. Scot/Welsh on

    Dear Ian, lets get real here. Scotland have progressed only in that they have 4 possible lions in Rennie, Denton, Gray and Hogg. Blair has also played well, but will not be a lion. As for the rest they would not get in any other 6 nations team, including Italy! Our front row is rubbish and has been throught the series. Our 3/4’s are naff and I reckon Italy will beat them no trouble at all. Our only hope is that their no. 10 continues to play rubbish otherwise we will get thumped.
    Incidentally, I watched the Itallian under 20’s against Wales last night and their pack is impressive, but they also have a couple of very good backs. We may continue to win the wooden spoon for a number of years to come!!!!!!!!!!! As for today – rubbish is being too kind!

  11. Kev on

    Let’s be honest here…we are punching well beyond our weight. We have 2 pro teams, we have a Premiership that is still amateur and is dictaded by clubs. The Junior game is played in an unpredictible Scottish winter resulting in limited skill sessions, the Age Grade programme may be coached by coaches who may have their own agenda blah blah blah….
    IMO we have too many negative is our game: The Journos ; Some bloggers on this great site.

    • Alan Dymock on

      Kev, we are a nation of cynics. Reckon some of us on the site are too negative?
      Realism keeps getting in the way, though. Once the Glasgow/Townsend thing becomes clearer we will have another strange scenario to think about. Will be posting analysis of Ireland game later and will include the odd goings on at HQ, after the press conference.

    • Cameron Black on

      Maybe it’s time to realise we will always be the plucky underdogs, always punching above our weight in terms of resources etc. taking a big scalp every couple of years and always running teams close.

  12. Stuart on

    Sorry but I for one will not be going to Murrayfield or indeed watching matches on TV we are extremely poor in fact 3 forward passes in first half and usual retreating scrum very predictable.
    I am fed up with excuses and promises of we are building a team.
    Our results are awful and money to tight in current climate to
    watch same old rubbish.
    Please wake up and smell the coffee or try another sport like me.

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