Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Now We Are ‘Progressing’ The Pressure Is On

Andy Robinson - Courtesy of SRU/PA

As Nick De Luca pointed out at the Scotland team announcement on Tuesday, Scotland are still “0 from 3”.

There are positives coming out of the display against France and the sheer volume of work that Scotland went through was impressive. Two nice tries were scored. We could blow the dust off of the box labelled ‘Progress’ once again.

However, now Robinson has steeped pressure on to his team. It has come from nothing he has said. In fact in all of the build-up, mentioned in my earlier piece on the announcement, he had been effusive in praising the good players within his side, and dismissive of any talk of glitches in his defensive system.

No. What created the pressure were his actions. He named a completely unchanged pack and a back-line with one solitary swap. He dropped his in-form deputy stand-off for one with caps in the double figures. He has not brought in the vastly experienced Euan Murray.

It will give his team confidence, no doubt, but with face value attributed to this move his side now need to do something.

There have been no grand changes. Scotland, at the very least, have to be within three points of Ireland as the game draws to a close, or the hard work will be undone. Calls of progression, progression, progression can be swept away as political spin if Scotland do not progress in terms of points on the board and points on the championship table.

This, perhaps, is a good thing. Ireland are weakened and they have had a lot less rest than Scotland. That entrusted pack cannot be relieved, but instead must tear into their task. Robinson has made it abundantly clear that the breakdown is the key. He has called Ireland’s back-row ‘World Class’. He has proclaimed any change for O’Connell as irrelevant because of their strength of squad.

With this cute political tactic Robinson has lit a fire under his forwards. This jargon; this ‘Choke Tackle’, is just a bit of misdirection. No special offensive tactics have to be used against it. A good ball carry will be rewarded, a poor one punished. Rucking, as with any 6 Nations game, must be top drawer.

Robinson is exercising misdirection here. The scrummage will be hard work and the lineout, which has been supremely impressive, must maintain. He wants to ensure that O’Brien, Heaslip and Ferris do not run at the likes of Jones and Laidlaw. So he has called them out. He has effectively said ‘my back-row is better than yours’. He wants a reaction. From both sides. He wants them running at each other.

If this does work then there is an opportunity.

Well rested, comfortable and confident the Scottish backs have a chance against Ireland’s centres. Neither played particularly well against France and defensively they can be got at. De Luca has risen again, but his place at 13 is to draw in Earls and then have Hogg and Sean Lamont speeding into the line past him. Particularly if Earls is lined up alongside Trimble in first phase, expect a pop to a blind winger coming short.

Scotland stand a chance in this game if they tie up the back-row and bypass the Irish back three. Lineout attack therefore becomes hugely significant. Ford must best Best. Rennie must strip O’Brien and Lamont must clatter past Earls. These are the places where Scotland can win on Saturday.

Scotland have made a big issue about how fit they are, but with all their ball they must score. They started on the right path against France. Now they must be ruthless with a weary Irish team that has lost personnel. The tactics must be spot on and they must make their individual tackles. They must be calculating.

If they get the slightest edge the Aviva can be silenced. Here’s hoping that Robinson’s plans work and his side play with the confidence they have displayed in the days before the event. Here’s hoping for more progress. Tangible progress.

11 Responses

  1. I am not actually sure they are as fit as they make out. They clearly tired against England and France, although in some cases it could perhaps be attributed to early use of the bench for injurues. As you’ve said before, it is because the likes of Ford run themselves into the ground!

  2. True. However, Ireland will unquestionably be feeling the strain. Murray and Kellock will come on and Jackson over Weir suggests that it will stil be running rugby when bodies start to tire in the second half.
    It is also never nice to see, but with the style we are now playing, the hype around the collision and the almost unfairly short turnaround for the Irish there could be a few bodies dropping in this one.

    1. Jackson run?!?!? when?? The fact he can’t kick, doesn’t make him a running 10.

    2. The fact that you do not rate his ability to run does not mean that running will not be his remit from Andy Robinson…

    3. I think a lot of the criticism I’ve heard of Jackson of late has been a bit harsh. I also think it stems from the fan’s frustration at AR not giving Duncan Weir a run in the team, you heard the roar when he took to the field against France. I think with a decent set of backs outside him Weir could really cut loose (see Scotland A game). Jackson is a decent 10 at club level, but has to find consistency in all aspects of his kicking game if he is to make the grade at international level. His reputation is still predominantly based on that one game against Bath, but he has never really progressed. He should definitely be 3rd choice in the pecking order for the 10 jersey IMO.

  3. Probably the best bench we’ve had for a while. It always felt a bit like for like before (e.g. tired Ford for fit S.Lawson) but I can see the likes of Murray, Evans and Kellock adding something to the game when they come on.

  4. I agree that there is a lot of pressure on the team to face Ireland, and all of it AR has brought on himself. My main concern about our bench (apart from the outrageous decision to omit Weir, who should IMO be starting) is the fitness of both Evans and Murray, both of whom are only returning from injury. I’m also slightly worried that the Irish back row are going to target Laidlaw’s lack of bulk and suspect defence. I think that this is a game that we definitely have a chance but I’m not entirely convinced by the team selection. The Irish are going to look to put this game to bed early, and if they do ARs substitutions may not really matter.

  5. Sean O’Brien drops out, Peter O’Mahony comes in. Less burst in his runs, more rucking nouse, I’d say. Probably better if he runs right at Laidlaw that SOB.
    Changes very little for the tactics, I would suggest.

  6. Big test for the back row and for NDL as he’s right in the firing line of the Irish blitz defence. Tommy Bowe’s intercept against France shows the danger of the ball behind the back of the centres way behind the gain line.

    I think this is the toughest test yet and the biggest challenge is being error free. Scotland currently a 65/70 minute side, prone to 2 or 3 key lapses in concentration which have caused the loss of every one of the last 5 games.

  7. Duncan Weir is attending his sister’s wedding tomorrow. Could that be a reason he is not in the squad?

    Also Matt Scott travelled with the team as the 24th man. These guys are not as far down the pecking order as we might think…

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Scottish Rugby News and Opinion