Scotland’s Looming Predicament

Andy Robinson’s record now stands out like tap shoes in an abbey.

He has led his team to failure in all of this year’s 6 Nations games and understandably is considering his position. The problem is, however, that Scotland’s Head Coach has a position unlike most other coaches in international rugby.

After Saturday’s limp performance in Rome I spoke to a professional rugby player. He said that from what he had heard “The SRU is now like the United States of Andy Robinson”.

Now this may have been said in haste, right after the cheek-searing shame of Scotland losing their way to a wooden spoon. It is almost certainly an overstatement, as well. The sentiment, though, is one I have heard before.

With Andy Robinson in charge Scotland have had their worst ever World Cup and seven straight defeats. There has been a slide down the Rankings and Italy have bested them abroad. By all accounts the national squad has felt the strain, with public lauding of Robinson’s vision but rumours surfacing that the squad have lost hope. They were said to have been pushed hard by the Scotland Under 20s team in a training session before the big game on Saturday, after which Robinson allegedly praised the youngsters and looked disgusted with his own team.

If there is a real breakdown, though, and there is a frisson of malcontent, would Robinson take this into account? The reason this is important is that Robinson would have to walk to leave his job, because Mark Dodson has backed him till 2015.

Robinson has a fire guard of a contract and has surrounded himself with people that can solidify his position. Pro coaches have been shifted around without positions even being advertised, and he certainly had a hand in that. When he first arrived everyone intoned that Scotland had poached themselves a real star coach. Yet, with the team posting poor results and the man holding such high esteem at EH12, no one else can get the blame.

If no one is going to say that Scotland must accept that our players make up a second tier team in International terms – something even the most depressed of thistle wearers are wary of stating – then Robinson must shoulder the cross.

But there could be ways of escaping it. The coaches under him are leaving and there is a spate of new players. The baying crowd are told of progress in attempts to quell their blood lust. Political moves like shifting Sean Lineen can momentarily turn the crowd’s heads. Robinson could take a step upstairs in the coming weeks, to a Director of Rugby position (putting a title to a role he already holds).

If his pride swells and he gets a-swallowing, though, he could walk. There is only so much embarrassment a competitive man can take.

What if he walks, then? What fresh hell awaits the Scottish fans? Well with young promising individuals like Gray, Denton, Scott, Hogg, Weir, Welsh, Jones and Visser, Scotland could very well compete in the future, but before such a time there would be political issues.

In a move to further insulate Robinson’s position there have been the signings of new Australian coaches. One of them has a track record of walking away from jobs he does not like. If Robinson jumps, what will happen with Scott Johnson and Matt Taylor?

There is a tour of the Southern Hemisphere coming up pretty soon and most of that same squad will be there. If there is tension or there is an mood descending would a few new coaches change that? This certainly has to be talked out. There cannot be a situation where Robinson retreats into his shell and choreographed press releases swirl around news rooms. This has to be hammered out.

I have said it time and time again, but those in charge of Scotland need to make it clear to the nation what the long term plan is. Don’t keep people in the dark. It is disrespectful to a country that got caught up at the start of the campaign, filling stadiums, but who were ultimately let down.

For example, if, like England, this had been labelled a transition year things would be a tiny bit better now. Yet England obliterated expectations, while Scotland reneged on them. England talked of working towards the future publicly, while David Denton was allowed to say openly that Scotland could have won four games. This was one example of reckless PR and Andy Robinson is left to look silly.

If Robinson walks there will be turmoil. Scott Johnson could walk, too. Other people could have to answer questions about the long term vision for Scotland, not to mention cough up a lot of money in pay-offs. Conversely, if he stays, he or the SRU could lose credibility. It is a tough little conundrum.

Scotland, there is a problem clacking towards you. What’s it gonna be?

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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.

18 comments on “Scotland’s Looming Predicament

  1. Dugald Skene on

    It is shocking, very little fight in scots who should have been more motivated.
    SRU don’t sack people, merely transfer them, so they won’t get rid of Robinson, no matter how engrained he is in the organisation. With the changes to coaching set up already made, I think he’ll stay.

  2. Dodge on

    Echoing above really. I don’t see him leaving this year – not with the new coaching team coming in but if the same were to happen in next year’s 6N, surely his position would then be untenable?

    I fear for the Summer Tour and Autumn internationals as the current squad are devoid of confidence, you can see it in their body language, although their lack of fight/spirit at the weekend was bodering on disgraceful. They are meant to be representing their country after all. I can actually forsee Scotland not winning a game in 2012.

    Still trying to make sense of the Lineen/Townsend switch. Something is seriously amiss here and what was Robinson’s motivation / level of involvement?

  3. mike on

    Pretty poor all round.

    Last minute change to bring in Welsh didn’t cause too much of a problem for the scrummage which (apart from the first scrum) held up reasonably well. Unfortunately our lineout collapsed completely. I hope Gray went off because of injury, because surely if your throwing in is totally off (on the day) then you need to bring on another option for the last half hour. Was ford left on because he was captain? If so, it was a bad decision.

    Our light weight back row selection (partly because of injury I know) was found out again as it was in the second half against france and most of the game against ireland. Playing two open side flankers hasn’t worked. We missed a real No. 6 (maybe Denton should have played there and bring in vernon/a.n. other at No 8).

    I think the backs problably should escape too much criticism (apart from NDL for another peice of crass stupidity) as they had very little usable ball to play with. I would only gripe about poor ball being badly kicked again. Our kicking game (out of hand)has been shockingly bad throughout the 6N.

    Should he stay or should he go now? I’ve changed my mind, and think he should go now. It looked to me that the players may have lost faith in him which means curtains for him. I guess he has to be honest with himself and look at how truly badly we played at the weekend. Can he do any more? I think not. I don’t know who should be next. A fresh start might be for the best.

  4. Steve on

    He has to go. Any progress made performance wise against Wales and France was lost on Saturday and against Ireland. Let’s not forget how bad the England game was as well and how poor the world cup was. The players looked disinterested on Saturday. What he has done to the shape of the SRU is a total shambles. The entire organisation is shaped around him at all levels. He will have had a big say in the Lineen/Townsend saga and a year ago he had Moffat removed from the Edinburgh job. Moffat was very well liked by the Edinburgh players and he basically got sacked because he wouldn’t do exactly what Robinson said. To have one man pick and choose what Glasgow and Edinburgh players play each week is ridiculous. Totally demeans the coaches in position. There is no doubting his coaching ability as he won a world cup coaching England but as a head coach picking the teams and structures his record is awful

  5. HWH on

    The trouble is with the Scotland/Glasgow situation is that we all appear to have strong opinions on the matter and yet we’re doing nothing at all to stand against it so far.(myself included) Many of us have been posting comments here and on facebook, firing emails off to each other and to the papers. Really though, what effect are we having? It’s all going ahead anyway. The S.R.U could install Danny DeVito in the head coach position for Scotland and Susan Boyle for Glasgow and, based on the last week, we as suporters would take no action to stop it.

    Is a bouycot of a game or a season too drastic? Maybe. So let’s start the debate with an alternative, what can we do? There are several who are willing to see what happens with Townsend and Robinson. I, and many others are not.

    What are we going to do about this?

  6. Rod on

    Question is…Ireland and Scotland have more or less the same population. Ireland have 4 professional provincial teams, we have 2. Is it any wonder we are where we are?

  7. Kev on

    Agree with Rod. We need more Pro teams, a Premiership with no relegation and limited imports to allow coaches and young players develop skills with less pressure of relegation. Academies who play each other…..Oh and a better weather/light playing season

    • Fraser on

      Relegation is crucial. You can’t just shut off the top tier, thereby killing off ambitious smaller clubs for the benefit of a supposed elite.

    • Kev on

      Sorry Fraser don’y agree. Prem 1 clubs will do anything to stay at the top and if that means using overseas players instead of U18 and U20 Scottish lads they may chose to do that. Look at the scores over the last couple of weeks where the PA teams are a bit more relaxed. Loads od Tries scored

  8. Dave on

    I’d use the A team! 36-0 against the English Saxons, the fresh blood needs a run.
    A worrying stat is that Scotland are now 11th in the world rankings, Italy close behind, to think we were in the top ten not long ago!

  9. dropped not retired! on

    No matter how anyone at Murrayfield tries to dress it up the game of Rugby Union in Scotland is a total shambles.

    We have two “Pro” teams, one of which is in the 1/4 finals of the Heineken Cup the other is vying for a play off spot in the Pro 12 league. For me this is in spite of the SRU not because of the SRU. Most are viewing the coaching structure as the issue but the structure of the game is a major issue. Until the SRU view the Premier Teams as a breeding ground for the “Pro” teams, which in turn will feed into the International sides then the game will continue to slide into oblivion in Scotland. There is no structure for progression and the best thing that our top players can do is negotiate contracts outwith Scotland, either in England or France. The SRU made one monumental blunder by omitting London Scottish from its plans all those years ago, it was the perfect vehicle to have our players playing in the best league in the Northern hemisphere, London Scottish were in the Allied Premiership at the time of the “Pro” teams inception. We need to have a complete overhaul of how the pathway to the “Pro” set up works and only having two “Pro” teams is detrimental to the development of the game in Scotland.

    The 6Nations just passed started so brightly, with some decent performances from new blood, Denton, Rennie, Jones, Hogg and to a lesser extent Laidlaw. However after the first two matches it was obvious that Scotland’s tactics were one dimensional and once the opposition coaches saw this it effectively became none dimensional. Andy Robinson cannot be blamed for the mistakes and decision making on the pitch, but as the head coach he has to carry the can for the tactics used, they had, and played to, Plan A and when it was obvious it needed changed the coaches got the players to play to………… Plan A! I have no doubt that Andy Robinson & Gregor Townsend will be hurting as the main coaches of the side, but they have to put up there hands and say that they got it wrong, teams do not get unlucky seven games i na row, you make your own luck and as an International Rugby team Scotland are sadly lacking in the fluency required to string a set of results together.

  10. Happy hooker on

    These are Scotland’s next seven fixtures –

    IRB rankings in brackets

    June 5 Australia(2) – away
    June 9 ‘Super 15’ side – away
    June 16 Fiji(16) – away
    June 23 Samoa(10) – away

    Nov.10 New Zealand(1) – home
    Nov.17 South Africa(3) – home
    Nov.24 Tonga(9) – home

    Scotland are currently ranked 12

    This list is more demanding than the 6 nations.
    What chance of Scotland winning more than the Fiji game based on current form, selection & substitution policy?
    Answers on a post card please to William Hill!

    • Rory Baldwin on

      It will mean we are in the third tier of Pool seeds again, but we have already qualified. Although we don’t usually get much luck as a nation, we in theory got lucky during the last pool seedings when Argentina were 3rd. Drawing the “weaker” 4th top seed a second RWC running (currently England) is unlikely! Besides, whoever we displace should we make it into the second band by November (5th-8th) could still possibly end up in our pool anyway, for example Ireland or Argentina.

  11. Alex Nider on

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