Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Lest We Get Carried Away…

With the regular season over there is a brief pause for contemplation before Glasgow tip themselves into the Playoffs. This in itself signifies a magnificent achievement and the team fully deserve to get there by the grace of their own valorous defence.

Edinburgh, too, must face praise for their ability to meliorate. Time and time again they overturned their league form and the expectations of the rugby community to provide their fans with salving results. More so than this, though, they played some of the most enticing run-or-be-damned rugby.

However, as the social networking sites become thick with flattery and the pedestal gets dusted off once more you must remember, to a fan, that this is one step along a long path of horridly uneven ground.

Indeed as I hear the words ‘hero’, ‘legend’ and ‘new beginning’ I cannot help but conjure up images in my head of a stilted, neo-biblical scene…

Stood atop a jutting rock, cloth billowing in the air, Andrew Robinson surveys his crowd.

Meagre at first, their numbers have grown as word of shocking feats has danced along that same wind. Jilted before and weary of false dawns the crowd have set their resolve more stolid and ventured out to see where they may be led. They yearn for a time of peace and plenty.

They recognise this character before them, as they had perhaps cursed his minions in the past, but he looks different. The light dances off his scalp and that look in his eye that had previously been believed to be frustration is now believed to be calculation.

This leader has disappointed them before, with failed raids and campaigns that crashed upon the rocks, taking wildly fanciful expectations to the dust with them. Defeat had been tasted and faith had waned. Under such auspices this leader sunk into the shadows, basking in the brief obscurity.

New leaders pushed out into the light, representing fiefdoms and marching under the banner of more localised interests. They battled hard and secured treasures. As if by miracle these regions saw their wealth grow and they looked to build stockades. New idols were pushed forward by the hoards. Young soldiers. Supporters rallied and these teams marched to battle with a din at their backs and a stockpile at their lair. No one asked questions, many more believed.

Now, though, it becomes clear that the leader in the shadows has played a part in all of this. The miracle gold has been sent out at his behest. The new soldiers sent for from far, foreign lands have been decided upon by a council headed by the leader. Other leaders have been summoned. Elders have been banished in private.

Now, as one good harvest has been gathered by the fiefs the leader comes out again. It is time to rally. Robinson turns atop his rock, squinting to the south. The masses see this and they feel gladness in their hearts…

Now I may be over exaggerating, but as this is my fantasy it is my prerogative. Nonetheless, I feel fear as I see the faith grow, and as fantastic as growing support is, Scotland has been hurt too many times before believing glory is close at hand.

This has been a good club season, but fans must not get carried away. There is still a vast, ugly desert to cross before it is time to gorge on milk and honey.

Both Edinburgh and Glasgow have shown that they did not have the required depth to take on longer campaigns so they have let many players go. New ones are coming in. There are to be swathes of change in both clubs’ coaching structures, as well as the Scotland coaching structure. Alongside this there is more of a streamlined look as management shake-ups come in.

Things appear to be moving in the right direction after almost two years of Graham Lowe and Andy Robinson getting in league.

However, what remains to be seen is if Scotland can start to produce more talented youngsters to supplement the few shining for the pro sides just now, like RabDirect Young Player of the Year Stuart Hogg. Depth must be achieved, but the money –wherever it has been won or borrowed from –is not limitless, and there cannot be a continual sending for players whose international allegiances are not even known.

By the same token, questions must be asked about how the SRU is being restructured with the likes of Henry Edwards parting ways with the SRU. What shape will the new-look management take? Who is coming in? Who else is going? How are we going to make the development of kids our most important priority?

Edinburgh and Glasgow have had good seasons, and Glasgow’s may turn out to be great if they play fantastically against Leinster. However, in the last two seasons one of either team has finished second bottom of the league. Stability must be achieved before anyone can talk of fighting on two fronts, which must be the target.

As well as this the SRU must be concerned by the fact that they enjoy a transient crowd. Numbers swell, in their way, when the teams are doing well. Yet when Edinburgh went to Dublin for their Heineken semi-final only a fraction of the 37,000-odd who saw their quarter travelled. Also, we are talking about numbers like the 5,374 who saw Glasgow secure a playoff place. Again, this is improvement, but we must be aiming for higher. Strugglers Newcastle and Wasps secured a crowd of 13,475 on Saturday in the Aviva Premiership, while 13,047 saw Scarlets defeat Cardiff. Everyone knows that those transient fans need to be tied down.

So things are going good, but not great. We need to be shown that there are plans to make it all great. I’m all for a bit of faith, but we should never, ever, ever get carried away in this country. Especially when the national team still have so much to prove.

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Scottish Rugby News and Opinion