Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Where are we now?

Having finished the wordsearch in our Beano Summer Special we at Scottish Rugby Blog towers have found ourselves at a bit of a loose end with the new season still a few weeks away. So to fill in some time, and for a bit of fun, we sat down at our ledgers to take a closer look at how Scotland have done under Scott Johnson.

Johnson is only keeping the seat warm until Vern Cotter arrives but with the World Cup approaching it’s hard to see any seismic shift in Scotland’s approach once Cotter takes up the reigns full time. So are we any better off post-Robinson? Most fans would probably answer positively with Scotland scoring tries galore and asking more questions of opposition defences. Of course there have been low moments too but overall there seems to be a spring in Scotland’s step that hasn’t been seen for some time.

But is all this hope and promise warranted? With the Summer Tour a distant memory and Autumn Internationals still some way off now is as good a time as any to take a closer look at Scotland’s progress since Robinson bowed out.

This isn’t an exact science but we’ve looked at Scotland’s performances across the past two Six Nations and Summer tours and pulled out some key stats. Most ask more questions than they answer but it still makes for interesting reading.

  Robinson Johnson
Points scored 119 162
Points conceded 123 193
Tries scored 10 13
Tries conceded 14 16
% Scrums won on own feed 88.5% 77.5%
% Lineouts won on own feed 76.5% 88.5%
Turnovers conceded 102 105
Turnovers won 109 100
Tackle Success 91% 87.5%
% Time ball passed rather than kicked 87% 79%
Offloads 91 69
Metres run with ball 2762 2406
Clean line breaks 40 41

Looking at cold hard stats Scotland appear to have gone backwards under Johnson. The scrum is weaker, the tackle success rate worrying and number of points conceded woeful. On the plus side the lineout seems to be improving.

The stats also give us a little glimpse into the style of rugby Johnson wants Scotland to play. The ball is kicked from hand more often and players are taking it into contact rather than looking for an offload.

They also shine a rather unflattering light on the myth that Scotland have become a more attacking and free scoring side under Johnson compared with Robinson’s tenure. Similar number of line breaks, similar number of turnovers won and lost and only three more tries under Johnson than Robinson achieved in the same period. Of course Johnson would have us believe it’s only the “W’s” that matter. We deliberately omitted them to try for an objective look at how Scotland are performing but while we’re here let’s just compare overall performance.

Johnson – P 8 W 3 L 5 (Feb ’13 – June ’13)

Robinson – P 8 W 3 L5 (Feb ’12 – June ’12)

So… where are we now?

6 Responses

  1. Wow.. Interesting, I thought I was going mad because everyone has saying how much more attacking we are now, but I remembered it differently. Ie, Robinson/Townsend style much more attacking, but unable to finish, whereas now, we can finish but don’t attack as much…

  2. There’s no doubt Scotland reverted to a more defensive approach last 6 nations but I think this was inevitable after the shambles of the Tonga game. Scotland had to go back to square one and start from making us a tough team to break down.

    Johnson did well at the last 6N with little preparation time, an unravelling squad and a team light on experience. Scotland’s style must develop this season.

    The stats are not very meaningful anyway – under Robinson we made lots of passes and line breaks but when it mattered, in the world cup and 6N, we always lost. The win/loss record for Robinson above is highly selective as it doesn’t include the last autumn series of three losses including to Tonga, and obscures the dismal 6N record over his term as coach. Scotland have not gone backwards under Johnson, the only stat that matters is the number of wins in 6N and world cups.

  3. To be fair, I think it is difficult to judge what was better in a lot of the facets of play. We had a terrible tactic at the breakdown in the 6n (ie, don’t.) whilst it was a bit better in the summer tour but still not as good as under Robinson. Given Johnson hasn’t had Rennie or Barclay at full fitness as Robinson did, the turnover stats were pretty much always going to be unfavourable. I feel a number of the unfavourable comparisons can, in part, be put down to our lack of a 7 and weakness at the breakdown. We made fewer metres as we were unable to get quick ball and go forward before the defence was organised. As such, less scope for offloads in open play. With this being the case, it would almost seem logical to kick for territory and take the line out ball.

    Saying that, I was no fan of our tactics in the 6N this year and look forward to seeing what we can do in the Autumn, hopefully with a fit Rennie, a rejuvenated Barclay and possibly Fusaro ready to go!

  4. Under Robinson, the single thing that bothered me most was out inability to convert pressure into points – decision-making in the final 10m seemed to disappear at times. That has been fixed under Johnston to some extent, altho far from completely. Instead my new bugbear is our breakdown efforts, where for much of the time we appear to be content to let the opposition have the ball – now that tactic might work for NZ, where their breakdown skills will create turnover chances and they are lethal on the counterattack, but we are a long way from that – I wonder what your stats would look like if you adjusted for time in possession? Robinson clearly preferred a ball-in-hand, off-loading style of game, whereas Johnston’s approach is perhaps more pragmatic, but after all that, I can’t wait for Cotter to arrive and impose his own style!

  5. The biggest problem with Robinson was his conservative selection policy. Johnson has so far been true to his word and has selected based on form and future. To cap 10 new player on the summer tour will definitely help broaden our squad. Granted, the injuries played a big part in this.

  6. “You may cover it with gold, glitter it with diamonds… but a sh*t is still a sh*t”…..

    Yeah, sadly, this is how I feel. Stats can hide and reveal so much – may have scored more tries, but this is from individual effort (likes of Chris Hogg etc)…

    Biggest thing I think we are lacking is passion and spirit. We can have players able to compete on the world stage, but until they play with heart that other teams take into a game, we will always, always be on the back foot.

    C’mon Scotland – we can, and MUST do better!

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Scottish Rugby News and Opinion