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Scotland 16-24 New Zealand

Scotland vs New Zealand - pic © Al Ross
Scotland vs New Zealand - pic © Al Ross

Rory Baldwin At BT Murrayfield

It turns out, if you ask 60,000 folk to switch on their phones and turn off all the lights you can turn BT Murrayfield into a sort of chilly giant Christmas tree. Once the All Blacks took the field it was a little less festive, with the haka drowned out by various choruses of Loch Lomond, and chants of “Scotland, Scotland”. The crowd at least, were in defiant mood for the visit of the world champions and world’s best team, New Zealand.

Even his holiness Euan Murray was pumped up, having a shove at All Black hooker James Parsons after a successful scrum and mixing it up when there was a hint of niggle. Facing the All Blacks, Scotland were in a new red strip but they still started the early exchanges at the same frantic pace as we saw against Argentina with Adam Ashe once again to the fore. New Zealand’s tackling was considerably more efficient though, and about as bruising as you’d expect.

When they put together some possession of their own they were grimly efficient at powering through Scottish tackles and keeping the ball moving with offloads from front-row right through to fullback. Richie Gray did well to pounce on a spilled ball, but was then pounced on himself by McCaw and co, earning the visitors a penalty. The great man Dan Carter, back to add to his considerable haul of caps after a long injury break, missed the kick to the delight of the vocal home crowd.

New Zealand, as you feared, would not be denied a score for long and it was – of all things, on the shiny new surface – a player falling over unaided that gifted Victor Vito the space needed to build up steam and barrel through Laidlaw and Hogg as they attempted and failed to usher him into touch.

Things at that moment were looking grim for Scotland, especially with Bennett down receiving treatment for a hamstring injury (it took him off) but that little scene may have distracted Richie McCaw’s eye just enough to throw a pass easy enough for Tommy Seymour to pounce on, running it in for a try. An irate Greig Laidlaw had to drop the conversion without a tee but Scotland found themselves in an unlikely lead.

The teams were evenly matched in the scrums; as long as nobody tried to hook the ball. Out wide, Scotland’s back three of Hogg, Seymour and Maitland was looking a very settled unit while at the breakdown, the promised organised chaos seemed to be working with Scotland getting more turnovers than last week. It wasn’t horrible to watch at all, but the All Blacks were controlling the areas of the park well and Scotland played a lot in their own half of the pitch.

This meant any little mishaps like a charge-down would result in a period of furious defending, cheered all the way by the crowd. But there was a sense of delaying the inevitable even if the score was only a Dan Carter kick rather than a 5 pointer.

The Scots were perhaps a little too keen with their linespeed and referee Roman Poite was tiring of offsides, which was worrying in light of last week’s disciplinary lapses. Also very worrying was the fact that by half an hour – as Carter slotted another penalty – Scotland had used Weir, Cross and Lamont from their bench already (although Russell came back from the concussion bin with a clean bill of health).

Scotland had a good spell just after that with two great bits of lineout disruption from Jonny Gray, and an All Black indiscretion earning Greig Laidlaw an easy kick at goal.

Fresh on for Murray (groin injury), Geoff Cross earned himself a black mark giving away a penalty that was easily kickable. Playing the “championship minutes” game, New Zealand went for the corner instead to try and make their half time lead a little more decisive. Sadly (for them) they knocked it on and Scotland were able to win a scrum; which Cross was then adjudged to have collapsed. His beard may be impressive but his attempts to reclaim the tighthead shirt for Scotland were less so.

Carter this time opted for the kick at goal and sent the All Blacks in ahead.

But not by much.

Half Time: Scotland 10 – 14 New Zealand

New Zealand came out with high intensity in the second half as they often do, but Crotty’s attacking chip went dead and it was Scotland with some canny use of ball that made territory up the park, with Russell once again marshalling things nicely and Ashe seemingly everywhere.

Another penalty kick for Laidlaw was just reward, closing New Zealand’s lead back to a point.

This wasn’t vintage New Zealand, but you know you have seen a good Scotland performance when the opposition suddenly look a bit ordinary. Huge hits in defence forced balls loose and the crowd roared on every one.

With all the fumbles there were plenty of scrums, where Scotland about held their own, winning some and losing some. As usual, it was a refereeing lottery. Still, with the game played at a high tempo outside of the set-piece, the scrums were perhaps a welcome breather for the whole team, who had never stopped tackling or running.

Finn Russell had another assured game even opposite the illustrious Carter and the Gray brothers made New Zealand’s second rows look almost anonymous (even if one of them did get the man of the match). It’s hard to pick individuals out though as both sides were playing as a collective – something not new to New Zealand but possibly so for Scotland.

As the third quarter of the game ticked over into the fourth and New Zealand emptied the bench – Scotland’s was largely bare already – the play was characterised by several spells of either edge of the seat defending or attacking by Scotland, but almost all conducted in their own 22 as they struggled for headway against a black tide.

Slade (now at 10) and Laidlaw exchanged penalties to keep the tension level high, and it was set for a frantic last ten minutes with history on the line.

Roared on by the crowd, Scotland marched up field and Wyatt Crockett breached the frontier a little too quickly for Poite’s liking to earn Laidlaw another pot at goal.

Agonising gasps all round, as he missed. Would that be one that haunts him like the one that haunts Peter Dods?

Not even a streaker could break the tenstion; 8 minutes to play and Scotland just a point off the lead. When the All Black strike occurred, it almost slipped past, Thrush rumbling past battered and exhausted Scottish defenders.

Suddenly the hope was gone and it was 16-24, in the blink of an eye. For a game played in a cracking atmosphere, the crowd deflated pretty quickly as New Zealand soaked up the pressure and held the ball. Scotland rallied bravely to attempt a consolation try and the supersub Sean Lamont almost found a gap.

It was not to be, but there was still a massive amount to be taken from this game for Scotland.

They weren’t undone by ineptitude or superior pace and handling. Or a lack of a gameplan.

They were undone by the need to keep up the fierce level of intensity for 80 minutes that you have to playing the world’s best, if you are not the world’s best.

Few of them would have seen it before, but they have seen and felt it now and know what they must aspire to compete with. And for most of this absorbing test match, they did.

Referee: Roman Poite (Fra)

Attendance: 66,004

Man of the Match: as last week, a toss up between Jonny Gray and Adam Ashe while Richie Gray had another big game. Jonny Gray gets it for some of the huge hits, some great lineout work and tireless support work that kept his side right in the game.

 

66 Responses

  1. Good write-up, Rory, compared to the parochial rubbish we get from the so-called “professional sports journalists”

  2. Not quite good enough today but still making progress. We have unearthed three gems in Jonny Gray, definitely man of the match for us, Finn Russell and Adam Ashe. I also thought Rob Harley had a great game. We need to keep the bulk of this side together to allow them to get experience and give us continuity, which includes next week against Tonga.
    The All Blacks selection was disrespectful no matter how they try to dress it up!

    1. Totally agree – we should see this XV as more or less the first choice XV for the World Cup and get as much experience for them as possible.

      Scott, Strauss are the main contenders who might force their way in. Most other fringe players have more caps than their rivals in the team. We do need to strengthen the front row but I don’t know if that is a technical or personnel issue or if there is anything that can be done about it.

  3. Thought they were a bit naive when they kept trying to play the ball out of their 22, especially when they have Hogg’s boot that could have pinned the All Blacks back in their own half.

    Applaud them for having a go, but they just seemed to be sapping their own strength trying to batter through a black brick wall – with the success they were having at AB lineouts, conceding the throw shouldn’t have been an issue…..

  4. What a fanatastic effort by our team. We may hae lost but the margin was close and I was very impressed with the way in which we player, particualrly the speed at which we closed down the opposition and the level of intensity. Its been almost a decade since I have seen out national team play so well. At last i am propud to be Scottish. I really hope we have turned the corner and the last 2 games were not just one offs. It has happened before that we have had one or two good results in the Autumn internations, followed by heavy defeats in the 6 nations. I think time will tell but if we can achieve a top 3 finish in the 6 nations, followed by a quarter final or even semi final spot in the world cup then I think we can safely say that progress has been made.

    1. The last time we finished 3rd was in 2013 in SJs first season as interim coach. I want to see progress in performances in every game regardless of results. It isn’t easy to see where our wins in the 6N will come from. Italy and…?

      (Please god let us beat Wales)

      1. I would say if we can play like we have done in the last two matches I think we could beat italy by a mile and I would say we could expect a win against Wales. As for the other teams, France are unpredictable so it depends what French team turn up. Engalnd ireland and scotland are on a par with each other so these ganmes go go any way. I would say it is not unreasonable to expect us to even win the 6 nations but I hesitate to get carried away as weve been there before. Remember when we beat OZ and SA in successive autumn internationals only to perform abysmally in the six nations. Two good games does not men that we have turned a corner.

      2. Your right not to get carried away. However, I can’t see how we’re on a par with Ireland or England who are the two leading NH teams, able to put the frighteners on the full strength ABs team and contesting the 6N crown virtually every year.

        My hope is we catch France cold and underprepared at the start of the 6N in Paris, beat Italy at home and any other result would be a huge achievement. Beating England at Twickenham would be a minor miracle given how destructive their pack is (backs are rubbish mind).

      3. Just think about it- England lost by only a few points to the All Blacks and so did we. I’m not saying that we will definately beat England at Twickenham but the two teams are on a par and it could go either way, provided our boys keep up the good work which hasnt always happened in the past after one or two sucessful Autumn internationals. I also think Ireland are a good team even in the aftermath of O discoll. Based on what I have seen in the Autumn tests so far I wouold say that Ireland, England and SWotland play at about the same level, Wales and France a bit behind us and the Italy for the wooden spoon. But what do I know- I was only a prop forward in my days of playing rugby.

      4. NZ have played a home series against England this summer and made 13 changes to the side that beat England at Twickenham before playing us. That tells you all you need to know about whether NZ think we are on a par with England.

        Ireland are the current 6N champions (a tournament we haven’t won since 1999 when it was still the 5N) and have just beaten the number 2 ranked side in the world. It is totally unrealistic to say we are on a par with Ireland.

        Let’s wait until after the 6N before saying we’ve closed the gap on our NH rivals because the only thing that matters is results and at the moment we only have an encouraging win against Argentina to our name.

  5. Running it out was the best option I thought. Kicking to the back three would have immediately been counterproductive and kicking to touch was no longer profitable once the AB started going short in the lineouts.

  6. Running it out was the best option I thought. Kicking long would have immediately proved how unproductive it was by giving the AB the ball to play with and kicking to touch was no longer profitable once the AB started going short in the line outs.

    Okay, it may not have worked out as was wanted but I think it guaranteed that the other options would have seen disaster strike quicker, while there was always the chance someone could get through.

  7. Scotland’s last two performance have shown much promise. They are playing a controlled, cohesive game to NZ-proven plans, quite different from recent years and there is clear evidence of team spirit. They also have a talented, young squad displaying huge potential; Russell is an exciting prospect to end the lean-years at stand-off. Cotter may be the man to bring it all to the boil. Hansen’s comment that this is a “young team on the rise” is praise enough for me meantime.

  8. Agree that this follow up to the Argentina Test is throwing up some good signs of improvement under Cotter, underpinned it has to be said by the two Pro clubs going pretty well and some of the squad playing outside Scotland on form too. Perhaps a bit frantic at times, leading to errors of judgment and handling. But good to see a consistently competitive pack in the set piece and the loose, even if it was against an under strength AB XV. And even better to see an AB side forced at times into their own panicky errors. There’s some real pace, toughness and growing Test canniness behind the Scotland forwards, all of which now need a full 80 minutes on display. Ross Ford really has to learn ( re-learn? No, learn!) how to hook because inability to do so cost us penalties and territory yesterday. A shame because his work in the loose and his line-out throwing have improved greatly on recent seasons.

    1. I would hardly say Edinburgh are “going well”! Thankfully Glasgow are, so the national squad should continue to be based around the Glasgow core with a small number of additions (Ford, Scott, Cowan, Heathcote, R Gray, Beattie, Cusiter)

      Ford needs to have a good long look at how other hookers hook which seems to me to involve having their foot up in advance of the put in (something against the rules I thought?). Having re-watched the game I don’t think Poite knew what was going on in the scrums and was very quick to whistle Scotland yet ignored their loose head binding on the arm and collapsing.

      1. On hooking, perhaps Ross is not the only Test hooker who needs a remedial class. Just re-watched the scrum early on where the ball lay there for several seconds between the two front rows. Suggesting that as well as Ford being unable to do the necessary, neither could his AB counterpart! Agree Glasgow by some way the better of our two pro sides this season, but Edinburgh are at least improving on last year and do contain some players well worth their places in the Scotland squad.

      2. Not striking for the ball is a technique as common as striking for it. It has been used for decades in Argentina. Simply because people in Scotland have not been exposed to it doesn’t make it wrong so I wish everyone would get off Ford’s back.

        If he is not striking for the ball it is because the coaching staff believe that either

        1. Doing so would expose them to a counter shove that would push them off the ball or at least disrupt it or

        2. the Scottish pack can win the ball with a bit of a squint feed (very common except when Poite decides on a random penalty for it) and a short shove

      3. Probably doesn’t help that ford accounts for a lot of the front row’s weight so losing that power to hook would destabilise the front row. We just don’t have the kind of pillars some teams do at prop.

  9. I’m not sure if this is anyone having a go at Ford. (On previous occasions it would probably have been me, based on his performances prior to the last two matches) It just seems that there has been a conscious decision by the management that the team will not strike for the ball as mentioned by Angus above. Would striking for the ball seriously undermine our scrum ?
    Surely, as long as it is a solid hook and gets to the back of the scrum quickly it shouldn’t matter. There were lots of occasions yesterday ( inc AB’) where the no 8 couldn’t pick up the ball because it was just too far away and they were frightened to stretch and give away a knock on.
    The scrum doesn’t remain stable for long when the ball is stuck, and we need to seriously consider whether hooking is a better option. This might raise the question of whether it’s counterproductive to have a hooker who is just as big as the props.

  10. Just a quick note to say I was ‘cheering to the rafters’ when first Euan Murray and then Gordon Reid squared up to their Kiwi opposite numbers. Gordon even gave his man a good shove just to make sure he knew where the advantage was if he wanted to take that route. I haven’t seen such a good curmudgeonly display for a long time.

  11. Yep this squad looks a world away from some of the performances we’ve seen in the preceding years. Must keep up the good work against Tonga to build the momentum though. Hopefully we can keep this group fit for the 6N, where like FF above, my hope would be a home win against Italy and to give France a surprise in Paris. And please oh please a home win against Wales too. I think Wales’ IRB 7th should be our next reasonable target (along with RWC QFs), but I also think that we have some way to go yet to show that we are on a par with Ireland or England.

  12. I generally think that we should be able to keep up with the other 6N sides with the exception of Ireland. Granted one swallow doesn’t make a summer but the manner in which they had a gameplan to nullify SA gives me pause. France can be hot or cold. We should be able to put away italy. Wales/England should be doable provided everyone is fit.

    1. We’re playing England in Twickenham where we haven’t won since 1983.

      I’m not saying it is impossible but they have an absolute monster pack and are nowhere near as poor as the london press has now decided. If we won in England for the first time in 32 years it would be a historic victory.

      1. England have always had a monster pack down the years and when we have beaten them foundations based on moving them around and line-out variations ie 1990 Grand Slam game and in 2000 we bossed them up front in a downpour.

        Cotter has stated Scotland have to play fast and loose due to their lack of bulk and am confident the pack combinations he has picked are on the right path now to execute that gameplan which is traditionally our favoured style.Also our backs man for man look more threatening from AI evidence.Time to lay the Twickenham bogey, be fitting as 25th anniversary of Grand Slam heroics!

      2. We’ve also beaten Ireland in fairly recent memory, if the Murrayfield roar stays loud and we get plenty of home fans in no reason they can’t carry this team to 2 or 3 home wins, but the start against France is key. Twickers may be a bridge too far, but I’ll echo the posters above: please let us beat the Welsh.

      3. I take they view that there isnt much difference between the 6 nations except fopr the fact that Itally are well behind the rest and will struggle to get any wins. Of the other nations, I would say England and Ireland are slightly ahead of us but not by much and on our day we can beat these teams. Wales have lost some ground and I think we are capable of beating this team now. Sure I agree that Scotland are not the finished article by a long shot but our new coach has made a big difference.

      4. Honestly Neil, if the SRU were as chipper about our international standings (after another 5th placed finish in the 6N and a tour culminating in a record loss to SA) as you are, you’d ridicule them.

        All we have to our name this season is one encouraging home win against Argentina and a narrow loss to the world champions’ tour dirt-trackers. We have shown a lot of promise but we are also coming from a very low base.

        We haven’t beaten England since 2008
        We haven’t beaten Wales since 2007
        We haven’t beaten France since 2006

        Even against Ireland (a team we have done relatively well against recently), in 15 6N games since 2000 we have only won 3.

        By anyone’s estimation, those records are absolutely stinking and we have no results to our name yet that show those days are in the past.

        There is a huge gap between us and Ireland (6N champions), England (runners up last 3 years), or Wales (3 Grand Slams and 1 Championship since 2005). We have the potential to close that gap now but potential is all it is until we actually win games.

      5. Our expectations have been low for a number of years due to the stale style and poor execution from the Scotland team.Take your point FF over our wretched record in 6N which comes alongside an equally embarrassing try count compared to all the others bar Italy.It’s just that fans,me included,are clinging onto the first signs of real progress which the Cotter era may be heralding.Let’s enjoy the indulgence though of course team need to put another marker down by dispatching Tonga with an 80 minute performance to embed the belief we are onto something special.Keeping the faith.

      6. I completely take the point that past results have not been good but things can change very quickly for the better or worse in rugby and a good coach can make a dififference of 40 points or more. Just look at Ireland up until the late 1990s. They were in the same position as Italy are now- the laughing stock. However, with a bit of thought and a good set of coaches their fortunes were completely turned arround. I also remember Wales being poor up until 2001 and within a few years they were transformed. If we still had SJ in charge we would have lost by 15 points or more to Argentina and probably by a score of arround 65:14 against New Zealand. I would have also expected us to take a loss against Tonga. Shows the comparison beatween a good coach vs. a useless tub of lard. I still think we need two more pro club teams and to do a lot more at grass routes but these are more long term objectives (so far not tackled by SRU)

    2. We’re much more likely to beat Ireland at home than England away Coully.
      I’m not sure why you have Ireland on such a high pedestal. They’ve had several high profile retirements and are in a bit of transition. Good display against BOKs, but still only one match.

      1. Schmidt just strikes me as a very canny operator. It was just the manner of beating SA, to be outplayed is one thing,..to be out-thought another. Granted, the 6N schedule this year puts us unlikely to turn over eng/fra but i’m a little optimistic. That said belief can only carry you so far. The players will be heartened with 2 (hopefully) wins out of 3 and the performance, glasgow continue to do well then come 6N hopefully we can maintain the upward progression, gradual or not.

      2. And Ireland beat the Boks with seven changes from the team who won on Paris last 6N, impressive.They have an enviable strength in depth and new blood gel into their team system ie Ruddock. So more feared than England at the moment.

        Changes affect us more acutely and concern over the loss to injury of Mark Bennett who may play some part in 6N.
        Scotland need the running angles he possesses. Does anyone know when Matt Scott is due to return?

  13. There’s a belief in this squad that hasn’t been seen in many a year. Plus there is a shift in the 6N. France are appearing qualiTy but as we know which France will show up? The world beaters or the Gallic shruggers? Wales are not looking like Wales, to be honest they are playing very much like last years Scotland side, scrappy and lacking good structure. Ireland look great once they get up to speed, and England are shaken and Italy as always play great,then follow up that performance with garbage. I predict a French slam next yer, but I don’t think it is blind optimism to think that Scotland will be in the top half.

    1. I would probably say Ireland will take the grand slam. For the 6N, Scotland are home against Ireland, Wales and Italy, the last two it looks like they really should win, with the Ireland game being much tougher. The SRU do think that next year we can win both the grand slam and the world cup, however, I imagine that the grand slam is still a few years off, although Scottish rugby does look much more positive compared to where it was this time last year.

      1. It took Ireland until 2009 to finally win a grand slam after looking like contenders since 2000. Seems to me that Scottish fans are telling themselves not to get carried away with hope and then doing exactly that.

        Let’s hold the Grand Slam talk until we get through a moderately successful 6N.

        (Incidentally, the SRU has been lambasted for its goal of winning the world cup but that is a perfectly reasonable thing to do in strategic planning – you identify where you want to get to, then you put in objectives working back to where you are and KPIs to measure progress towards them. They made a rod for their own back by setting that strategic goal in 2015 which is clearly unrealistic but it would be counterproductive to not set that goal for say, 2023. Frankly, I think fans often attack the current leadership of the SRU for the failings of previous regimes and there are lots of positive signs that the SRU are turning the ship around. I’m glad their strategic planning is aimed at winning the world cup and not reducing the SRU’s debt.)

      2. FF- the SRU have done only one good thing and that is to bring in a good coach. Otherwise they are useless. Exactly what do you think they have done? I am curious.

    2. Neil – the SRU have brought in the biggest sponsorship deal in Scottish rugby history, a sum of money that can possibly save Scottish rugby from terminal decline (£20m over 4 years).

      A few other things:

      1. They are establishing 4 academies based in the historic districts
      2. They have put forward proposals to introduce structural changes backed with serious financial investment into the Scottish premiership to turn it into a semi-pro level so that the best club players are more likely to step up to pro-level (we can debate until the cows come home the merits or otherwise of this proposal but the truth is it is the clubs who are obstructing efforts to raise standards at this level primarily because clubs outside the premiership or at the bottom of the league are scared of being left behind which is the inevitable result of closing the gap with the professional game).
      3. They handpicked and groomed Townshend for the Glasgow role and put him in place against huge supporter opposition.
      4. They invested in recruiting a coach with success at the top level for Edinburgh – Solomons might be struggling to make a positive impact but if he did at Edinburgh what he achieved at Ulster we’d be praising the SRUs masterstroke.
      5. They pulled off an absolute coup in recruiting Cotter, one of the most highly rated coaches in the NH.
      6. The pro-teams are now funded to compete with any other teams in Europe as Glasgow are showing.

      That is just off the top of my head. Now, not all of those initiatives are resounding successes and I don’t agree with SRU policies on everything. But they show the SRU actually agrees with the fans about what the issues in Scottish rugby are. They have performed much better than their predecessors in identifying commercial partnerships and bringing in money to invest in the grass roots and youth game and are supporting the pro-teams to be successful.

      We aren’t out of the woods yet, but we are heading in the right direction now and what we really need is some success on the field. The cynicism of some fans to the current leadership is a bit ridiculous in my opinion, but fair enough between 1995-2011 the SRU totally failed Scottish rugby.

      1. I agree with one pint. The SRU hired a fantastic coach for our national squad but I don’t agree with you other points

        1. Gregor Townsend is his own man- not a product of the SRU. He had a glittering career in the sport and gained much of his knowledge through experience.

        2. The coach of Edinburgh is rubbish. He has concentrated in hiring second rate players from other countries and has done nothing to promote our national team. I would like to say that his players are has beens but most are never weres. The Glasgow model is far better- promote home grown talent as, lets face it, Scottish teams will never be able to attract the cream of the crop from elsewhere. At the moment Edinburgh are a disgrace, particularly given the tradition of the sport in this city.

        3. The BT deal would have probably happened with or without the cronnies at the SRU. BT obviously wanted a cheap sponsorship deal to promote their company and found the cheapest 6 nations team to sponsor.

        4. So the SRU are promoting youth development. If that’s the case then why are our youth teams so rubbish. They consistently loose to everyone and normally by more than 20 points. The SRU are obviously doing SFA

        5.We can indeed debate whether we should create semi pro teams or not but, in my opinion we need at least two more pro teams. Perhaps the BT money could have been better spent on that.

        I think Glasgow are doing really well and our national team seem to have improved but that is down to two people alone- Gregor Townsend and Vern Cotter- both great men. I don’t see where the SRU fit into this and my concern is both men could be attracted to big money in Europe or elsewhere. If they left we would be straight back to square one- and probably SJ. So where is the back up plan for the SRU- they need to train more coaches but I don’t think they have thought about it.

  14. I think 3rd is a real possibility, 2nd a chance. Victory and a world cup was never realistic. Semi finals would be a great job but I think quarter finals will be more realistic I fear.
    If cotter can survive the chopping block post world cup then the next few 6n and next world cup could be very interesting.

    1. Let’s hope we can hold on to Cotter. It is an open secret he wants the ABs job and took the Scotland job to obtain the international experience that is now considered a precondition for the role.

      Cotter only signed a two year deal with the SRU and I can’t find any detail about whether this was from the date of signing or the date he joined the team last June.

      Reports are that Schmidt is settled in Ireland and sees his future there in the long term. If Cotter works wonders with Scotland we may face a fight to keep him which we can’t win.

      1. I would imagine that a 2 year contract would be starting when he took charge of the Scottish national team. Of course, whenever Steve Hanson steps down as All Blacks manager, he will be wanting to take the job. Remember that we now have Gregor Townsend who would seem likely to step into the head coach roll after everything he has done at Glasgow since he joined.

      2. I’d really like to see Townshend stick with glasgow for the long haul before moving upstairs. He has a vision for the club and it would be great if he can make them a force in Europe. The experience of the Irish provinces was it took years of failing and incremental improvements before breaking into the elite.

        Hopefully Cotter isn’t on the top of the NZRFUs list as they must have a few in mind and Cotter has won relatively little (one Top-14 title I think, don’t know about his days before Clermont).

      3. I agree re Townsend – I actually think the coaching jobs at Glasgow and Edinburgh are in many ways more important than the top job, because the performances of players week-in week-out has a massive bearing on how they play as Scotland internationals.

        Successful pro teams will go a long way to improving performance for Scotland – look at the success of Leinster and Munster (latterly Ulster) and the knock on effect at international level for Ireland.

      4. I’d like to think that there is some ‘succession planning’ going on when it comes to replacing Townsend at Glasgow. Andy Robinsons replacement at Edinburgh fare too well.

      5. This is probably my biggest concern but there has got to be massive competition for the job of AB coach and I dont think he would be the only contender. However, if he was offered another top club job or role with another 6 nations team then I feel he would probably take it and we could be back to square one again (i.e. contending the wooden spoon with Italy and loosing by 50 points or more to SA and NZ) as we dont really have too many good coaches that are Scottish born and bred. On the AB front, they are obviously a fantastic team but expectations are high and I dont really rate Hansen. I think if they fail to win the next WC he will be looking for a job but hopefully the SRU would not take him on. That would be as crazy as appointing a coaching role to SJ. however it would not surprise me- SJ made a mess of the Wales job and we hired hi. Hansen also made a mess of the Wales job and the SRU have a habit of accepting mediocrity. Probably the best option would be Gregor Towsend but it is a big assumption that he would want the job. Oh for some good scottish coaches. We need then desperately.

      6. Neil –

        1. Steve Hansen is without doubt one of the leading coaches in the world. Comparing him to SJ is laughable.
        2. It isn’t a big assumption that Townshend would accept the job as his entire coaching career has been supported by the SRU and he is obviously being groomed for the position. You may hate the SRU but Townshend is an SRU insider through and through. He was made an assistant coach with Scotland with no previous experience and the SRU has paid for his placements with teams in NZ to help his development. He was then given the Glasgow job with no track record of success (Scotland were the worst attacking team in the 6N with him as attack coach) whilst the SRU shunted Lineen aside. He owes his current career to SRU patronage.
        3. I seriously doubt Cotter would leave the Scottish job for club rugby when the entire reason he has taken the Scottish job is to get international experience to apply for the ABs job. The nly real danger from our 6N rivals is if France ditch Saint Andre and try to poach him but fortunately SA is likely to lose his job after the world cup and Cotter will still be under contract. As someone familiar with the mess that is French club-international relations there is also no reason to expect Cotter to think that was a better gig – bigger expectations and a less supportive environment.

      7. Neil- Agree we are crying out for a coaching ladder of succession.Sorry to add a sour note but, except for Townsend,the SRU have an abysmal record of coaching development.Carl Hogg and Brian Redpath headed south perhaps forever as Craig Chalmers did after making Melrose top dogs.

        He like many coaches in Scotland were very critical of the lack of opportunity to elevate their careers. Why was Jonny Gray erstwhile Gala coach allowed to be lured away by Boks to become their breakdown guru, ironically contributing to our downfall against them at home the other year.

        Know Mark Dobson met with club coaches last season over their issues regarding development but don’t remember what
        transpired and acted upon, think there was some talk of ‘shadowing’ District coaches being planned.

        Be nice to hear what’s happening…

  15. Let’s not get carried away guys, if we beat Tonga convincingly I’ll start to think that we’ll play well and maybe win three games in the Six Nations. I think Ireland and England are still way ahead of us and France are just unpredictable but can beat anyone in the world, including SH teams, on their day. As far as the World Cup is concerned, I hope we play well next year and go as far as we can but realistically, 2019 has to be our target.

  16. I was surprised that the Tongans had such a convincing win over the USA last week. They were a lot more convincing than Scotland were on tour last year. If we use these matches as our form guide, then a win of any kind would be a good thing. I hope the team don’t take their foot of the gas.
    A defeat against Tonga would undo much of the good work.

    1. USA didn’t have most of their European based players because the terms that PRL struck with them for access to players outside the IRB released window to play NZ meant they had to give up their right to okay in the three tests inside the window. It mean no Manu Samoa, no Chris Wyles, no Blaine Scully etc. who all play for English clubs.

  17. I’m relieved to hear there is a reason for the huge difference in the scorelines.
    How will Scotland deal with the 19st centre, HELU, who scored he try against Wales last week.
    If putting Sean Lamont opposite him it might be a short game for him.
    The Tongan front row also looks as if they occasionally throw them some raw meat from a safe distance.

    1. Since Scotland are playing Tonga and it was Fiji that Wales played we may not have to worry about the 19st centre.

    2. That’s not to say though that the Tongans don’t have any big players, they’re probably a bigger team than Fiji if you look at size…

  18. I think if we can beat Tonga by 15 points or more and then follow this with a minimum of 3 wins in the 6 nations and no defeats by more than 10 points then I think it would be safe to say that we have turned a corner. I would also expect a top 8 finish or better in the world cup but the SRU prediction of us winning the trophy is fantasy land. They would have to hire a majician.

      1. setting a goal that large is crazy. Aiming high is good but try to be realistic. My vision is to win the national lottery- probably more likely than Scotland winning the world cup. I hope I am wrong but I doubt it.

      2. FF, It is a bit of the ‘marketing concept gone mad’ don’t you think? It was never a realistic expectation.

      3. No, it isn’t anything to do with marketing. It was also never an expectation – it was the strategic goal of a 4 year plan for Scottish rugby, the aim of the SRU is to win the World Cup and put in place the conditions to meet that aim. It is just bad PR that it was made public and opened themselves up to ridicule by people who apparently aren’t familiar with strategic planning.

        This is very normal practice in business and Dodson is from a business background. I’d rather have a CEO who was looking at how to make Scottish rugby strong enough to contest the World Cup than an accountant whose main goal was to reduce the debt. If you think Dodson actually expects Scotland to win the World Cup you are hopelessly naive.

  19. Again I agree with some of the sentiments above regarding progress and the SRU. We can all agree that the SRU pre 2011 had it pretty much all wrong. However, I see improvements in the from of both top down and bottom up approaches to improving rugby in Scotland (as outlined by FF). We should be cautiously applauding such progress, rather than banging the same old drum. In terms of progress on the field we REALLY need to beat Tonga, and subsequently every other team ranked below us that we meet. Then we need to beat Wales and Italy in the 6N. That should put us up to 7th in the rankings, which would literally be progress. Then we need to focus on maintaining that position and targetting the next team (i.e. France). I know the rankings are not the be all and end all, but they do provide a useful metric for progress. To get into the top 6 really requires big, consistent performances and we are not there yet, but hopefully on the right path.

    1. Success is just down to two men- Vern cotter and Gregor Townsend. Without these guys we would be stuffed. I think our national squad have improved but I’m just a bot concerned this could be down to two people. Without them we would be back to a team that looses to Tonga.

  20. Just reading over the posts above, particularly about the SRU. There seems to be a bit of belief that they’re trying to do the right thing now, which may not have been the case in previous regimes.

    There seems to be cause for optimism as regards the top team and even the A side.
    The struggles of the younger age group teams appear partly to be the cause of issues further up the food chain. I’ve read many blogs about how the Academy process will start to give meaningful competition at the younger age levels, and make them more prepared for the step up. I’m not sure that 4 Academies are enough in this context. It appears to mimic the old regional set up. It would be interesting if there were Pro 12 like structures, to allow them games against the best of Ireland, Wales and Italy on a regular basis.

    Does anyone know what has happened to the proposals for semi-pro rugby at Premier 1 level?
    All I’ve heard is that some clubs from lower leagues ‘torpedoed’ the proposals on a ‘self interest’ basis, but nothing since that point. Does anyone know what the next steps forward are for Scottish club rugby?

    1. From what I last heard, the lower clubs rejected the proposals saying that the gap between league 1 and the rest would be far too big. The issue is apparently going to be raised again at the next AGM but if we were to see semi-pro rugby come, it would not arrive until at least 2017. I would personally like to see the clubs come together into the districts again to compete in the B&I Cup, where we could actually see some more success. At least, it would be better than putting these single clubs out their on their own where success has been limited. Of course, there has been no B&I cup this year for Scotland as the SRU said that the new structure meant that it was too tight a squeeze for clubs to play all their usual league matches in at the same time.

      1. Thanks for that Ruaridh. I wasn’t sure whether the SRU were merely trying to save the Scottish sides from further punishment, by forbidding them from the B&I.
        I don’t know whether the clubs were relieved or not. It was certainly a resource mismatch, with full time professional sides up against ‘expenses plus’ outfits with a few pro’s thrown in for backbone.
        I’m sure those involved in the discussions know a lot more than has been placed in open forum. I was always intrigued that the ‘real’ Irish teams were never involved (Garry Owen, Blackrock etc) and they seemed to enter district sides from the start.

        It would seem that some Scottish sides believe that if money was given to the Premier 1 sides, it would secure them in Premier 1 for ever.
        I can’t believe that this is a good argument. As long as promotion and relegation continues, good sides would be promoted in a cyclical way right up to Premier 1.

        Your notion of district sides taking the place of club sides does seem like a good way of increasing the quality of the Scottish sides taking part.

  21. Pragmatic Optimist captures perfectly, in 2 paragraphs, what for me was the core argument of clubs v pro-teams at the onset of professionalism.
    The clubs wanted to go into Europe, the SRU wanted districts.
    Could the clubs finance it all themselves? Unlikely, so funding would presumably have to come from the governing body?
    They hated, with a passion, the idea of districts but by becoming a funded elite in perpetuity that is exactly what they would become. Districts with a club badge as players gravitated towards the chosen elite. Which was fine with some as long as it was their club badge.

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