Suicidal Scotland continue to frustrate

Jamie Lyall reflects on an all-too-familiar afternoon of disappointment and turmoil at Murrayfield on Saturday.

As the cavernous old ground emptied, the howls of anguish melting away to meek acceptance, supporters trudging down the concrete steps were met by a thunderous downpour, biting gusts and an Edinburgh sky as black as their spirits.

The weather, like the rugby, had turned predictably, painfully Scottish by the time George Clancy trotted under the crossbar to award Italy the decisive penalty-try that condemned Vern Cotter and his charges to their third straight Six Nations loss.

It is easy, and tempting, after this, a turgid, toothless performance against the poorest of their Championship peers to revert to the old Scots standpoint of exasperation and fury.

The players talk of the tiresome ‘gallant losers’ label and their desperation to rid themselves of it – then lose with little gallantry.

But equally, it is hard to be too scathing on a squad bearing such long-awaited promise, many players finding their feet in Test rugby, and a head coach whose pedigree is beyond question.

They tell you they are close – little deficiencies, crucial errors are hurting them. They talk of positives and progression.

You want to believe them. Still, you feel it is a matter of time before the wrongs are righted. But it doesn’t do much to dull the pain.

All the talk, all the vibes and all the protestations cannot mask results. The familiar rhetoric is especially unpalatable after an autumn that boded so well, and a hat-trick of defeats littered with recurrent flaws that have still to be satisfactorily rectified.

Frantic, unstructured attack and flimsy maul defence; sloppiness in technique and wayward judgement; mental fragility, the concession of soft points and crippling indiscipline.

The dynamic, high-octane Scotland of November and the expectancy and optimism that went with them has all but vanished. Gone is the slickness, the pace and above all, the control. In its place, a bizarre rashness as infuriating and incongruous to Test victories as the latest SRU pre-match gimmick, the Murrayfield ‘kiss cam’.

A backline so potent domestically, players who have, in club colours, bested many of the opponents they face in this tournament seem to combust under the pressure of international rugby. The opportunities continue to pass them by.

Cotter undoubtedly boasts an arsenal more plentiful and potent than his counterpart, Jacques Brunel, yet Italy, playing to their strengths, out-gunned the Scots three tries to one with less possession, and have scored twice more in their three games to date.

In home ranks, wrong options again were plumped for, passes thrown astray, and even after the stirring graft and toil that secured what appeared to be a conclusive scrum penalty deep in their own 22 in the final five minutes, Scotland still found a way to lose.

The enterprising Pete Horne more than filled Finn Russell’s boots at stand-off, but spilled ink all over his clean copybook by missing touch with the clearing kick. A cardinal error and Scotland’s self-defeating tendencies in microcosm.

It would be wrong to be too critical of Horne. After all, his teammates still had to infringe thrice, yielding two yellow cards, before the referee was heading for the uprights and the rapturous Italians had sacked Murrayfield again.

And though Clancy is pedantic and flaky, like Glen Jackson before him, he did not cost the Scots a win.

A season that began with fresh hope nears its conclusion. Scotland’s familiar, perpetual rugby suicide remains prevalent.

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79 comments on “Suicidal Scotland continue to frustrate

  1. Allan on

    “More than filled Russells boots”?

    You must be kidding, he stood far too deep, couldnt kick from hand, and when he did pass he passed way too early without committing anyone from the italian defence. As for the rest…….

    Why wont any “journalists” name names and say who was rubbish and why? Its what your bloody well paid for!!! Maybe you are too afraid to upset your mates in the squad? If so well boo, bloody, hoo for you but thats what real journos do sunshine!

    • Standoffalot on

      I agree with Jamie in that the missed kick aside I felt Horne was solid if unspectacular. The problem was the painfully slow ball he was supplied by Laidlaw, who was back to his crabbing best and taking an age to assess his options. This tournament is dead in the water. Bin Laidlaw and give either Pyrgos or SHC a crack. I know Horne should have made touch but why the switch from Hogg? Barclay and Brown should be in the squad for leadership alone. Why not bring Brown in at 6 or 8 respectively? He’s not playing regularly at Sarries for nothing. Barclay is also a good shout for 8.

      • Mr P on

        Yes, I thought the call for Horne to take that kick was strange given he hadn’t taken them previously in the game. However, I think at that point, there was no ‘leader’ on the pitch – in that period, after Laidlaw had gone off, leading up to the penalty try, didn’t Clancy ask to speak to the captain and no-one stepped forward. Said it all really.

        I do think, like others, that this is the best squad of players for some years. What is lacking is leadership, self-belief and last, but by no means least, luck. However, there is one thing that concerns me a lot and that is the seeming lack of honesty and transparency in the selection. What is going on behind the scenes that is leading to the exclusion of some talented players (Roddy Grant at Edinburgh and John Barclay, neither of whom aren’t allowed near the squad camps) and brutal dropping of others (e.g. Kelly Brown – for goodness sake, the man plays regularly for one of the best Premiership teams!! Has he become so bad overnight that he doesn’t even merit a squad place?).

        So, Jamie Lyall, do you think you could write about the points I and many other fans have raised? These are the things we’d like to know.

      • Allan on

        We will never get to the bottom of why John Barclay has been binned but i suspect its to do with Johnson and he having a massive barny at some stage and the SRU blazers taking his side over Barclays. Someone knows but isnt saying. Brown on the other hand just doesnt seem Cotters cup of tea. Pity as i agree he could do a job at six.

        Horne did get terrible ball from Laidlaw but i dont think he helped himself by being too timid in how he approached things. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and say he was probs told to sit deep but he must have seen this wasnt working so should have changed tack. Another example of a lack of tactical nous and robotic approach to playing the game.

        With everyone fit, i would expect to see Grant, Gilchrist, Denton (at eight), Pyrgos, Russell, Maitland in with the remains of saturdays reprobates. Pyrgos is a good presence and Cotter obviously likes Gilchrist as a leader. One day…..one day……

  2. Scot95 on

    The squad needs some more leaders, when Laidlaw went off and the ref wanted to speak to the captain about discipline from where I was sitting you could clearly see the players debating who was captain. That was at the stage of the game where Scotland desperately needed some composure and leadership but after all the substitutions there was no standout leader from 1 to 10 other than Jonny Gray (it was him I could see most clearly asking the others who the captain was). Obviously there were other reasons that lead to the defeat but if your players don’t know who to look to for leadership when they’re packing down for a defending scrum with 5 minutes to go and the most likely candidate for captain is standing on the opposite wing (Lamont) then there really is a need for some more players capable of making the tough decisions.

  3. Neil on

    A good captain has to have charisma and the backing of the players. I would say the one of the Gray brothers wouold be a good bet or maybe Finn Russel. Forget Laidlaw, he is a useless player with his aimless kicks and has the charisma of a dead trout. every time he recieves the ball I cringe buecause I know exactly what he is going to do with it. A box or garry owen kick gaining 10 yards and giving the posession straight back to the opposition. Basically, the man is a liability and needs to be dropped. I’m a big fan of VC but why cant he see that. Also, why cant he see that most of our forward pack are not pulling their weight. They are being pushed arround like a set of Subutio players on an ice rink.

    • Ken wan do on

      SPOT ON! unbelivable watching Ireland on sunday. The way the forward pack lines up time and time again to smash it up. Our forwards must be the same weight and size as them but you’d never know it. In fact rory Best must be 3 stone lighter than ross ford and yet his contribution was twice as much. Our Forwards take the ball standing still and make bugger all yards, then they tire out and dont bother at all.

      The only reason I can think off for Laidlaw not being dropped is what you say, who else could be captain. Just so many young lads and out of the old players your felt with Ford, lamont, Murray, who were all gash at the weekend and need to be dropped.

  4. Eoin on

    Altho I didn’t think Peter Horne had ‘that’ bad a game, I agree with others that his style of play is different to Russell’s and that he does tend to sit much deeper. The few times he attacked the line in the second half, his team mates seemed shocked and far from alert to the potential for support and additional gains. However, his selection did seem to have unanticipated knock-on effects on his team mates too, particularly Hoggy who seemed to feel the need to try too hard. I’m not at all sure that giving Hogg touchline & restart kicking duties was the smart thing to do, nor asking him to be the go to up&under kicker, when his chase was then sorely missed (and his accuracy wasn’t great either). As a consequence, i felt that his game suffered as well.

    The captaincy thing is simply insane – I cannot believe that a bunch of professional players have not worked out before hand who will deputise in even of the captain going off, whether thru injury or being subbed. And if the deputy is off, then there’s another player waiting in the wings. Shambolic.

    But I still don’t think that all is lost – there are some talented players available, its just that we need to get them all on the pitch at the same time, more so than any other nation if truth be told. Our depth is so shallow and easily exposed when we’re down a handful of key players.

  5. Pirates4 on

    Came across this site by accident when looking for somewhere to vent my frustration after Saturday’s debacle. I am enjoying the comments – mostly sensible with not much bickering.

    The captaincy seems to be a major issue. When Robshaw or O’Connell talk to the referee, they do so with an heir of authority. Laidlaw doesn’t – his smile and raised eyebrows don’t earn respect.

    Who would succeed him ? Difficult call. I don’t see the Gray brothers as captain material – not yet anyway – an I believe that the captain should be a forward, preferably a lock or loosie.

    There was also mention on the forum about Josh Strauss eventually being in the squad. He had a good season with the Lions in SA but was never close to Springbok recognition. Good player and nice man, but international class ?

    • Standoffalot on

      Watching Strauss regularly for Glasgow I would say he is exactly what we need, a strong, ball carrying number 8. Ashe is unproven, having not had that much game time at Glasgow, and Denton has a bit of work to do on his game yet. I really can’t see Strauss not going into the team. He would also make a very good captain, doing it regularly for Glasgow. The captaincy won’t go to him because of the obvious furore that would surround it, but IMO it would be a good choice. I’m a massive fan of Harley but personally I would bring Kelly Brown back at 6 (his actual position Scott Johnson) to lead the team.

      • Alex on

        Tricky isn’t it regarding Stauss and the captaincy?i was on the verge of posting exactly the same comment as you in a different thread. I Definitely would want Strauss in the side for his ball carrying and pack leadership but not as overall captain but as a leader on the field. I remember listening to Stuart Lancaster who was talking about leaders and England had a pack leader, a pack defence leader and back defence leader, and a backs attack leader. And then a captain. Point is that there were so many ppl on the field that the players looked to throughout the match that thwre were plenty of ppl used to the responsibility of leadership. Not sure Scotland have that. To be expected though considering the age and relative inexperience ofnthe side.

  6. rob on

    having read the comments so far i feel just as frustrated as others here.front row need to front up more,brown or barclay at number eight to provide that experience which was lacking most of the match.a change at nine is obvious[shc].as for captain position maybe go with barclay,worth a chance and has played for scarlets in that position.also although performance was in some cases poor,you do need some luck and for refs to be consistant in decisions like holding on,scrums etc.we have good players. hope for change in fortunes next time.

  7. another mike on

    Vern has boxed himself into a corner with Laidlaw. But that said Laidlaw had a decent autumn series and all the pundits were talking up his displays in the aviva league. Laidlaw has let Vern down with his dramatic collapse in form (again). Apart from his slower than usual service, his kicking was inexcusably woeful and baffling. We now have a big time coach and he has to be ruthless and honest about who’s actually playing well enough.

    The danger signs were there in the Wales match with respect to the forwards. After fronting up reasonably well against the big french pack, the forwards were bullied and pushed about by the welsh pack. This was largely covered up and overlooked with the backs making a few decent line breaks and hard luck stories about not taking chances etc (and a rousing finish). I have been a Beattie fan from his killer bees days, but as a senior player his displays have been very poor. Subbing him and bringing on Watson made us even more light weight. Having a Brown on the bench would surely have been a reassuring and like for like substitution? Given our injury list, how can we just disregard Brown and Barclay? This is a needs must situation. I’m not saying they should both start but having them on the bench would at least bring on some experience and leadership.

  8. coully on

    as a tactic,… kcking has to go,… we kick away possesion like its going out of fashion, when clearly,… seeing the stats yesterday in the build up to Ire v Eng, it’s not.
    Also, why not contest a lineout on the edge of your 22,… sure 5m out is a bit iffy but on the edge of your 22 you’ve got a wee bit room to play with

  9. Realistically on

    I agree strongly with “Another Mike” about the difficulty the Scottish forwards had coping with the power of opposition packs. It doesn’t seem to have been picked up on much by the reports I see from the various pundits but I thought it was very noticeable and a key factor to Scotland’s losses. If you re-watch the France game and the Wales game – and just look how the Scottish ball carriers are generally struggling to make it to or over the gain line. Then when the situation is reversed you watch the French or Welsh ball carriers. The majority of the time they are getting to the gain line and over it with ease. The Scottish tacklers are bringing them down (so few clean breaks happening) but they aren’t able to stop them in their tracks or drive them back, so the French and Welsh were finding it all too easy to make a few yards gain on most of their drives. This reality makes it very difficult for Scotland.

    I’m not sure what the answer is to this problem. While France have some real heavy-weight ball carriers (especially off the bench) – pound-for-pound the Scottish aren’t significantly smaller. Players like the Gray brothers or Ross Ford are at least as big as their opposite numbers? So it is hard to see exactly why they are getting pushed around. Is it a strength/conditioning thing? Technique? Or simply a lack of aggression or motivation?

    Richie Gray would seem to be a prime example. He is obviously HUGE and I seem to remember Adam Jones on the Lions tour commenting on the astonishing weights Richie could move in the gym – but he rarely seems to really impose that size and strength in a game. He just doesn’t seem to have the aggression maybe? Ironically, you do get the feeling that “little brother” Johnny has a lot more dog about him?

    When you see a close-up shot of Paul O’Connell or Alun-Wyn Jones (neither of whom are enormous by modern second-row standards) and see the look in their eye and the determination on their faces they really look like they are carrying the ball as it their life did literally depend on it.

    The improvement in Scotland’s attacking flair in the three-quarters is a promising sign – but I can’t help feeling that it is going to be rather academic if the pack can’t stand up to the challenge physically. The scary thing for Scotland now is that England and Ireland both have even stronger and well-drilled packs than France/Wales/Italy. I would bring back Kelly Brown and possibly even Jim Hamilton (much as I think he is a limited all-round player, and is a potential liability for penalties and yellow cards)

    • Ken wan do on

      It comes down to two things i think. sheer aggression and good technique. Ireland has 3 or 4 extremely aggressive players in POC, peter o’ M, cian H, Sean o’ B. These guys in turn get the rest of the team pumped up. Even Italy have a few enforcers. We have none really. What we do have is a pack who would rather walk about looking good in tight blue shirts.
      Technique is the next thing we fail at. We tackle to high and when we are taking the ball on we take it from a standing start. Hence zero yards made

      • Andy on

        Agree to an extent with comment about technique, but being overly aggressive is our un-doing, not our road to redemption. The Irish pack didn’t dismantle England yesterday because they were aggressive, it was because they were working as a unit, they all understood their role in that unit and were able to carry our that role accurately and effectively at the right time. The ability to read a game, evaluate a situation and take the correct action isn’t something that should be the reserve of half backs. Ireland are canny operators – they pick their fights, they manufacture situations that work to their strengths and they do it constantly well time after time.

    • johnmc on

      Agree very much about the pack’s undoing at close quarters, and how much that has cost us. This was evident in the second half in Paris, when France just changed their game plan at half-time, threw on a couple of cave trolls and beasted it in a way we couldn’t cope with. Similarly at times against Wales. And please don’t make me relive the last ten minutes v Italy (or indeed the moments leading to Italy’s first try). Surely there is a way, even without having to make personnel changes, to coach a defence out of a big pack to being mugged in this way? If there is, I hope we find it before the Twickenham game. Of course, there were other aspects of game management where we have been deficient in all three matches so far, but the roughing up at close quarters does stand out a bit.

  10. Neil on

    The problem is that our forwards are big but they lack motivation, fitness and,above all, controlled agression. These things need to be coached. At the moment they seem content to just stand around the pitch and pick up a pay packet. Not good enough Scotland.

      • Allan on

        That’s an oversimplification. Why are Glasgow consistently in the top four of the Pro 12 if scots rugby players are rubbish? Where are Zebre and Treviso? There is talent, it’s just not coming together at test level for whatever reason.

      • FF on

        Saturday was a bloody disaster but my opinion is the same as before the game. We have basically a talented but callow squad. We’re struggling to step up to test rugby but I think we have a lot of potential and a good coach with a vision – Scottish fans perhaps expected everything to come together a bit too easily and we have to give the squad a little time.

        I can’t explain why our performance was so poor against Italy but the players are good enough to beat most of our 6N rivals. I don’t think the squad needs a total overhaul, they need a kick up the arse and a chance to put right their failings from the weekend. Saying that, Beattie, Laidlaw, Horne, Swinson are probably not up to test level and I’d look to replace them for Twickenham.

      • Allan on

        Couldn’t agree more. Some personnel changes and some more big game experience and it will come. Cotter has six games till the World Cup. I doubt we’ll do much even by then but next year…

        I have to remain positive or I’ll top myself

      • Scafell on

        ‘Over-simplification’ I couldn’t agree more. Simple mistakes are what’s contributing to our downfall. Glasgow are admirable, perhaps next season Edinburgh can join them BUT they’ve not won anything yet. Played well against Bath. But lost. Got to the final v Leinster. But lost. Scotland played well against New Zealand. But lost. Played well against Wales and France. But lost. Unless this promise is turned into positive results its meaningless. As for this young team developing, test rugby, 6 nations especially, isn’t nursery school and the basic errors Scotland continually make means we’re never going to move forwards a team. Just another Scotland team with a hard luck story. I admire your positivity, I really do, but after following Scotland for many a year all optimism and hope for a brighter future vanished after the 80 mins were up on Sat afternoon.

      • Standoffalot on

        In fairness to Glasgow they have went one better each season. I remember sitting in the stands when we were propping up the table. With regards Scotland what is painfully obvious is that we lack leadership, we cannot deal with the physicality of bigger packs and we desperately need to have our best fifteen on the park.

        Way forward for England? Laidlaw has to go. Massive part of the problem. Too slow in thought and deed, and too often picks the wrong option. Kelly Brown to return at 6, his actual position, and resume the captaincy. Hamilton the penalty machine to return if fit, if only to bulk up the scrum. Ashe to return at 8 for the woeful Beattie. Hopefully Maitland is fit and Russell to return after suspension. Then lots of prayers.

        I was despondent on Saturday but I still am hallucinating that we will eventually come good. There is definitely potential, we just need to play smarter rugby, I just wish we would start to fulfill it.

    • Neil on

      VC is a great coach but is he good at kicking players up the backside. because that is what is require, particularly in the forwards packs. The depressing thing is that I think these players have the ability but they lack motivation and agression. I really hope that VC is capable of improving both before the next game.
      Another big problem across the entire team is lack of fitness. I notice in every game that we tend to drift in the final 15-20 mins. Even against Argentina when we were miles in forn, we allowed them back into the game in the last 20 mins. Similar story in every game so far in the 6 nations. That can only mena one thing. We dont have the required level of fitness to compete with the top teams in the world or, in the case of this year, even Italy. Stranghe how very few readers/contributors have mentioned the lack of fitness but I think that is a major problem for us. We play the game deep in our own half in the final 145 mins or every game, giving the opposition plenty of chances to score tries, win penalties etc. In the space of one week VC cannot improve the fitness of players but that has to be adressed int he longer term.
      Does anyone seriously think we can leavcome within 30 points of engalnd at the weekend?

      • FF on

        I don’t think there is any evidence of fitness being an issue. We were well in the ascendant at the end of the Wales game. There was also no late collapse against France.

        I think the issue in the France and Italy games was that the opposition changed their approach and started dictating the tempo and territory the game was played at and we didn’t know how to adapt. This was maybe understandable against France, but against Italy it was almost entirely down to our own mistakes and poor execution. Italy should not have been in the position at half time to take the initiative, they should have been chasing a sizeable lead but we gifted them two soft tries directly from our errors.

        Against Wales we gave away initiative for the same reason, our mistakes gifted them possession, territory, an extra man and ultimately points allowing them to relax into a game we had deservedly lead at the beginning.

        What we need above all is on field nous, leadership and greater discipline. A good coach can develop these attributes in a group of players. For all our failings, we could and perhaps should have been able to win all those games so I don’t think the issue is the natural talent of the squad.

        England and Ireland will be a step up and obviously we’ll be lucky to come away with anything other than two significant losses. What we can hope for is some of our players showing character that we’ll need to improve and be better at the world cup and next year’s 6N.

        P.s. scraping the barrel for silver linings – a wooden spoon is going to do nothing to burnish Cotter’s reputation and chance of landing the AB job so we might hang on to him for a little longer assuming France don’t poach him off us.

      • Neil on

        If fitness wanst a problem why did Italy dominate posession and territory in the last 15-20 minutes. Its not just that game either- just look at what happened against Argenitina in the Autumn series. We played very well up until the last 15 mins. Wales was a bit different as we were chasing the game in the latter part of the second half (Wales took the foot of the peddle a bit) but we caved in against the French in the last 15 mins. The same thing happened against AB in the Autumn. So I think fitness, or the lack of it, is an issue.

      • FF on

        Nonsense – there was no cave in against the French. They scored 6pts in the second half after dominating after half time. We failed to adapt to their more direct approach.

        Against Argentina and Italy we conceded late points after we made lots of substitutions – we seemed to lose any semblance of direction or team cohesion and our error rate shot through the roof. It was particularly galling against Italy because we actually held them out and just needed to put a penalty kick directly out to win the game. This wasn’t a fitness issue, it was execution under pressure, discipline and direction. Even playing like utter garbage we did enough to win that game but didn’t because of stupid decisions – we had a lineout with a new hooker on and we call a throw to the tail. Why not throw to the front of the line out and secure easy ball instead of putting a cold player under extra pressure? We have a penalty to relieve our lines and 2minutes to wind down on the clock. Why not kick it conservatively and make sure it goes out then you just need to win a lineout and hang on to it for another minute? Why ask a FH to kick it who hasn’t been trusted to kick all game? Hogg should have had that ball and smashed it into the stands.

        This is all decision-making and execution under pressure.

  11. Alex on

    Seen a lot of posts hoping that Maitland would be back but pretty sure Cotter has said he probably won’t be back before the end of the tournament.Boooo!

  12. Neil on

    I would rather see Maitland in the team but we cannot be realiant on just one or two players as rugby is a team sport. we need players that can step up to the mark.

    • aligator on

      We need Maitland back, but he will need some game time first.
      I was appalled at some of the basic errors Lamont made, with all his experience and years in the business. His lack of leadership is also a big question. He can always be effective as an impact player off the bench, but I would not trust him again for a starting role.
      As for the next level down, both Visser and Fife seem to have regressed. Jones is doing well with GW and Brown with ER, but… We can only hope that some of the younger wingers (Hoyland, Hughes, Farndale) stand up and make an impact soon.
      OR maybe it will be Kevin Locke from Salford!!!

  13. another mike on

    All said and done, we simply can’t handle the level of injuries that have affected the squad during this championship. We also can’t handle the ommission of decent players who could contribute to the cause. Under the circumstances of our 2 first choice No. 8’s not being available, the non selection of Kelly Brown (and John barclay) at least as bench cover is a blot on Verns performance as head coach for me. The earlier questioning of scotlands fitness is I believe more linked to our poor bench selections so far. Unfortunately for the time being, size does matter when it comes to selecting forwards, and Ritchie Gray and hamilton’s not being there on saturday did have an impact. Not as big an impact as players going missing during the game admittedly. I am now fearful for the last 2 games.

      • Allan on

        Neil, you and i agree on this but could argue day and night on financing! However, i read an article in the Irish Times a while back about how the IRFU funded their professional teams. They pay upwards of 20million quid per annum combined in costs to run their four pro sides (connacht get significantly less than the other three) They do this with better revenue streams than the SRU have at present. Now, with a new deal for the Pro 12 and rising attendances year on year, an expectation of increasing money for the European cups, and ever increasing money from the World Cup and British Lions there now does seem to be some scope for at the very least a developmental third side by the 2019 world cup. In fact, it would be pretty much guaranteed if the Six Nations wasnt the sole property of the BBC. With collective bargaining, both Sky and BT would comfortably double what the BBC pays at present to the SRU. The question is whether a lack of live Scotland internationals on terrestrial would be damaging or not to the scottish game. I would suggest not as we are only talking five games a year out of say ten tests overall. Autumn internationals could stay on BBC and summer tour matches are already on Sky. Club rugby and Pro 12 would be unaffected in how they are covered. Extended highlights packages for terrestrial broadcasters sold separately would be a satisfactory way for non Sky etc subscribers to see the games and would generate even more revenue. It sticks in the craw somewhat but it could be the lesser of two evils i.e. a crap scotland on BBC or a good Scotland on satellite/cable.

      • FF on

        The move towards ring-fencing the English premiership may offer the SRU a way to create a third Scottish pro-team on the cheap.

        London Scottish do not own Premiership shares and play at a ground with a capacity of only 4,000. There is no way they would be admitted to an enlarged premiership even if they win promotion on the field. So if ring fencing goes through, there is potential for London Scottish to apply to play in the Pro-12.

        They currently are members of the SRU as well as RFU – the SRU would need to fund them to replace the RFU funding they currently receive but London Scottish are privately owned and this is unlikely to be anymore than £500,000-£1m (I think that is roughly what most Premiership clubs get from the RFU to field a certain number of English players in every match day squad). They might need a little more to increase their competitiveness but they should have no problems getting a crowd as London is full of ex-pat Scots/Irish/Welsh. According to Jamie Lyall (I think) on Twitter London Scottish’s board are said to be open-minded on the issue.

        Putting that aside, the SRU has hinted that when the academies begin producing viable numbers of professional players, the issue of a third pro-side will be looked at again – so probably over the next 3-4 years – because we will need somewhere for these players to play. Currently we do not have the played numbers to fill a third pro-side. They are obviously coy about the issue because the big barrier is funding and ensuring the professional structure is sustainable unlike in the past. However, it is wrong to say this is not on the SRUs agenda.

      • Neil on

        Interesting discussion. I remember reading a few years ago that Scotland received significantly less from the BBC for 6 nation games than the others, particularly France, England and Wales. Do you know if that is still the case and what the explanation is if that holds true?

        I remember being really p.ssed off that the money was not divided equally between the competing nations. I was equally p.ssed that the SRU did not seem to care less about that. However, I have no idea what the current state of affairs is.

      • Allan on

        FF – i read about that a while back and it think your right and was about 700K from the RFU that the SRU would have to replace. If the SRU did that and went 50/50 with London Scots on funding a team to apply for entry into the Pro 12 then why not. It still leaves the future option of a fourth team in Aberdeen (realistically the only large town in Scotland capable of sustaining a pro side). I would hope that LS could continue to play their age grade teams in the English set up?

        Neil, the Borders is a no go if and when another pro side is set up in Scotland. Its far too focussed on the club game and to spread out geographically to realistically support one. Crowds were regularly under 1000 during its last season. The SRU should strengthen and support the club game in the borders and use the pro sides as an aspirational goal for young borderer club players to aim for.

        Alas, when the SRU suggested a way of making the top tier of club rugby semi pro, the wee teams voted it down fearing they would lose players. Parochialism at work.

        The SRU were forced to accept a smaller slice of the cake when RFU went off and did a solo deal with Sky some time ago. The RFU agreed to collective bargaining only if they got a bigger slice. We got less in return.

      • Neil on

        Allan and FF- I agree that Aberdeen would be a great option for a pro team. However, there is so much support for rugby in the Borders that I feel it could also work there. I would suggest basing the club in Melrose, a town where there is massive support for rugby. Maybe even making Melrose a pro team would be a good option. I know that there is rivaly between the local towns in the borders but I think there would be enough support to sustain a team there. The problem last time was that the SRU did not do enough to advertise and promote the game in that region. They also didnt do enough to attract sponsorship. Their inactivity and lack of support resulted in the downfall of the Reivers, not anything else.

  14. DouglasH on

    We may only have two pro teams in Scotland but we have quality players in England, Wales and France available for selection. Where the players are isn’t the problem, the problem is still with the SRU. If your face doesn’t fit you won’t be selected ever again because they will not admit they were wrong to exclude them in the first place. It is hardly surprising that the experienced players spoke up and spoke out about the shambles in recent years. The test for VC is whether he is his own man and with his reputation at risk I hope he takes the problem by the throat and deals with it.

    • Neil on

      I completely agree that the SRU are basiocally useless. They are so PC and afraid to say ‘boo’ to the IRB that everyone walks over us. They dont support players and fans in the way that they should and employ useless guys like SJ to do nothing, except perhaps live in 5 star hotels and fly businees class to OZ.

      Where we disagree is that we need more than 2 pro clubs. Sure we have one or two players in France and England but they are very few in number. Here is another problem- if they are playing for lots of different clubs then it may be more difficult to form a team. We are far better of if the players are used to each others styles and play for 3 or 4 teams max. We have the lowest number of pro teams of all the 6 nations and, hence, the lowest pool of players. So when one or two of our key players are injured we suffer more than any other 6 nation team.

      I have mentioned this on many occassions in the past so I wont say anymore about it but that is part of the reason why we are heading for the wooden spoon and why we are consistently in the botton two places in the 6 nations. Everyone can see that except perhaps the buffoons at the SRU.

      Bring back the Border Reivers- all is forgiven

      • FF on

        It certainly isn’t the SRUs role to call out the ref in public, I’m not sure why you think this would be a good thing to do. If Cotter wants to then he can (I’m glad he doesn’t). It is bad enough having Gatland try to be the Mourinho of rugby without another blowhard joining him.

        Citings are made by panels appointed by the 6Ns committee so nothing to do with World Rugby. If you think there is systematic bias against Scotland I would disagree and again it would be pretty unedifying if union blazers across the world started publicly lobbying for different outcomes at disciplinary hearings.

        You talk about the SRU not questioning the fact that we get less 6N broadcast revenue – well it might be hard to take but it reflects commercial reality and is subject to negotiation. I’d like to know what you propose the SRU did about it. The SRU lobbied hard in regard to the HC debacle and I’m afraid money talks and we are not a big fish. That does not mean the SRU can be blamed for the fact that we lost in those negotiations as we had a very weak hand to play and no leverage.

        SJ – yes, he’s an idiot we all agree but they appointed him and he is their choice, they haven’t been told by anyone else to give him a job.

        Promoting a third pro-team – the SRU in fact established 4 pro-teams before they contracted to 2. Then they resurrected the Borders for 5 years before they were forced by near bankruptcy to close them for a second time. It just isn’t true that a third pro-team isn’t on their agenda but they have to deal with reality where a third pro-team collapsing for a third time might undo all the work of the last decade in trying to get Scottish rugby’s finances back on an even keel. The chronic underinvestment in the youth, community and academy structures is directly related to previous regimes at the SRU creating pro-teams they couldn’t afford to run and it has led to 15 years of failure on the pitch.

        Neil, there is no doubt that since 1995 the SRU have run Scottish rugby into the ground. We had a weak base to construct the professional game on and the SRU totally failed to understand the realities of what professionalism would bring and adapt to that. Where we disagree is that you see no difference between the SRU in the past and now. They are far from perfect but I think they understand the challenges our game faces well and are trying to overcome them. Not everything that is bad with our game can be laid at their feet – we have probably our strongest squad in 15 years and more talented young players than at any time since the game went professional. We didn’t lose on Saturday because of Dodson and the SRU – we lost because the players performed poorly.

      • Cameron Black on

        Seconded.

        Neil – You’ve continually made unsubstantiated claims about the behaviour of the SRU and people within it. The new comment rules should be up soon but in the meantime can you refrain from making these comments. We do this for free and none of us have the financial clout to defend legal action should someone decide to take issue with your comments.

      • Ad Nauseum on

        I thought a thread was created to discuss this to avoid Neil turning every new thread into groundhog day

      • Neil on

        Rory and Cameron- this is a blog and nothing else- infact only a thred within a blog and there are lots of lines of evidence to suggecst that the SRU are not doing enough for our game. I wont mention it again as I accept that you dont want to upset them but sometimes people need upsetting. I’ll leave it there.

      • Neil on

        Roray and Cameron,

        I stand by every comment I have amde about the SRU but, if you feel the content is inappropriate for this blog then please delete the relevant messages.

      • Cameron Black on

        Neil – It is not a question of us not wanting to upset the SRU. We have been critical of the SRU in the past. However allegations of “corruption” etc. have to be backed up by evidence. You’ve also used some abusive derogatory language regarding figures within the SRU. It’s possible to be critical without resorting to abusive language.

      • Carl on

        Would back up FF re the Borders Pro-team support as one of my pals hails from the area and said his father a diehard Gala fan stayed away from Netherdale when the district side played there. Had more affinity with the local set-up
        which was borne out with the poor attendances recorded.
        Restoring a side there is not good business sense for the SRU and Melrose as a venue would not increase support or gate receipts any more than down the road in Galashiels.
        Generally the SRU could do more to spend more money on the Border clubs as still a rich source of talent.

      • Cameron Black on

        That’s a fair asessment Carl. Rugby in the Borders is far to tribal to sustain a pro team but the clubs would definately benefit from more support. I still think a semi-pro Premiership would benefit rugby in the Borders.

      • Allan on

        Further to a post i put up elsewhere on revenue, the Six Nations gets £40m per year from the BBC. £30m of this is split evenly between the six unions, the rest is divided up based on performance in the tournament and the number of clubs, players etc the union has. Therefore, the SRU gets about £5m per annum with not much more on top of that as we perform poorly and have a small Union. Now, this deal runs out in 2017 and is not protected to terrestrial TV as it is a category B event which means highlights packages must be available on terrestrial. Therefore, SKY or BT can bid for live rights. Based on the deal the English rugby Premiership and the British Lions signed recently with BT and Sky, its possible that in 2018, this deal could be worth at least double what it is currently worth. Thats without even looking at what the Pro 12 and the European Rugby Championship TV deal might be worth (the ERC doesnt even have atitle sponsor at present).

        A pro side in scotland costs about £6m to fund each year. So taking into account the above, its entirely possible that the necessary revenue could be in place from 2018 onwards. I would imagine that the BT Murrayfield money has cleared the stadium redevelopment bank debt and is funding the academies so i would hope that we might see a third side up and running by 2019/20, if the League will admit them. A bond of £2.5m is needed to secure a place.

        Next stage then would be to get the clubs to stop looking inwards and realise that a semi pro top division is essential to bridge the gap between the amateur game and the pro sides. Its ridiculous that clubs in the lower divisions managed to derail this suggestion last time out because they didnt want their best players moving to better teams. This is the reality of sport, boys and girls, good players will always want to go and play for the better teams in the higher divisions so accept it.

        Neil, the SRU is a lot of things and yes, it probably does have its share of freeloaders but the clubs arent blameless in the current situation. Also, the WRU and the IRFU werent saddled with stadium debt like the SRU. The millenium stadium was pretty much funded by the Lottery and the Welsh assembly with only a token contribution from the WRU. The same goes for the Aviva which was paid for via the FAI, the IRFU and the Irish Govt.

        I am actually quite impressed with what Dodson and co are doing these days. They signed up your hero Mr Cotter didnt they?

      • Scafell on

        At least the SRU are trying, they’re never going to please everyone unfortunatley. I think they’re doing ok despite the financial restraints against them.

      • FF on

        Thanks Allan, I had a quick look but could not find those details. Where are they available?

        I agree with all the points you make, particularly in regard to the aborted attempt to create a semi-pro tier. We desperately need to increase the competitiveness of domestic rugby below the professional tier and this means the best players across Scotland playing at the highest tier possible.

        There is plenty of room for debate around these issues but it should be informed and based on fact, so thank you for taking the time to provide some. It is a crying shame that our professional press show so little curiosity in finding out why our game is struggling so much – I suppose there is not much public appetite for examining the economic, social and political drivers behind our game.

      • Allan on

        The TV deal with the BBC is easily found via Google. Less so for the other deals but i rooted around and found little snippets here and there. Its actually a bit of an indictment of the standard of investigative sports journalism in Scotland that no-one from the Herald, Scotsman, whoever, has bothered to write an in depth article on the state of Scottish Rugby.

        To be fair, my knowledge of how the Millenium Stadium was funded is anecdotal but i am pretty sure the FAW and the Millenium Commission stumped up a fair bit of the cash, unlike the utter lack of assistance the SRU got from the Scottish Office at the time. AVIVA have a deal worth 44m euros over years to sponsor at Landsdown Road. Half the stadium cost was paid for by the EU (nearly 200m euros). The BT deal the SRU have is much more lucrative and been a long time coming. What the Irish do have over us is that they have twice as many adults playing the game than in Scotland. They have their regional unions structured properly and have the schools all on board and organised into a functional league system.

        Too many schools and clubs in Scotland are not interested in the greater good and the apparent lack of interest by the Scottish government in promoting sport at school level is a national disgrace. Getting on my soapbox, surely asking for people to pay for their precriptions and then reinvesting this money into getting our youngsters outside playing sport is a better way to improve scottish health and fitness than free prescriptions? Also, If edinburgh council and the Scottish Parliament hadnt ballsed up the parliament building and then the trams, how much money was lost that could have been invested in grassroots sport across scotland?

    • pragmatic optomist on

      A question for Allan – I’m really interested in which clubs put the ‘blockers’ on the switch to a semi-pro league, and which were supportive.
      Is this information in the public domain?

      • Allan on

        Can’t help you there. All I know is that the motion didn’t get the necessary majority when it was put to the vote. You would have to get a copy of the minutes from the SRU from that particular meeting.

      • Allan on

        A MUST read for anyone who give a damn about rugby in Scotland. I can’t paste a link in here from my iPad but Google “three big changes Scottish rugby must make now by Alistair Reid” and you’ll see what I mean.

  15. NeilMacGillivray on

    Two points – Italy have only two pro teams and both prop up the Pro-12 . Secondly 11 of the XV who beat us play for them. There is something rotten somewhere I fear – discontent in the camp perhaps?

    • Standoffalot on

      I genuinely don’t think so. For me it was genuinely a bad day at the office. Up until Saturday, I felt we were making progress. There are also some selection issues which most on these boards tend to agree on. I do agree that there may be more to the omissions of Barclay and Brown, but equally BVC may just not fancy them. I think the fact that 25 players have been sent back to their clubs says it all about what Cotter thinks of Saturday’s performance. His squad announcement for England should be interesting. If we could get fit/select our strongest 15 I feel we’ve still got a good team. Rome wasn’t built in a day and all that……

      • FF on

        Brown was quoted in a BBC article saying he’d had a long telephone discussion with Cotter, knew what he had to improve on to offer what Cotter wanted and was determined to force his way back into selection for the World Cup. Barclay had a strop on Twitter.

        I genuinely don’t think Brown’s non-selection is anything to do with personalities or personal clashes – for whatever reason he is not seen as a player who fits what the coaching team are looking for. Barclay, on the other hand, does seem to have had some kind of falling out with the selectors. Whether this is just with SJ or with others, who knows?

        Barclay is a good player, at times very good, but I feel like his reputation now exceeds anything he ever achieved at test level with Scotland. Don’t forget he left Glasgow because Fusaro usurped his position at 7. Personally, I’ve been very impressed with Cowan’s performances and I don’t think we’re missing a lot through Barclay’s absence.

      • McChin on

        Yeah have to agree FF. I think Barclay is, on his day, a wonderful player but because he hasn’t featured for a while he’s being billed as some sort of saviour. Personally, I’d like to see him in the squad if only because he’s fit and on form – he scored at the weekend – which is in keeping with what Cotter has done thus far.

        BUT, I don’t see him getting ahead of Cowan, who along with Gray, has been one of our few positive forwards thus far. They both play pretty similar games really and I’m not sure if the squad requires 2 traditional 7’s.

        Brown is a bit of a different story for me though. I personally can see him fitting in with the whole “organised chaos” game plan pretty well, plus he’s still doing the job for Sarries. Unlike Barclay, he’s never spat his dummy out (at least publicly anyway) when not picked or dropped straight out of the squad.

        However, I’m heartened to hear your comment about he’s had a conversation with Cotter so maybe he will feature at some stage.

        Finally, there was a video of Kelly Brown singing the Baywatch theme tune after a Saracens game, on that evidence alone he should be in the squad!

  16. Cameron Black on

    ** Removed. If you can’t say anything nice to each other don’t say anything at all. Our new comment rules are coming soon but in the mean time please keep the discussions to rugby and avoid personal slanging matches. Thanks

  17. Cameron Black on

    Scotland recall Tommy Seymour and Tim Swinson to the camp http://www.scottishrugby.org/news/15/03/04/injuries-force-precautionary-scotland-recall

    “The pair will join Glasgow Warriors club mate, stand-off Finn Russell – recalled as a precaution – and eight other national team players, for two days of specialist skills and strength and conditioning training at BT Murrayfield tomorrow (Thursday) and Friday, ahead of the next RBS 6 Nations Championship match against England at Twickenham (Saturday 14 March, kick-off 5pm).

    The 11 players will be unavailable for this weekend’s Guinness PRO12”

    Specialist skills, stregnth and conditioning training… Read into that what you will. Sounds like BVCs bringing together a Council of War

    • McChin on

      “Conditioning training” makes me think it’ll be one big Rocky-esque training montage. Euan Murray lifting tree trunks and Stuart Hogg chasing some chickens around the back of Murrayfield…no?

    • PJ on

      The very valuable players, plus the front row… Cotter is preparing to weather the storm, battening down the hatches for the english forwards barrage. Interesting that laidlaw is absent from this inner circle group, a change of captaincy maybe? (hopefully?) Time for Gray Jr. to step up I reckon.

  18. Tallnstrong on

    I’m gonna put my neck on the line and just say it……….give me a second (slurp)…….. Seriously I’m gonna just say it (slurp) ….. Right (hic)…….here goes……

    Scotland will beat England at Twickenham and heroes wil be born

    …. Some people say that 3pm is too early to have a wee nip … But I disagree (it’s actually too late!,,,!)

  19. mike conte on

    People like to blame lots of organisations and individuals for the failure of our national team. I blame local councils for not getting behind our game. They are the ones to blame for our failings and nobody else.

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