Being a Scottish rugby supporter has always been a tough gig.
Sure there are highs, like in 1999 (have you kept your VHS just to play the Five Nations Champions video?), beating England and France in 2006 and of course a Euro Cup run by Edinburgh and Glasgow’s excellent Pro 12 victory. But there has also been a nearly constant stream of average to poor that it seems has left even the most positive of fans with a crushing cynicism regarding our national prospects.
The unfortunate things is that for the most part, this has been justified.
Of course we would blow it against Australia in the RWC when all that was needed was a sensible lineout.
Of course our whole defensive structure would disintegrate on the back of a 60% personnel reshuffle in the backs at Twickers – when we’d started with on paper the best Scottish attack in two decades.
Of course we would lose to Fiji, having dispatched the Italians and our old pals Australia (in Sydney) in the summer.
The body of previous evidence was overwhelming and these most recent instances only added fuel to the fire.
And yet, Scotland is a team with talent. Anyone with 1% rugby knowledge can see the insane improvements that Scotland have made, especially in the quality of their back play. We average almost 4 tries per game now, where previously this would have represented an improved total for the season. We have some world-class operators in key positions and decent depth in the majority.
Scottish rugby is actually in rude health.
Thus I find myself at a strange place. The majority rhetoric is still one of negativity, where supporters seem quick to talk down or ever counter the obvious progress we have made.
One visit to a particularly well-visited Glasgow supporters forum would give you all you need to take stock of this. It even happened this weekend against Samoa, a team we have always had close games with. We have not earned the right to thump any nation, and Samoa represents a challenge unique in world rugby.
We scored six tries, could have had three more, and yet the “headlines” if you like are about how bad we played. Yes, improvement is needed in defence, yes we need to tighten up our set piece and yes, this new breed of fast-paced, exciting rugby will take time to bed in let alone execute. Clearly, the coaching staff will be looking at all of the above, but a win in a must-win game is a new thing for our side and isn’t it time that we took a step back and remembered where we were only a few short years ago?
I am excited at the future of this side, and although I have high standards for what I expect from our individuals and collective, I won’t be getting hung up on Finn missing touch, or a stray lineout, or a butchered overlap anymore.
These guys are quality players, the best we have had in a long time and most are far from their peak years. Not even the All Blacks play a perfect game even when it seems like they do. I am going to enjoy the ride, as we are one of the best rugby sides to watch.
As long as we score one more point than the other guys, the jobs a good yin!
It all happens again this weekend when we take on the best side in the world. If we don’t score that one extra point, I’m sure the boys will give us a performance to be proud of.