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Scotland need courage and belief to scupper Auld Enemy

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John Beattie | 09:06 UK time, Monday, 8 March 2010

Every underdog has its day, and here's how I want Scotland to play. Sounds like a poem but it's not.

When you play rugby for Scotland you are always the underdog. And if you happen to win a game you have been "spoiling" or the other team made lots and lots of mistakes, thereby explaining their mysterious loss.

When you compare two neighbouring countries, the roles of favourite and underdog are never more clearly defined that when it's Scotland against England. It's the smallest country in the Six Nations against the biggest in terms of players - two million versus 36,000.

I mean why turn up?

scotlandcalcutta595.jpgThe reason I wrote this article is I just watched the Glasgow Under-18 team, who hadn't won a game in the championship, beat Caledonia Under-18s, despite having a man sent off after 10 minutes. Sometimes you just win games...

The author and broadcaster Ludovic Kennedy wrote a book called In Bed with an Elephant, which examined the relationship between our two countries and concluded that we are bound to distrust each other.

There is after all a border. Me? I was born in Malaysia and it strikes me that all neighbouring countries have tensions between them, which then carry into sporting contests.

An alien would find it barking mad, but it's true. You only fall out with your neighbour, not someone who lives five cities away.

This time there is some added spice with an Englishman Andy Robinson in charge of the Scots, but I interviewed him at a dinner last week and he says there is no split loyalty. He is there to try to make England lose.

How should Scotland play? Well, honesty time here because I think that there was tentativeness to Scotland in Italy after a loss of confidence brought about by snatching a defeat by Wales from the jaws of victory.

I saw indecision when I replayed the tape of the Italian game.

Frankly, for the Scots to win this weekend they have to throw off the last three games and rip into England. If there is any hesitancy this weekend, any indecision, any lack of passion, then I am afraid it will be another loss.

A lot will depend on the weather. England will be better, their backs will lie flatter, and I suspect they will want to batter the Scottish forwards.

I like trying to batter the opposition's strength so I'd like to see Scotland run at the English pack, get them on the ground, then move the ball to midfield or wider still.

My guess is that England, too, will want an up-tempo game.

The key factors are: will Jonny Wilkinson turn in a world class performance? If he does England will win. Will England's pack getthe upper hand? Again, if they do, Scotland lose. Can England keep cool heads at Murrayfield and not panic? If so, ditto...

Will Scotland get clean, quick possession, keep it in contact, recycle quickly, and get over the gain line? If that happens there's a sniff. Will Scotland get parity or possibly ascendancy at scrum time? Again, that's a winning platform.

And will the Scottish players play with courage, belief, pattern, and real abrasion, with, and this is vital, Dan Parks on song?

If that happens, my friends, Scotland will win. I need to go away now and get my pulse back down.

What do you think?

Comments

Page 1 of 2

  • Comment number 1.

    Like yourself born and lived as child in SE Asia with Scottish parents. Agree with you, plus would add that the line out will also be key- assuming that Dan 'The NEW Man'has a good tactical kicking game.Looks like Shaw will be out and a good opp for our boys [with Hines enforcing] - particularly if we can steal ball in their 22 and run at a less organised defence...can't wait.
    PS I think I worked with one of your sons on a Civ Eng project on the A9 near Perth about 10 years ago? Hope the other one continues to impress [my wife has recently him as well!]

  • Comment number 2.

    As you correctly point out this is game that England can lose if they play with inept tactics which has been their wont. But Scotland have proved, unless they have a first choice backline, they present little threat to anyone. The win against Australia showed heroic defence but had Australia spread the Scottish defence at any stage it would have been another story. I think the fitness of both Scotland and England is comparable so I don’t think Scotland will drop off the pace in the last 10 minutes as they have been doing. But that said if the England front five sit on the Scotland back row and the England backs cannot score if I were MJ I would pack up my tent. Ben Foden will be the scourge of Scotland if he is picked.

  • Comment number 3.

    Thought D Sole had it right in last weeks Scotsman. Anyway, I firmly believe its a game we can win and AR will probably only change Hamilton for Hines although my wildcard is Jackson on the bench - Godman has lost whatever he had last year. there are other changes he coudl make (centre)but I'm not sure he will. Southwell was trying too hard and like Parks should concentrate on what he does well, If we have backs that are conservative then use them better - don't change them. (think Eng 91 RWC, any French side of the last few years, NZ at every RWC since 87!) We need to forget about Italy as I, like you, think we were probably still shell shocked from Cardiff. Lets build on that fantastic 73 mins in Wales and prove that we can play this game. But more importantly lets folllow it up with a result in Ireland. The season is not lost and whilst I don't believe that a result against the english is the b-all but as Eddie Butler said on Sunday - ITS A GREAT PLACE TO START.

  • Comment number 4.

    boleynchickenrun - think it was my brother....yes, let's hope dan the man is on form. What a lovely day...

  • Comment number 5.

    As an Englishman I expect to see an England victory. Trouble is I've been expecting this for every game we've played since I started watching England rugby in 1977. England will win if they play a different game to the previous matches this 6N -- quick ball thrown out wide, minimum time at the breakdown, top of the line out ball. Scotland will win if England don't do any of the above. Martin Johnson and his entire coaching staff should be asked to stand down at the end of the 6Ns if England lose again.

    I like the way Scotland play (minus 7 mins in Cardiff and 80 mins in Rome) and if they can get in our faces and under our skin -- and they need not motivation for this game -- then it'll be a dog fight. The best games always are.

    I'm more worried about playing Scotland than any other team. The Scots have a knack of sending us packing back south across the border. It may very well happen again.

  • Comment number 6.

    "The season is not lost and whilst I don't believe that a result against the english is the b-all but as Eddie Butler said on Sunday - ITS A GREAT PLACE TO START".


    Eddie Butler is a disgrace to the BBC, is he not aware that as the commentator he is supposed to be impartial? - he is not a pundit.

  • Comment number 7.

    John - I'm wanting to see controlled passion for the Scottish team this weekend. Controlled in as much as we can't afford to give away silly penalties.

    Watched the Edinburgh v Ospresy's highlights on STV (well done STV for at least carrying highlights on the Magners league...come on BBC the Friday night radio show is great - put these guys on TV in a Scottish version of Scrum V ). Thought Carins had a great game and I'd like to see him get a chance on Saturday at No 15, what do you think John?

  • Comment number 8.

    John, not only run at the forwards but work the English backs as well. It will depend on who Monobrow selects but as Jim Telfer pointed out, Monye has to be a target for kicks behind him being well chased by the Scots. If they pick Armitage at 15, Happy Days! Kick over him as well and he'll just hoof it back,. However, if they pick Foden at 15 instead, get ready to tackle and close him down. Get the loose forwards running at Tait or the 13/14 channel.

    Up front, Euan Murray needs to be on top form, but if England pick Tim Payne at loose head, watch the penalties roll in! Instead of Shaw they may pick Lawes, who can tackle like a demon but for whom a Calcutta Cup game at this stage in his career may be a wee bit too much. And find a way to keep Nick Easter moving around, he'll run out of puff. Our back row are one of the best combinations in the 6N, they can spur us on!

  • Comment number 9.

    Plenty of interesting match ups. If the trio of Barclay, Beattie and Brown maintain form then they could cause major problems for England. If the neagativity around England has effected the players and Scotland get the early rub of the green it could be a very exciting game indeed.

  • Comment number 10.

    All the rush defenses, all the kick or pass, all the changes in management and all the analysis in the world is not going to change Scottish rugby(or Welch or Irish or Italian). It is the figure of 36,000 that is the deciding factor. That is where all energy and ingenuity must be placed.
    This is where the hard yards are made. In the schools, in the clubs. The teacher who stays back after the day to teach a group of lads and does not get paid a 'bonus'. This is where the real battles are fought. This is where the grand slams and world cups are won.

  • Comment number 11.

    The battle up front will be fascinating. Can Eng's front 5 force the Scotland scrum backwards, and as Hookers armpit has adhered too, can Scotland's backrow reep more pressure on Haskell and co.
    Eng need to make the odd change in the backrow to compete. S. Armitage has to play at 7, he performs week in and week out for his club. I would keep Haskell at 6 for his potential ball carrying, but he has to raise his game. Moody to drop to the bench.
    In the backs Foden should play at FB regardless of Delon's fitness. I would also make one other change, Hodgson to start. I would opt for Hodgson's sharp pass over Cares threat around the fringes.
    This game will be decided in the first 20 mins. If Eng do not get off to a good start it could be a long afternoon for the men in white.

  • Comment number 12.

    We need a strong referee the clamp down on the english forwards killing the ball as we need to play a high tempo game.

  • Comment number 13.

    Bring on the rain and keep it in the forwards! Then take the penalties. That's how the Scots will win. It will be ugly, but nevertheless, very satisfying.

  • Comment number 14.

    Simon, Eddie Butler may be a disgrace but the truth remains - A win on Saturday for us will be a great place to start the season.

  • Comment number 15.

    Watched Edinburgh live on sunday and very impressed with their game plan against a heavier Opsreys pack. they lept ball live and moved play from side to side of pitch - Ospreys pack ran out of puff after 50 mins. Edin played with 3 open side flankers and although lighter they were far more mobile and it worked! Feel scotland need to create the breakdowns away from the big english pack and make them cover the yards then look for the mismatches later in the game. However we need to follow Edinburgh example and be confident when we make the line breaks - too often against Wales and Italy we did the hard work and then failed to finish them off. Perhaps Edinburgh's Robertson worth a chance?

  • Comment number 16.

    A Scotsman having the misfortune to live in Twickenham during the 6 Nations I decided to have a quiet night in this Saturday ahead of what will no doubt be an expensive trip back north for Murrayfield's biggest event of this year to watch Andy's Army mount their 6Nations rebellion, okay a bit melodramatic perhaps, but imagine my surprise when I turned on the TV on Saturday night only to find the familiar face of the late Patrick McGoohan on screen. Immediately I knew what was going on, even before the schedule loaded on the freeview box, whilst my friends were calling out, "what's this film?"
    Quietly I whispered "Braveheart"
    But after deciding to watch it I asked everyone, "Do you think the Scotland squad would be sat somewhere watching this?" Much to the enjoyment of everyone else in the room. Unlikely but not impossible, and after a small political detour the topic was back to rugby (much like now).
    I believe Scotland can salvage this conquest by beating England and Ireland, no one has said Andy Robinson would drag Scotland out of these dark days quickly, it is imperative that he has time to deliver the promised goods, but they can start again here. All northern Hemisphere coaches tend to be measured against Clive Woodward and none more so than Robinson given his management history but time is key. Nevertheless as passionate a supporter as I am I do not expect Scotland to win the next Rugby World Cup. The SRU need to be thinking much long-term and develop rugby across the country before that can become a possibility, victory at this early stage tells them they are doing things right. Much like with Brian Ashton (successor to the RFU throne after Robinson) who took England to the World Cup final in 2007. This told the bigwigs that England Rugby was back on top and after coming a respectable second the opinion became we are too big for Ashton when in actual fact he made a lot of progress out of limited resources, although it was still better resources than Robinson had in his time, his namesake Jason Robinson for one.
    Living in Twickenham I have to know a bit about England anyway, but back to Scotland:
    Short term however I'd like to see a few changes. After Ben Cairns's performance against Ospreys he should earn a recall, against Ireland at worst. He played out of position with great fervour and with Mossy out of action and Southwell giving a mediocre performance against Italy Cairns could provide part of the shake-up or an extra options on the bench coming in where and when needed as subs will be integral in these last two matches.
    To freshen the team I would also like to see the England think-tank surprised by going with recently recovered Mike Blair to partner Parks against England or if that's not possible then try it against Ireland. Others have mentioned with 10 and 12 not offering much in the way of running attack then 9 and 13 need to compensate which Blair could.
    Scotland's Warrior backrow have been outstanding, as many have commented, so no queries there, although keeping the three of them together is perhaps part of success story so substituting one may affect the others!?
    Nathan Hines, as much as I worry about his composure and ability to get sent off at pivotal moments, does play a great game when we plays against England and whilst Wales run a fast game England will be more physical and that's what we need now.
    Accordingly "Chunk" who played a blinder against Italy and possibly deserved Man of the Match should head up the front row along with Ford and Murray.

    As for previous encounters of Scotland and England I have been fortunate to be at three out of the previous four matches, with Scotland collecting two victories there is no reason Scotland can’t repeat the performance.

  • Comment number 17.

    As an Irishman I'll be supporting the Scots this weekend, but for more than one reason. I'm very aware that if England do beat the Scots then we'll have an almighty battle against you the following weekend!

    In fairness Scotland having been doing a lot of good things - Their back row is dangerous, front row is causing teams a lot of pain, if only they can keep it going for 80 minutes!

    Prediction is a Scotland win - perhaps 15-12.

    Good luck!

  • Comment number 18.

    Lewis Husband's. Well it's interesting to hear from a Scotsman residing in Twickenham. I am your English equivalent, but 20 minutes walk from Murrayfield (although admittedly Edinburgh is just a wee bit smaller than London).

    I hear a fair amount of Scottish rugby too and have had the opportunity to see Edinburgh thrice. The passion and enthusiasm they play with its unparalleled. The lack of resources always poses a problem for the Scots, but all that counts for nothing on the day! Having lived here for six years, I can say with very resolutely tat it takes very little to motivate the Scots when England are in town, and that passion will as always work wonders for them. Couple that with a very solid back row outfit which will be Andy Robinson's key weapon against England and the sort of desire that has seen Edinburgh top the Magners League this year, then an unpretty, ground out affair could very well see the outcome reading a Scottish win! And that is my prediction. The Scots have talent and capabilities equivalent to the English, but more importantly a strength in desire and passion which will see them through!!

  • Comment number 19.

    First things first - John, is there a big age gap between you and your brother or do you just look that old he could be your son!?

    Against England I think we can definitely achieve parity at the scrum, our lineout has been ticking over nicely so the set piece should work alright. The breakdown should be a good area for us, someone mentioned the 3 openside Edinburgh team but in Barclay, Brown and your lad we have a very mobile back 3 anyway so we should be into the breakdown quickly, especially considering Easter is not exactly a flyer. We need to make sure when we get there we are as aggressive as we were against Wales though, there's no point getting there first if you're not going to secure good quick ball so lets make sure we clear out well.

    I'd agree Chunk needs to start, he had a stormer last time out and when he plays the scrum looks much more assured. I'd keep Dickinson on the bench but I'd like to see Murray play the full game and take Dickinson on in the last 10 for Chunk and just let him run at a tired England team. Same is true of Strockosh, bring him on for Brown when he starts to tire so he can keep the tempo going. I'd have Scott Lawson on the bench, I know what the penalty he gave away against Wales was daft but other than that he has had a very good impact when he has come on.

    The centre pairing could be an interesting one as I noticed the English have drafter in Tindall which would suggest a combative midfield so I'd be tempted to go with Grove at 12 and Sean Lamont at 13. I think Walker has played his way out of a test recall and Robertson may have played his way in. If Visser was Scottish I think he'd be looking for a call up!

    My team to play England would be-

    1. Chunk
    2. Ford
    3. Murray
    4. Hamilton
    5. Kellock
    6. Brown
    7. Barclay
    8. Beattie

    9. Cusiter
    10. Parks

    11. Robertson
    12. Grove
    13. Lamont
    14. M Evans
    15. Cairns

    16. Lawson
    17. Dickinson
    18. Hines
    19. Strockosh
    20. Lawson
    21. Jackson
    22. Southwell (I was far from convinced on showing against Italy but with Lamont / Mossy out I'm struggling to come up with an alternative)

  • Comment number 20.

    Let's not get too delusional. We threw away the Welsh game, were never in it against France and returned to a pathetic lack of creativity against Italy. Look at the stats: plenty of possession from the forwards, most of it good enough, and 22 attempts in the Italian 22. All for nothing. It hardly seems credible.
    That game just brought back to the fore the old problems of a set of backs that cannot run into space, draw a man, and pass, simple basics. They have to learn how to run straight WITH THE BALL IN TWO HANDS.
    Parks has a golden boot this year, but he needs someone beside him who can create rather than run into contact and then either lose the ball, get pinged or slow it down so much the opposition defence is reset.
    Max Evans has shown he can find holes, but he's so much quicker than those around him, he's five yards ahead when he does get away and there's no one in support.
    And that is a problem through out the whole team. Why are there no support runners to convert line breaks to scores? Is it fear, or a lack of ability to read the game, or just coached-in defensive-mindedness? If there had been even one support runner close to Barclay or Beattie, Italy would have been where we should have put them, out of the game. Instead they showed us how it is done.
    Think about how the All Blacks play, when they've opened the door, they are ruthless in handling and support. Even England managed it against Wales. Scotland seem to be content to stand and watch the runner, presumably saying to themselves, 'what a break, if only he can score'.
    But I'll still be there on Saturday with hope in my heart and no voice by the end!

  • Comment number 21.

    McChomp - your comments about the Italy game could equally have been written by an Aussie after we beat them in the Autumn. All the possession / territory / chances etc.
    Sometimes sides put in an awesome defensive display and take the few (only) chance they create. Italy looked really up for it, I think we missed our first choice back 3. Although the result may have been the same.
    Anyhoo - we can beat england for all the reasons everyone is bringing up. Anyone know the weather forecast ????

  • Comment number 22.

    Just been out on the motorbike this afternoon, up to Lochgoilhead where we used to go on holiday. it's way up past Loch Lomond, but even in the sunshine the chalet looked so much smaller than I remember

    McChomper - I'll be there on Saturday, and completely impartial on BBC radio Scotland 810 medium wave Playing a gig at the Jam house later. We do need more support runners for gain line breakers. As I write I don't know the team so no point guessing. I was just thinking how Jason White was so crucial in wins before and wonder who the new Jason is.

    Abz rugby, good shout, let's see what Andy has on the flip chart when he turns it round in front of the players.

    Alex, I hope we treat you with respect. Not sure this Scottish team is equipped for grinding stuff out. It's interesting you have us as favourites, I much prefer it when we are underdogs.

    Kevo - I have to say the irish have been good this season again. Like I said above, I hate us being favourites. We are UNDERDOGS! Please....

    Lewis, you seem to think Ben Cairns could be there again. He's a great player. Whoever gets in the team they need to be rocking and rolling come Saturday, England are as backs to the wall, given their natural expectations, as the Scots. I remember interviewing the Samoans just after they had watched Braveheart and two days before they played us. They liked the film and viewed us as a warrior race.

    dpedid - you agree about line breaks and supporting the ball. It's going to be difficult to get through England. I rate Haskill and co.

    I like cake 111 - yup, government should be spending a lot more on school sport. But it's not a vote winner.

    Theosportsfan and others - yup, Scotland need a scrum that works, set piece that doesn't creak, and Dan PArks on his game.

    Away to let my pulse settle down again. Been for a run as well

    JB

  • Comment number 23.

    Sorry to all you wonderful Scotch folk who happily dream away your time in cloud cuckoo land but you are catching the Welsh affliction of self indulgence. You played out of your skins against the Welsh savages but you still lost.... And the Welsh team, as good as they would like to think they are, aren't as good a unit as the English.
    If Scotland try and take England on up front then good luck!
    The Irish showed the way to play England was to break fast around the fringes and counter with pace and width.
    Unfortunately you don't have a Tommy Bowe or even a midfield good enough to pass Englands defensive system. They are currently playing a revised drift and man out from set pieces inside the 10.
    O'DRISCOLL was good enough to keep the English Centres guessing but your fellas are woefully short of anything that will concern Flutey and Tait/Tindall.
    Scotland have no prevailant weapon that can surpass this method.
    Your back row are fair club players and they try hard but they're not in the same league as Haskell and Co.
    Trying to outrun and outmuscle the English back row is a mistake and all 3 teams they've played this year have tried it and failed.
    The second row may be an area to exploit but as England generally play a 4 and 4 pack system you're going to struggle with mobility, especially if England let LAWES stretch his legs.
    You can't possibly play as badly as you did against Italy and hope that you'll be able to control or dominate Englands pack.
    Sorry boys but you'll lose by at least 20.

    Lewis Husbands - That's the funniest, most cliched post I've read for ages. Nice one. Next you'll have them all eating porridge and doing the Highland fling before the match.

  • Comment number 24.

    And for what its worth Eddie Butler's a legend!!! From an Englishman its nice to see that he speaks from the heart and with passion. The BBC should give him a payrise not chastise him for supporting his country.

  • Comment number 25.

    So let me get this straight.
    All we Jocks need to beat the English this weekend are the aforementioned things:
    Dan Parks (one good game under his belt), to fire up the side with his tactical kicking
    Aggression, tenacity,strength,keeping the ball in contact,passion, moving the ball wide with good decision making, etc etc.
    I see. Were we not promised all this by exactly this side (and management) prior to the 6 nation's tournament?
    3 games, 3 defeats, but hey everyone, this weekend will be different!
    Why?
    Just because we can fire ourseleves up against the auld enemy, everything will suddenly slip into place like a jigsaw? I don't think so.
    No one wants this side to beat England more that I do, but one glance at the tournament table SHOULD be a pointer to what lies ahead.
    I have noticed how quiet Andy Robinson has been this week-reality dawning?

  • Comment number 26.

    "And for what its worth Eddie Butler's a legend!!! From an Englishman its nice to see that he speaks from the heart and with passion. The BBC should give him a payrise not chastise him for supporting his country."
    Jiminoz - you seem to be under the misconception that Butler should not be neutral in his description of the action. That's rather the nature of his job, unfortunately.
    Mr B - I agree with your analysis and I would be interested to know whether you think that Johnson has selected a suitable gameplan for England which plays to the strengths of the pool of talent he has available to him. Big Jim Telfer (Sunday Times, 7 March) does not think so, describing England as 'tactically naive'...

  • Comment number 27.

    GeorgeCarlin - I think England will change the way they play to get into the Scots. If you look at how Wales and Italy beat Scotland it was actually about keeping the Scottish defence moving. Italy won with very little possession and kept the scots at bay by keeping their defence line intact when Scotland had the ball. Weather forecast is beautiful all week, so we are in for a fast and open game whatever happens.

    Hawkeyethejock - Scotland should be two games up, but aren't. That is probably why Andy robinson is quiet, he and the team know they blew two winning chances.

    JiminOz, sport is unpredictable. But you are right, England are favourites.

    JB

  • Comment number 28.

    And have you seen the bit of footage on this website where a Scarlets player is penalised for shouting at someone? Man oh man

  • Comment number 29.

    JB, I'm sure the lads are fired up enough ahead of this one but if you feel they need any extra encouragement perhaps you could pass them the posts by Jiminoz. He's certainly reminded me why it's always so satisfying to ram it up them.

  • Comment number 30.

    typical very negative stuff here. there is no reason to beleive that we are not capable of thrashing england this weekend. we have a lot more potential than the current one dimensional england team which is the worst in a very long time.

  • Comment number 31.

    If we can boss it from the start and get into our varying multiple point high tempo attack then I think we have every chance. Areas we all know need to improve from previous games in this 6N: discipline, fewer lost turnovers, cool heads under pressure, finishing / ruthlessness in attack.

    I think we have a solid set piece and rampant back row capable of outplaying the English forwards. And if Parks is on form I think we have a team capable of winning.

    I'll be there on Saturday. The odds are against us but my optimism and support will be unwavering!

  • Comment number 32.

    Alive555 - I'm with you. What's the point in all the nae-saying-so-called-Scotland-supporting-negative-mindset-doom-merchant posts we see on here (e.g. Hawkeyethejock)? Is it to tell us we're all doomed? Is it to tell us "I told you so" if we lose? At least tell us where you think it's all going so depressingly wrong!

  • Comment number 33.

    Team is just out, Max Evans on wing, Nick DaLuca in the centre, Simon Danielli on the bench.

    Looks like it will be similar game plan with Dan Parks key to this as well as back row running in open space.

    What do you make of the team?

    JB

  • Comment number 34.

    No Ben Cairns? I thought he'd played himself into the squad at least from his performance for Edinburgh v Ospreys.

  • Comment number 35.

    Not a fan of DaLuca, but im pretty down on all the Scottish backs these days, so not sure who i would select. Was never even a fan of the celebrated Chris Patterson, think hes over rated and soft.

    Thats why i think something should be done at grass root level, schools and clubs to increase our skills for BACKS!! They are being left to coach themselves while the forwards get the coaches full attention. The SRU need to tackle this or we will never compete.

    England have Wilkinson, Flutey and Foden... who do we have in that calibre?

    John you keep quoting the numbers "two million versus 36,000", so we need to make up the ground with coaching! I agree whole heartedly that sport/rugby needs more money from the powers above. But we can still coach now.

    I leave for Old 'Reekie on Friday, 5 hour journey south stopping for some snowboarding in Aviemore on the way down!

  • Comment number 36.

    John - I'm with Aidan, disappointed that Cairns has not been selected at 15 to replace Southwell. That said I'm pleased that Rory Lawson as at least on the bench - I'd have him starting, but hey what do I know! Both Cusiter and Blair are good players, but I think Lawson would help get the quicker ball that we will need if we are to find space to attack.

    I think AR has got it right in Hamilton starting and Hines coming on at some point from the bench. Like others have said, you always worry that Nathan is going to pick up a yellow. I think DaLuca at centre and Max on the wing is a good idea - let's hope that Parks or Morrison can get the ball then both.

    Went with my sons to the open training event last night. It was interesting to see that the there was a referee taking part in the session and in particular working with the forwards on their rick and maul drills. Good idea in my opinion. But let's hope that on Saturday night - whoever wins - its the rugby we're all taking about and not the referee.

    C'mon Scotland lets show that the first 70 mins in Wales was not a one off, lets go for a win.

  • Comment number 37.

    Travelled up to Murrayfield two years ago with my Englang supporting wife to celebrate our Silver Wedding Anniversary to watch the Calcutta Cup.
    Every team has a performance and two years ago to the date on that rain soaked day Scotland refused to be bullied,who will ever forget the tackle by jason White on Paul Sackey,and this is the approach the forwards need to take with them on Saturday.Front up to their over rated forwards,run them right and left ,penalties will come when they are forced to slow the game down,and holes will appear to exploit.
    I look forward with graet belief that Scotland will win by playing to their traditional strenghts of playing fast and furious up front and direct behind in the backs.Remember hoe Ian McGeechan got it right in 1990.

  • Comment number 38.

    Just read my post earlier and I'm not being one eyed though it sounds it.
    Scotland just aren't good enough at the moment to compete in this company. That doesn't mean to say they can't have their day. England are far from a good side but they're better than Scotland on form and paper. Scotland Wales was an even contest but England are just too strong in tight and playing them at their own game will cost Scotland dearly. Still reckon England by at least 20.

    And for George Carlin... Job or not its nice to see someone not towing the party line. His job is to comment on rugby, not try and appease everyone. Good on ya Eddie... Keep up the good work.

  • Comment number 39.

    John - Really like your blog. Always thought provoking - why can't somebody in the BBC Welsh camp do the same - But please not Eddie Butler.

    Against Wales as I said prior to the Italy game, Scotland were the better side for 70 mins(and I'm Welsh).
    Against Italy - Scotland did not have the confidence to do what was required and that was the key to losing the game.

    However as you have said - Scotland play better rugby when they are the underdogs. It is a shame when a team has to rely on being an underdog to get the performance out.

    To beat England I think there are 4 pre-requisites:-
    1)Achieve parity in the scrum - That is possible given your front row.
    2)Back row must spoil, slow down and make a nuisance of themselves.
    3)Push the offside line as much as possible - The Scottish back row must be in Jonnys face all day.
    4) Cusiter must watch Rob Jones performance for the Lions against Australia in 89. He was a nasty annoying little person for the whole game and got under Farr-Jones skin. Cusiter can do this as well and the English SH is not quite as calm. He will then make mistakes.

    Scotlands back row must have the game of their lives for Scotland to win. It is possible but unfortunately I think unlikely.

    But I will be cheering for Scotland.

  • Comment number 40.

    As an Englishman I think Scotland have a great chance in this match. If they play at the same tempo they did against Wales for most of the game they will win. For once Scotland has nothing to fear up front and equal if not edge England in the Front Row, 2nds and Back Row. England has picked a team (with Worsley) to counter the Scots which should play into Scotland's hands and they retain Armitage at fullback when he isn't 100% fit or on form which I think again plays into Scotland's hands with Parks the only 10 so far to kick consistently well from hand.

    If Scotland support the runner and play a high tempo ruck game I really can see them win but they must must must support the ball carrier. Against Italy I lost count of the times a half break was made and ball carrier looked inside for a runner who would have been in a huge gap only to see 2 or 3 team-mates walking around! The opportunities won't be as many against England so they have to be taken.

    Whatever happens I expect a good, highly charged match. England against Scotland in Scotland is always one of the best games IMHO.

  • Comment number 41.

    I know a home game against England is usually considered to be that little bit special, but, this time, this Scottish team has to prove they are capable of actually winning. Of course we enjoyed the win over Australia, but let's be honest, these tactics were a one-off and you can't consider that a foundation to build on. Maybe Chris Cusiter will manage to instil a bit more passion in his team when he leads them onto the pitch and sing our anthem than he managed in Italy.

    This team is a curiosity. Why are Cairns and Grove ignored? Is Morrison keeping his place to make up for Parks' defensive weakness? Is Godman on the bench just as cover for Parks? Why not start with Hines instead of Hamilton? Did Lawson not do enough to merit his place on the bench ahead of Blair, or a starting place ahead of Cusiter?

    Having visited the Forum of Scottish rugby supporters (FOSRS), someone suggested Morrison and De Luca are a perfect pairing, as Morrison can't pass and De Luca can't catch. Joking aside, this doesn't seem to be a selection based on form, so it must be tactical. We'll just have to wait and see what these tactics are, but it doesn't appear to be running at the backs.

    Worsley is obviously a defensive selection, so our 3 Bs can take some heart from that. Should we only pose a threat in our loose forwards? Obviously not, but it's pretty much all we have consistently shown so far. Robinson knows the English players and Southwell will be useful to return the aimless English kicking. Will they kick aimlessly again? Oh probably, as they're even less creative than we are.

    A win is the most important thing, then we can make it two in a row in Dublin. Once we have these two wins, perhaps we can be more positive in selection on tour.

  • Comment number 42.

    ABZRUGBY........I like this team you put out especially in the backs. That sort of line up would worry any team but seems the AR has a bit more of a robust game plan in mind. Still don't get what Danielli brings to the party and unsure if Southwell is up for a good game. Cairns, Robertson, Grove, Lamont, Max Evans would certainly cause havoc and I would class them all as very good rugby thinkers. I think the back row will make it or break it for Scotland. If they have a good game and make holes close in then Scotland's backs will finish it off - one caveat as long as Dan doesn't drop kick everything within 20 metres. He should be told to pass the ball out anywhere in the last 3rd of the pitch. Anything in the middle third he can make a judgement call as to whether to kick or pass. Anything in the first third he blooters it as far as way as he can........unless there's a 4 to 1 overlap!

    Will be there cheering the boys on.

    1. Chunk
    2. Ford
    3. Murray
    4. Hamilton
    5. Kellock
    6. Brown
    7. Barclay
    8. Beattie

    9. Cusiter
    10. Parks

    11. Robertson
    12. Grove
    13. Lamont
    14. M Evans
    15. Cairns

    16. Lawson
    17. Dickinson
    18. Hines
    19. Strockosh
    20. Lawson
    21. Jackson
    22. Southwell

  • Comment number 43.

    Another quick comment. Just watched the France/Wales game last night and see the French finished the game by a grubber kick that didn't go 10 metres into touch. Therein lies the difference between Scotland having a bad 6 Nations and a good one. C'est la Vie.

  • Comment number 44.

    I am backing Nick De Luca to have a good game. He dropped two passes against France in his 1st game but that doesn't mean he cant catch. Lets get behind all our boys and support this team, without our support we will have to put up with a long night in Edinburgh.

  • Comment number 45.

    Saintjock - I am backing DaLuca to have a good game as well. From what I've seen of him play he looks for space to run into and I think will challenge many a defence. That said, Ally Gory's comment about Morrison and DaLuca being perfect as one can't pass and the other can't catch did make me laugh. But here's hoping that it's Morrison and DaLuca that have the last laugh by putting in match winning performances.

  • Comment number 46.

    My guess? England will have noted the attacking threat of the scottish back row and so aim to tie them in before going wide. That English backrow is a big ballcarrying one and I think they will be sent forward with ball in hand. England are going to run at Scotland's pack, get them on the ground, and then zip it wide.

    Morrison is a good player, I have seen him so many times since he was a kid and he will klick.

    Weather is key, and it is to be dry and sunny all week

    JB

  • Comment number 47.

    "here's hoping that it's Morrison and DaLuca that have the last laugh"

    I can't claim the credit for the joke, but, of course, hope you're right and we're all laughing on Saturday evening.

  • Comment number 48.

    Aidan
    I'm not being negative, just realistic-are you? I have had 45 years of supporting my nation at all sports, spent a huge amount of money to travel and yell my support. I am entitled to therefore say what I think is the truth about this side!
    A new dawn was promised, instead of which we have had the same ol' same ol'. I don't blame the players or the management (silk purses and sow's ears).
    I'm not depressed about it, but there seems to be some deja vu here, and that's disquieting.
    Root and branch reform at school level in all sports, with a lot more funding is needed to halt the obvious decline in Scottish teams. of course, that's long term-in the meantime, let's beat England, feel good for once, and save up for the next match!!!

  • Comment number 49.

    John my boy - in your heart of hearts you surely cannot possibly prefer Southwell to Cairns?

  • Comment number 50.

    As an Englishman I can see this is going to be a dour hard fought battle. You can just see by the selection of Worsley that MJ is going to be relying on the big backrow to carry,& make the hard yards. For me, this is area & at half back is where the game will be won & lost. I think that the Scottish backrow has been outstanding so far this 6 nations, up there with that of the Irish & French, & a lot of that has been down to the consistency of your son JB, he's turning into one of the best number 8's in world Rugby at the moment. However controls the breakdown & supplies good fast ball to their stand off will win, & I for one can see a Scottish victory...... Leaving England to play their statutory blinder against the French & stuff them ;O)

  • Comment number 51.

    I just read Jim Telfer's article from The Times. I feel he's hit the nail on the head, its difficult to run our backs wide if we have a soft area, ie Parks and Morrison. Ok, hardly soft, and I'll quite happily admit both their games are sound, and they have consistency but what we need now is a bit of a wildcard, I think Robinson should give Grove some Six Nations game time at least because I believe he has much more to prove. As far as Parks is concerned ok, there's no good reason to leave him out of the squad presently, he controls the game well and his territorial kicks are good and Godman is miles off in terms of form. I also agree that there's too much hype around the England - Scotland game, England haven't been on fantastic form recently, so it isn't hugely an impressive scalp. Looking at the last blog discussions about the Scotland players not being 'up' for the last game, they should be, because on paper our squad is now something to be reckoned with, admittedly not the best but we certainly have a world class pack, and we should also be looking to claim Ireland. Now that would be far more satisfying than seeing us beat a somewhat one-dimensional England side like we have every other year for the past 4 years by penalties. The problem lies in confidence, and the psychology of the players it seems.

    I hope the boys play well on Saturday and if they do beat England, beat them properly with tries as opposed to beating them by penalties!

  • Comment number 52.

    We're keeping you busy this weekend John!

    Team line-up: satisfactory - its not the team i would play but its what i expected from Robinson.

    Slightly surprised Hines is not back in for Hamilton.

    Macdonald must have performed well for Edinburgh in their last win. 5 tries from backs - thats what we need from Scotland!

    John - would you play Graeme Morrison if you were the head-honcho?

    He is a good player but so limited in what makes him that good player. In my mind he is not an expansive enough player for international fixtures. Has Grove been on very poor form? He was brilliant in the autumn tests! I'd like to see more of De Luca at inside - he impressed me a lot when he came on against the Aussies plus his clubmate Cairns - possibly the best attacking back in Scottish rugby in terms of the whole package - pace, hands, brain etc.

    We can not afford to have Parks and Southwell on the pitch at the same time. It was their pathetic confusion that led to the try in Rome. Having both on sets us back in defence by a long way and in attack come to think of it.

    I d just like to see that little bit more ambition in the backs in terms of personel.

    i.e. Cusiter, Parks/Godman, Danielli, De Luca/Grove, Cairns/Evans, Lamont, Thompson

    Lets wait and see.

  • Comment number 53.

    Stormy 39 - this weekend is BBC day on Friday, beeb Under 20s Friday night, sportsweekly saturday morning, coaching west in cup game sat lunch, game at Murrayfield, gig in Jamhouse at night time (flipping heck Jill Douglas and John Inverdale are going to sing - I have asked Jeremy G before and I think he would say no again), then half six Sunday morning flight to go to malaysia for my old school reunion and a thirteen hour flight.

    Look, I am a fan of Morrison, I have seen him win games for Glasgow and when he clicks someone will get it in the nachos,

    NeilB and GeorgeCarlin - coach is trusting his players. Players respond to that. Cairns and Robertson must be close as both are excellent players.

    This is going to be tough. Dry pitch? Not sure what that means except mayhem. Coached tonight at West and players are flying on these surfaces after weeks of frost and mud.

    Don't think I will be able to sleep, but then what's new?

    Might go for a spin on the motorbike tomorrow.

    JB

  • Comment number 54.

    Selections and tactics? The moulds have already been cast.

    Murrayfield is Scottish turf. Our team would significantly benefit from uncommonly loud and prolonged vocal support from its fans.

    There's that obvious advantage to be gained.





  • Comment number 55.

    Normally, I'd hope for fireworks from England, but given recent matches and my willingness to enjoy fireworks no matter whence they come rather than have none, I look once again to the under-dog.

    I rather like the idea of piling pressure directly onto the English pack, not only by running at them, but by driving lineout possession and applying the pain in the scrummages: they've on occasion looked a little rudderless under such pressure. On the other hand, I surmise that the tactic would work better if it were to come as a surprise.

    I often see Armitage getting drawn out of position (Am I the only one to see it? He gets away with it a good deal of the time!) and look forward to seeing a team with the nous to belt the leather off the ball every time he strays forward, so no need to run EVERY ball at the English pack...

    Some concentrated attention on the hooker might also be good: in the event of an early replacement, England will have to field the least effectual scrummager in international rugby at core of their unit, and that alone might turn the game.

    At the very least, such direct tactics will force England to shape up or ship out.

  • Comment number 56.

    hi John, firstly, the Glasgow U18 side won 2 games in this seasons district matches, they beat the U18 exiles at whitecraigs.
    It was good to see two "local" team coaches at the Glasgow v Caledonian game on sunday past, even if you are from the "city".
    Did either you or Mr Wright see any potential"stars" of the future playing for Glasgow ? .... be careful how you answer that one, my son was playing !!!
    On the subject of the "future", all the players selected for their respective district sides are supposed to be the best in their positions in the district, with our (Scotlands) limited resources in playing numbers,why is it that only the players selected for the national age group side get the sort of professional coaching and conditioning training to enable them to enter the adult game ?
    Would it not be better for Scotland, in the long run, to provide these services to all the district boys, with the view to expanding Scotlands pro player base ? Instead of just "discarding" them back to their clubs and the well meaning "local" playing / coaching set up's.
    The management of the district sides is already in place, whats to stop the premiership clubs supporting the district sides by providing the coaching and conditioning for the district players?
    Your comments, on the above, are awaited with baited breath,
    Doublesanny.

  • Comment number 57.

    Hawkeyethejock, apologies compatriot. I'd just like to see more positivity ahead of our upcoming games and towards our players - we needn't wait for the wins before adopting a positive mindset! Chicken and egg stuff I think.

    I agree with you - with such a small playing population, more investment at grass roots level is essential. A string of good wins would be a catalyst for investment and increased player numbers but I think we also need to change the fee paying school / class stigma which is unique to rugby in Scotland. If only it could make it's way onto all primary and senior school PE curriculums.......

    As for the team that's been announced - I like it. I think our set piece will be strong (glad to see the legend that is Chunk has been retained), I think the selection of a big English back row could backfire against their quicker opposite numbers and I think De Luca can offer the break or half-break from which Max Evans (in more space) can capitalise. Would have liked to see Cairns in place of Southwell but that wont diminish my outlook or support. COME ON SCOTLAND!!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 58.

    Doublesanny - Sorry about the facts, I was told they hadn't won a game. Stars? Game was won thanks to the set scrum, which was good. Best and most visible players were Murray McConnell whom I know well from West, the centre from Cumnock who was outstanding in No 13 jersey, Jamie Swanson until he went off although to be fair to the team they did as well when he was off the pitch. Glasgow lost a fair bit of ball in contact and Hogarth was good for Caledonia. I also liked the Glasgow stand off until he was sent off.

    Let your breath out now because.....I suppose the SRU has limited resources, and I saw a statistic once which said that only 2 percent of players who make a national Under 18 team, team not squad, go on to play for Scotland. So you have to be careful not to waste your money on players who will never make it. We have had three lads come up through West - Robert Harley, Robert McAlpine (though mostly Glasgow Academy) and Murray McConnell and you can see that they have something and all three might make it.

    All talented players should be looked after, and at West we have made it policy to play good youngster in our first fifteen rather than buy in some foreign help. Clubs should be getting the knowledge to support their best players as best they can.

    JB

  • Comment number 59.

    Oh, and I see Andy Robinson saying in the papers today that England "block" ahead of the ball. Interesting

    JB

  • Comment number 60.

    If the Scottish back row play like they did against the Welsh and we don't run the ball back at them when Parks tries to pin us back it will be a long afternoon for the us I'm afraid.

    Sorry John love your blog but while you're right that England have the deepest reserves but it's certainly not 2 million. It's not the first time I've heard the figure from one of our celtic neighbours and for all I know it may come from the RFU but there is no way 1 in 25 people in England play rugby. By the time you've removed those to old play and then taken in to account half the population would only be eligible for the growing but relatively small womens game, as well as the fact that League not Union dominates large parts of the country you'd be left with an even more unprobable figure.

  • Comment number 61.

    I hope the IRB don't mind, but this is from their website. RFU say they have over two million players, 1.2 million of them in teens. This is REGISTERED players. An amazing number and as you say four percent of the entire English population, one in twenty five. As you say once you have taken away retired people, newly born people etc it is astonishing.

    Number Of Clubs:1900
    Number Of Registered Players:2146140
    Number of Referees:38019
    Pre-teen Male Players:192882
    Pre-teen Female Player:19874
    Teen Male Player:1218138
    Teen Female Player:3874
    Senior Male Player:705272
    Senior Female Player:6100
    Total Male Player:2116292
    Total Female Player:29848

  • Comment number 62.

    1900 clubs!

  • Comment number 63.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 64.

    "Selections and tactics? The moulds have already been cast.

    Murrayfield is Scottish turf. Our team would significantly benefit from uncommonly loud and prolonged vocal support from its fans.

    There's that obvious advantage to be gained."

    Once every two years when England come to town does Murrayfield provide uncommonly loud and prolonged vocal support. The rest of the time it's quiet as a mouse.

  • Comment number 65.

    For half and hour or so against Australia it was anything but quiet. But Ken Mavor is right. There are still more 'sshhhh' and 'sit down' merchants than 'shout whatever the score' thugs. We also have only one song. On the other hand if the score is close in the second half I will be able to hear from St Andrews.

  • Comment number 66.

    The overall lack of vocal support from the Scottish fans (especially at Murrayfield games) has always baffled me.

    The recent all time low for yours truly was hearing the French travelling support singing us out of our own stadium during the second half of the opening fixture. That didn't baffle me at all. It bugged the Hell out of me. Just not good enough, Scottish fans. Not by a long shot.

    The Scottish supporters overall vocal contribution to SUPPORTING THEIR TEAM is twee, third rate and actually rather embarrassing.

    Wherever the team is in the world rankings, thank the Lord the world rankings aren't based on supporters' stadium support.

    "We have limited resources. Our coach isn't getting it right. Our players don't rise to the occasion. The referee was biased." ???

    !!! Pants. P-A-N-T-S. Your stadium support was diabolical. Worse than church mice. You simply have no right to get stuck in to the players, coach and whatever else unless you've sung your heart out and yelled yourself hoarse with encouragement for the majority of the game.

    Make a gloriously patriotic racket for most of the game and just see if it doesn't help our cause. I dare you.

    I double dare you, you church mice also rans. Pipe up good and proper for once. It just might make a gloriously positive difference in a tight match.

    We have a team, coach and nation worthy of our support. So let's support them.

  • Comment number 67.

    Where to start, I thought I better read everything on here to make sure I don’t repeat something or miss anything out that springs to mind. I think I’m beginning to see what AR is up to I have to say (no Jiminoz I’m not professing to be psychic or one of the witches from MacBeth if you would prefer the analogy). I think he is trying to build the team, if you chop and change it no one really knows what’s going on. In the same way Edinburgh weren’t an overnight success and neither will Scotland be, we were lucky against Australia but that doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate it! Our defence was something to be proud of but we have to move on…
    Looking towards the England match and doubters of Scotland, if you look at the Wales & Italy matches it’s clear they were more hungry for it, okay maybe Wales were not very peckish in the first half, but it’s often about who wants it most. And when Scotland play England they tend to want it. You may say it’s only at Murrayfield but I remember back in 2007 being sat in the stands at Twickenham watching a lineout on the five metre line at the far side, it was an England throw but it went long and Simon Taylor scrambled back and dotted in between two English defenders to score. Scotland were the first team to score in that match. Sadly three minutes from half time Jason Robinson made light work of the corner and scored England’s first try. This was BA’s first match in charge and JR’s “unretirement” along with Johnny Wilkinson’s recall. Scotland can score tries and can win against England

    Losing to France this year was not shameful, we probably underestimated them, but it’s hard to size up a team in the first game of the tournament and the current French squad are a great bunch of players and generally a top-notch team.

    But in regards to the England match AR has picked consistent players, because some Scottish players have had a few good matches doesn’t mean they are ready for test level, it’s still a step up. I put my faith in AR after all he knows a thing or two about English rugby and JB I think in his book Woodward mentions how he took a referee to the world cup despite the RFU considering him a non-essential and refusing to pay his fare or hotel. Players need to learn how to play against the opposition, the element and the crowd as well as the ref and as my old coach used to say “train as you mean to play”.

    In reply to Jiminoz I see everything from a comical perspective and it was more Channel 4’s timing and my image of the Scotland squad that I was suggesting. Although PR, motivation and Team-building are somewhat areas of special interest to me.

    And hawkeyethejock have you ever considered being a coach? You may say, I don’t know an awful lot about the technical aspects of the game these days, but that is another common trait in our country- passing the buck and having an Englishman in charge helps in that respect. Okay AR was a bit emotional after the Wales game and let it get the better of him in the post match interview but I think he’s generally been honest and said yeah ok we lost because we didn’t do this, fault-finding is a key area. And more coaches will not hinder us as others have pointed out, I'm not the best player or coach, but as I already said I have a few ideas how to create a strong, positive team atmosphere and that's where it starts.

  • Comment number 68.

    CaptainMidnight - well said. We need more songs to sing, chants to shout. If only I was the creative type that could come up with something!

  • Comment number 69.

    ......and don't get me started on the Mexican wave.

    What must it look like for the players? Look guys, we're playing pants and our supporters have started a Mexican wave as they can't be bothered watching what's happening on the pitch. Let's just run down the clock for the next 20 minutes and go in for a shower!

    SRU must also look at making it worthwhile coming to Murrayfield to support the team. Hand out things to support Scotland - big blue foam hands, those air sticks that make a noise when you bang then together. But please don't flog them to make a large profit as no-one will buy them and it will be a completely pointless exercise.

    CaptainMidnight - you need to go and lie down now and take a few deep breaths. :-)

  • Comment number 70.

    Spot on Captainmidnight and Ken Mavor!! Rabid maddog support is a must - not just for this game but every game! Unfortunately those wishy washy clap the opposition barbour clad prawn sandwiches who most need this message would never think of joining a supporters blog / forum.

  • Comment number 71.

    Maybe it is me. But I have played rugby for about 20 years, and been captain for about 5 of those years. That is because I analyse games, see the opposition strengths, play to our strengths and there weaknesses.

    I actually think the word 'lucky' comes into both Scotland and England games. I believe England have been lucky to win, and Scotland unlucky to lose.

    Andy Robinson has sorted out basic errors that were strewn in the past. Our lineouts used to be appaling, and everytime we had the ball in the backs or inter changing with forward play, there was always a sense of "when are we going to drop the ball, or knock on". These elements although not completey eliminated are almost gone.

    I do think having Lamont in the centres was genius. Although that is his position, he was awesome there. I believe our backrow, and on there way to being world class. With Barclay you never know when or where is he is going to pop up, and that also can prove a bit of a pain for our own players. When the levels of thought are on the same aspect, then when Barclay does his side step, runs over a gap, then we will have somebody there to take the offload.

    I am 100% behind Robinson, although to be honest at the start I did have my doubts after the last Edinburgh coach had Scotland playing as a club team rather than international side.

    The future is very bright, and i thoroughly believe we are going to win this weekend. but as a previous report stated, it will obviously be, becuase England underfired, the weather was perfect for Scotland or we spoiled any quick ball.

  • Comment number 72.

    GO ON SCOTLAND!!!

    BIG HITS!!

  • Comment number 73.

    Ok then, that's 2,146,140 registered players and 1,900 clubs. So each club in England has an average of 1,130 registered players. Really? And this must be true because it's on the Internet! I love your blogs, John - but anyone can see that these figures are absurd, and are made no more believable through repetition. These figures present a rugby-mad England where you'd be hard put to find a family that didn't have someone turning out for the second fifteen every week - dad at fly-half, mum in the second row. This is not the England of mine or anyone else's experience. No wonder rugby crowds are so small compared to football crowds - we're all out there playing!
    Can it be that this is the total number of people who have ever been registered rugby players in England? When do we get to discount the dead ones? (When they become less effective than the ones still around, I hear you cry.)
    Anyway, good luck at the weekend and keep up the good work. It's great to have some civilised rugby chat to enjoy every week.

  • Comment number 74.

    Agree with Captainmidnight too. While "Allez les Bleus" was ringing round Murrayfield, I couldn't get a single voice of support to sing Flower of Scotland or even shout "Scotland". I was in the West Stand though.
    However, we do need something better to shout, or at least shout "Scotland" in an uplifting style!
    Also totally agree with Ken Mavor about Mexican wave - call me grumpy but I don't take part!
    The atmosphere created against Australia pre match was great, and the performance on the pitch rose to the occasion.
    Oh, by the way, Rory Lawson for scrumhalf - he's overtaken Cusiter & Blair now.

  • Comment number 75.

    John

    I can't help but find the RFU stats a little bewildering. If England apparently have slightly more than two million registered players and slightly less than two thousand clubs, my simple brain works that out at slightly more than a thousand registered players per club! That's an awful lot of people to fit into the bar!

    Common sense and a quick walk around the park on Saturday afternoon would suggest that this cannot be right. My club plays from minis up to seniors. There are probably anywhere between 12 and 20 lads in any year group, only some of whom play in every game. In total there may be 200 players from tag rugby up to seniors and we're a medium sized club. Many that we play are smaller.

    This 2 million number doesn't square with anything that I can see on the ground...and even if it did, people who make lazy comments about England's playing resources talk as though we somehow bring all two million of them onto the pitch at the same time! It's not some sort of vast machine solely dedicated to producing a squad of "killer robots from the future" for the national side...it's mostly just kids and their dads playing on Sunday mornings!

    I can't help but think that these numbers have more to do with the RFUs constant search for sponsorship and grants than it does to boots on the pitch.

  • Comment number 76.

    Saturday will be a dog fight it is about which team has the players that want it the most and who can keep their heads and be smart, if we the Murrayfield home crowd fail to create an atmosphere of absolute passion we will have not just let the team down but ourselves and the country also. It would also not be a bad thing to get Rory Lawson on early because with out doubt after what he has experienced over the last few weeks and especially after tonight (Thursday) I would imagine that there will not be a man in Scotland as motivated as him. No disrespect to Chris Cuister but we need people to stand up and be counted and to take the game into the English faces.

  • Comment number 77.

    can we not get a drummer into the stadium to get the crowd going during the match

  • Comment number 78.

    I am nervous about the game. It's hard to get into winning when you have been losing. But i think the Scottish team is going to got at this as hard as they can. Crowd support vital. Forecast is dry. Will be really, really fast game.

    How Jonny Wilkinson plays is key to the match with a great stand off match up. Good English back division, and interesting about the blocking.

    JB

  • Comment number 79.

    not wanting to sound an old fart but in the 1970's when we had 'the Clock End' there seemed to be far bigger groupings of Scottish fans congregated together (who were from many different clubs in Scotland) who would get vocal pretty quickly, but since the arrival of debentures everywhere it now seems that the only fans in big blocks seem to visiting fans who very quickly get a chant or a song going, can the SRU not create a discounted Rugby Club Scotland Block within the stadium where the tickets are allocated to Scottish fans from all the Scottish clubs and that fans in this section know that the spirit of them being there is to get the pro Scotland songs and chants going?

  • Comment number 80.

    bring back a section in the stadium for a tartan army

  • Comment number 81.

    But yes, let's have a loud crowd this weekend and for every matchday afterwards! Against France we looked like the away team and that's not what our guys want to hear when they are down on the scoreboard.
    Against Fiji it wasn't packed although SRU know how to sell tickets at the front and back of the bottom tier so when the cameras show the stands it look like the bottom tier is full, despite fifteen or so empty rows in between.
    Australia was near capacity but still not full, and the tickets were cheaper than those for the England match not that I'm complaining everytime I buy a ticket, programme or rugby top I see it as an investment in Scottish rugby [and in our economy :)] but I can't fill those 15 rows myself!

  • Comment number 82.

    Re chanting from the stands, I had the misfortune to have a member of the Tartan Army near me for the game against Australia. The only words that could be made out were expletives, which I'd prefer he'd kept to himself when my friend's 10 year old daughter was within earshot. It was pitiful display and, though his heart was in the right place, I wish he'd kept his mouth shut. There was plenty of noise and excitement then without any organised chanting and it needs the team to inspire it.

  • Comment number 83.

    I rest my case

  • Comment number 84.

    John
    My apologies in advance for raising this subject.
    I don’t mean to hijack your blog from an excellent Scotland V England discussion but there’s an issue that’s been bothering me for a while now, best ‘exemplified’ by ‘jimonoz’ above, namely the level of Welsh-baiting/bashing that’s been going on here and on the messageboards.
    Look at some of his quotes;
    “Welsh affliction of self indulgence” – he takes the biscuit here. Do you think he’s seen the irony in this statement?
    “Welsh savages” – that one beggars belief. As savage as his condescension perhaps?
    “And the Welsh team, as good as they would like to think they are” – there’s an awful lot of honesty about this Welsh team. Every player and supporter said we were second best to the Scots and didn’t deserve to win the game. We all know they’re not the finished article, but two Grand Slams in the last few years isn’t bad for the core of the team that’s still there, eh!
    I doubt if I’ve ever read a more patronising post.
    Apart from that, he’s also completely wrong on the match-ups e.g. the back rows.
    If the Lions were being picked tomorrow, the Glasgow/Scotland trio would get in before any of the other trios, including the Irish, who’ve generally had a poor season for region and country.
    There’s some very poor and child-like analysis going on here – he acts like a WUM, but I think he actually believes it!
    Scotland will win this game and I’ll be down the bookies on Sat morning to prove it.

  • Comment number 85.

    I'm sure there's plenty of space free for the Tartan Army at Hampden tomorrow. ;-)

    Isn't the problem the same with all teams, if the play on the pitch doesn't inspire general excitement, the singing dwindles to nothing, the "You only sing when you're winning" factor? I usually struggle to talk properly after most matches when we've been competitive, but Hadden inspired groans meant I had plenty of voice left to talk about anything but rugby over the past couple of years.

    The other factor is the home support have been outnumbered in recent years and I've noticed there are still tickets floating about for this game, something that never used to happen. I remember the hordes of Welsh supporters who used to throng to the terraces and the fabulous atmosphere started when the anthems were played, but the Scottish support could still be heard. No Flower of Scotland then.

    I wish we could have an anthem to fire us up, but I'm sure if any moves were made to give us one, the politicians would start sticking their oars in. It doesn't have to be an official anthem, as Wales and Australia both have their own unofficial songs played after the official ones are finished, or used to anyway. For a while, a couple of Gerry Rafferty songs seemed best-suited, "Stuck in the Middle With You" and "Get It Right Next Time" and you'd have to hand out free shortbread as an incentive to sing "Scotland the Brave", but surely there must be something out there that we can all sing?

  • Comment number 86.

    Ally Gory - agreed re songs. There is a dearth.

    Proclaimers - 500 miles.....with slightly different words - especially the chorus.

    Maybe the problem is that with only 6/7 games a year the crowd has no way of gelling and meeting regularly unlike a group of people supporting a football team who probably meet 3/4 times a month.

  • Comment number 87.

    Ken, allygory, iknowsitnow - I was with Mike Blair and Chris Paterson yesterday and they were saying sometimes at Murrayfield they feel that the opposition fans have lots of tickets. Also another person I met says that they can be told to be quiet if they are too rowdy in the stand. Rugby is a game for watching and shouting your little legs off. in the olden days we were on a terracing, accepting wine from frenchmen, food from welshmen, beer from englishmen, and naughty winks from some teenage girls.

    I haven't sat and watched a game in the stand but I think the players need the fans this weekend. Pulse rising slowly, off to the Beeb for the day then Scotland under 20 game at Firhill tonight.

    We do have a dearth of chants though

    JB

  • Comment number 88.

    Ken, you're absolutely right, the rarity of getting together is a problem, but if the song is right, as, Flower of Scotland seemed to be when it was introduced, it can be spread throughout pretty quickly. 500 miles is good in the chorus, but could get a bit messy elsewhere, but something like the chorus would get everybody going. Time for an Anthem X Factor?

    Re tickets John, I've been offered 4 this week and they used to be like hen's teeth. Perhaps corporate hospitality demand has fallen off in the last year or so, but home demand must have been affected by the results and the manner in which they occurred. Hope died, but I believe it's alive and well and this team can bring in the crowds. I can't go to the game, but I wish I could.

  • Comment number 89.

    I would happily agree to sit anywhere in Murrayfield that was with like minded supporters who wanted to make a noise supporting their team. Probably the best place would be centre of the west stand. :-)

    Do think we've lost something in the supporters arena since the game turned professional (but I'm not moaning about that) and we need to get it back. Four tickets for the English game !! Wow!.

    Remember in 1990 after THAT game walking back into the centre of Edinburgh I was walking alongside a jubilant Scottish supporter in kilt and everything. A lady in a big Merc was blocking the supporters crossing from pavement to pavement so this guy tapped on the back window, opened the door shuffled across the back seat to the other side and got out the other side and carried on walking into Edinburgh. The said lady was speechless and the look on her face was a joy to behold.

    Where are those sorts of guys now?

  • Comment number 90.

    My 14 year old son loves ye banks and braes, played every half time. As a starter perhaps SRU could distribute words. Perhaps we even have someone creative enough to write murrayfield specific words to the tune.

  • Comment number 91.

    Good idea to get lyrics to the crowd. Why don't they show them on the big screens from time to time? Less costly than print-outs (which would be wasted on the opposition support) and more obvious than printing in the programme (which isn't bought by everyone). Would also be a cue for everyone to sing in unison. Passionate supporters only for the position of big screen lyrics activator!

  • Comment number 92.

    I've got to say I'm English and quite nervous...we've been...well...rubbish for a long time now and Scotland, I feel, have been very unlucky in this tournament so far. England's inability to play at a high tempo (or to pick the players who could either enabale them to or benefit the most from that) means they don't threaten well organised defences and have to commit more players to breakdowns than other sides leaving them exposed to teams who can counter-attack. I think Scotland can do that; they've an excellent back row (Beattie and Barclay amongst the players of the championship for me) a top class 9 and good wings. This is going to be tight and the Scots have a good Murrayfield record against England in recent years...

  • Comment number 93.

    ancientfullback - I worry when Scotland are seen as having a good chance of winning. The English team is a strong team. As you say though it's a good recent record that Scotland have against England at Murrayfield

    JB

  • Comment number 94.

    'ye bank and braes' on the big screen it is then or at least give a try, also SRU get a Rugby Club Scotland section of like minded folk organised for future years....

  • Comment number 95.

    or even a piper or drummer to cue everyone in surely it is not beyond the ken of the SRU

  • Comment number 96.

    I cannot see anything other than a Scottish victory, they have the passion and the desire. England are playing poorly and have a poor manager, although Robinson isn't much better.

    I am in the position of almost wanting England to lose so that this nightmare can finish and we can get a head coach in who actually knows about coaching and who might pick a team that can play the modern game

  • Comment number 97.

    This is interesting, Ive just been looking at the history between the two teams - Scotland and England have played each other 127 times, Scotland have won 43, England 67, and there has been 17 draws!!! This gives us a winning ratio of around 33% against our auld friends south of the border. I cant help thinking we should be much closer to them than that. Ive seen Scotland gift England a number of victories in the past, but we've always seemed to have to work really hard to beat them??. I hate the underdog psyche that us Scots seem to be happy with and expect every time we walk onto the pitch. Firstly I dont think it helps having that type of mindset in the first place, and secondly it must have an impact on the players to think, oh well we were probably going to loose that game anyway, and thirdly it cant do anything to encourage the younger talent trying to break through, thinking they should be glorious over achievers, when they are expected to loose every game they play in!. JB, you seem to be happy with this underdog mentality, I just think its probably part of our problem for a country as a whole. Lets go out thinking we should be able to win this game, rather than, well the English 'should' really hammer us on paper...

  • Comment number 98.

    C'mon the boys!!!!

  • Comment number 99.

    COME ON SCOTLAND!!!!!!

  • Comment number 100.

    It may be partially the drink, but right now I'm depressed. If England had started with the team that finished they would probably have won. Surely that is the end of Wilkinson as Egland's first choice No 10. There has hardly been a meaningful scrummage in this championship and w/out them we miht as well be watching a game of tiddlywinks as far as I'm concerned. I'll probably watch the gane against Ireland, but I doubt if I'll watch any other matches this championship and if they can't find a way to make the scrum relavant to the game again I shall probably lose interest other than watching a few old dvd's of how the wonderful game used to be at home alone with a few beers now and again.

 

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