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Analysing Scotland's defeat in Rome

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John Beattie | 17:03 UK time, Sunday, 28 February 2010

What did you think of the Italy v Scotland game?

Once upon a time it was thumbs up for survival in the Colosseum, thumbs down for death. Now, I am a realist and I know that rugby is not life and death, but that was painful to watch.

I am sitting in Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, but let's go through this bit by bit.

Scrums. With Euan Murray and Chunk (Allen) Jacobsen on the pitch Scotland had supremacy. My understanding is that Murray was injured, but he did well and both props earned their corn with Jacobsen my man of the match.

Italy v ScotlandMatias Aguero of Italy is held up by Scotland's Dan Parks at the Stadio Flaminio. Photograph: Getty
Line-outs. Again, fine. There was a steady stream of possession there.

Loose. Bizarrely, this was the problem area. I love players who do so much that they become "isolated" because I never think it's their fault.

If a player gets isolated it's because the supporting players aren't getting to him. It was scary the number of times players would make breaks, or I remember one specific occasion when John Barclay took a ball over the top of a line-out, and it seemed to me that other players were thinking a couple of phases ahead instead of just getting stuck in to that breakdown.

And to keep the theme going of analysing the loose play, it was interesting that Scottish players went to ground quite quickly in contact and lost the ball in good Italian tackles.

Dan Parks has a difficult job. All the traffic must go through him and he is charged with passing the ball to one of possibly four receivers and, not only is it a tricky pass to give, it's tricky to take as well. But Parks did well.

Just in front of us one of the post-match scenes to remember was Alessandro Troncon, the former Italian scrum-half, celebrating like a mad thing in the stand only to be whacked on the head by Nick Mallett.

The Italians were desperate for the win and it meant so much to them.

I'll write more about the game when I get back to Glasgow but time is running out. Got to get the plane.

Here's what I thought, though. Disappointing, problems in contact, good scrum, could have won it as we had pressure that wasn't converted, started off too risky and made some early mistake that got the nerves going, and it's now played seven in Rome, and won just two.


  • Comment number 1.

    I thought we started well in the scrum, but Murray seemed to struggle later on; perhaps that was his injury? Did we not lose one against the head?
    Chunk had a blinder though. I thought he was a contender for man of the match.

  • Comment number 2.

    problem seems to be mainly in the backs. Danielli,Southwell and Morrison are very limited players. I've lost count of the number of occassions recently where after line breaks the ball goes to Morrison and he just charges head down into 3 or 4 defenders and we're truned over when we have space and/or overlaps out wide.
    Southwell has a terrific left foot and is a good defender but offers very little else.
    Difficult for AR to make many changes as the injuries picked up in Cardiff were to key backs, but i'd like to see De Luca given another chance and possibly Thompson

  • Comment number 3.

    As much as it pains me to say this. It's becoming a case of referees settling the game. Teams cannot guarantee how they are going to be reffed and to my mind the Scots were too cautious about infringing whilst the Italians did so with gay abandon. Every single breakdown saw an Italian off his feet and often (always) on the wrong side. The requirement to release the tackled player seems to have been binned again.

    Additionally there appears to be a new variation of the "lazy runner of old". The new version involves the 6 or 7 breaking from the ruck early and charging the scrum half. The ref tamely shouts "no" and the offender holds up his hands and returns to his position. What the ref doesn't seem to realise is that the damage is done. The 9 won't pass under that kind of threat, the play is delayed by 2-3 seconds and in an age where defences are well marshalled that's enough time to become pretty much impenetrable.

    Furthermore what's the point in yellow cards if it's not to stop professional fouls of the type Josh Sole committed?

    Honestly with a different ref Scotland would have won comfortably. Surely that's not right is it? All things being equal the ref shouldn't be the determining factor.

    By the way I'm English so it's not sour grapes I'm just concerned about something that appears to be increasingly prevalent. For crying out loud the touch judge in the England Ireland match couldn't make himself understood to the referee. That's just a joke.

  • Comment number 4.

    Italy always seem to want it more against us, they show us no respect and fight themselves into the ground. I'd like to see more of that from us in the next two games. I think we are heading in the right direction though. If we commit less players to the breakdown like France did v Wales, we might have more support options for our runners. It's something we need to work on. I think our backs need to learn how to ruck and turnover ball too (it isn't just a forwards job anymore), the Southern Hemisphere sides have this down to a fine art and Ireland and Wales have players who are very good at this also. Garcia did it for Italy a couple of times against us and we should be keeping up with all of our rivals.

  • Comment number 5.

    It seems clear that the main problem is in the backs. The scrum is solid with Chunk and Murray and in the lineout Ford, the jumpers and the lifters are doing great work. The back row was not as imposing against Italy as it was against Wales but still did well, particularly The Young Boy and Barclay.

    The backs were poor, again. Parks is a very good kicker of a rugby ball and we select him knowing his limitations but if we play him then we need much more outside him. Morrison is not a creative spark at 12 (to put it mildly) while each of Southwell, Sean Lamont, Danielli and Max Evans are very limited in one way or another (no pace, can't pass, shoots out the line and can't pass again, respectively). We need backs with good skill sets and innate rugby skills honed in the local park and on dark wet Wednesday nights when they were 12, not gym built sprinters running about the park who, if they do make a break (and they will if they are big and fast), can't run towards support or find a man.

    Jackson's form seems to have dipped slightly so maybe we stick with Parks for the moment but we surely need to be looking at Grove (senior), De Luca (if he can stop giving away the crazy penalties), Mark Robertson, Thompson and so on. Yes, from time to time some huge French centre might rumble over the top of one of them but next time Kelly Brown gets himself on the outside of a 2 on 1 we will have 7 points, we won't continually overrun on the set plays and if one of them really, really needs to kick then he will be able to do it. Imagine if we had centres who could kick the ball...

    The only other team that appears to select backs using the same criteria as Scotland is the free scoring try machine that is England. Nuff said.

  • Comment number 6.

    John - Redrage is right in saying that Italy seemed to want it more. During the anthems I said to my son that we looked pensive and the Italians looked really pumped. I thought Micro Bergamasco was going to burst a blood vessel and that was before the game even started.

    We started very slowly and Southwell seemed to have having a mare of a game for the first 20 mins. I agree with your comments about the scrum, however on two occasions (that I could see on the TV) Ford did not hook. We got away with it once and were awarded a penalty but on the second occasion near the Italian 5 meter line the ball ended up coming out on the Italian side and all the good work had beed undone. The game has to be about looking after the ball and in my opinion failing to hook is not looking after the ball.

    I'd agree that Chunk played well and Dan seemed to get the balance right with regards of when to put the ball through hands and when to kick. If it had been up to me I'd have given the MOM award to Barclay. Was very surprised to see Johnnie B come off - was he injured? I thought Strockosh would come on, but I think Johnnie had played well again and looked more of a threat than Brown, so why not put Strockosh on for Brown.

    The whole issue around Lamont being called back for taking the quick penalty is ludicrous as was the non issuing of the yellow card to Sole. That said, we can't rely on yellow cards to create the space to score trys. We need to learn to win games despite of the ref.

    There's been a lot of talk about Jonny Wilkinson needed a more thinking inside centre beside him, and I wonder if Parks may have the same need? I'd also like to see more variety from whoever is playing scrum half so as to keep defences wondering what we are going to do. Is Cusiter then man for this, or would Rory Lawson give us more options? (I don't think Blair has has enough game time since his injury to get back to match fitness and merit being on the bench).

    Perhaps of equal concern is that the A's also lost, confirming our lack of depth and that potential talent is still just that potential.

    Nevertheless, being a supporter is about giving support rather than tearing down. So I hope the guys pick themselves up from this disappointment and work hard on the areas that need work.

  • Comment number 7.

    Can't understand the failure to yellow Sole. Not only did he deliberately disrupt play on the 5 metre line, but when we tried to take a quick pen (Lamont actually touching down), ref called it back to give the player a warning! Surely if you are going to interfere and stop a quick pen, it must be to issue a card not a warning?

    Into 2nd half, Scotland finally take the lead due to a penalty awarded after about the 6th warning to Italy in that spell of possession. Then Italy go on the attack, and are awarded a pen to equalise at the first sign of infringement, no warning to Scotland about "hands away" etc. To Italy's credit they played the advantage and scored their try, but questions must be asked why a ref was so keen to award Italy a pen to potentially equalise but similarly gave Italy multiple warnings on infringing all the while denying Scotland. Very poor refereeing!

    I don't want to cry conspiracy, but I feel all the other nations are happy to see Scotland get cut adrift and get involved in a wooden spoon battle with Italy year on year. All the while, in the comfort that their decisions will not be "evened out" as we yet again fail to provide a top class referee to the championship. We are an easy target.

    Our team is not great, and fails time and again to convert chances, but it is undeniable that we are hampered by poor officiating!

  • Comment number 8.

    First time I've contributed to this blog.

    Agree with #6 that Scotland looked pensive and lacked ambition (the drop goal being a case in point). I'm also pleased to see someone question the role of Cusiter - not really with regard to his captaincy, more his lack of variety and his basics - I think he's too slow to get a pass away (pick, adjust, pass) and leaves Parks with next to no time, especialy against a blitz defence. I've never been a fan of Parks but I can sympathise with some of the service he's getting - no wonder he kicks it away or dumps it on Morrison. I think Blair is a much better player but obviously not as sharp as needed at the moment - so why not give Lawson a chance - I can't actually recall him letting Scotland down? A couple of times Cusiter took it on (as did Murray) where the wide ball would surely have seen us score - frustrating lack of vision.

    I thought Beattie junior had an excellent game and showed the ambition many of his team mates lacked - unless he was injured, it seemed a blunder to take him off and we looked the worse for it.

    In case my comments seem entirely negative, there is some hope in that Beattie (no sucking up to JB here) has been our stand out player so far and Barclay has come good. I'd be tempted to give Lawson an opportunity and though it's almost heresy for me to support Parks, he's shown enough this season to deserve his chance until Jackson is up to speed?

  • Comment number 9.

    Scotland, if they believed in themselves would have finished second in this Championship. They should have beaten Wales and Italy and they lost both games in the head and not because of lack of ability. This is potentially the best Scottish side we have had in many many years - they just need that professional nous and a winning mentality. They did not start against Italy - they didn't have the physicality that they had in Cardiff and they were making nervous errors. They need to have a pint before they go out to play and have some distractions to take their mind off the game until an hour before kick off - because they are just too wound up and to frihtened of losing to go out and play.

    If I was picking an Anglo Scottish team right now there would be more Scots than English in itfor sure. The most valuable English forward a the moment is Simon Shaw and he was injured on Saturday. Our front row should be more than a match for the English, any combination of Hines Kellock and Hamilton are a more than capable second row and any back row that Strockosch can walk into must be some unit. If the Lions were being selected today there would be at least five or six genuine contenders in that pack - J.B. possible at the front of them. They ought to be able to provide a good platform from which Scotland can win the game at Murrayfield in a couple of weeks.
    Cusiter is a world class scrum half and oncurrent form I'd have Parks rather than J.W. although personally I'd far sooner have Flood or Geraghty in that position. Flutey is undoubtedly a real class act and a major threat, and I rate Cueto as well. Foden also loked a dangerous player when he came on, but as a unit England are not functioning and I can't see that changing at Murrayfield. So, I really think our destiny is in our own hands and it will be our match to go and win. My bigest worry is that we perform best against England when we are underdogs and we will not cope with the pressure of being favourites for a change which I think we ought to be. But if we are going to fulfill the potential that this team has then that is something that they have to lern to do. I think in the past Scotland have been limited in talent and could take credit from being honourable losers at times. The current crop will have wasted their talent if they do not become credible challengers for the Six Nations Championship over the next few seasons.
    COME ON BOYS - you really can do it if you believe.

  • Comment number 10.

    Right a few things.

    I think a better team could have been picked to begin with. Get rid of danielli because he is butter fingers and he gives alot away. Max played well out on the wing when he was a blood sub for his bro. Then give Alex Grove a chance at centre. Didn't see much from the second row. Dont think it would have hurt to gave Richie Gray a chance (his ten minutes in both games were good especially against Wales, his chase from the kick off was of way beyond his years) and Nathan Hines because lets face it he is our best option at 2nd row at the moment.Back row and 9 and 10 had a good game. Could have seen abit more from sean he didn't really push himself in the game.

    Referee was naff, Castrogiovanni should have been sent off end of. I think we was really tough on Scotland for silly things where he should have let play go on. Yet Italy seemed to get away with crossing a couple of times.

    Overall I dont think Andy Robinson is giving the players the same winning mentality that they had against austrailia they dont seem to have the belief they could win. On a better note at least he has them playing rugby and the line outs are top class. Defence needs to have some work done they always look soo tight. They dont run up to the players they wait for the player to get to them they should be flat line up pressed. Can anyone explain to me why we have Andy Robinson as coach rather than Jake White who wanted the job?

  • Comment number 11.

    I think we have to be honest here. Scotland are no better than Italy.

  • Comment number 12.


    At last-an honest appraisal! We Jocks can analyse these defeats all we like, but the bottom line is that the team is woefully inadequate to compete at the required level.
    Dan Parks blew a 3 on 2 chance in the 1st half and then (why oh why?) decided to drop a goal instead of attacking their line for the possible try! This pathetic lack of ambition has been spotted by all the other teams no doubt, and has ham-strung us. All week I read and heard how we would NOT get drawn into an arm-wrestling match with Italy. What happens? We did, and got just what we deserved-nothing.
    It doesn't matter who the coach is-this group of players reflect Scottish rugby and sporting sides in general.
    I am sorry to say that after a lifetime of following Scottish sides, I hope we lose to England and Ireland so that no cracks are papered over. Scotland are where they should be, and the players should give their match fees to charity and hang their heads in shame.

  • Comment number 13.

    Just woken up on a sunny Monday morning here in Glasgow, and last night I watched most of the game with Prof Denis.

    A couple of things struck me. I thought Scotland looked a bit sluggish. Not sure what that was about but there wasn't the same fire and running as there had been in Cardiff. Maybe it was the unfamiliar heat.

    Body language is always important, and the Italians had the pre match strut.

    If I was neutral I would say, as Justin Marshall said on TV, that Italy were just as good as us and perhaps better as they did after all win the game.

    And I am not sure that the referee was against us. The Sole infringement would have been difficult for him to see as it was down the blind side when he was open side and he penalised Italy on several marginal decisions.

    And we seemed to lose the ball when players took it into contact either close to breakdown and alone when players were wide, or in counter attack and getting turned over.

    By the way, I was talking to Massimo Giovanelli, the former Italian rugby captain, who seems to have been put in charge of rugby in Milan. The mayor there is so impressed by rugby that they are building a forty thousand seater stadium, and starting four town rugby franchised, he says backed by Nike and Virgin. They want a Milan team in the Magners league ASAP.



  • Comment number 14.

    Yes John the Government does need to sort out sport funding, but that would mean encouraging something called competition on a pitch-is this allowed anymore? We can't have winners, and more importantly, losers can we?
    Competition is stifled, at grass roots level, so while I think your comments are justified, which Minister is going to buck the trend?

  • Comment number 15.

    There'syour next blog, John. Government funding for sport.

  • Comment number 16.

    The same debate re funding and organisation in grass roots sport is one in progress on 606 at the moment. I completely agree with you JB.

    Why can't we perform like other nations of our size? New Zealand consistently churn our World Class rugby union and cricket sides (and have a goo football team the moment to boot!) Ireland consistently produce good rugby and footbal teams. Portugal, Switzerland and Holland consistently turn out world class football teams.Look at the last 20 years of Scottish sport:

    Rugby Union - our last good team was 99 and our last great team was 90/91. Our clubs have failed to win the Magners League and have only reached the knockout stages of the HC once. Compare this to Ireland and Wales, nations of equivalent size....

    Football - our last good national side was Euro 96, since then we have been awful. Celtic and Rangers overacheived in the 00s with mostly foreign teams reaching a Euro final each and the knockout stages of the CL on a couple of occasions. Aberdeen overachieved reaching the konckout of the UEFA 3 years ago. This season our showing in Europe was awful and we lose our automatic CL qualification from 2011.

    Indivdual sports - Chris Hoy aside, we have precious little to show. In the 90s we had Europe's top golfer but he never went on to win a major. We have a top tennis player who is still yet to win a major and is showing signs of bottling it too (note that when he was a teenager and looked like he would make it bid he moved his training camp to Spain.) Where are our top athletes, boxers etc??

    Scottish sport is in a dire state at the moment, mostly as a result of their being too much interest in football (especially the Old Firm and the English Premiership.) We need to invest more at grass roots which is a job for the government and corporate sponsorhsip, not just the SRU/SFA etc. The organisatiion of say a National Rugby Academy wouldn't be too difficult and I am sure we have the people to do it. It is just about funding.

    At risk of getting political does this make a case for an independent Scotland? There's a debate that could run and run...!!!

  • Comment number 17.

    I think the Scottish (and UK for that matter) Government need to stop mucking about and getting sport higher up their list of priorities. If they are serious about the health issues in Scotland what are they waiting on?

    However, to Saturday, a great deal of what I think has been said already. I think Morrison is a one trick pony and he slows the game down, Southwell had a poor game and Danielli never seems to turn good club form into good Scotland form. I do think though that we lost the game by poor decision making all round, but in the forwards in particular. They did not concentrate on winning or presenting clean ball and seemed to be too keen to think ahead two or three phases. Did they have the infamous White-line Fever?
    I think Robinson can work wonders with Scotland, but it is maybe time to bring in a few younger guys in the front five who will follow a game plan rather than believe they are significantly better than the other team in the wrong manner, which I thought was all too obvious on Saturday.
    Was surprised at Park's MOM award. He had a fine game, but made a key error in opting for a DG when we should have kept going for a try. It gave them the momentum back. Jacobsen was MOM.

  • Comment number 18.

    Confessions first - I support England first, Italy second, Scotland if not playing either of those.

    I'm sorry but Scottish whingeing about the refereeing is as predictable as it's regrettable - thanks, John, for setting the record straight. It looked like a difficult match to referee but he seemed reasonable overall and things evened out, as they almost always do. Another factor is that a debatable decision may lead to a score/prevention of a score or to nothing at all - look at the England game (but not complaining - the better team won) - so it's either seen as an absolute disgrace or just one of those things. I have to say that it's time the refs learned a little basic Italian - one or two of them now use French at times - several of the Italian side are obviously comfortable with English but others clearly have no idea what the ref's saying. If Nick Mallett can conduct his team talks in Italian, the refs should be able to do something.

    Face it - the better team on the day won the match.

  • Comment number 19.

    I thought hte team looked knackered on Saturday, There were players making breaks, predominantly the back row and nobody getting anywhere near them to offer some support.
    I turned off the TV at the final whistle so I don't know if it was covered by the BBC. it was in the first half whne Barclay broke off the tail ofthe lineout and came close to scoring, it looked like no-one was in support but on closer inspection you see Beatie being punched in the face and this innevitably prevented him supporting Barclay.
    Just one small thing but it could have made a diiference and I was dissapointed no-one else spotted it.
    We have to gice Grove a shot at 12, as we have NO playmakers in th backline.

  • Comment number 20.

    'Scottish sport is in a dire state at the moment'

    What utter nonsence! These kind of myopic posts drive me spare. I'd love to talk about the game, but I just can't let this slide.

    How can you possibly state this when Scotland were the second most successful nation (per cap) at the last Commenwealth Games (behind Austrailia btw). When they have been the most successful (once again per cap) section of Team GB at the last 10 years of Olympics. When we have been or had WORLD Champions at Cycling, Snooker, Curling, Tug-of-War (thanks BBC website), Golf, Sailing, Squash, Elephant Polo, Darts and many others over the last 10-20 years. Just because they aren't Football or Rugby doesn't mean we don't rank with the best of them.

    Scotland or Scottish people compete (i.e. is Internationally recognised either as an individual or part of a British team) in more sports that ANY other nation our size and as a result have seen success across the board. Kids do on average significantly more exercise than they did 10 years ago and participation in large scale outdoor events (i.e., fun runs, cycles etc.) is higher than it has ever been. These kind of blanket statements help no-one who is involved in sports at both grassroots and other levels. Oh and another thing, the government has already increased sports funding to levels where it is higher than most equivilent EU countries. Success is not purely the realm of TV savvy armchair fans, get out there and join in!

    ANYWAY ... regarding the game, I'm not sure I'd agree with the consensus that Chunk had a good game outside the scrum. Anyone who gets that close to the line and doesn't score or recycle, should be disappointed. To do it twice is almost criminal. For a fairly squat guy he approached the line with the worst body position possible and was made to pay the price. A little less panic (again with Parks Drop goal) and we could have had their back line stretched pretty thin. A clinical Ireland demonstated prefectly how to do it.

  • Comment number 21.

    Jamie, there was a little something connecting with his nose, I spotted that at the time.

    The bigger picture is that rugby in scotland is strapped for cash as the sport built its own stadium, while football got given its. And we tinker with minor participation issues without tackling the over riding problem which is lack of exercise and sport in the wider community.

    But that would take decades to fix, we have two weeks to get ready for England.


  • Comment number 22.

    Notwithstanding all previous posts can we please have a change of commentators for the Scottish Rugby games on the BBC? ......Cotter and Nicoll drive me absolutely insane with their negative, half baked, tedious rubbish. Is it coincidental that Scotland's support and performances have been well below par since these 2 muppets have been on the microphone? I know you won't comment on this, JB, what with being part of the same organisation......

  • Comment number 23.

    John my boy - you must realise that despite looking increasingly like a prop forward, Alex Salmond has never played a game in his life and does not seem to realise that sporting and cultural events bleed directly into a country's psyche.
    He's happy to name drop a good result from Andy Murray but has resolutely refused to let those with the will create the grassroots structure for rugby that the country very badly needs.
    Italy have twice as many registered rugby players as Scotland.
    This pattern of defeat by the Azzuri is not going to change unless we do something.
    Or Bergamasco decides that he "really likes" the scrum half position.

  • Comment number 24.

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

  • Comment number 25.

    Shmunkie - have to disagree with your comments I am afraid.

    There is a lot of straw clutching in terms of our 'World Champions' - this is the kind of blind optimism which we have guilty of a as a nation for too long. What you are effectively saying is that as a nation if we have a world champion bog snorkeller, we shouldn't be worried about the state of our football or rugby teams because at least we have a world champion at something.

    I am not knocking these other world champions - fair play to them they have done well, but for me Snooker, Darts and Elephant Polo barely constitute sports and the 2 former examples require almost no physical effort whatsoever. Our World Champion Curling team bottled it hopelessly at the Olympics and our World Champion Squash player actually plays for England because of the lack of funding in Scottish sport.

    In our 3 'national' sports - football, rugby union and golf we are hopelessly far behind the other nations, a lot of which match us for population size and have poorer ecomnonies than us. You make the point that we put more money in than most EU countries - I have seen no evidence for this, could you provide reference that backs this up. Our pefromances at team sports certainly don't back this up. And on your point about exercise levels, this doesn't seem to have helped our nations stats re heart disease etc so I would like to see some evidence for this well.

    Anyway back to the whole point of this which is, as JB says the SRU is hopelessly underfunded and until there is some backing then Scottish rugby will fall even further behind our other counterparts in the 6N.

  • Comment number 26.

    John - Interesting thoughts about government support for sport. I agree with you to a point, but these things are always more complex than just one issue. The redevelopment of Scotstoun has attracted significant money from Sports Scotland and Glasgow City Council - time will tell if this facility helps produce both future rugby and athletic stars. Indeed I wonder how strong a factor this has been in helping Glasgow retain many of their players who could have moved on.

    Two words come to mind from your description of what is happening in Italy regarding rugby ...ambition and vision. Given the financial status of the SRU we need a leadership there that can be creative with what money they have, but also inspire others - be that government, business or individuals - to invest in the game.

    There are also other issues - yes, back to the subject of better weather rugby. I coach kids and we've been very limited in what we can do since November by water logged, frozen, snow covered etc pitches. There are moves to change this but its ad hoc and taking too long.

    The other issue is in attracting and retaining kids / youths into rugby from non-rugby backgrounds. Rugby clubs can be friendly places, but it can also be quite intimidating for people from non-rugby families to go along to a rugby club and feel they belong there. Development officers, club captains and presidents have an important role to play in this regard.

  • Comment number 27.

    Firstly, I agree with #22's comment regarding a more pro-Scottish commentator. You only have to look at the other nation's commentators to see the level of support they give compared to Andy Nicol's Scotland support. I do hope this at least gets the reasonable attention it needs! We need the voice who will represent us - who is able to say what we are all feeling and thinking!
    On to the game...I felt that Scotland fielded a different team to those that played Wales and France - it felt like we slipped right back into an old mindset (over the last decade) and got scared. It was the norm on Saturday to see no support runners - real basic stuff missing.
    At half-time on Saturday, I was already feeling disgust about the way Scotland performed overall - what had happened to Scotland?! Did we just rollback Scotland's progress on Saturday? Maybe a little harsh, but I really believed in this team breaking the trend of the last decade...I still want to believe this but perhaps I would just be deluding myself. Not happy. Scotland must believe it is better, correction, IS much better than this!

  • Comment number 28.

    Rob, (sorry for taking this a little away from the rugby, will add to that later)

    Your argument against celebrating minority sport could be made of almost any countries sporting achievements short of Football. How many countries in the world actually compete seriously at Rugby 11, 12? How many in sports like Cricket (9 [or 10] officially for Test Level) or even Ice Hockey? Does that make them any less important than something like Curling which has around 20 (at the highest level) or Sailing?

    I personally find the idea of ranking the value of any sport as a little pointless. Rugby is the game I love, but I have grown up in a football obsessed family and I have friends who will travel and pay to watch people dance on ice professionally(!). The point I was trying to make is that participation in sport at all levels across Scotland is actually quite high and rates very well in comparrison to most similar countries. As mentioned before we were the most successful part of Team GB (per capita) and had our best Commenwealth Games ever 4 years ago. You might not rate these sports, but I'm sure others do.

    [Regarding exact figures for sports investment, check out the last UK ministry for Sport paper and it's claims in comparison to the rest of the EU. To be honest, London 2012 may distort the figures a bit though]

    With rergards the funding of Rugby, like everyone else, I felt it was a tragedy how the debts were allowed to rack up and doom us to these last few wilderness years. But lets be honest, to call rugby a major sport in Scotland is hopeful at best and with the lack of any recent success, I'm not surprised it was over looked.

    Once again we made the best of limited resources and played with potential on Saturday (I'd be interested in seeing the figures for how many times Morrison takes it into contact and how many line breaks he ever actually makes!) - somehow though, you could just tell that Italy wanted it more.

  • Comment number 29.

    In relation to the game, Parks did what Parks always does and he did it well. But if Scotland continue to play Parks then they have to open the option out at 12 for someone with a better distributing game. Like Da Luca or Grove. Morrison is a one trick pony, albeit a big one, but in today's defensive set up this adds virtually nothing.

    There still seems to be this element of surprise in the team that someone has made a break and therefore the lack of close support. This is the most infuriating aspect of the game for me.

    As to the issue of sport funding, we are light years behind (both Scotland and the UK) other countries of similar size and budgets in respect of the quality of facilities and infrastructure within sport.
    I have heard that melbourne are building a third all purpose stadium and will have 3 to cater for different anticipated crowds - if its likely to be 30K then they use stadium A, 60K then stadium B and 90K or over then stadium C. We, however, remain constrained by having a national stadium for football, a similarly large stadium devoted to rugby (and some concerts) and a lot of other football stadia.
    The bigger picture should be to build a SPORTS stadium, multipurpose paid for and administered by all sports. That way, we could sell Murrayfield, reduce debt or even fund a third pro team.

    Just some initial thoughts.

    At least, John, your boy has had a breakthrough season at international level. You must be proud and rightly so.
    Was he injured on saturday as i thought it strange he came off as he and Barclay were the 2 performers?

  • Comment number 30.

    22 - meiklelogie. Who would suggest we replace them with? Jonathon Davis, Jerry Guscott or Brian Moore.
    Personally like to watch the TV coverage with Radio Scotland on as the analysis from people like Peter Wright and Gordon Bulloch is always on the mark. Commentaries rubbish mind!

  • Comment number 31.

    Shmunkie - don't worry about taking it away from rugby as I think the debate is definitely relevant, it is nice that other people are interested to be honest!!

    I see we are both from a fairly similar situation family-wise, I too grew up in a football dominated community so am a bit of a black sheep as far as my friends and family are concerned. Although rugby is my main interest, I do follow football, golf, hockey and boxing and am a keen (if not very good) snowboarder.

    My comments weren't intended to devalue the other sports - I too appreciate the virtues of our curling and sailing teams etc. I have to confess that I was pretty gutted when our Curlers got knocked out last week! The point is however is that these sports receive little publicity and stoke little public interest in Scotland compared to football, rugby, golf etc. If you are not a purist they simply aren't as intersting. Therefore is it not therefore more in the interests of our nation, getting kids interested etc that we do invest a lot in trying to have a successful football, rugby team etc?

    I am certainly interested to read the Ministry of Sport report, however I approach it with some scepticism as I have seen how biased and uncontrolled some these government reports are. Having spent years of trying to make sense of irrelevant clinical trials from DEFRA, government reports always make me wary as there always seems to be a conflict of interests. Also how much of this funding isn't just related to 2012 but also to the Glasgow Commonwealth games? Not that that is a bad thing - the Commonwealth games can only have a poistive effect on the future of our young athletes.

    Oh and on the matter in hand - I certainly agree with your point on Morrison!

  • Comment number 32.

    I think you’re being far too generous to the ref on the Sole “yellow card that wasn’t”; it was about as clear cut an example of the kind of professional foul that the sin bin was invented to deal with.. It was vastly more deserving of a yellow than Parra’s ineffectual slap at the ball on Friday evening which didn’t even disrupt the flow of play- consistency of standards in refereeing again…. Still, I suppose it could have been worse- with other refs Danielli might have been carded for his push on the Italian defender in the second half

    By contrast I couldn’t really get so worked up about Castrogiovanni’s apparent punches in the scrum; who knows what else might have been going on in there, especially with Jacobson in the Scotland front row. I can’t share the view that Jacobson had a good game either; to my eye he put in a typical performance, shoring up the scrum quite well, making the odd good half break in the loose but generally on his default setting of trundling round the pitch like a man in search of a brawl to join and completely without wider vision when with ball in hand in the 22.

    Most of the other points have already been made. Why did Parks drop for goal so early rather than going through a few more phases (the same could have been said for his cross kick in the Wales game)? The long throw over the lineout to Barclay is clearly a worked move so where was the support? Scotland shouldn’t be relying on the ref to spot putative off the ball incidents yards behind play Barclay’s try against Wales would have gone begging for lack of support if the defenders had made a half decent tackle. If Morrison is the answer at 12 then Robinson is asking the wrong question- especially if Dan Parks is the answer at 10. Cusiter doesn’t look like a captain and Blair is still half fit. The forwards (scrummaging apart) look OK and as usual Scotland have more decent quality back rowers than they can fit into a team.

    I suspect that the real problem lies between the ears. A couple of weeks ago I was concerned that the Cardiff collapse would do long term psychological damage to what has in recent years looked a pretty mentally fragile Scotland team. After Saturday’s performance I’m more than even persuaded that this is the case. I said in an earlier contribution that this looks like a side which accepts losing as its rightful destiny. I saw nothing on Saturday to make me change my view. The frustrating thing is that this mental attitude has persisted even though the two District sides have had reasonably decent seasons- two or three years ago the home based majority of the Scotland squad were getting their backsides kicked week in, week out in the Magners and Heineken competitions and a certain acceptance of inferiority was understandable. The really impressive aspect of Italy over the years is how well their team spirit appears to have held up despite very thin times at club and international level- Mirko Bergamasco’s regular auditions for La Scala when the band strikes up “Fratelli d’Italia” is a good symbol (sorry, Mirko- they don’t do opera in the traditional “stand and deliver” style since Pavarotti died, and he was a throwback to another age …). This spirit is all the more striking given that half their squad aren’t even Italian born (how on earth does an Aussie rugby leaguer who plays in France qualify for Italy?) and their players are spread out across England, France and Italy.

    What one does about this going forward I don’t know. I suspect the payers will get pumped up enough against England (who are having their own creativity problems at the moment) but I’d be rather concerned if Scotland had to rely on one of the least admirable aspects of the national psyche to play with real commitment and belief.

  • Comment number 33.

    1, Why does the SRU need to own 100% of Murrayfield. which, is akin to having all the eggs in one basket. It could do a 50/50 lease/ buy back and release funding for 3 or 4 X 10,000 stadiums with ancillary community facilities; Glasgow, Edinburgh or Livingston, Dundee or Perth or a Borders location. In fact it could become the 02 Murrayfield?

    2, Scotland’s quality young players are seeking pastures new, replacements and fresh talent will be needed. And it won't happen by accident and without a clearer strategy. Areas such as Dundee, Falkirk, and Stirling are beginning to develop, get Aberdeen back firing and geographically the game will have a stronger potential platform to develop from.
    The SRU needs to be creative and build the game across Scotland and dare I say it reduce the Edinburgh centric legacy rather than continue the
    conservative strategy of preserving the crown jewels- no pun intended.

    3,Hampden Park for clarification was redeveloped not rebuilt, so no land purchase price was paid. Plus many more 1000's of people play football compared to Rugby. That said many, many football fans watch Scotland's Rugby team and in there is the conundrum, which if reconciled would assist the professional Rugby game in Scotland.

    4, And did the SRU ask for Govt funding and then got refused? Or maybe it never sought it at all?

  • Comment number 34.

    Shmunkie - I will go and have a look at the sport participation figures, and the medals at the Olympics. The trouble with Olympics medals is that they are won by fee paying school children like David Florence and Chris Hoy. It is our poor who do not get sport. Our rich get it at fee paying schools. And that's wrong in my book.

    There is a huge amount of good work being done all over Scotland but I looked at sport participation figures for a telly piece recently, and some sports have seen big declines in participation over the last ten years.

    If we look at rugby and compare ourselves to England we have 38,000 rugby players from 5 million, they have 2 million from 50 million. If we multiply our lot by ten to a third of a million as they have ten times our population, then we only have a sixth of their participation rate.

    I am unbelievably proud to be Scottish, but at times I wish we really tried to fix this.


  • Comment number 35.

    Italy have a better pool of teams at home than Scotland and are Improving . Scotland are at best standing still . We need to look at this 6 nations as its out of our depth and maybe throw caution to the wind a play some of the young fringe players to give them a chance and perhaps we will find a stand off and a play making inside centre ( Morrison is'nt ) and we may start to catch up with Italy

  • Comment number 36.

    the problem is the average jock is much more interested in watching third rate foreign footballers playing in the backwater that is the spl than international rugby. its that sad.

  • Comment number 37.

    Rob said: 'is it not therefore more in the interests of our nation, getting kids interested etc that we do invest a lot in trying to have a successful football, rugby team etc?'

    That's a fair enough point and one I've heard loads working in youth sports development. To counter, however, I'd suggest that investing too heavily the National/Individual psyche in the success of one team almost always leads to even greater dissappointment. Only one team can be champions in a given field and I'd hate it if we ended up like New Zealand (or even English football).

    Don't get me wrong they are a fine team and a joy to watch (NZ that is), but large numbers of their fans and the press (when I was there at least) seem to be miserable with anything less than perfection. Constantly beating themselves up about every mistake and defeat. It's not the way to get youngsters into sport and may be part of the reason why they have increasingly fewer kids playing the game outside of mandatory school lessons (the growth of Cricket and Football are also to blame of course). Winning is important yes, but it can't be everything. I'd far rather be in the position to celebrate the weird and wonderful sporting success we have than live with the bitter consequences of too much expectation.

    With regards funding, it's never going to be easy to convince people who don't play or aren't interested why any sport deserves more funding and the arguments against usually win out. I'm sure none of us will ever find out the real extent of why the SRU got into so much debt and why there was so little support when they did, but as one earlier poster said, it may have a lot to do with just how little cohesion there is in Scotland's sports policy.

    Why fund Murrayfield or a third pro team when golf clubs are closing and more people play?

  • Comment number 38.

    Didn't see the game live nor have I seen the recorded highlights but worry that this is same old, same old. Was in Dublin over the weekend and saw the Irish game - so much of the game now is between the ears. You could see that Ireland knew there was enough time to score a try (and that they were just going to do that) and then hold out against the English onslaught that would surely follow. Scotland are improving and getting better but agree with a few comments so far - we need a thinker either at inside or outside centre if we play Parks and Morrison. Need to watch the match and see if we were rubbish or Italy were brilliant.

    Seems we have a pack that can compete but backs that don't do anything when they get the ball.....mmm that sounds familiar. What is it that's said - "the forwards decide who's going to win and the backs by how much".

  • Comment number 39.

    Hey John

    I agree with your comments, I was privately educated for my high school education and the amount of sporting oppertunities I was given compaired to my friends from public schools is silly. At KA I was playing rugby 4 times a week and doing curling and shooting on top of that. The govournment could easily tackle obesity by putting a bit of cash into public school sector and give kids a bit of choice.
    I think we could do with trying to get a couple more pro teams up and running. Even getting just past it players to play for a club made through a private investment, would attract media attention enough to get things started. More teams we have the more accessible it is to kids. Could also look into getting some of the amateur clubs to as a trial run go pro. You know yourself john a West vs Hawks game can attract a bit of a crowd. (Hawks all the way.)

  • Comment number 40.

    It's all fine and well saying the Scottish Government needs to get its finger out to support sport in Scotland, but the SRU aren't any better either. Scotland currently has two professional teams where the rest of the home nations have entire leagues! The SRU was too busy building a stadium while places such are Ireland were investing heavily in growing players.

    As for the match, Scotland looked rough around the edges and shaken. I suspect this was to do with the Welsh game and the injuries, particularly Evans injury. We no longer have the mind for the game, and I feel sorry for Robinson as he has to deal with it. It was really apparent before the game that the Scottish players didn't appear to have the heart for it. Talk of Italy being a "strong team" and how the players were worried about Evans doesn't exactly inspire hope in winning.

    We need to start thinking more aggressively. We are a good team, but we get to nervous when we start to think about winning. After the embarrassment of the Welsh defeat we should have come out onto the Italian field spitting nails and wanting blood. Had we had a more aggressive team focus we would have won that game easily. Instead we came out feeling sorry for ourselves.

    The only way Scotland is ever going to change is if we take in mind what Robinson is saying; stop thinking that we're doing well in defeat, start thinking we aim to win. Get tactically minded, get aggressive and get out there and ramp up points in any way possible. It doesn't matter if it's pretty.

    I fear though without this, and with continually poor funding for bringing in new blood, Scottish Rugby may decline and dwindle to diabolical situations.

  • Comment number 41.

    Am I the only one to notice it is getting more and more difficult for the video ref to see tries scored close in when there is a ruck of forwards on top of the ball. It seems this year that the defending teams are wise to camera positions and deliberately block the view. Case in point is at least one of the times Jacobson crossed the Italian line an Italian player appeared to block the view of both the ref and the camera without contributing to the defensive effort or maybe that was his contribution.

  • Comment number 42.

    We seemed to have stronger teams when rugby was amatuer. When most os the players came from the rugby stronghold that is the borders. The Hawick's, Melrose, Gala etc.
    I am from Hawick, was brought up on rugby,taught by the mighty Bill McClaren, head teacher was Jim Telfer. Everyone played rugby, that was the main winter sport in school. If you head to the cities there are the football clubs, and most kids would play football instead, and even not be offered the chance to play rugby.

    Funding will always be an issue, however at least if the SRU are debt freewe stand in good stead. We should have another pro team at least, if not 2. One up north and one in the Borders end off, but money won't allow this.
    We have too many good young players who can't get regular games to improve and grow. Look at the stand off position. Take Parks and Godman away and there is possibly another 4-5 who don't get regular games. Jackson, Hutton, Blair etc. These chaps need regular game time, not just when Parks or Godman are injured.
    Wales have 4 pro teams, but with the exception of Cardiff and Swansea, don't follow football as much. Ireland much the same.

    As for the Italy game. Southwell, Morrison, Danieli, out. Morrison - boring, Southwell not upto it. Danieli can't catch or do what he does for his club. We have others to replace them. Lawson in for Cusiter, can't afford that extra step. Blair hasn't played well for Scotland for a few years now. And support each other! Always remember Bill McClaren drilling that into us as primary schhol kids "support the man". Its not as though he didn't know what he was talking about

    Here's hoping we can win the Calcutta Cup.....! Come back Stanger, Jefferies, Armstrong, Hastings! Your county need you!

  • Comment number 43.

    Ken Mavor

    "Scotland are improving and getting better...."

    Improving? How on earth does 3 defeats from 3 games lead you to that conclusion? Take off those rose tinted spectacles and watch the games we have played this year.
    Perhaps you are one of the many of us Jocks that still believe that by beating England ALL will be forgiven and we can delude ourselves into forgetting the dire earlier performances.
    Look at the six nation's table and be honest with yourself-is this accepatble from a team that was expected to shine this year?
    Poor decision making,poor passing, poor handling, can't score tries with any consistency and like to give away soft penalties.
    Very good however, at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
    I look forward to "further improvement" with yet another loss!

  • Comment number 44.

    Rash shout here, Parks to possibly take more of a leading role, a vice captain, or an even stronger role? Man of the match twice in a row on the losing side, he must be doing something right!

    I agree with the above posts that suggest that the Scotland forwards are doing pretty well at the moment, but i feel that we lack cohesion between the forwards and the backs( However, morrission may as well be a prop forward the ammount of crash balls he takes on). I was in Rome over the weekend to see the game, and was bitterly dissapointed by the result. I thought Scotland came out looking like they did not want to be there, and the Italian players, fans, and general support was somewhat intimidating as a spectator. Scotland played the game far too tight and almost lazily, and not some of the free flowing rugby there have been glimers of.

    Scotland were, in reality not expected to win the first two games, france are too much of a dominant force, and the next game was in cardiff, so doesnt even need introducing. Maybe, the pressure got toomuch for them in italy? Andy Robinson is doing a good job at the moment in promoting a differing side to scotish rugby, and I am seing a much more do or die, open pitch, which is very exiting to watch, and very good for the scoreboard when chances are (mostly rarely) converted. We needed to win in Rome, and as a result we didnt. a differnt style of rugby was played, too tight and not suiting the current team. I would have loved to see the ball flung wide to have a go at, not morrison aimlessly trundeling up the pitch into yet more confrontation and parks taking a shot at goal when he sould have propebly had a dig at the line.

    On the Plus, there were many many times when i though the italian tackeling was exceptional, and i still have no idea how some balls were recycled. Our previos games have gone well, but results are wavering, and we need to get points on the board. Afterall, its all good and well saying that the performance is good, but where are the results?

    I was no more than 25 meters away from the infamous 'Josh Sole incedent' and i can tell you I was absolutely seething! it was a clear yellow card and a professional foul, i personally think the ref should perhaps be reprimanded for his decission. In my veiw, it was wrong of him to stop play just for a warning, but more importantly, it was 5 meters out, in a clear try scoring position. What use is it even having the ability to give a card if you are not going to use them.

    Just an afterthought, If the trylines were on the 5 meter lines, how many trys could we have scored under Andy Robinson?

  • Comment number 45.

    Another lovely day in Glasgow. Sun is out, motorbike is beckoning, but still too slippy I think.

    Looking back - Scotland could have beaten France, should have beaten Wales, and could have beaten Italy. Small margins meant losses. The opening plays against Wales saw some of the best rugby Scotland has played. The game against Italy saw lots of mistakes made.

    Looking forward - it's England, it's a different challenge, the team might need tweaked as they are as much backs to the wall as us, and I think you will find Scottish boys playing out of their skins to support the Englishman who is in charge of them. Who would have written that script a few years ago?

    I don't think tactics will change hugely, but the power quotient of the opposition will now go up.


  • Comment number 46.

    Why oh why John does it take a game against England to "get the boys playing out of their skin"?
    Surely at this level, EVERY match should be one that makes playing out of the skin an absolute minimum! (You should know).
    I am heartily sick and tired of pre-match over confidence (for the last 10 years at least) that always dissipates when the first whistle blows.
    We are lacking in many vital departments, but most worringly the ability to score tries (the whole idea of the game, for goodness sake), and as I said in a previous post, to win now against England would merely gloss over dross!

  • Comment number 47.

    My two-pennyworth:

    1. Italy wanted it more than Scotland. A complete cliche I know, but true.

    You could see Italy were really pumped up at the start and they had the best of the first quarter. They started the second half strongly as well. For different reasons, for Italy playing Scotland is like Scotland playing England - it is the game they really really go for.

    They had the crowd behind them - obvious I know, but when Italy were pinned back right on their own line and the crowd started to sing the national anthem, it was pretty stirring stuff. How different from Twichenham (or I suspect Murrayfield).

    At the end they just were not going to let the victory go. Whatever it took - whehter turning over a 5 yard scrum or throwing themselves underneath Jacobsen and Hamilton (a true heavyweight pair) diving for the line, they were going to do it (and more than one of them as well).

    From 70mins on, you could see that they thought they were going to win but also several Scottish players thought they were going to lose.

    2. The ref. should have carded Josh Sole. However, these things happen. You never know if it would have made the difference. Italy played 10 mins against England with a man down and came out of it OK (I think 6-3 ahead for the period actually). They are fairly used to it and several of the backs are pretty much loose forwards anyway, so they might well have coped OK.

    3. Ultimately, Italy had one decent chance and they scored. All three players involved in the move did really well and they got a try under the posts. Scotland probably had more chances but they didn't score. Again, quite reminiscent of a number of Scotland - England games (or the recent Scotland - Australia game). In that siutation, the side that takes their chance deserves to win in my view.

  • Comment number 48.

    hawkeyethejock - I know, great question. Playing out of your skin. It's bit like home advantage in that if someone could analyse and explain home advantage then I think we would all sleep easier. The trouble with motivation and psychology in sport is that it is ephemeral. (this is just the use of a big word to make me sound more intelligent than I actually am)

    I remember playing some very big games and just not feeling up for it. I said this to the current Scottish squad psychologist, Dr Richard Cox a few weeks ago, and he said it can still happen these days. We all assume that we would give everything for the cause if it was our country we were playing for. Can you imagine the first time you run out with a blue jersey on? Unbelievable. Now imagine it on your twenty second time, you have a heavy cold and a thigh strain and a bruised shoulder. Still up for it to the same extent? Then it's your thirty sixth time.

    Another way to think of it is that if you expend one hundred percent of your available energy you die. All rugby players are still alive at the end of a game. Nobody has given one hundred percent. It's a funny one, I know, this motivation thing.

    And I take your point entirely about pre match confidence, and my comment there is that I didn't think we looked that confident a few minutes pre match.

    Cattfanclub - you saw what I saw. Home advantage, pumped up, brave defence, Italy won the game. Worth more than tuppence.

    Miraculously still sunny in Glasgow. Put that on a Sun headline - Glasgow in sunshine shocker! Say that without sounding like Sean Connery.....


  • Comment number 49.

    I guess what I miss just prior to the game, and correct me if anyone has seen this recently, is someone in the Scotland team pumping the players up on the pitch. You know the sort of thing, going round them individually, talking it up. The finger wagging, fist waving 'let's get it right round them' type of talk that gets the adrenaline going. I just seem to think that the Scots nowadays come onto the park, get the anthems over with and boom, kick off. There is no overt display of aggression or emotion. Leaders like Calder, Sole, Hastings all did it. No one currently seems to have that spark.

  • Comment number 50.

    Never done this before.
    Great blog John.
    I would like to comment on this "pumped up" for it, I play and watch lot's of sport and have done all my life and games are always won and lost at the death, in the home straight, in the last 10 to 15 minutes.
    To succeed you have to be in touch at that point and push for the line.
    Getting pumped up and blowing a gasket in the first 10 minutes can lose a game but never win it, remember Italy a few years ago, my bottle of red wine was spoiled in the first 5 minutes!
    I like to see a line up of focused, professional players at the start of the match, ready to execute what has been discussed, by all means if the opportunities are there, take them and put the opponents to the sword early on and never ease up, 10 ahead, aim for 20, 20, aim for 30.
    And take advantage of the momentum swings that always happen within a match, don't panic when down, just wait for the swing and ride the wave through it.
    So there you go and to implement such a thing, you need a good captain - e.g. David Sole, Finlay Calder, Gavin Hastings.
    And all that emotion that top sportsmen have, let it burst out on the final whistle when victory has been achieved or just missed having given everything in it's pursuit.

  • Comment number 51.

    I commented on this blog after the French defeat, and pointed at notable players who I thought were lacking in that game. One of those players was John Barclay who I thought redeemed himself against Wales and played fairly well against Italy. I thought Beattie and Brown were much quieter in this game, compared however to the previous two and this question of players just not being up for it is probably a valid one, (Apart from Jacobsen who had an outstanding match). Most of the Scottish backs were so average and didn’t look as though they wanted to be there, which seems to be the norm for us now when in Rome, (perhaps down to the stand-off kicking away possession 90% of the time). However I don’t think I would be up for it either if going over to Rome to play against a rough, aggressive, very defensive team like Italy who just want to bully you off the ball and play a minimal game of Rugby as possible!! This is a place where teams go and really have to grind out a win, its never going to be pretty. I hate to say I told you so, but I said after the French game that we would be contending for the wooden spoon again, and I fear we will now almost definitely get it.
    However to put this into some perspective the game was probably won and lost in the oppositions 22. I think we created 22 opportunities that went out to the backs in Italy's 22, which were put through the hands of Dan Park's and nothing came of them, apart for a drop goal in which we could of scored a try from an overlap!! I screamed in horror at that drop goal. This really does show his inadequacy at this level. How we can’t score try's from flinging the ball out to the backs is beyond me - this isn’t rocket science, this is stuff you’re taught at 6 yrs old...
    Anyway if Parks is to remain at 10, Scotland will suffer further, as he remains a tactical kicker that can give the team a platform to score points but has no idea of how to release the guys outside him in order to get over the try line!!

  • Comment number 52.

    To Richy 17

    Agree with you, except I thought JB had a decent game. Can't agree more about the backs. The problem we have is that we don't have the players to provide the solutions!

    After the defeat, I had a horrible moment of realisation(delayed reaction!). Its really sad that we only have 2 professional teams and we simply don't have enough registered players to have any chance of producing a decent group of international class players.

    Take example of Dan Parks, he kicked well but couldn't distribute. But if he hadn't played, we wouldn't have even been in a position to have a chance of scoring. So what can you do?

    The sad fact is Scotland are no longer good enough to compete at the very top level. We can win a game evry now and then but no way do we have the depth to be more consistant.

    Some may argue that we have some youngsters coming through, the likes of Jackson, Barclay, Grove, Laidlaw, Blair etc. Compare them to the young lads coming through for Ireland, Oz, France, All Blacks, SA and even England. Our guys are fairly average. (e,g Sexton set up two tries v England on Sat. Carter destroyed the Lions back in 2005. Morne Steyn breaking the Lions last year, Byrn and Halfpenny) Can't remember the last young Scot setting the world alight. Believe me, I am sad to write this.

    I know I sound completely negative, but its time we faced the facts.

    But credit to the Italians, they played with a lot of passion and fully deserved the win.

  • Comment number 53.

    Scrums. With Euan Murray and Chunk (Allen) Jacobsen on the pitch Scotland had supremacy. My understanding is that Murray was injured, but he did well and both props earned their corn with Jacobsen my man of the match.

    which game did you watch?

    also, the Scottish public are the reason sport is dying. they are too fat and only interested in watching, and the lack of national success means there is no precedent set. it's down to underachieving Scottish players (and don't give me that population argumnent, as NZ manage alright) and the almost exclusively negative attitude to anything perceived as english, eg Andy Murray. You get the heroes you deserve.

  • Comment number 54.

    I wonder what people would be writing on here if those last ten minutes hadn't happened in Cardiff, and we had managed to convert our pressure into one try in Rome? Probably that we now have a squad that should beat England, and can really challenge Ireland in a triple crown decider on the last day! We are not a wonderful team, but we've been competitive in every match and are definitely not far away from being a very good one.

    My concern is that after a couple of injuries we are dragging out people who have never looked up to international rugby - was anyone excited about Danielli being called up?

    With the quality of our back row and the size of the back three, did we need Morrison against Italy? I think we badly need a spark in our centres, and I hope Cairns and Grove get more opportunities. When we had the ball at the end of the game, I didn't think for a second that someone might produce a bit of magic and create a match-winning try.

    Dan Parks - if Robinson is intending for him to be our stand-off at the world cup, then we should stick with him. If he is filling in whilst Godman is having a dip in form and Jackson gets more expreience, then I don't see the worth in playing him in these remaining two games. He is such a different style of stand-off, that we have to adopt a different gameplan with him on the pitch. Time is running out for Jackson and maybe Godman has had one too many blows to the head - perhaps a new Dan Parks-less era for Scottish rugby will not begin until after WC2011?

  • Comment number 55.

    54. At 11:31am on 03 Mar 2010, Al-Chemist wrote:

    or if anyone in the Scottish team had the intelligence to do what France did and KICK IT OUT.

  • Comment number 56.

    Just back from filming the reconstruction of the 1990 Tony Stanger try. Hastings, Jeffrey and Stanger all in really good shape, Gary Armstrong couldn't make it as he was working all day up and down the country

    Mike Blair stood in

    Kindaguy, alchemist and others - I am not sure that we are unable to compete at the highest level. I know it sounds daft but we came close against France, Wales and Italy. It's the margins, the scoring opportunities, the little things.


  • Comment number 57.

    Well John, I think you nailed it with "It's the margins, the scoring opportunities, the little things". I am an ex-Royal Marine, and the whole concept of why we always saw ourselves better than the rest is because we, as a fighting unit "pay attention to detail".
    This is where I don't understand the lack of such thinking when applied to our rugby team. We have so many backroom staff dealing with the physical AND mental well-being of the side nowadays, that to imagine that any side from our country should "not be up for it" is inconceivable.
    No one can fault sides if through poor luck they lose a match, and I DO believe luck plays a part in all sports-they cannot be pre-managed. What I do object to though, is when a team (Scotland is a classic example at present), DON'T LEARN FROM MISTAKES OR FAILED TACTICS.
    We lost against France because we couldn't score tries. We lost against Wales because we stupidly went down to 13 men and because when we had a chance (glaring at that), we failed to score a 3rd try. We lost against Italy because we couldn't score tries.
    Pattern emerging?
    Two tries in 3 games! I'm no rocket scientist, but that's the problem. Parks cannot supply what's needed, and he may be a nice guy, but nice guys don't win fights.
    Lots of people pay hard-earned money to watch these players and if they "aren't up for it" they should tell the coach before kick off, and let someone else play who is!
    I can't ever remember admitting to a superior when I was in the Corps that "I wasn't up for it"!!! I know what would have happened.

  • Comment number 58.

    Hawkeyethejock - I know, it's fascinating stuff. Nobody admits to not feeling up for it. O shared a flat with two former marines in Edinburgh and I know that the Glasgow team have been on marine training at Condor.

    You are right, when professional sportsmen and women take the pitch its only because someone is paying for a seat, paying for sponsorship or paying for tv rights. And the paying public have the right to query where their money goes and what effort is expended as a consequence.

    We are in a hard market. Country and money all tied together


  • Comment number 59.

    To John

    We can't compete against the top because of what you just said. The best win the margins.

    Against Wales, we throw a forward pass for a try. France we couldn't exploit simple overlaps, Italy, terrible support play. These are all basics of rugby! SA, AB, Ireland take their chances. That's why they are the best. Its time to accept it, we can't compete. If we could we would win a few more.

    Not sure why boys are having a go at Parks. I am not a big fan, but he has played to the best of his ability in the last two games. Thats all we can ask for.

    To Re-communicated - please check your facts about Andy Murray. This is not a tennis blog. So quickly, Murray was only have a bit banter with a journo who slagged him off because Scotland didn't make the world cup in 2006. Hence his response. Please do not believe everything you read in the Mail otherwise Britain will still be living in the good old 1950's where people like me would still get lynched.

  • Comment number 60.

    As a welshman i am baffled by the fact that my team that I love so much seem incapable of seeing what is infront of them and actually adapting to it. Is this because they are incapable??? I believe not, is it because they dont have enough free license to so???? maybe. It seems like at half time Gatland tells them to change tactics and then we start to play! I am biased, but of all the teams this year i belive that when we actually play we look the most dangerous! Against france we looked comfortable in defence and gifted them all of their points! If we were able to string 80 consecutive minutes together, we would be capable of beating anyone! but it all if's but's and maybe's! at the end of the day we just havent been good enough! i will feel slightly sorry for whoever it is we eventually click against though!

  • Comment number 61.

    To all, get real.
    We are what we are, live with it.
    In the early 80's the Scotland team punched way above it's weight mainly due to an outstanding crop of players in an amateur era (excepting the SANZA shamateurs) with no global competition.
    I was there at both grand slams and routinely turned up at Murrayfield and Dublin (but not Paris) to cheer on Scottish victories, it became expected at that time.
    Come professionalism (and the restructuring of the game that brought) and a more global game with a world cup, Scotland has settled to it's natural level.
    It is a minority sport in this country in terms of active participants, spectators, media coverage and funding.
    The only way to improve the situation, as John has mentioned, is by upping the profile of sport in this country by a MASSIVE amount, this would take a fantastical change in emphasis on the part of the government (Holyrood?) - is it going to happen!?
    I don't think so, we are left to spread the meagre funding - this means prioritising the sports where we reckon we have a chance (e.g. curling, bowls, snooker and eh, fill in the blanks!!).
    So, to all rugby lovers (of which I am one), enjoy the highs when they come along, cheer the team on and stop all the mumping and moaning.
    Discuss the positives, constructive criticism please and see if you can help to nurture a new crop of outstanding players.
    C'MON Scotland.

  • Comment number 62.


    OK, here's the "positives", um, you've got me there! 3 defeats from 3, so that's it-we should celebrate defeat with a cheery smile, a swirl of a kilt and a flash of white heather-oh we Jocks, how we like to deny ourselves victory so that we can savour the joys of mediocrity. My word, we've got some celebrating to do this year.
    As for "enjoying the highlights" looking.

  • Comment number 63.

    To me Namibia is a land of rolling sand dunes, shipwrecks and not a lot else, but that is the country ranked just behind us for registered rugby players. We have far fewer players in the game than any of the others in the 6 Nations, including Italy, so you could, were you so inclined, say we punch above our weight. It does seem to be casually accepted that Scotland is interested in football only and, even then, not as much as it used to be, but two things are crucial for the improvement of our rugby prospects, increasing school participation and victories on the television.

    I'm not sure that singing about sending the English home to think again is an entirely appropriate or particularly inspiring way to start the game against anyone but England. The Italian anthem is stirring, if a little lengthy, but, in front of a home crowd, in the sunshine, against the opponents you beat more often than not, no wonder they were fired up. Compare and contrast that to the effort in Dublin, when the Italians had time to erect deck chairs behind the ruck, and you can see the limited contribution Italy is willing to make to the championship. We may be inept, but we did at least try to win the game. Had Italy not been fortunate in the break that led to the try, Scotland would have won.

    Blair is not the solution to Cusiter's failings, Lawson is and he proved that, beyond reasonable doubt, in the autumn. Cusiter is not the player he was, but he remains Blair's equal, which is not quite good enough. If it's hesitancy you criticise Cusiter for, take a book with you for the delay in Blair clearing from the ruck. You might almost think he has some Italian blood in him.

    Possibly the persistence with Cusiter and Morrison is attributable to Parks' defensive frailties. It is a considerable compromise to make for one player, though it seemed worth it in Cardiff. It didn't in Rome, but, again, we could and should have won that match. Jacobsen almost scored twice, Lamont's try should have been allowed and we at least threatened on a couple of other occasions. Italy threatened once and scored.

    We have a summer tour and we have the autumn internationals to try different combinations and get the players more accustomed to playing the Andy Robinson way. I thought the tactics in Cardiff were carefully planned and well-executed, with only bad luck, panic and lack of numbers letting us down, ultimately. I do believe we can beat both England and Ireland, neither of whom have looked inspired this season. That would give us a considerable confidence boost and successive victories are badly needed. The players do have to look as if they want them. It's all very well saying they're disappointed after a game, but they did appear as if they expected to be before the Italian game.

    An important thing we're lacking is the Andy Irvine/Gavin Hastings/John Rutherford figure. I remember the crackle of excitement in the crowd when one of these got the ball, as anything could happen. Big hits form forwards have a similar, though lesser, effect and I don't recall any happening in Rome.

    We need confidence from winning, we need an inspiring figure on the pitch and we need a little bit of good fortune. I'm afraid, as spectators, we also need a big dollop of patience.

  • Comment number 64.

    Am I alone in turning down the volume on the telly during matches and listening to the radio comentators? this prevents me having to listen to the constant whining and biased rubbish from the TV comentators.

  • Comment number 65.

    If you think a slow scrum half and failing to learn from mistakes are a pain you should try being an England supporter!

  • Comment number 66.

    Ally Gory, spot on.

    mike cuthbert, I'm with you except the dream team of Eddie Butler and Brian Moore are so bad, that I just have to listen to them - it's strange that no one seems to have modelled their commentary style on Bill McLaren always informed, balanced and interesting and an actual commentary on the flow of the match.

    babbo_umbro, no thanks, France are definitely my second team.

  • Comment number 67.

    Mike Cuthbert

    I agree entirely about your post regarding commentators! It's not just rugby either. The modern commentators bombard us with statistics, worthless chit-chat, and why oh why do we need two of them at any one time? In these so-called days of restraint, surely one will suffice?
    Most games are ruined for me on TV by intrusive non-stop yakkety yak and those truly awful on-screen banners-what are they all about?
    Top left: The time and score
    Top right: Red button banner
    Bottom middle: fly-in banners with such stupendous information such as "scrum setting time"
    There's so much on screen, we can hardly see the pitch!
    Give us all a break BBC! Employ ONE good commentator that only speaks to enhance a game, not to take it over.

  • Comment number 68.

    Going back to the game rather than the frustrating as all may be.
    What really strikes me in all the games but particularly the last, is the lack of on-field leadership. I think, in terms of potential ability, the squad is good. I think we have the best coach we could ask for. The most glaring problem we have is a lack of a natural leader. To see Parks barking at Cusiter and then Blair and both offering nothing back but a blank, ponderous look to the floor is very disconcerting.Bad decisions are being made at crucial times or if not that, improvisation is not substitute for a cool head at critical moments. I think this problem is reflected in the choice of two captains and confirmed by the fact that the general concensus was this was a very good suggestion, if for no other reason than what would be a better alternative? Unfortunately it is not working, as novel an idea as it was.
    I think history leans to the fact that teams do not do well without good leadership. Having identified the problem I am not sure what the solution would be but surely Kellock or Brown might be a place to begin.
    On previous comments; as for the fact that Scotland only has two pro teams, oh dear, what a shame, never mind. When we had three we were no better or no worse.Let us not worry about what we cannot change. In a positive vain, at the very least it should mean the national team should gell better owing to familiarity as a unit.
    As for the "Jackson running out of time" comment. For crying out loud he is only 21. He needs game time which hopefully he would have got if he had not popped his shoulder at the beginning of the season. What I do not understand is why Lineen picked Parks for the match against Biarritz, which is a game to nothing, when he could have given much needed game time to Jackson. Especially when Parks is leaving the club at the end of the season. Surely long term aim should win over short term gain? Just don't get it.

  • Comment number 69.

    Kellock seems the obvious choice, just as Jason White was when he was an automatic selection. I'd be loathed to place any more responsibility on Brown when the back row unit is performing so well. I was slightly concerned by Robinson's decision to commit to captains for the squad, particularly in light of Blair's appalling form in last year's championship and Lawson's excellent autumn form. Robinson's loyalty to out of form players and preference for accommodating them out of position, especially in the front row, echoes Hadden at his weakest and I hope Thompson has a good enough game for Edinburgh (if he's fit) this weekend to offer us an option at 15. I am mindful of England's aimless kicking game though and Southwell's left boot might be useful for returning them with interest. Does the prospect of Alex Grove at 12 and Max Evans at 13 not offer some excitement?

  • Comment number 70.

    If nothing else with the two games left I believe now is the time for Lawson, and Grove/Evans pairing.

  • Comment number 71.

    I feel for Andy Robinson, he must be thinking what has he got himself into here!?! He's probably one of the best coaches in the world (perhaps slightly premature - but if not now, he soon will be), and he is coaching probably one of the most inconsistent and most frustrating teams in the world in terms of the way they play and putting results on the board...

    I think Robinson should have been allowed to remain as England coach; he was so instrumental in England’s World Cup win in 03 and had an exodus of world class players leaving the team when he took over from Sir Clive. He was treated badly by the RFU (a completely results orientated union), as was his predecessor Brian Ashton, (who I also feel should still be England coach) who again was treated terribly by the union.

    The SRU also adopted a results policy when Hadden and Matt Williams before him was in charge, of at least winning two games out of five in the 6 nations and at least obtaining a QF place in any World Cup. Now that’s fine, but as soon as you have your employers setting you targets in the work place, and your job depends on meeting these targets then you are probably going to go for the most secure and efficient way of obtaining that result. This was certainly the tactics employed by Hadden, and Im worried that this might also be the case for Robinson.

    All Im saying is, as mentioned before by other bloggers, we are a small rugby nation, with one of the fewest amount of registered players out of any of the 6 nation countries - should we really be trying to obtain targets on the field?? Or should we be experimenting as much as possible, trying to breathe new life and blood into the game in Scotland? Im sure Robinson has been set targets by the SRU of winning this game here and doing so and so here etc, but do we really want to mess around with a coach who I feel could manage any club in the world? Why don’t we allow him a free reign, allow him to experiment with different players, allow him to make decisions of how the game in Scotland is run, ask him what he needs the SRU to do in order to grow the game at grass-roots level, schools, excellence academies, more professional teams??...

    Robinson shouldn’t have to pick Cusiter at 9 and have him as captain because he is expected to do so, or Blair on the bench as vice captain, or Parks at 10 because he can kick the ball into good positions and kick a few goals, which could perhaps just win us a game and meet that target he has been set! I think this is the wrong way to go about the game in Scotland. Cusiter and Blair have shown time again that they cant lead a team, Parks cant control the backs or link up with the back row, Southwell shouldn’t be getting picked because he has a big left boot (and kicks the ball like a sack of tatties in any case!!!), or Morrison in the centre because he's quite big and likes the crash ball.

    Im interested to know what other people think about this – should we be happy scraping wins against teams like Italy and meeting SRU targets or should we be trying to revolutionise the game in this country and trying different things on the park?

  • Comment number 72.

    I'm afraid winning as a target is necessary. If we don't win matches broadcast live on terrestrial television, we are far less likely to attract youngsters to take up the game. Winning is crucial to ensure sufficient demand for tickets for home games and, ultimately, crucial for the survival of top class rugby in Scotland. That is what this Scottish team is actually playing for, but I don't think they appreciate that yet.

  • Comment number 73.

    If a team loses, and therefore fails to get any points, is there a difference between being "difficult to beat" and being beaten?
    I fear the Scottish rugby AND soccer sides are now being built to be difficult to beat, but ultimately still lose over the games within a tournament. They then end up as "awkward" opponents but easy to get above in the rankings.


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