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Here's to you Mr. Robinson - an exceptional coach

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John Beattie | 13:00 UK time, Sunday, 13 June 2010

I can see into the future. England are going to nick Andy Robinson back as soon as they can. The man is ahead of the game in the northern hemisphere.

Northern hemisphere rugby teams lag far behind their rivals south of the equator. And I think I know why. We lack smartness in the way we play, our individual skills are not the equal of theirs, and we play in a winter that is far worse than theirs.

But fundamentally our coaching, and our in-depth knowledge about rugby is behind theirs. Southern hemisphere rugby is fantastic stuff.

Apart from Scotland beating Argentina - more of that later - the northern hemisphere teams were all utterly demolished by their rivals.

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England used a dominant scrum to shore up a catastrophic inability to breach the Australian line, Ireland were humbled, the French mauled and Wales have yet to tour.

It was, frankly, embarrassing. They come here and we struggle to beat them - though Scotland beat the Aussies last November - and when we go there we get beaten, even if we all join together in the British and Irish Lions.

As I watched it unfold on TV, I could not believe how stodgy, predictable, and one-paced England were, but I marvelled at the Aussies and the way they play. An English 1970s fascination with a pick-and-go game with no width as against the new Australia, their width of distribution from Quade Cooper, and their hard and direct running lines (with a blocker or two).

What the heck has happened to the England rugby team? You know the answer? They sacked their best coach, Andy Robinson.

Let's look at Scotland for a while. Excellent. Predicted to lose heavily to an Argentine side which hadn't lost a game in Tucuman and who, for good measure, had invented a trophy to be presented by the government to the winning side, they came out and flung the ball around.

Robinson's philosophy is to play "through" teams, so the attack is usually a long flat pass from Dan Parks away from the breakdown and with a decoy runner or two and an offload in contact. It worked.

Parks, again, was utterly superb.

Every time I see one of our sides play teams from abroad I look at muscle structure, power, game plan, individual skills, and commitment.

Mostly, and I want to be honest here, we look second rate: not prepared with the same expertise, less explosive, poorer technique especially in open play, and more conservative.

There is a coaching problem in the UK. And there isn't the same attention to detail and skill and fundamental understanding of the game as there is below the equator.

And it will not change until our season is changed so that we play more rugby, especially for children, in better weather and we have more emphasis on running with the ball in hand.

Sorry, but that is what I believe. I find these results embarrassing.

On a positive note, well done to the southern hemisphere. They have won all but one World Cup and are leading the world in rugby terms.

Although...come on, Scotland!


  • Comment number 1.

    Great column John. If England had any kind of penetration they would have nicked a result on Saturday but they didn't. They really didn't. It was a shambles.
    I think Andy Robinson has made some great strides with the Scotland team, built around a great back row and very solid 10 and it is a shame that he could not get anything going with an England time where he should have had more players to pick from. Judging from the performances under different coaches since then, it would appear to be an attitude / structure problem.
    I think if the RFU do come knocking, he is quite likely to tell them where to go and stay with people who clearly give him much more support.

  • Comment number 2.

    And I forgot to say that so far our wee website hall of fame is Gareth Edwards, Eric Liddell, Mike Gibson, Serge Blanco, Martin Johnson and Alessandro Troncon, and this week I am going to add Jonah Lomu, thanks for the suggestions and keep them coming. Well, it had to be a Southern Hemisphere addition. Nice day, off to play a gig with the band in Kelvingrove park at 5.30 if anyone is nearby........JB

  • Comment number 3.

    I agree with most of what you say. However, although playing rugby in the summer months may benefit the professional game it will be denying a lot of amateurs (and children) the option to play more than one sport in a year. Already there are many competing sports in the summer months. It would be wrong, in my opinion, to add another one.

  • Comment number 4.

    Thought Scotland were great yesterday, but would have been nice to get over the line. Nonetheless a win is a win, and we need to start doing that consistently to gain confidence going into 2011.
    On a side note John, whilst watching yesterday it was a constant thorn in my side that the Scotland captain's name was consistently being pronounced wrongly! It's Al KELLOCK, not Al KELLOG!!! The latter is a cereal.....

  • Comment number 5.

    The main problem with England under Andy Robinson was selection. Players thrust in and then subsequently ignored, others given extended runs without ay justifying as to why they were in and teams beig selected without having the right balance. There was a good Autumn series in 2005 (If I remember correctly) when things clicked but otherwise no continuity or progress. Under Brian Ashton the problem was he was so determined that rugby can't be scripted and must be played off the cuff (an admirable sentiment) he seemed to refuse to allow the team to have any basic structure that they all need to have before you can put the flair and flourish and invention on top of it. That is of course baring the latter stages of the 2007 RWC in which England had plenty of structure although admittedly little flair and when by all accounts the coaches were sidelined and the senior players took over. Or so I've heard. Now under Johnson the problem appears to be fear of failure, not wanting to take risks in case they fail and just wanting to turn every game into an arm wrestle and hope to come out on top.
    Scotland have improved massively of the past couple of years and Robinso must take at least some credit for that. I didn't see any of the game in Argentina but the Pumas are a good team so any win there deserves congratulations. As to why Robinson is having better results north of the border, I'm sure he has learned from his mistakes in the past for a start. he's obviously not dumb and must be able to see what has worked and not worked for him in the past. Maybe also the smaller playing pool takes the element of team selection out of the picture somewhat, although that is no more than rampant speculation.
    Ireland are a decent team (though not of the quality of the tri-nations) and will come back quite strongly. Of all of the 6N teams since 2003, the French team of the past 12 months has impressed me the most and I was surprised by the result in SA. Without seeing the game it is difficult to see why but they do still have a air of self destruct about them and will on occasion get stuffed.

    As for why SH teams are consistently on a higher level than NH, there are many reasons and not least the tactics currently used. However, there is nothing "new" about wanting to play at pace, wanting to stretch teams, get quick ball, counter attack or look for gaps. Teams around the world have been doing that for years. Nor is there anything "old" about kicking aimlessly, taking the ball when static, playing by numbers or lacking ambition. It is just cofidence, organisation and skill.

  • Comment number 6.

    As an Edinburgh fan, I saw the first part of Robinson's renaissance, and it intrigued me to see it take an English coach to get a Scottish team playing the way the successful Scottish teams of the 80s and early 90s played - mobile and aggressive back five forwards breaking up play and punching through defences, augmented by a strong kicking game.

    Almost certain that the English will rue the day they did not back him for longer.

  • Comment number 7.


    I agree that Southern Hemisphere rugby's slicker, more competitive and superior to the North (generally). I think there are a few factors responsible, namely - as you suggested - the times of year we play leave the sport accessible only to the driven and/or bloody minded. Mainly though, it's due to a cultural difference. The UK has a health problem and that's influenced behaviour, specifically sporting behaviour. There's been a massive shift within a generation from playing outdoors to cheap booze, lowest common denominator mince telly and junk food. People are fat. And in Scotland, with our already small rugby population, unless something changes it'll get worse.

    Anyway, I'd like to suggest Chester Williams to the hall of fame. Watched him play when I was a kid. Awesome speed.

    As for your time travelling predictions of the future: I don't think Robinson will jump ship, even if England offered him his old chair back. Robinson's improved as a Coach in tandum with Scottish Rugby. The two are linked. He's an Englishman through and through, there's no doubt but he strikes me as loyal, greatful and committed to the Scottish players and his re-birth North of the border. I hope he'll sign a contract into the 2015 World Cup.

    Argentina: I predict Scotland will win the series with a second win. The first game was great. The team had real shape and form on the pitch, and there were some excellent attacks and confident lines being run. £10 and a pie says we'll beat the Pumas.

  • Comment number 8.

    Sorry but i can't agree with this blog. Andy Robinson took an English team that was regularly competing with the souther hemisphere both home and away and destroyed it.

    I know he lost players, but he also took our style, vision and gameplan. His reliance on over physical players and crash balls, means we have now been set back 10 years in terms of basics skills of a runnign game. If we can't break a gameline now, its in no small part due to his influence

    Frankly if you like him ... you can keep him

  • Comment number 9.

    Good post john , i was chuffed for dan yesterday, another quality performance , glasgow will surely miss his controlling presence at 10.

    What has happened to England indeed. They should, in theory, have a pack to produce a good platform against most sides. However they really struggle out wide. I think Johnson , just isn't the man for the job , great player, poor coach. Funnily enough the man they sacked, Brian Ashton , actually had the backs working fairly well.I'm no coach but england under woodward, used tindall to bash it up at twelve and provide a target for the forwards . They then built the phases after that initial thrust. Mind you they also had will greenwood , who was a cannier player than many gave him credit for .

  • Comment number 10.

    Until such time as the Northern Hemisphere administrators concentrate less on money and more on the game and its improvement it will for ever be thus. In particular France and England want to have a domestic game which prints money, wears out its players well before their natural 'sell-by' date, and puts the national interest last. Until such time as they create a Super 14 or whatever, play less rugby in their domestic leagues, and put international rugby at the top of the tree nothing will change.
    England have the mistaken belief that if they restrict all of the money-earning rugby to themselves then they will prosper at the expense of the other home unions. Scotland are a minor nation when it comes to playing strength and earning ability. If England could only see that a strong Scotland, Wales and Ireland would in turn help them, then perhaps we all might improve.
    Strategy for Northern Hemisphere revival:
    1. Create a Northern Hemisphere Super 14 (or 16 the number can easily be agreed) as the prime competition below the Six Nations;
    2. Restrict the number of games that all of our players play;
    3. Share the wealth around to encourage the less well-off nations to provide good and sustainable competition;
    4. Stop using particularly English Premier clubs as resting places for southern hemisphere players to use as their pensions and encourage youth development. How can it be that a young Australian at 19 can be put into the International arena and prosper and yet we discourage such a process here.
    Will it happen? Will it heck. Scotland in particular will continue to have to feed off crumbs and beg for release of their players resident in England. What a farce when Scotland wanted the four Gloucester players, none of whom were required by their club and yet they were barred from joining their country prior to travelling to Argentina. This was just strength posturing of the most arrogant fashion.

  • Comment number 11.

    I think you need a bit more perspective here. Argentina are the weakest of the S.H teams so its an unfair comparison to compare the result to the rspective Australia and All Blacks games. You mention that Scotland beat Australia in the Autumn tests but no mention that Ireland beat the world champions aswell?

    Scotland have progressed under Robinson, but lets be honest they had nowhere else to go and their 6 nations was a mixed bag. Personally, I am more than happy to see Scotland improving as I think it only adds to the excitement of the 6 nations to have as many competitive teams as possible and for too long Scotland have languished in the wooden spoon territory.

    As I said above, Robinson has taken Scotland forward and injected some dynamics into the side but this article is very unbalanced in its view. Robinson was a failure with England - no other words to describe his tenure there. To imply hes the only coach around who can match it with the S.H mentality and coaching is a bit ridiculous. I think its obvious that France and French rugby are currently the dominant force in the N.H and Lievremont has done a great job there. Robinson has taken over a Scotland side that couldnt get much worse and has taken them forward. Hes has been helped by the fact that Ireland, England and Wales have also been struggling with consistency. This Scotland team doesnt compare with the Irish, Welsh and English grand slam winning sides of the last decade just yet.

  • Comment number 12.

    JB - Andy has not transformed Scottish rugby in my view but he has been able to get the best from a limited crop of players. Good coaches look at their strenghts and weaknesses and thereafter formulate a game plan that suits them. From this he has created a very competitive Scottish team... yippee!

    Matt Williams went for the 'total entertainment' style but in short, we did not have the skill level or physical presence to see it through... He was hounded out, but he tried to entertain.

    For me, Andy has tried a similar philosophy with a bit more security built in through regular hitting up of the big guys to create holes in the defence.... It works, look at the clean breaks we had in the 6N, more than I can remember for years but what we lacked was the support runners on the shoulder..... It happened again last night. That's all about confidence from players who have been used to loosing and/or playing defensive rugby.

    The present, well there are strong glimers of confidence in the Scottish play and as that builds I am confident we can go from strength to strength and be a real force in the 6N.

    As for England, it's incredible that a country with such talent, a fantastic club competition and regular european club success that they cannot get it right at international level... Where does that lie.... coaches.. end of.

    MJ was a fantastic player, captain and leader but that doesn't make him England coach. You need to learn at club level then step up once you have cut your teeth.

    Andy Robinson - Hope he's here for some years to come.

    Can't believe I am saying this but Scotland for a sound win this week V the pumas, they were made to look ordinary and scored through two poor Scottish plays.

  • Comment number 13.

    John - good blog again.

    There is no link to it though on the beeb website from the main rugby union page. (Just the sport frontpage and scottish rugby)

  • Comment number 14.

    John, selective memory doesn't help your argument about Southern Hemisphere superiority. France thumped South Africa at home last Autumn, having beaten New Zealand away earlier in the year and none of the Southern Hemisphere teams can justify expectations of a grand slam tour any more.

    England were transformed by the substitution of Danny Care and Youngs set the backs running in the second half, when they repeatedly threatened the try line. Australia have talented backs, used to running rugby, whereas England have relied on the power of their forwards since before they won the World Cup. That's what took them to the final of the last one too. It's just as much a part of the game as the more attractive style of back play Australia had to offer and England could have won that game on Saturday.

    Half backs have been a problem for most of the 6 Nations teams, with France only recently settling on a pairing and the others having to make do with what's available. New Zealand struggled without Carter last year too, so it's not just us.

    Yes these results were largely disappointing, as was Scotland's "A" Team loss to Georgia, but the tide will always ebb and flow and I would be far more reluctant than you seem to be to suggest future Lions teams will not have an excellent chance of winning, even if we keep playing a winter game in winter.

  • Comment number 15.

    Yes, Scotland were good against Argentina. I liked the way they had the confidence to throw the ball around when they were two scores up near the end, and win another penalty to keep the score board ticking over.

    Sean lamont should have scored just before the break, though. He made a high arching dive for the line giving the defender a big target to get him into touch. He should have dived 5 yards earlier and let his momentum take him over. Do I remember John Kirwan scoring a try againet the Scots like that? He was travelling horizontal 9" above the ground, and Gavin Hastings could do no more than skip over the winger as he went over in the corner.

  • Comment number 16.

    Been a while since I posted on your blog John (though I have been reading it), but I do think you are getting ahead of yourself in regard to Andy Robinson.

    He had more than enough time to do something with the England team whilst he was there, but they just got gradually worse under his command.

    Personally, I think he has learned a lot from that experience and going up to Scotland was both a brave (and inspired) decision for him. It can't have been easy as an Englishman to gain the acceptance of the Scots, but he did it. Dare I say it, he even has the respect of most Scots now.

    He has done very well with the current Scotland team. They are a hard side to beat these days, but it must still be of great concern that Scotland still do not seem able to score tries (unless they are playing Wales). The measure of how hard the Scots have become to beat is evidenced in their excellent win against Argentina. Not many teams go down there and win test matches (even the Southern Hemisphere sides find that a daunting task).

    My biggest concern for Scotland remains their lack of strength-in depth. It's a problem which afflicts all four home nations, but hurts Scotland the most due to the small playing population there.

    What I don't see from Andy Robinson is the attacking guile you laud about Australia and NZ. Scotland still seem somewhat limited in attacking nous in my experience. They make up for that with a huge amount of doggedness and a back-row that is surely getting up there with the best in the Northern Hemisphere.

    All praise to Scotland for their efforts, but I am sure many Scots would echo your thoughts if only they could see the Scottish side get over that try-line more often. When that starts to happen even I might start to believe in them.

    As regards England, sadly I agree with your comments. They are totally one-dimensional and clueless. Putting the ball up your shirt only wins against sides with limited attacking ability. England's performance in this year's 6-nations flattered them greatly.

    Ireland turned up with half a team and only half the commitment needed to beat ANY New Zealand side...and paid the price heavily. What on earth Heaslip was thinking with the ref just feet away is anyone's guess. But it took the Irish almost 60 minutes to wake up and by then the game was long gone. By that time Henry was trying out all his options and to be honest probably couldn't care less that Ireland scored a few tries by that point.

    France disappointed me. They are a better side than that and they also seemed to be suffering from end-of-season blues after a long campaign.

    Wales get their chance next week, but like Scotland, do not quite have the strength in depth we would like. In some cases we are down to 3rd or 4th choice players on the pitch. I don't see Wales upsetting NZ next week (especially given the way we self-destructed against SA in Cardiff last week), but would like to see them front up and at least give NZ a game. I believe a win is beyond us, but will hope to see some of the tenacity that the Scots showed against Argentina from this Welsh side.

    Finally, in regards to your hall of fame, I'm going to surprise you.

    Despite being Welsh, one of the players I grew up watching, and admiring, for his sublime skills in a (generally poor) English team of the 70's, a player I believe must be in any hall of fame is the superb DAVID DUCKHAM. We only saw what he could really do when he played for the Lions or Barbarians in truly world class back-lines. But David Duckham has always been one of my prime images (and memories) of rugby during the 1970's (when I was a young schoolboy). I'll never forget his contribution to THAT Barbarians game in 1973. Also, I still have vivid memories of his blonde hair streaking away from defences that he invariably hypnotised. He was also quite a big guy and could take (and give) some mighty big hits. I know everyone has their own opinions of the best English rugby players, but to me he was the best English rugby player I ever saw - and all that from the amateur era too. On top of that, I hear he is one of the nicest guys you will ever meet off the pitch and very approachable (though I have never met him myself - yet !!)

    So there you go. A Welshman praising an Englishman. My nomination - DAVID DUCKHAM

  • Comment number 17.

    Perspective. Perspective. Perspective.

    2010 6 Nations - Scotland a point away from the wooden spoon.

    A win versus Argentina and suddenly Robinson has Scotland up there with SH teams in terms of quality, attacking prowess and defensive skills?

    Hang on, Scotland never crossed the line, and Argentina scored 2 tries.

    The stats simply don't add up.

    I hope Robinson does continue the progress with Scotland but claiming he's put them up with SH teams, or a better coach than Lievremont, Kidney, Gatland *and dare I say Johnson...??) is faintly ridiculous.

    Please leave the "*grasping straws of hope" to us Englishmen!

  • Comment number 18.

    your article misses the point.
    northern hemisphere teams are poor when compared to southern hemisphere teams because of rugbys' place in society not because of the quality of professional coaches.
    at primary school we play british bulldog, catch and kiss or possibly soccer. new zealand children (boys and girls) play rugby before school, break time, dinner time and after school. it is a national obsession.
    we would not expect to compete with americans in a game of baseball. we would not expect to compete with canadians at ice hockey. we would not expect to beat swiss or austrians at downhill sking. why do we expect to compete with new zealand at rugby. every person in NZ seems to be interested in rugby. what percentage of the British public is interested in rugby?
    when ireland won the grand slam in 2009 declan kidney stated that the achievement was due to the work of the mini rugby coaches throughout the country who introduce young people to the games.
    northern hemisphere rugby teams will always struggle against southern hemisphere teams!
    get over it.

  • Comment number 19.

    Andy Robinson is a great coach, he used to also coach Colstons school, a regular Daily Mail Cup winner.

    I think it was a combination of poor choices and players leaving that led to his downfall, for example Tait at 18 years old against Wales at Cardiff, the loss of Wilkinson, Back, Johnson, Hill, then the dips in form from Lewsey, Greenwood, led to problems for him.

    It's great for him that he's doing well again but I do remember England being woeful at times under him so maybe at that point he was a better number 2 and since then he's learnt a lot at the elite level of management.

  • Comment number 20.

    I wonder whether people think it's the influx of foreign players in to the premiership that hinder England? In football they say it means now only the best make it and training with foreign players increases their skill, for me though it means you mean turn to another nationality for a player that you may struggle to find in the English game rather than developing English players to fill those roles.

    Hall of Fame? Christian Cullen & Tim Horan. Whatever injury or positional problems (moving him to centre) happened, he was 1 of the most devastating attacking fullbacks ever.

    Tim Horan because even compared to today there's not many around who could find the line breaks he could. He had great defence, good playmaking ability, great attacking breaks, god how I'd love someone like to be English and playing now. His performances in the 1999 World Cup were a huge part of Australia winning it. Think I remember too that he suffered severe food poisoining the night before the semi final against South Africa and he still played a great game making their defence look like they weren't even marking him at times.

  • Comment number 21.

    I agree with Craig Macdonald that a couple of wins doesn't turn a team into world beaters. However, he forgetting where Scotland are coming from and how their style of play has changed dramatically under Andy Robinson.

    What Andy has achieved whilst in Scotland is more than you see the Scotland team deliver on the park. He has started a revolution in thinking at SRU HQ that I hope continues. His influence is trickling down to the smallest of clubs in the remotest of places. The seeds that he is sowing now in Scottish rugby will bear fruit for years to come - assuming that the blazers at SRU HQ don't throw it all away when he's gone.

    Summer rugby will work in Scotland just as league structure proposed to the SRU AGM will work, despite the mutterings of the 'aye beens' in high places. The SRU only need look at the progress that Shinty has made since moving to a summer season.

  • Comment number 22.

    AR has made a big difference. Its just a fresh outlook on things. He seems to bring the best out in players! Now i'm not getting carried away as I know Scotland are capable of shooting themselves in the foot but we've gone through such a miserable time recently its nice to finally build some results! The tries will come- the results are the main starter! We are looking more in control of games now and don't panic as much! Big credit has to go to Dan Parks who is playing brilliantly! We seem to be building a good team now and still have injured players to return! Exciting times? Lets hope so!
    The southern hemisphere teams play very different rugby to us. Weather has to be a factor here and coaching as well I guess. We got a hard time for a couple of kilted Kiwi's but the All Blacks seem to have a lot of Islanders! Are they where they are for this reason? Don't get me wrong their ball passing on Saturday was awesome, they always keep the ball alive! It's good to have teams you want to beat and beating a southern hemisphere team, although a rare thing, is an awesome feeling and good to stride for. Who knows how this can happen more often but lets hope it can!

  • Comment number 23.

    Quite right Mr Beattie - Andy Robinson is a great coach. He proved that with England under Clive Woodward. His problem is he not a good selector. This is less of a problem for him with Scotland = as he has a smaller pool to pick from.

  • Comment number 24.

    Hi - just back in harness, cycled down the leafy lanes of glasgow. Sorry for pronouncing Al Kellock's name as if he is a cereal, have had a bit of a cold for a wee while.

    Good comments, will be more in tune in a few minutes. JB

  • Comment number 25.

    Didn't get to see the match live as was in Ayr for the they have a good rugby team :-)

    Watched recorded game and have read the various comments above. The Scottish team has progressed due to Andy Robinson - no doubt of that. The team seems to gel together far more and seems to have a purpose about the park now that has been missing for a few years - Hadden and Williams eras. But the thing that I see is that to a man Scotland now seem to have a belief that they can beat the team opposite them be it Wales, England, Australia or Argentina. That's what shone through on Saturday - belief, purpose and a game plan we could deliver and when it started going right I think you could see the guys realise HOW to win a match. See that scrum 17 minutes in. And then there's Dan......yet
    another man of the match award. I worry what we do if he gets injured...who else is there to boss the game like he does.

    Great result and let's get number 2 in the bag now as well.

  • Comment number 26.

    Scotland are still very much work in progress, but after many barren and tough years, at least we are finally seeing progress. The team seems to have improved with every match this year; it's hugely welcome after such a long period of grim times.

    I'm sure the All Blacks aren't being kept awake, but if we can maintain progress through the Autumn internationals and 6 Nations, we can approach the world cup with some optimism,(whilst remaining Scottish of course...)

  • Comment number 27.

    Ken Mavor, I wonder how much impact DR Richard Cox, the on tour psychologist, has on things. He is really good evidently - just gets to the heart of a thought without much fuss.

    I think the second game will be really, really tough. Ayr have a very good team................

    Malkie - yes, work in progress and if you get your best players firing in a good game plan then you always have a chance. As in Canada beating what, on paper at least, was a pretty strong France A

    I am old enough to know that you can't win them all.

  • Comment number 28.

    Oh please.

    Argentina are extremely poor at the moment. If scotland had faced any of the Tri nations sides, they would have been humbled by 40 points.

    Robinson ahead of the game? An exceptional coach?


    But please, continue slamming the other NH nations, whilst being all high and mighty about the incredible Scotland national team. Again, they would have been embarrassed had they come up against quality opposition. If only the rest of us could be so proud of wins against the likes of Fiji and Argentina.

    I repeat... THREE TRIES IN EIGHT GAMES. And you have the nerve to slam ENGLISH backplay??

  • Comment number 29.

    ^^^^^ Wow.

  • Comment number 30.

    Steve, i can definitely see where you are coming from. It's frustrating watching Scotland huff and puff and ultimately never blow the house down.

    However, i can only assume that you didn't see the game on Saturday vs the Pumas - whilst we lsot 2 tries to nil (1 extremely debatable try at that) we were by far the more creative side - still no finishing touch though!

    I'm just pleased that our ambitions in the try department extend beyond aiming for penalty tries from 5 metre scrums, you must be proud of an England side that has such an expansive, entertaining outlook?

  • Comment number 31.

    John - I agree with your assessment of AR - I think he has made great strides with Scotland. As an Edinburgh season ticket holder I saw him make similar impression there too! He seems to get the team working collectively with some real belief and commitment! The difference in style of play between Scotland and England was like night and day - or about 30 years!

    I was also impressed when I asked AR for a few words for a Tour Programme for my sons u16 team. I expected a few bland words from his Press Officer - what we got was an excellent 500 word article with AR recalling his own personal experiences. Impressed that he spent some time and effort contributing to the programme and the values he placed on the team working and touring. It will be a disaster for Scotland if Engerland nick him back!

  • Comment number 32.

    Sorry to go rather off topic here but I think that this latest article on the Science of Sport website (URL below)makes fascinating reading and I wanted to bring it to everyone's attention here as it touches on a recurring subject of previous blogs;conditioning in different sports and also its effects on game-play:

    The main graphic comparing the sprinting distance, work to rest ratio and total distance covered of footballers, rugby forwards and backs is particularly interesting. Who knew those useless, lumbering forwards did so much running!? ;)

    But also, the main body of the text and the implications of space opening up due to fatigue in the final quarter of a game are not confined to the round ball game and should be of real interest to anyone involved in coaching/conditioning in rugby.I seem to recall you positing the notion of extending the game to 90 minutes in a previous blog as a way to open the game out more. This article seems to confirm that this idea would indeed be effective in creating space for a more adventurous running game. Interesting reading!

  • Comment number 33.

    I think Andy is doing a fantastic job with the boys and I am glad to see that they are finally starting to show some of the potential that we've been hiding for years!!! Fingers crossed the guys play another stormer next weekend. You must find it so hard to stay cool in the commentary box when your son is doing so well John, he's turning into a real super star. My suggestion for the Hall Of Fame is Gary Armstrong, that man was fantastic and has been my inspiration at No'9. Like me, he played more like a forward at times and always got stuck in! Again always a pleasure to read your blogs. Yvonne X

  • Comment number 34.

    I'm afraid that contributers who have pointed out that every northern hemisphere team which takes on tougher southern hemisphere competition chips its teeth - even if the southern hemisphere team in question is somewhat below recent establishment - are right. Argentina is well below establishment, and Scotland's recent win needs to be appreciated in that perspective.

    Are we looking in the right place? Maybe it's not all about coaches. I could relate to points made in preceding posts by the likes of molly and Ben Green. I for one wouldn't like to be a national coach in the northern hemisphere. Players just aren't brought on much in the northern hemisphere - clubs are crammed with ineligible talent, and age-group rugby is hardly a dynamic cauldron in which rising talent is at once identified and case-hardened.

    Still, there is a short-term solution. If Ireland had played Namibia, England had played Fiji, and Wales had played Uruguay, we'd presumably be hailing their coaches with the same enthusiasm which Robinson now enjoys.

    And players' salaries would dwindle to levels commensurate with their performances ... creating an appalling precedent in regard to executive salaries ...

  • Comment number 35.

    Robinson couldn't manage the England team because he was put under so much pressure from the press. The press are shocking in this country and they are working there magic in this footy WC....

  • Comment number 36.

    Agree with Gary Armstrong for a Scotland hall of fame Yvonne. JB remember Gavin Hastings and i'd also like to say David Sole!

  • Comment number 37.

    I think you may be getting a little over excited John. All you get with Robinson as a head coach, is a team who will win or lose by fine margins. So Scotland won't get stuffed by anyone but they won't beat anyone convincingly either. It was the same when he was in charge of England. Although I would take that over the mindless branch of Rugby Johnson offers us!

  • Comment number 38.

    I for one am just enjoying winning some games again! Not getting stuffed sounds good!

  • Comment number 39.

    Do you have to still be alive to be in the Scottish Rugby Hall of Fame? If, as I suspect, not then Bill McLaren has to be the first name at the top of the list. Ask anyone in the world the Scotsman they most associate with rugby - it'll be him.

    Oh, and back to the point of this blog, Robinson has done wonders with the resources he has at his disposal. Scotland were desperately unlucky in the last 6N to have come out with the results thay had. You could see from the start (from the Autumn Test, in fact) what a difference he had already made to the style and attitude of the team. The win over Australia was magnificent stuff (if somewhat lucky!) and similarly the win over Ireland will have given the team the belief that they can actually win games against decent opposition - a far cry from the Hadden days. If we can string another win over the Argies on Saturday then that really could do wonders for team's self-confidence. Winning is a habit - and a good one to get in to.

  • Comment number 40.

    I second Bill McLaren- great choice!

  • Comment number 41.

    It was great win on Saturday but, as AR says, we are still a work in progress. Its good to be competitive again though so I, for one, will enjoy having a decent team and coach while I can.
    Agree about Bill McLaren for the hall of fame and would throw John Rutherfords name in the pot as well.

  • Comment number 42.

    John my boy - another controversial effort from you and one which has led to a number of measured and incisive comments on this board.

    Others have dealt with the cliched Robinson criticism about him being a good coach and a bad selector and I think that there is mileage in the comment that this is invariably a problem that is minimised with the more limited pool of players that comes with coaching a Scotland side.

    On the other hand, Robinson has provided a more professional coaching set up (something that he learned from Woodward) and importantly has been instrumental in establishing a hard edge to the team that makes them difficult to beat. I'd rather have a granite like defence and then work on attacking sequences rather than the other way round.

    As was also pointed out above, they key is that Robinson has learned from his mistakes and is simply a better coach than he was with England. Why is that so difficult to understand? Experience is almost everything in coaching - ask McGeechan, a man who became a far better coach than he ever was a player.

    On the more pressing issue on why NH teams have been consistently horsed over the past 5 years by their SH counterparts (good home results against Australia by Ireland and Scotland notwithstanding), I was very interested to read the thoughts of a fellow Scot, David Gray, who is strength and conditioning coach at the Top 14 side Wellington Hurricaines and whose job is making sure that Ma Nonu and Conrad Smith are as lethal as they can be.

    Amongst other things, he pointed out that the natural inclination of children in the SH to play sports before and after school comes from the consistently better weather but also from the mentality that identifies sporting endeavour and success as part of the national psyche.

    Oh, and we cannot overlook the fact that England, Scotland and (to a lesser extent) Wales' obsession with football is impedes the progression of the game. In Ireland, rugby has a tough job in some regions competing with local sports like hurling.

    I also predict a second Scotland win on Saturday and think that if a depleted Wales can keep the ABs down to a 14 point defecit, it will be a laudible performance.

  • Comment number 43.

    My undersanding of Andy Robinson's time with England is that; in 2003 he was really the coach and Woodward was what is now typically referred to as Director of Rugby. In other words Woodward was great at dealing with the media and organising the team while Robinson was actually coaching them. In 2004, Robinson was promoted to Director of Rugby which was arguably a role he was not comfortable with and the subsequent results for England were not good.

    Since his return firstly with Edinburgh and now Scotland, he is back in the role that he is extremely well qualified; i.e. coach. What he achieved at Edinburgh was remarkable given the players at his disposal and he has gone on to do the same with Scotland. Sure we had a mixed Six Nations but you can see the positive steps forward he is making. This is no flash in the pan but real progress which gives both players and supporters confidence for the future.

  • Comment number 44.

    Top bombing John!

    Very happy for the boys versus the Argie Bargies!

    Andy Robinson - has done a great job but momentum had been building not on the pitch but in the SRU and other parts of the scottish games i.e. sevens and Celtic league etc, for a few years before that.

    Some people have quipped that Robinson took over a very good England side and destroyed it - which is true - but can not be blamed entirely on his management. The World cup winning England side was coach by Robinson in the shadow of Sir Clive - Sir Clive did no physical training instead sticking to motivation and mental health, steadying the camp. He was the passionate and emotional leader; whilst Robinson supplied the physical side. The players and injury sitation underminded him.

    What i like about the south hemisphere is the way they approach hitting the line and tackling - they never duck out - they slam into every oppsition. Northern Hemi players seem to duck out of momentum breaking takles in plus when upon appraoching a ruck they slow before they join? With hand in ball they never hit the line with real speedy determination once again slowing up on contact.

    I'd back summer rugby as i remember in my youth when my couch used to pray for good weather as during a dry game we would thump everybody we played and yet on poor wether days the result would be much closer.

    In terms with a clash with other amateur summer sports. I can only think over sports that are often played indoors anyhow and are a completely differnet type of game i.e. Non-phsycal: tennis, swimming etc.

    There is cricket but people who like cricket, tennis etc are not the rugby tpyes. The football season for amateurs starts in August I reckon a rugby season could be built in and around the months of March, April, May, June, July - the only problem is the international competitions like the 6 nations?

    The key i believe is to scrap cup competitions such as the Powergen Cup and enlarge the leagues so that more league games are played in a season. This would lead to the need for players not to play so tight and physically in order for clubs to survive a season. Thus opening up the game - free running stuff - more tries - more excitment - smaller faster players who are more aware of the game of rugby rather than just being focused on the competition. Plus a more open game is harder to defend against in the long term as everyone is working harder to keep up with the speed of the game - thus by the 70th minute they're all knackered and the fans get to see a pulsating, high scoring match.

    Wow! Hold me down!

    Cor blimey! Uni coursework to get on with! Good times.

  • Comment number 45.

    Did you notice the Saxons taking Russia apart with flair and pace surely a sign that their coach is an amazing tactician....or perhaps it's just that Russia aren't that great?

    The same goes with trying to compare Australia and Argentina the gulf in class is huge so trying to hold up a one off win against one and a loss against another as the same doesn't make sense.

    Saying Argentina haven't lost in Tucamen doesn't say much. Croydon boys grammar school have never an international game at home either but then again there haven't been any and Argentina, regretably, don't receive many visiting teams.

    Scotland have undoubtably improved under Robinson but they are still clearly the lowest of the lions teams and only above Italy in terms of the six nations sides. As mentioned by others under England he failed badly and I would say the RFU wont be on the phone that quickly especially when you have coachs like Mallinder around.

  • Comment number 46.

    Couldn’t agree with you more: Stodgy playing conditions can only lead to stodgy style of play with minimal risk.

    The other possibility I would raise would be a return to 3 points for a try and 1 for conversion. Current thinking is more points for a try will encourage more positive play which actually leads to the primary focus to be placed on defence a. With 3 points for a try in place teams should be:

     less willing to concede penalties in kickable positions given the impact it would have on the score line;
     less emphasis placed on not conceding tries and more on not conceding penalties in kickable positions; and

    Hopefully this will lead to placing more pressure on the opposition through attacking form of rugby… though I would also add that a drop goal should only be rewarded with 1 point… with the Bulls in the ascendancy we wouldn’t want to see a return to the days of Naas Botha.

  • Comment number 47.

    Say what you want TheLastKingofEngland. I am not getting carried away. I just love rugby and we are starting to get results after a very very bad period! Yes i'm not expecting miracles but the recent results are very welcome and very encouraging! Are we really the lowest of the Lions teams? We seem to be on our way up I reckon. That idea is not based on one result but on quite a few of the last internationals! We didn't get many results in the 6 nations but were on the verge of many great results so something is obviously heading in the right direction. I for one am enjoying watching Scotland. Yes there is still room for a lot of improvement and i'm sure not all results will go our way but we seem to be on the up- let us enjoy that!

  • Comment number 48.

    I'm sorry John but Scotland played the lowest ranked Southern Hemisphere and only just beat them, my first point.

    My second "Robinson's philosophy is to play "through" teams, so the attack is usually a long flat pass from Dan Parks away from the breakdown and with a decoy runner or two and an offload in contact. It worked" not being funny but if it worked Scotland would have scored tries and they didn't.

    I do agree with you on with regards to "Every time I see one of our sides play teams from abroad I look at muscle structure, power, game plan, individual skills, and commitment. Mostly, and I want to be honest here, we look second rate: not prepared with the same expertise, less explosive, poorer technique especially in open play, and more conservative". We still seem obsessed with bulking up and being bigger when the southern hemisphere are bringing smaller (only slightly mind you) better skilled and technically aware players through the ranks. Nothern hempisphere teams play one game in both attack and defense if you watch a tri nations team everything changes once they cross the half way line whether they are in possession or not. The structures are different, players line up out of position neutralising threats, in that regard it is bit embarrassing that we think all you need is a big centre or loose forward crashing through the gain line.

  • Comment number 49.

    Are you really the lowest of lions teams you ask Rab? Well six nations tables for the last few years, world ranking and results would say yes clearly you are.

    I'm not saying that Scotland aren't improving. They are and are putting together decent results but I was trying to point out that comparing Scotland's results in Argentina to England's in Australia is not really comparing like with like.

    Scotland may of turned a corner but they're still on the wrong side of the square.

  • Comment number 50.

    I can't be bothered getting in a National debate. Lets just say well done Scotland- an awesome result! Bring on test number 2- it's gonna be hard but finger's crossed! Maybe its a parallelogram we are on and its leaning the right way!!!!!

  • Comment number 51.

    Agreed Rab. Well done and good luck for this weekend.

  • Comment number 52.

    Thanks TheLastKingofEngland and all the best against OZ! It's nice to see the NORTHERN hemisphere teams do well!

  • Comment number 53.

    Hi, just back from a morning on my bicycle, tough on the legs. Yup, let's hope the Northern Hemisphere teams do well.

    I do get what people have been saying about Argentina being the lowest ranked team in Southern Hemisphere though I was thinking that Scotland beat them where they had never been beaten.

    Yes, like all of you, I actually want England, Ireland, Wales, France and Scotland to win their games against any Southern Hemisphere teams - just not sure we are as explosive sometimes, and that win by Canada over a strong France A was fascinating. Some good Canadian players

    LastkingofEngland - I think England have the capacity to destroy most teams, I see them in the sevens, the Saxons, the Guinness premiership, all awesome.

    Out for a curry tonight with the lads organising the Hearts and Balls event at the Fruitmarket in Glasgow on Saturday.

    Oh, and it's a joy to be on the Hall of Fame board for Scottish rugby with the likes of Geech, JJ, Chris Rae and Norman Mair. JJ and I quickly realised that we had been picked to be on the board because we certainly would not be in the first inductee list. Well he might well be actually, Geech def I would think, but me way down the list.....




  • Comment number 54.

    John, really enjoy the blog.

    Really glad the BBC have finally decided to get more international rugby back on our screens. I am almost at the stage of cancelling my SKY subscription due to their blatant disregard for Scottish Rugby.

    And was amazed how the English commentators managed to spin what was an awful preformance into something they seem to think was passable.

    Also as someone who loves watching the game I regularly watch Northampton and think their back three are amazing. And think it funny how the england team can drag two of them down.

    Again keep the good work up.

  • Comment number 55.

    Maha1983, thanks, appreciate that. isn't the football world cup disappointing? I wanted it to be good. The second test v Argentina is on the red button and BBC 2 Scotland this weekend. JB

    England will come good.

    Excellent curry, cycled back - calories to burn


  • Comment number 56.

    AR's biggest failing with England was poor selection, I do think that working with a smaller group of players in Scotland helps that fault. Having said that, this was a very good Argentinian team, Roncero, Scelzo, Albacete (the best lock in Europe?), Le Geezer, Lobbe (ditto No.8) etc. A superb win!

    The main difference between the SH and NH teams this weekend was that the SH teams only kicked with purpose, if receiving they would advance to the defending line, THEN make the decision to kick or attack. too often the NH teams would kick immediately, usually straight to the full back, who would then advance to the defending line .... Good line speed in defence helps as does a link player at 7, such as Saull and Rees. Scotland have one in Barclay, Wales may do in Warburton (they had one in Williams).

  • Comment number 57.

    Interesting article from John Beattie re the SH sides apparent dominance. Having played twenty years of footy in NZ I thought I would give a brief view of how us "Kiwis" develop in rugby.
    I began playing at six with my school side. It was maori with some pacific island influence. My father was coach and vice principal, we trekked daily over to the location of the school.
    The ball skill level of these maori and island boys was high, I was the only white boy in the team. In matches the implicit understanding was to get the ball away from the ruck or mall and pass and draw. Being well coached and letting the ball beat the man we won most games. No torrid forward battles for us youngsters. After four years we won the local provincial primary school grade (10yrs old) due to better skill levels around passing to a free man.
    From the North Island (much warmer) to the South Island (much colder)heartland of the Crusaders and to a prestiguous Canterbury high school. (Mehrtens, Carter, Hadlee etc)
    1200 boys and 3 maoris at school. White middle to upper class. Ball skills of less quality overall. Most guys could not kick with both feet and balls skewed off the good foot albeit obvious exceptions such as Carter and Mehrts.
    However the desire to win and to make the school 1st XV was extrodinarily intense. 27 rugby teams at school and not enough fields or coaches for the overflow of average players. League was banned. Football if too small or slow.
    With the goal being winning the training was structured around team patterns and skills. Body position with your team mates in ruck, line out, breakdown, driving and mauling. The inherent skill deficit of the average white boy meant running it was a risk. A different ethos to the north island schools. Only run the ball once the opposition was battered to a poor defensive screen or had made a mistake. On a trip north for a U15 schools tournament we played the boys I had played with. We were well organised but thrashed 44 - 0. As white boys at that age we could not dominate in the forwards and going wide was fraught with danger as their ball and running skills were better.
    The thing is that when allot of Pakeha(white) 1st XV boys get to 18 or 19 they start to put on bulk and can compete physically. The intense schoolboy coaching on technique and skills is now ingrained. Only additions need be made once they hit club, colts or provincial levels.
    Hence for our players at higher levels there can be more focus on tactics and strategy, basic skills are taken for granted.
    It is ingrained through our early coaching and matches to play different styles. Wide or tight is an easy change once the ability of the opposition forward pack is ascertained.
    We understand a fearsome British forward pack can dominate us and then we scurry around trying to go side to side. But if you dont dominate us in the forwards that does leave few options for you as we are used from an early age to the ball in hand.

  • Comment number 58.

    Right and wrong, John. Andy Robinson would not make a difference. I don't think any coach would. The 'right' bit is where you say the 'children'. It's a future thing. The present is stagnant and skill wise is going nowhere (doesn't mean England won't win the world cup with their Somme warfare style, though). Every kid with the ability to play like Quade Cooper should have those skills developed. I wonder what we would see in clubs around the country, though. Not, I fear, coaching kids in the mode of 'Quade'.

  • Comment number 59.

    Seems Scotland has no strength in depth, the A side having been beaten by Georgia and Namibia in the space of a few days.

    As for the Scottish hall of fame, perhaps some of the first inductees should be from an earlier era. From the beginning, who brought rugby to Scotland? Who helped set up the first international match at Raeburn Place? What about the inter-war years - Scotland Grand Slam of 1925. The early post war years? Our early Lions representatives. I am too young to remember any names off-hand but there must be some amongst those who would qualify for the hall of fame.

  • Comment number 60.

    It is hardly news that we lack strength in depth, but it would be good to give the opposition the respect they deserve. Georgia are ranked 16th in the world (7 places lower than we are). Namibia are 6 places lower.
    Georgia are 1 place below Canada who, I think I am right in saying beat France A this week.
    Disappointing, but lets keep perspective

  • Comment number 61.

    Finlay Calder for the hall of fame? Had the pleasure of meeting him when I was younger and he was a fantastic bloke. Great ambassador for the sport!

  • Comment number 62.


    what do you make of Andy Robinson's comments about the effect too many subs is having on the game?

    I'm in full agreement with him, particlarly in respect of having to change the conditioning regimes of modern players. I'd be in favour of having 5 subs available, but only allowed to use three.

  • Comment number 63.

    For me its shocking what Johnson has done with England - has he actually done anything????
    Johnsons tactics are way to negative from the outset, he doesn’t seem to have any tactical nous whatsoever. Completely forward dominated and no real sense of leadership or creativity from the backs. If I was English I wouldn’t be able to watch them anymore I would have long quit rugby.

    Robinson didn’t seem to do all that well for England as a coach, but then I blame that on the structure of the premiership there are too many foreigners there and such little depth in the English squad. For me they really need to sort themselves out in a big way. Get rid of Johnson before they made themselves look stupid in the RWC.

    Scotland form me are looking a lot better, they seem to be playing more like the Welsh team on 05, the only problem for them is that they haven’t quite found that clinical edge just yet. They’ve got good options at 10 with a runner in Godman, or a complete kicker in Parks. Beyond that they don’t seem to have that much depth.

    France for me are the best team based of the 6 nations they were unplayable. So much strength in depth more character and mental strength than we’ve seen in years.

    Wales are massive underperformers and I believe beat anybody on their day, but they seem to have this mental block against the top 3 teams. Although I do believe that Wales are our best chance of salvaging any pride for out hemisphere. C’mon Wales – Cymru am byth.

  • Comment number 64.

    Kiwi - some excellent points.
    There aren't many folk up here who know how to make the ball do the work. You can save so much energy drawing and passing, committing defenders and putting folk in space!

  • Comment number 65.

    John you need to leave the bottle alone - I reckon your off your head. When Scotland can consistently score tries and not rely on one mans boot I might agree.

  • Comment number 66.

    Simply, I believe Scotland won, partly because of Dan Parks and his superb kicking, but mainly because the mentality in the Scotland camp is "appreciate it while you have it and go out to win"! If you look at England and Olly Barkley, he moans because he was picked to start against the Australian Barbarians, and not the Wallabies! This is shocking! These English players take it for granted and believe that they are the best at what they do (clearly not the case) and they are arrogant, they believe that they should be picked as a starter! Johnson allows this complaining to the media, or seems to do little about it, and it only gives the players what they want, attention! Olly Barkley takes rugby for granted and I am sure that many club players in England would be thrilled to start against the Barbarians and would be humble in doing so, not like Barkley who moans that he has worked hard for a spot in the England camp and deserves to start a Test! Maybe he has worked hard, but does he deserve it? Obviously not, as he hasn't been selected to start! And to my point in the argument, Scotland players would never moan about playing an A-Team, I honestly believe that every player would take it in their stride and play for national glory (see the Japan game, an abysmal yes, but every player played with heart, unlike one Mr. Barkley). If a Scotland player were to complain to the media, I believe Robinson is decisive and clinical enough not to take it and drop them from the team on the spot, a talent (if that is what you wish to call it) that Johnson lacks.
    And as for Ireland losing. A shame, yes. But Heaslip's ill-discipline cost them their dignity in what was a drubbing to a frankly mediocre All Black's squad!
    And Wales! There always seems to be this hype and anticipation that Warren Gatland stirs up before every Wales game, and frankly, it does no good! It is all too common for them to go in under-dogs, expecting to sneak a win, but they come out with their metaphorical tails between their legs.
    Every British team has its weaknesses, I'm sure I need not point out these, but the mentality of Scotland was probably the crucial factor in their shock win over Argentina! One which re-affirmed by belief in my country!
    N.B. I do not mean any offence to any English, Irish or Welsh readers out there, I call it as I see it and do not mean to come across biased!
    JB, yet another great article! Awesome reading!

  • Comment number 67.

    My son had the good fortune to play for one of Scotlands top rugby schools who were scottish champions in 2006. He also toured NZ in 05 as part of a development squad. Whilst the team were excellent and the development tour an outstanding experience this was part of a an academic framework. As such, little time was spent developing individual skills in a mentored and programmed manner, not an academic pre-requisite. As such young players in Scotland then go from first XV school rugby straight into premier two reserve and first squads. This is a huge step up and a lot of talented players are under-cooked and lost to the sport. Much more investment should happen at individual level with some sort of national U-18-U-20 league format with assigned professional mentors. The regional selection process is also very poor-with amateur scouting standards with extremeny poor standard pools from which to select.

  • Comment number 68.

    John I think you must had too much to drink or some thing....Scotland biggest failings is that they cannot score tries...beat the argies with all penalties...Ar the only coach that is doing any thing right in the NH...come on, take the blinkers off...I know Johnno is an absolute novice when it comes to coaching, but I think that if the scots were to coem up against any of the SH sides they would be soundly thrashed (and do not quote beating aussies at Murrayfield, to be judged you have to beat an SH side in the southern hemisphere, some thing I belive scotland has never done,or maybe did 50 odd years ago) NH coach or side will come any where clsoe to the SH sides in the world come, aside from maybe france if they turn up...I know your patriotic, but please

  • Comment number 69.

    John, I think Robinson has proved himself again with Edinburgh and Scotland, but it was the right time for him to leave England as he inherited the throne at a tough time, several World Cup winning players had walked away from International rugby and the teams in the premiership were keen to have their stars back after being more generous in the lead-up to the World Cup. But that was then, this is now, Andy has learnt from his mistakes, like we should in Sport (and in life), but Brian Ashton was the RFU really did the dirty on... He took England to the final in 2007 and then after coming 2nd in the 6nations. So for all the faults at least Scottish Rugby wouldn't be quite so ignorant.
    I think I may have ranted about all this before though.

  • Comment number 70.

    I think I said something about schools and youth and getting the game to them asap and offer them the opportunity to develop skills. You sorts suggesting how to turn present players into world beaters overnight are living in a teenagers' world. The Kiwis say you can only wee with the willy you've got. And at the moment, there are quite a few small willies about. Do you seriously believe you can turn a non-world class player into one? When did that ever happen? One example, please?

  • Comment number 71.

    I used to be a school teacher in Redditch. A real football area where rugby isn't big at all. Craig Chalmers very kindly came into our school to do a coaching session with the kids. I agree that it all starts with the youth- if we want to improve Northern Hemisphere rugby we need to target the youth and build up. I remember as a kid being obsessed with rugby, watching my videos over and over listening to Bill McClaren! Rugby was the minority sport at the time and football was definately the bigger sport.
    I live in Worcester at the moment and it seems to me they spend all this time, money ,effort on community/ youth rugby then at the top level buy in has beens from abroad. Why not use some of that youth you have spent all that money on developing. Give them a chance. Yes it takes balls but you might find a homegrown star!

    ps. Go Scotland for 2nd test and good luck to all Northern Hemisphere teams. At the end of the day though RUGBY should be the winner ha ha!!!!!!

  • Comment number 72.

    There's the whiff of an astonishing amount of tosh on this thread, principally from people who believe that winning a tight game by kicking penalties is somehow a 'lesser' win than having scored a try in the process. Do you honestly believe that Argentina woke up happier the next day, having scored two and lost the game?

    Scotland beat Argentina by matching them up front, putting them under huge pressure in the loose and making fewer mistakes overall (principally by understanding and playing the referee well). I don't recall many Saracens fans complaining that the same tactics were effective but not pretty for them this season.

    If Robinson didn't play to Scotland's current strengths in this manner, I assume that a lot of the posters here would accuse him of being a tactically naive coach.

    Sorry folks - you can't have it both ways and a win is a win, the most valuable thing in the world when a side is struggling for consistency and confidence.

  • Comment number 73.

    You said-
    'Sorry folks - you can't have it both ways and a win is a win, the most valuable thing in the world when a side is struggling for consistency and confidence.'

    Well said GeorgeCarlin!

  • Comment number 74.

    Some credit should go to AR's predecessors as Scotland coach; Hadden and Williams both attempted to play expansive rugby with some fantastic running lines from the backs. Unfortunately, as has been commented on extensively here, the ball skills weren't there from the backs to execute. Perhaps with the confidence from a few victories, however slim, then potentially Scotland can start to deliver over the try line! Remember that England did not win the world cup playing the most expansive rugby, so maybe AR (who basically was the winning coach as stated above) was then and still is an excellent coach (lets save great for genuine world class coaches). So what if Scotland win by a small margin, seem to remember England's world cup win was marginal. A win's a win whatever the margin, but rugby (nay sport) is there to be enjoyed by the spectators, we are the ones who pay for "entertainment" and ultimately contribute to the players wages.

  • Comment number 75.

    Hi John,

    Struggling to get tickets for Saturday, any chance you can hook a couple of ex West boys up?! In BA until tomorrow morning then heading down to Mar del Plata. Went along to players hotel yesterday but didnt see anyone. Would be awesome if you could leave some at players hotel in Mar del Plata for David and Alan.

    We were the two you see in bbc highlights about 7 mins in after we had gone 5 points up in Tucaman.

    Mon e red and yellow

  • Comment number 76.

    Were Scotland expected to "lose heavily" to Argentina?? Think Argentina have been in serious decline recently but hopefully entry to the Tri Nations will put a halt to that. They cannot be compared to the "Big 3".

    Apart from that I agree Robinson has been excellent (as have Scotland). Even beating Ireland in Dublin is quite a scalp in recent years. Would also agree about his time in Edinburgh, they really became difficult to beat once he took over. Good coach and good to see the Scots on the way up.

  • Comment number 77.

    It's no coincidence that the general standard of handling is so much higher in rugby league than rugby union in this country, when one code plays in sunshine and on firm pitches, and the other in bitterly cold rain up to their knees in mud.

    It's only reactionary luddism in this country that is stopping us shifting the domestic season at least a few months towards the summer. Can we not at least, start a month or so earlier, and then take January off to let the pitches ( to say nothing of players and spectators) recover?

  • Comment number 78.

    If Scotland have such penetration then Mr Beattie might like to question why they have scored so few tries in the past 9 tests?

  • Comment number 79.

    As always, very much enjoying the blog and the eclectic topics of discussion. As someone who has followed Scottish rugby over the past 10-15 years (literally, paying £1000s a year to watch Scottish club and national rugby), it is a delight not only to be winning, but also to be losing closely (or drawing!). No longer the last quarter of a game when we concede 3 tries (or the first 10 minutes against Italy). Scotland are competing. There is no doubt that there is a measurable difference in the team with Robinson in charge. I agree with previous comments that Robinson has grown as a coach while in Scotland (predominantly with Edinburgh) and Scotland is now benifitting from that development. I also believe that Scotland must be easier to mange than England purely from the point of view of the smaller palyer base (no wonder AR was arguing for a reduction in the number of replacements this week) and that alone should be enough to keep him here for some time.

    But look at the grass roots. My son, who is now playing senior rugby at 16, was on the verge of giving up going to Scotland matches "cos Scotland are gash!". Now, he is urging me to buy semi-final tickets for the RWC and making me feel guilty for doubting their inability to beat NZ or France in the QFs. He has gone from being an able player on the verge of giving up on rugby, to being an improving payer who wants to compete to get to a higher level - and I believe much of that improvement and enthusiasm has come from Scotland being competitive again. Don't underestimate the effect that the performance of the national team has on young players.

    However, on the negative, you do have to wonder about the structure of the game in this country (and this is very much an addendum to the NH v SH debate (though few have mentioned the fact the Argentina are top seed in our RWC group ... not England - oh and that Scotland could, in theory, leapfrog the pair of them this weekend in the IRB rankings)). To use my son as an example again (apologies wee guy), he has had to take up senior rugby (too early in my mind) in order to get experience of competitive rugby. On the west coast of Scotland, he was lucky to get half a dozen reasonably competitive U18 matches in a season. When I was his age, I was getting 3,4 or even 5 matches a week betwen the various teams I could play for; and there was a core of 7-8 of us doing the same and building up a great understanding. This last year I took on some of the training at senior level and couldn't believe having to teach players in their mid-20s the basic rules of the game. A friend of mine in that group of 7-8 mentioned above, emigrated to Australia; when I visited him a couple of years ago, I went along to watch his 7-year old being coached in mini-rugby by ... Nick Farr-Jones. An unbelievable contrast to how my son is having to work his way through the Scottish system (with pretty poor coaching ... including my own (I have no training as a coach)). But he is keen - and if there are another 200 or 300 like him, who are being invigorated by the visible improvement in the current Scottish team then there is still hope.

    But it would be nice to see a few more tries though guys?

  • Comment number 80.

    John, as big a fan as I am of Andy Robinson and as much as I admire the fantastic work he is doing with Scotland, I am sure you will forgive me using your site to pay tribute to another distinguished A.R. - that colossus of rugby the mighty Andy Ripley. He was one of the great characters that inspired me in my youth and was a magnificent ambassador for our wonderful game. A fine role model for our youngsters both in rugby and in life.The wonderful spirit with which he lived his life, wasting not a minute of it and the dignity with which he dealt with is illness will continue to be a great source of strength and inspiation to me and I will treasure the memories of the spirit and panache with which he played the game. If you have a connection to his family and can pass on our condolensces at this sad time - that would be great. Rest in peace, big man - thanks for the pleasure you gave us and comfort you brought to many. Our thoughts and prayers are with you annd your family.

  • Comment number 81.

    Andy Ripley - The world is poorer place for his loss.


  • Comment number 82.

    Agree with the comment about Andy Ripley - a giant of a man in many ways and one who did not take himself or the 57 "old farts" too seriously.

    The current World Cup is showing that it is just as well that NZ are good at rugby union as they are naff all use at any other major sport. They hold the unenviable record of being one of the very few sides Scotland have scored 5 goals against in a competitive match. Nice country, largely decent people but way over the top in their arrogance about their under achieving rugby team (and I would not bet on them winning the RWC next year as the pressure they will be under will cause them to bottle it, again) to the extent that when I was in Wellington in December 2006 they had a clock laying out the days, hours and minutes until "The All Blacks win the World Cup".

  • Comment number 83.

    Interesting blog so far.

    Firstly, well done to the Scottish team for winniing a test series abroad. Thought the team played well, and professionally, and once again believed they could win and never doubted.

    Some outstanding players in the Scottish team now who do seem to be hitting a peak in time for the world cup. Parks, the killer B's, front row team, Lawson, Evans, Hamilton. We need some backups who can play as well as these guys so we don't run out of depth when we need it most.

    All in all it's a good time to be a Scottish rugby supporter.


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