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Don't look back in anger, or pride

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John Beattie | 11:23 UK time, Sunday, 20 March 2011

So that's the end of the Six Nations. What do I do with my life now? I know, wait for the superb people of New Zealand to host what will be an emotional rugby World Cup.

It's going to be a long, long summer, as someone no doubt once sung in a song.

So what happened to Scotland in this Six Nations? And who has been the best team in the Six Nations?

First up, I think the Scots came into the competition over-confident. I've been there myself in life, believing that what I have just done successfully means that what I am about to have a go at is easier.

Actually, it doesn't work that way. Things don't click because they did a few months ago in Argentina.

Glasgow Warriors' Ruaridh Jackson has established himself in the stand-off role for Scotland. Photo: SNS.

Glasgow Warriors' Ruaridh Jackson has established himself in the stand-off role for Scotland. Photo: SNS.

As soon as you hear people talk about having a good team or even come out with phrases like "we haven't become a bad team over-night" then, I think, they are making a mental error.

Professor Carol Dweck from Stanford University proved that there is only one winning philosophy, which is: the team that practises the hardest, works the hardest and smartest, and tries the hardest, ends up winning more games.

Life is always about looking forward. It should only be TV reporters who want to look back because, bluntly, they have the pictures and they want to use them.

I just wish we had started the tournament the way we finished. Why didn't we? That's the big question.

The most pleasing thing for me, from a Scottish point of view, was to see two Scots, at opposite ends of their careers, play superbly.

Ruaridh Jackson, at stand-off, has now won the position with ever improving displays.

I know that his parents have had to listen to ill-judged comments about Jackson, even in the Glasgow stand, but he is a threat with the ball, he can tackle, and he can kick. He now needs to get stronger.

And what can I say about Chris Paterson? He may appear a veteran - in fact, he is only 31 - but he still runs like the youth who burned up the grass at the Melrose Sevens.

In a game at Twickenham that Scotland might well have won, Paterson's role was key thanks to his kicking and that tackle on Ben Foden.

He then replicated the feat on a seemingly home and hosed Luke McLean. Bluntly, Paterson still has pace.

If I had to add one more player who, I think, made a real difference then it would have to be Geoff Cross.

Ever since I first saw him in a blue jersey I have thought of him as a competitor. He deserved his starting place.

The longer the tournament went on, the better Scotland became.

Andy Robinson's blueprint of varying a game between pick and go and playing through the 10 channel is a hard one to defend and, on Saturday, whereas Italy appeared more and more sluggish and predictable, Scotland got better.

It's a style that suits us.

Sean Lamont is probably our most fearsome attacking weapon - he has a hunger for the ball - and the likes of Richie Gray and Kelly Brown are earning plaudits from everyone.

But it's been a disappointing campaign. Second bottom is one place above where our playing numbers suggest we should finish (half of the Italian playing numbers, if you ask) but the players must know it could have been mid-table or above.

Who do I think is the best team in the Six Nations? Well, there is only one team that cheats like crazy, is the best drilled at breakdown, has war-horses in key positions, has started defending by keeping people up off the ground, and wears others down.

Yup, my team of the Six Nations is Ireland.

Lots of you will disagree, but for Scotland it's time to forget this Six Nations and set sights on New Zealand. A real rugby country, a fantastic tournament ahead, and the chance of a lifetime. Camper-van, anyone?


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  • Comment number 1.

    An excellent assessment of Ireland, they are very good at getting away with murder but also littered with fantastic players... if they weren't so talented they would get pinged continually like Scotland or Italy do. It is a little harsh to name Ireland team of the 6N though, not when England won it fair and square, so expect criticism on two fronts for that and for the use of the word 'cheat'!

    Out of interest what would your 2011 6N XV be?

  • Comment number 2.

    Ireland are the New Zealand of the Northern Hemisphere, without the Kiwis style, flair or talent. They are however equal at manipulating and stretching the rules of the game to breaking point. Well played to them yesterday, but they were woeful against Italy, not great against Wales and were correctly penalized often by the referee in the France game, costing them the match.

    England are the team of the tournament, but considering their poor form beforehand, Wales deserve a mention too. Scotland for the biggest dissapointment award for me.

  • Comment number 3.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 4.

    I think Ireland's tactic of holding people off the ground is the way slows the ball down massively and we all know that is the key factor in beating teams. Will be interesting to see how successful they are with it at the WC.

    Here's my team of the 6N.

    15 - Masi
    14 - Ashton
    13 - O'Driscoll
    12 - Lamont
    11 - Medard
    10 - Hook
    9 - Youngs
    8 - Parisse
    7 - Wallace / Dusautoir
    6 - O'Brien
    5 - Gray
    4 - Davies
    3 - Mas
    2 - Hartley
    1 - Castro

  • Comment number 5.

    I know its being ABE is an acceptable practice these days but its getting to ridiculous.

    Ireland could only manage to produce one decent display in the entire 6 nations and they are the team of the tournament?

    Even Italy have a claim at least on a par by virtue of a historic win over France and narrow losses to Ireland and Wales which may have been wins but for a decent goal kicker.

    I get the feeling even if England had done the Slam they wold not neccessarily be team of the tournament.

    The table doesnt lie. England deserved to win. They scored the most points, conceded the joint least and won the most games including a highly impressive demolition of Italy which no other team managed.

    Ireland will look back on this campaign and reflect on one good performance, and of course, an inept Scottish touchjudge.

  • Comment number 6.

    So 6nations are over for another year, and we finish in a position we didnt want to be in. I think the simple story is that we played so promisingly against France in the first game, that boosted everyones outlook and confidence for the tournament. Then came Wales where everything went wrong..we couldnt even play the basics well enough. Confidence was lost, everyone was on the teams backs, players included. Up came Ireland, where faith had to be restored, whilst not a great performance, we only lost by a few points. Slowly improving. Next came England, where the boys gave a pretty good shift with the confidence and play being more optimistic. Whilst certainly not our best performance, it certainly wasnt a bad one. Then Italy, where the 1st half we should have been in front, yet the boys dug in and got there in the end - and even got tries in Murrayfield. The fighting spirit was well and truly back.

    The 6nations is done with now, and there is no point in really dwelling on it.. its best to look to the RWC now and build on the great players that are coming through and also look to improve on our weaknesses.

    Also, just want to add how Ruaridh Jackson had a fantastic game and has proved to the crowds that he is worthy of wearing that shirt. Having Paterson there, to do the kicking will have eased the pressure on Jackson. Who instead up'd his team playing and gave a great shift. I've always thought he is a great player with so much promise, and I for one cannot wait to see him bring this confidence and enthusiasm back to the Warrior games...and indeed future Scotland games.

  • Comment number 7.

    TEam of the tournament is always a hard call. England won the six nations and well done, but a huge help to have France and Scotland at home. The Irish showed the clear flaws that England have, and ask yourself if France played against England in Paris (look at the way the French demolished Wales) i suspect it would have been a very different story. My assesment?

    Ireland can really play when it matters, and could come good in a world cup when they have time to find their game. Not sure they have the stamina though to get through in the final stages when it is one big game after another.

    England will qualify really well (they always demolish weaker sides) but do they have the experience of winning tight games away from home? I think not. They will be there or there abouts though.

    Scotland seem to be moving forward. They can only get better for the experience of playing games, and certainly can cause the odd upset. They don't have the strength in depth to cope with injuries though, and could suffer against a SH team.

    Wales are too dependent on a few inspirational players. They fell apart after the loss of Warburton, and didn't win any decent ball, and certainly didn't compete in the forwards at all. Individual brilliance will win games but not a world cup.

    France are unchanging. When they want to they can beat anyone, but are also capable of losing to anyone. They have a coach who doesn't know who to pick, who is so clearly forward focused that the backs appear to be an afterthought to his plans. If like England at the last world cup, the sheer beligerence of the players comes to the fore and they refuse to lose, they could make it to the final, but if the coach has his way they won't get past England in the quarters.

    Italy will play hard, will lose games narrowly, but still lose them.

    All in all then, I'd go with Mr Beattie, i think Ireland have real character and strength, a last throw of the dice from some giants of the game, and a fly half in Sexton who would relish NZ conditions and keep it moving. Best Northern hemisphere bet.

  • Comment number 8.

    On player of the tournament, could I suggest Domingo? He has been immense in the scrum when the ref's have refereed it properly, and amazing in the loose. Time and again on Saturday night he was ripping the ball out of the tackler, and amazingly (given that he is the most destructive no6 in the championship) he was often there before Dusautoir. He made some amazing breaks, and even ran an overlap on the wing on Saturday. I thought it was the most amazing display from a prop, probably since the days of Graham Price - I really did think he was that good. Despite Gatland's slur on fitness, he played the whole 80 minutes.

    I'm not a prop, but I was a forward, and would love to see graft and forward skill recognised, so that the awards don't all go to "the girls at the back" as Micky Skinner used to put it.

  • Comment number 9.

    In all honesty an exciting 6Ns but a poor one! No team really played consistently in all their games and all of them will struggle to get within 20 points of NZ ... and will struggle against the Aussies in the SH! The quality of rugby was not the best.

    England struggled against the Irish cause they consistently pick the biggest not the best. Easter must be the slowest no8 in world rugby and Hape and Banahan are ok in a straight line but turn slower than a bus and have hopeless ball skills. Once they get caught out of position they're lost! IF England pick their best players instead of the biggest they would be a real threat!

    France lost their heads in Italy and will always struggle with their mental approach and strange selection policies! Why drop Parra for Yaschnivili (?) Why pick Chabal ahead of Hardinoruqary (?) etc!

    Ireland looked good yesterday but hopeless against Italy. Their big players are almost at the end of their days and I can't see them being replaced - however in O'Brian they have one of the best forwards of the 6Ns.

    Wales needed their front row guys back and need to keep Hook at stand off and play around him. However becoming a bit predictable - playing off of Roberts charging up the midfield.

    Scotland need consistency and as John says always to believe they are the underdogs! Our players are no worse than any other teams but they dont believe it! Pack selection is a problem but Cross and Gray seem to be the answer. Can only get better.

    Which leaves me with my team of the 6N - Italy. Masi and Pariise were superb and once they find their confidence will do well. Beating France was the display of the Tourney!

    Player of the 6Ns - Parisse with Gray a close second.

  • Comment number 10.

    I think the biggest conclusion that can be drawn from this years Six nations is that the Southern Hemisphere doesn't really have much to worry about come the world cup. England can play well if they are able to get on top of a team early on but if they end up on the back foot they seem to lose a lot of their shape.
    Who knows what France will do!
    The other home nations can all play some fast hard hitting rugby as long as they're playing England. I know as a Scotland fan that this is the most important game for me.
    I am glad they didn't win because I can't be bothered hearing how it is now their destiny to win the WC because it's all starting to look like 2003 again. I think what yesterday taught us is that this England team is a few years away from being finished and they are our only hope for some Northern hemisphere pride during the WC.

    I don't think any of the teams deserve much praise for this years 6 nations, so as England won they should deservedly be "the best team".

  • Comment number 11.

    as an ireland fan who lives in england, yesterday was always going to be bitter sweet for me whatever the result. i was so proud of the performance yesterday though where we made 6 nations champions england look like a poor team. happy? yes i was. worried? yes iam that also.
    the reason being is there doesnt appear to me to be a side in the 6 nations who can win the world cup. we may have beat england but we got stuffed fair and square by the french. france seem to play well when they feel like it, scotland and wales are hit and miss because they dont have enough quality, italy try hard but normally just dont have enough to win (france was an exception, when they beat another big team i will apologise), england had 3 home games on the spin and got made look like idiots as soon as they were away. lets be honest, nobody can feel their team can go to new zealand at this moment in time and win the trophy, its a 3 horse race barring improvements.
    as for calling us cheats, only do it if your going to back yourself up with a reason, something you did not do!

  • Comment number 12.

    The debacle at scrum time has blighted the last two 6N campaigns.

    I have a couple of suggestions which I think may help speed the game up without making it more dangerous.
    1. If the scrum goes down with the ball at the No 8's feet (with neither side being obviously responsible for deliberately collapsing) the ref. should call "use it" to the side with the ball and if they do not play it immediately then he should blow up and give the "put in" for the resulting scrum to the opposing team.

    2. If the scrum collapses before the ball is presented with no obvious side responsible then the referee can use his discretion to call a special scrum where the scrum half has to put the ball in immediately the sides engage, the defending hooker is not allowed to strike (but can push), and again the attacking side have to use the ball as soon as it reaches the No8's feet or the scrum is reset with the put in going to the defending side.
    3. This "Crouch, touch, pause, engage" malarkey is all far too long winded - What's wrong with "crouch, touch" and then let them get on with engaging in their own time. If the ref. makes sure the scrums are settled before he says "touch" there shouldn't be any problem.

    I'm am sure some of the bright sparks amongst you will point out the flaws in my ideas. I know these are not the complete answer, but feel they would be one hell of an improvement on the current situation without compromising safety and keeping the value and importance of scrummaging power within the game.

  • Comment number 13.


    The best team over the duration tournament won the tournament! Shame on though you for calling the Irish "cheats".

    So Scotland got better as the Six Nation's went on-big deal! How about winning instead of this constant alleged "improvement"? According to all the "experts", Scotland have been improving since 1991, but yet we are stiil only ever good enough for 5th place.

    Time to get real John.

  • Comment number 14.

    Another year of disappointment for Scotland. I don't blame Andy Robinson, I am simply resigned to the fact that as the nation with the smallest number of active players, we will forever remain jousting with whomever else decides to have a bad year for the coveted 2nd bottom spot. We are improving, but everyone else is on a steeper curve therefore we go backwards in real terms.
    The nation can't complain either - the only way for a country like Scotland to punch above its weight is to take on the NZ model and focus its energies on certain sports. If one of them is rugby, then great, if not, then so be it. Our indoor facilities should be some of the best in the world, but aren't, thus meaning that kids and parents are reluctant to play rugby as it means cold, wet, windy training nights and match days.......not that inspiring. But it's ok because we have other sports that we put a half ersed effort into representing.....great!!!!

  • Comment number 15.

    Johnson's remark that losing to Ireland yesterday left a scar on the English team referred solely, I think, to the effects of missing out on the Grand Slam; but the figurative scar should wound their collective psyche much deeper. Ireland's intense and relentless performance made England look ponderous and mechanical by comparison. Scotland had partially exposed the same historical over-reliance on power the week before. what Ireland demonstrated with their supercharged game of remorseless physicality, speed and accuracy is that when England's power-game is matched by their opposition, they have little answer to a side with superior flair and imagination (e.g. The All Blacks). I therefore see little hope of their winning the World Cup.
    If any model emerged from this tournament for Scottish emulation, it was Ireland's performance yesterday. Therefore you are right, John, to see Ireland as the team of the Championship.

  • Comment number 16.

    Hi John...

    Nostrathomas here. I've made a few comments on your previous few blogs in this 6 nations but haven't seemed to warrant your attention. I just wanted to offer my services as a guest blogger as i think if you look back to my original entries there was really quite a great deal of foresight evident...Hence "Nostrathomas".

    Another year gone by, Scotland have again won 1 game in the 6 nations, consistency could be one way to describe it?

    Anyway, you probably have become bored with my posting of links in your previous blogs but i think if you get a chance to you'd find them very good.

    Please please please...highlight to me where Ireland were cheating in the game against england (performance of this year's 6 nations)?

    This line..."Well, there is only one team that cheats like crazy"...what is that? I also think you might have forgotten Wales in this analysis of cheating teams. THEY WON A GAME BY DIRECTLY CHEATING!!!

    "Maybe 2 is better than 4..." A laughable suggestion. Basically John i think you've done Ireland a great disservice.

    As B.O.D said, england couldn't live with them and England safely disposed of everyone else with relative ease. This is the 1st game where Ireland have had a fair ref, that has called shots equally. I think its naive to suggest they "cheat" more than the other teams.

    So signing off here...if you would like me to step in and fill the blog spot i would be more than willing.

    Kind regards


    Aka Nostrathomas

    P.s. Is the depression lifting with some tries at murrayfield?

  • Comment number 17.

    15. At 5:52pm on 20 Mar 2011, palalessandro wrote:

    What Ireland demonstrated, above all else, was an inablility to maintain consistency.

    Viewing the Ireland v England game in isolation as a basis for giving them team of the tournament is perverse. Did you miss their games against France, Wales, Scotland and Italy?

    Consistency is key to acheiving at a world cup (or even doing well in the 6N). Its no good being able to pull out one big performace if in the next game you fall to peices or cant perform.

    I reiterate that this England team is not Grand Slam material. They are always going to be susceptible to losing to one of the other nations raising their game as Ireland did when they had the chance to deny England a Slam.

    But look at the table, Ireland didnt even manage second and scraped by Scotland and Italy as well as losing to an average Wales team in Cardiff and being beaten at home by an eccentric French outfit.

    Since the opening game the other nations have been been harping on about how overrated this England team was, how talks of a Slam were arrogant and baseless. So what does it say about their own sides when this average England side finishes top of the pile? Oh wait, that right, Ireland were actually the team of the tournament, Scotland are improving massively, France have the best squad of players etc

    Anything to try and avoid addressing some harsh realities. John Beatties blog is and always has been case in point. Scotland were over confident coming into this 6 Nations?? Based on er... Time to get a grip!

  • Comment number 18.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 19.

    Another year, another 5th place result, and already I hear yonder the cursed words of "oh, but we're improving!" As I've said earlier, we've been improving for a decade, when are we actually going to be winning?

    The answer, I fear, is never, and it'll only get progressively worse if we don't start working on rugby infrastructure within the country. Italy are the real ones that are improving; every year they look more and more threatening, the result of which was seen in them winning against France this year. Their infrastructure is improving leaps and bounds beyond Scotland's, and although we might not see it next year, I give it about 5 years and Italy could be winning the Six Nations.

    Which begs the question, where are we going to be? If we don't start working at it we might find ourselves 6th, forever. This year has been the year of lazy tries for us. Consistently we have handed the opposition a try within the starting minutes of the game. Our defence has opened up gaps that the opposition has exploited and punished.

    Similarly, our attack is still weak. We know the moves, but as soon as we reach the 5 meter line we panic and don't know what to do next. I watched the Ireland/England game last night and it was amazing. Ireland knew exactly where to go, what to do with the ball and how to score tries. I'm afraid we can't say the same.

    The future of Scotland is reliant on improvement, but also on self belief. We need to start working on our belief in winning. We saw glimmers of this in the Argentina campaign, and Autumn campaigns, but for some reason we choked when it came to the 6 nations. We need to knock out this attitude of "try your best" and hammer in an attitude of "succeed".

  • Comment number 20.


    Team of the tournament: England (they won the tournament!)

    Game of the tournament: Ireland vs. England.

    Performance (by a team) of the tournament: Ireland, in the game against England.

    Player of the tournament: Richie Gray of Scotland.

    Cheats of the tournament: Absolutely Wales! They cheated by opting for a quick, but illegal, throw in. Every player in rugby, even in a pub side, knows that if someone touches the ball other than from the team throwing in, then a quick throw cannot take place. The Welsh players knew this and therefore not only cheated Ireland out of a victory, but also out of a Triple Crown. This is not ‘gamesmanship’ as someone dared to imply, this is cheating. Shameful!!!

    Incident of the tournament: Tie - Steve Walsh 'catching' the ball at Murrayfield or the wily fox at Twickenham.

    Fan of the tournament: Anne, The Princess Royal. She’s not only a great Patron of Scotland Rugby; she is also a great fan!

    Worst referee of the tournament: Nigel Owens, who doesn't seem to realize that supporters don't pay admission to see HIM play!

    Worst touch judge of the tournament: Peter Allan.

    Please feel free to add to this.


  • Comment number 21.

    Beattie - your team of the tournament is Ireland?! They came third mate. Like me saying, "yeah my team of the last world cup was Georgia"....because they almost beat Ireland (ironically enough).

  • Comment number 22.

    Scotlands best game was against France all downhill from there. If Italy had had a two week break after beating France Scotland would have lost.

  • Comment number 23.

    I just want to ask this question. Why is it that the other 6N countries can come out fired up but not England? They must have known that Ireland were going to be operating at full blast from the starting whistle yet they seemed immediately knocked off course by the Irish aggression. Why couldn't they have countered with fighting spirit of their own? It was as if they were taken completely by surprise at the ferocity and fury of the Irish play. England were the team with all to win, they should have been the ones to take the attack to the opposition. However there were too many examples of downright stupidity from England. How the heck did Youngs think he would get away with knocking the ball from his opposite numbers hands? Right under the ref's nose, the resulting penalty led to an Irish try. I also think there must be something wrong with the coaching. England never had enough men at the breakdowns which meant they were being continually outmuscled and to have the ball ripped off you so often is a disgrace. On their latest performance England needn't even get on the plane, they will be marmalised by roughy-toughy SH teams.
    France looked more like their old selves. OK, they have had a bad tournament but they looked good yesterday. I don't think Ireland can play well away from the comfort of Dublin and Wales, Scotland and Italy will play the parts of plucky losers. Don't anyone raise their hopes about 6N success. I'm not normally a pessimist, just had my hopes dashed too often

  • Comment number 24.

    It's customary to acclaim the tournament winners as the team of the tournament - or what is a tournament for? Ireland finished on a high, but produced only one excellent performance in an otherwise stuttering campaign. It's bizarre to suggest that they are the team of this year's 6N, unless the only criterion of judgement is beating England.

  • Comment number 25.

    The nation can't complain either - the only way for a country like Scotland to punch above its weight is to take on the NZ model and focus its energies on certain sports.

    What makes you think that the New Zealand model is only to focus its energies on certain sports. New Zealand excell at rugby because they put the time and effort into it, but contrary to popular belief there is more to just rugby in the Land of the Long White Cloud.
    Remember they - New Zealand qualified for SA 2010 - they also compete quite well at basketball, cricket, athletics, sailing, equestrian, rugby league, softball, rowing, cycling.
    The only way that Scotland will compare to small counties like New Zealand is to stop being lazy and get into sport.
    Football rules the roost in Scotland and the UK as a whole, it's like a cancer squeezing the life out of everyother sport. Rugby is seen as an elitist sport and those in the powers that be do not seem to be in a big hurry to make it a sport for all.
    Bottom line we Scots could learn an awful lot from the likes of NZ when it comes to sport participation.
    I've lived in NZ for just over a decade now and both my sons are exposed to host of sports through their school. Which is little country school on the edge of Hastings in the Hawkes Bay.

    On team of the tournament I'd say that England did enough winning the tournament to also be given team of the tournament. Think at the end they began to believe their own press. Very average players were maded out be word beaters.
    Scotland did improve as the compitition went on which is not something to clap about, but this might actually stand us in good stead come the world cup.
    Scotland will get receive some great support in New Zealand, especially in the bottom of the South Island. Eden park in Auckland will be a great venue to play England given that we are taking a game or two to warm up, by the time our last match against the Auld Enemy comes around I think that we well sneak it.

  • Comment number 26.

    England should be happy enough, but I know they won't be. A big problem for them seemed to be a general decline in performance throughout the campaign, perhaps due to tiredness. Remember that they struggled against Scotland.

    In the end though they should be proud of their victory rather than worrying why they didn't get the grand slam. I sometimes think England becomes a bit neurotic in these situations :P

  • Comment number 27.

    England did not struggle against Scotland or lose easily to Ireland because they were tired. Scotland should have beat them, but their lack of self belief allowed England to strangle the game in the end.
    Ireland looked at what Scotland did at Twickenham and found the answers they needed and dismantled England accordingly.

  • Comment number 28.

    Spot on Porridge.

  • Comment number 29.

    what a ridiculous blog. Team of the six nations....England they WON the tournament fare and square. As for Scotland - 2nd bottom about right
    Re the players
    Patterson was fantastic - always gives his best but we only have about 5 decent players that would make the Lions
    Gray, Kellock, Cusiter, Brown and Barclay

  • Comment number 30.

    Barclay, Hines (As a utility 2nd Row / Back Row), a certain John Beattie
    (You can't judge him on a couple of performances back from a long term injury - he's not match fit), Evans (his try against England was one of the best bits of magic of the tournament)?!?
    Ansbro, Jackson, Lawson could yet develop into Lions players.
    Blair, the Lamont brothers, Morrison, Chunk, Ross Ford are decent International players who have worn the Thistle with distinction and I am proud of them and to support them.
    You can look at the glass as half full or half empty as you wish. You could do the same with all the other 6N sides - thats half the fun and beauty of the game. When I was playing the game I felt the winners and the best players and coaches to be involved with were the ones that always looked at the glass as half full, though.

  • Comment number 31.

    We had some clues as to what might be Scotland's strengths and weaknesses. Here's a dozen thoughts:

    1. Sean Lamont has potential to be a great force - but not at 12 (maybe 13, certainly 11 or 14) or full back. He had an excellent game coming on for Southwell in attack - but not in defence. Not his fault though.

    2. Killer Bs rule, particularly Kelly Brown. Hopefully Johnnie Beattie will return soon. Liked Vernon too.

    3. Richie Gray was a revelation. Scotland's player of the competition by some margin. Ally Kellock did well too.

    4. Dan Parks needs to be banished back to Oz. He can't tackle (eg Tom Croft), can't take a tackle (flings the ball anywhere rather than take one), has no attacking flair and his kicking is not that reliable. Ruaridh Jackson came on leaps and bounds.

    5. We don't need Antipodean rejects. Nathan Hines is past his best, Southwell was never much good.

    6. We need some props. And another stand-off.

    7. Chris Paterson is still our best full back. 2 amazing tackles Southwell couldn't dream of. But Rory Lamont might. And CP is a mazey runner.

    8. Lee Byrne still needs to be labelled as a dirty player and cheat. A less than accidental knee in Thom Evans' neck last year. Tried to decapitate Max Evans this year. And booted Southwell in the face - who jumps like that? No-one else....

    9. Ansbro was improving at 13. DeLuca wasn't.

    10. We don't seem to know who our best wingers are.

    11. Hope Chris Cusiter returns soon.

    12. Is Andy Robinson up to the job? Not for me. He doesn't know where he's going. We could - should - have done better...

    Roll on the World Cup. There is hope.

  • Comment number 32.

    Some more thoughts on the rest.

    Agree with Porridge and SaltireBlue.

    To say any one team cheats any more than any other is missing the point - they all do, wherever they can get away with it. But Lee Byrne is in a different class. He doesn't even get binned.

    Some of the current rules (or lack of enforcement) are a joke - scrums (feeding, the time they take, binding - if a player causes the scrum to go down he should get penalised, whatever the reason), lineouts (stop lifting), mauls / rucks (when is the ball out?), dummying, crossing (not obstruction - that's different). And stop the referees shouting at players to stop offending - they should just get penalised if they do, and there will be much less cheating.

  • Comment number 33.

    It was good to finish on a high note. As has been mentioned before, we'll be able to look both the Argentinians and the English in the eyes at the RWC. Providing we can learn from our mistakes and keep the injury count down, I'll really be looking forward to the RWC. There's some decent chemistry about the team now.

    Did anyone else think Guscott was two and a half sheets to the wind when he was talking with Inverdale and Wood at the end of the game? It was a cracking game to watch. Marvellously entertaining rugby.

    I could have sworn Max Evans mentioned that the Scottish team use a motivational sport psychologist. In the name of the Wee Man. What on Earth is that sausage doing to earn his or her wages? Can you imagine saying to Finlay Calder, David Sole or Big Gav that a shrink was coming to work with the team to get everyone's heads right? You'd have got the thousand yard stare from all three of them whilst JJ and Jedheart collapsed on the floor laughing.

    Oh, how I miss Sir Bill of Hawick. The main commentator on the Scotland game? His guide dog could have done better! When he started describing Rory Lamont's contribution to a phase of play I looked quizzically at the dregs of my pint and thought "Aye, this is a fine beer, right enough. Time for a refill."

    Sean Lamont did us proud throughout the entire tournament. He's made of the right stuff, that one. He did ever so well being thrown in at the deep end with the #12 jersey.

    I called the Jackson/Parks one wrong for the England game. It's profoundly encouraginging to see a promising young one come good in the heat of battle. He needs to take a leaf from the Rutherford kicking book before the Great Adventure in the Land of the Silver Fern.

    At half-time against Italy I was still upbeat. When Nikki went over I thought the floodgates might open, but the Italians showed a lot of grit to prevent that.

    We've all got our shortcomings. The Scottish performance against Italy got me excited about Scottish rugby again.

  • Comment number 34.

    AR came up with a gameplan at Twickenham that very nearly undid England and showed the Irish the way to do it. Scotland are much better at crossing the gain line than they were before he was in charge. We've beaten Australia, South Africa, Argentina twice away, Ireland in Dublin and with relatively limited resources. With one or two exceptions (the autumn NZ match and this years Wales one) I feel we have been watching a spirited and exciting team who have regularly been competitive and given us a run for our money. Yes we need to aspire to do better, but it is not realistic to expect a coach or the team to be regular world beaters year in, year out until we have broadened the player base. But just because we are not going to be favourites to win World Cups and 6N Championships regularly does not mean we cannot enjoy supporting them and take pride and pleasure in what they do achieve and hope for the occasional big tournament success.

  • Comment number 35.

    Dear oh dear, John - anyone but England, eh?
    How can you give Team of the 6N to the third placed team?
    Ireland conceded exactly the same points as England but scored nearly 40 points less.
    Just look at all the performances against Italy.
    All the performances against France
    All the performances against Wales
    All the performances against Scotland
    Rather than 1 performance (or lack of it) against Ireland.
    Won't be reading this blog again.

  • Comment number 36.

    I'm concerned about Ansboro's injury. And potentially serious injuries to any player, for that matter. I wish there was a way for us fans to hear about such news more quickly.

    I like Ansboro's style of play. He's a lively one and a maturing well to the demands of international rugby.

  • Comment number 37.

    CaptainMidnight - During the Scotland / Italy match I was what magical descriptions the Great Sir Bill of Hawick might have come up with for Richie Gray if he had still been with us! He would sure have loved his play and had something fitting for him to amuse and entertain us.
    Come to think of it, I'm in philosophical mood tonight (Ref. my ideas on tidying up scrum time in post 12)I've just realised the obvious way we have all been missing to get our youngsters galvanised and coming to play the wonderful game in droves - Dig up the Great Sir Bill and make athousand clones of him and put one in every school in the land!!

  • Comment number 38.

    Bartonalan - I can't let you do Mossy an injustice without speaking out in his defence - 2 amazing tackles - there was the almost certainly try saving one on Chris Ashton, and then the definite try saving tackles on Foden and McClean. With counting like that I take it you must be an accountant!

  • Comment number 39.

    Persius - engineer actually, I deal in reality. But am a great fan of CP.

  • Comment number 40.

    It's been good reading your comments, persius. I don't understand enough about the front rows and scrums to speak with authority on the subject. But things have to get better. All of this pfaffing about is clearly to the detriment of the sport in general.

    Sir Bill's heart must have been bursting with pride when Stanger went over in '90. Rory Lawson has done well, too. Talented family, that lot. I played against Alan Lawson in the mid 90s when he was more than twice my age and still an almighty handful.

  • Comment number 41.

    Barring injuries Chris Paterson should be our first choice fullback for the world cup.
    He showed in both the England and Italy matches that he is still our best option in the 15 shirt. Not only did you place kick well - apart from one sklaff just before halftime against Italy that is - defended well and his counter attacking was as good as any fullback in the competition.
    In the Italy game he also helped Jackson out quite a bit when coming in at first receiver.

  • Comment number 42.

    BartonAlan - you and me both.
    Agreed with some of your comments in #31, but not all. Didn't think Hines had done too much wrong - usually you don't move players from the engine room to the back row if you think they are slowing down. I think he has been another great servant to Scotland and they have missed him in recent years when he was unavailable. And much as I admire Gray and Kellock the Set Scrum has not been as solid since he was moved out of the 2nd. row. This may well, of course, be due to other factors (loss of form of front row players or refs targeting the Scottish scrum unfairly).

  • Comment number 43.

    Some good points emerging from many of these posts. One recurrent theme is the need to broaden the player-base. I did my little bit in this respect by starting my own little club in the Highlands but, despite having a very good tournament-record, which I thought would have a snowball effect in terms of numbers of participants, I was eventually defeated by parental and player apathy. So many didn't seem to grasp the importance of regular attendance at practices. Sad, as the club core was superb. Nor were local schools particularly supportive. One headmaster answered my approach with "This is a football school", thereby providing a microcosm of one of the ills of Scottish sport -- its myopic adherence to one game.
    Porridge_Times cites New Zealand as an example of a small country that is successful in a wide range of sports. The start-point for such success is a society at large which believes in the benefits of exercise and healthy habits. Our "base material" is immediately curtailed in this regard when half our youths are smokers and heavy drinkers, do little exercise of any sort and are often overweight. Indeed there almost seems to be an innate self-destruct element in the Scottish psyche. If we ever achieve a generally more healthy society (which, so far, all the propaganda has failed to bring about),we would have a larger pool of healthy youth from which to recruit for any sport and, one hopes, a larger portion than now could be persuaded by good initiatives to take up the world's greatest team sport

  • Comment number 44.

    CaptainMidnight - Sadly I am old enough to remember what a class player Alan Lawson was (we have had some good scrum halves over the years - he was the sort that was great to have on your side and you were desperate to bury if yoiu were playing against him!)Class is permanent - players of that quality might slow down a bit, but will be a class act in lower leagues when they are receiving their pension - and invaluable for developing young players to play with and learn from - the direction and encouragement he would give to his pack and the service and coaching he could give an emerging stand-off.

    Porridge - I noticed how often he came in at first receiver as well and to great effect. You always feel when he gets the ball he could make something happen. I am really sad that he never made a Lions Tour - he deserved one.He was really unlucky about 5 years ago when Scotland had a desperate season and his form dipped slightly just at the crucial time. If I remember right, though it wasn't a bad tour to miss.

  • Comment number 45.

    palalessandro - frustrating to hear that you did not receive more support.
    Changing the smoking heavy drinking culture is a tough one indeed. I think the smoking culture can and will be changed in time, but the austere times we are experiencing with less jobs and lower standard of living isn't going to help.

  • Comment number 46.

    palalessandro - kudos to you for giving it a go. Thinking about The Bruce and the spider, could you try again? Imagine the satisfaction of being able to turn that sort of tide. And if a dozen others then followed your example in other regional pockets throughout the nation....

    Mossy always delivers. He's a legend.

  • Comment number 47.

    I think he named Ireland the team of the tournament because of the manner of their victory over the English. It was the best all around display of the tournament, and no other Six Nations team played at that level of pace and intensity. It also might have something to do with the fact that he's Scottish and he physically can't name England as the best team. Don't blame him. Blame your ancestors for winning all those battles.

  • Comment number 48.

    I honestly dont get where the optimism or idea that Scotland are improving is coming from.

    You have to go back to 2006 before Scotland finished outside the bottom 2.

    The last 4 years they have finished 2nd bottom. Andy Robinson has supposedly been doing a good job but since he took over this hasnt been reflected in results or standings. On a club level, Scottish sides languish in the MAgnewrs league 2nd and 3rd from bottom and with the Italians now in the league and witht he chance to improve this will add to Scottish woes.

    In truth, I think Scottish rugby is in more danger than Italian and theure fight is going to be to keep within distance of the other sides over the coming years.

    I do not say this to have a dig. I want Scottish rugby to improve as it adds to the 6 Nations an I hope I never see the day where the competion becomes predictable or dominated by one or two nations. But if we are honest. Italy and Scotland have been propping up the tournament since the turn of the century. These two sides alone have failed to win a championship or even come close to it. Its not healthy and its not good for the competition. Italy have an excuse being the newcomers. Scotland not so much.

    My concern is that the Scots are determined to see improvement and progress where there is none. The likes of John Beattie and his blogs regularly subscribe to this lets stay positive, next years a new season kind of attitude while offering shallow excuses as to why yet again the Scots have finished in the bottom two. Optimism is admirable, but it will serve no purpose if its delusional. Sorry as I am to say it, at present I think Scotland are much more in danger of being left behind by Italy if the Italians start reaping the benefits of a growing rugby population and competing in the Magners League than they are of challenging for a title.

    I am not suggesting Scotland adopt a defeatist attitude but sometimes there no advantage in saying things are rosy and on the up when they are not. Scotland need to look hard at their rugby and the problems it faces from top to bottom. This is essential in order to improve.

    But when I read things like John Beattie saying the Scots underperformed because they were "overconfident", well I just cant help shaking my head and feeling this is just the ostrich burying its head in the sand.

  • Comment number 49.

    JDR - Once in a blue moon (like after the Welsh game) my Scottish glass is absolutely half empty. The England and Italy games made it more than half full again.

    At the current rate Italy will overtake us in 5 years. The writing is on the wall and has been for a while.

    I get cranky when the players let us down. Every battle is winnable. It's also obvious that the system is letting the players and the rugby community in general down. In the long term one largely reaps what one sows.

    It doesn't have to be this way and there's more profit, pride and progress in other avenues of approach.

    It's back to basics, lads. We need to dig for victory and rid ourselves of the couch potato malaise.

  • Comment number 50.

    I think far too much pressure was put on Scotland at the start of the tournament! I even saw a newspaper article saying that Scotland could win the Grand Slam!!! The problem with Scotland is that when we become successful in a few games then we are supposed world beaters in our own minds. We played well against Italy because we were expected to LOSE due to our poor performances minus the England game. We need to stop over-estimating our strength. We perform well at various sports for the size of our population and when we support our country let's not hype them up after one victory as it means nothing unless it can be backed up by another!

  • Comment number 51.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 52.

    Sorry for breaking the House Rules.

    I just don't rate our performances with a sport psychologist on the payroll. If there is a fair, competitive sporting edge to be gained by use of this modern approach, then I'm all for it.

    Yet it doesn't seem to be working very efficiently. I think our psychologist needs to be Tana Umaga or John Eales. Do they do that kind of work? Could we afford them?

  • Comment number 53.

    Scotland have improved by 100% in this tournament. You've gone from trying your hardest 1 match in 10 (England at Murrayfield) to 1 match in 5 (England home and away). Unfortunately for you, you "can't play us every week".

    Forget Umaga or Eales, try Derren Brown.

  • Comment number 54.

    "Markfd" I think you'll find that we just dont raise our game against England. Remember the France game where we managed to score 3 tries in Paris! We were also very unlucky to lose that game. Also we beat South Africa in the Autumn with a brilliant performance and the following week England lost playing the same side.

  • Comment number 55.

    Oh Dear Mr Beattie, you turned your meaningless piece of writing, about your irrelevant team into a disgraceful statement by using the word cheat,,
    Ireland thrashed england on Saturday with a penalty count which was the lowest of any of the matches, maybe they got a ref who actually interprets the rules the way they should be . some of the penalties that allowed scotland to stay in touch against them where against our prop who was done for pulling down the scrum when Even your commentator said that overrated ponderous Jacobson was binding on the arm ILLEGALLY, IRELAND outscored you 3 tries to one and you still have the complete deluded thought process that you were unlucky in that one. iRELAND too have a smaller pool of players than most but have a more talented pool than everyone else. period. Wales have a bigger penalty count but no one is citing them. I do recall you had a man sent off in the game with Ireland for repeatedly cheating in one are because your scrum is school boy standard, all that talk of how much pride the scots front row have,, all very well but they arent fit... just look at jacobson in the last 20 minutes of each match out on his feet, lying on rucks pretending to be working, There is only one team of the tournament that ius the winners as much as it pains me to say. and the inconsistency of Ireland is more frustrating than anything else but they are an aging team and there is a fear in the country that what happens in two years time when Oconnel o driscoll o callaghan, D'Arcy, Heaslip. retire what then..probably total mediocrity like Scotland for the last 10 years.

  • Comment number 56.

    So John your tell us that it takes Scotland four warm up games before they start playing!!!!! Well if that is true, well Scotland won't get out of the group in World Cup. Rubbish.... Saturday's performance still wasn't good enough....

  • Comment number 57.

    Yes, Scotland improved throughout the tournament, but, you know what...come next year, at the first game, we'll reset back to square one, just as we always do.
    Improvement has to be year on year, not just game on game for a year and then start again in 12 months' time.

  • Comment number 58.



    I wish we were as good as mediocre! A dire Six Nation's for Scotland in terms of results (again). Against Italy, a beaten team, we couldn't push them in the last 20 minutes.

    As a loyal Scot, I would like to say that the fantastic Ireland display against England was down to pace, skill, nous and mental strength. All these attributes cannot be applied to scotland for most of their match-time in the whole tournament.

    I refute the assertion that Ireland cheated their way to victory. If that was cheating, perhaps Scotland should learn to do it!!!!!

  • Comment number 59.

    #44,45,46 Persius and CaptainM -- Yes, it seems much more could be done to expand the grass-roots of the game. I agree that Golden Oldies like Alan Lawson could be recruited as inspirational figures. I know Alan well -- I played alongside him at club level for several years and he is indeed a class act. As for myself, perhaps I should try to start coaching again -- but, as you will have guessed, simple ANNO DOMINI is playing its part in the decision-making process! However, just holding a rugby ball in my hands has strange effects on my perception of my age! In general terms, there must be a huge pool of rugby aficionados out there who could be harnessed to spread the gospel amongst our youth.
    I read a very interesting article recently about an Englishman in LA who introduced rugby to disallusioned black youths in the area who were destined for a life of crime. The game completely transformed their lives, with its ethos of camaraderie and co-operation between the various components of the team.It was a moving story of the benefits of the sport beyond the playing-field.

  • Comment number 60.

    "Ireland will look back on this campaign and reflect on one good performance, and of course, an inept Scottish touchjudge."

    The inept English referee during the French game also deserves a mention.

  • Comment number 61.

    I don't see how this generation of players in NZ in the autumn in a group which includes England and Argentina represents "the chance of a lifetime" John. Yes we saw off Argentina in their own back yard last summer, but the evidence of this championship has to be that the scrummaging has deteriorated since then. As the way the group games pan out they play Romania and Georgia before England and Argentina, so with warm up games they may be at their best by the time they meet the bigger teams, but confidence will be difficult to feel - I watched the "performance" against Wales live, and will have nightmares about a repetition of that.

    However, being optimistic that they get through the group the quarter final opponents are France or NZ and, while I would love to see them beat both Eng and Arg, the most likely scenario has to be a QF against NZ, with 49-0 still in their minds.

    I guess that from the player pool we have getting to the QF and losing is at the upper end of what might be a fair performance, but it doesn't feel like the chance of a lifetime.

    One other thought - doesn't it sum up Scotland's problems in scoring tries when a centre scores his first international try in his 24th cap.

  • Comment number 62.

    Can't agree with Ireland being team of the whole tournament. Their performance against England was intense and highly impressive, especially the way they fizzed the ball out of rucks so quickly, leaving England back-pedalling for much of the game. That, I believe, earned them best performance of the competition but best result must be Italy's win over France. Not many expected that one and apart from their poor show against England, Italy certainly showed that they are improving and can compete. England, team of the tournament - more consistant than anyone else and as we stand probably the biggest threat to SH teams come September, although France and Ireland won't roll over.

    As for Scotland, it feels like square circles. At times they looked good going forward, e.g against France and at times, sadly way too often, they looked immobile and weak, e.g incredibly soft tries lost to Wales and Ireland. I used to bleat on about Scotland being a small country with the smallest amount of players to choose from and how it's football's fault etc. Now I think we have to work with what's there while also focussing on the future. As rugby fans, we're going to struggle to compete with football for attention from people, media and sponsorship. I admire palalessandro's attempts to create interest where he is but he and others should not be discouraged by the football bias. Every little counts and even if only a few have been inspired, it's more than would have otherwise.

    However, such initiatives will only bear any fruit way into the future and the SRU have to play a much bigger role here. I don't know as to the extent of involvement of people like; Finlay Calder, David Sole, John Jeffrey etc but an English pal of mine asked at the weekend whether these people had any influence. It seems logical to me that all should come together to work for the common interest, i.e improved standards in all depts of play. Otherwise, I see this pattern of battling for 5th spot becoming the norm if it isn't already.

    As for yourself John Beattie, I'd like to see your blog get to the root of things. I'd like to read reports about people like palalessandro and what they are doing to spread interest in rugby. I also feel it's higher profile people like you, who should be busying themselves more with what the SRU are doing and indeed what exactly the former players we all admired are up to and how they might get involved, if they aren't already. In fact, a decent start might be to collate many of the ideas posted over the last few weeks by so many who care and see if something can be done with them. Let's at least see something happening because if not, we'll be whining much much more this time next year and in the 6 nations matches ahead.

  • Comment number 63.

    I'm really sorry if I manage to offend anyone. I do not see another 5th place finish in the 6 Nations as an improvement. Nor do I see running the odd England team close, or nearly scoring enough penalties against the Irish, or sloppy defending against the French, or capitulating against the Welsh as any form of improvement.

    We are now on our 3rd coach who has been tasked with providing improvement and so far we have not moved very far from where we started. In some areas we have moved a considerable distance - backwards.

    The fault does not lie with the current head coach and he is doing a remarkable job considering the situation he is in.

    The fault lies squarely on the shoulders of the senior executives of SRU plc who have allowed the game to deteriorate so far over the last 5 to 10 years all in the name of poverty. The SRU is not poor, just very badly run.

    The senior executives have reduced the professional playing capacity by 2 teams during the last ten years and have no idea how the remaining 2 should be set up to be competitive and provide a platform for young players to make the grade.

    When it comes to the leagues, the SRU management committees have done nothing to inspire confidence or even to demonstrate leadership. As a result the clubs are fighting their own corners and the end result will be a right mess.

    SRU plc needs to sort itself out and have some senior executives who know how to run a business, or at the very least turn an ailing business round. It would help if they knew a little bit about rugby.

    The SRU needs to show that it is a strong leader and drag the clubs, kicking and screaming if necessary, into the 21st century.

    First step in the process is to get shot of Gordon McKie and for Sir Moir Lockhead to put one of his own people in as CEO to run SRU plc.

  • Comment number 64.

    You're getting totally carried away. A win against Italy, to avoid the tournament wooden spoon, can hardly be cited as an example of a fantastic team performance. You can't just ignore the past failings, not just this year but over the past couple of years under the current coach and management. The under-achievement of our playing heroes needs to be seriously rectified.
    Oh and as for saying Ireland were the best team! England were the best team, no doubt. I don't like it much but have to acknowledge it.

  • Comment number 65.

    Despite a 5th place finish which is disappointing given our form coming in to the Championship, there are positives to be taken from this.

    1. Ruaridh Jackson has stepped up. He is an attacking Stand off, who plays on the gain line unlike Parks who is so deep, any backline move is near impossible. And we wonder why we can't score tries. With Jackson at 10 and Lamont at 12 we have a dangerous combination going forward and with the pace of Ansboro and Evans to play off these guys we have something in place there to launch an attack from. Time for Parks to retire, need another Stand off though because if Jackson gets injured we've got Phil Godman! Maybe bring Young Duncan Weir into the training squads as Jackson's understudy. Don't think David Blair is good enough.

    2. Chris Paterson. The old man still has it (only 31 but been around forever) those 2 tackles on Foden and McLean really showed just how much the jersey means to him. After the Wales game I complained that too many guys in the team took it for granted that they would get the jersey. Paterson certainly doesn't.

    3. Geoff Cross. Coming in at 3 really shored up the scrum. Gave Perugini one of the Worlds best scrummagers a torrid time on Saturday. Don't know whats up with Euan Murray, but something seems to have gone wrong as he is not the force that tamed the Beast a couple of years ago.

    4. Richie Gray. What a find this guy has been. Awesome lineout forward great in the loose. We've got some very good Youngsters to build a side around. This guy is one of them.

    So if All players were fit here is the starting XV for me at the world cup.

    1. Allan Jacobesn
    2. Ross Ford
    3. Geoff Cross
    4 Richie Gray
    5. Al Kellock (C) Done a good job as captain.
    6. Kelly Brown
    7. John Barclay (Future Captain)
    8. Johnnie Beattie. Get the Killer Bees back. Hines is useful but gives away too many penalties.

    9. Chris Cusiter
    10. Ruaridh Jackson
    11. Max Evans
    12. Graeme Morrison. Can do the Battering ram job and means Lamont can be played on the wing in his best position
    13. Joe Ansboro
    14. Sean Lamont
    15. Chris Paterson

    16. Scott Lawson
    17. Moray Low
    18. Nathan Hines
    19 Richie Vernon
    20. Rory Lawson/Mike Blair (We've got 3 world class scrum halves)
    22. Rory Lamont.

    That leaves out Danielli, Nikki Walker, Euan Murray, Nick De Luca, 1 of 3 great Scrum Halves. With everyone fit there is some serious competition for places.

  • Comment number 66.

    The team of the tournament has to be England as they won it, but in honesty, they were the best of a pretty average bunch. The three biggies in the SH will not be getting too worried about any NH team in the World Cup.

    On another site I did predict England, France and Scotland for 1st, 2nd and 3rd. I thought that, given we played Wales, Ireland and Italy at Murrayfield we were in with a chance of winning those three matches, as it was I thought our away performances in London and Paris were our best.

    No outstanding team, some glimpses from some teams of potential but as I said, if you were one of the big three in the south would you be concerned from anyone in the north come the World Cup?

  • Comment number 67.

    "As soon as you hear people talk about having a good team or even come out with phrases like "we haven't become a bad team over-night" then, I think, they are making a mental error."

    I prefer "Scotland haven't become a GOOD side over 10 years". Is that a mental error John, or have I just awoken after a long slumber?

    Why just we all admit it-as a nation (apart from the Hoy man), we are a third class sporting nation.

  • Comment number 68.

    #65 good post

    Agree with your team, I would find somewhere for Danielli on the bench I think. He is more consistent than Walker and is strong and fast.

    In the main I agree with you about Parks, however to go to a world cup with an inexperienced No.21 is not my idea of fun! If the unthinkable did happen to Jackson we are left in a bit of a rut. Parks is not my favourite stand off, he has a fairly one dimensional game. BUT when he plays well we have a territory advantage where he can put the forwards in the corner and get some pressure built. He has to be playing well though.

    I don't think S Lawsom is far behind Ford. In fact I beginning to think that Ford was lucky to hold his starting place. Everytime I can remember Lawson coming on the lineout seems to go from 30-40% to 80%+ ! There may be other reasons for keeping Ford in the trend at the moment isthe lineout has been struggling when he is on.

    At 9 I would have Cusiter and Lawson, dependent on the form Cusiter has will decide whether he starts. I like both of their styles.

    Cross definitely a starter in the front row, he has turned our scrum around everytime he has come on. He is managing to get something right that Low and Murray aren't right now.

    Beattie at 8 is a good shout. The 3 B's need to get some form going, Brown is the only one that has had a "good" tournament all through. Barclay has been a bit iffy, agains't Italy he played well but is lacking the edge he had last year. Beattie need some game time! Hopefully that can be sorted out relatvely easily for all 3, they are impressive when they work together.

  • Comment number 69.

    as a red eyed munster man living in oz I have to say that the 6 nations teams would be gubbed by many of the teams in the super competition and the pace and power of the game down here is still light years ahead

  • Comment number 70.

    Good Article John.

    The joys of the internet, eh? Instead of us looking back at a tournament where Italy got the scalp they always wanted, England (in the first 3 games) played some of their best attacking rugby in years, Scotland, should've beaten Ireland and England and Wales....well, Wales didn't do much but flatter to deceive again, but at least they got finally the rub of the green and beat Ireland, we're whinging about NH/SH quality, bias,scrums and cheating.

    Personally a tournament like this where potentially anyone could've have won any game is the tournament I want to see and hope it continues in this vein in subsequent years and 'the Grand Slam' is the exception rather than the rule.
    England would certainly have been team of the tournament if they'd won that game or even lost to Ireland by 5-10 points, however they were comprehensively beaten and were very much flattered by the scoreline. They were better than Ireland before Saturday, but then again, the 2 games where Ireland lost were France (3 tries to 1) and Wales (very bad refereeing decision). They weren't played off the park in any game the way England were on Saturday and therefore, I'd agree with JB, just about.
    Re : NH quality deficiancies, I watched the Warratahs V Cheetahs game yesterday on TV and it was one of the worst, error strewn and least skilful games of rugby I've seen in quite a while.

  • Comment number 71.

    But the reason we play these games, Ulster_Fryer (#70), is so that the champions can be decided on the park when all results and scores have been added up and not in the subjective opinions of people on blogs such as this one. What the winners of this tournament have achieved is not conditional on your willingness to acknowledge it. It is in no way undermined by your refusal to do so. It is not in your gift to rewrite history and hand out the prizes on the basis of only what you choose to acknowledge.

  • Comment number 72.

    The 6 Nations is always interesting and exciting, but skill levels were definitely lacking at times!

    England - despite yesterday's result, they were the team of the tournament. The game against Italy showed what they can do when they get their tails up and they did beat Wales in Cardiff. They have always had good forwards and their backline is now looking better with Ashton coming in. However, I was not surprised by yesterday's result. They had not played that well against Scotland or France. While they did enough to win, they were on home ground and were lucky to get away with dropping the ball so much. They will go a fair way in the World Cup but can't see them beating New Zealand or South Africa. (They could however beat Oz with their lack of scrum.)

    France - As always who knows with the French? On paper they should have won the tournament as they have the best overall team (and they may still have won had they not got complacent against Italy.) In the World Cup - they could get to the final and win, or equally likely fail to even make the quarter finals. Surely they can't beat the All Blacks again?!!

    Ireland - Again could go either way. Some great games, some terrible ones. They have always found it hard to win against Aus and NZ though (especially away from home) don't see them getting past quarter finals

    Wales - This has been a good tournament for them after a terrible autumn. However, they shouldn't get carried away after beating Scotland, Italy and Ireland. Still have a lot of work to do as the French game showed and don't do well against southern hemisphere teams (even pacific islander ones!)

    Scotland - The biggest let down of the tournament. The game against Wales was one of the worst I have ever seen - how could they not score a try against 13 men on home ground?! We should have won our 3 home games this year which would have at least left us mid table. Dan Parks has gone back to doing "rabbit in the headlights" impressions so it was good to see Jackson come good. The World Cup will be interesting as we have England and Argentina in the pool. We could beat both of them and progress to the semis. On the other hand, we are equally capable of losing both and not even making the quarter finals!

    Italy - They are improving and the win against France was a huge step forward but they still don't travel well as their total capitulation to England showed. Will be tough to beat at the World Cup but can't see them getting very far.

    In terms of other teams in the tournament. The All Blacks are rightly favourites and many people have mentioned Australia. I think the Boks also have a good chance. They nearly got a "grand slam" with a weakened squad in Nov and they have several good players returning to their backline. Also, some of the pacific island teams may cause a few upsets as they will be (relatively) close to home.

  • Comment number 73.

    I hear what you're saying and sort of agree DavidF, but who won the tournament wasn't the question. The 'team of the tournament' is a subjective internet opinion piece raised by JB without distinctive qualitative parameters, not an appraisal of the finishing table. I wouldn't argue that England fully deserved to win the tournament and may be playing devil's advocate in supporting JB over this, but after England's trouncing of Italy, this was the next most uneven game of the tournament. That Performance should've given at least +30 points difference and I'd struggle to call England 'team of the tournament' after such a mullering. My appraisal of of all teams is based on expectations versus performance.
    I would've called Italy the 'team of the tournament' if they'd followed up the French result with another win - It wouldn't have meant they were the best team or that I'd mistakenly thought they'd won the tournament

  • Comment number 74.

    In fun and I know it might be a bit unfashionable but there is only one team who has "cheated" throughout the tournement and that is Wales.

    Game 1) England too good
    Game 2) Closelining of Max Evens; boot in face of Hugo southwell
    Game 3) Mirco Bergomasco didn't lose the rag for nothing when James Hook's hand drifted across his forehead after the Welsh final score - people have been done for less
    Game 4) Against iteland - Enough Said
    Game 5) James Hook drops the French 10 after lifting him horizontally

    Seriously though - does anyone think that Lee Byrne's method of protecting himself with his leg at 90 degrees to his body and studs up is a legal way of defending yourself against being taken out in the air. It's the studs up thing for me. Footie goalkeepers have the same danger and they'd get done with studs up - it's just too dangerous. I'm all for being safe but the knee's enough. He's also increasing the chance of hurting himself.I'd penalise that everytime.

    If your kid got caught like Hugo southwell did in a school game you'd be livid no matter that he was in the wrong with the initial tackle.

  • Comment number 75.

    Yes, I take your point Ulster_Fryer (73). I can't help but think, though, that any of our teams would be a little peeved if they were to win the world cup later in the year (ok, bear with me here - take your seats for a flight of fancy...) only to be told that the team of the RWC was in fact the side that beat them 24-8 in the group stages but which failed to reproduce that form on any other day.

  • Comment number 76.

    Ref 65. Mighty Dev.
    Uh - I'm sure you did not mean to overlook Al Strokosch - at least I hope you didn't. I largely agree with your selection and would definitely start with the killer bees provided they were all firing, but Al would definitely be pushing very hard for a starting berth and I would most definitely want him on the bench as an impact sub - that's if he is back to his best after injury, of course.
    I would definitely have Danielli in the mix too.

  • Comment number 77.

    Ref. my Post12.
    I am disappointed that no-one apart from Captain Midnight, who was honest enough to admit it was not his area of expertise, has commented on my ideas for tidying up the scrum. I've got to confess - I was really excited about them - was looking forward to being awarded a pair of debenture seats at Murrayfield for life for finding a simple solution to a problem that has been the bain of the International game in recent years!! I think that it is desperately important to maintain the importance of the Set Scrum in the game, and it seems so simple that I think I must have missed something obvious or something similar would have been done by now.

  • Comment number 78.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 79.

    It certainly has been a tournament of ups and downs for all the teams. Quite a few didn't play that well yet won games. All teams had a chance to win. I think Italy have really come on too.

    Glad Paterson is being given the credit he deserves.

    Richie Gray and Sean Lamont were the best for Scotland.

    Scrums are still terrible. At the Glasgow v Trevisio game on Friday lots of advantages were played which meant less scrums!

    Was glad Scotland won against Italy and scored tries but there is still a lot of work to do. Luke Maclean ran half the pitch before he was stopped! There was even a rendition of Flower of Scotland by the crowd which has been lacking!

    So roll on the world cup. I would expect a Southern Hemisphere team to win unless they all play badly!

  • Comment number 80.

    Perius, I've been thinking about David Sole and his scissors a la Jeff Probyn recently.

    Why doesn't every prop do that? Is it allowed nowadays? Opponents would have no sleeve on an arm to bind on to unfairly then. An American football trend was to wear jerseys which fitted so tightly that there was nothing grabbable to grab hold of.

    With the ref viewing one side of a scrum and the linesman the other, how does such a classic and well known cheating method exist at all? I'd appreciate your comments on that.

    When the ball reaches the #8s feet, both teams could/would still collapse the scrum with at least as much ref-conning in mind as they do now.

    The word 'pause' is effectively obsolete. Simply by pausing after the 'touch' call is surely already pause enough.

    I do know enough about the scrum half's job to wish sometimes that they would be feed the ball in quicker.

    Yeah, I hope the scrummaging matters get properly addressed. Way to much pfaffing about for my liking.

  • Comment number 81.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 82.

    Apologies for blog 78 breaking House Rules, though I haven't a clue why.
    I was not aware that I was abusive or used foul language.

  • Comment number 83.

    Apologies - I think I now know why my Blog 78 was removed. Please find it represented below with the last sentence rephrased!!

    I am amazed so many people are getting aeriated about John saying the Irish cheat like crazy and I honestly think you have all completely missed what he meant.
    Findlay Calder and John Jefferies used to live off side and rarely get pinged for it. That is not a criticism - they were fantastic players that were brilliant at getting away with murder and jolly good luck to them - they were my heroes - people who complained or criticised them were just jealous they weren't as good at it.
    I think in a similar vane John was complementing the Irish for being streetwise, playing the game on the very edge of the law and getting away with it. That's the way I read his comments anyway and I wholeheartedly endorse them.
    I agree that overall England were the team of the Championship, but that performance by Ireland was breathtaking and exhilarating (albeit that England helped them by not turning up).
    Tell me if I am misunderstand this blogging lark, because this is just about the only one I have seriously read and contributed to, but I get the feeling that it (John's site anyway) is supposed to be like the good natured banter you would have with your mates over a pint in the bar, occassionally making a serious point or two in a light hearted way. And also a useful casual way for John or others to canvass other peoples views on their ideas in a light hearted atmosphere. Those that get so vexed should go take a Happy Pill.

  • Comment number 84.

    Sorry about that - I'll try blog 81 again!!

    Captain Midnight.
    My idea was that if the scrum collapsed with the ball at the No 8's feet then the ref should tell the team in posession to "Use it immediately" as he sometimes does when a maul becomes static. If they fail to use it immediately then he should reset the scrum giving the other team the "put in". He should still penalise a side though if he sees they have collapsed the scrum deliberately. Currently, if the scrum collapses with the ball at the No 8's feet with no side obviously responsible the scrum is reset with the side in posession keeping the put in. If they knew they would lose the "put in" at the next scrum they would obviously use it rather than holding the ball in and waiting for a rescrum.
    I haven't played the game for a few years, but as far as I'm aware there is nothing to stop the props wearing sleeveless shirts. These days I think they are pretty tight fitting anyway. I think it is just a ruse that has been forgotten, but there may have been a law change.
    Lastly, I think there was probably a ref's celebration party when I retired, but in fairness to them the poor ref's job at scrum time is near impossible especially with so many cheating bounders like me around - Defending backs not behind the backfoot, Scrum halves putting the ball in the second row, back row players not binding, second rows punching the opposition front row, to say nothing of all the jiggery pokery (As our great hero Bill used to put it!) going on in the front row!!(Trade secrets that cannot possibly be revealed here!). So its always going to be dificult for the ref to see all the time who is responsible for what.

    Lastly the hooker will be dictating when the ball comes in with a tap, so a smart ref. will make sure he shouts loud enough for the hooker to hear when he tells the scrum half he wants the ball in quickly. Believe me, the scrum half will usu. be far more worried about upsetting the hooker than the ref. if he doesn't put it in just when the hooker wants it. Though obviously this is not quite so imperative if the ref is letting the scrum half put the ball in the 2nd. row or the opposition isn't bothering to strike.

  • Comment number 85.

    With regard to "cheating": I believe the context in which it was used by John is just as #83 says, living right on the edge of the laws, perhaps straying a little past it now and again. Everyone who has ever played the game knows what can escape under the radar. The technical term would be "cheat" as it is outside of the rules, but it is not a negative thing, it is being smart and streetwise.

    Also, it has been said more than a few times how Richie McCaw is renound for living on the edge of the laws. In other words, he knows where the limit is and pushes it all the time in a calculated and strategic way. The art is in not getting caught/taking it too far it's obvious. Its t an example of one of the worlds best players doing his job.

  • Comment number 86.

    The only thing less accurate, more misguided and weak the current Scottish game is this blog.

  • Comment number 87.

    As to RWC the southern hemisphere teams proved in the autumn they can nearly always beat all the european teams. Nearly always isn't nearly enough.
    As for the ABs they are head and shoulders over the rest but surely the enduring fascination of the world cup is predicting how New Zealand will throw it away despite being best team in the world.

  • Comment number 88.

    Methinks JB was being almost congratulatory to the Irish for achieving "cheating" of the calibre that the All Blacks and in particular Mr McCaw manages to persuade referees to allow.

    And JB has also questioned Scotland's inability to achieve this and all but cites it as a weakness.

    Seems Rugby can't make up it's mind it it wants gamesmanship or not? Especially given Ashton's statement that BOD called for a pass for him in an allegedly English accent, which he duly despatched. Now is this gamesmanship or cheating? Or should Ashton have been looking anyway?

    And if true is BOD being a hypocrite complaining about Wales line out cheating or is that gamesmanship?

  • Comment number 89.


    The reason I went for Vernon ahead of Strokosch was on his performance in the Championship. When he's come on he's carried the ball forward well and done a very good job. Vernon and Strokosch are 2 very different players, Vernon will look to create things and hit gaps, where as Strokosch does give the impact. They will both go to New Zealand though.

  • Comment number 90.

    #88...unfortunately, that's always gone on at all levels of Union and I'd imagine League, I'm surprised Ashton saw fit to mention it!

    I think Mr Beattie dropped in his best team of the tournament after a few beers and as a catalyst for his blog. As an ex-international he knows that (in any sport)the team that wins it, is the team of the tournament. You can't argue with the table.

    Australia to win the world heard it here first :-)

  • Comment number 91.


    "The longer the tournament went on, the better Scotland became."

    I almost agree with you here. In fact, if time were to allow, would the Six Nation's be able to sustain games on a home and away basis each year? The squads are big enough in terms of numbers, home fans would be more likely to attend financially, and we may get a better idea of the "best" team over 10 games over 6/8 weeks.
    I realise that the professional club games would have to be rescheduled, but surely time is not that big a stumbling block?
    To get a true and deserving championship side, I truly believe this would be the way.

    Anyone got thoughts on this?

  • Comment number 92.

    I can see the attraction of a "full" , home-and-away 6N since the lopsided nature of the fixture list tends to favour the sides with three home games (not that it did Scotland a lot of favour this year, but that's another story....).

    On the other hand..

    a) The clubs would hate it- you'd have to completely restructure the English Premiership, the Magners and the French Super XIV to accommodate a ten match 6Ns alongisde the existing Euroepan club competitions. Player release might get problematic- which could be an issue for countries like Italy (and Scotland?) with a fair number of their squads playing abroad.

    b) Player burn out would bcome even more of an issue than it is now. I suspect you'd start seeing formal squad rotation policies at international level to cope

    c) Following on from this, it would tend to favour the countries with the bigegst playing resources; my guess is that England and France would win an even higher percentage of Championships than they do at the moment.

    d) What happens in World Cup years, when the player burn out/long term injury issues would be even more acute (OK, I appreciate that international players can pick up serious injuries which ultimately put them out the World Cup playing in in club games or even on the training field but ten internationals played back to back strikes me as asking for trouble)? The SH countries have had to tinker with the Tri-Nations in World Cup years- would this have to happen in the NH too?

    e) Coming down to what really drives everything- money. Would the BBC/RTE/whatever French and Italian channels carry the 6N stump up twice as much money for double the number of games? I rather doubt it.

  • Comment number 93.

    That's pretty much my take on things too, Forthview1.

  • Comment number 94.

    Well, Another Great Blog for the man who says stuff to stir the pot.
    Ireland underperformed this 6N and bar a crazy call by a linesman in Cardiff would have finished level on points with England still loosing the Championship on PD. Their loss to France was of their own doing but there is no way you can say they were outplayed by the French, 3 tries to 1 . The Irish team should be very disappointed with their performance this year they are more talented than their position in the table, but they didn't turn up when required. England are pretty average team, for honest endeavour you would have to rate the Scots over the Welsh and the French are leaderless from the sidelines. The one ray of hope this year the Italians they will only get better the more Celtic League they play.
    From a world cup perspective the 6N team will only do well if the referees give them a fair go in each game.
    Overall a poor 6N but you just have to love it.

  • Comment number 95.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 96.


    BOD faking an English Accent - Gamesmanship, Ashton's should have looked at who he was passing to and how does Ashton know BOD faked an English Accent??????

    Wales line-out - pure cheating and they now it, expect nothing else from them. Unfortunately the referee was conned by a touch judge, do you think we'll see him at international level again, I wouldn't put a beat on it. A simple question was asked "Was it the same ball". The answer should have been "I don’t know2. The reply would have been, "No try, line-out half line, please".

  • Comment number 97.

    96 & 88- D'arcy not o'driscoll

    cheating is cheating- can't class it as 'gamesmanship' when it suits

  • Comment number 98.

    Another scratch your head blog.

    I'm Irish and I fail to see how we could be the best side of the tournament. Plus, we got heavily punished for infringing at the break down - how is that cheating? As for Scotland - it's a team that is mainly made up of 2 regional sides struggling at the bottom of the Magners and scored their first try at home since November 2009. I think they exceeded expectations.
    To think that they should have finished ahead of any team bar Italy is deluded....
    Lordy dordy....

  • Comment number 99.

    Anyone read the Independent today? Seems they agree with JB about the team of the tournament... Did England not go in as red hot favourites for the Slam and not make it? Weren't Ireland written off as 'Dad's Army'?
    Anyway, I suspect England will be in the mix for the RWC - who remembers they won the 6N in 2003? As Mr Johnson says, the loss will keep the feet on the ground and fire them up to avoid the taste of defeat again... So sorry vonBraun at #90, but my money is on England (that hurts as a Scot, but I live among them and have married one to improve the gene pool!'!
    And I agree with munsterexpat at #69... was fortunate enough to see the Stormers play the Cheetahs at Newlands this month. It was a dire game, but I reckon both teams would give a NH international side a very good game! What an advert for summer rugby as well, turned up in shorts, pitch was lush, atmosphere great!!

  • Comment number 100.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.


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