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Is Chalmers being overlooked?

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John Beattie | 16:55 UK time, Sunday, 18 September 2011

Who are the Scottish coaches we should be bringing through as the next generation? Is one outstanding former player being denied a professional coaching career because of a perceived 'bad boy' mentality?

It's strange analysing the Rugby World Cup. Almost every team in the world now plays the same way. A few forward hits to generate some momentum and then release it to the backs. If they keep the ball, bring it back a couple of passes to the forwards who will waste some time hitting up trying to get forward momentum for the backs to attack again.

That's very different to the way the likes of Saracens played under Brendan Venter with his three distinct pods of players and shuffling the ball between those three attack points.

Craig Chalmers

Craig Chalmers was capped 60 times for Scotland. Pic: SNS

And that, to me, means that your coaches win matches. There has been an awful lot of time spent on designing successful patterns. I like Irish technique at the breakdown with 'ball-to-ball' and 'shoulder-over-shoulder' to keep the gate thin and the protection low.

So this article is a bit left-field if you are expecting to read a whole screed about the World Cup. Other than too much time spent scrummaging I am loving it, I am learning a lot, and I am glued to the box in a far off land (here's a clue, the father of one of the Scottish players lives here and he's nipping down under on Thursday).

The first thing to say is that Richie Dixon is due a massive dose of respect for the way the Georgians have been playing. Sean Fitzpatrick talked on telly of Richie's "excellent" coaching and I believe him.

Richie, probably, can coach anywhere now.

But I logged on to the BBC rugby site when abroad and saw that Melrose are top of the domestic league again. Craig Chalmers and John Dalziel have steered the club to four wins out of four.

Now I know it's early in the season, but I see Glasgow Hawks out training three times a week across from my bedroom window and Melrose beat them at the weekend 35-0. Melrose won their own sevens at the end of last season, and the Border league.

Which got me wondering: has Chalmers done something to annoy the SRU?

Obviously few fellow clubs in the Borders profess to like Melrose as they are perceived as the rich team whose wealth generated by their annual sevens tournament allows them to attract players from other teams to play for them.

Winning though, is winning. Chalmers is reckoned to be one of the most competitive players-turned-coaches there has ever been and yet he hasn't been given a chance at professional level.

I think he should be given a chance.

Got that off my chest. Now, I'll be back for Scotland's game. Frankly, I can't wait.


  • Comment number 1.

    Hi John, looking forward to Scotland's crunch match with Argentina next Sunday. I live here in NZ and will be going to Wellington to cheer the boys on. I've been impressed with the forwards especially against Georgia. But do we have enough in the backs to beat Argentina? They ran Romania ragged- scoring six tries and i am nervous about us having to rely on Parks or Paterson to get us over the line. Can this Scottish team score tries against the bigger teams??

  • Comment number 2.

    Fit like John, Is this the biggest couple of weeks in Scottish Rugby history coming up? If it is the forwards need to come out with a much higher intensity level than they have shown so far in the tournament or it’s a ticket back to Scotland for everyone. Scotland need to be ferocious at the breakdown and in numbers to force turnover ball and pressure the opposition into mistakes. Jackson and or Parks have to make smart decisions at crucial points in the final group matches if we are to progress any further. I would prefer to see Cusiter start at scrum half but that is just a personal preference as nine is the only position we have true strength in depth. Undoubtedly discipline will have to be spot on as Scotland can ill afford to give away free points or go a man down in either encounter. All I ask is to be in with a shout of going through with ten minutes to go against England and the rest is up to the lads on the park and the Gods. Is that to much tae ask?

  • Comment number 3.

    I don't know if its Scotlands very mediocre start to this campaign or thr time of the matches, or more likely a combination of both, but I've found it a touch difficult to get excited over the tournament so far. That was until I watched Irelands victory over Australia.Without getting carried away, it does reveal how a supposedly inferior nation, albeit one with a couple of world class players can upset the form book. From a Scottish persoective we can take heart that neither England or Argentina are world beaters, whist both particularly England are reasonably good international teams, the Scottish coaches must install an Irish like sense of self belief together with ensuring that our team plays at a higher level of intensity not to mention with a greater self discipline than has hitherto been acceptable. A tall order ceratanly, but by no means an impossible one. Put in fairly stark terms it is a choice between an early plane home or immortality in a Scottish rugby sense. It would be self deception of the highest order to think any Scottish team would be amongst the favourites to lift the Webb Ellis trophym but in my opinion winning our next two games is possible, if the gods smile upon us,

  • Comment number 4.

    Yes of course the choice of coach is crucial. Next time round, (and i hope it is not Until after the next WC as AR is doing a great job) Scotland must spread the net far and wide. AR got the job by default, wern't we lucky. Prior to that Hadden was just not good enough, and Williams was a severe error of judgement, Mcg and Telfer were allowed to hang around past their sell by dates to fill their boots.

    During that time italy appointed John Kirwan, Nick Mallet, and Jake White was out of a job after 2007 final.

    As for Chalmers if he is taken on by an English premier club, or a Welsh/irish pro team and proves himself over a few seasons he could well be the man. however if he is moved to the cosy environment of scottish pro team coach, and Lineen is moved up we will continue to under perform on the world stage.

    Finally re the WC, I think we can go up a level and will do against Argentina and England, Ewan Murray missing for the first of these is a worry however, but I respect his beliefs. look what it did for Eric Liddel's performance in his next outing after missing the 100. Can who ever is selected at 9 please stop these pointless, badly executed box kicks that just give away possession.

  • Comment number 5.

    If the SRU is to grow the game in Scotland, and it must as a matter of priority, then coaches will play a huge part in that. The SRU needs to ensure that all the coaches of the top clubs in Scotland get the right training and qualifications to be able to step up to higher level when the time is right.

    Currently, only a very limited number of coaches can aspire to coach one of our national sides and even fewer one of our pro sides (national sides outnumber pro sides in Scotland). The only answer is to make available more opportunities to our top players and coaches to be able to develop. That means 2 things in Scotland, expanding the pro game and helping the top end of the club scene, and these 2 things may be complimentary rather than mutually exclusive. Drilling down a bit further, that means getting more people through the turnstyles for Edinburgh and Warriors at their home games and selling out home international games. To do that we need to be performing on the pitch and to do that we need good coaches.

    So, how does all this come about. You only have to look to Wales to see how it can succeed. I know that they have ruffled a few feathers by having extra international games at home against top opposition but it has brought in some revenue and exposed an increasing number of young players to top level rugby. This is filtering down the system to their domestic game (albeit far too slowly for some). Wales are now competing at the very highest level in the sport and with a notable win over Australia in the RWC. It has taken time, almost 10 years, but they have achieved it so far.

    Turning now to Craig Chalmers. Would he be willing to take on a subordinate role at one of the pro teams in Scotland? Or should either of the current incumbents be sacked to make way for him? Is he really that special? What about the Ayr coach? He has been reasonably successful. 12 months doesn't make a great coach and Craig has, during that same period, made a few stupid mistakes that count against him.

  • Comment number 6.

    Had a chat with Chalmers as he sipped a shandy after the Aberdeen Grammar game and he comes across as a nervous, edgy character. He acknowledged that they probably had not deserved to win the game.

    However, he spent the entire game behind the goalposts (frequently in the in-goal area) alternately encouraging and criticising his players. Not sure you can do that in professional rugby.

  • Comment number 7.

    His face doesn't fit with the old school ties in the SRU; otherwise he would have got the job in the summer at Edinburgh other than an out of Towner. Another people who gets over looked are Bryan Redpath and Kenny Murray for the same reasons. Please someone prove me wrong. I don't mind one or two, but not time after time after time, it's a slap in the face for National League coaches, it's the SRU's way of telling them you’re not good enough or basically you’re not out of Towner’s so you don't know a thing about Rugby. Craig as more chance of moving to an English, Welsh or Irish pro team than he has of getting one of the pro teams in Scotland. Hence why Redpath moved south.

    I've said before and I’ll say it again:

    1. 4 Pro teams with second teams playing in the British Cup.
    2. Feed clubs to each pro team that get the third choice players.
    3. Leagues on a regional structure apart from 2 max 3 national leagues of 12 teams.
    4. Go out and sale the pro game to the public, which up to now has been SHOCKING.
    5. Regional youth systems to give the kids the best coaching and stop the haphazard coaching we have at the moment.

  • Comment number 8.

    Could Chalmers do as good a job as Bradley at Edinburgh ... probably yes! From what I have seen so far this season at Edinburgh I suspect you are right John! Edinburgh tactics appear to be win the ball slowly at a scrum/line out/maul/ruck then pass out to inside centre who then passes back inside to winger coming in at an angle to run straight back into the opposing forwards then repeat until you lose too much ground then hoof it up the pitch! Then hope for a penalty and that you get more than your opponents do!

    Chalmers should have been given a chance - he is committed, abrasive and knows his rugby inside out. He also knows the club game and could have identified a few players who could make it at pro level. However I agree with the others view that Chalmers would have challenged the cosy SRU status quo and probably not followed orders when required. OK he likes a beer or two but then again he is a rugby man! I would have been happy to see him given a chance at Edinburgh.

  • Comment number 9.

    #5 Just spotted my own mistake - it was Ireland that beat Australia, not Wales. Sorry. However, Wales are having a good campaign in running SA close - that the outcome may have been influenced by one kick means it was very, very close. I am sure that they will go on to have a very successful tournament.

    This is the current Ireland team's swansong and there will be many retirements this autumn - who is there to step up and fill their boots? Granted, Leinster do have a decent 10 current playing but what will happen to him when Sexton gets home?

    Back to Scotland's domestic coaching woes. Alex (#7) is not me but he makes some very valid points. The only thing that I do not fully agree with (apart from the old school tie hang-up) is the number of teams in the national leagues - it should be 8 in each league to accommodate such things as B&I cup and Scottish Cup and the digression of 7s at the end of every season.

    Going from 2 professional clubs to 4 is a very big move and I am sure there are as many views on how this should be achieved as there are clubs in the union. My own view is that the SRU should set up 2 clubs, one in Aberdeen and one in Inverness. Both cities have good air and rail infrastructure for visiting teams and both have a wide enough geographic area for their feeder clubs.

    However, whichever route is taken the first thing that needs to be done is to get more people into grounds watching the game. The clubs themselves have a lot of work to do on self promotion - don't expect the SRU to do any of it as they have their own priorities. More people watching means more revenue and so more money to invest in the game and bring on more coaches as not only are there not enough opportunities but also there is a shortage of quality coaches competing for those opportunities.

  • Comment number 10.

    I am fortunate enough to be in NZ for the duration of the RWC. What has struck me, apart from the great start to the tournament, is the myopic reporting from the NZ press. Scotland have largely passed under the radar so far but England have copped it for the way they play, yet as you say all the teams are very similiar in their approach, and you would think Australia had been beaten by Japan, not Ireland. The rubbish the New Zealand Herald comes up with belies their own headline tag "The paper read in heaven". I mean really!

    I like the sideways slant to take on the game but do have a look at my blog and let me know what you think

  • Comment number 11.

    Prior to that Hadden was just not good enough, and Williams was a severe error of judgement,

    1, Hadden took over when 'NOBODY' wanted the job.

    2, He was then "Ok" and any coach would be hamstrung by the financial challenges and the paucity of players emerging for reasons we've been over a multitude of times now.

    3, The now announced Scotstoun developments could be the beginning of fundamental structural changes and begin to move Rugby away from the Edinburgh centric focus.

    But hindsight is such a Scottish trait but usually laced with vitriol!

  • Comment number 12.

    Prior to that Hadden was just not good enough, and Williams was a severe error of judgement,

    1, Hadden took over when 'NOBODY' wanted the job.

    2, He was then "Ok" and any coach would be hamstrung by the financial challenges and the paucity of players emerging for reasons we've been over a multitude of times now.

    3, The now announced Scotstoun developments could be the beginning of fundamental structural changes and begin to move Rugby away from the Edinburgh centric focus.

    4, This should lead to other similar stadia; North, Livingston, Borders? And more coaches given their chance!

    But hindsight is such a Scottish trait but usually laced with vitriol!

  • Comment number 13.


    Hadden took over the job when nobody wanted it. I don't think so we just didn't look beyond Gretna because of the Williams experience. To say he was OK sums it up.

    Went to a couple coaching sessions taken by Hadden, one dimensional is the only way I can describe the thinking. But a very nice man, possibly too nice to be a to[p coach.

    We need coaches from outside our bubble if we are to progress.

  • Comment number 14.

    #9 Philip ever met SRU suits?!?!?! I have unfortunately!!!! And the first thing they say to you is "What school did you go to frfrfrfrfr", and if you don't give them right answer, fee paying, its goodnight and goodbye, and your made as welcome as someone with a bell in their hand and shouting “Unclean, unclean”.

    #12 davidJbrodie "move Rugby away from the Edinburgh centric focus" no chance as soon as it looks like they're losing control it’ll be killed off.

  • Comment number 15.

    #13 Hadden was joke because of the players he had and always playing favourites, William was joke full stop. Picking foreigners all the time isn't good, and the Edinburgh post should have been given to home grown coach. How's a national level coach going to get experience to take the Scotland job in the future? Hadden's coaching and SRU thinking is the one and the same, one dimensional.

  • Comment number 16.

    Live in hope
    I actually don't mind the NZ Herald, yes they can be one eyed and are probably more parochial than usual due to the world cup.
    When you compare New Zealand sports coverage to that of what is on offer in the Scottish media then really what can you say... other than no comparason. A visitor to Scotland would be excused for thinking that other than the odd round of golf no other sport than footbal was participated in.

  • Comment number 17.

    16 Unless they read the Herald, Scotsman or the Daily Mail, but I know what you mean. The red top tabloids seem to enjoy seeing national rugby results squeezed out by pub football. BBC Sportscene seems to take a similar attitude.

    In retrospect, I think Hadden will be recognised as a success in trying times. I didn't spare the vitriol when he was in charge, but in context, he won 2 Calcutta Cups, and made the quarter finals of the World Cup, maintaining a proud record even if he did capitulate to New Zealand. He also took some significant scalps, and marked a slow upward trajectory after the Williams and Carruthers debacles.

    Robinson has looked close to breaking through in the Six Nations, and has had great autumn test series, but this year was a non starter and last year's 6N was tragic beyond comprehension.

    Their records are roughly similar so far, but there is no doubt for me that Robinson is the better coach.

    As for Craig Chalmers, he seems to be a very abraisive character, and the drunken domestic after the Melrose Sevens probably didn't help. I doubt they will ever let him step up. If he can win year after year, then he deserves a step up. Not sure what the players will make of him though.

    Not sure what's happening with Lineen either. I don't see him ever getting the Scotland job. Kenny Logan has pointed out that he's been in the job 5 years and had one 3rd place play off spot which Glasgow then lost vs Ospreys away.

    As an aside, I remember the SRU trying to promote the play offs with a gaggle of cheerleaders waving off the rugby players at the airport, instead of addressing the the most important game of rugby in Scottish Celtic League history, Dougie Vipond preferred to ask the bubbleheaded dimbos questions about rugby, and none of them knew anything about it.

    'How many players are in a rugby team?'
    '11? [giggles]'

    I wanted to put my boot through the telly. It was a disgrace piece of sports journalism and you can bet if it had been Rangers or Celtic he would have taken the whole thing more seriously or he would have been taken to the cleaners.

    I HATE Sportscene.


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