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Scotland need a long-term plan

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John Beattie | 17:10 UK time, Sunday, 11 March 2012

We are beginning to share a problem with our football colleagues which is that a lack of team sports for youngsters is having an impact on the number of wins in both codes of football.

Frank Hadden copped it, Matt Williams copped it, Andy Robinson is copping it.

If they'd coached the All Blacks their records would have been different.

The game first: Ireland's players and simple structure were better than ours.

I had hoped Scotland would start with the same plan which got them across the gain line against Wales and France - namely more one pass rugby.

Instead, early possession was spun through Greig Laidlaw and Mike Blair as interchangeable half-backs to wider channels.

It didn't work. And our scrum was under pressure, and it's time to give Jon Welsh a run.

Right that's enough about the game as it is upsetting me.

Apart from the fact that the last three games had been winnable - which showed extraordinary application and effort from our players - some of whom, like Richie Gray and David Denton are world class.

Where the heck are we? It's a bigger picture.

I actually don't see the problem as an international coaching puzzle.

Oh it will exercise the bloggers and the writers, but does a creaky scrum or a squint throw or a missed tackle at the Aviva stadium actually reflect on any in-situ coaching team?

What we see in blue jerseys are products of our country. Well, apart from Hamilton, Denton, Evans and Lamont who were nurtured abroad.

Our players learn their skills in the mud, they come from a tiny pool of talent, they realise early on that they can get in a top team without trying hard.

They play for generally mid-table rugby teams, and then they play for us.

Occasionally there are magnificent wins, but we are where we are.

To cure this we need to sort three areas. Let's go top-down.

You have to ensure that your coaching and backroom talent at international level are first class.

And I reckon that coaching at that level is little more than a game plan. Coaches at the top level get sacked because they all lose a key game eventually.

Beneath that your coaches at professional level need to be up to date, innovative, motivating, and have at their disposal techniques and knowledge that is at least as good as that of their rivals.

I will comment on any movement at Glasgow when it's official. But there should be a constant turnover of coaching staff and a spread of knowledge.

And young Scottish coaches need a chance.

Lastly, you have to have an amateur and school game that's bustling with talent and teams and drive and passion and ambition and feedback - and all the words you and I know we could write down to describe a perfect grassroots environment.

And do we have that? No.

So the fix is a ten-year one. Pay PE teachers to take school rugby teams from as wide a player base as possible.

Sorry but the quick fix isn't a fix.


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  • Comment number 1.

    I agree but with the national side struggling like this, with so few shining stars who do you expect youngsters to look up to and take up the sport? I know when I started I looked abroad for mine.

    Also these rumblings coming from the SRU are worrying. Taking Lineen and putting him somewhere in the set up then shuffling Townsend out of the door to manage Glasgow. I am not impressed by this in the slightest, Townsend has not proved himself at all while being involved the national side so why should he manage the countries top Pro team?

    The youth set up is also another area where there are problems with coaches having their own agendas and many others. I have a friend who went to the Scottish Universities XV trials today, once considered a prestigious team to be part of. 8 players showed up. Speaks volumes doesn't it.

    Rant over.

  • Comment number 2.

    The worst thing is our team can be great, but we just lose. Maybe its lapse of concentration, slight lack of confidence, scrum being poor this year (need to work on it) or lack of communication. What ever it is we need a win as soon as possible to build some confidence.

  • Comment number 3.

    I've been saying for ages we are overlooking huge talent in the state schools. They can produce 5 or 6 football teams per school but struggle to produce a single rugby team. It needs fixing.

    To highlight this point my alma mater has 3 football pitches and one rugby pitch which has a set of uprights at one end and football goals at the other. I mean come on...

    Loudoun Academy, you have been named and shamed!

  • Comment number 4.

    i dont believe this john. Clearly there is enough players coming through as seen with lee jones, laidlaw, jackson, weir, richie gray etc, providing competition in all areas. If these guys are here for a few years there will be more coming through the ranks. Howeve not judging by the under 20's results which have been diabollickle!

  • Comment number 5.

    I totally agree that rugby needs to be developed on a greater level at grassroots although there are problems which need to be addressed. I work in a small independent school which, despite a long tradition of rugby, is currently struggling to field teams, particularly at senior level.Our PE teachers are enthusiastic and work hard during the week and on Saturday mornings (unpaid I might add) but still we struggle. With the age group changes we've been hit very hard and it is evident from discussion with other schools that this is a widespread problem. While safety is paramount in every sport, there does need to be some review of the impact of the age group rules.
    A further major issue is the impact local clubs are having on our ability to field teams. There seems to be a dichotomy between what clubs are doing and what schools are trying to do- they don't complement each other and as a result children have to make a choice. This is surely not in the best interests of the children or of Scottish rugby? We lose pupils to the big local clubs, we do the ground work in primary and early secondary only for pupils to be attracted elsewhere. I accept that pupils should move on when ready but by losing our top players we lose the role models and, often leaders, in teams and year groups which can inspire their peers.

  • Comment number 6.

    The borders has an excellent rugby youth system in the high schools. Although if the PE teachers were paid they'd sure get a lot further and do better, maybe even compete to the finals with the private schools in the cup competitions.

  • Comment number 7.

    Its time we did what every other country is doing. Get a really good Academy, the best youngsters hand picked. Make sure they are athletes, big, strong and talented. Build them up, encourage their skills. Bring in youngsters from other countries make some real competition, not just a couple in one position or another. Your right about coaches but we also need to build a fan base. Supporters will support a winning team, see the crowds that are coming to watch Glasgow and Edinburgh. To do that we need to build a big pool for both teams. A pool that will see them winning when the 6 Nations is on. We also need to bring in some overseas talent, players that spectators will want to watch when the Jacksons, Grays, Dentons etc aren't there. In amongst all this despair is still the fact that Scotland have had more ball this season than ever before. It's not broken but it has come off the rails. Let's get behind Rugby, Pro Rugby, stop infighting and moaning about club v Pro teams and overseas players, but let's get someone in charge (as John says) with a medium to long range plan

  • Comment number 8.

    If you look at the size of the home crowds at Glasgow and Edinburgh's matches, you'll see enthusiasm for the game has grown markedly in the last year, this despite the performance of the national team. That will encourage youngsters to play and various clubs around the country are doing what they can to promote the game in their area. That will bear fruit in the long term. Should the national team actually manage to win more than one match per season, that wouldn't do any harm.

    What perplexes me about the national team's performance is once one problem seems to have been solved, scoring tries, we revert to an old one, poor passing. Two forward passes from promising positions weren't really a challenge for the officials to stop. What's happened to our tackling too?

    I also can't understand why we're having problems now with our scrum. We often have the pack weight advantage and mostly had the same personnel that made this a strength in the past, now it's a weakness. Jacobsen appears to be creaking and whatever you might think of someone stating they won't do their job on a Sunday, the inconsistent availability of Murray means a permanent replacement has to be found for him and it's not Cross, at least not at the moment. If Welsh is a good scrummager and seems able enough to get around the pitch well enough that he scores tries, he has to be in contention for selection next week. You can't go into a match against Italy with a weak front row.

    I have a nasty feeling Cusiter and Jackson might start against Italy, so the quality of our passing isn't going to improve.

  • Comment number 9.

    The loss was down to one basic problem, poor kicking. It led to us playing too much in our own third of the pitch. Cusiter persists in box kicks that give the ball back to the opposition, Laidlaw is a great 9 but does not have the distance to be an international 10, and Jackson was rusty when he came on. Yes the scrum did struggle at times, the lineout was not up to the usual standard, and they fell off a few tackles, but the problem was where we were playing the game. I would still like to see Laidlaw at 9 and weir at 10. Although potentially our best 9 is playing for the sevens squad at present.

    Promoting home grown coaches such as Lineen is not the answer, as some suggest he has won nothing, and before he could be considered he should at least win something. Scottish club coaches with ambition, should be looking to work in the English Premiership or France as the gap between our top clubs and the pro teams is too much. Redpath looks the part, also Peter Wright but he needs to get the pro coaching experience elsewhere.
    Robinson is still our best bet up until WC 2015, and if he goes now it will be difficult to replace his quality and experience.

    Improving skills in young players will never happen until we start playing rugby in the summer, and having a winter break.

  • Comment number 10.

    I think we need to discuss the game on Saturday rather than go back to the grass roots discussion which frankly isn't likely to change. As you say John, we are where we are. Despite that, this season started with optimism....we should have beaten England could have beaten Wales....learnt a lesson against France whilst playing well and hoped it would finally click against Ireland. It went the other way!

    Selection is an issue. Why was jackson brought back in place of Weir, when most wanted Weir to start. Yet, in saying that, many on here called for Scotts introduction and he looked well out of place, dropping his first two passes. Something has also gone wrong in the scrum where Ireland were supposidly weak. Once Euan Murray and Al Kellock came on with Richie Vernon we started going backwards! How did that happen?

    In defence, an area so strong a year or so ago when we beat Australia, we were missing tackles galore. Three soft first half tries when we were possibly in the ascendancy!

    Frankly, I dont know where to go now. We need to start with a blank sheet. Max looked like a player who hasnt played for a while, Lamont looked over hyped and not too bright, Jones, despite his knock, looked a liability in defence, our front row is a worry and the back row looked unbalanced....we need a six...Brown or strokotch may make the difference. I think Chunks race is run at this level...welsh? Serious bad feeling about next week...wooden spoon I think and 8 defeats in a row! Says it all really

    Finally, really sorry to see Lineen leave Glasgow for Tooney! If this goes wrong the SRU will get serious criticism.

  • Comment number 11.

    I agree with you that the main reason has been due too few players coming through. It is positive to see the likes of Denton, Rennie et al playing well and making a difference in the team but as someone earlier commented the gap between ourselves and other nations is at the Under 20 age group.

    At Under 18 etc we appear to be able to compete. However when they reach under 20 and you look at the level those in other countries are playing at it surely has to be linked to the academy system. All these boys are in a professional environment where they are paid and work with experienced players and are coached on physiology, strength and conditioning, nutrition, psychology and god knows what.
    Where as our boys are plying their trade at Prem 1 or 2 clubs and are at University or working.

    The difference is remarkable and the fact we only have 2 pro teams does not help situations as we only have at most 15-20 academy players at Glasgow and Edinburgh. Teams like Leicester must have that number alone.

  • Comment number 12.

    OMG, please please tell me this is just a vicious rumour, they can't put Townsend in charge at Glasgow, Unless this is a cunning plan to make us play as badly as Scotland so Edinburgh can get all the plaudits. Just leave Lineen alone - he's doing a great job at Glasgow and let the SRU keep Townsend well away

  • Comment number 13.

    Agree that Scotland need a long term plan, but don't think that it need be exclusive of short term action either. And on that note, I firmly believe that Robinson needs to go for Scotland to progress. I'm pretty sure that you've put forward your case for retaining him in previous blogs John, but I also think that you inadvertently put the case for his dismissal in this one: a top level coach needs a game plan.

    From the World Cup onward Scotland have been the recipients of so much praise for their rugby. They've passed the ball well, they've dominated possession and territory, they've been 'unlucky' to lose games they should've won. The reality is that if Scotland have been able to do all of these things then they actually should've won more matches and, inextricably linked, scored more tries. And I think that it is in the game-plan that they have been lacking. Ultimately, one only has to look at the last two matches against England, the possession, the territory, the passes, the..... defeats, to recognise this.
    I realise that this may sound harsh on Robinson and I am not suggesting that he should be leaving in disgrace. He genuinely has taken the side to another level in many respects (fitness, commitment, pride, fight, organisation, defence) and he is not to be blamed for the absence of any natural finisher (though when you are missing key components to a team then it increases the pressure to have an excellent game plan even further) but I think that he has now hit his glass ceiling.

    Personal view. Feel free to shoot me down.

  • Comment number 14.

    The 10 year plan you describe is a good one John. However, this is the same plan we have been talking about for Scottish rugby (and Scottish sport in general) since the game turned professional more than 15 years ago. Our politicians and the governing bodies of our sports (SRU and SFA) have failed dismally in providing any basis for this plan to be implemented effectively and this is the reason Scottish rugby and football teams are not competitive. How many times does it take us to come to the same conclusion before appropriate action is taken? I am sure money comes into it, but other countries appear to be much better at making these changes than we do.

  • Comment number 15.

    Our game is in general disarray at the moment. A coach being parachuted in to one of the districts who has few real coaching credentials and candidates being bandied around who have been in charge of under-performing Age Grade teams or club teams which have fallen on hard times. The intensity of rugby at all levels throughout Scotland is currently abysmal and until that improves young players will spend the majority of their time in gyms and not acquiring the game-intelligence that is required. had Ross Rennie had that, for example, he would not have butchered a simple 2 v 1. You would never see a NZ player doing that. The SRU is still populated by bufties who adopt a jobs for the boys attitude and who also encourage the factionalism which is slowly destroying our game. Coaching cliques are encouraged - does that sound like the old SFA Largs Mafia? - and instead of pooling ideas people are ostracised for stepping outside certain boundaries. I truly despair about the future of the game I love and have been involved with for over 40 years.

  • Comment number 16.

    Really gutted about the result yesterday, had a sneaky feeling in the first five minutes we were going to win. Now it’s all about survival against Italy for reputation, players and perhaps and hopefully not our head coach. I think like Scottish football on tv last week we need to be thinking long term and build a production line of players for the future. Our system is not great and quality players are more rarities than the norm.

    Someone above mentioned about improving the current academy and I’m of the same kind of thinking that this needs to be the priority. I’ve just finished reading a couple of books about talent is nothing and practice is everything and early talent rarely makes through to world class performance. The Books identified that a fixed mind-set is most common for talented young people where true world class performers practice an awful lot more than everybody else and have a growth mind set to learn new skills, it’s also said to help better with overcoming failure especially when people step up a level. The books quoted a ten year rule for 10,000 hours of purposeful practice to become world class. I would like to know the mind set of our rugby players (growth and fixed) and how many hours our young international players and professionals are at with purposeful training and what is the breakdown of that against skills. This goes for our coaches too!

    John, surely there is a long term sportsnation tv special in there somewhere to identify a group of young players with a growth mind set and provide them with 10,000 hours of purposeful practice tracking them to see where they end up. Happy to be executive producer!

  • Comment number 17.

    So many .people talking about coaching or lack of it . That is only part of the problem. You can only coach what is put in front of you !!!
    Remember when you were at school and the 1stXV won everything in sight for two years . ten of that XV left and often for the next fwo years the Firsts struggled to win a game.
    Same coaches so what was the problem ? The TALENT simply wasn't there . Club rugby is exactly the same .
    Point is there is no large amount of talent coming through. When did we last have a 12 and 13 that excited you ? Lineen and Leslie ? When did we last have a real leader in the pack ? Probably David Sole .
    It will change and a " golden crop" will appear from somewhere , only problem for me is, at 80 will I live long enough to see it in action ? BIG GRIN
    Good article John but another problem is will anyone at HQ listen ?

  • Comment number 18.

    As a Warriors and Scotland fan, this has to be the worst weekend of my rugby playing and supporting life.

    Jeez, my head hurts just trying to think about this.

  • Comment number 19.

    Hang on a minute. I think Toony is getting some unfair stick here. There has been far more exciting attacking rugby from Scotland this season than there's been for a long time!
    I think at times we're guilty of being the Arsenal of rugby and trying too many passes (the stat during the commentary that we've attempted and completed more passes than any other team this tournament was telling).
    The rush to the touchline is starting to get eliminated and we're playing less sideways rugby, which I see as a positive.

    People have been clamouring on this blog for blooding the younger players, and now there's criticism of a lack of craftiness. Well we had someone that could really run a game in Parks and we eventually booed him out the squad!

    And John, how come you were willing to criticise the ref in the France game but not this one where we'd been as well off having Keith Wood down there with the whistle.
    Only a penalty for hauling down a rampaging maul a yard from the line? That was as clear a try scoring opportunity as you're likely to see and the Irish cynically killed it. It was a penalty try and yellow any day of the week.

    Evans gets a yellow for an off the ball "tackle" on Earls when there was no yellow for Bowe doing the same to Jones earlier in the match.

    And the ref getting plaudits from the commentary team for being quick and spotting Jones was KO'd. Very good, but maybe if he'd spotted that it was a high and dangerous tackle maybe he'd have stopped play even earlier. As a tackler you have a responsibility for the safety of the ball carrier, and headbutting him in the temple is not a safe tackle. You can try and justify the lack of intent all you like, but it was a fundamentally dangerous tackle. It was far too high. The laws state you have to tackle below the line of the shoulders, and Trimble didn't do that.
    People have seen yellow and red since the start of RWC for less dangerous tip tackles.

    An Irish hand launched the ball out of the ruck so quickly it caught Reddan by surprise before his try, which was missed by both the ref and the linesman that was just yards away.

    Clancy got some stick for repeatedly pinging the same offences correctly in the previous match and disrupting the flow of the game, yet barely a peep about the appalling display in our match bar Gabby saying there had been some "contraversial decisions".

  • Comment number 20.

    Totally agree about welsh John. He is as hard as they come (like the man fae the pans) and has taken to playing tight head like duck to water.

    I assume you will blog on the warriors shake up but for me it seems a strange choice if lineen did not want to go. If he did however, i can maybe see the sru wanting to keep a young Scottish coach in employment. Not sure about Matt Taylor assisting him, surely better to promote another Scottish coach messrs wright and chalmers must be banging on the door, although admitedly they may not be defence specialists. How was the queensland defence fired under Taylor?

  • Comment number 21.

    being Scottish is just so depressing, in terms of our Sport. Andy Murray- excellent tennis player, but comes up just short in terms of being the Worlds best and has unfortunately not won a Grand Slam yet.
    the Scotland football team- we are probably never going to qualify for anything tbh. other than the Kirin Cup! haha.. our national league is dyer now ( terrible situation at Gers ) and is only getting worse. although it is perhaps a good thing that players such as Scott Allan and Jack Grimmer have moved South at an earlier age. Ireland manage to have a poorer league than us, yet still consistantely over- achieve. their players, if they have any talent, are shipped off to England at the earliest oppurtunity. for minimal fees. there is no Rangers / Celtic so these teams are not building to be successful, they are used for producing successful players and then moving them on to a higher level. Allan Mcgregor, Scott Brown, James Forrest ( soon ) would all be much more rounded players if they had moved to England.
    cricket- Ireland again are way ahead of us. i am not too knowledgable at all on this area, but why do they seem to always over-achive, and we are probably battling it out with the worst teams?
    RUGBY- i have enjoyed seeing Gray, Rennie, Denton and Hogg during the tournament. all great players. i don't know what our problem is. but could anybody confidentely predict a Scotland team against ANY team in the 6 nations, other than perhaps, Italy? i didn't, anyway. i lived in hope, not expectation. i looked at Englands team and performance today. they do not have significantely better players than us. arguably we have better forwards. with them tipping the backs. however, they played with a spirit and belief. they BELIEVED that they could beat the French. i was at the games against France at Murrayfield, whilest it was a fantastic game, i just knew we would lose. is it just our mindset? i don't know. i believe it is alot down to this lack of belief, in the country in general.
    Ireland are perennial over- achievers in almost EVERY sport.
    Wales talk their Rugby players up unbelievably well, they were disappointed by winning by 21 points at the weekend! they have no expectation at football, so usually do not do well, but they have quality players, especially Bale who can destroy ANY international team.
    France are inconsistent in lots of sports. whether it be Tsongas sporadic form, and occassional immense game that could beat ANY player on his day. the football team that made it to the WC final in 2006. the Rugby team that lost to Tonga, then ran NZ so close in the final.
    England always seem to be disappointed in their outcomes in respective Sports. football, always so neear yet so far. Rugby, they win the 6 nations, but are disappointed and get slated for losing so comprehenstively in a game against Ireland that proved pointless. tennis- they have all of these academys but don't produce anybody.
    Italy- good at football, bad at Rugby. blah blah blah blah blah.
    basically, i have just been havering. my point being that we always come up short in every sport. i understand that we can't win all the time. but we have talented athletes in ALL sports. why don't we talk up our achievements once in a while?
    we are not going to win a RWC. but we could maybe make the top 3 in the 6 n? we are not going to win a Euros in football, but maybe we could qualify? Andy Murray may never become number one, but maybe, just maybe he may win a grand slam against, arguably, the best and strongest players of a generation.
    anyway, just my opinion. we have talent. we just don't make use of it through lack of self belief :)

  • Comment number 22.

    I wrote this last week in your last blog...
    "Here's how it'll go against the Irish: We'll really get into them for 20 minutes and maybe grab a couple of points. Gradually, our scrum will be pushed back, and the lineout will falter. Ireland will score a try just before half time. After the break, we will be on the back foot, give away penalties, start to panic, throw the ball around, drop it a few times, maybe give the odd interception and fall behind on the scoreboard by at least 10 points. On the 60 minute mark, Robinson will make his pre-planned replacements and then it really will go belly up!
    Seen it all before, every game for 10 years.
    We are the "Woulda, shoulda team" comprising of "nearly" men (we nearly won, we nearly scored a try etc etc).
    I just can't see how Saturday will be any different-why should it be?"

    I'm not particularly pleased that the game panned out just about how I (and thousands of other Jocks) thought it would, but it came as no surprise. No individuality apart from yer man Gray when he bullocked his way to his try. I think the team looked over-coached and stuck in the training ground mentality. When I compare our lads to the young new-look England today, there is a million miles between them and us. I am just so glad that we didn't play them this weekend or else we would have got a real spanking!
    As for a 10 year plan-forget it. Why would anyone provide the money? The reason that youngsters don't take up the game is that for 20 years all they have seen is a losing side with no heroes to emulate. Young sportsmen and women in Scotland need winners to follow-not no-hopers. Get some results and the fans and future players will follow. You can have all the plans you want, but there's no money, no infrastructure and most alarmingly, no inclination.
    Wooden spooners..... that's us in every sport apart from cycling!!!!!!

  • Comment number 23.

    I have no sympathy for the continued plight of Scottish rugby.
    If whinging about how bad things are was a national sport Scotland would be unplayable.
    Time to take a long hard look at why Scotland does not get results.
    Plain and simple the players are not good enough and have not been in the last two decades. That’s a point that cannot be denied. It has been the opinion of the many lion’s selectors on countless occasions. Yes there has been the odd exception to that and in Denton and Ritchie Scotland have a couple of handy players.
    Now what can the people in charge of the SRU do about it? After all it lies at their door. That is a question I do not believe they have ever seriously bothered asking themselves or ever will.
    Money must be handed over to state schools to spend on facilities, coaching, payment of teachers and a structure to develop good talent. Schools know who the best athletes are in each year group. Shockingly rugby in Scotland is elitist. It is the domain of the private school boy at a playing, regional and national level. This is very apparent and ingrained in Scottish society. It has failed miserably.
    I remember quite vividly my own brief introduction to the game at school. It was S5 and lasted one hour. That was it. One lesson at the largest Secondary school in Western Europe at the time. Bearing in mind there was over 1000 boys at the school. Looking back it angers me now because we had many talented pupils many who had played Gaelic Football and had a hard cutting edge.
    That was norm.
    Get out and engage the great unwashed if you want to improve instead of crying about it. Ireland and Wales are the models where rugby is for all.

  • Comment number 24.

    I agree that we have to get better integration in our set up, ensuring that transition from U-18 to U-20 to 'A'Team to Scotland is a realistic one.
    However it is clear we suffer from a lack of depth in certain positions, which will soon be exascerbated when Glasgow's new Tongan no.8 arrives. As Fijian Talei at edinburgh has been very good this year (will Denton go back to playing flanker at Edinburgh? when it is clear he could be our no.8 for a decade!)....
    2 pro sides means we have to be very careful about specific positions being 'foreign filled'. See the new Irish province ruling to see why! not xenophobic I assure you, just an observation...Solution? Well sat in the English National Championship is one London Scottish. A side rejoicing in its Scottish heritage and with what seems to be a genuine interest in maintaining a Scottish identity (markedly differing from London irish). Could this not be a 3rd way? Plenty of Scots boys playing down south who I am sure would have little trouble playing for LS! Add some SRU backing (one hopes to ensure a Scottishness is maintained), some astute trawling of the UK for anglos with a desire to play for Scotland (and from my 7yrs in london, believe me southern accents do not make a man any less Scottish) and wow...essentially a 3rd Pro team (assuming they get back into the Premiership).. That should mean in the longer terms more depth., and I really believe more cost effective than trying to build a North & Midlands (says an ex-Morrisons man) of Borders side There at last count were some 300,000+ Scots (or those claiming Scottish heritage) in London. Surely time to utilise this pool!....

  • Comment number 25.

    I think, as far as being a rugby nation is concerned, we are stuck in the period from before till just after professionalism came in. We still expect to do well with specialist players who don't have the full set of skills. For years we've searched for a goal kicker without worrying about his strategy skills and stuck him at number 10 - step forward Chris Paterson. We take backs onto the park who don't know the first thing about forming a scrum, ruck or maul, simply because they're lighter or faster (or both) than our forwards. We use big, or tall, or heavy guys as forwards without caring if they can run or pass or kick for territory. We think the route to rugby success is to look for the Welsh team from 1974 in 2012 Scotland. That won't beat Lancaster and Farrell in a month of Sundays. Or Saturdays, if we continue to allow Murray a day off that we don't for any other player; and we shouldn't, even if he WAS Michael Jones.

  • Comment number 26.

    The SRU would rather scour the English fee paying schools looking for someone who's granny hailed from north of the border. To the best of my knowledge they make very little effort in getting out into the schools and communities across the length and breadth of the country promoting the game.
    I moved to New Zealand over a decade ago and for my childrens sake it was the best possible move. They are well educated and exposed to a variety of sports... where states schools compete against fee paying schools.
    Scotland and it's people need to waken up and smell the roses, because it's more than just their sport that's heading down the tubes.

  • Comment number 27.

    As a Glasgow warriors fan I'm gutted at the unofficial news that Townsend is replacing Lineen next season. So Townsend is feeling the pinch at Scotland so the SRU give him a handshake & move him to Glasgow, what has Glasgow done to deserve that!?

    I read A. Robinson say he was disappointed at 'naive' play. I think Andy is the naive one. What gives with the team selection & when he subs? It's almost like he has an obligation to field certain players. Jackson instead of Weir? I ask you.

    Andy Robinson did well at Edinburgh but hasn't been doing so well at international level. I think Andy is a club coach, plain & simple.

  • Comment number 28.

    23. At 22:40 11th Mar 2012, droverkc wrote:

    Well said.

  • Comment number 29.

    Why would the RFU allow London Scottish to exist as a breading ground for Scots players. Why don't these Scots qualified players try and boost the playing numbers and moved to Scotland adding a bit of growth to the game.
    The game needs to be grown in Scotland first and foremost and that is something the SRU have been neglecting for far too long. If small countries like Wales and Ireland can grow the game at home so should Scotland.

  • Comment number 30.

    To sum it all up, lack of passion?! That's what I'm reading from afar of course but there is a Bill McClaren foundation that is working hard on fundamentals to get the game a solid footing as it is funded and it is long-term. He was my P.E. and rugby teacher in Hawick and there was passion then but it seems to have been buried under -well you tell me- any more. Wales, Ireland France and even Italy have it and England have the numbers and to be honest, a bit more push than Scotland. It needs to start from there and as many have mentioned, get beyond the old school tie stigma.

  • Comment number 31.

    Let's not go top-down let's go ground-up . As someone has gone through the Scottish school and club system relatively recently (6 years ago), I didn't get the impression there was any input from the SRU at this level (apart from occasionally getting discounted tickets to internationals). We had a couple of amazing coaches (1 biology teacher and a retired teacher) who gave up their time unpaid because they love the sport, so I consider myself very lucky to have gone to this school, but what happens when someone isn't so lucky to find themselves at a school like this or when these teachers can no longer coach? There seems to be no incentives or support for rugby in schools, so let's start there!

    Secondly let's improve youth development. Our team produced many u-16, u-18 and u-20 Edinburgh and Scotland players (which is pretty damned good for a state school) but rugby at this level seems an absolute shambles. I played for Edinburgh a couple of times which involved one extra training a week (which few people turned up for) and a game every now and then, I don't think the coaches even knew my name. Eventually I just stopped going because School and Club rugby was more fun and felt like a team. As I said, a few of my friends played to a high standard including Scotland and they had similar stories of shambolic organization, no real development and the coaches massively had their favorites. As a result these players either lost interest in rugby or just stayed playing club rugby and never really got pushed into becoming better players and realising their potential.

    Also kids are enthusiastic they don't really care (or know) about previous Scotland results, I don't think I could name a Scottish player the first time I went to Murryfield to see them play but that didn't matter because I was going to Murryfield to see Scotland and that was was insanely exciting! So if you get more kids into rugby you'll get more people wanting to go to games and hopefully they'll drag their parents along, therefore creating more money for the SRU and development of international and pro teams.

    Bottoms up people!

  • Comment number 32.

    I believe we should look at the match alluded to by other bloggers...and the tournament as a whole...

    The tournament and I did not know this beforehand, but that may be my ignorance, has turn out to be the first step towards trying to earn an 8th seeding for RWC15...had this been made clearer from the start, I believe AR's conservative options, i.e. delayed blooding of apparently ready young talents, would have been far more understandable...but as the resulst show, this is by far not an excuse...

    On the match, a few silly mistakes cost us the game, and we need to stop conceding points just after we score, one tactical questionable option by Ford and the usual drop in performance when substitutions are made, the loss of shape in our game when Blair comes off and the touch malfunction ...on the sunstitution front, I fail to understand why Kellock seems to think he is the captain when he gets in, but that is another things that can be corrected without invoking the gods of "long term planning"...

    That at said, we need to sort a few things for the future now :

    1) Front row : props mainly, we need new blood here, Murray is too erratic and that Sunday thing is likely to bite us badly again in the future, Jacobsen is on the slow inevitable decline...

    2) 9 and 10 or 10 and 9 and the backline : 10 and that goes for the backline as well, we cannot play with too many pint sized players, we have possibly, the smallest / lightest 10s amongst the top 10 in international rugby if not the smallest 9-10 combination.

    Of the current 10s available, Jackson is the tallest and Weir is the bulkiest and Laidlaw is a 9 playing 10, just look at the amount of time he kicks and how he kicks.

    So put Laidlaw at 9, he is the only current alternative we have, Blair has difficulties playing the full 80 and Cusiter is simply not good enough.

    At 10, give Weir a go, although possibly the shortest, he deserves his chance and if its defence holds up then fine, tell Jackson to bulk up a bit, Redpath amonsgt others understood this...

    Same goes for the rest of the backline, lack of bulk means we have to play Morrison...hope we see what Matt Scott can do and that we get Ansbro back and possibly Shingler...with Visser pace and size we shoudl be ok...

    So long term planning yes, but do not tell me a team with Ford, Gray, Denton, Rennie, Blair/Laidlaw, Visser, Hogg...with Brown and possibly Johnnie Beattie has no future...we need props for%2

  • Comment number 33.

    A failure to succeed across all sport in Scotland perplexes me. As someone mentioned, andy Murray seems to not quite have that extra 5% of belief. That's the only difference needed at the top level.
    Fitness seems to be an issue as we always start well and then tail off again. We're not that far off the mark but we always seem to come up 5 or 10% short. Got to say yesterday we were quite a way off the pace. Kellock doesn't seem to be up to the standard, props are poor and sorry to say jones cant tackle at this level and can't wait for visser to pull on a Scotland shirt. Did we miss de Luca yesterday? Never thought I'd say that!
    I reckon we'll always be 5% deficient unless our attitude changes. S Lamont has the right attitude. He openly said he was sick of being a heroic loser, while everyone else was saying how unlucky we are. A loss is a loss and AR seemed too happy to find positives out of negatives. I've fallen into this self delusional trap myself.
    By the way why did we go for 3 points when Ireland were about to get a player binned for continual infringements. Callahan just lay over the ball all game and we let him get away with it. I need to stop, I'm making excuses again.

  • Comment number 34.

    I am a broken recorded on this subject. Scotland requires to do the following:

    The Holland system and look at the number of professional players produce.

    1. 4 Professional Clubs with second teams
    2. 3 National Leagues (12 teams) - with the rest in regional leagues
    3. Youth districts were Schools and Clubs get together and coach and train the youths, I'll say it again TOGETHER in one local centre, once they reach 18/19/20 they are then passed on to the Clubs of their choice.

  • Comment number 35.

    The most encouraging news of the week end for Scottish rugby came on commentary during the Ireland v Scotland game on Saturday. Apparently Richie Gray has a younger brother who is 17 and has already played for the Scotland under 20 team. He's 6ft 7in! Maybe there are some sisters as well who could play on the wing.

  • Comment number 36.

    Well ``you were kak wasn't it´´ said a welsh friend of mine and he was right on the money. I don't know what the answer is. As to the Lineen-Townsend situation......... WTF !!!. That's all I have to say today. Confussed.Com

  • Comment number 37.

    As a Welsh supporter, but also a huge fan of the 6 Nations, I would love to see Scotland producing a more competitive team. For what it's worth, I think that Scotland have to look at the junior levels through to the U20's and take a long term view that these players will be delivering in 5 - 10 years time. Wales suffered terribly for 30 years by being very inefficient at getting quality juniors to develop into 1st team players. If you look at the current crop of Wales squad members (Owens, AW Jones. I Evans, Warburton, Lydiate, Faletau, Hook, Priestland, J Davies, Halfpenny, Scott Williams, etc), all of these guys have come up through the age groups to represent their country at international level. Wales also have another group of quality youngsters in the later stages of their development, playing regular U20, Celtic league and Premiership rugby as well.

    If Scotland are to become a force again in World rugby, they need to take a longer term approach and develop young, fit, modern athletes who are able to compete on the world stage. You have Denton & Gray (Lions shoe-ins) so some things must be working somewhere...

  • Comment number 38.

    You took your time getting there John. If you take a look round you'll see that they've been discusing a long term plan for some time now, years in fact.

    Youth development is a key area that needs to be addressed and, as John rightly points out, needs to involve many more people in coaching more youngsters. We have seen that this can be done, even in such far flung places as the Shetland Islands. However, more team sports in schools and clubs cooperating with schools will go a long way to getting things going.

    The issue is that the clubs tend not to think outside their own clubhouse and so the plan would need to be sold to them with that in mind.

    The bottom line is that it takes money to achieve anything, even in the amateur game and whilst chopper McKie was in charge the funds were drying up faster than a water drop in a desert. Once the revenues start to flow again then we can think of how we are going to grow the game in Scotland.

    However, there are some things that can be done that do not involve investing large amounts of cash. Moving youth rugby to warmer months with more hours of daylight would be a good start.

    Why does the Scottish women's football league start now and go on through the summer? Why has Shinty moved its season to the warmer months with more hours of daylight? To attract more players, that's why.

  • Comment number 39.

    huffbuff @ #27, the reason for that selection became clear on Friday night when Duncan Weir tweeted that he was on his way to his sister's wedding. Family before work, every time.

  • Comment number 40.

    Looking at the games so far I would say we have taken 1 step forward but 2 steps back.
    For the most part we have cured the "can't score tries" issue, although I still think we have an inordinate amount of possessions in the opposing '22' without converting into points.
    But in doing so we have sacrificed our defensive solidity, to the point that we look like conceding every time an opponent has the ball in our final third.

    We have praised some of these new guys like Jones, Laidlaw & Hogg and rightly so, because they are exciting. BUT, what do they all have in common? They are all very small for international rugby. When you think that none of these 3 guys play @ scrum half, where you would traditionally have a smaller guy that means we have at any time 4 players who are probably smaller than the guy they are trying to tackle. That makes it very easy for the opposition to isolate a BIG on SMALL situation. I think in every game so far there has been a missed tackle in the lead up to a try.

    Looking at the stats from the Ireland game we lost 2 lineouts, conceded 11 penalties, made 10 errors & missed 10 tackles. Afraid that is a formula that will equal losing the game 99 times out of 100.

    Solution? I think Laidlaw should be scrum half replacement for Blair. Cusiter needs to find form again. At 10, possibly Nick De Luca. Jones & Hogg I think are too good to leave out, but we could combat that weakness by replacing Morrison.

    In attack there is still an awful lot of improvement that needs to be made. I think the handling errors will naturally reduce as the team grows in confidence, but they need a win to get the confidence up.

    Blairs box kick is not working they need to look at that. We are just giving them the ball back 20/30 yards further forward, so the pressure stays on. Lost count of how many times we have failed to find touch from penalties...this must not be allowed to happen again!!! Cut down on the basic skills errors & penalties, whilst being a bit more creative in the '22' and we have the players to score plenty of tries.

  • Comment number 41.

    I know a few people said Scotland would win at the weekend because of a tired and weakened Irish side...which they were tired and very weakened....but that goes to show how bad a state Scotland are in right now. That even with every advantage possible they still get run off the pitch. I think maybe its time to get a new coach because they have some great individuals on their team but no leaders or strategy.

  • Comment number 42.

    conclusion of #32, we need props for sure, but talents we have more than we had for a long long time, so without diminishing the need for long term planning, let's use what we have, and I do not feel this is done at the moment, because if we cannot do that there is no point in planning long term...

  • Comment number 43.

    Things started to go wrong after the early 90's teachers strike. At my school we had PE through the week and played inter school rugby on a Saturday Morning. Occasionally, the 1st XV would get an afternoon off to play a touring side (usually Welsh but on one occasion Argentinian). Teachers and parents would help run the matches (my Dad refereed). The teachers, not necessarily PE teachers saw the time on Saturday as part of their vocation. my School produced three Scotland Internationals, five A internationals and a host of players at Under 21 level. It was not a public school.

    Then came the teachers strike and they refused to use their own time to take rugby matches on a Saturday. All this activity stopped. The timetable was rejigged to make a Friday afternoon free, this was meant to give time in the day for sports and other clubs. Instead teachers declared that they needed this time for marking/lesson preperation or dare I say it, sloping off to do a bit of shopping.

    Numbers of male teachers have also fallen through the floor, so there is less chance of getting a rugby inspired non PE teacher, and whose parents can give time on a Friday afternoon, most are at work.

    My local Rugby club has tried to step in and fill the breach, I believe that every Saturday morning they get over 100 mini players, they have also stepped in to help the school but they simply don't have the resources to cope.

    When I attended the school, each year had at least one rugby team, we had a senior first and second XV Matches were played at least once a week. Until the club stepped in, many terms went by with no school team at all and instead of a weekly programme only two or three school matches a year were held.

    My parents live directly across from the school gate. At 12:15 on a Friday lunchtime, 95% of the schools pupils can be seen wending their way home for an afternoons X box. Is there any wonder we have such a small pool of players capable of playing at professional level?

  • Comment number 44.

    pzo1984 @ #40. You were doing really well right up to "At 10, possibly Nick De Luca". NDL has never played 10 in senior rugby that I am aware of and it would be akin to putting Bergamasco at 9.

    jamesmathew @ #41. Who would you have as the next Scotland coach?

    AR is just about to put his own coaching team in place having been stuck with the incumbents from the Hadden era for a couple of years. I am surprised that AR was able to make so much progress during that time with the lack of funds and contract constraints he was put under by McKie.

  • Comment number 45.

    This whole Lineen-Townsend thing reeks of incompetence and bad form.

  • Comment number 46.

    #44 Ian McGeechan...I know he may not be available but they should offer him whatever money he wants and get the man! He has a great strategic mind for rugby and has what I believe is the best kind of personality to be a coach. The unassuming deep thinker who thinks his way through a game and doesn't lose the cool, not like Martin Johnson who just threw size in there and hopped it worked and when it didnt just smash everything on front of you....doesn't work!

  • Comment number 47.

    There does seem to be a big problem with sporting talent in Scotland at the moment. One of the posts earlier kept talking about Ireland over achieving maybe they are but Scotland should be at a similar level. They both have siimilar populations and lets not forget Gaelic football and Hurling are the top 2 sports in ireland depriving Rugby and Soccer of potential talent - Scottish football and Rugby dont have this competition so what is the problem? Someone else mentioned that a 'golden generation'' will come along and Scotland just have to wait. I disagree the Irish golden generation is a complete myth. Irish rugby has lifted itself out of the embarassment of the nineties and the team has been playing good rugby for some 12 years now utilising some 50 players not just a few gifted individuals. I think the main differences are that Ireland has embraced the profesional era much better and secondly the historical provinces has made it easier for Ireland to have competitive club teams which ultimately feed the National team (although sometimes the Munster/Leinster rivalry goes a bit too far and causes splits in the camp). Scotland need to develop new young players but to attract more players the team needs to be successful a bit of a catch 22. Maybe if Rangers go to the wall and the SPL becomes a one team procession then more people may show an interest in Rugby. One final point someone mentioned Blairs rubbish box-kicks, can I just say all box kicks are rubbish they just give possesion away and really should only be used to kick into touch when under pressure they rarely yield anything. My other pet hate is why when a team has a penalty around the 22 and are playing advantage they dont just do a cross fiels kick or a garyowen/hailmary and see what happens instead of just going through a few aimless passages of play or worse advancing a few metres lose the advantage and then knock the ball on!!!!!!

  • Comment number 48.

    jamesmathew @ #46 Why? He was rubbish last time out. Also, I doubt very much he'd take it no matter what price he was offered. He is now much more of a strategist than a coach - see his role at Bath and as part of the RFU coach selection panel.

  • Comment number 49.

    john @ #47. I agree with most of what you say except about the Gaelic sports depriving soccer and rugby of potential talent. The footballing skills developed for Gaelic football are just what you need in a team kicker in rugby, also the catching, space finding and distribution are all vital skills for your 10 (or out half as the Irish call them). Ireland have being playing one for a while now - Ronan O'Gara.

    As for success on the pitch, both Edinburgh and Glasgow have shown some success this season. Edinburgh now have a huge match coming up in the Heineken Cup next month and the tickets have been selling well so far.

    Rather than hope that another sport implodes spectacularly we should be a bit more pro-active in attracting the youngsters to our sport - exectly what John Beattie is calling for in his blog.

  • Comment number 50.

    @Philip True he was rubbish last time but i'm kinda clutching at straws here...I think he could do a good job this time around and just seems to me he would be much better then Robinson who makes excuses about everything and doesn't really seem to have a long term plan. I think if Robinson stays Scotland will continue to under achieve.

  • Comment number 51.

    James, I think that Robinson does have a long term strategy, which is why he is bringing in his own coaching team from this summer. Scott Johnson and Matt Taylor will add to that team and Sean Lineen is being moved to help in other areas.

    Also, Robinson has been continuing the work that he did with Edinburgh in ensuring that all players with the professional teams are assigned to Premier clubs and making sure that there is a communication channel between the clubs and the professional game.

    I think that the Lineen move will begin the process of improving the youth and age-grade system in Scotland.

    If Robinson were to go now, or even after the 6 Nations or summer tour, then we would be firmly back at square one with no direction and no hope.

  • Comment number 52.

    @Philip I see what your saying but Robinson is there since 2009...thats 3 years already and only now this summer he is planning to bring in his own team. I think this is a panic move because of the 4 wins from Scotlands last 18 games he will try anything now but doesn't appear to have it under control.

  • Comment number 53.

    Sadly another dismall display , missed tackles lack of support at cruical times schoolboy errors and lack of passion.
    Seems to be a lot said about the youth system ,Well until the blazers change their minds and bring on the players who have flair and talent and all the passion to win then we have a long slog, I can remember a few years ago that the group of players that where involved in the Edinburgh set up were told, As we have a large pool of players the one,s that sell the most raffle tickets will be playing Edinburgh under 18 next season ,This did happen and a lot of very good players either driffted away or stopped playing for a few years.
    This realy needs to stop as we do have plenty of talent that is sadly being wasted.
    Alas we have one game left to go and some of us are going to take a wooden spoon with us to Italy, Hopefully it will never see daylight and remains in the bag.
    Its a pity the players dont seem to have the same passion as the supporters

  • Comment number 54.

    I think the biggest difference between Ireland & Scotland is strength-in-depth of the player squads.

    It seems to me that Ireland can bring on replacements that are pretty much well equal to what was already on the pitch so there is a seemless continuation in quality. Scotland do not have that luxury & our replacements just seem to be short of quality which weakens the side.

    That is down to an ever shrinking grass-roots level player base & it won't be easy to fix. Especially when there is a philosophy in our schools that being competitive is bad & goes against the very social fabric of Scottish society.

  • Comment number 55.

    I am not 100% sure about JB's comments on the coaching at school level and the general structure of coaching at the moment in Scotland as he will know more than I do about that. I can only comment on the four games I have watched so far and from what I can see the team and squad ARE and have been good enough to compete and BEAT all the other teams ( yes even including Ireland ). However, on a few points, firstly I have read or heard about how fit the team are, well I think we can all say that is bumkum, we have fallen away badly during the last quarter of all the games.

    Now, to the mistakes AGAIN. I am a supporter of Sean Lamont because he gives 110% and as mentioned by someone else will die for his Country, however my patience is wearing thin with him. SEAN you can't do it all by yourself, just concentrate on what you should be doing in whatever position you happen to be put in. You are getting in the way of others and spoiling things. What the heck were you trying to do with the shoulder barge on the Irish scrum half who went on to score the second try, that was criminal. Now, to Lee Jones (I hope the boy is on the mend ) but what the heck were you doing when you caught the ball/called the mark/ and then tried to play out of your own 22 !!. SCOTLAND you are not the all blacks ( even they wouldn't be so arrogant to try to play out of their 22, well maybe once or twice but they are the all blacks ). I can't even say this is a school boy mistake, because school boys are taught to kick the ball out to touch in that situation. Also, when it goes out for a throw in this is one of our BIG advantages at the moment ( well until we disintegrate in the last quarter of the match ) so utilise it at every opportunity.

    I sometimes long for the bad old days when we went into every match as the underdogs not expected to win and always with the lighter scrum. How times have changed, but we must get back to doing the basics, cutting out the mistakes, and not thinking we can beat everyone with fast flowing sevens rugby, other teams are all to ready to spoil and strangle the lives out of us, just what we used to do when we were the underdogs.

    My other concern is the back row, no denying they are all quick and mobile and can get that initial bust away, but I think they all need that bit of extra bulk to carry them on. As a unit I think they are a bit lightweight, look what Tom Croft did yesterday to France !!.

    Good luck for the last match Scotland but I have my doubts now that we have the mental strength to close this one out.

  • Comment number 56.

    The scots should just except that their current crop of players are just not good enough (as shown by 5 straight defeats, and not looking like winning one of them). Focus on the guys coming through the acadamies. I would be amazed to see 1 scot in the lions squad

  • Comment number 57.

    Watching Scotland on Saturday reminded me of hiding behind the sofa as a kid watching 'The Wizard of Oz' on new year's day. The result was no surprise and the score reflected the difference in the teams, so no complaints. One or two of the old problems had been addressed only to be replaced with a few new ones.

    What are we seeing? A steady ever-widening gulf between Scotland and the 4 challenging nations. It's been 5th or 6th spot for Scotland for 8 of the last 9 seasons (inc' 2012) with a win ratio of 16/64 and there is little prospect of that changing in the years to come. There may be decent prospects coming on at Glasgow & Edinburgh but from what we've seen, only 2 or 3 of them have shown any promise. Why? Scotland is a football country (like it or not, and I don't)

  • Comment number 58.

    Rugby in Scotland is run by private schools for private schools, discuss. Players are segregated from representative rugby after midi trials and that is that. Just like the old 11 plus. They are then forgotten about. As the representative age groups get older there is no opportunity for state school players to break in. What to do? Pay High school teachers to do rugby in schools. Develop a true meritocracy in the selection process that includes all interested players each year. Get more govenment involvement rather than just run rugby in Scotland by a profit making company. After all we live in a democracy dont we?

  • Comment number 59.

    ...ctnd from 57... and if we want our rugby to get better we are going to have to get into the state school system and generate far more interest in youngsters. This is not the first time a 10 year plan idea has come up and I was advocating it in 2004 after a very bad 6nations but are we any further forward? I don't think so, quite the opposite in fact.

    Words, opinions, arguments and counter-arguments are fine but until there is some kind of go-ahead attitude that will no doubt miff the picnic hamper range rover brigade then 5th is the best we can expect for a long time to come.

  • Comment number 60.

    I agree with post no. 10.

    And I would also suggest that selection is the main issue. And that is down to the coach!

    I also think that Scottish rugby does have a real problem with the weather. Players are training at most levels in poor conditions - so how is back play going to prosper.

    I believe that if all Scottish premier league coaches sat down with Andy R. and hammered out tactics across the country that would use backs more, we might see an improvement in handling. Actually, I don't know if this already happens.
    Right now, even our best backs are like rabbits caught in headlights if they get possession with space to move.

    I recall watching a recent game at Murrayfield against the All Blacks in torrential rain. Everyone thought this would give Scotland an advantage. I then recall Tana Umaga touching down after a simple passing movement without a hand being laid on him.

    It all points to Scottish rugby not having progressed from the Gordon Waddell (who I hear shouted!) days of 10 man rugby.

    And if it is decided that AR is not 'the man' or he walks, could we do better with Michael Bradley. AR is no doubt sincere but he is simply not getting a winning team. And it looks like he is replicating his track record with England.
    MB has coached Ireland 'A', U21's and the full Ireland team on a NZ tour and has done well with Edinburgh.

  • Comment number 61.

    Professional era, professional players, so why on earth do we consistently show such poor decision making and game management. "Naive" is what Robinson called it and that's being kind. No-one on the blind side at a 5m lineout, try; rushing out of the defensive line with no use of the arms to take man or ball, try; take the mark and clear but instead pass inside to then take a pressure kick, resultant lineout and poor tackling, try.

    It was absoloutely maddening to watch, and improved as we have been in the last three previous games this was a step back. We had shot ourselves in the head before half time with no realistic way back, and so it proved. The Irish, just like every other side against us when they have a two score or more lead managed the game and closed it out. We had the momentum and then blithely give it back every time; something consistently done throughout our 6 nations campaign. Forget refereeing calls not going our way, they exacerbate the situation; poor decision making, game management and individual errors are what's killing us. So disappointing from a team that looked close to finally pulling it together.

    Wrt a long term plan, I hail from the West coast, state schooled and played football for primary and secondary teams. Rugby? I remember having one special after school thing with I presume an SRU man to teach us handling skills. No mention of clubs to play for in the local area, like the boys clubs for football, or information to take it on further if we liked playing the sport. Secondary school had a rugby pitch with full goals either end when I started, by the end of my school days one goal was gone and the other in disrepair. We were taught rugby in 1st and 2nd years and that was it; again no further information or mention of clubs to play for. The teaching was laughable too, a 40 min period in which to practice/learn handling skills, scrum, lineout etc. then a game which always descended into chaos.

    We need to roll out rugby in all state schools across Scotland, with the right facilities and the teachers adequately trained to teach the sport. Better advertising of local clubs for all age groups would also help in non-traditional rugby playing areas.

    Young kids play tig, and I saw in the lsat matchday programme mention of touch rugby tournaments that have been held; an excellent idea to encourage young kids into the sport.

    I'd propose touch rugby 7's for boys and girls (playing separate or together at that age) up to 11/12. Split into gender at 12/13 to start playing full contact 7's up until 15, and then introduce them to the full 15 game.

    I admit to never having played 15's so maybe my age group timescale is a bit off, but my arguement would be get them in without getting hurt playing touch rugby, get them playing sevens to develop the handling skills, then introduce the other aspects of the game later on. Secondly, not everyone develops at the same pace, so starting full 15's late on stops discouragement of "smaller" players who could possibly drop out at an earlier stage but then go on to grow (I've seen this with football too, the 'he's too small' attitude towards certain players).

    Where are the boys clubs, especially in central Scotland?

    As for the SRU and professional rugby, we have all stated we need more than 2 professional sides, and that the feeder system into those sides needs to change too, but is there the cash and will to do it?

    Finally, in the professional era our players would appear not to have the same guile as other sides to practice gamesmanship or to play cute. I'm not advocating that we should, but watching other sides do so is cringeworthy, and when it costs Scotland it is doubly annoying.

    Evans was daft to even touch the Irish player (he was never getting there), but was it enough to send him sprawling? Reminiscnet of Lee Byrne in Cardif a few years back, while players are also diving when kick chasing, poor stuff that should be kept to football (though I wish they'd quit it there too!)

  • Comment number 62.

    On another point, why was the Scottish crowd in Dublin so much louder (rendition of Flower of Scotland when 6-0 up) and also a pipe band present; both things sadly lacking when I was at Murrayfield for the France game; no songs and no noise to cheer on the side it almost feels liks an away match at times against all the other nations with the exception of Italy when they come to Scotland. Wake up Murrayfield, that way we can stop the fake attempts to create the atmoshpere (like the piped music and the god awful countdown)!

  • Comment number 63.

    John the following example is telling of the state of the SRU and a major reason why our pro players are behind the rest of the world:

    I started working at a private school in Glasgow in 2004; a rugby school who have recently played in Bell Lawrie finals. Although I played rugby as a youngster I had never coached. When I started at the school I tried to do coaching courses through the SRU but none were on offer as they were going through a so called 'transition'. I coached the 2nd XV for 3 years attending the odd seminar (Craig Chalmers was present at a few).
    I moved over to Australia in 2008, still having no coaching qualifications. 3 years have passed and I am now an IRB Level 2 coach, Level 1 Referee and have coached 6 state winning teams at junior level and 2 senior clubs to finals.

    This is not a "how good am I?" post; it simply highlights that getting any kind of backing to become a good coach is not pushed through by the SRU to the point that the main pool of youngsters into the pro set up - private school kids (I agree with an earlier post that public schools are overlooked far too often in terms of representative rugby) - are coached all too often by under qualified coaches who have drive, passion and commitment, but absolutely no access to up to date techniques. In the past 12 months in Australia I have attended many advanced coaching seminars where people such as John Mitchell, Matt Think (former Waratahs prop) and Titjens (excuse the spelling; the NZ 7s coach) have presented us with up to date techniques in use by the best coaches in the world.
    If all school coaches in Scotland had access to this then players would be better from a younger age; this would mean they are better at rep level, pro level and, eventually, international level. When I compare the coaching techniques in use here with what I had in Scotland, the gulf is immeasurable.

    What you say is correct John; we need to fix the coaching at junior level so that junior players are better; after working at junior level and gaining experience, these coaches should cut their teeth at premier level, again having access to top courses through the SRU where people like Robinson make regular appearances. After proving themselves at top level, these guys should then have access to coaching at pro level. Once the coaching is fixed at all levels the players will be better across all levels too...unfortunately not an overnight fix but the only real way to create a production line of top quality players.

  • Comment number 64.

    Personally I think Gregor Townsend should be knighted for his services to world rugby by ensuring that when everyone else plays Scotland they need not worry about tries.

  • Comment number 65.

    Turkey's don't vote for Christmas, so why would the Rupert's in the SRU want state schools to play rubgy!!!! there not private fee paying school, come on.... What letting the lower classes play rugby, frfrfrfrfrfrfrfr.

  • Comment number 66.

    There's much been said about the need for the younger players to come through, but most have missed the point made by Mikeys13 in the first comment on this thread. He said: -

    "I have a friend who went to the Scottish Universities XV trials today, once considered a prestigious team to be part of. 8 players showed up."

    Can you imagine Oxbridge having only 8 players turn up?

    When teenagers leave their home areas to go to University it's logical that the Uni team should be their first choice. There may not be a club team that a student can easily get to while living in halls of residence etc. However Uni teams don't seem to be included in the SRU thinking. If Universities are included in the feeder system and planning by the SRU the net for potential players ought to be widening. If a teenager is doing a 4 year degree course and lives and plays in Scotland for the duration of the course, doesn't that help with the "residency" status for sort-of-Scots? The first step though, is to recognise that Unis could have a part to play and perhaps "professionalise" their teams. Most clubs can only dream of having the overall sports resources available to Universities. Imagine what could be done with those resources and an almost captive audience - if rugby was promoted and managed properly through the Univeristy. When they're playing in Scotland, The All Blacks use the Edinburgh Uni gym facilities. If it's good enough for the ABs it must be good enough for future Scottish players.

    I think there's more than the schools and clubs to consider and we can't afford to leave any sources of future players out. Take note Mr Lineen!

  • Comment number 67.

    Waste of a blog, the selection of the player should be the focus not a 10 year dreamland scenario.
    Forwards were good, some outstanding (except for Murray). No 10 is physically too small so invites attackers though that channel. Lamont is a liability, why leave your defensive line position to not tackle properly. Even my cat knew that the Irish would try and hold up players in the tackle so why not offload more instead of taking the ball into contact then fighting hard just to go to ground!
    Good effort from centres & rest back line but bad team tactics restricted them.
    There are better wingers and coaches out there, we have 70% great team 30% liability and bad coaching & selection, it is not possible to win against the other teams in the six nations teams unless the negatives are addressed properly.
    I really feel for the good players who are being held back.

  • Comment number 68.

    #64 If the stories are correct in the papers and on this site, that Mt Townsend is the next Glasgow coach, Glasgow will be heading south in the league, and you can take that to the bank...... If Mr Townsend was chocolate he'd eat himself.

    Please someone tell me it's April 1st?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?

  • Comment number 69.

    I'm English but, when Scotland are playing, I want them to win (er, unless they are playing England admittedly!): what was so frustrating against Ireland was that there were patches of brilliance (Gray's try being the brightest) but all too many occasions on which players genuinely seemed to be at a loss to know what to do with the ball. This IS a coaching issue to my mind: it is all about players knowing how to play with each other with confidence, and I am not sure that that confidence has been on display of late. Indecision seemed to me as much of a problem as poor decisions - you only float that unexpected long pass to wrong foot the opposition if you know, in your marrow, that that winger really expects you might do it. If you aren't sure, and feel you'll look a fool if he fluffs it, you'll kick for touch or make some equally tragic lame play. Scotland's players looked slower, more likely to think once and then think again, than Ireland's players.

    Others here, and you as well John, have lamented the base on which Scotland's national team is built (little state school participation in particular). In England we have the same problem. Look at the school backgrounds of the current U16 squad for England (at and you'll see lots of independent schools and grammars. After a serious effort to propagate the game among a wider variety of schools, England's age selectors are still finding the same kind of schools as 20 years ago make up the majority of the list. Perhaps for both countries what is needed is an effort to pair schools where rugby is established with schools where it is not with the aid and help of clubs. Plainly both countries need to do something...

  • Comment number 70.

    Am I the only one reading between the lines that Towsend going to Glasgow is the fore-runner for Robinson resignning after the Italy game? Keeping Townsend "clean2 as they obvioulsy rate him highly as a coach.

    So my chrystal ball is telling me that the new job Lineen is talking to the SRU about it either the Head coach or assistant head coach of Scotland with Scott Johnson as the other.

    To be honest after watching on Sat I dont know where Robinson can go from here. It must be knackering for him to watch that week after week, can he really make a difference.
    In the short term I would like to see a bit more of a game plan, the attack seeemed to be just throwing the ball from side to side waiting for a gap, no dmmy runners, no hitting the line at pace, no angles being cut by the outside backs.

    I also think that although Matt Williams was a disaster he was right about the basic skills. How many times have we seen Scottish backs with an overlap either throw a miss pass or fumble the ball, it is criminal that our backs can draw and man and give a pass at pace, I dont think it is the national coaches job to sort that, he should be fine tuning not doing the basics.

  • Comment number 71.

    jamesmathew @ #52 You're forgetting about the stranglehold that Gordon McKie had over the finances until last summer. That stranglehold was only released after Mark Dodson had had a good look at what is possible. All coaches want to have their own team in place but that was, until now, denied Robinson.

    I do not see importing 2 respected and talented coaches to the team as being a panic move. Quite the contrary. A panic move would be to shuffle the existing pack of cards in the hope that it would bring about an instant improvement, or to do what the press are calling for and put Peter Wright and Chick Chalmers in place.

  • Comment number 72.

    We lost again...

    Same reasons....

    Same excuses....

    Whats does that tell us...we arn't learning from our mistakes....

  • Comment number 73.

    dolf_lundgren @ #70 I see where your chrystal ball is failing you.

    "the attack seeemed to be just throwing the ball from side to side waiting for a gap, no dmmy runners, no hitting the line at pace, no angles being cut by the outside backs."

    Gregor Townsend is currently the attack coach for the national side.

  • Comment number 74.

    leemagee @ #63 highlights an issue that the SRU could deal with right now. Put in place a programme of coaching seminars that are designed for teachers and youth coaches. Arrange for top coaches such as Michael Bradley, Gregor Townsend, Sean Lineen, Peter Wright, etc. to give these seminars. They could also improve their IRB coaching course offerings.

  • Comment number 75.

    While I agree that we need a long term plan, this doesn't address the fundimental issue, in my opinion. We simply don't have the mental toughness that is required. This, unfortunately, appears now to be a national trait that is shared across several sports.

    We appear to have become a nation of bottlers that, when faced with a winning/scoring opportunity, blow it and until that is sorted, all of the skill in the World won't make any difference.

  • Comment number 76.

    Re the comment on only one Scot in the Lions party. Gray is a shoe in, Rennie and Denton great possibilities, lets see where 12 months development puts Hogg and Blair is still classy enough. Also it is normal practice for all 4 captains to go, so whoever is Scotland Captain will have a chance.

  • Comment number 77.

    Like all the other posts I felt very disappointed after the Ireland game mainly because, unlike the previous two matches, there was neither intensity nor drive. However unfortunately the French defence allowed us too much space (as they did against England) which made us look better than we are. However my main point concerns our coach and selection.

    AR is the best that has happened to Scottish Rugby since the glory days of Telfer/McGeechan. AR has been criticised for his selection and there was a great clamour for bringing in Hogg, Laidlaw, Jones etc.. However they are minnows physically in today's game and defensively are weak. Hogg missed several tackles against France and Ireland although he is clearly a talent. It will take some time for him to become acclimatised to test rugby. Laidlaw is not Test class as a 10. His defence is uuugh and his licking from hand weak. Jones was brushed aside on several occasions and Trimble's try was his responsibility. His lack of physique was exposed I'm afraid although right now I wish him a speedy recovery from a most appalling accident.
    Everyone is waiting for Visser but again the level of expectation is too high. He will need time to get to the pace of Test Rugby and can he tackle?
    I agree with an earlier post that Lamont is a liability. He shows a hyped up immaturity which after 65 odd caps is unsatisfactory.
    I was really impressed with our back row against France (no mean backrow themselves) but the Irish back row were streets ahead on Saturday. I'm a Ross Rennie fan but he was not at the races on Saturday at the breakdown.
    Let AR deal with what is in front of him, get off his back before we make him walk, and let him have more influence over the rising talent.

  • Comment number 78.

    A well coached team, made up of average players, will beat a poorly coached XV made up of talented individuals.

  • Comment number 79.

    John bang on, these are my sentiments. There are no easy fixes. We need to look at how we are builiding International level talent and it needs to happen not only from the ground level but all the way up through at the club rugby. In a sense I am glad a few of Scottish players are getting opportunity to play in international clubs. It demostrates two things
    1) there is talent in the squad which is recognised at an international level
    2) It makes it competitive for the players and builds their moral. Exposes them to diffrerent game style and tactics.

    Now coming to the task at hand. I like the new approach to playing expansive rugby but it comes at a price:
    - New but inexpereinced wingers
    - Weaker defense. Lots of tries scored against us were due to mistackles.
    - Unlike other teams we seems to be running out of steam after 50 mins and therefore further weakens us in set-pieces (scrum or lineouts) or increase penality count.

    The other issue I found is lack creativity, as stats show lots of passes were made by Scotland but these were lateral with very few opportunities. When these opportunities came we couldn't materialise mainly due to lack of support, creative thinking (chiping over the gain line) or unforced errors. So overall I am failing undertsand is what is our game plan or startegy.
    My thoughts:
    - Our immediate focus has to be how to improve defense & set pieces. We can be good in this as demostrated in past under Jason White captaincy.

    - Change game plan after 50 mins, get replacements that further reinforce the defense. Slows the game down and strenghten our set-piece.

    - We need a clever playmaker & good kicker like Dan Parks. How many games have been won or due to last minute drop goals and successful penalities. I think this key area to improve, without this it is very hard to win games at international level.

    - Also couple of players definitely looked out of shape, this needs to be addressed.

  • Comment number 80.

    Ritchie Gray is an excellent although world class??? - I think not, Denton is a kid that has played a few games, he wouldnt get any chance of getting into any other team in the 6 nations Italy included. The first problem with Scottish rugby is that its pretty deluded. The Scottish fans expect a win form one weel to the other, however they arent a good team, the tactics used are at non effective, although I would like to see them getting some wins, they do try their best its the bad coaching set up they have, and with Scott Johnson going there, look out guys things arent going to get any better!

  • Comment number 81.

    76 - philmus, Steve Borthwick didn't go last time round. If Ross Ford goes again then it won't be due to his decision making at key points.

  • Comment number 82.

    #70, Philip,

    Im not sure what your point is, I know he is/was the attack coach. I didnt say that the problems were nothing to do with Gregor Townsend, it was just I think will happen. I was making thepoint that there didnt seem to be a plan of how we were going to score without just throwing the ball from side to side.

  • Comment number 83.

    Someone at the SRU must be having a laugh!!!!!! Please please please someone tell me this is an early April Fools joke!!!!! What next from the SRU is Coco the clown going to be PR manager!!!!!

  • Comment number 84.

    The best way to grow the game in a region is to have a well funded professional team which is supported by the local clubs feeding it and takes overall responsibility for growing the game at every level, including grass roots.

    Ireland and Wales both have 4 professional teams. The IRFU has always been a federation of 4 separate unions, so this type of set up was relatively easy for them to implement.

    In Wales the average fan would still rather watch Llanelli versus Pontypridd, but they've got behind centrally funded regions for the sake of the national game, and the regions are owned by the clubs that feed them with players.

    By contrast in Scotland there are only 2 professional teams which leaves whole areas untapped (populous areas such as Aberdeen, as well as the game's heartland in the Borders), and the clubs and professional teams have been at war.

    The SRU does not now have the money to set up new professional teams in the hope they might grow, so we're now reaping the seeds we sewed in the early days of professionalism when the clubs and the SRU fought tooth and nail over the structure of a professional game.

    Wales and Ireland would not be able to maintain their strength and grow the games with only 2 professional teams and half their countries uncovered, and that's the position we're in.

    We have no prospect of new professional teams either, unless the SRU finds a business partner it can work with and who, realistically, is going to be in it for the love, not the money.

    This is the reality, so we may as well get used to where we are. I think there is, finally, after years of short sightedness and mutual self interest, a recognition of how we get out of this situation, but, especially with no money, it won't happen quickly.

  • Comment number 85.

    As an Ireland fan through the 80's and 90's, I watched Scotland beat comfortably Ireland continuously for 10 years and pick up a couple of slams. Obviously there was the talent and skill there.
    For me, Scotland have stumbled dreadfully in the professional era. When Murrayfield redeveloped and suddenly doubled their prices (and stopped alcohol consumption), the sight of unfilled games suddenly became a reality in the 5/6 nations (and atmosphere took a kicking too). The hotbed of borders rugby was devalued and betrayed, with the new team set up (would Munster be the team they are now if they were called Cork/Limerick?).
    Many Frugal years later, people are starting to identify with the Glasgow and Edinburgh teams with crowds rising and sucess increasing and they look like having at least 1 or 2 lions starter from the National squad. Things are looking up, but anyone involved with SRU over the last 15 years should be strung up - they really couldn't have done any worse if they'd tried.

  • Comment number 86.

    Sorry John, but I just have to strongly disagree about the coaching not being the problem.

    It is and has been a HUGE ISSUE and we seem to be buring our heads in the sand pretending, and I am disappointed that you seem to be covering for the SRU and Andy Robinson (even after a previous blog saying he made loads of tactical and selection mistakes)

    We have some great young players, but Andy Robinson does not want to play them. Jones, Hogg, only were picked when AR was FORCED

    What the devil was Jackson doing near that side. Just back from injury and showing NO form yet - but hey - one of AR favourites, so in he goes and he is terrible - not his fault - Andy Robinson again

    60 mins mark - lest do pre-arranged subs - why? They have NEVER worked - yet we take off the players who are in form - Rennie off - Really - oh that is because AR other favourite Barcley can not be taken off

    Andy Robinson can not even be watching the game, as it is always pre-arragne subsitutes that have between 60 - 63 mins mark -

    Why is Barclay playing 6? He never has before. he is a good 7 but out of form - why not bring one of the inform young 6 in - why, becasue not an AR favouite

    Murray - sorry not in form and should be no-where near that team - but of course will be and will be running backwards in the scrum - does nothign in the loose

    Townsend - how on earth can being a COMPLETE failure in the Scotland job as attack coach give you the CV to become HEAD coach of Glasgow - INSANITY - of course he has been chosen to take over as head coach of Scotland, so the SRU are protecting him for his own lack of experience

    I am sorry, but this 6 nations has left me so angry -not with the losses, but AR inability to chose the right team, the wrong tactics, bizare subsitutions and picking out of form favouites - but most of all - becasue he is too scared to pick youth and on form and relying on his old guard favorites - this is not building for the future

    The previous French coach was thought of as slightly mad for his team selection - Well I think he is sainer that Robinson in his

  • Comment number 87.

    By all accounts AR is a good coach but his team selection , use of substitutes and general preperation seem to be lacking.
    I believe that for players to be at their best they need to play as much as possible and at as high a level as possible.
    Going back to the world cup most of our players had about 160 minutes or less test and pro rugby in the previous 4/5 months. How can you be at your best when you have hardly played ?
    Picking Kellock as captain when he was our 4th best 2nd row (behind Gray , Hamilton and Hines) was not a wise move.
    The selection of Parks as the starting 10 Vs Eng. when he was not playing well for cardiff and bringing in Jackson when he is not playing well for glasgow show poor judgment.
    Continually changing almost half the team for the final quarter is not working and that is where we are loosing games.
    I think we need to give Weir a run a 10 and Scott a run in the centre . I would also like to see Beattie in at No 8 with Denton and Rennie on the flanks.Welsh needs to come in at loose head.
    For the summer tour we will have Visser on the wing and it would be a good time to have a look at Bennet .
    Townsend seems to be everyones whipping boy but unless you know how much input he has how can you judge him ? who picks the backs AR or GT , a lot of our problems start with poor selection.
    We scored two good tries Vs Fra so if GT was a bad coach when we didn't score tries does that make him a good one when we do?
    We need another pro team as our players do not get enough high quality rugby with a lot of the young guys only playing when the international guys are away with Scotland and bringing in more foreign players only makes this worse.
    Also having your two top full backs (Hogg and Lamont) and 10s (weir and Jackson) at the one club is not ideal.

  • Comment number 88.

    Scottish rugby has not made the transition to the professional era. In amateur days the players were drawn from the public schools in the borders. Those guys were going on to be doctors and lawyers - they didn't want a professional rugby career. So John is right. It has to start in the schools. you need to build a pool of talent from which to pick your international side. This base needs to be as broad as possible - throughout Scotland and in all communities. Good luck in the transition. northern Hemisphere rugby needs a strong Scotland side.

  • Comment number 89.

    You know what last week I was actually wanting to post about this because there was a lot of movement invovling Scottish players and I had thought that we were finally getting the idea of how to operate with only 2 pro clubs.

    Glasgow and Edinburgh are finally starting to generate a large crowd base that go to watch the teams, the guys that rise to the top are going abroad and taking places in other teams Vernon and soon to be Grey at Sale, Brown at Saracens, even look at the likes of Walker going to Worcester. Hard to see players leave but at the same time they are selecting and attracting young scottish qualified players to fill the gaps (Tonks, Newcastle 2nd row and even the prop from the Cheetahs is scots qualified I beleive) trying to blood them and aid their development. Some might not work out but just looking a the likes of Grey, Denton, Rennie, Hogg all coming through shows we are finally getting there. This way we can maintain a wider base for the national team until such a time (if ever) that we can financially support another pro team or get Union played in more areas around the country.

  • Comment number 90.

    I nicked this from the Forum of Scottish Rugby Supporters - stats from 1975 onwards - and it makes pretty grim reading

    2 Grand Slams - '84 & '90

    3 wins - 4 times - '86, '95, '96 &'99 (current 5N champs )

    2 wins - 8 times - '75, '76, '81, '82, '87, '89, '91, '92, '93

    1 win - 6 times - '77, '80, '83, '88, '97, '98.

    0 wins - 4 times - '78, '79, '85, '94

    6 Nations;

    3 wins - 1 time '06 - Fra, Eng, Italy

    2 wins - 3 times - '01, '02, '03 Ire, Wales, Wales + Italy each time

    1 win - 7 times - '00 Eng, '05 It, '07 Wa, '08 Eng, '09 It, '10 Ire, '11 It

    0 wins 1 time - '04

  • Comment number 91.

    John, the players and coaches have Q to answer - they don't seem to be able to adjust once plan A fails - thats poor prep!!

    Also we need to look ahead. AR doesn't seem to have an eye on 4 years time. We have not settled on half backs (laidlaw is our best scrum half not stand off - Weir is the man in form not Jackson). In the centres we need to settle on a partnership to take us to 2015 ie Matt Scott and Alex Grove, theres also Bennett from Perpignan when fit. Back three well Hogg is the future as well as Visser once eligible and maybe Ansbro/evans. Up front for 3 years our scrum has been awful and as you say Welsh must be given a chance. Kellock unbalances the scrum when he comes on so time to give one of the Edinburgh locks a chance or McKenzie at Sale when fit. The back row has been as good as any in the championship with exception to the ireland game , will only be bolstered once Kelly Brown returns.

  • Comment number 92.

    I would have to wholeheartedly disagree with most people on here that grass roots is the problem. I have seen many a promising player begin to emerge before fading away due to the endemic problem in Scottish rugby - money. When push comes to shove, if you are paid to train/play rugby under a contract you will do so. Otherwise when work/family/education commitments emerge it is your hobby (rugby) that gets put on the back burner.

    Take a look at the English, Welsh and Irish setups and you will see a professional culture more akin to football with lower division teams able to provide fully professional teams. Whereas Scottish rugby is technically amateur below Glasgow and Edinburgh.

    What we need is a complete re-vamp of the Scottish amateur game.

    1. The draft should be scrapped. It is in no way beneficial to clubs to have one pro player turn up to training on a Thursday night and be guaranteed their place. Continuity goes out the window. Edinburgh and Glasgow should have fully professional 'Reserve' teams that play week in week out in Premier 1. This way the young guys are playing consistently (against older/harder gents) and using the patterns of the senior side in real game situations.

    2. Out with the old school amateur mentality at the top. I would say each amateur club is given a deadline to buy in to a new, fully professional 10 -12 team Premier 1. Part funded by the SRU with standardised contracts to players. To get this competition off the ground I would say no promotion/relegation for 3 years. This would hopefully create a 'sub' top flight group of 10 teams including Edinburgh and Glasgow reserves all full-time training and playing. If we took the opportunity to only have registered IRB coaches as well, this would further develop our coaching knowledge base.

    This would allow the SRU to make what I believe is the most crucial transition - promising young player with talent (yet physically immature so not much game time after 18) to well conditioned athlete able to make the step up if required.

  • Comment number 93.

    I enjoy reading John Beattie's articles regardless of the topic. His recent ruminations on the state of Scottish Rugby bring to mind some comments made by one of my favorite players, Finlay Calder. In 2009, Calder commented on, amongst other things, his desire to raise the standards of players and supporters alike in Scotland. While I proudly admit to being Irish, there is little satisfaction in seeing the continued downward spiral of rugby in Scotland. The best player IMO on Saturday was Ritchie Gray, by a mile. He would walk on to any team in the world right now.
    Surely the Scottish RFU has to realise by now that they must overhaul the entire system and copy the example of their Welsh & Irish counterparts to provide a consistent stream of young players and qualified coaches.
    To #19 (Alisdair McDonald) I would say that you should take a number of viewings of the Jones/Trimble collision - it seems to me that neither player was exactly sure of their balance at the moment before contact. Trimble does not have his arms out to wrap his opponent in a tackle and most certainly, was not attempting to 'clothesline' his opponent. The point of impact would tend to suggest that both players had misjudged the situation. The referee was right there as the incident happened and immediately stopped the match. No caution or warning was given to Trimble - doubtful that he will be cited. While you ponder the calumnies of the Irish team, take another look at the Reddan try. I believe that the BBC match day crew pointed out that Sean Lamont clearly attempted to 'floor' Reddan with a forearm blow aimed directly at the scrumhalf's head - they even obligingly ran slomo video of the incident. Now, if your 'standard' of foul play is to be set at the acts of David Trimble Level, what are the consequences for Mr. Lamont?

  • Comment number 94.

    I agree with melcol81 in that the pro teams should have A sides and would go one step further and say that they should have their own youth setups as well.

    However, the A sides should be playing against other pro team A sides and the age-grade teams against other pro teams' age-grade teams.

    The issue that we have with the clubs is that they are run by committees and you cannot run a commercial operation by committee. For the clubs to buy in to a professional setup they themselves need to become professional and be run by a professional management team. It is not difficult to form a company and transfer the ownership of the club to the company, many sports clubs have done that in the past and many are in the process of doing it. However, until that is done the SRU will continue to be run by the old bufties.

  • Comment number 95.

    fawltyoldboy @#93 I wouldn't get too wound up by comments relating to the referee's performance. You must remember that when you lose so often you tend to pick up on everything that you think is unfair and cost you the game.

    However, when a player gets laid out cold in the manner that Lee Jones was then in my book it is a dangerous tackle, no intent required. When we have seen our players being red carded for far less in recent times (one in particular being laid out by the foot of Lee Byrne and then being shown a YC as he was carried off) we do tend to get a bit het up about it.

  • Comment number 96.

    #44 Ian McGeechan
    Never should this guy be allowed near Scottish rugby again. He did nothing to help develop the game in Scotland the last time he was in charge.

  • Comment number 97.

    Does anyone else think that The introduction of summer rugby would also help get young kids get in to the sport. 1 it is much more appealing to go out training on a warm summers evening. 2 rugby would not have to compete with football which like it or not has a bigger following, maybe more kids would take it up if there was no football in the tv to watch!

  • Comment number 98.

    I don't know a lot about what it would take to clearly improve our game from the grass roots up. Serious money, brains and vision would seem like a good place to start. Plus having the commitment and patience to see the whole project eventually turn a decent profit and bear fruit.

    It seems to me like AR has better resources than any of his predecessors. Yet perhaps our competitiors have largely negated that by improving their own standards more across the board in the same era.

    We are dreadful at finding a myriad of different ways to shoot ourselves in the foot. And I do feel that there is somehow an unfathomable underlying mental fragility in the Scottish psyche. Sure the likes of David Sole, Finlay Calder and Big Gav don't come along very often, but they were so mentally tough and uncompromising. Unfortunately I don't see a single player in the current Scottish squad who has been hewn from similar blocks of granite. Jason White's been the closest in recent times.

    If anything, I think the current squad has been overcoached and chopped and changed too much. Three years in to his tenure AR should be hitting his full stride around about now, yet we find ourselves at our lowest ebb. The entire equation doesn't stack up from any angle.

    I want to see AR have one more decent crack at it with his own choice of backroom staff, but he should have been ruthless in having his own preferred backroom staff around him from the beginning. That, coupled with this Lineen - Townsend debacle, has really undermined my confidence in the upper echelons of the SRU. I don't think they could find their own bottoms with a map and a compass.

  • Comment number 99.

    manson44 @ #97. Yes, I do. It has worked for Shinty and even the SFA are looking at it seriously. It is a bit less cold and the days are longer - train in daylight for once.

  • Comment number 100.

    Moving the season from late spring would have it's benefits, but I still think it's the whole mindset towards the game of rugby union that is the problem.
    The vast majority of people see rugby as a elitist sport played by the fee paying schools and until such times that the SRU look to change this and actually get out into the communities and primary schools pushing the word then nothing will change.
    The game has to be grown from the ground up... yes this can be helped by the Test side winning and selling a success story. English football get more coverage in Scotland than Scottish rugby does.


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