Scots prevail but old frustrations remain

By Shane de Barra                                    

At the end of his first game as head coach, Andy Robinson’s head must have been filled with mixed emotions. His primary aim of acheiving victory had been accompolished; victory over a team that was  until last weekend, ranked above Scotland in IRB rankings, is on paper a day well spent at the office.

But if he looks at the weekend’s 23-10 win over Fiji from a wider perspective, the former England coach will realise that this did very little to inspire the rugby loving public into believing that Scotland may once again be a force to be reckoned with in world rugby.

“That was a very good performance. We’ve beaten quality opposition and we’ve beaten them comfortably”, Robinson stated proudly at the post-match press conference.

But while the head coach will always look to defend his troops in light of harsh criticism, and dear God Scottish rugby has had its fair share of that in recent years, surely Robinson is pushing the boundaries of all that is charitable by describing his team’s performance as “very good”.

The Fiji team that took to the pitch last Saturday were indivdually an ok-match for the Scots on their first run-out of the international season, but as a collective unit their set-up was farcical. Stripped of their best players by English and French clubs who refused to release them for the November series, that Fiji managed to produce a someway competitive team at all is highly commendable.

Here is where we get to the crux of the arguement. Scotland, while not blessed with same resources as other European top-tier nations such as England, France, Wales and Ireland, in comparison with Fiji are, for want of a better expression, “rolling in it”. Training days in St Andrews and international camps are but dreams to the islanders.

In the immediate aftermath of the weekend’s game the buzz (short in supply it may have been) was about the strenght of the Scottish pack and how they managed to destroy the “big men” of the Pacific.

There was some substance to this; the pack wasn’t on the back foot once and the lineout was almost  faultless for the majority of the afternoon. Scotland had been in camp for weeks in the run-up to this game however. How long do you reckon the Fijians had? Well add all of the days Andy Robinson had with his men and divide by the square root of nothing and you still aren’t close.

They say a week is a long time in sport; this may be the case if you are the well prepared, teak-toned unit Scotland aspire to be, but not so on the Fijian front.

There remains hope though that this was a simply a rusty performance against a team that was never really good enough to beat Scotland at home anyhow. Fair comment but if we can only labour our way to victory against the minnows, how is victory over the current pace-setters of the world game ever a going to be a realistic achievement? It seems to be a basic case of believing we can run before we can walk.

The visit of Australia this weekend will be a real test of this currnet side’s mettle. They may have destroyed the Fijians but how they will deal with a side that has for the past number of months, been mixing it up with the Springboks, All Blacks and most recently, the current Grand-Slam champions, Ireland, is another matter. You fear for them really. 

Rugby is a funny old sport though where anything is possible and to be fair to the man from down south he delivered victory from a game that was certainly there for the loosing. But instead of a new dawn, the rain clouds of a time we hoped had passed lingered a little too close for comfort. A good attempt at stealing some Aussie sunshine would go a fair way towards banishing them.