Scotland coach Andy Robinson: 'We have got to be able to
attack the space, we have got to be accurate.' Photo Getty
Graham Henry earned a considerable consultancy fee this
year for stating the bleeding obvious: if Argentina were to
challenge in the Rugby Championship, they would need to score
This hardly felt like rocket science or an observation beyond
the realms of any casual armchair observer, yet it wouldn't
be bad business on the part of the Scottish Rugby Union if
they were to fly Henry over and repeat his sage advice.
Over the last few years the Scots have made the Pumas look
like the great entertainers of world rugby. Nobody does dour
better than Scotland and it seems a long, long time since
Andy Irvine was setting the world alight with his
swashbuckling running from fullback.
Creativity has been the missing piece, or the biggest missing
piece of the Scottish offering in the last decade. They
haven't had a touch of genius since Gregor Townsend was in
his prime in the mid-90s and it's no coincidence they haven't
had much success since those days.
Rugby needs beauty as much as it needs the beast and however
apparent it might be that Scotland need to do more with the
ball, that point just isn't getting through.
The picture is a little clouded by the fact Scotland have
enjoyed a handful of famous victories in the last few years
against highly ranked opponents. Since 2009, they have beaten
Australia twice and South Africa - yet secured all three
victories without scoring a try.
Despite what the rugby fascists of the Southern Hemisphere
believe, it's not that victories without tries are somehow
less noble or valid - it's simply an inescapable truth that
it is harder, almost impossible even, to consistently win
with penalties and dropped goals as your only methods of
It's this point that has been troubling the Scots all week.
They face the world's most deadly side, a team who can score
tries for fun, which throws into doubt the prospect of
Scotland being able to win with the attrition performances
that were successful against the Wallabies and Springboks, as
well as England and France on some occasions in the recent
When coach Andy Robinson was asked whether Scotland could
beat the All Blacks with a grim, grinding effort, he replied:
"I think you have to look at the way you play the game and
you have to play it in different ways. The way the attrition
[previous games] occurred, it was in the last 15 minutes. At
the start of those games - and I was involved in one of those
when coaching England - Scotland moved the ball. We have got
to be able to attack the space, we have got to be accurate.
"We have got to have a balance in how we play the game."
The conundrum for Scotland is they learned when they last
played the All Blacks in 2010 that moving the ball comes with
risks. The Scots were blown away in the first 20 minutes
after conceding four tries that all came from mistakes they
Robinson is adamant it can't be a case of once bitten twice
shy. He doesn't want his side to clam up. The challenge he
has set them is to retain a level of ambition with the ball
and yet not be frivolous with possession.
"We have got to be able to absorb the errors we make,"
Robinson said. "New Zealand are the best side in the world
that when errors are made, they are able to score and to
strike but we have to absorb those mistakes."
- By Gregor Paul of the Herald on Sunday in Edinburgh