Rugby: Scotland need to loosen the shackles

Scotland coach Andy Robinson: 'We have got to be able to attack the space, we have got to be accurate.' Photo Getty
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 more tries.

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 scoring.

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 past.

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 made.

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