February 11, 2013
Scotland playing without fear
Scotland have been a revelation over the last two Saturdays, considering where they were before Christmas. They have played with flair and vigour like we haven't seen from a Scotland team in a long while. Though they never looked like beating England at Twickenham, they were dynamic and powerful enough to keep England honest.
Then, just when it seemed that Italy would sink Scotland on the back of beating France, back came the Scots to put the Azzurri firmly in their place. At times playing with imagination and pace to make the mouth water, it was hard to recall how bereft of ideas and confidence they were when defeat to Tonga in November spelled the end for Andy Robinson as head coach. By then, Scotland had lurched to 10 losses in their last 13 games, the wins coming over Australia, Fiji and Samoa on the 2012 summer tour.
Looking back six years or so, England had a calamitous 2006, losing eight out of nine matches after beating Wales and Italy in February of that year. During that time England became awful to watch. They lacked ideas, they played to increasingly dreary, ineffective formulae and were booed by the Twickenham crowd after the final humiliation at the hands of a below strength Springbok team.
World Champions at the time, England had finished fourth in successive Six Nations Championships and slipped to seventh in the IRB rankings. Their prospects for the 2007 World Cup looked bleak, the management structure gave cause for much rancour and debate. In hindsight it is astonishing how far England had regressed within three years of lifting the Webb Ellis Cup in Sydney.
Then head coach Andy Robinson was sacked and England won their next four games at Twickenham. They continued to lose away from home as Brian Ashton presided over a sticking plaster job to get through the 2007 World Cup. Reaching the final, despite several hiccups along the way, demonstrated what the England players were capable of, even in trying circumstances.
And so it it with Scotland today. There have been a few personnel changes, but essentially Kelly Brown is leading the same team as in 2012. The difference is they are playing with free spirit, without fear of failure, with a smile on their faces. It's too early to say how far Scotland can go, but under the maverick Aussie Scott Johnson, they are showing signs of post-Robinson recovery much as England did six years ago.
Maybe it's just coincidence.
Posted Nick Johnson on 02/11/2013
AR has been given two chances to prove that he is an international level coach. He isn't and worse, he carries the smell of defeat with him. He should either go back to club rugby or stay as a position coach before he causes himself and any other long suffering fans further heartache.
Posted Bannie Burn on 02/11/2013
One good match doesn't mean they've turned the corner. They beat Italy who are notoriously poor away from home and lost to England, a margin which ought to have been much greater had the English not been so determined to play an open game. Scotland remain a very poor side.