TWO of Scottish rugby’s most successful figures reacted with deep concern to the news yesterday that Andy Robinson had quit as Scotland’s head coach.
Jim Telfer, who coached Scotland to the 1984 Grand Slam and the 1999 Five Nations title, and assisted Ian McGeechan to the 1990 Grand Slam, said he blamed players for Robinson’s decision to walk away and believes Scottish rugby will suffer a major loss.
The former Scotland captain, Gavin Hastings, echoed those sentiments, insisting that the players had put Scotland “in the s***” and that Scottish rugby had now lost all credibility.
Robinson decided to step down yesterday after trying to come to terms with a humiliating 21-15 defeat to Tonga. The South Sea Islanders were ranked 12th in the world, but in the fresh IRB world rankings due out today they are expected to be confirmed in 11th, with Italy taking the Scots’ tenth spot and Samoa and Argentina in positions eight and nine respectively. Scotland will be in a record low of 12th.
For Robinson it was one step too far and he agreed a deal yesterday morning with Mark Dodson, SRU chief executive, to walk away immediately.
Robinson stated: “It has been a privilege to be the head coach of Scotland and I’d like to thank the fans, players, coaches and staff for all their support over the years. I have thoroughly enjoyed working with the players and the coaches in the past few years.
“I believe I have left the team in a better position than when I took over and have great confidence in the players and the coaches for the future. I am very disappointed by our recent results, but I have belief in the players to develop into a winning team.”
That hid the burning frustrations and anger he revealed both to the players, whom he termed a “disgrace” in the dressing room after the game, and to the media, when he insisted that there would be “consequences”.
Hastings said: “It’s a very sad day for Scottish rugby and real low point. We have no credibility among the top table of world rugby anymore. These players have to take a long hard look at themselves. They have let a lot of people down and cost Andy his job, and, to be honest, I don’t know what difference a new coach could make.
“We’ve had a disastrous year in terms of results, losing every game in the Six Nations, beating a second-string Australia side, then Fiji and Samoa, and then losing every autumn Test – the Tonga match a real bad one.
“But, in my opinion, it wasn’t Andy Robinson’s fault and that’s what worries me most. How do you change it? We’re not talking about winning a couple of games, but the target set by the SRU this year was to win the next World Cup? They are having a laugh, aren’t they?
“The two most influential men in Scottish rugby – Robinson and Graham Lowe, the head of elite performance – are now gone. Who has the rugby knowledge in the SRU now to take the sport forward?
“I have experienced tough times as a player and it’s not easy in Scottish rugby, but we are in the s*** right now and the only ones who can get us out of it are the people who put us there: the players.”
Telfer agreed with his former captain, stating: “I am disappointed that he [Robinson] has gone because I thought that he was good for Scotland. He is a good coach and he said the right things, but what has probably been his undoing has been his talking-up of the players.
“He has suggested they are very good players, but secretly he probably knew that there were not many really good players in the Scotland team.
“He will be very difficult to replace as an experienced and passionate rugby thinker within Murrayfield.”