Scotland forwards coach Dean Ryan played party-pooper on the eve of Scotland’s Six Nations match against Ireland at Murrayfield, as he poured cold water yesterday on the celebrations that followed the unexpectedly easy 34-10 win over Italy two weeks ago.
“I am astounded at the rollercoaster that Scotland goes on,” said the former Gloucester coach with genuine surprise in his voice.
“We won one game against Italy and suddenly we are at the dawning of a new era and everything else. You guys [the media] have got a responsibility in that. I’ve never been on a rollercoaster like it.
“Two games ago we got bumped by England. Three games ago we lost to Tonga. That’s were this squad is. I’m not trying to pretend anything else. We’ve got a tough game [today] against Ireland, who are masters of the breakdown and masters of the tackle contest. We’re not good at it, so I just see it as a real challenge.
“We haven’t ditched the whole past because of one win against Italy. This side is very young in understanding
how to win Test matches. It’s one win. If we get two, then we might start to see some characteristics and certain things following a theme. One isn’t enough.”
There may be a degree of expectation management in all of this but, essentially, Ryan is right.
It is a measure of how far Scotland have fallen that a four-try rout of the championship’s perennial underdogs should have sparked such an outpouring of joy, coming as it did just one week after yet another heavy defeat in West London.
Scotland improved against Italy, but they will need to make another step up against Ireland this afternoon and Ryan spelled out the four areas that the squad are focusing on.
He said: “It’s not complicated, it’s quite easy. It’s defence, set piece, tackle area and tackle contest, that’s it. That’s probably most of the game!
“We’re not trying to pretend that we’ve uncovered something that no one else is thinking. All we are talking about is that there are two or three areas, particularly around the tackle area and collision, that we haven’t been very good at.
“We haven’t gone away and worked specifically on secret remedies around there and doing things differently. We’ve just made it a priority and we’ve talked about how, until we’re good at those areas, we’re not going to go off and develop other things because, in the past, the
Scotland rugby team has tried to rush out those other things they are good at and avoid those areas.
“We can’t win consistent Test matches until we get better at those areas so why not prioritise that?”
The new Scotland management team at least have consistency on their side. They have underlined the importance of the breakdown in every press conference, so we can be darned sure they are doing exactly the same in every Scotland squad meeting.
If the home players don’t handle the Irish challenge in the biff and bash department this afternoon, it won’t be for the want of warning.
The coaches are not asking for
anything radical, they are simply asking the players to do the simple things extremely well. Is that some sort of motto for this squad?
“Winning Test matches is doing the simple things really well, that’s not a secret,” Ryan shoots back. “There’s not a team around that doesn’t do that. Look at New Zealand, if you analyse what they do, they do specific things very well. That’s not a motto or mantra, that’s just commonsense.”
The problem with commonsense, as Ryan is hinting, is that it simply isn’t common enough when it comes to Scottish rugby.