SCOTLAND and Glasgow Warriors winger Sean Lamont has insisted that the national team is not far away from making a significant improvement in performances.
Speaking at Murrayfield yesterday, the 71-cap back said he believes that the players have to take primary responsibility for the displays which cost head coach Andy Robinson his job last month, and that many members of the squad still feel guilty over the coach’s departure.
Robinson resigned the day after the defeat by Tonga at Pittodrie, which followed other Autumn Test losses to New Zealand and South Africa.
“What happened against Tonga was never really anything that a coach can do: it was not game plan,” Lamont said. “It was just the players on the field at the time.
“If we could put a finger on what it was, it would be a damn sight easier. It was just one of those things: it didn’t click. We got over the try line three or four times, but without putting the ball on the ground it doesn’t count.
“They got their tails up and got the win in the end. It cost Andy his job. He was the one who said it was a coach-killing performance. A lot of the players were sad to see him go.
“There’s definitely a lot [of guilt]. Kelly Brown took it hard, I was gutted to see him go, I think a lot of the other management was as well.
“Andy is a nice guy and I think he is a good coach. Unfortunately things didn’t go anywhere near to plan, especially for the Tonga game. There’s definitely player responsibility on that sort of thing.”
In recent seasons Lamont has been outspoken in criticising both some of his own performances and those of the team as a whole. However, he insisted that despite the whitewash last month, Scotland are showing signs of progress, but need to discover some consistency if they are to make it count.
“There’s no one thing that went wrong in the Tonga game – there were lots of little things that cost us the game. We are going forward. We are scoring tries – we scored three against New Zealand, which I think is the first time in however long. We were not so far [behind] against South Africa, and obviously in the summer we beat Australia.
“So we have those moments where we can match anybody, but we’ve got to cut out the classic Scottish rollercoaster of some games we’re good and others we’re terrible. I’d love it if there’s a little consistency.
“It’s a damn sight easier as a rugby player if you’re winning every week. The boys put a lot of passion into the games, and if you don’t have a good game and don’t win. It’s soul-destroying, it is tough.
“People say there’s no heart and no hope, but there is. I hate not winning, especially for my country. ‘I hate the feeling of losing more than I love the feeling of winning’ is a great quote, and it’s true. I hate losing. It’s disgusting. You throw your body into these guys and you come off in bits. It makes it almost acceptable when you win, but to do that when you lose is crippling, mentally and physically. And it’s not fun. Winning is a damn sight more fun.”
Lamont added that the players would be behind whoever was appointed as Robinson’s coach, whether as a caretaker for the Six Nations or as a full-time appointment.
“There’s the same determination we have every year,” he said. “We don’t go into the Six Nations just wanting to take part. We want to go in and win it, ideally. That’s certainly my goal – to win a Six Nations in my career – and I’m sure all the other players are the same.”
Edinburgh wing Tim Visser agreed that Robinson had carried the can for the shortcomings of his players. “I owe him a lot,” said Dutch-born Visser, who was first picked by Robinson after becoming eligible on residence grounds. “I feel sad to see him go, and he’s pretty much the scapegoat for the results we produced.”
Visser said he would welcome Scott Johnson, Robinson’s assistant, as his replacement. “I think Scott’s a great coach and he really brings something new to everyone’s game. He’s been in the position of head coach before.
“He’s been brilliant ever since he came in. He wouldn’t be a bad appointment, but it’s not for me to comment on who should be head coach.”
The players were speaking at the launch of Caledonia Best’s three-year partnership as Official Beer of Scottish Rugby. The sponsorship agreement gives Tennent Caledonian pouring rights at Murrayfield and Scotstoun, and covers Edinburgh, Glasgow and the Emirates Airline Glasgow 7s as well as the national team.