THE first shots in New Zealand’s perennial criticism of Scottish rugby have been fired in the Kiwi media, with a prominent rugby journalist questioning why the All Blacks still play in Scotland.
Under the headline: “Scotland are so bad that even the rugby spin machine may have trouble whirring into action”, Chris Rattue of the New Zealand Herald wrote a familiar column yesterday in terming Scotland the cavemen of world rugby, because “they have few skills”.
He used some valid facts and figures to illustrate Scotland’s poor recent record against the All Blacks, and makes a welcome call for the IRB and NZRFU to arrange more fixtures for the All Blacks with Pacific Island nations. New Zealand have a shameful record of touring their neighbouring islands, despite capping many players from Fiji, Samoa and Tonga.
The NZRFU will go home with several million extra dollars in their back pocket, however, as a result of the UK tour, particularly from the extra Test against England, something which would not happen were they to play Tier Two sides. But in typically cynical fashion, Rattue also questions why Scotland are still granted access to an All Blacks Test match. “Just because Richie McCaw has obvious Scottish heritage, do we really need to keep playing them?” he asked. “The All Blacks versus Scotland is haggis dressed up as ham. The rugby community will gather forces and pretend there is something historically beautiful about the match-up, although Scotland are so bad that even the rugby spin machine might have trouble whirring into action.
“Indeed, the All Blacks departed for yet another (yawn) European crusade with the sort of fanfare reserved for the Olympic taekwondo team, which shows that even the diehards have had enough of these annual returns. Scotland’s record against the All Blacks is a joke, which isn’t their fault, because it is a small, soccer-leaning country of often foul winter weather. But it is still a joke. In the last 20 years, they have played the All Blacks 12 times and lost by an average score of 14-44, which is even worse when you consider seven of those games were at home and one on neutral turf.
“The most recent five matches have all been in Edinburgh, the All Blacks triumphing by an average of 31-5. Scotland have scored just one try in that run, an irrelevant last-gasp score in 2005 against a second string All Black team that included such notables as Sione Lauaki, Angus Macdonald, James Ryan and Saimone Taumoepeau in the pack. Perhaps the most damning statistic involving Scotland is that the All Blacks have played them a whopping 12 times in the past two decades, which tells you who runs world rugby.”
That was a poke at the IRB’s make-up, with New Zealand commentators believing there should be dominant representation on the world governing body of the southern hemisphere nations to reflect world standings. But this is hardly new material for the writer, merely a change of nation in what has become a customary, occasionally humorous, rant. The last time New Zealand visited Wales, Rattue wrote, under the headline “Sorry, but Wales are rubbish”: “If rugby between New Zealand and Wales was a boxing contest, they would have stopped it many rounds ago and revoked the Welsh licence. Let’s face it. Wales are rubbish. They are the village idiots of rugby union. They have fans who live for the game, administrators who’ve killed it and players who lie down for the cause.”
On Scotland, Rattue also wrote: “It’s hard to remember the last time Scotland did anything interesting on a rugby field. They play a turgid, ineffective game that belongs in a cave because their players have few skills.”
His condescending tone aside, Rattue surprises no-one by suggesting that even an All Blacks side missing key players will prove more than a handful for injury-ravaged Scotland. Not all Kiwis are as swollen-headed and arrogant and some of Rattue’s criticisms are accurate, but if Scottish players wondered how they were really perceived in the Land of the Long White Cloud they have an idea now, and perhaps some fresh motivation to prove themselves again on the Test stage.