SRU chief executive Mark Dodson has reiterated his confidence in head coach Andy Robinson as the man to turn around Scotland’s poor run of results but stopped short of repeating an earlier comment that Robinson’s job was guaranteed until 2015.
In The Scotsman in December, Dodson insisted he would at least give Robinson until the end of his current contract, in 2015, to improve the national squad.
But, after Scotland’s recent RBS Six Nations whitewash, Dodson admitted that there would be another review of the coach’s performance at the end of this year.
Robinson has briefed the SRU management on how he plans to improve the national team situation and Dodson is confident that will happen, despite Scotland facing a tough series of Test matches against Australia, Fiji, Samoa, New Zealand, South Africa and Tonga. All bar Fiji are higher that Scotland in the world rankings.
“Andy knows after the RBS Six Nations that performances have to improve,” said Dodson, “but we have one of the top coaches in the world. He’s motivated and his new team is in place. Scott Johnson has been in the business this week talking around what we’re going to do for the Australasian tour and everyone’s excited and ready to go.
“The numbers don’t lie and you pick up the papers in the morning and they say 5-0 [Six Nations defeats to wins], but you know and I know that we’ve played some outstanding rugby in most of the games, so the ingredients are there. What we need to do is finish and execute more often, and close games out, and that’s where the focus will be.
“That [a lengthening run of defeats] is something nobody wants to contemplate but we will make a decision at the right time about what happens going forward. I don’t expect to be in a position where I’m making that decision in a negative sense. I’m confident that Andy and the team will do well when we’re out there [Australia]. They’ll take a squad out there who have had a very good season and are buoyant and fresh and I think they’ll deliver.
“I expect him to see that contract out, but I don’t think anybody can be there no matter what. There comes a point where you have to make a decision and that’s my job: to make a decision on what’s best for Scottish rugby.
“But, where we stand at the moment, Andy is our guy. He will take us through the summer tour and autumn Tests and we believe in the blend of coaches that we’ve now got, that the players will be stronger after the season they’ve had and we expect a successful series of Tests.”
Dodson waxed lyrical about the benefits to Robinson and the Scotland squad of an Edinburgh squad that had reached the Heineken Cup semi-finals, and a Glasgow one now heading for its second league play-off in two years. The obvious question, then, was whether he had made a mistake by replacing Sean Lineen with Gregor Townsend at the Warriors’ helm?
“I made that decision on what’s best for Scottish rugby in the longer term and I think Sean, in the role that he’s going to come into, will be crucial, and can play a much larger role for Scottish rugby that the one he’s leaving. He’s been successful there and they’ve had a great season, but my job is to look holistically at what we’re trying to achieve in Scotland and I don’t regret the changes I’ve made.
“But I’ve said since I came here that you won’t have a successful national side until you have successful and competitive pro sides. Andy’s excited by what’s happened at Edinburgh and Glasgow because what we’ve got here now are players at the top of the pro game and playing at the business end of the season, when it really does matter to win, and that gives you a harder edge. These players playing on the bigger stage more often can only help Andy.
“He’s a big boy and has been round the business for a long time and he also knows that, as Scotland improves its professional game, then there will be more expectation on the national team. But Andy’s lived in that pressure cooker for a long time. He’s a tough man and he wants to deliver and we will back him.”
Dodson also insisted that the arrival of more non-Scots-qualified players to the pro teams, with Edinburgh yesterday adding Mike Penn from Worcester while releasing Jim Thompson, was a serious effort to strengthen the squad for the periods when the internationalists were on Test duty, but that they would continue to fast-track young players like Stuart Hogg and Matt Scott into the pro and national sides.
The long-awaited SRU Strategic Report will also finally see the light of day at next month’s agm, he confirmed, with challenging new targets for all aspects of Scottish rugby.