World Cup expectations among players won’t change, says Chris Paterson
CHRIS Paterson has welcomed the SRU’s ambitious new targets of winning Grand Slams and World Cups inside the next four years, but insisted that the strategy’s headline-grabbing aims will mean little to Scotland’s players.
Paterson has come off the back of a uniquely memorable month, returning from his first coaching adventure working with All Blacks in New Zealand to carry the Olympic torch through his hometown of Galashiels and pick up an MBE. But yesterday he was back on familiar territory at Murrayfield, starting in his new role as an SRU/RBS rugby ambassador by helping to launch the ‘RugbyForce’ programme calling on supporters across the country to help their local clubs next month.
Having played in 109 Test matches in a 13-year professional and international career, there are few better placed than the Borderer, however, to judge Scottish rugby and what represents achievable targets. Asked whether a Grand Slam or World Cup triumph, among the aims in the SRU’s latest strategic plan, would be viewed as realistic by players, he said that they would be met largely with indifference.
“The expectations won’t change,” he said. “They are difficult and ambitious targets, but when you look at the top of a ladder you still have to hit all the rungs to get there.
“They are certainly ambitious, but there’s nothing wrong with ambitious targets. As a player you set yourself ambitious targets, but at the same time you always work incrementally. There’s no point thinking about a game or target five years from now when you have a pre-season session in an hour.
“You tick things off as you go, do A before B, and if A’s done well then you’ll get to B and so on. If you don’t do A well, you’ll struggle to make any targets. If we get the wee bits done and do it incrementally then let’s hope those targets are achievable.
“If you look at results over the past ten years,” he added. “We’ve beaten England a few times, France, Australia and South Africa, though obviously not the All Blacks, and we’re always capable of winning big games against good opposition. Doing it consistently is the challenge, but in a World Cup everybody can beat each other and if you can get on a run, who knows?
“But talking about winning a World Cup when the last one’s just over? There’s a lot of rugby to be played before then.”
Paterson has a good sense of realism. Highlighting that, he praised the achievements of the squad on tour in Australasia, where Scotland ended a seven-game losing sequence with an historic first win in Australia for 30 years and followed up with first Test victories in Fiji and Samoa, but suggested that they would need to play better to continue the winning run.
He said: “International rugby is judged on fine margins and getting three wins was fantastic in terms of the attitude, commitment and desire they showed. I have spoken to them and I know Andy [Robinson] wants them to perform better than they did. But at the Six Nations, the first three games there could have been wins … fine margins.
“They’ll realise that the autumn series [against New Zealand, South Africa and Tonga] is a tough, tough challenge, but it’s better going in with three wins than on the back of the disappointing Six Nations.”
Paterson’s own focus has turned to coaching, where he has begun to put his experience from working with leading figures in New Zealand and his own ideas into practice in recent weeks, working with the Glasgow and Edinburgh squads, predominantly as a goal-kicking coach but also providing input into the skills work of full-backs and wingers at both clubs, which is an area he is keen to develop throughout the season as both sides look to improve their threat in attack.
He does not expect to have an involvement with the national squad this season as Duncan Hodge continues as kicking coach, and yesterday was more animated in discussing the influence his club Gala had on his early development, and the importance clubs retain in developing players and strengthening the sport across the country.
The ‘RugbyForce’ initiative was launched by RBS around the Six Nations and initially focused on encouraging people to take up tools and help smarten up their local club facilities. 138 have signed up for this year’s RugbyForce weekend on 11/12 August.Paterson has been set a challenge of trying to get around as many of those 138 clubs as he possibly can in the weekend.
“Having been involved in RugbyForce two years ago – I missed it last year because of the birth of my daughter! – I’ve seen the difference that it can have not only at clubs across the country but with the communities around those clubs.
“We have talked about Scotland on the international stage, but it all comes from the grassroots and from clubs.”
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