Andy Robinson pulls no punches as team is taught humiliating lesson

THE characteristically blunt honesty with which Andy Robinson analysed his team's defeat on Saturday was perhaps the only heartening aspect of a deeply dispiriting day.

There have been Scotland head coaches of the recent past who would offer lame excuses in the face of a serious loss, but Robinson is made of sterner stuff, and dissected the 49-3 defeat by New Zealand unsparingly.

Such candid assessment is no guarantee of improvement, but it is at least a tentative first step. Robinson made it plain he would invite the squad to share in his forthright self-criticism, and it is reasonable to expect that the result will be a more competitive showing against South Africa this weekend.

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Of course, given that five months had elapsed since their last Test match, it would have been reasonable to expect such an improvement in any case in Scotland's second outing of their Autumn series.

Coming in cold against a team who got up to speed in the Tri-Nations and hit the ground running on this tour, they were always going to find it hard. But few of us suspected just how hard.

When a Dan Parks penalty gave the home team the lead with four minutes on the clock, New Zealand had not got out of their own half. That was as good as it got, and tries from Hosea Gear and Dan Carter soon killed the Murrayfield atmosphere.

From then on, the game was little more than a training exercise for the All Blacks. No matter the flattery they dished out afterwards to their hosts, the tourists were assured of victory once they had gone ahead.

But, impressively, at no stage did they succumb to self-indulgence.

While their attacks showed touches of inspiration and improvisation, what was most notable about their game was the discipline they displayed in defence.

Even in the last few moments of the contest, the thin black line remained resolutely unbroken. Scotland's increasingly unconvincing attempts to get behind it made the game look like a classic encounter between a well-drilled standing army and a ragged band of raw recruits.

Robinson's squad are capable of better than that metaphor might convey, or at least they have been in the not too distant past.

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Did this defeat delete the progress apparently made in the series win in Argentina? We will find out against the Springboks.

The coach discussed the match with the media at length afterwards, but four words of his talk were enough to sum it up. "They dominated the collision," Robinson said, employing the buzz word which has been much favoured by his profession over the past two or three seasons.

'Collision' is not a wholly accurate word in this context, as it implies an accidental coming together of bodies. But, in the way it sums up tackles and rucks and all the other incidental impacts which happen in a match, it is probably the best single term available to us in English.

Because a tackle is not only a chance for a defender to get his man down and force him to release the ball, or for the ball-carrier to offload out of it.

And a ruck is a lot more than an attempt by one team to clear away the opposition so the ball becomes cleanly available to their scrum-half once more.

They are also occasions on which one man or one team can impose their physical superiority over the other; occasions, moreover, from which psychological superiority often swiftly ensues.

Most games of rugby are more of a mixed bag than this one, with both sides having a number of players who get the better of their opposite numbers. But in this case the All Blacks were superior throughout the match, as individuals and as a collective. They were slicker, swifter and smarter.

Still, while Robinson got that part of his post-mortem right, the sound bite of his which attracted most interest was actually a little wide of the mark. "We let the nation down," he said.

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Given the Scottish Rugby Union's current advertising campaign – "When Scotland play, we all play" is the slogan – it was an understandable remark. And the sentiments were not entirely misplaced.

But the reality is that a significant proportion of the Scottish nation could not give a hoot about our performances on the rugby field.

If they did – if, for example, our nation showed the same commitment to the cause that New Zealand's four million do – Robinson's job would be an awful lot easier than it is this morning.