Ooh for ah player like Cantona

SCOTLAND rugby coach Andy Robinson names his squad tomorrow for training at St Andrews next week in preparation for the RBS Six Nations Championship. Evening News rugby writer BILL LOTHIAN gives an insight into what makes the coach tick

ANDY ROBINSON has used footballer Eric Cantona as an example of a sportsman who symbolises the message he is trying to put across to Scotland's rugby squad.

Robinson has stressed the need for players – there will be at least 30 named tomorrow – to take responsibility at all times, while also indicating that no matter how rich their talent there is always a need for stars to hone their skills.

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In remarks that perhaps gave an insight into the type of mercurial talent that any coach loves to have at his disposal, Robinson said: "Take Cantona. Everybody said what an instinctive player he was – but he practised."

With Cantona it was always a case of 'expect the unexpected' and that is what Robinson appears to be preaching. "Playing in chaos and playing quickly is something we are really good at in Scotland," he said. "It's how we create that through passing and running that we will achieve what we need to achieve."

Robinson needs no reminding that Scotland scored a mere two tries in the three Autumn tests and dissection of the only defeat, by Argentina, provided him with a starting point in terms of fixing the problem. "The turning point was when we had a three-on-one with the quickest man on the field in space and didn't pass it to him," said Robinson.

That situation revolved around one of Scotland's least experienced players and it is Robinson's goal to have rookies and stalwarts alike backing themselves.

Also, the former England cap wants players to be regularly asking 'why?'

"Asking why is better than acting like a lemming without knowing how to improve. Lots of players take up positions without thinking. The reason is that they are comfortable there.

"It's about challenging them to get to the next step.

"The team will be empowered to take the game to the opposition whether it is through driving, playing wide or pick and goes. It is about getting the right mix."

Scotland's defence was lauded in the Autumn and Robinson said: "With a defence that defended the way we did you can attack from deeper.

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"There has been some improvement in the understanding of our attack.

"Coaching defence is a lot simpler than putting together a framework for attack. All systems for defence are similar throughout the world.

"One area that we have to develop is peripheral vision with awareness of players around as well as the ability to scan and see."

It is likely that Robinson's initial selection, which will eventually be cut to a matchday 22, will take into account the Scotland A fixture against Ireland in Dublin on Friday 5 February, when it is likely the selection will be heavily based on the side which thumped Tonga 38-7 at Galashiels in November.

The opportunity will almost certainly be taken to integrate Euan Murray back into a dark blue jersey, the Lions prop having missed the Autumn Tests due to injury.

He will also delay any entry to the Six Nations at least until Scotland head for Wales on Saturday 13 February because the Sunday fixture against France conflicts with his religious principles.

If Scotland can get off to a winning start against it will be the first time in the Six Nations since Robinson's predecessor, Frank Hadden launched his Test career with a 20-16 win over France at Murrayfield in 2006.

Such a launchpad would be especially welcome as a six-day turnaround between the French and Welsh games will test Scotland's resources but thereafter they will have a fortnight to prepare for the trip to Rome where a 20-23 defeat occurred in 2008.

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To conclude the tournament the Scots have two 5pm kick-offs fixtures – at home to England on 13 March followed a week later by a trip to defending grand slam champions, Ireland.

Everything starts with the visit of the French, though, and Robinson said: "We'll judge each game on the basis of selecting a team to play France and how we perform. After that we'll select against Wales."

Robinson's selection dilemma

Stand off

Phil Godman or Dan Parks? Edinburgh's Godman has started Scotland's last 12 Tests but Parks impressed in the recent inter-city clashes. Naming Godman as first-choice weeks ahead of the Autumn series didn't make much sense but the 27-year-old coped admirably. His miss-pass contributed to Jim Thompson's try against Ulster last Friday and showed the sort of peripheral vision which Robinson craves.

Second row

Glasgow's Al Kellock was superb when he took over as skipper against Australia and his intimidating reputation increased in the inter-city games. Edinburgh's Jim Hamilton is fit again and, as for Nathan Hines of Leinster, he was criticised by ex-coach Jim Telfer for his yellow card against Argentina and it does happen a lot. A bench role for the Australian-born Lion?

Back row

Edinburgh's Alan MacDonald was worth his Test debut against Argentina but competition is fierce. The temptation will be to go for Glasgow's "killer Bs" – Jon Barclay, Johnny Beattie and Kelly Brown – which would be exceedingly tough luck on Gloucester's Al Strokosch.


Al Dickinson is fit again and his experience may edge out Kyle Traynor. Allan Jacobsen is a must with his experience in the loose.