John Jeffrey calls for leadership and a harder edge as he delivers Scottish rugby report card

John Jeffrey has stressed the need for greater leadership skills as he labelled the season in Scotland “a disappointment”.

Scotland lost three of five Guinness Six Nations matches. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)
Scotland lost three of five Guinness Six Nations matches. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

Jeffrey, the Scottish Rugby chairman, bemoaned the lack of hard edge at professional level as he delivered a wide-ranging report on the state of the game in this country.

No-one escaped criticism in an honest appraisal of the national teams and the two professional club sides, Edinburgh and Glasgow Warriors.

He later reflected on players coming through an environment in which everything is provided and there was little scope to develop or think for themselves.

SRU chairman John Jeffrey offered a critical assessment of Scotland's high performance teams. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)

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Jeffrey, one of Scotland’s greatest players and a giant of the 1990 Grand Slam team, acknowledged it was a different landscape today but questioned whether advanced professionalism had blunted leadership qualities.

“I’ve got to be careful. It’s 30, 40 years ago since I played,” said Jeffrey.

“What I would say is that the players nowadays have come up through a different environment. We were in amateur days when you had your day job, you learned all your skills in your day job, you learned leadership.

“What I would say to these players is: Where do they develop their leadership skills, their hard skills? Because they’re coming up, and let’s not kid ourselves, they’re well catered for. They’re given sports conditioning, training, everything, all the way through. So where do they get that hard edge to learn?

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“I think some of these young boys coming through – a lot of them look to have that edge. And – I hope I’m wrong in this – I think maybe our coaching, our academies, develop that out of them, coach that out of them.”

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Speaking earlier at the SRU annual general meeting, Jeffrey said Scotland’s high-performance teams had “flattered to deceive”. Acknowledging highlights such as the men’s Calcutta Cup victory and the women’s qualification for the Rugby World Cup, he also bemoaned the lack of consistency.

“On reflection, last season was a disappointment,” Jeffrey said.

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“We had some fantastic individual results, but a lack of consistency is frustrating for all our supporters. We need to develop a ruthless streak that is evident in all successful sporting environments.

“After continual years of investment into our high-performance structures we now expect to see better and more consistent outcomes. There has to be a rise in our ambition and associated standards of delivery.

“The days of isolated victories against top teams have gone. As we enter the build up to the [men’s] World Cup in France next year, we need to be producing more consistent results.”

Scotland will play world No 1 side Ireland and holders South Africa in the pool stage at the 2023 tournament.

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“The build up to France begins now and our next two tournaments in November and February must see our team develop a winning habit that sees experimentation come to a close, ushering in an era of hard-edged attractive rugby.”

He added: “The Women performed superbly to qualify for the Rugby World Cup 2021 in New Zealand but had a disappointing Six Nations campaign where they failed to turn some good performances into victories.”

Jeffrey also said he expected more from Glasgow under new coach Franco Smith after “a frustrating couple of seasons”. He praised Edinburgh’s vibrancy under Mike Blair but noted they “ultimately fell short”.

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