Six Nations: Tom English on Italy v Scotland

Scotland beat Italy 21-8 at Murrayfield last year. Picture: Jane Barlow
Scotland beat Italy 21-8 at Murrayfield last year. Picture: Jane Barlow
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FOR Andy Robinson, it’s got to be the source of extreme frustration, not to mind professional embarrassment, that the summit of Scotland’s ambitions in Rome is the avoidance of a wooden spoon.

At the outset of the season he didn’t think it would come to this. Back then, he was full of optimism and wasn’t slow in laying his cards on the table for all to see. He said his team had reached the end of the line as far as learning curves were concerned. From here on in, he stressed, it was all about winning.

Four games down and still no win and last weekend in Ireland an abject performance and a desperate regression following some encouraging signs against Wales and France. Robinson is on the brink now and a wooden spoon would tip him over the edge.

If Scotland lose, will he resign or wll he be resigned by the SRU? Maybe neither. But his credibility will be shot. Scotland have failed in the four tournaments that Robinson has been in charge for. They have lost six and, if it goes wrong in Italy, it will become seven defeats in a row. What self-respecting rugby nation would tolerate such dismal results?

The team is better than this. They have shown it in flashes. There is, perhaps, a soft underbelly that belies the supposed hardman reputation that Robinson enjoys, but scarcely merits. Not as a coach in any case. His team has been a pushover for too long. Robinson has had long enough in the job. So the Italy game is crucial. If they lose again then there is a moral compunction on the SRU to change things.

Will they? Well, they have lost in Rome in 2010 and 2008 so the Italians will be licking their lips. Scotland may shade it, but you could not predict that with any confidence. It will surely be nerve-shatteringly tight. For Robinson’s sake, you hope he survives it.

• Italy v Scotland, Saturday 17 March, kick-off 12.30pm