Scottish rugby’s mission: to win the World Cup in 2015

THE main target in a new strategic plan for Scottish rugby will be to win the World Cup in 2015.

The plan was put on hold last year by Gordon McKie, the former Scottish Rugby Union chief executive.

But the strategy has been revitalised since McKie was replaced in September by Mark Dodson, the former Guardian Media Group’s regional chief executive.

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In an exclusive interview with The Scotsman, published today and tomorrow, Dodson talks candidly about his plans for Scottish rugby after hearing grassroots opinions at a series of national roadshows.

He explains how he has found money for new signings for Glasgow and Edinburgh when, under the previous regime, there seemed to be none available, why he will give Andy Robinson time to make Scotland successful and how he wants to drive club and schools rugby forward.

The strategic plan is still being finalised and is expected to be published at the end of the RBS Six Nations Championship. But Dodson already knows the key goals he wants to establish.

He explained: “I said on the roadshows, let’s not get too fixated with the strategic plan because the work is going on here without that being published yet. But, in saying that, I did not mean to dilute the strategy, because it will be so clear that we’ll all be held accountable to it and it will have as its prime goal to win the World Cup in 2015.

“What’s the point of coming third? Why would we sit here in 2011 and say: ‘Eh, we’ll come joint eighth in the World Cup’. That’s not what we’re about. You’ve got to plan to win.

“We might fail against that target but we are going to plan to win and what we’ll try to do is build a journey with milestones that show we are improving over a period of time to that target.

“That might come back to haunt me or, after two years, you say ‘that’s just impossible’. But the truth is that we have to set out a roadmap that says Scotland are going to improve in the Six Nations and improve at world level. Our pro clubs are going to improve in the RaboDirect and get through to the quarter-finals of the Heineken Cup, not as a surprise but as an expectation. And we need to win silverware at club and international level.

“If you can get all those things moving from a performance and financial bench-marking basis, then money follows that.

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“The strategic plan will be straightforward. It will have all the stuff that talks about inspiring Scotland through rugby and grassroots development, because we’re doing that already and are extremely good at those, and dovetail with everybody having a role to play.

“But the real things that people will remember about the plan will be the milestones we put in there, and we’re not here planning to fail.”

With the RBS Six Nations Championship and opening Calcutta Cup match now just over four weeks away, the focus will swiftly turn from the professional teams to Robinson’s efforts to lift Scotland after a disappointing end to the World Cup. The national team has a record of just two wins in the last ten Six Nations games but Dodson has not set Robinson a goal for this campaign.

“He knows what is expected,” said Dodson, “and Andy puts more pressure on himself than we could probably ever put on him. I think he’s probably the best coach we could have. You only have to look at the experience he has, the relationship he has with the players, the thoroughness of his approach and see what he’s trying to build here. And we have to give him the time to build it.

“All too often you can chop and change and lose what you’ve got. Andy is hugely respected by his own coaching staff and the payers.

“You could argue that not getting to the World Cup quarter-finals for the first time ever was a disaster but you could also argue that we were five minutes away from getting the best result we could have wished for.

“The Six Nations is a pressurised environment, there’s no doubt about that, and, obviously, if we have a disastrous Six Nations, we’ll have the necessary reviews that we would always do. But we won’t be having any knee-jerk reaction. We will give Andy the time and the space that he needs to build this team to the next level.”

Dodson added: “You look at the record in the Six Nations, but people don’t talk about the wins away in Argentina, beating the southern hemisphere sides South Africa and Australia.

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“Let’s look at his record in the round, the things he has achieved in Scottish rugby and how people react to him and feel about him.

“This is a man in control, at the top of his powers, and we’re very happy to give him the time he needs to build a squad.”