Tom English: ‘Andy Robinson is a good bloke who has tried his heart out, but he is a busted flush as coach’

FOR three years we have listened to Andy Robinson talking about professional pride and his hatred of losing – and now the time has come for him to prove it.

Nobody can defend the rank awfulness of Scotland’s performance in Rome. Nobody can defend Robinson’s pitiful record either. Robinson is a good bloke who has tried his heart out, but he is a busted flush as Scotland coach. His record is lamentable and inexcusable. Seven losses in a row. Only two wins from 15 Six Nations matches. An early exit from the World Cup for the first time in Scotland’s history and now a first whitewash and a first wooden spoon in eight years. Professional pride? Hatred of losing? He needs to resign or be resigned. One way or another, change has to come.

Up until the Ireland game he had pleas in mitigation. The defeats the team was suffering were narrow and there were signs of improvement in their play. That was fine so long as the improvement continued, but it didn’t. Scotland were dreadful in Dublin and now they have gone into reverse again. Yesterday showed that they’re going backwards at a fair old speed.

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If he has supporters then their arguments will focus more on the culpability of the players than it will on the man who sends them out to play, but that’s a convenient way of looking at things, an opt-out, a pretty feeble acceptance of a fate that doesn’t have to be.

Yes, Scotland’s players have made brainless errors throughout this championship and they came in waves in Rome. They coughed up 50 per cent of their lineout ball. They spilled everything and created nothing. This wasn’t an example of Scotland going down bravely, not a gallant defeat of any kind. It was one of the most clueless displays of recent times. They had two men sent to the bin and in the case of Nick de Luca you wanted to horse-whip him for his own stupidity. This is the second time in this championship that De Luca has been yellow-carded for idiotic reasons. Scotland have had five yellows in five games.

Player error, for sure. But when Robinson points out the madness of their actions in the privacy of their team room do they not listen to him? Have they switched off? De Luca did something truly dense when getting a yellow card in Cardiff but there he was again yesterday, back in the team so he could repeat the trick. Deliberately kicking the ball out of an opponent’s hands in the full glare of the referee is dim-witted enough, but doing it when the referee has only just warned Scotland about their discipline takes it to another level.

There’s been a feeling for some time that it’s all too cosy in the Scotland camp, that the hard edge doesn’t exist and it’s an argument that appears to hold a lot of water.

Scotland are a soft touch, but these are the players that Scotland have. There are few others to pick from. The coach needs to make the most of them – and there is undoubted talent in their ranks – or he needs to move on.

Could anybody do any better than Robinson? After such a run of failure – four consecutive flops in the four championships he has been involved in – it’s time we found out. How could a rugby nation with any self-respect throw up its hands and say “Robinson is the best coach we’re likely to get”? To do so would be cowardly. Robinson has had his chance. Now somebody else must be given a go.

It’s not all about the players in any event. The coach determines a gameplan, instils a discipline, creates a mood and all of those things were utterly shocking against Italy. There was no discernible gameplan, the discipline was wretched and the attitude was dozy. The minutes ticked on and you waited for Scotland to stir, but they never did. Like lemmings they carried on towards the cliff edge and hurled themselves over.

There was a moment, with seven minutes left on the clock, that was Scotland in microcosm. They were 10-6 down. They hadn’t even come close to creating a try-scoring chance but they were still in the game – a game, incidentally, that could rival any other as the worst in the history of the Six Nations. They needed something to happen. They needed leadership. Dynamism. Somebody to take the game by the scruff of the neck. They had a penalty just inside their own half and it demanded a quick tap and go. Something – anything – that might take the Italians by surprise.

We know that Scotland can be at their best when a game is loose, when things are fizzing about at a hundred miles an hour and there is mayhem. They can play this way. They showed it in the second half against Wales and throughout the game against France. So what did they do? They kicked the penalty to touch and took a lineout. Scotland’s lineout had been an abomination all day.

Five minutes earlier, they had, for the first time, an attacking platform near the Italian 22 and they overthrew the lineout and blew their chance and yet now Ross Ford and his senior colleagues thought it was good idea to go for touch again. It wasn’t. The throw went wrong and they lost possession. Italy had the momentum once more.

Player error or a failure of coaching? Alas, it’s both. A perfect storm. There are only so many changes you can make to a team when the defeats mount up, only so many times you can put up with ineptitude of this magnitude without doing something drastic.

You cannot change 15 players, but you can change the philosophy around by bringing in a new boss and hope that it works.

At various times of his reign it looked like Robinson was really getting there, but he’s not. It’s time to admit it.