A FORMER Scotland Rugby World Cup player last night urged Murrayfield officials to dispense with the pre-match razzmatazz and find a way to produce talented players.
Cammy Mather could not disguise his disgust at the national team's latest embarrassing defeat, this time at the hands of England in Saturday's Calcutta Cup contest.
He believes officials must concentrate on laying the foundations for future success, rather than forking out for the "cringe-inducing, Brigadoon-style" pre-match revelry, and warned that the national stadium could turn into "Murrayfield Tesco".
Mather, a former Edinburgh, Glasgow and Barbarians breakaway forward, said: "I could write a book about what has gone wrong with rugby in Scotland, but what is needed in the current situation is a short-term fix. For a start, let's do away with the so-called entertainment in the hour or so before kick-off because it is embarrassing. It is like the worst possible excerpts from Brigadoon; maybe more befitting an SNP annual conference in Perth, or wherever.
"For England matches especially, you don't need to create an atmosphere. We've been going hammer and tongs at each other in battle for a thousand years so the backdrop is already there and always will be.
"In the main, rugby fans are an educated bunch and they are not taken in by all that nonsense. It might be fine for the Tartan Army at Hampden, but it is not right for Murrayfield. It is tacky and twee.
"Trust me, as a player who has been out there, it is cringeworthy. You're basically telling the crowd to enjoy what is on offer before the game because they are probably not going to like what they see during it.
"The bottom line is that the fans are there to support the team. Why else would they pay £60 or more, plus travel, food and drink costs, to be there in the first place? They don't need convincing or brought to a boil. They have shown their commitment to the cause by parting with their hard-earned cash."
Mather urged the Scottish Rugby Union to follow the lead of the other five nations involved and dispense with unnecessary distractions. "Band and anthems, job done," he insisted. "I love the pipes as much as the next man and the a capella final verse of Flower of Scotland is brilliant, shiver-down-your-spine stuff.
"But lone pipers on rooftops, lavish fireworks, fire-eating kilted warriors, booming artillery guns or those lovely fellows from the Red Hot Chilli Pipers are more befitting a circus, which is possibly reflective of some of the administration in the game, but not an international rugby team. I have yet to meet a fan who remembers a Test match for the parachutists or dancing group.
"I wish they would use the money they could save on pyrotechnics and haggis to put into the game at grassroots level. They just might unearth a player or two."
Mather, 40, who earned 11 Test caps, went on: "Rugby in Scotland at pro team, pathway, school and club levels needs a massive kick up the a***. Important issues go to a vote at an agm, where a club away down in the fifth tier has a right to determine what happens in the professional game.
"We desperately need leadership and some seriously hard decisions to be made and driven through. There will be hurt and feathers will be ruffled but, after nearly 20 years of professional rugby, we have to act now or we'll be going to the Murrayfield Tesco to shop, not Murrayfield Stadium to watch rugby, on Saturday afternoons in 20 years' time."