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Too many of rugby's key decision-makers lack exposure to the game they control

THE Scottish Rugby Union and Council will meet today to discuss the way forward for the sport and much of their discussion will centre around the issues raised this week in Herald Sport by Frank Hadden, the former Scotland coach.

Presentations are to be made by Scott Johnson, the national director of rugby, both pro team coaches, Alan Solomons and Gregor Townsend, and the referees' development officer Tappe Henning. The purpose of the meeting is to allow all concerned to scrutinise their plans for the way forward.

While, to the dismay of some of their colleagues, there are still SRU council members who seem more interested in the status they believe is derived from that involvement than in their role as representatives of the SRU's owners, namely its clubs, it is vital that council members are rigorous in their approach. Not least because of one other matter raised by Hadden when we spoke and which he is acutely aware could permit those so inclined to misrepresent his views on the need to come up with unique solutions to the problems facing Scottish rugby.

Put quite simply, he does not believe there is enough understanding of the Scottish game among key decision-makers, largely because they have had insufficient exposure to it.

"It's not about any particular individuals because we do not want to be insular, but we've got to be able to control the input," said Hadden.

"If you take your chairman and your chief executive, do they need to [have been] immersed with the game as a player and subsequently? Well, probably not, but it would help if one of them was and, if they're not, then the director of rugby probably should [have been].

"If he's not then the national coach probably should [have been] because he can help with strategic planning as well. If he's not then the two pro coaches are next in line when it comes to influential strategic planning. What we have is five out of six who are not.

"That's not the same as saying all foreigners are rubbish. This is not a xenophobic attack; we need outside influence."

Even so, he levels a criticism of administrators that is at least as relevant to the homegrown variety as to those who hail from other countries. "The trouble with non-rugby men is that, once they've been there for a year, they think they are rugby men and they are not sure what the right advice is. Our advisory board should be people who are integral to the game."

This is not, it should be stressed, people who have once played the game, even at a very high level, but who have retained little involvement in it since.

There are relatively few who have the breadth of experience to understand both the weaknesses caused by, and limited strengths to be drawn from, a tiny pool of playing talent.

As we have pondered the points he raised, it has occurred to me that there is another potential problem caused by an over-reliance on incomers to the Scottish game.

It was an SRU Council member who, a couple of months ago, registered the embarrassment felt even within the official party, when the SRU chairman and chief executive were seen celebrating on the touchline the day Scotland beat Italy with a last-gasp drop goal.

I wonder, then, whether one of the problems is that Scottish rugby's image is now so bad that those who have perceived it from afar have a rather different view of what Scots should expect from the national team.

Could it be, I wonder, that they really think we should be offering our gratitude and congratulations to men who did us such service in simply helping us to avoid another RBS 6 Nations wooden spoon?

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