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What came first: the chickens of no talent or the eggs of no opportunities?

AS most Scots seem to share the view that the term 'swivel-eyed loon' could have been coined for the exclusive use of Nigel Farage, it is fair to say that we tend to take a more relaxed view of immigration than our friends in the south, some of whom appear convinced that Farage is a proper, grown-up politician and not a leftover extra from a minor '70s sitcom.

At least, that was how things seemed until last Saturday. At which point, the former Scotland rugby coach Frank Hadden returned from whichever Trappist monastery he has been holed up in these past few years to offer a stirring denunciation of all those players, officials and administrators who have lately turned Murrayfield into some sort of Benefits Street for rugby's Johnny Foreigners.

"In my opinion there are far too many foreign people involved at the top end of the game in our country," thundered Hadden, who then went on to tell listeners to BBC Radio Scotland that there were "some very fine people involved at the upper end but perhaps not enough who fully appreciate the history and tradition of the game."

Now there is an undertone of irony to all this. This is, after all, the same Frank Hadden who was recently spotted heading off to far-flung places on an HSBC/International Rugby Board project to bring first-world coaching expertise to the sport's more improbable outposts. But let's leave that issue to one side for the moment.

For the truth is that Hadden is far from alone in feeling uneasy about the fact an upbringing in Scottish rugby is just about the worst thing to have on your rugby cv at the moment if you want to get ahead in, er, Scottish rugby.

It starts at the top, where Englishman Mark Dodson has been SRU chief executive for the past 2½ years. When Dodson arrived, the Scotland head coach was another Englishman, Andy Robinson. That post was subsequently inherited by Scott Johnson, an Australian, and will soon be taken by Vern Cotter, a New Zealander.

Among Johnson's assistants are Massimo Cuttitta of Italy, Jonathan Humphreys of Wales, and his fellow Australian Matt Taylor. The kicking coach Duncan Hodge is the only Scot in the backroom team.

Yet even Antipodean twangs have lately become relatively rare around Murrayfield in comparison to another accent. A couple of weeks ago, I pitched up at the place and found myself standing outside a lift with a group of Edinburgh players. Just the opportunity for a spot of shameless eavesdropping, I thought. At least I did until I realised they were all speaking Afrikaans.

The influx of South Africans into the capital club is beginning to look like one of the great mass migrations of modern times. Given the state Edinburgh were in when he took over as head coach, it was always likely that Alan Solomons would turn to his countrymen to dig the side out of a hole, but it has reached a point where you suspect the club's Burns Supper this weekend will kick off with an address to the biltong.

Now Edinburgh fans are unlikely to lose much sleep - goodness knows, they can be borderline catatonic even when games are going on - so long as the strategy delivers results. But, as Hadden pointed out, it does lead to questions about what Scotland's professional teams are for.

Few would make the case for the sort of ethnic purity envisaged when the sides were set up in the early days of professionalism. Fewer still for the sheer silliness that was Matt Williams' Fortress Scotland policy. But the only arguments for Scottish rugby's wider community underwriting the deal are that the international side is strengthened as a result and that the pro teams offer opportunities to ambitious young Scottish players. Can anyone say with conviction that either box is being ticked right now?

Yet there is the counter-argument that Scotland simply is not producing players capable of operating at that level. What came first: the chickens of no talent or the eggs of no opportunities? There is no conclusive answer to the question, but the consequences are alarming.

Of the 10 backs named in yesterday's Scotland A squad for next week's match with the England Saxons, only three - Dougie Fife, Mark Bennett and Richie Vernon, a converted forward - could really be said to be the products of Scottish rugby. As Hadden argues, there is a strong case for the professional teams having clear strategic plans. It looks as if the SRU's development department could use one as well.

AND ANOTHER THING

As a qualified vet, Euan Murray has always seemed to be one of the more practically minded fellows on the modern rugby scene. So the news that the Worcester Warriors and Scotland prop had injured his thumb while chopping wood does rather dent his image as the sport's answer to Ray Mears.

Bizarrely, the accident happened at struggling Worcester's recent team-building barbecue, so will also go down in history as one of the less successful attempts to create morale.

This column offers its sympathies to big Euan - and to the writer on one rugby website whose delicious Freudian slip resulted in a report that said the veteran front-rower had suffered a thump injury.

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