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It's a pity the players are not as honest as Robinson about their failings

My already renewed respect for Andy Robinson was greatly enhanced when he answered his mobile telephone on the second ring last Sunday lunchtime, before readily discussing, in very reasoned tones, why he had to quit as Scotland's head coach.

Andy Robinson was bemused by the players' inability to implement the game-plans against both South Africa and Tonga. Picture: Getty Images
Andy Robinson was bemused by the players' inability to implement the game-plans against both South Africa and Tonga. Picture: Getty Images

Just hours after the announcement had been made, many would have ducked the call and left the official statement for what it was, rather than converse with someone who had been deeply critical of his performance during these past 12 months.

The end had come in devastating fashion, with that appalling defeat to Tonga; the right thing has been done as far as Robinson is concerned; and the task is now to find ways of getting improved results from a group of players who are surely not as bad as their results appear, with 10 losses in the last 13 Test matches.

Those players must themselves consider the extent to which they let Robinson down.

As former Scotland captain Andy Nicol observed when I spoke to him earlier this week, the man under whom he worked as captain when Bath won the Heineken Cup in 1998 was clearly bemused by the failure of players to implement game-plans against both South Africa and Tonga.

Nicol also acknowledged that it, in turn, suggests that Robinson, who never moved his home base from Bath in the five years he worked for the Scottish Rugby Union, as Edinburgh and then Scotland head coach, might have lost the dressing room.

I believe that process began slightly more than a year ago, when, having appointed Al Kellock as his World Cup captain, Robinson dropped the lock after the first match against Romania, one in which, incidentally, Scotland scored four tries for the first time in his tenure as coach. Thereafter, Scotland failed to score a try in the tournament.

The strange and sad mid-campaign departures from the Test arena of long-standing stalwarts Dan Parks, during the Six Nations "whitewash", and Allan Jacobsen, during this autumn Test series, which also ended without a win, further contributed to a sense that all was not well, as did the dreadfully handled sacking of Graham Steadman, the defence coach, who had hit his targets far more often than the rest of the Scotland management.

However, as one player after another lined up last weekend to say that they, rather than the coaches, were to blame, no-one should have been rushing to contradict them. If they did not understand the game-plans, or thought they could not implement them, they should have said so beforehand, rather than heading out on to the pitch and failing to do so.

In terms of the way some of them struggle to cope with criticism, it seems there are at least one or two fairly precious individuals in this current squad who have opinions of their abilities and status that is not matched by the outcomes they have achieved.

In that regard, Robinson, on departing, may have given them one final, inspirational example.

And Another Thing . . .

The secret of comedy is timing, they say, even when it is unintentional and produced by the humourless.

Last Sunday morning, I was sent a message by a golfing buftie named Douglas Connon which read: "Reading your opinion piece last Thursday, I was reminded of the Theodore Roosevelt quote, 'The men with the muck-rakes are often indispensable to the well-being of society; but only if they know when to stop raking the muck'. "

He was clearly upset by my comments on the audacity of the former Welsh international cyclist Steve Paulding, who works for the Scottish Golf Union – and did so while Connon was its chairman – when he claimed recently to have been "embarrassed" to wear Scotland's colours at the sport's recent world championships.

The article broadened out into the issue of recognising that, while we should always be open to importing talent into our sport, we should only do so when those we bring in are superior to home-grown Scots.

What was funny about Connon's message, then? Well . . . the very next email in my inbox after Connon's was from the SRU, announcing Robinson's departure. It is what happens in professional sport but, as I noted last week, very rarely to the professionals running amateur sport.

Just for the record, the last Ryder Cup golfer to have come through the SGU was Andrew Coltart, who won the Scottish Boys' Championship in 1987. The SGU has, over the past decade, spent more and more time dabbling in what they refer to as "the transition" between the amateur and professional games, at times much to the chagrin, it is understood, of the Professional Golfers' Association.

The president of one of Scotland's area golf associations, meanwhile, contacted me this week to point out that the SGU's staff has grown from the four people who ran it when Coltart turned professional to some 32.

Since Coltart turned pro, Englishmen Paul Casey, Luke Donald, Ross Fisher, David Howell, Barry Lane, Ian Poulter, Justin Rose, Lee Westwood and Oliver Wilson and Irishmen Darren Clarke, Graeme McDowell, Paul McGinley, Rory McIlroy and Philip Walton have all made their debuts, while Paulding's Wales has made its mark through Philip Price.

The custodians of the Home of Golf are another group who should be taking the sort of look at themselves that Robinson was man enough to do.

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