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Misfortunes of Scottish game pose questions over how top decisions are being made

The salvaging of a sliver of Scottish self-respect may have offered Scott Johnson a smidgeon of Six Nations succour, but no-one should be sucked in by the weekend's events.

With Scottish rugby plumbing new depths at international level for a little more than a year now, this was the professional teams' worst European campaign since the Heineken Cup took on its current form.

That is all the more remarkable considering how little Scottish teams have contributed to this competition in 16 years of involvement. Indeed, that led to demands from English and French clubs for an end to Scotland's automatic right to representation before this season got underway.

Only once previously since the six pool, 24-team format was introduced in 1999/2000 have Scottish teams managed only a solitary match win between them. What has made that all the more disappointing is that, just as this season's efforts have followed what was hoped to be a breakthrough when Edinburgh reached last the semi-finals last term, that previous low occurred, in 2004/05 and immediately after Edinburgh became the first Scottish team to reach the quarter-finals.

Even then, however, neither of them failed to register so much as a bonus point as Edinburgh have now done this season in claiming their ignominious place among those sides that have finished a pool campaign on nil points. The teams' combined match points haul that season was nine, compared with six this season.

Edinburgh may, meanwhile, have produced the score yesterday which means they do not join Swansea and Treviso (both in 2001/02) in sharing the record for the all-time low try count in pool competition. However, their seven points at Vicarage Road was not enough to avoid setting a new low points tally of 35, five fewer than L'Aquila got 12 seasons ago.

Yesterday, as Edinburgh put up a rather more characterful performance against Saracens than they had when losing their opening pool match 45-0, the match commentator claimed that Michael Bradley, their head coach, had admitted his team had been found out since their high-octane game brought them success last season.

It is debateable if Bradley has phrased it that way, although in recent weeks he has noted not only that they are facing much stronger opposition this time around, but that they had a negative points differential even as they went into their final pool match last season.

In saying so he was effectively inviting the conclusion that there had been an element of freakishness about the way their achievement came about as they claimed one dramatic win after another last season, which may have required considerable courage but also a large element of luck.

As for Glasgow, Saturday's last-gasp win may have offered some evidence that Johnson, Scotland's interim head coach, is right to build his plans around a nucleus of their players. Yet it does not disguise the reality.

Only the misinformed would fail to accept that – had Northampton Saints' sole focus been on winning at Scotstoun on Saturday, rather than getting ahead of themselves and seeking a four-try bonus point before getting the basic job done – all logic says they would have registered it given the shape of the match.

This, too, was the first time in seven seasons, since back when Hugh Campbell was in charge at Glasgow at a time when amateurs retained ultimate control over the funding of the professional teams with the old committee still in charge, that Glasgow had finished at the bottom of their Heineken Cup pool.

Just as it was right to challenge that old committee-led set-up, so is it now appropriate to use this latest evidence to further inform the questioning of the decision-making process that led to the changes of management that happened throughout the Scottish professional game last season.

Since it ended, there have been significant changes made to the Scotland management. There has been Johnson and Matt Taylor's recruitment; at Edinburgh, where Neil Back was brought in to replace Tom Smith as forwards coach; at Glasgow, where Gregor Townsend took over from Sean Lineen as head coach; and in the Scotland sevens set-up, where Phil Greening was put in charge. None of them have brought about the desired effect and in addition, those whose opinions seemed to be leant upon most heavily in bringing those changes about – Graham Lowe, who was head of performance, and Andy Robinson, Scotland's erstwhile head coach – have since departed.

Johnson has much to do to start to provide some justification for the decision-making taking place in the organisation which insists on total control of every major aspect of Scottish rugby.

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