European success leaves Robinson believing Scots can kick the habit
Sunday 29 January 2012
If at first you don't succeed, then try and try again? Not necessarily. Not if you're Scotland on Calcutta Cup day at Murrayfield.
Since 2004, when England last tasted victory in Edinburgh, guided by Clive Woodward (and ably assisted by some chap called Robinson), Scotland have won two and drawn one of their three Six Nations encounters at home to the Auld Enemy. They have done so without scoring a try.
They last crossed the opposing whitewash against England at Murrayfield in that 35-13 defeat eight years ago, Simon Danielli claiming a consolation score.
So there is more than just the one way to skin the English cat. Which is perhaps just as well for the Scots, given that they head into Saturday's championship opener on the back of three tryless games at the World Cup.
"What is it about Scottish rugby that has made try-scoring as rare as rain in the Sahara?" The Scotsman newspaper pondered in the aftermath of Scotland's first failure to make the quarter-finals of a World Cup. Three-and-a-half months on, however, the tries have been raining down on the mud of Murrayfield. In qualifying for the quarter-finals of the Heineken Cup, Edinburgh have run in 17 of them.
They beat Racing Métro and London Irish home and away, while Glasgow, runners-up in their pool, beat Bath and Montpellier at home and gave the champions, Leinster, a run for their Euros at Firhill. Scottish rugby appears to have had its parts refreshed by the Heineken Cup.
"Both Edinburgh and Glasgow have performed," said Andy Robinson, Scotland's head coach. "I'm delighted. It has really built the enthusiasm. There's an edge, which is great.
"There's an expectation that's high in Scotland at the moment and I think you can see that within the squad. There's no doubt everybody believes in what we're about and what we can achieve."
Robinson, who was England's head coach from 2004-06, added: "We've been in this position quite a few times and not delivered the winning result, and everybody has that frustration. We've got to put together the side next week under Ross Ford's leadership and go out and understand the mentality, the execution, to deliver that result."
Though Robinson has delivered some notable results in his two-and-a-half years in charge of Scotland – Murrayfield wins against Australia and the Springboks, victory against Ireland at Croke Park, a series win in Argentina – he has only won one out of five games in each of the previous two Six Nations. This time he hopes to hit the ground running with a team that will have some new touches – if not quite the makeover of the opposition.
Ford, the Edinburgh hooker, will be captain for the first time. And for the first time since the turn of the millennium there will be no Chris Paterson. The Edinburgh full-back and his trusty right boot have gone into international retirement after 109 caps.
Nathan Hines has also hung up his international boots, but the pack is likely to be refreshed by the dynamic Dave Denton, another Edinburgh player and the latest star product from the Caledonian back-row factory. There will be a change at fly-half, too, although the absence through injury of Ruaridh Jackson, Robinson's first choice at the World Cup, may prompt a return for Dan Parks rather than a debut for Glasgow's Duncan Weir.
With Scotland, it always comes down to the numbers game and limited resources. Robinson wants to play a high-tempo running game but Parks's strongest suit is his tactical kicking. He has never been the best at distribution by hand.
All of which could bring us back, by default, to penalties and drop goals. Not that the bulk of Murrayfield's patrons are likely to care if England are repelled in Edinburgh once again.
10 years at Murrayfield
13 March 2010: Scotland 15 England 15
8 March 2008: Scotland 15 England 9
25 Feb 2006: Scotland 18 England 12
21 Feb 2004: Scotland 13 England 35
2 Feb 2002: Scotland 3 England 29
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