Robinson feeling the heat over poor record


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The Independent Online

In one respect at least, Andy Robinson had the long-term future in mind yesterday. The head coach, who got his fingers burnt somewhat when he pitched the teenaged Mathew Tait into the Six Nations cauldron at Cardiff in his England days, had no qualms about giving the 19-year-old Stuart Hogg a starting berth in the Scotland team to face France at Murrayfield on Saturday. Not that there was any reason to be qualmish about the promotion of the dynamic Glasgow full-back, given the impact he made off the bench two weeks ago in Scotland's 27-13 defeat to Wales at the very scene of Tait's 2005 debut torment.

The Hawick native is going to be around for Scotland for some time, it would seem. As for Robinson, after a run of four defeats (two in the World Cup, two at the start of the 2012 Six Nations), his future in charge of the Caledonian team has been called into question. There has even been a suggestion that he might "do the honourable thing" if he fails to buck the losing trend in Scotland's final three matches of the Championship: at home to France and away to Ireland and Italy.

Not that the former England flanker was prepared to consider the prospect when the suggestion was put to him yesterday. "Why are we discussing a hypothetical situation?" Robinson said. "I'm looking at the next game. I'm going in with full confidence for us to win this game."


The black and white of the results sheet does not exactly inspire confidence, even if the World Cup encounters with Argentina and England – and the Six Nations scraps with the English and the Welsh – were all frustrating cases of "shoulda, coulda, woulda" for Robinson and the Scots. The fact is that it was ultimately "didn't" in all four games.

Scotland have won just two of the 12 fixtures they have played under Robinson in the Six Nations. When it was put to him that the record was cause for concern, he replied: "I'm disappointed, but unfortunately it has happened and I've got to look forward to the next game. The thing that has really encouraged me is the way the team has gone out and played – the belief the team has had, the endeavour that the team has had. We've been punished severely because of the individual errors that we've made.

"I don't see those as structural errors. I don't see them as necessarily the framework of how we're trying to play. I'm here to win games of rugby and we believe these are the best tactics for us to employ for us to win.

"Unfortunately, the stats are there and I have to be able to deal with that, but I still have full confidence about the way that we're going out to play and I'm looking forward to the weekend."

Robinson has made four changes to his starting XV for the French test. John Barclay comes in at blind-side flanker for the injured Alasdair Strokosch; Mike Blair replaces Chris Cusiter at scrum-half; Graeme Morrison comes in at inside-centre, Sean Lamont moving to outside-centre and Nick de Luca dropping to the bench; and Hogg starts at full-back, Rory Lamont switching to the right wing to fill the void left by the injured Max Evans.

Hogg, an apprentice at Glasgow at the start of the season, is already the first teenager to play for Scotland since Gregor Townsend was released from bench duty at Twickenham in 1993. On Saturday he will become the first teenager to start for Scotland since Jim Renwick, his old mentor at Hawick, made his debut against France in 1972.

"I'm absolutely delighted for Stuart," Robinson said. "What we've seen from him is a steep progression. He came into the squad for the training camp in St Andrews and did really well. He played in the A team game against England Saxons and was exemplary in his performance. And then came off the bench in Cardiff and I thought what you saw from him was a real composed performance. He has that ability to handle the pressure of international rugby and it's great that he's going to be given his first start."