Fresh from penning a new, improved deal which ties him – contractually, at least – to Murrayfield until the end of the 2015 World Cup year, Andy Robinson was asked yesterday what in particular he had enjoyed in his first two and a half years as Scotland's head coach. "The 9-8 against Australia, the 23-20 against Ireland, the [two] performances in Argentina," he replied, editing the highlights to four of the seven positive results over which he has presided in his 14 matches in charges of the Caledonian national team (there have also been wins against South Africa, Fiji and Samoa, plus a draw against England).
"I've really enjoyed the passion that the supporters have and the players facing up to the challenges that are always put ahead of them, no one shirking anything and everyone working together," Robinson added, widening the focus. "For me, it's a good fit."
And if the shirt fits... then why not sign a three-year contract extension, especially one which, according to the rugby union grapevine, will put the man whose services were deemed surplus to the requirements of his home country into the top bracket of high-earning head coaches (somewhere in the vicinity of the rival with whom he locks horns in the Six Nations at Murrayfield on Saturday, Warren Gatland of Wales)? And to think: there was a time when folk feared that such a quintessential yeoman of the English game – a son of the West Country who wore the Red Rose with bursting pride as both player and coach – would never take to sporting the Thistle emblem.
In truth, Robinson has looked as much at home in his regulation Scotland coaching kit as he used to in the blue, black and white of his beloved Bath. He still splits his time between Edinburgh and his family home in the former Roman spa town where he was a fixture for 13 seasons on the open-side flank for the rugby battalion stationed at the Recreation Ground.
There had been much speculation of late that the man who guided Bath to the Heineken Cup in 1998 would return as head coach after serving out his original contract with Scotland, which was due to run until the end of the 2012 Six Nations. The club's multimillionaire patron, Bruce Craig, was a contemporary of Robinson at Loughborough University.
Asked whether he had been approached by "any other organisation," Robinson stopped short of a denial. "It's not for me to comment on," he said. Asked whether he felt it was important that his future had been resolved ahead of this autumn's World Cup, Robinson added: "I think what it does is stop people, when they don't have anything to write about, wanting to make up stories about me going elsewhere. It also means that there is a consistency of understanding that there will be stability over the next couple of years, which I think is important.
"I believe we've made some progress since I've been involved. Progress will be step by step. It's not going to be a revolution. I'm just pleased that Scottish Rugby want to work with me and obviously I've given a commitment that I want to work with Scottish Rugby and with the squad. I'm pleased that we've agreed what we've agreed."
The feeling is mutual. The Rugby Football Union might have been happy to force Robinson to fall on his sword in the autumn of 2006, but Scottish Rugby has come to value his considerable expertise. The professional arm of the game north of the border is more than happy to have the former England flanker and head honcho reviving their national team in tandem with his own coaching reputation.
Indeed, Gordon McKie, the chief executive of Scottish Rugby, proclaimed: "We are absolutely delighted that we have secured Andy until December 2015. Andy is an important part of the Scottish Rugby family and he has made a real impact on the national team, taking us to seventh in the world and achieving fine victories over southern hemisphere opposition last year. Andy is highly regarded throughout the world as a coach and to have secured his services until beyond the Rugby World Cup in England in 2015 is a great coup and further underlines that rugby in Scotland is in good health."
Having been denied the challenge of leading his home country into the 2007 World Cup, Robinson has been given not just one crack at the global tournament but two. The first just happens to include a pool encounter against England at Eden Park in Auckland on 1 October, though Scotland's head coach is not looking beyond game two of the Six Nations and the visit of Gatland's Wales on Saturday.
Having been given the considerable backing of his employers, Robinson has passed on the favour to his players, picking the same XV who started in the 34-21 defeat against France in Paris last Saturday.Reuse content