Robinson must rid Scots of inferiority complex

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The Independent Online

For Andy Robinson, there has been no getting away from the past this week. On Thursday night, the Scotland coach was at Murrayfield for the inaugural Scottish Rugby Hall of Fame induction ceremony. On Wednesday lunchtime, after conducting morning training with his squad at St Andrews, he was walking along a corridor festooned with images of all-time golfing greats – Harry Vardon, James Braid, JH Taylor – next to the Hall of Champions at the Old Course Hotel.

The former England flanker and coach has been making inroads into the history books in his 17 months in charge of Scotland's rugby union team. Last November, he guided the Scots to their first win against Australia in 27 years. In March, he masterminded their first win in Dublin for 12 years, pooping an expected Triple Crown party on Ireland's farewell to Croke Park, where South Africa, Australia and England never managed to notch a victory. Then, in June, came the two-Test conquest of Argentina, Scotland's first series win south of the Equator.

Next up comes the ultimate challenge, both for Scotland and for their guiding light from the English West Country. New Zealand are at Murrayfield next Saturday and, after 105 years and 27 attempts, Scotland have yet to beat them.

Might there be an all black mark of psychological inferiority for Robinson's players to overcome, when Dave Pearson blows his whistle for the 5.30pm kick-off, as well as the 15 Kiwis?

"This is my first game coaching Scotland against New Zealand," Robinson said, sitting in the Tom Kidd Room at the Old Course Hotel, looking out on the 17th hole – the notorious Road Hole, where many an Open challenger has come to grief. "I haven't seen any evidence of that yet, but if I do I will make comment on it. We're looking forward to the challenge that's there – of playing against a New Zealand side and facing the haka. We're going to love all that, because the haka is one of the great traditions of playing against New Zealand."

So the old England back-row bruiser is not of the same opinion, then, as Richard Cockerill, who famously got in the face of Norm Hewitt while his opposite number was performing the pre-match Maori war dance at Old Trafford in 1997, and who told the Leicester Mercury on Thursday that the latter-day English XV should have done the same at Twickenham yesterday, in contravention of the new International Rugby Board directive about keeping a 10m distance?

"I like the haka," Robinson said. "I think that actually you can pull yourselves together when you're facing it. I've been in so many teams that have worked out what the best strategy is going to be for facing the haka: whether we walk forward, where we stand. You can lose your focus on the game if you over-analyse it.

"There's no point being over-psyched by it. Let's go out there and enjoy it. The haka is a fantastic thing to face. It should really give you a big lift, to say, 'I'm ready to take you on'."

Robinson faced the haka just the once in his time as what he recalls as "quite an intense player", for the English South West Division team beaten 19-15 by the All Blacks at Redruth in October 1993. That was the game in which his Bath club-mate Phil de Glanville was pinned to the bottom of a ruck in which the England centre was given such a raking that 15 stitches were required to close a hideous wound above his left eye.

Scotland have drawn twice against New Zealand – 0-0 in 1964, 25-25 in 1983, both times at Murrayfield – but have become accustomed to the pain of defeat against the men from the land of the long white cloud and the long, raking studs. In the last four meetings, all on home ground, they have managed just a solitary try and 22 points in total – against an All Black tally of 138.

Still, having proven their mettle in their last three matches, in Dublin, Tucuman and Mar del Plata, there is reason to hope that Robinson's Scots can give Graham Henry's men something of a run for their money in Edinburgh this time – even with Chris Cusiter, Al Kellock and Johnnie Beattie on the injured list.

"The key aspect for us is executing our plays well and executing our strategies," Robinson added. "We have got to look at ourselves and what we do. If you just watch tape after tape of the All Blacks and how they play you can get lost in it all."

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