Andy Robinson had warned there would be consequences following his Scotland side's numbing 21-15 defeat to Tonga and within hours of making the prediction, he proved himself right by quitting as national coach. Not for the first time in recent years, the Scots are approaching a Six Nations tournament with no clear idea of who will pick and prepare a team whose place in the world rankings is likely to slip to a lowly 12th as a result of Saturday's calamity in Aberdeen.
Robinson's decision was announced yesterday, less than 24 hours after he had watched his players fall flat on their faces against a fast-improving but less than daunting group of South Seas tourists. As is the way of sporting severance agreements these days, his immediate reaction to the performance – "It was totally unacceptable and I'm very angry, it reflects on me as a coach," he said after the final whistle – was significantly more forthright than his resignation statement.
In yesterday's statement he thanked those who had supported him since his appointment three years ago and argued that he had "left the side in a better position" than he found it.
He will be hurting, though: the 47-year-old West Countryman, who succeeded Sir Clive Woodward as England coach in 2005 only to be driven out of Twickenham a little over two years later after a poor run of autumn results, has always been a heart-on-the-sleeve type and he takes failure – not to mention humiliation – very personally indeed.
Before last season's Six Nations, he indicated that he would be ready to walk away from Scotland if the tournament turned out badly. While he thought better of making that grand gesture following a winless campaign that could hardly have gone worse, he knew he could not countenance another barren run.
Scotland's summer tour of Australia and the Pacific Islands threw a more positive light on things – there were wins over the Wallabies, Fiji and Samoa – but all-too-predictable failures against New Zealand and South Africa earlier this month had made Tonga a must-win fixture. The result left Robinson contemplating an unenviable record of 10 defeats in 13 Tests, stretching back to last year's World Cup, when the team failed to survive the pool stage for the first time in the history of the competition.
Mark Dodson, the chief executive of the Scottish Rugby Union, indicated Robinson would have been sacked had he not made his excuses and left of his own volition. "Andy has overseen some fine results as head coach since he was appointed in June 2009 but the recent defeats have been very disappointing," Dodson said, adding that a recruitment process was now under way.
Nick Mallett, the South African who rejected the chance to succeed Martin Johnson as England boss a year ago, will automatically be placed at the top of the candidates list, but in the meantime the current assistant coach, Scott Johnson, an Australian, will run the show.
As for Robinson, a return to Premiership rugby is the likely outcome of yesterday's developments. At the very least, he is acknowledged far and wide as an outstanding forwards specialist: he was at the heart of the England back-room team who helped deliver a world title in 2003 and prepared the British and Irish Lions pack on both the 2001 tour of Australia and the 2005 trek around New Zealand. Had things gone better for Scotland in the last Six Nations, he would have run Warren Gatland very close for the top job ahead of next summer's return to Wallaby country.
He may, however, have to play a lengthy waiting game. Most Premiership teams including his beloved Bath – the club for whom he played as an international-class flanker and guided to a ground-breaking Heineken Cup title in 1998 – have settled coaching set-ups. The one obvious exception, Sale, is hardly an attractive proposition, given the rapid turnover of personnel in recent times.
Robinson is bound to be linked with a return to Bath: he still lives in the city and knows both the owner, Bruce Craig, and the chief executive, Nick Blofeld, from his student days. But as Craig pieced together a new, high-profile coaching staff under the South African strategist Gary Gold only last summer, there is no obvious vacancy.
Scottish saviours? Job contenders
Former South Africa coach courted by England was most recently Italy's coach for four years.
Australian who was briefly Wales' head coach will be caretaker as Robinson's main assistant coach.
Irishman coached Edinburgh to last season's Heineken Cup semi-finals.
Kiwi was head coach of Glasgow before taking up a role as Scottish Rugby's head of player acquisition.
In Scots' coaching set-up under Matt Williams, former All Black is now head coach at NZ's Crusaders.
Guided native South Africa to World Cup glory in France in 2007. Now head coach at Australia's Brumbies.Reuse content