Robinson wants flying start with Scots after red rose circus
Saturday 14 November 2009
Andy Robinson has been this way before, of course. Five years and one day ago, the former red rose flanker presided over his maiden Test voyage as England's head coach, a 70-0 victory against Canada at Twickenham. This afternoon at Murrayfield he sets out at the helm for Scotland, his international coaching career having not quite not sunk without trace when his England days foundered on the rocks of the 2006 autumn season.
There has been a keen glint in Robinson's eyes ahead of his return to the fray against Fiji in Edinburgh today – a marked contrast to the careworn look of the man who appeared to be carrying the worries of the world upon his shoulders as he sat watching his out-of-sorts, injury-hit England slump to Twickenham defeats against New Zealand, Argentina and South Africa three years ago. "It's down to us," he said. "We're in control of our ability to get a go-forward in attack. We're in control of our ability to knock over the Fijians, and that's key for us. They'll be very physical and it's a very good Test match for us in terms of how we deal with it – how we control them. I'm looking forward to us rising to those challenges."
There was a time when "us" was "them" but since moving north of the border two years ago, initially as coach of Edinburgh, Robinson has become part of the fabric of Scottish rugby. The thistle emblem sits comfortably on the left breast of his polo shirt.
Robinson has compared his time in charge of England to being "like the warrior in Monty Python and the Holy Grail who gets his limbs chopped off one by one and keeps coming back for more" – a reference to a lack of support from above within the Rugby Football Union. He returns to the international arena with the full confidence of the Scottish Rugby Union, who gave him a three-year contract in June, after selecting him ahead of Mike Brewer, the former Scotland forwards coach, whom it just so happens will be in the opposition ranks at Murrayfield today as technical director of "the Flying Fijians".
The big challenge for Robinson, in his second international coaching incarnation, will be going into battle with far fewer resources than he enjoyed first time around.
Scotland have 10,556 registered senior male players. England have 705,272. Even the Fijians, one place above Scotland at ninth in the International Rugby Board rankings, have 14,400. Robinson might have been shorn of the likes of Jonny Wilkinson and Steve Borthwick when he fought his last stand with England – a 25-14 defeat against the Springboks – but he had the luxury of Lewis Moody, Ben Kay and Toby Flood on bench duty.
Still, he is the canniest of operators, as he showed in guiding Edinburgh to Heineken Cup victories against Leicester and Leinster the season before last and to the runners-up berth behind Munster in the Magners League last term. Having taken charge of the Scotland A team in the Nations Cup in Romania in the summer, Robinson has already started to mould the emerging talent at his disposal.
Four of the young guns from that successful campaign are in his 22-man squad today: Worcester Warrior Alex Grove, who makes his debut at outside centre; Glasgow prop Moray Low, who lines up for his first senior international start; and the Edinburgh prop Kyle Traynor and Glasgow flanker Richie Vernon, who are poised for baptisms off the bench.
Scotland R Lamont (Toulon); S Lamont (Scarlets), A Grove (Worcester), G Morrison (Glasgow), S Danielli (Ulster); P Godman (Edinburgh), C Cusiter (Glasgow, capt); A Jacobsen (Edinburgh), R Ford (Edinburgh), M Low (Glasgow), N Hines (Leinster), A Kellock (Glasgow), A Strokosch (Gloucester), J Barclay (Glasgow), J Beattie (Glasgow). Replacements: D Hall (Glasgow), K Traynor (Edinburgh), J White (Clermont Auvergne), R Vernon (Glasgow), M Blair (Edinburgh), C Paterson (Edinburgh), N De Luca (Edinburgh).
Fiji J Matavesi (Exeter); V Goneva (Vatura), G Lovobalavu (Toulon), S Bai (Clermont Auvergne, capt), N Nalaga (Clermont Auvergne); N Little (Bath), M Rauluni (Saracens); A Yalayalatabua (Navy), V Veikoso (Mavoci), D Manu (Scarlets), W Lewaravu (London Welsh), I Rawaqa (World Fighting Bulls), J Domolailai (Lomavata), A Qera (Gloucester), A Boko (Tau). Replacements: G Dewes (Esher), S Ledua (FTG), L Nakarawa (Army Green), S Bola (Police), W Vatuvoka (Duavata), J Ratu (Cagimaira), N Roko (Yokogawa).
Referee: C White (England).
Kick-off: 2.30pm; TV: BBC1.
Although currently higher in the world rankings, Fiji have only beaten Scotland once in their history. It came in the only match the two have played in Fiji, and finished 51-26, with Fero Lasagavibau scoring three tries.
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