Robinson's Scotland sprint towards date with destiny


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The Independent Online

It was at Edinburgh Castle four years ago, not far from the six-ton, 15th-century siege gun Mons Meg, that Frank Hadden wheeled out the artillery that went into battle for Scotland in the last World Cup. There were some seriously heavy guns on show, a video display showing the kind of iron that had been pumped in the gym all summer long.

Four years on, Andy Robinson has chosen to take a more subtle approach to preparing the Scots to take on the world – and the Auld Enemy in their final pool game, at Eden Park in Auckland on 1 October. Unlike Hadden, who went on to take Scotland to the last eight in 2007, Robinson has "previous" in the tournament. As Clive Woodward's lieutenant, he whipped the England pack into Webb Ellis Cup-winning shape in Australia in 2003. Subsequently given the top job, he was then forced to fall on his sword before the last World Cup, in France.

As Scotland's head coach in the build up to New Zealand 2011, Robinson has been placing the emphasis on speed – and speed endurance – rather than power. The former Bath, England and Lions flanker wants his team to hit the ground running against Romania in Invercargill next Saturday, and to maintain the pace into the knock-out stages.

"We want the boys to be full of running," Robinson said. "The way that rugby's going, it's about being able to get into position quickly and to want to run with the ball – and also to get the defensive line up quickly. To be able to do that for 80 minutes, we need to be able to run."

To that end, Robinson's players have been put through their paces in punishing sessions that would be more familiar to a Mo Farah than a Brian Moore: such as 5,000 metres worth of 50 x 100m sprints. It remains to be seen whether Joe Ansbro and Co can run rings around Martin Johnson's mob, but their head coach is targeting a passage to the quarter-finals as winners of a pool that also includes Argentina.

"It's about being able to perform at our best," Robinson said. "If we perform at our best, we have the ability to win any game of rugby. If we underperform, we'll get beaten. What we need is consistency of performance. If we get that, we have the ability to beat the teams that we're up against. In the last two years we've beaten Australia and South Africa. We've also beaten Ireland away. That should give the players belief. They've shown that they can do it."

Under Robinson, the Scots have also drawn at home to England and given them more than a good game at Twickenham. So there is unlikely to be a shortage of belief when they face England in the World Cup for the first time since the Murrayfield semi-final of 1991, when Gavin Hastings missed that sitter of a penalty and Rob Andrew kicked the visitors to a 9-6 win.

This time the Scots will have Chris Paterson's deadly right boot on their side. In the last World Cup, it did not miss the target.