Is Paterson perfect 10 as Hadden faces big stand-off?

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Five days on from Scotland's second blow in the Six Nations' Championship, Frank Hadden is standing in the Murrayfield tunnel explaining that Jason White is still suffering from the bang on the head he sustained in Cardiff last Saturday. "He's still getting some headaches when he exercises," the Scotland coach says of his captain.

The prognosis is that White will be fully recovered for the trip to Ireland next Saturday. As for the headache of Scotland's form, that is another matter entirely. In two weeks, the hope of a challenge for the Six Nations has given way to the doom and gloom of two despairing defeats – 27-6 against France at Murrayfield and 30-15 against Wales in Cardiff – of six tries conceded and none scored. "One of the worst Scottish teams in the last 50 years," G J Storey of Hawick opined in the letters pages of "The Scotsman" on Monday. On the front page the headline read: "Hadden – A coach whose time is running out."

Two months in to a performance-related, rolling two-year contract, Hadden is under pressure to turn the tide with a side whose try-scoring has dried to the trickle of just one in five matches. If Scotland fail to win in Dublin, on the 10th anniversary of their most recent success in the Fair City, they will be left needing to beat England at Murrayfield on 8 March to avert the looming prospect of going to Rome on the final day scrapping to avoid a second successive wooden spoon, a nadir to which they last descended in 1978-79.

Even the "R" word has started to be mentioned north of the Border, Andy Robinson having been obliged to spend much of his weekly press conference as Edinburgh's coach making it clear he has no plans to return to international coaching.

"This is just natural pressure of being the Scotland coach. It's not unexpected," Hadden says. "As long as you don't get caught up in the hype and you keep your focus, it's not really a problem. What I see is we've got a few problems and my job is to try and solve them. We'll assess the situation after the Six Nations but we still think we've got a big part to play. We're disappointed that we have disappointed our fans. We can't do anything about that now except try and impress them.

"There's no magic wand. There's no obvious solution. It's lots of little things coming together better. It's not quite as bad as people think, but we're aware it's not good enough. We know we need to get better. We hold our hands up and say as an attacking performance it just wasn't good enough last Saturday. We've got a lot of work to do to find some genuine rhythm in attack. That's the key [issue] to address. We need to have more confidence and belief in our own ability to be a bit more dangerous.

"We still have confidence in our squad and in the ability of our players," he added. "Ten days ago, everybody thought we had a decent bunch of players who had nothing to be afraid of in the Six Nations. That has not changed. We're fully aware we need to play a hell of a lot better, but we believe we can."

To spark a recovery and set some sort of pulse running through a static, stuttering, possession-starved three-quarter-line, Hadden is giving serious consideration to a change of the guard at No 10.

The conservative Dan Parks could make way for the liberal Chris Paterson. "Chris is starting at stand-off for Gloucester against Bristol on Sunday. He has an opportunity. He played a bit at 10 in two consecutive weeks and handled it pretty well, considering how he hasn't played it that much. There's no reason why he couldn't be fit to start. He's definitely an option."