Williams needs win to escape same fate as Vogts

Click to follow

It has been a barren time at Murrayfield for the Antipodean coach who visits the home of Scottish rugby today.

As a member of the fortysomething brigade, he has yet to experience the joy of a victory there. And it is just possible that his job might be on the line in the Six Nations Championship game in the Caledonian bowl this afternoon. So much, though, for big John Kirwan. It promises to be a day of destiny, too, for Matt Williams at Murrayfield.

Fifteen months after he arrived as Scotland coach, inscribing the legend Dun Alba (Gaelic for "Fortress Scotland") in the home dressing-room, Williams has yet to preside over a victory at Murrayfield.

He has also yet to taste victory in the Six Nations, after seven failed attempts. And, with an overall record of played 14, lost 12, the native Sydneysider is being subjected to what Kenny Logan described this week as "the Berti Vogts treatment." Vogts lost his job as coach to Scotland's football team after a sustained media campaign against him and, more pertinently, a record of nine wins in 32 matches.

"How can a German football coach and an Australian rugby coach have anything in common?" Williams implored, choosing to ignore the losing link. "I think it's one of the most bizarre analogies I've ever heard. It's actually quite funny."

For the time being, Williams can afford to laugh. He has not been subjected to the kind of tabloid treatment that undermined Vogts: with headlines such as "For Vogts Sake, Go," and "This Man Is Making Us Ill."

There would be precious few denizens of Murrayfield disposed to smile in his direction, though, if Scotland were to continue their losing streak this afternoon, against Kirwan's Italy and move three-fifths of the way towards a second successive championship whitewash.

The natives have been more than restless since the desperately dire Scotland performance in a record Murrayfield defeat against Ireland two weeks ago, although Williams insists he has not considered tendering his resignation. "I've never quit anything in my life, except maybe painting the kitchen once," he said with a whimsical flourish of defiance.

The prospect of the temperature rising to an intolerable level in the Murrayfield kitchen will depend to a large extent upon Italy's ability to reproduce the forward gas that had Ireland spluttering for so long in the Stadio Flaminio three weeks ago. Against Wales in Rome a week later they barely simmered by comparison.

Like Williams, Kirwan has a contract up to and including the 2007 World Cup, although his is said to have a clause making him liable to dismissal should he fail to register at least one victory in each Six Nations season before then. Should that be the case, the former Auckland butcher would appear to need victory today - a first for the Azzurri on foreign soil in the championship - to be absolutely safe from getting the chop.

In his former existence as a rampaging 6ft 3in meat-cleaver of an All Black wing, Kirwan never got the chance to bring his forceful cutting edge to bear at Murrayfield. His prospects of tasting success there today will hardly be helped by the absence of Mauro Bergamasco.

As for Williams, he has Simon Taylor returning to back row duty - and no Simon McDowell to worry about in the referee's video room, the Irish official having been dropped in light of the Scotland coach's complaint of being "robbed blind" by McDowell's decision to flag Ally Hogg as being

"in touch" en route to the Scottish try that never was in Paris three weeks ago.

It remains to be seen, though, whether Williams will succeed with his deployment of a sports psychologist, Tony Westbury, to help put his team in a winning frame of mind.

It was different in Kirwan's international playing days. All it needed back then was a little pre-match dance, and an All Black cloak of invincibility.