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EMBRA FAIL IN WALES

Dragons: 30 (22) Edinburgh: 20 (10)



A strong Edinburgh side travelled to struggling Newport today believing, one hopes, that they could come away with a decent win.  80 minutes later they had been whipped five tries to three and 30 - 22.  And had Newport taken their chances, it could have been much worse. Yet who among the Embra tifosi can really claim to have been surprised? 

Encouraging though the Scotland performance in Paris was last weekend, it highlighted once again the shortcomings of the SRU's stewardship of professional rugby ever since the game went open.  No one individual or management team deserves all the blame; there is loads to go round. 

France were playing some great stuff and most sides would have struggled to live with them.  Scotland defended well and were adventurous in attack at times.  Should they grow in confidence as an international squad, the support runners will be on shoulders, the offloads will go to hand and the victories will come.  In that sense, today's abject display at Murrayfield against a poor Wales side was an enormous step backwards.

Nevertheless, the composure under pressure that Ireland displayed in their fortunate victory over Italy and the patience then ruthless efficiency with which France created and then took their opportunities owed much to their players operating in clubs that have won at the highest levels in European rugby.  They know not to panic when they go behind.  They take chances when they have field position.  They can execute the basic skills when under pressure.  They do all this because they have been there with their clubs many times.

That is an environment that those Scots who play for Edinburgh and Glasgow have not been in.  And until the SRU treat the professional teams as a bit more than glorified training squads, both on and off the park, that will not change.  Against Wales today, Scotland's errors were sometimes laughable.  Again and again they squandered decent scoring opportunities; again and again they were rabbits in the headlights.  They were crying out for the leaders in the team to stamp their authority on the match, take control and get the side playing on the front foot.  Yet the players' lack of exposure to situations where they have to execute under pressure, coupled with the lack of strength in depth in key positions that a two team pro set-up guarantees, meant that they were unable to do this. 

Even Jerry Guscott tips them to win and they still screw it up.  Unbelievable.

We always seem to be at a crossroads in Scottish rugby and this season is no exception.  Every other major rugby nation, bar Argentina, has made a successful commitment to provincial rugby as an end in itself, recognising that competitive, winning teams at that level lead to competitive, winning teams at international level.  Italy have now started on that road and Argentina may well do so.  Quite simply, there is no reason why Scotland should not be the same.  The SRU have just been astute enough to secure the services of one of the best international head coaches in the world until 2015, after all.  We cannot afford not to make a go of professional provincial rugby.

Edinburgh Chairman Jim Calder's statements in this morning's press about the sort of strategy Edinburgh Rugby should be adopting were absolutely right, even if an ambition of 15K crowds by 2015 had a bit of a gimmicky ring about it.  Yet talk is cheap, and the organisation's current strategy seems more in line with an ambition of reducing crowds to 15 by 2015.  That's certainly the direction it's heading.  It is immensely frustrating, not least because, on the rare occasions when someone has been around long enough to come up with a strategy for the club and start delivering it, there have been encouraging signs of progress. 

Sir Moir Lockhead's appointment as SRU Chairman is an intriguing one. Will he be satisfied with the same old same old muddling through that has characterised professional rugby in Scotland?  In other words, an approach that, had it been adopted in his previous business, would not have seen Grampian Regional Transport bought by its own employees at all, let alone grown to a FTSE 250 transport business with operations across the UK, North America and continental Europe.  One hopes not.

Over to you, Sir Moir.

 

TEAMS:

Dragons: W Harries; A Hughes, M Watkins, A Smith, A Brew; J Tovey, W Evans; P Price, T Willis (captain), D Way, S Morgan, R Sidoli. A Coombs, J Bearman, L Evans Replacements: L Burns, H Gustafson, P Palmer, A Brown, H Ellies, P Leach, M Petri, M Jones

Edinburgh: C Paterson; L Jones, B Cairns, J Houston, T Visser; D Blair, G Laidlaw (captain); K Traynor, A Kelly, G Cross, C Hamilton, F McKenzie, S Newlands, N Talei, A MacDonald Replacements: A Walker, L Niven, D Young, E Lozada, R Grant, J King, S Webster, J Thompson

Referee: Falzone (FIR)