By Alan Dymock
AS OCTOBER draws near the rain is lashing pedestrians with more regularity. For some south of Berwick this is a reminder that grounds will soften and tries may be unpleasantly scarce. For the Scots it is an unexpected reminder of a successful summer tour and a signal that even more hard work is needed as the seasons shift.
Since Andy Robinson arrived in Edinburgh the word ‘change’ has been used more often than in a Barrack Obama campaign commercial. The structure of the SRU has changed. The personnel in charge of Edinburgh Rugby and Glasgow Warriors have changed. The name of the SRU CEO has changed. The language being used at press conferences has, you guessed it, changed. Only the struts of Murrayfield’s roof remain the same dank shade of rust.
Of course in season 2011/12 this nationwide change had different effects on the professional teams. Edinburgh were transformed into a fantastic European outfit and a poor RaboDirect Pro12 side. The exact same system fostered a fine Warriors’ Pro12 side with a gritty, if uninspiring, European alter ego.
The changes also looked to shake the national side right out of its groove. An unprecedented failure of a World Cup was backed up by a stinker of a Six Nations. Losing became as familiar as a Sunday morning sink.
Robinson and his bespoke set-up persevered, though. They worked away at it, trying to find the perfect combinations and the right times to introduce the men they had evolved for, in order to cater for their needs.
In the summer they took a squad over the equator with more than a few untested names. Railing against form this side flourished. Calling on the defensive principles that made Glasgow feared and the attacking swagger that had made Edinburgh unpredictable, the team swayed to three wins against a sodden Australia, Fiji and Samoa.
But still things could not settle. With the country reintroduced to winning on that tour, alteration was again called for by Robinson. Gregor Townsend was brought in at Glasgow to replace the successful Sean Lineen and Neil Back came into Edinburgh to replace Tom Smith as forwards coach.
The messages were not subtle: Glasgow was lacking flair and Edinburgh needed grit. They were given coaches of Robinson’s choosing who had a remit to remedy this.
Changing is never easy, though, and rarely in sport do the outcomes you want come instantly. So it was no surprise that Glasgow lost their opening two games and failed to win their first ever game at Scotstoun. They were not free-scoring.
It was also no surprise that Edinburgh could run pretty patterns, but could not kill off the game in their opening match.
However, recently both teams have shown something different. In the last two games Glasgow have turned it on away from home and beaten the champion Ospreys, before scoring freely against Connacht at Scotstoun. Edinburgh, meanwhile, managed to tough out a victory against Cardiff Blues away and kept in touch with an oft rampant Leinster.
In the coming months they must both keep this trend going. Obviously they cannot go too far the other way, but with fans now seeing the impact of swapped coaches and more control from Robinson, everyone will want to improve further.
It will not be easy. The Heineken Cup is a looming challenge in more ways than one and the EMC Internationals will take players out of the training pool. Reinforcements and new coaches were brought in for these exact reasons.
Will both teams revert to type as we squelch into autumn?