By Alan Dymock
NECESSITY IS the mother of invention. That is what you are told, as if the hard times cannot be hard for too long. The toaster was invented because sliced bread just wasn’t good enough and you better believe that misery is easily cast aside by the ideas borne out of head-crushing pressure.
Decisions made in haste, under constraints and pressure, are often the most telling of all. Your team sends out hospital passes and your coach sends himself to the rugby morgue; that’s the Scotland way.
In the days following Andy Robinson’s decision to jump out of Murrayfield, it soon became apparent that his assistant, Scott Johnson, was going to get the nod. Scotland CEO Mark Dodson was willing to wait a few weeks –even travelling to London with Johnson and Kelly Brown for the World Cup draw – because he already knew his play. ‘Discussions’ were held with Johnson, alone, and lo and behold: he was unveiled as the interim boss.
The Scotland way, in times like this, can seem a lot like the Wonga way. Act; think of the consequences later. Time and money tend not to last as long as regret or at least embarrassment.
Of course, Johnson may well show that his maverick ways, can finally win over a team long-term as well as the yapping fans, starved of success for so long. He is an inventive soul without the pressure, so heaven only knows what he can pull out of the bag when the scale of his task becomes apparent.
The portents are encouraging, Johnson has already seen one unexpected, and near masterful scheme come to fruition during the first few weeks of his tenure.
With the appointment of Dean Ryan as forwards’ coach for the duration of the Six Nations, the high heid yins at Murrayfield have pulled off a coup. Much like a pay-day loan there is unlikely to be any longevity to the plan, but nonetheless there is a genuine thinker on the game headed for Edinburgh.
Many have marvelled at Ryan’s astute reading of the game. In his guise as the whiteboard wizard at the Sky Sports studios he has demonstrated a keen eye for detail as well as a confidence in his understanding of the game. Often it’s hard not to find yourself nodding along as he talks.
However, how he will fit with Johnson, or indeed scrum coach Massimo Cuttitta or skills coaches Stevie Scott and Duncan Hodge, remains an imponderable for now. We will soon find out.
It is all part of a wild build-up to the Six Nations. There are deep-seated problems within Scottish rugby and it’s limiting structures, but the national team needed a change, panicked or not. Robinson could not mould the team in his own image after his years of toil and he was too proud to re-draw his plans using a spirograph.
With a thinker like Ryan and an adventurer like Johnson in for a period of 12 weeks, such plans may look more like a Pollock attacked with a paintball gun. It could be beautiful or it could be eye-watering, but it will be the kind of ride that Scotland fans have not experienced for a few years.
It is hard to envisage a team under such leadership running oafishly into defenders and allowing cover to drift onto your only attacking option on the far flank. Indeed, it is the uncertainty about this team that make them exciting and dangerous, if only because they may give their heads and hands too much to do while they shoot at their own feet.
The task at hand is for those schemers to get into the heads of the floundering Edinburgh players, while at the same time, harnessing the tenacity and propulsion of the Glasgow Warriors’ players without setting them off against each other and creating a stilted side. There is excitement and the clock is ticking, but invention and verve can often kill the most delicate of spirits. Scotland also need nurturing and they need their hand held before they can plummet, headlong into new plans.
It will become obvious in March whether interim is to evolve into incumbent, but they will certainly be doing some exhaustive planning to cause a few upsets in the meantime.
Ryan may be caught between punditry and sparingly assisting at the Newport Gwent Dragons, while no one could hazard what Johnson is thinking right now, but we’ve got some wonga, we’re carried away and we’re off to buy a big screen TV.
We can worry about the consequences after the France game.