By Alan Dymock
MORE OFTEN than not, these ‘Five Things We Learned’ pieces are a mixture of praise and a smidgeon of criticism, just to let everyone know that you spotted a little technical peccadillo in amongst the contacts, or that there is one particular player you want to champion.
In the case of Scott Johnson’s Scotland, though, it is much more of straightforward task. There are no bullet points here. No snappy sub headings or drop-caps. It all gets laid out there at the same time. Here are five things:
Johnson. Must. Cut. It. Out.
Now don’t misconstrue this as an attack on Scott Johnson alone. While he has already faced trial by the British media, forcing the SRU to yesterday proclaim publicly that they are standing by him, this is more of a call to arms for everyone round about him to take pressure off him and not leave all the big decisions with him.
For example, there was much tutting and more than a few choice words heard under the breath after Johnson’s trademark wisecracks immediately after the embarrassing loss to England. If this head coach doesn’t have the pressure of having to parade in front of the media, he can focus on the serious job of reversing Scotland’s perilous fortunes. After all, with Scotland being nilled at home in two of the last four Tests there and an atrocious start to the Six Nations, he should be more concerned than anybody. Scratch that, he should care more than anybody.
Take him out of the public eye, send Duncan Hodge or Jonathan Humphreys out there to talk about rugby – purely the rugby – and let Johnson concentrate solely on coaching for the rest of the tournament.
Someone above the coaches station should think outside the box and make a rugby decision that hasn’t come from the coaches. Because matters on the pitch are in need of a serious overhaul, and if the SRU are to stand by him – and no matter what anyone says, Vern Cotter is not booked to charge in on his white steed for months – then Johnson definitely needs a bit of help.
From here on in it should be rugby only for Scotland. No excuses pre-match. No suck-it-and-see swaps from week to week. The best team for the whole tournament should go out and play. Period. Sure their game-plan needs changed, too. After all, once Scotland had spent time running into English tacklers last week and making few yards, in an action painfully reminiscent of a blue bottle trying to fly through a window pane, it was patently clear that Scotland weren’t briefed on another way to play. Let the coaches have their fortnight to try and turn it round before the all-important clash with Italy, which, granted, as a spectacle may not lift the spirits of the neutral but because of the pressure should actually be a credit to the Six Nations. That’s probably fair, isn’t it?
So two rounds in,we’ve had our fill tearing into Johnson. He’s had his shot across the bow. But it would be petulant to continue sniping at him. There are others involved and you would hope that an entire organisation is not dictated to by one man, so let them share the burden. After all, a head coach leaving mid-tournament would be a new low for Scotland. Give him a proper chance to prove himself, when the pressure is at its most intense.
You see, mark my words, Scottish rugby will outlast this poor showing, regardless of what some articles this week have said about how Scotland should be warned because they are dragging the Six Nations down. In the real world, there is too much history and more importantly too much sponsors ‘support’ or profit projections to be “kicking Scotland out of the tournament” before its mentioned in the fictional offices of the Powers That Be.
Let’s be clear. Johnson is not a politician or an entertainer. Officially he’s Scotland’s head coach, and he presumably swept to the position based on what he was saying about the nuts and bolts of Scottish rugby. Keep him behind the scenes.
No more of the snappy one-liners and grinning in press conferences. Everybody wants a competitive Scotland. If anything else, that’s the one thing we learned at the weekend. Others alongside Johnson must be made aware of this as well. All of them should come out fighting and make beleaguered Scots rugby fans proud.