By Alan Dymock
SOMETIMES WITH Scottish rugby there is a feeling that you are being shown a flat that has all the mod cons, a nice view and above all else is cheap. You move in, snapping up the deal and hurriedly cramming all of your baggage in, remarking on how accommodating it is. Then the first train goes by and you realise how shaky the foundations are.
Since professionalism this has been the case anyway, with the national side last triumphing in the Five Nations and ever since then simply starting and fitting, picking up wins here and there.
However, there have been fleeting moments of brilliance.
The record victory over Italy was one such moment with backs and playmakers slickly coming through the plan. It was precise and above all, powerful, as the half-backs passed, the strike runners struck and man after man lay down for the tackle, having driven shoulders into attackers.
Such significant wins have been seen before and Scots’ memories are dotted with specks of that victory at Croke Park in 2010 or Wales getting whacked in 2003. Many recall that Calcutta Cup win in 2008. There was another in 2006, but that year also stood out for Sean Lamont rocking the French on his own and leading the team to a famous 20-16 victory, before Paterson took over against the Italians at the end of that championship.
That year Scotland had three victories. Every year since they have won only one game, with the exception of last season’s whitewash.
Now we are told that a culture change, hugely different from that heralded by the English, is transforming Scotland and that the freelance, interim coaching team are giving the boys what they need to succeed. A glorious win flashes by and all of a sudden the stewards of the north are talking about turning out the best Championship since 2006.
They have an opportunity, with the Irish squad ravaged by injury patching itself up and readying for a scrap this Sunday. If ever Scotland were to back up a record performance it would be against a wounded team with disciplinary problems and a captain and coach needing to prove they are still the right men for the job.
It will not be easy, but Scott Johnson and his vagabond staff have a position many coaches would actually be happy with. They have a team that will forever call itself the underdog. They have finite time. They have some confidence. They have weapons. They are at relative full strength, bar the missing Euan Murray. And they may go for it, using guerrilla attacks, at the first whistle.
If this happens and Scotland have two wins, Scott Johnson is a shoe-in to convince the Scottish hierarchy that he is the best man to lead Scotland and some of his interim helpers will be happy that they have proved a point. Lose and they just move on to the next game and the smidgeon of hope.
The room may be rattling, but Johnson has glued the furniture to the floor and is strapping down the china. No one knows how long that will last, and for the moment, that’s kinda exciting.Like Rugby World? Subscribe to the magazine for the latest comprehensive content.