Scotland legend Craig Chalmers gives us the inside track on life north of the border as they towards a World Cup, where they are grouped with England.
Chalmers says: “THE WORLD cup is still a few months away so I found it very strange that Andy Robinson, after the Six Nations, chose to rest five Scotland players – Kellock, Gray, Barclay, Ford and Jacobsen – until the end of the season.
“Ross Ford hasn’t had a great season and probably needs to be playing. Richie Gray is 21 and like most guys just wants to be out there – it’s what they’re paid to do and what they’re happiest doing.
“I know New Zealand rested lots of All Blacks from the Super 14 before the previous World Cup but where did it get them? The quarter-finals.
“In Scotland we seem to be very load-conscious but sometimes you need to train for longer to get things done properly. I don’t know if pulling players out is designed to minimise the risk of an injury before the World Cup, but injuries can happen at any time – in a training session or a World Cup warm-up game, for example.
“We seem to be on a different page from other countries on this issue and the fact that Glasgow and Edinburgh have been struggling makes it even stranger, because that’s when you want your big names to give the squad a boost; as it is Glasgow have just lost to Treviso.
I’m old school on this – I believe players should be fit enough to cope with a season’s rugby. I know the game has changed but I never felt a need to be rested during my own playing career; the nearest I got to it was playing only half the six matches on a 1991 tour to North America.
“Omitting players devalues a competition that sponsors pay a lot of money to endorse. Not only that, supporters of Edinburgh and Glasgow pay a lot of money to see the best players week in, week out and there’s a lot of resentment when top players are withdrawn, or join the ranks of those leaving to play club rugby in England, France or Wales. Max Evans (Castres) and Richie Vernon (Sale Sharks) are two of the latest.
“There’s a real worry that the pro game is falling apart a bit in Scotland. The pro teams get £5m each but that has to cover everything. It’s probably only half that for player wages, which perhaps puts them on a par with a club like Leeds Carnegie. We’re losing too many players to other leagues and you can’t rely on kids to win you the Magners League or get you to play-offs. It’s a vicious circle because without success you won’t get the big support you need to drive up revenue.
“You need to speculate to accumulate and if you’re not willing to do that, by signing one or two overseas players for example, then what’s the point in it all? From the outside it looks as if the pro game is happy to be rid of the higher earners.
“There’s a lot of concern and uncertainty in Scotland. Rob Moffat was replaced when Edinburgh were doing better than Glasgow, so does that mean Sean Lineen is under pressure as well? We need some stability and certainty – and we need the SRU to put their hand in their pocket.”
Craig Chalmers’ column appeared in the June 2011 issue of Rugby World Magazine.
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