Andy Robinson: “We have the ability”
How quickly fortunes can change in international rugby. The Six Nations brought Scotland and head coach Andy Robinson the wooden spoon with five losses from five games. Several months later the same Scotland team returned from their summer tour unbeaten after impressive victories over Australia, Fiji and Samoa.
We asked Robinson to explain his “reignited” side, the upcoming November internationals and how Scotland are building towards Rugby World Cup 2015.
Scottish Rugby’s four-year plan to win the Rugby World Cup caused something of a stir in the press recently. Was it a wise goal to set?
That’s why you’re in the sport – to achieve the very best. Everybody involved in Scottish rugby has to get behind the team and work with the Edinburgh and Glasgow teams to be as successful as possible. It’s for each player to really challenge themselves to raise the levels of how we want to perform.
We want to improve our game understanding and technique, so it’s right to have those goals. And with the team having beaten two of the top three sides in the world in the last couple of years (Australia and South Africa) it shows we have the ability to do it. It’s about performing on the day.
You must have been delighted with the summer tour, especially beating Australia?
We’re really pleased with what happened in the summer. One, it gave the players the rewards for the hard work they’ve been putting in. I didn’t feel they got the just rewards in the Six Nations. Second, there was a real spirit. They were united about playing for Scotland. When you do lose games under the pressure of the Six Nations the confidence of the players gets tested, but there’s been a reignition of the spirit and the confidence.
And when you get the rewards of victory, that’s what Test rugby is all about. It was pleasing they were able to win the games in different ways. We outscored Fiji with four tries, we scored three tries against Samoa and had a very good defensive performance against Australia. So we won it in different conditions. Extreme conditions. We went from the rain and wind of Newcastle to the searing heat of Nadi.
Considering the Six Nations whitewash, where do you think this ‘reignition’ came from?
I saw it in the build up to the tour. Edinburgh doing well in the Heineken Cup, Glasgow doing well in the RaboDirect. It had been a long season, I gave a lot of players the opportunity not to tour and to a man they all put their hand up and said they wanted to tour. And for a team that had just picked up the wooden spoon, that was great to see.
Looking to the future and Rugby World Cup 2015, were there any young players you took on tour who look like future stars?
Matt Scott in the centre came through well. Ryan Grant at loosehead prop played consistently well, and we had a number of young players who weren’t involved – Stuart McInally, Alex Dunbar – that came on the tour and they are big prospects for the future.
As an Englishman, are you particularly looking forward to Rugby World Cup 2015?
When you look at how London and the UK is running the Olympics and how the supporters get behind the teams, that’s what you’re going to get in the Rugby World Cup when it’s staged in England. It’s going to be a brilliant tournament played in some iconic stadia. It’s going to be accessible for all the northern hemisphere supporters and when you look at the Heineken Cup, that’s so well supported all over Europe. I think the rugby public will turn out in force.
After the summer tour Scotland have risen to ninth in the IRB World Rankings. Are you looking at winning in the autumn to hopefully get you a better draw for Rugby World Cup 2015?
You know what you have to do but that’s not at the forefront of your mind when you go into each match. It’s about winning the Test match. We play New Zealand first, who we’ve never beaten. There’s a real challenge for us. We then back that up with South Africa and we have huge respect for them and how they’re playing in the Super 15. They’re developing a new team and I think they’ll take the Autumn by storm, so I think that’ll be a cracking game. And then we go to Aberdeen where we play Tonga. Looking at what Tonga did in the last World Cup that’s a side that is growing as well, so we have three great Test matches for the Scottish public to come out and support us.