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Page last updated at 19:13 GMT, Thursday, 4 June 2009 20:13 UK

Is Robinson right for Scotland?

Gordon McKie and Andy Robinson
SRU chief executive Gordon McKie (left) with his new head coach Andy Robinson

By Keir Murray

The Scottish Rugby Union took a respectable amount of time in choosing Andy Robinson as Frank Hadden's successor as Scotland head coach.

Hadden departed the Murrayfield hotseat on 2 April, shortly after another ill-fated RBS Six Nations campaign.

Now, two months later, the nation has a new man in the top job in Scottish rugby.

Robinson was always favourite, even before he had submitted his application, but has the SRU chosen wisely?

Of course, only time will tell. A period of 10 months, to be precise, by which time Robinson will have completed his first Six Nations.

This should provide the game's governing body and the paying public with an indication of whether progress has been made.

News conference - Andy Robinson

The SRU deserves credit for seeking advice throughout the selection process.

SRU chief executive Gordon McKie made it clear at the outset that they would sound out former players and current coaches for their opinions on who should get the nod.

McKie and chair Alan Munro enlisted three former captains and Lions, in the form of Andy Irvine, Andy Nicol and Gordon Bulloch to create a five-man panel to sift through the 30 applications.

Having whittled down that many hopefuls into what Bulloch described as a "quite exceptional shortlist", Robinson was given the vote and a three-year contract.

For BBC Scotland rugby pundit Gary Parker, McKie and co have made an excellent choice.

"It's the right appointment," says Parker.

"Robinson has shown he can build a team. At Edinburgh all the top-class players had left when he took over, but he moulded a group of talented young Scots into a team that could compete in the Magners League.

"He'll make decisions that he thinks are right; he won't compromise. He'll back his players but he won't shirk making hard decisions.

"A coach is there to get the best out of each player. He needs to know what makes them tick, not to be everybody's best friend. Robinson can do that."

The new Scotland head coach has been tasked with achieving a 40% success rate in matches. In basic terms, that means winning two out of five games in the Six Nations.

Hadden had a similar target but secured just one win in three campaigns.

"Targets won't faze Robinson. He'll be out to win every game," says Parker.


"His sole job will be to get Scotland to compete again, to win more games than his predecessor. He'll do it his way."

BBC Radio Scotland commentator Bill Johnstone is also pleased with the SRU's choice.

"Andy is certainly the man for the job. He has proved to be very popular with the players, from whom he has earned an enormous amount of respect," says Johnstone.

"When Robinson arrived at Edinburgh the players were rejoicing because his technical knowledge was so impressive and he had the knack for pointing things out to the players that could improve their game.

"For example, he would advise players on the best way to go into a ruck or how to position one's body after a tackle."

Some Scotland fans may question the wisdom of appointing an Englishman to coach the national side, but this is not an issue that worries broadcaster Johnstone.

He said: "His nationality is simply not an issue, nor should it be.

"I have no problem at all with his Englishness. Surely his role as Scotland head coach is how he gets everybody to work with one another, not against one another."

There is no shortage of credits on Robinson's CV. He led Bath to Heineken Cup glory against Brive, assisted Sir Clive Woodward in coaching England to World Cup glory in 2003 and latterly guided Edinburgh to second spot in the Magners League.

The debit side, though, gives doubters their ammunition.

A torrid two years as England coach, with nine wins in 22 matches, ended in ignominy for the former England flanker.

But both Parker and Johnstone argue that fans should not view this period too dimly.

Robinson thrives on Scotland challenge

"His timing with England was unfortunate. He really suffered as the team led by Sir Clive Woodward began to fall apart through injury and retirement," says Johnstone.

While Parker reckons Robinson's experience with Scotland's old rivals can be used to his adopted country's advantage.

He said: "There is no greater coach than someone with a chip on his shoulder, and I suspect that, with the way things ended with England, he'll be as desperate to beat them at Murrayfield next year as any Scot would be."

Scotland's gain, though, is Edinburgh's loss, according to Johnstone.

"My only worry is what happens next at Edinburgh. He has done a great job there," he said.

"They could be on the brink of achieving something special and I really hope the wheels don't come off the barrow now that he has left."

Robinson's recent achievements have been appreciated by Edinburgh chief executive Nic Cartwright, who thanked the departing coach for "elevating Edinburgh into becoming a recognised force in European rugby".

He added that "his rapport with our players, staff and supporters was incredibly special".

Robinson himself views the Scotland job as "a wonderful opportunity to get back into Test rugby".

If he had failed to land the top coaching position, it's likely he would have headed to an English Premiership side.

With that in mind, the SRU was backed into a corner, but it will have more difficult decisions to make than this one at Murrayfield.

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see also
Scots name Robinson as head coach
04 Jun 09 |  Scottish
Scotland consider White and Jones
18 May 09 |  Scottish
Robinson praises Edinburgh squad
18 May 09 |  Edinburgh
Hastings fearful on Robinson exit
13 May 09 |  Edinburgh
Logan backs Robinson for Scotland
07 Apr 09 |  Rugby Union
Scotland narrow head coach search
29 Apr 09 |  Scottish
Robinson unsure on Scots vacancy
04 Apr 09 |  Scottish
Strong interest in top Scots job
24 Apr 09 |  Scottish
The rise and fall of Frank Hadden
02 Apr 09 |  Scottish
Hadden and Scotland part company
02 Apr 09 |  Scottish
Hadden non-committal over future
21 Mar 09 |  Rugby Union
Robinson named coach of Edinburgh
01 Oct 07 |  Edinburgh
Robinson is forced out by England
29 Nov 06 |  English

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