The Mole’s neuralgic reaction to the mere thought of rewatching the Scotland vs England game precludes any attempt at detailed analysis of ‘where it went wrong’ for Scotland. I’ll give you a hint, though.
What a perfect scapegoat. The Mole’s not lumping blame on Dan The Man because of the block down that led to the only try of the game; nah, that sort of thing could happen to a bishop … because bishops are generally 70+ years old and move with all the alacrity of a ploughshare tortoise. What a cheap, yet totally deserved, pop.
It wasn’t an isolated incident that has Parks crowned, hauled up in a cage and presiding over a fair in Killorglin; rather it was an hour of inept kicking, passing and decision-making that ensured an English team with barely an idea of their own about how to win the game were put in the cushiest of positions. Scotland will rarely have a better chance to turn over an English team [you’d think, at least]: the visitors were chock full of debutants and chock empty of international-class talent. Phil Dowson was the worst of the Premiership turkeys, failing to make any sort of mark whatsoever on the game; Chris Robshaw was played off the park by Ross Rennie; and Charlie Hodge-podge looked as panicky and as ineffective as he did during his worst days in the white jersey a life ago. And yet they still won. Good God.
To be fair to Parks, he didn’t select himself at out half. That was Andy Robinson’s fault. The Mole is a fan of NFL Network’s Dave Damashek, and to paraphrase the likable-blame-game host [ah, ‘The Blame Game’ … apparently we’re not supposed to play it; well, it’s difficult to play a game that only ‘exists’ because two words rhyme], “Dan Parks didn’t put himself in that position; ANDY ROBINSON put him in that position.”
Robinson’s failure of nerve would go down as a catastrophic structural failure were it to assessed by a forensic structural engineer. We didn’t just see some cracking in the concrete as a warning sign … nah, we had some full-on explosive spalling, taking out a whole nation’s hopes of:
- seeing some decent rugby played
- beating the English
- getting off to a good start in the Six Nations
- putting the early World Cup knock-out to bed
It’s not all Andy Robinson’s fault either though [ah … so this is the blame game]: Gregor Townsend is a heroically bad attack coach, as The Mole has pointed out before. Scotland don’t have a f*cking bean about what they’re supposed to be doing when they have the pill, and you can’t even point to a suffocating English defense as mitigation. They opened up the white wall time and again [although seemingly by accident or misadventure for the most part] and yet their handling skills, their support lines, their passing and their composure were absolutely dire. Dire.
Former Ospreys coach Scott Johnson is joining up at the end of the season, and it can’t come too quickly for either the team or Robinson. Townsend seems to have players going backwards at a startling rate from the decision-making and skills levels that they show at their clubs.
So what do you do if you’re Grum Up North Lancaster? First of all, you thank your lucky stars that of all the teams to play away from home, you got your campaign off against the Jocks. That English team would have been hockeyed by France, Ireland or Wales if they had to travel to any of those countries for their first game. Absolutely hockeyed.
Secondly, you look into stem cell treatment/a hyperbaric chamber/voodoo to get Manu Tuilagi up and running, because there is simply no threat whatsoever in the English midfield. Owen Farrell will turn into a good international sooner or later; with Tuilagi outside him, it will be sooner.
You get on the phone to Karsey haste-post-haste, because Phil Dowson is one of the worst No8s that the Mole has seen in the Six Nations. If we were to put a multiple on it, I’d say that Karsey is six times the player Dowson is; not twice the player, not even thrice the player … six times the player. Firstly, he actually knows how to play the position, which is a serious leg-up. Who knew? Secondly, he’s actually a good international. Thirdly, he’s got loads of experience and has real leadership qualities, all of which are lacking in this English team.
Tobes will be welcomed back with open arms at out half, absence having made the heart grow considerably fonder. A Tobes/Farrell/Tuilagi midfield combination has legs at international level and will grow to be a serious unit if Farrell and Tuilagi continue their steep progression, and a back three of Strettle/Ashton/Foden [or ‘England’s Good Player’ as he was referred to in Mole Towers during the game] has real pace and pose a genuine threat … if they get any ball.