Tackling the crisis: Scotland rugby debate at Napier Uni

Scottish Rugby Union Vice President Ian Rankin
Scottish Rugby Union Vice President Ian Rankin
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The first steps on the long road to recovery for Scottish rugby might just be taken at Napier University’s Sighthill Campus lecture theatre tomorrow night.

Up to 300 enthusiasts with an interest in the future of the oval ball game can be accommodated at an Open Forum, entitled Scottish Rugby – attitudes and opinions. It has been organised through SRU vice president Ian Rankin, pictured below, who will take part in a question and answer session alongside recently retired internationalist Rory Lamont, current Scotland kicking coach and former cap Duncan Hodge, and ex-national mentor, Frank Hadden. If, as they say, feedback is the breakfast of champions, then a positive feast could follow – as Rankin acknowledges.

This former Edinburgh manager and coach cannot be accused of hiding away in any ivory tower, but admits it is a curious quirk of timing, with an event put together some months ago now falling within days of Scotland suffering a record Six Nations defeat after going down 51-3 against Wales in Cardiff.

Debate is expected to be lively. “It is important to hear what people have to say about all aspects of rugby and for Napier University to be able to showcase their sport and exercise science facilities covering a range of sports,” said Rankin. “So far as rugby is concerned, Napier have worked with the likes of Mike Blair and Chris Paterson through to current stand-off Duncan Weir in measuring them for the power of their kicking as well as other ways of improving technique – we are grateful for that.

“I had previously attended guest lectures at Napier University when the idea was put to me that rugby could follow on from other sports in having this type of event.

“So far as the panel is concerned, Rory has just finished playing and has current insight into different techniques employed at the clubs he represented such as Toulon, Sale and Glasgow. Likewise, Frank Hadden has done rugby development work abroad (notably in Mongolia and Africa) as well as having international coaching experience.

“Basically we are going to be talking about all aspects of rugby and I expect questions to be asked on a range of topics.”

Among the items likely to be brought up are those bouncing around social media in the wake of the Cardiff calamity, although Rankin was keen to focus on the key moment in that game: Stuart Hogg’s early dismissal.

“We could not have asked for a worse time for it [the sending off] to happen. Wales have a back line that is hard enough to contain without trying to do so with 14 men.”

High on the agenda is likely to be a further push for an integrated schools/youth competitive structure, which was actually mandated by an SRU annual meeting a couple of years ago but has not yet been followed through by the governing body. There are also many now clamouring for a re-structuring along the lines of New Zealand rugby, where six elected officials represent 26 provincial unions and 500 clubs nationwide on the board.

This is currently being highlighted by one former internationalist who is wary of straying on to a public platform, but is able to point out that, by comparison, the Scottish Rugby Union is made up of roughly 190 clubs who are equal voting stakeholders and their majority support is required to push through any fundamental change. The consequence of this, he says, is that clubs do not feel sufficiently linked to the two professional teams by means of a district tier which would allow late developers to demonstrate their claims for contracts and provide Scotland with a more competitive element to the annual British and Irish Cup.

Financing of further pro teams in a move back to the original concept of four is also high on the agenda and the influential Change For Scottish Rugby pressure group have been quick to seize on quotes attributed to Aberdeen Asset Management chief executive Martin Gilbert that his company would support the creation of a pro team based in Aberdeen.

Finding a competitive outlet for any new Scottish team is bound to be an issue, but Gilbert’s perceived interest comes against a background of previous involvement as sponsors of the Edinburgh team in both the Heineken European Cup and RaboDirect PRO12.

• FOR details of tomorrow’s forum, email Sarah Manning at s.manning@napier.ac.uk