As Scottish rugby struggles to come to terms with an ailing international team who have lost their last four matches without scoring a try, we asked coaches operating at Premiership, National League and East League level in and around Edinburgh where the main problem lies.
At a stroke, there is a case for bringing deposed captain Kelly Brown back into the side for the visit to Italy on Saturday week, but the length of time all four required to ponder their answer spoke volumes about how deep issues run.
These were the responses:
BRUCE MACNAUGHTON, STEWART’S MELVILLE: “Problems start at the top, but for starters I’d bring Kelly Brown back at No.6 (blindside flanker) while keeping Chris Fusaro in the team for Italy.
“We need Scottish coaches with a better instinct regarding how Scotland play.
“On the field, there is stuff you can sort out with a decent game plan, but years ago there was fire and brimstone. It is so flat I’m wondering if the message is now getting through.
“Do these current coaches really, really care?
“For the sake of the game at large we have to start getting a feelgood from the Scottish performances, otherwise it will start filtering down to the club game.
“I want to see the players go out and really have a go, but at the moment they perhaps don’t agree with the way they are expected to play, or is it they feel let down by what happened to their captain?”
MARCUS DI ROLLO, WATSONIANS: “I would never, ever criticise an individual player because I know that at the end of the day you get selected and do your best. Having said that, you can be motivated in a way that gets the best out of you and I’m not sure that is happening .
“There needs to be a think tank set up to look at the way forward, but it is really, really complicated.
“Part of the problem is that people who really know Scottish rugby are not involved.
“For example Frank Hadden has been involved at schools, youth, district and national level, but is unlikely to be back because of the way he was treated latterly. Richie Dixon is another with loads of experience on the outside of the game here nowadays and Allan Jacobsen retired from playing last year but didn’t get a lot of encouragement to remain in some capacity.
“Nothing against Glasgow, but when they are doing well and Edinburgh and the Borders are struggling, that is worrying because the latter two places are a heartland.
“Skill levels also need to be addressed and while there needs to be changes occasionally, not as often as every couple of years, which is the case at present.
“People are brought in whom you know won’t be around very long and there are some in Murrayfield who wouldn’t know where Meggetland or Myreside or Mansfield Park are.
“I am not against foreign coaches, but there needs to be someone alongside who really knows Scottish rugby.
“There is much to be done at schools level – a league perhaps?”
MARK STEADMAN, PRESTON LODGE: “One of the reasons I am glad our club are getting promotion is to guarantee us fixtures.
“There seems to be an acceptability that the lower you go, you can call off at short notice, even if opponents have organised sponsors lunches, etc. It never used to be that way.
“There isn’t enough rugby in the state schools and clubs are having to do all the ground work.
“Getting youngsters from 16 years old into the senior game is difficult and then you have to iron out the bad practices.
“I coach mini rugby as well and have seen a wee boy penalised for carrying the ball in one hand.
“For goodness sake, let them play and be a bit of a maverick.”
PHIL SMITH, HERIOT’S “Bring back Kelly Brown and if a bit of humble pie has to be eaten, so be it. For Kelly to go from being waxed lyrical about as a human being and a rugby player to dropping out of the squad altogether I did not get.
“To hold down a place at Saracens is all you need to know about his abilities and I am 100 per cent confident Kelly is well liked by the squad.”
BRUCE AITCHISON, BOROUGHMUIR (via social media): “Pay players and staff. Players will always leave smaller clubs, it’s what happens. Wee clubs are having a huge impact on progress. If you are holding on to players you are selfish. Give them skills and a home and then give them wings.
“The social issues affecting the progress of sport, creativity and competition are beyond the power of the SRU and will take a huge surge of change throughout the country.”