Scotland, the big little country of rugby



On one side 5 million Scots and 25,000 licensees, on the other 67 million French and 250,000 licensees. This arithmetic difference has long regulated trips to Murrayfield, the national stadium in Edinburgh, where the different generations of Blues were used to the Scottish wooden spoon, a trophy reserved for nations losing all their matches in the Tournament. But the instrument is now stored in the drawers. The Blues have not won for eight years in Scotland and the trip on Saturday February 26 promises to be perilous, after two defeats in a row, during the 2020 and 2021 Tournaments.

→ READ. Rugby: the grand slam is still far away for the XV of France

The fault in part of a compatriot, Éric Blondeau, current mental coach of Racing 92, chosen by former Scottish coach Vern Cotter to restore momentum to a Scotland XV which could not mourn the beautiful game from the amateur rugby era. “They played with style, panache, but couldn’t come back when they were pushed around by the powerful teams”, says this performance specialist, who also advises big bosses in the industry.

They had the style, they added the performance

“I tried to teach them to add efficiency and consistency to beauty,” continues the adviser, who took each of the key players aside to help them work and train their buddies. “With 25,000 registered players, they cannot claim the density of England or France, but they only need five or six very good players to take on the rest, team spirit and sense of duty. do the rest, details former Toulon coach Daniel Herrero. In his Rugby lovers dictionary (Plon), he devotes a long chapter to the XV of Scotland which has always thrilled him. “Even when they beat us, we love them because they always play well,” underlines this southerner who will comment on Saturday’s match on “Sud Radio”… and in a kilt.

→ READ. Six Nations Tournament: the XV of France in favorite costume

According to Richard Escot, pen of the oval exercising his talents in a blog called “open side”, the Scots are “the guarantors of the beautiful game that they almost invented (1)the heroes of this rugby taught in the Borders (agricultural region bordering England, editor’s note), with a good level of school education, which produces gentlemen-farmers who perfectly master the technical and tactical subtleties of oval geometry. »

A Scottish best player of the last Tournament

But these beautiful manners are not always the weight against the huge templates of modern rugby. “All the more reason to develop other qualities, look at the Japanese who beat the South Africans at the 2019 World Cup”, completes coach Éric Blondeau. Under the eyes of the dumbfounded world, the Scots thus got the better of the Australians at the 2015 World Cup, until a monumental refereeing error deprived them of a deserved qualification in the semi-finals.

“They haven’t spent months lamenting like it would have happened with us, refereeing errors happen and it’s something the players have no influence over, so they rightly consider that they have succeeded in their World Cup”, continues Éric Blondeau, whose precepts have been maintained by the current technical team, after his departure following this feat.

The Blues led by the best player in the world 2021, Antoine Dupont, will have enough to face the teammates of Hamish Watson, elected best player of the last Tournament. The path to the grand slam, which only the XV of France can still claim (it is the only undefeated team to date in the 2022 Tournament), will be strewn with thistle thorns.

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Healthy rivalry between Edinburgh and Glasgow

Long supported by a myriad of amateur clubs, Scottish rugby took the full brunt of the advent of professionalism in the mid-1990s. Four professional clubs were born, but two quickly closed down, leaving the two historic Glasgow and Edinburgh face to face. Glasgow and Edinburgh are involved in the Pro 16, a championship between clubs from countries too small to justify a national championship: four Irish teams, four Welsh, four South African, two Italian and two Scottish. Glasgow and Edinburgh currently sit third and fifth in the Pro 16.

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