In the first of a two part interview, Christine Lester interviews Scotland coach Andy Robinson on the Heineken Cup.
With the Heineken Cup beginning tonight, and both Edinburgh and Glasgow are in action this weekend, I spoke to Andy Robinson to ask for his thoughts on how the two Scottish sides would fare in this year’s competition. Edinburgh travel down to the Madejski Stadium to take on London Irish on Saturday, whilst Glasgow opens pool 3 at home to Bath on Sunday.
“What is always important around this time is how you integrate the boys returning from the World Cup back in. The younger boys that have played up until now have done really really well, and it is great to see them taking their opportunities. With the guys coming back, its about the integration, keeping your team moving forward.”
“Yes playing in the Heineken Cup is a step up, the key to it is winning your home games, and I did not achieve that when I was at Edinburgh. But Edinburgh and Glasgow have played against, and won against, some very good teams. The confidence is there.”
Andy mentions that he will be going to both games this weekend, paying close attention to those who could be key to the future set up of the national side.
“With Scotland, we have got to shake off this ‘unlucky losers’ tag” you can see how much the epithet frustrates Robinson here, “the way you do that is by winning. Things like performing for the eighty minutes and going out and using these chances and winning, will be a small part of the debrief.”
With the World Cup being mentioned, it is surely an appropriate time to ask about the decision to pull several key players from playing club rugby; a decision that was met with widespread scepticism at the time. “I know that that decision disappointed a lot of people. And with the exception of Ruaridh Jackson who picked an injury up, the players have come back in good shape, and the clubs are able to use that. They have not come back absolutely broken, they have come back hungry to be successful.”
Previously there has been a perception, perhaps unfounded but certainly well commented on, that the national side has had more of the resources than the pro sides. When asked to comment on this, Robinson refutes it, saying, “I have not felt that. It certainly hasn’t seemed like that. What is important is that the players are able to get winning performances. You get what money you get, and with that you need to get the best players you can to perform. I can only comment for myself, and my experience with Edinburgh. You want to be able to compete at these levels and compete against these teams. I am not in control of the finances.”
“You can have a massive resource of money, but if you bring in the wrong people, then it is not going to do you any good. You want to achieve consistency and success. Bringing the right people in starts this process.”
With the Scottish clubs coming under some criticism for their automatic qualification into the Heineken Cup, thanks to their failure to perform in previous years, what are Glasgow and Edinburgh’s chances for making it through to the knock out stages?
“The level in the Heineken Cup has improved incredibly. It is tough for anyone to qualify from their group. It will need some very special performances at home and away from home.”