A few weeks ago I heard some of what the latest targets were that the Scottish Rugby Union (SRU) had set itself but was unable to share this at the time on this website. At the time I did think hats off and good luck guys but also that they were really lofty ambitions. These targets for the next four years include winning a Six Nations Grand Slam and the next World Cup.
It was thus with much interest that I now read the latest edition of a blog from a man I have a lot of time for, former Scotland International, John Beattie.
In recent times John has ventured in a career in journalism/broadcasting and is one of my favourite broadcasters on one of our radio stations.
Have a read and let us know what you think. Is Mr Beattie been too harsh and should one instead be bold and set very high, and perhaps unachievable, goals, or is his assessment spot on?
Are Scotland able to ‘punch above their weight’ on a consistent enough basis for it to become the expected?
One thing I definitely do agree with John on is his opinion that for Scotland rugby to flourish in the long term the game needs to become more widely played in our schools.
This may be a difficult concept to understand from a South African point of view where it is a given that rugby is played from very young in many schools, I still look proudly at photos I took of one of my relatives playing ‘Bulletjie’ rugby at the age of 5 or 6.
However, in Scotland, this is not the case and rugby is not taken seriously in as many schools as it should be.
The thoughts of John Beattie as follows,
bbc – John Beattie’s blog
Are Scotland smart to spell out grand ambitions?
I am going to give you my target for Scottish rugby at the end of this, and I want you to answer the question: what should a target for the game in your country be?
I got a press release through from the SRU. I read it at my desk. Colleagues gathered round. Am I wrong to have a slightly jaded feeling about a strategic plan which says that the chief executive Mark Dodson “will unveil ambitious targets of securing a Six Nations Grand Slam by 2016 and winning the World Cup“?
My guess is that the banks had rather silly economic outlook forecasts, all coming from impressively-suited and highly paid individuals, just before the financial crash too and I believe that forecasting anything in this world is a very dangerous business.
Surely forecasts have to be SMART? That means Simple, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound.
If I am honest I have a problem with the Attainable bit. And the Relevant bit.
It all got me scrabbling around. This isn’t the first ever strategic plan. Oh no. The previous SRU strategic plan was written in 2007 for the period from then until now.
Among the targets were to: “Achieve a top eight world ranking by 2012″. Did that happen? No, we slipped to 12th after this year’s Six Nations and currently sit ninth after three wins on tour.
I acknowledge that given 2012 hasn’t finished this one might happen.
Then there was a target to: “as a minimum reach the quarter-finals of the 2007 and 2011 World Cups.” Er, no, we didn’t make the last eight in New Zealand. That one was definitely wrong.
Or what about, from the same SRU strategic plan for 2007 to 2012 to: “improve the win rate in the Six Nations from 25% to 40%”. No again, in fact, under Andy Robinson the win rate is actually 13% at two wins from 15 games, so instead of doubling it we’ve halved it. That one was way out.
And one of the other targets was “win the Six Nations at least once by 2012.” Nope again.
And it was all topped by the hope that Scotland would “become one of the top rugby nations in the world”.
It’s not just a Scottish disease this.
The Irish, in their 2008 strategic plan, had as a target “to reach the 2011 World Cup semi-finals”. They lost to Wales in the quarter-finals.
The English rugby strategic plan 2008 to 2015 has as one of its targets “to win the World Cup in 2011 and 2015, and to win the Six Nations four times including two Grand Slams”.
I put it to you, m’Lud, that they have already failed to make their rather ambitious targets. England were beaten by France in the quarter-final in 2011, and to think, they were supposed to win that tournament. Maybe nobody had told the opposition!
The problem is that as you sit in your room and write down your sporting targets and try to imagine your route to world domination, every other country in the world is trying to get better as well.
You cannot predict how your crop of top players will perform in the future, nor the ability of that particular crop of players, and if you don’t believe me put yourselves in the place of the All Blacks who messed up spectacularly in every World Cup between 1987 and 2011.
What do I think? Well, I don’t think you can write down targets for elite rugby. Generally the bigger countries with the bigger systems behind them will be more successful than the smaller ones.
Elite sport is driven by its grass roots. To spell out that you have a target of winning a certain number of Grand Slams or winning a World Cup is mere fantasy. It’s grand-standing.
Here’s my simple target for Scottish rugby, and it would have a bigger impact on our future than any other: Get every school in Scotland to field rugby teams – backed by the private sector if need be – and get a league up and running.
There, that’s mine, nothing about Grand Slams or World Cups, instead grow the grass roots and make it competitive.
Yours? Or have I got this all wrong?