Well there we are then…after 2 years of the Calcutta Cup (an impressive piece of silverware played for annually between the Scotland and England rugby union teams) residing within the trophy cabinet of the Scottish Rugby Union the Scots yesterday relinquished ownership at the end of a turgid match at Murrayfield stadium in Edinburgh. The weather was atrocious, even by Scottish standards, with 80km/h gusts of wind and incessant rain making the game something of a lottery. England showed a little more guile in the conditions and sneaked home 13-6 which from a Scottish perspective was clearly disappointing.
Should the Scots be so despondent though? A quick look at the statistics makes for interesting reading. According to World Rugby, the governing body’s latest figures, 217 000 participants play rugby union in Scotland whilst England boasts 1.99 million players; a significant advantage from which to select your side you would think. Looking at the history this would appear to be borne out; since the trophy was first competed for in 1879 England have won it 71 times, Scotland 40 times with 16 contests drawn.
Size is clearly important (as the UK is about to find out in the forthcoming trade negotiations with the European Union) but as the above figures show it is not everything. Even with such a significant deficit in playing numbers Scotland are able to be competitive on the rugby field by making the most of what they’ve got and negotiating teams can learn from their approach.
Firstly the Scottish team, devoid in the main from having players of “superstar” status, have traditionally concentrated on the team ethic. Like a skilled negotiating team each participant knows their role, sticks to it and backs up their fellow team members when necessary because they know that working together maximises the chances of success. Secondly, the Scottish coaching teams throughout the ages, have been particularly adept and coming up with strategies that nullify the advantage gained by the typically bigger and heavier English opposition. A game plan which has focussed around playing faster and being more nimble than the opposition has been the pervading approach; in rugby, as in negotiations, going toe to toe with a more powerful opponent is very unlikely to prove fruitful.