AGM: ‘No excuses’ for Scotland’s early World Cup exit but review will be internal

Wide-ranging performance pathway review, which includes future of Super Series, will be completed late 2023 or early 2024

Mark Dodson during the Scottish Rugby AGM at Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh. Image: © Craig Watson -
Mark Dodson during the Scottish Rugby AGM at Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh. Image: © Craig Watson -

SCOTTISH RUGBY chief executive Mark Dodson admits there is “no excuses” for Scotland’s World Cup pool stage exit, but the review of Scotland’s performance in France will be internal as was the case after the team’s early departure from the 2019 tournament.

“As a World Cup it was excellent and France did a great job of hosting it. From our point of view it was disappointing. We played well in the two games against Tonga and Romania but the two games against South Africa and Ireland were disappointing,” said Dodson at this [Saturday] morning’s AGM in the President’s Suite at Murrayfield. “I don’t think we gave our best but they were incredibly difficult teams at one and two in the world. It was a tough group. No excuses but in reality we would have liked to have done better, got a bit closer.

“I talk to Gregor regularly,” he added. “We have had a conversation about the World Cup. We talked long and hard and there is a belief that we are close but not as close as we want to be to the top four sides in the world. We are at fifth but there is a gap to the top four and we are working really hard towards the Six Nations to correct what we feel we could have done better in in the World Cup. We are lucky. We are not like some of the southern hemisphere nations that have to wait till July before they play. We can play the first week in February.

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“The gap is there. The issue is how do we bridge that gap. If we are playing at our best we can trouble any side in the world, I thought we played well but not well enough. The question is how do we turn some from some of our previous performances when we can knock off any side in the world to a consistency of performance. That is where the key is.

Asked about Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend‘s future: “He has just signed a new contract till 2026.

“We do a formal review after every tournament. When we come back from Argentina, when we come back from here, we keep it in house and look at the things that went well and the things that went bad. And the national team does its own review for its own purposes with the squad. Gregor is coming to the end of his and we have had all our conversations all concluded.”

Dodson declined to identify the individuals involved in the review process. There is a group of us,” he said.  “That is something I would like to keep with us and that is something we do as a group.

“Whether it is any other coach Gregor, Vern [Cotter], Andy Robinson, Scott Johnson they don’t get to mark their homework.”

A major concern is an apparent lack of fresh talent coming through the Scottish system. A review of the performance pathway is ongoing with the fact that the Scotland Under-20s team has managed just one win from the last three age-grade Six Nations campaigns and remain stranded in the second-tier World Rugby Trophy after slumping to defeat against Uruguay in the pool stage of last summer’s tournament highlighting that these is

“It is a justifiable to say we have under performed at that level,” he conceded. “The last four or five years we have not done justice to ourselves. We have just undertaken the biggest review of our pathways from under-16s all the way to our pro teams and we have included in that review the CRB (Club Rugby Board) and have representatives of the Premiership, National One, Super6 [Super Series], high performance, national team and external consultants as well to look at what is the right methodology for Scotland and how do we drive people through. There is a variety of reasons why we are not as strong as other countries at under-20 level.”

“The level of opportunities under-20s get when you have a two pro team environment compared with 14 in France and ten in England. We need to look at the quality of games played between 18 and 23 in Scotland and some of the strength and conditioning has to be done earlier. The guys we have been facing from Italy, Georgia and the other nations are physically bigger than we are. We have to address how we drive these things through. All these things are part of the work that is ongoing.”


A cross-border competition with Italian rugby clubs is one idea which has been mooted in the search to find better playing opportunities at this level.

“We are still on that,” said Dodson. “We are still describing that. We are working with Marzio Inocenti, the Italian President, about how we do that. They’ve had changes in their own system as well which has delayed this.

“Effectively, what we are trying to look at is Super6, or whatever happens after 2024 whether it is Super6 or other things, we are trying to work with them and the Peroni Top 8 to work on how we have a cross-border competition that gives us access to that different level of competition.

“Super6 is part of the review process. We may or may not continue. That will be one of those issues which is being addressed.

“I don’t want to pre-empt what will be in the review but I think it [Super6/Super Series] has been a qualified success. Some of the things have worked really well and some of the things have not worked as well as expected. We also have to think for two years it did not exist due to Covid and it had a difficult birth in terms of what we were trying to do, it wasn’t universally popular but there is a difference in the quality of play, time in play, the standard of rugby between the Super6 and what was the Premiership is clear. The question is whether Super6 is close enough to the new pro game, that is where the questions will probably be asked but, again, I don’t want to pre-empt what will come out of the review.

“It [the performance review] falls into our wider strategy  we have talked about today, and when we are ready to talk to you about it we will do. We have included so many people in the mix it is natural we speak to them at the end of it. I would say [it will be out] at end of this [calendar] year, beginning of next year.”

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About David Barnes 4028 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.


  1. This CEOstatement is so much hogwash!
    Internal review after Japan achieved nothing = same performance in France! Why does team commit so many errors under pressure?
    What about toilets at Murrayfield? Half the CEO’s salary would improve them!
    Please get a grip! I love this game and it is dying in Scotland !

  2. Personally I think things are as good as they realistically can be for the men’s international team – we have nowhere near the player numbers or resources of the top four (or England, or even Wales). What concerns me far more is the ‘pipeline’, which isn’t equipping young players (physically or mentally) for the professional game. The age-old schools vs. clubs vs. whatever else issue going on.

  3. Few people are talking about the player numbers. Now that SCRUMS has been running for a few years we get to see the real data which shows registered players vs those who actually play in a given season. They are pretty low (compared to what we always thought they were), however at least we know some realistic numbers as a starting point to work with. When the 6 nations sponsors are doling out the cash to the 6 nations, the money split is divided by the number of registered players in each country. As a result, Scotland gets a much lower payment than the rest of the home nations. The simple fact is player numbers=rugby supporters. The more people who play, the more people prepared to watch pro/national games filling stadiums and paying licence fees to stream the game. There is only one solution here, get obsessive about growing grassroots rugby in Scotland. If you get that right, everything else will fall into place!

  4. A lot of SRU Murrayfield is full of people who fail at everything but are just moved to other internal jobs just made up for them .
    Ie…Shiel …. .Gemmell…I could go on .
    Based on performance these guys + hangers on should be down the road .but they never are..(jobs for the boys ).
    In any other business failure would mean the sack …but not in ‘Dodson ‘ land

  5. The senior SRU management have run the SRU for the last ten years for their own egos and financial gain. Dobson would love to get rid of the unions responsibility for the club game that the union is meant to represent and act in the best interests of because there are no commercial opportunities for him to exploit. For over 10 years he has been able to get away with daylight robbery quite literally and noone has had the “*****” to stop him. We cannot afford a desperately needed third pro team but the amount of money we have wasted on vanity projects and a wage bill that has more than doubled. The average salary for CEO in the UK in 2023 is £195,825 per year and our CEO runs a company that only employs about 450 and turns over only 60 odd million and we all know what he is getting paid

  6. The most depressing sentence in this article: Asked about Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend‘s future: “He has just signed a new contract till 2026.”

    GT has got the team playing a more attractive brand of rugby, but the results are the same. Out of the RWC at the pool stage, just like the last RWC. Third in the 6Nations, just like last year.

    Why do these results warrant a lengthy contract extension? Where is the accountability?

  7. “They don’t get to mark their own homework” … but the SRU do? Dodson listed failures at every level of the men’s game. Where exactly does the buck stop? Australia rugby has the mechanism to remove senior figures when required – does Scotland and what exactly would it take to trigger it?

  8. We have a Chief Executive (the guy in charge of the business side of things) telling us about under-performance at the national level for senior male and Under 20 male, under-performance of the pathway, and that Super 6 has been a “qualified” success, and we’ll have reviews of this, that and the other on the playing side of things – if Mr Dodson is the guy talking about all this stuff, what exactly is Mr Mallinders role?

    • Mr Mallinder’s role is to keep his mouth shut and nod obedience to Dodson. That way he gets to keep his ridiculous salary even if he loses all credibility. It’s the same with all Dodson’s acolytes. Shame.

    • I’m sorry to say having watched some of the so called Super6 and recently watched a couple of fixtures in the English Championship at my old Club Ealing, to be honest I haven’t seen any S6 side that would trouble them. As for the Canon Fodder down at the bottom of the league through no fault of their own or lack of effort, ‘The future’s grim’.

      • I agree George. I think Ealing would walk all over any S6 side and there are a couple of other Championship sides that S6 teams would struggle against.

    • Mr Malinder aka “the Ghost of Murrayfield” has been in post since 2019 and he still sits in his house in England as he is so commited that he did not even bother to move to Scotland. This was the only job he could get thanks to his pal Dobson and during his tenure things have got to the lowest point at age grade level. We were never world beaters but we were always competitive and more than held our own in the junior 6N and World Cup. We are no longer in the top tier and if there was relegation in the junior 6N as in the world cup we would have been replaced.

      • I’m pretty certain Mr Mallinder would have been able to get a job elsewhere. He was hugely successful at Northampton for a long while before things declined.

        Whether he could get a job on as good terms as he currently has is of course another matter.

  9. “Under 20 (…) remain stranded in the second-tier World Rugby Trophy”

    This is not true. Scotland U20 must qualify or host Trophy in 2024 to play there, they are not “stranded”.

    • Most people would reckon, with respect, that Scotland U-20’s are not presently in a good place. That’s the beginning of a very lengthy and complex story……..

    • Years and years as no one seems to have the integrity to get rid of him.

      Cattigan, Russell the list of those he has shown utter contempt for is almost endless.

  10. Some of the so called great players in the Scottish team were caught in the head lights against The Boks and Ireland. It was so obvious that they aren’t good enough. I watch both codes and I find that the attitude is the problem? If Ireland can do it why can’t Scotland? Sadly many of the players believe their own reflection in the mirror but are not worthy. We must follow Irelands example.

    • The key difference in Ireland is the lack of any successful football club and the gaelic game being amateur thay means any aspiring athlete in Ireland looks to Rugby as the game as it pays more and has the highest profile. Scotland has to compete with football for moey for prestige and Rugby needs to deal with the concussion issue NOW and decisively as more and more parents won’t let their kids play the game.

  11. Internal review = cover up.
    So many questions to be asked about our performances and strategy against SA and Ireland.
    But those that hold the power don’t want them asked.
    I’ve paid handsomely over the last few years to watch Scotland – does £££ given me any place to comment?
    If yes then this is a joke made by high placed people who are very comfortable and very well remunerated. Don’t rock the boat cos the boat makes me £££.

    • What have they got to hide ?
      Must be open to scrutiny or else same as same as.
      Too many slippery creatures in SRU hierarchy for my liking


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