Six Nations: Andy Christie backs Scotland to bounce back against Ireland

Flanker plays down concerns about squad's mentality after yet another second half slump

Scotland flanker Andy Christie is surround by Italian tacklers during Saturday's Six Nations clash in Rome. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Scotland flanker Andy Christie is surround by Italian tacklers during Saturday's Six Nations clash in Rome. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

ANDY CHRISTIE has insisted that Scotland can bounce back from their Italian humbling when they wrap up a Six Nations campaign which has so far followed a now depressingly familiar plot line against Ireland in Dublin next Saturday.

It started with a first win over Wales in Cardiff since 2002, and although Scotland’s second half slump following a razor-sharp start was a concern, the relief at holding on at the end, and delight at breaking that long losing streak at the Principality Stadium, meant that the red flags only flew at half-mast.

Then, when Scotland blew a winning position against France at Murrayfield in round two, the controversy over Sam Skinner’s disallowed try became the main talking point, and the possibility that there is a fatal flaw in this team’s psychological make-up which will – if left unresolved – prevent them from ever reaching the level of consistency required to go from generally competitive to genuine contenders was again overlooked.


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England’s surprise home win over Ireland on Saturday night puts a slightly different complexion on Scotland’s third round success over the Auld Enemy, but the reality is that Steve Borthwick’s side were so error-prone that day that Gregor Townsend’s boys should have been kicking themselves for not twisting the knife in the second half to secure a bonus-point. Maybe part of the problem is an innate inferiority complex which means any sort of Calcutta Cup win is seen as a pure success, regardless of what was left out on the field.

In all, Scotland had let six league points slip through their fingers before Saturday’s match against the Azzurri kicked off, yet still we felt this was shaping up to be a Six Nations campaign of solid progress.

That delusion was blown apart during 50 harrowing minutes on Saturday afternoon when Scotland surrendered 21 unanswered points, with seven consecutive penalties conceded, to an Italian side who were more than ready to seize their moment after a couple of near misses against England and France during rounds one and three of this tournament.

In the immediate aftermath of Scotland’s 31-29 defeat, Christie – one of the least experienced player in the squad in terms of international rugby exposure, but an eloquent and measured talker – was selected by the team’s media handlers to face the press. He made a pretty decent fist of trying to pour oil on troubled waters.

“We’re obviously very disappointed in the result, but we’ve got to give credit to Italy,” reasoned the blindside flanker. “They were brilliant and I think everyone who has watched them this tournament has seen and felt that they had a result coming given the way they have played. So, obviously we’re gutted that we couldn’t get the job done today, but we have to give credit to them.

“We knew that just because we had a bit of momentum, it wouldn’t put them out the game – they would stay in it and still compete, and that’s exactly what they did.

“I think it was obvious that our discipline wasn’t good enough today, so we wanted to get that back on track – but we probably left it a little bit too late before we did get that back on track.

“So, we were disappointed by that, but, like I said, sometimes you play against brilliant teams, and they get the momentum, so credit to them.”

 

 

Outsiders are never quite sure of what is said behind the closed door of the team room – the Netflix cameras only get so close – but there is a growing suspicion that this squad, under Townsend, do not like confronting difficult truths.

“I think this group has got a brilliant mentality,” claimed Christie, despite plenty of recent evidence to the contrary.

“Some of the stuff we’ve learned over the last few weeks and some of the stuff we’ve discussed has been brilliant – so obviously it is a disappointing result, and it is disappointing how the game got out of our grasp a little bit at time …. but as I’ve said plenty of times already: credit to Italy.

“I believe in this team,” he added. “I believe that we have what it takes to bounce back against anyone. I think in flashes today you saw the brilliance of our team and some of our players, so we said it before the game, and we’ll say it again: ‘We hope to get a full 80 minute performance and that’s exactly what we’ll need next week’.”

An intriguing plot twist is that Ireland are also looking to bounce back following a deeply disappointing away defeat – in their case against a previously ineffectual England at Twickenham – and you can bet you last dollar that their response will be immediate and ferocious.

If Scotland are caught licking their wounds, this game could quickly become a massacre, so it will be a real test of that fortitude they constantly tell us they possess without producing much supporting evidence on the field.

“For myself, first things first, I want to be selected, I want another opportunity to play for this brilliant team,” added Christie. “With their back-row, even the guys who are not being selected, they’ve got fantastic depth there, so it will be a brilliant challenge for whoever gets the opportunity to play.

“They’ve got strength throughout their team. Everyone waxes lyrical about their system and how well they play together so it is not just their back-row, we need to look at their threats all over the pitch.”

 

 

Christie was prominent during that promising opening period against Italy, making one interception that set the ball rolling for Pierre Schoeman’s try, and scooping up a loose ball then launching a 50-yard rampage which required some brilliant defence from Juan Ignacio Brex to prevent the bonus-point try on 36 minutes.

“I don’t know … I couldn’t get out of fourth gear,” he shrugged, when asked about that particular incident. “I could see the line, but I could also see some of the Italian defenders hunting me down. I managed to wriggle free of Ioane, but I just didn’t make the tape unfortunately.”

“I felt excited, I felt nervous, and I’m absolutely delighted – in that sense – that I managed to get my first start,” he added. “It is another cap, another opportunity to play for this brilliant team, this brilliant country, so I am proud of myself for that.

“I’m very disappointed with how the game ended up, I think everyone in the squad is, and probably everyone who watched and supported us is, but I believe in this team, I believe we will bounce back.

“We’ve got a massive week next week against one of the best teams in the world away so I think we’re all excited about that challenge and it will be easy for us to turn our focus onto that when the time comes.

“We’re going to be disappointed tonight, and it is a tough one to get over, but that’s exactly what we are going to have to do.”

 

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About David Barnes 3891 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including he 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.

5 Comments

  1. Could someone at the S.R.U. please stop the players and coaches speaking to the press. Andy Christies’ throwaway lines are as insulting to the fans as Gregor Townsends’. We are paying a small fortune for three games one year and two the next in the Six Nations , so please, do your talking on the pitch.

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  2. Sounds like Christie is the latest party sent out to parrot the SRO corporate line. Did any of the press present ask anything other than powderpuff questions?

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  3. Would any Scotland player come out and say “really we can’t handle it when teams get the upper hand” eh no. I don’t get how with the experience on the park there aren’t the players there who know what it’s like when teams are battering at the door. Anyway Scotland won’t win in Dublin because they really don’t have what it takes to go and turn ireland over. Tom English made the point that this group of players and coaches aren’t able to win a 6 nations because they can’t be consistent in games. He’s right and we’ve had 7 or 8 years of “learning”. Feel free to prove us wrong guys and win a triple crown.

  4. ‘This team has got a brilliant mentality’?

    Christie is an excellent player but this is nothing but an empty platitude.

    Perhaps the mentality is good in training through the week, but come game time it completely goes to pot the moment the slightest bit of pressure is applied. How many times this tournament alone have we gone massive chunks of games scoring no points whatsoever, or conceding a horrendous procession of penalties?

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