There are occasions when those in charge of Scottish rugby display such ineptitude that they deserve to be placed in the stocks and publicly humiliated.
Today’s news over the departure to England of Gala fly half Lee Millar appears to be one of those occasions. The 21-year-old Millar is recognised as being one of the outstanding talents in the Scottish club game, scoring 200 points this season and starring in Gala’s win over London Scottish. But, according to The Scotsman today, “with no openings in either of the Edinburgh or Glasgow squads he has agreed a one-year deal at the English championship club (London Scottish) and will move south in June.”
Just ponder those words “with no openings in either of the Edinburgh or Glasgow squads” for a second.
It is certainly true that there are no openings in the Glasgow squad. The Warriors have the current first-choice Scotland number ten in Ruaridh Jackson, the number two choice in Duncan Weir (who may yet usurp Jackson for the top spot in the national team) and the third best fly half in Scotland in Scott Wight. Added to that is Peter Horne who looked at home enough in the ten shirt last weekend to coordinate a victory over league leaders Ulster (even though he showed that his kicking can occasionally be absolutely awful).
But Edinburgh? Edinburgh haven’t had a proper fly half in years. The number ten position has been Edinburgh’s biggest problem since the game went professional two decades ago. Chris Paterson was never really utilised there despite his obvious talents and Phil Godman occupied the position for years without ever really making it his own.
In the last couple of seasons Edinburgh have tried several fly halves. There was Rory Hutton: he got one proper game and a few partial appearances then disappeared. Then we had David Blair, who only seemed to be given a shot because if his illustrious brother Mike, then their youngest brother Alex Blair who looked good but he exited pretty quickly due to injury.
Greig Laidlaw did the best job at fly half of any of the applicants when he took on the role because the situation was so desperate last season but he was really just a converted scrum half and is much better where he is now, back at nine. This season Edinburgh have tried Harry Leonard, who seems to have potential but struggles to exert any authority on the game and Gregor Hunter who, frankly, has been a disappointment. Then there is Piers Francis, an Englishman brought in from New Zealand who has been the worst of the lot and who has arguably contributed more to Edinburgh’s dismal run than anyone else in the team.
To put in bluntly: Edinburgh have a gap at ten which they have not been able to fill.
This brings us back to Lee Millar and the astonishing claim that “there is no opening” at Edinburgh.
If there is no opening at Edinburgh for one of the most talented young fly halves in the Scottish club game then what on earth are the pro teams for? Lee Millar may or not be able to make it in pro rugby but he should be given the chance to prove it at Edinburgh. Indeed, he is exactly the sort of player the pro teams should be developing.
It is not as if Scotland has a plethora of Scottish-qualified pro fly halves playing week in, week out. In fact, Scotland are lucky to have just one fly half playing at a top level every week.
Edinburgh need to find a solution to their problems at ten, for their sake and for Scotland’s and it is nothing short of a scandal that someone like Millar has to go to London and find an opening in a sub top level championship team because Edinburgh’s money has been spent on a mediocre journeyman from England via New Zealand who will never make it to international level.
here may be other reasons for this debacle – I hope there are.
It maybe that Edinburgh are not allowed to make any signings until the new coaching team arrives. It may be that the SRU have already decided on a solution to Edinburgh’s problems at fly half and will bring Wright, Jackson or Weir across from Glasgow in the close season.
I hope one of these options is underway but, if not and if there are no proper reasons for letting Millar go south when Edinburgh are crying out for a good, Scottish fly half, then all those involved should quit and go off to work on their golf handicaps, making way for people who actually understand what Scottish pro rugby is all about.