For anyone who hasn't seen it, The Telegraph's Sports correspondent, Paul Hayward (@_paulhayward on twitter) has written an article suggesting that Scotland should be told to 'Shape up or Ship out' of the Six Nations. The premise is that they are no longer fit to be part of the tournament, in that they do not take it seriously and their stats are dreadful in the first two games of this year's tournament, following years of disappointing results.

Let's get this straight from the start. This ardent fan considers that my beloved Scottish team have been atrocious in their first two matches, not helped by appointing Kelly Brown as captain one week, and dropping him the next, accompanied by some other baffling selections, not least of them Ross Ford at hooker, who couldn't find a lineout jumper in a sea of giants. hopefully Vern Cotter, who steps into the role shortly, will bring about a more stable base.

Sadly though, in my view, that is about all Hayward has got right. The remainder of his rambling article largely beggars belief. The years of under-achievement and poor results include (not referenced, naturally) a third place in last year's tournament with a win over Ireland and a routing of Italy. How many times have, for example, Spurs or Everton finished third in the English premiership. Would Hayward suggest they be dropped from the League? Of course not.

When you add in a three wins out of three on a Southern Hemisphere tour in 2012, two wins over Australia and one over South Africa in the last five years, a Rugby World Cup quarter final and wins in Argentina, it could be argued that a country with the smallest pool of players and only two professional teams, in the 6 nations, smaller including than Italy, incidentally, some might think the Scots have been over-achieving in recent years, and a blip was to be expected.

If the above amounts to a call for removal from the Six Nations, then I'm the frog prince. And now we come to some of the examples that Hayward uses to back up his case.
27 missed tackles, I agree, is poor at international level, and the Scots missed 27 on Saturday. One more than the 26 England missed in Paris a week before (in the same game where France missed 27 in victory). 16 penalties were conceded, another poor effort from Scotland, but exactly the same as conceded by Wales in Dublin and France at home to Italy.

Talk about not letting some salient facts get in the way of the story!

It's comforting that rugby fans I've spoken to since Sunday have to a man condemned Hayward's article, including Englishmen. Anecdotal of course, however of some comfort. Genuine rugby fans, it seems, do see the big picture. I'm curious as to who Hayward would offer Scotland's place to? Germany, Spain, Romania, even Russia maybe, all of whom are developing the sport successfully. It would mean a change of itinerary for fans, not difficult to arrange in these days of modern travel, but the culture, ethos and traditions of the Five/Six Nations demands that they are unlikely to fill the stadia, or the cafes, bars and b+bs of Moscow in the way they do in Edinburgh, Cardiff, Dublin and Paris.
 
More importantly, these nations simply are not ready to be thrown to the Lions. Italy, with a much stronger pedigree, have taken many years to come to terms with the demands of this tournament. No-one else in Europe is remotely ready for such a leap.

The 6 Nations weekends are like no other. I can recall in the 1970s 10s of thousands of Welshmen making biennial  pilgrimages from the valleys to Murrayfield, with one or two ticketholders on coaches of 50 or more, but there 'for the craic'. I remember over 100,000 on the open terraces when John Taylor slotted a late Welsh conversion to win one of the greatest 6 Nations matches of all time. The pubs that night were unforgettable. Despite the defeat, a Scottish performance that turned round years of under-achievement.

Much of that's not changed, Mr Hayward, but you would have two poor performances, ostensibly, lead to potential expulsion. It's a farcical argument. I can almost hear the turning of Bill McLaren, the great Scottish commentator who brought rugby to generations, turning in his resting place.

Of course those traditions mustn't be exploited by countries using the tournament as a meal ticket. But walk into a Scottish dressing room and tell me these guys haven't given 100%, bodies battered and emotions spent after a game. 

The notion the Scots are not giving 100% is laughable, they have the same pre-tournament training and regimes as the other five squads. meanwhile the governing body, the SRU, cope with something in the region of 10 million debt, just as aforementioned only two professional sides, and a chronic lack of funding. these issues are not excuses and discussions for another day, but they are limiting facts nonetheless. Murrayfield will move to hybrid grass surface as used in many top stadia round the world, another sign of the determination to maintain the country's rugby status, both in the 6 Nations and beyond.

For sure, it's a tough time to be a Scottish rugby fan, and it's hard to see how a whitewash might be avoided, but articles spouting sensationalist nonsense with no respect for the efforts of the squad, no concept of the tournament's rich traditions and mainly based on two bad games, does in my view the sport (and the journalistic profession indeed) absolutely no favours.

It's a cheap and shoddy shot, and while I agree the article is not an example of 'English arrogance', I'd maintain it is the arrogance of one man.

After a similarly abysmal performance in Ireland, the Welsh had better play a darned sight better in 12 days time, or risk the wrath of Mr Hayward's skittish maunderings....