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8 Figures You Might Recall From The Glorious Era Of Scottish Rugby

8 Figures You Might Recall From The Glorious Era Of Scottish Rugby
By Conor Neville
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At the turn of the twenty-first century, Ireland and Scotland decided to trade places in the rugby pecking order. In the final decade of the 20th century, the Scots were a stubborn outfit who regularly challenged the big boys on either side of the Channel.

Famed for their ability to steal ball at ruck time, George Hook once labelled them the kleptomaniacs of world rugby, except he mixed up his terms and instead dubbed them the nymphomaniacs of world rugby. Hearty laughter reverberated around the Lansdowne Road studio for some time after.

They won two Five Nations championships and participated in two Grand Slam deciders. The first of those deciders was in 1990. They unexpectedly beat England in an emotional game in Murrayfield. Scotland-based Irish journalist Tom English has written a fascinating book about that game, The Grudge.

The second of the deciders was played in Twickenham in 1995. They were beaten narrowly on that occasion by an England team who relied greatly on Rob Andrew's boot. You might not be surprised to learn that no books have been written about this match.

The Scots have the honour of winning the last ever Five Nations title in 1999. That title would land in their lap while they were sat at home watching television. After losing the opener against England, they beat Wales, France (in Paris, no less) and Ireland in that order. It mattered not one whit to most observers as England seemed on course to round off the decade with the Grand Slam.

Neutrals had more or less forgotten about the Scots until Scott Gibbs powered and then slalomed his way through the English defence in the last minute at Wembley. After the Welsh celebrations died down, it took everyone a few minutes to realise that Scotland were actually the champions.

It was, of course, a chastening time to be an Irish supporter. The two countries were thought to be broadly comparable in rugby terms. Their playing base was roughly the same size and the game had (largely) middle class roots in both countries. Scotland's superiority during the 1990s was thus seen as the ultimate marker of Irish rugby's decline.


Then, on that day in 2000, it all turned upside-down. Since then, it's all been going the other way.

Indeed, the head-to-head record between the two countries reveals that, aside from the 1980s, there isn't a whole lot of tit-for-tat. It's a rivalry characterised by long winning and losing streaks for either nation. Jack Kyle, for instance, played against Scotland on nine occasions and won every match.

In the 1990s, Scotland beat Ireland every year, except for a 6-6 draw in 1994. In the noughties, Ireland won every Six Nations match aside from 2001.


Here are a few names from the forgotten era when Scotland were good at rugby.


Finlay Calder

It's hard to find a better Scottish rugby name than Finlay Calder. If a man's surname is Calder and he has been christened Finlay and he isn't a Scottish rugby player, then you know he's not living up to life's calling.

The flanker earned 34 caps for Scotland between 1986 and 1991. His bullocking run at the English defence in the early part of the 1990 Grand Slam match with England has become iconic in Scotland. He also memorably sent the famous New Zealand hooker Sean Fitzpatrick tumbling to the ground.



Record against Ireland: Won 5, Lost 1

Gavin Hastings



One of the dominant personalities on the Scottish team of the 1990s, Hastings captained the Lions on the 1993 tour of New Zealand. A sturdy, goal-kicking full-back, he was part of the blessed Grand Slam side of 1990.

He did, rather shockingly, miss a penalty under the posts in the 1991 Rugby World Cup semi-final against England. Scotland lost the game 9-6.

Record against Ireland: Won 8,  Lost 1,  Drew 1


Craig Chalmers


The more conservative choice at fly-half, Chalmers had sole possession of the jersey until the more romantic Gregor Townsend came along. He played fly-half in nearly every game between 1989 and 1993. Thereafter, he had to share the jersey with Townsend.

His success rate against Ireland is hard to look at.


Record against Ireland : Won 9, Lost 0, Drew 0

Doddie Weir

A gangly, stooping second row who enjoyed a few scrapes with Martin Johnson, Weir played most of Scotland's Five Nations in the 1990s. He was too young for the 1990 Grand Slam and only played one match in 1999 Five Nations title win.

He now operates as a sometime cheerful touchline pundit at Murrayfield. Her tries to put a brave face on whatever is going on out on the pitch when Jill Douglas thrusts a furry mic under his nose. In recent years, the 47-year-old Weir has discussed his battle with motor neurone disease.

Record against Ireland: Won 7, Lost 1, Drew 1

Gregor Townsend


A cavalier, non-kicking half-back/inside centre beloved of George Hook, Townsend was the darling of approximately 100% of all rugby romantics everywhere. He made his debut at out-half opposite Stuart Barnes (also introduced for his dropped predecessor) in Twickenham in 1993. Barnes ran the show that day but Townsend would enjoy glory days later on.

He was possibly the most significant player in Scotland's 1999 Five Nations win, executing a fabled 'toonie flip' in the magnificent win in Paris.

He was in magical form the day an otherwise resurgent Ireland flopped at Murrayfield in the food-and-mouth year of 2001.

Record against Ireland : Won 6, Lost 3, Drew 1

Bryan Redpath

Redpath was a wriggling scrum half who inspired Bill McLaren's most poetic sallies, he played for the Scots between 1993 and 2003. He was one of Scotland's most impressive players during the early phase of their decline in the 2000s.

Record against Ireland : Won 4, Lost 3

Ian McGeechan and Jim Telfer


They effectively came as a duo back then. When Telfer wasn't officially coach, he simply served as McGeechan's forwards coach. The pair are perhaps better known for their coaching of the Lions. They were present for three successive tours - the successes in 1989 and 1997, and the unlucky defeat in 1993.

Telfer was coach for the 1984 Grand Slam and the 99 Five Nations win, while McGeechan was coach for the 1990 victory.

See Also: Four Times Scotland Really Fecked Us Over


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