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Andy Irvine

The greatest running full-back that Scotland has ever produced, Andy Irvine was a rugby player of genius. Even when the records are run through – 51 Scottish caps, 15 caps as Scotland captain, 3 Lions tours, over 250 international points, five tries in a single game for the Lions, and more – they still give little idea of the sheer exhilaration of Irvine at his best. He could transform a game as if by magic.

Irvine first played for Scotland against New Zealand in 1972 and for a time there was debate over whether he was secure enough in defence to occupy the full-back berth, and he was played on the wing. While it's true that he was not the greatest defensive player, the selectors soon came to their senses, realizing that Irvine’s unique attacking qualities were best realized from the deeper position.

Irvine had fantastic speed, with that incredible change of pace and acceleration, and he could beat a defender on either side. More than anything though, he had an eye for an attacking that made him a joy to watch, and such a consistent threat to opposition defences that, in their efforts to cover the Irvine threat, they often left other gaps for the Scots to exploit. Such were his gifts that he was an threat even when being denied the ball.

Perhaps only Christian Cullen in the modern game can compete with Irvine for the title of greatest-ever attacking full-back.

 
 
 

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