Jim Telfer won twenty-two caps for Scotland between his debut against France in 1964 and 1970, and would have won more but for injury. Telfer captained Scotland in most of these games and, when he didn’t, he would invariably lead the forwards. He was a natural leader, with an air of innate authority which commanded respect.
Initially a very attacking player, Telfer made up for lack of pace through powerful running, excellent positional sense and sound technique. Later, after injury, he became known for obdurate defensive play, characterized by blind courage. Telfer’s most famous moment came against France in 1969. The Scots had defended resolutely for most of the game against a French side that threatened to over-run them. Then, in the dying minutes, Telfer himself snatched a late try in the corner. This try increased in fame as nearly thirty years passed before Scotland won again in Paris.
Raw-boned and granite-faced, Telfer was incredibly brave and, for his time, incredibly fit. He was an effective player at the tail of the line and although not a natural ball-player, he always made sure that the ball was available for others.
Telfer went on two Lions tours, the first to New Zealand in 1966, then to South Africa two years later. He also toured New Zealand with Scotland in 1967. These first two tours gave Telfer a life-long admiration for the All Blacks and a conviction that Scotland must develop this style of play. He went on to coach the 1984 Grand Slam winning side and also the victorious 1997 Lions. This latter must have especially pleased him, having played six Tests for the Lions and never finished on the winning side.