ONE of Heriot’s greatest-ever players believes this evening’s encounter with the Barbarians is a fitting way to mark the Ednburgh club’s 125th anniversary.
With the Barbarians, a select club drawing on players from all over the world, also celebrating their 125th year, they are heading to Goldenacre (6pm) for the Investec Cup match.
Andy Irvine – who played for Heriot’s with great distinction for many years, earned 51 Scotland caps between 1972 and 1982 and went on three British and Irish Lions tours as a player between 1974 and 1980 – thinks it will be a cracking occasion.
The former full-back said: “I think it should be a great evening of entertainment.
“Over the years both Heriot’s and the Barbarians have been well known for playing running rugby and with the sun likely to be shining for this one I think we should see some great tries.
“Sadly I am away in America at the moment and will be missing it, but I know a lot of my old team-mates are heading along to watch the current crop play and they are all excited about catching up with each other and reminiscing about the old days.”
Having attended George Heriot’s School, Irvine, now 63, had the chance to head to St Andrews University to study, but opted instead to stay in Edinburgh.
“When I think back to my time at Heriot’s I only have good memories. I joined straight from George Heriot’s School and at that time we were a former pupils club,” he said.
“As a result everyone knew each other well and that meant that we could hit the ground running each season as we had a team spirit that was second to none.
“My best memories come from the season that we won the Scottish top-flight title back in 1978-79. That team had it all – power in the forwards and real pace out wide – and it was a joy to be part of.
“We had players like Iain Milne, Jimmy Burnett, Kevin Rafferty and Bill Gammell around about that time and every player in the team knew his role inside out.
“As a full-back it was a joy to play in that era because the inside backs were so good at creating space and I just ran into the gaps when they appeared. It was a lot of fun and because were all mates it made it even better.
“I also had great times playing for the Barbarians. What an honour it was to be selected by them. Their style suited the type of game I liked to play because right from the off we were told never to kick the ball, but simply to entertain.
“That was music to my ears because I loved to run the ball and some of the greatest ever players have pulled on the Barbarians jersey over the years. I must take my hat off to my former team-mate Iain Milne [now Heriot’s vice-president] and the committee for managing to get them to come up to Edinburgh for this big game and they have managed to pull together a good squad.”
Irvine is one of many Heriot’s players who went on to gain full Scotland caps, the likes of Ken Scotland and Kenny Milne also in that group, while in recent years Simon Taylor, Bruce Douglas, Gordon Ross and Rory Lawson have respresented the club at international level.
Stand-off Ross is set to play for the Barbarians today along with prop Douglas while Lawson is acting as team manager.
Irvine stated: “It is great that these guys are able to come back to Goldenacre for another outing and show just how much the club means to them.
“I still get down to watch the current first XV fairly regularly and I like the way that the coaches have got them playing. Graham Wilson has been a great player for the team in recent years and for him running out against the Barbarians will be something very special.
“I’d say to all of the club players lucky enough to have been selected just to take it all in because these types of occasions don’t come around very often. I’d also like to wish them well for the BT Premiership final on Saturday.” With the pro season around Europe still ongoing it may have been hard for the Barbarians to get players released for this one, but it says something about the draw of the famous old club that they have put a strong squad together.
They are being coached by Sean Lineen, and players to keep an eye on include Edinburgh Rugby duo Cornell du Preez and Grayson Hart.
Ahead of the match there will be a lunch held for 300 people in the clubhouse with many former players and a good number of supporters getting involved to mark the occasion.
Tickets are available on the gate for tonight’s match at Goldenacre and it kicks off at 6pm