Scotland impress ex-England hooker Brian Moore

Former England international Brian Moore at the Three Sisters pub in Edinburgh - an official fans hub for the World Cup. Picture: Craig Watson
Former England international Brian Moore at the Three Sisters pub in Edinburgh - an official fans hub for the World Cup. Picture: Craig Watson
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HE WAS once the man Scottish rugby fans loved to hate and, for many, that may be a hard habit to break but, on the evidence of last night, feelings have softened significantly – in both directions.

Brian Moore was one of the star attractions at the Three Sisters pub in Edinburgh’s Cowgate at its launch as an official fans hub for the World Cup.

I don’t think I am arrogant, or a kind of effete, superior Englishman

Brian Moore

Whereas once the former England hooker’s appearance in a capital hostelry could have sparked a rammy, last night he found himself mobbed by selfie-seeking admirers. More than two decades have passed since those tension-racked days when Scotland and England vied for northern hemisphere supremacy and Moore was the Auld 
Enemy’s chief provocateur.

“When you are playing why would you want opposition fans to like you? Or be indifferent to you? The more enmity you create the more concern there is about you,” said Moore. “It would only be so if I was creating some sort of threat. Scottish people appreciate I was wholeheartedly English, obviously. Now I try and be as upfront as I can be. I speak my mind. That is what Scottish people are like in general.

“I don’t think I am arrogant, or a kind of effete, superior Englishman. I think if I was Scottish I’d have been very popular here as I am that sort of character.” Moore, who is now a familiar voice co-commentating during the Six Nations on BBC, will be working for TalkSport radio during the World Cup and has been impressed by Scotland’s warm-up games, classing them as the most impressive of the home unions. While stopping short of saying he now wants to see Scotland do well, he certainly does not bear the nation he enjoyed some of his most memorable battles with any ill will.

“You can’t hate a whole country can you? Well except maybe France,” he grinned. “I tell you what I want for Scotland supporters. I just want the Scotland team to deliver on the fullness of their promise.

“That’s not necessarily winning World Cups. It could be winning Six Nations occasionally, in fact it should be winning Six Nations occasionally. It must be a constant frustration for Scotland fans to see the team do some parts of the game really well and, more importantly, the parts of the game that are actually the hard ones to execute like creating chances. For the Scottish fans I would like them to see them execute well and produce a full display. But hope is the thing that kills you.”

It may be just one of a few permutations but it is not beyond the realms of possibility that England could face Scotland at Twickenham in the quarter-finals, which would be the third World Cup meeting between the international game’s oldest rivals. Moore played in the first, a 9-6 win for England in the 1991 semi-final at Murrayfield, and recalled: “Coming off the back of a brutal contest in Paris [in the quarter-finals] we just had to negotiate that semi-final to be honest. We wanted to get through it, knew it was going to be difficult and it wasn’t a great game truth be told. We could have lost, Gavin [Hastings] missed that kick in front of the posts.

“It was a strange mindset, a bit of a negative mindset in the sense that it was ‘let’s not f*** this up’. No-one wants to go out in the semi-finals and it was just ‘please let us get through this’. The feeling was one of relief about negotiating it against what was essentially the same team who had beat us to the Grand Slam the previous year.”

That took England to the final against Australia at Twickenham and, after dogging it out in Paris and Edinburgh, there was, 
perhaps in response to “boring boring England” jibes in the media, a radical change to a more open style.

“Yes that was a calamitous error,” winced Moore. “Sport gives such great rewards because you don’t get a second chance, that’s what everyone understands about it. I don’t think I’ll ever forget it or fully get over it really. Whenever it is brought up at times like this it is a reminder that when you had your one chance to be the best in the world, you didn’t do it.

“If you are beaten by a team that is just so much better then you can kind of accept it but when it’s down to your execution and a tactical error it’s one of the worst feelings in sport.”

The game has moved on a long way since those nominally amateur days of the first three tournaments and Moore said he is genuinely bursting with anticipation about what is about to unfold over the next few weeks.

“I’m hugely excited,” he said. “It’s an England-based World Cup largely, which is good. It’s built up so slowly but this tournament is going to last six weeks so I think having this two-week period when things really start to get ramped up is enough.

“This World Cup has got every prospect of being the highest quality World Cup. The last three have really moved on significantly each time and there’s no reason why this one shouldn’t move things on again. There are a raft of teams just under New Zealand, who are still favourites, who given the bit of luck they need and just hitting the streak of form at the right time and avoiding injuries then several are capable of winning the tournament.

“In previous tournaments that’s really not been the case, you’ve limited yourself to two, maybe three at a push, who you could genuinely see winning it.”

• Caledonia Best is the Official Beer of Scottish Rugby. For more, follow on twitter @caledoniabest and on facebook.