ENGLAND’S Grand Slam-winning captain Will Carling has opened his heart on how complacency among him and his team-mates led to their downfall in 1990, and admitted that he still feels he requires therapy to deal with the memory.
In a column for the Huffington Post online paper, Carling looked forward to this weekend’s RBS Six Nations launch by recalling his matches with Scotland and how the list of victories still pale against that one defeat at Murrayfield in which David Sole’s troops claimed a 13-7 victory and wrenched the Grand Slam from Carling’s visitors.
“The one Scotland game that everyone still seems to want to talk about [is] that Grand Slam decider in 1990,” he wrote. “What a day! Scarred me for life! If a script could have been written, to caricature all the supposed traits of the English and the Scots in a rugby encounter, then someone wrote it superbly.
“We had played well in the three previous games, our forwards were superb and ‘Geraldine’ Guscott was on fire. The Scots had been less emphatic, but still impressive, which was a point sadly lost on us.
“There was still a huge undercurrent from the successful Lions tour in 1989, and that was to define the game. I had missed the tour with a fractured shin, and hence missed the nuances and the relationships that it had created. The Lions had lost the first Test and, when the pack became mainly English for the second, success was achieved but strong feelings were born.”
Carling would become a great figure of hate among Scottish fans following the game, and he points to why as he recalls his and his team-mates’ attitude to the 1990 game.
“In the peaceful build-up at Peebles Hotel, Brian Moore was reminding us that their forwards were sh*te, they had been sh*te on the Lions tour, and they would be sh*te on Saturday.
“To be fair, it was not just Brian, we all lapsed into the belief that we were a stronger, more skilful side who were on form.
“The training sessions were sharp; it was our minds that were wrong. We were the arrogant English. I honestly think we thought that we would turn up and win – we were better for God’s sake. At no time in our preparation did we consider what they might do to disrupt our rhythm. We strutted around Peebles, chests out, a confidence and swagger about us; we were good, and we knew it. We trundled into Murrayfield, dreaming of Grand Slam celebrations, and encountered one of the great ambushes – arse kickings – from a bloody good Scottish team. We got what we deserved. And I can tell you it hurt, really hurt, and I mean really, really hurt!”
After a restless night in the hotel where the Scots celebrated, he left early the next morning for a flight south to commentate on a ladies international, and recalled being told by an Edinburgh Airport worker that he was “arrogant, smug, soft, useless, pompous and sh*te, alongside quite a few that I should not mention. . . and realising that I couldn’t really argue with most of what he said.”
Carling, who led England to Grand Slams in the next two years, goes on to recount how they nearly lost again in 1994, when Jon Callard snatched a 15-14 win with a controversial last-gasp penalty, and how he lost his rag in the dressing room before the 1995 Calcutta Cup at Twickenham – another Grand Slam decider this time won by Carling’s men – bellowing at players not to allow a repeat of 1990 only to realise that some had little idea of what had happened five years earlier.
“When I am being really honest, that passion the Scots have for their country, that fire, has always made me slightly jealous.
“I would love England to be like that. I would love us to be as passionate, as fiery and hysterical about our country and shirt. I listen to the Scots anthem, and I love it; it has emotion, it has edge and it is amazing when Murrayfield hits you with it, full volume.
“When we played Scotland, we just didn’t play the team, we played the country and we played hundreds of years of history. And it was tough!
“So I really hope that England are not sitting comfortably in Pennyhill Park thinking that Scotland are sending down some sacrificial lambs on Saturday.”