Twenty great rugby players
Twenty great rugby players
Deans was a hooker with such a turn of pace that he effectively acted as a fourth back-row forward in open-play. An extremely accurate thrower at the line-out, he was an accomplished technical player in an era when the hooker’s art was under threat from rule changes and the onset of the ‘eight man shove’.
“Leslie's safe return from some of his more suicidal missions in the loose continues to be a source of amazement and delight to his many admirers. I have run out of things to say about him except that, so far as I know, no individual been more important to his country this season than Leslie has to Scotland.” So wrote The Scotsman after Scotland’s victory over France to win the 1984 Grand Slam.
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If any single moment symbolized the Scottish team spirit and gritty determination in 1990’s Grand Slam decider it was surely the sight of Fin Calder, early on in the match, collecting a loose ball and driving hard into the English forwards.
First capped in 1934 against Wales, Wilson Shaw was the most talented Scottish back of the 1930s. He played most of his games at stand-off but, as with Gregor Townsend, the selectors couldn’t decide on his best position and he also played as both a wing and a centre.
As with all great sporting combinations, Roy Laidlaw’s name has become inexorably linked with that of his regular half-back partner John Rutherford.
A supremely unorthodox attacking lock, Alistair McHarg appeared in places that second-row’s weren’t supposed to go – he could crop up on the wing, occasionally perhaps as an auxiliary full-back, or maybe helping out as a third centre.
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.
Dubbed ‘The White Shark’ by the media because of his distinctive blond hair, John Jeffrey (or JJ to his team-mates) seemed to have the ability to run all day. Invariably first to the breakdown point, first with the tackle, or first with an inspired counter, he had the priceless ability to score important tries. Jeffrey was capped 40 times by Scotland, making him Scotland’s most capped flanker, and scored 11 tries, another Scottish record which he shares with back-row colleague Derek White.
The irrepressible Scott Hastings is Scotland’s most-capped player with 65 appearances, between his first game against France in 1986 – which also saw the debuts of two other Scottish Greats, brother Gavin and Grand Slam-winning captain David Sole – and his final appearance as a reserve against England in 1997.
The hardest player he has ever seen, said Jim Telfer, and there are few more qualified to pass comment.
British Lions captain, Scotland captain, Grand Slam winner – Gavin Hastings was the best full-back of his generation.
John Rutherford won 42 caps at stand-off for Scotland, at the time a record in that position. A player of enormous natural talent, his early games for Scotland were characterised by a certain tactical naivety - the fact that Rutherford later transformed himself into the complete stand-off is a testimony to his own hard work on the weaker parts of his game, particularly his drop-kicking for which he still holds the Scottish record.
Simply one of Britain’s best post-war lock forwards, ‘Broon frae Troon’ was the most important member of what may have been Scotland’s greatest front five.
Townsend will perhaps be best remembered for that sublime reverse pass - taking two French defenders out the game – which sent Gavin Hastings through to score under the posts, and gave Scotland their first victory in Paris for nearly thirty years.
‘Mighty Mouse’ was a relative late arrival on the international scene but after making his debut against England in 1969 he became a fixture in the national side for the next ten years, eventually becoming the oldest player ever to represent Scotland.
First capped against Wales in 1924, Ian Smith is still Scotland’s record try scorer with an incredible 24 tries in 32 appearances, also a record for tries scored in the International championship (now the Six Nations).
A player of precocious talent, Jim Renwick was aged just nineteen when he won his first cap against France in 1972. It was the first of a then-record 52 appearances for Scotland.
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.
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