1984 v 1990: Jim and Finlay Calder on which Grand Slam-winning side was best

Finlay, left, and Jim Calder at BT Murrayfield  to promote a dinner that will  re-unite the Grand Slam sides of 1984 and 1990 in aid of  the charity, Hearts  and Balls.
Finlay, left, and Jim Calder at BT Murrayfield to promote a dinner that will re-unite the Grand Slam sides of 1984 and 1990 in aid of the charity, Hearts and Balls.
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Who would your money be on if Scotland’s Grand Slam-winning teams of 1984 and 1990 went head to head?

“Well, they’re older than us, so we would probably still have the edge!” said 1990 hero Finlay Calder as he joined his brother, Jim, who scored the clinching try against France six years previously to secure the country’s first slam since 1925, at Murrayfield yesterday.

The twin brothers and former flankers were back at the national stadium to promote a unique dinner which will re-unite those two fabled Scotland teams at a dinner to support the charity, Hearts and Balls.

“Crikey, it’s a tough question, because John Rutherford [the 1984 stand-off] was the best player I ever saw in my life. For any country. He was magic,” added Finlay, who won 34 Scotland caps and also skippered the 1989 series-winning British and Irish Lions tour of Australia.

“And John was in his prime in ‘84. Craig Chalmers was a fine rugby player [too]… your 10 controls your game. They also had the Bear in [prop Iain Milne] in ’84. So, as much as it chokes me to say it, I think they would have the edge. They were an exceptional side.”

Jim Calder reflected on a 1984 campaign which started
with a 15-9 win at Cardiff Arms Park, which followed on from a famous win in Wales in 1982 which broke a 20-year 

“Jim Aitken didn’t touch the ball very much as a player. But he was a great captain. With ten minutes to go, it was clear we were going to win the game. We’d just scored the last try,” he said.

“We went back to the halfway line, he [Aitken] asked us all if we were enjoying it. When we said yes, he said: ‘Well, show everyone that you’re enjoying it. Start strutting about the place!’

“If you see the footage again, you suddenly see eight forwards starting to strut about the pitch.

“It’s a wee bit bizarre. But he had the presence of mind to tell us just to enjoy it.

“The crucial thing is we had people like Jim Renwick and Andy Irvine in the lead-up to ’84, and we had [No 8] David Leslie. In our team, we had eight Lions. John Beattie was on the bench, Peter Dods became a Lion, Leslie should have been a Lion. Rutherford was also the best stand-off in the world. But 1990 was a special team – and they beat a special team [Will Carling’s England].

“It sits in the memory that wee bit more, when you beat England.

“This morning, because I didn’t remember much about it, I looked at the France [1984] footage on YouTube. And it reminded me that the French had a real roll of honour in that XV.

“It was guys like Serge Blanco, Phillippe Sella, Jean-Pierre Rives – these were superb rugby players. And they were big favourites to win. Especially by half-time.”

Remarkably, the now 62-year-old twins never played alongside each other for Scotland. Jim’s Test career was from 1981 to 1985 while Finlay’s was 1986 to 1991.

“I had bought tickets for that [France ‘84] game, along with a mate,” recalled Finlay.

“We looked each other at half-time and said: ‘This is a waste of time, are we going?’

“But we thought: ‘We better just stay. You never know’. It just shows you, because France were all over Scotland.”

Jim added: “[Coach Jim] Telfer was at his very best that year. For the first we stayed 
outside Cardiff in Chepstow, in the St Pierre Golf Country Club, and the whole idea from Telfer was that this would be like an SAS mission – we would stay there, train there, the Welsh won’t know we’re there, we’ll go in on Saturday and beat them, then come back.

“It was great planning. We won – and there was no way we were going back to Chepstow on Saturday night. So, that was the start.”

The dinner, which is being organised by 1990 wing Iwan Tukalo, takes place at Edinburgh International Conference Centre on Friday 8 May. Tickets will be available from Monday onwards and can be booked at the heartsandballs.org.uk website.

“They are quite understated but they do amazing work,” said Finlay of the charity.

“They move very quickly after catastrophic injuries – broken necks and stuff like that.

“When there is a catastrophic injury there is a huge groundswell of support immediately, but then it tails off. That’s where Hearts and Balls are exceptional. It will be a great night.

“Who’s to say we couldn’t get the 2020 Scotland Grand Slam team along as well. It’s ambitious but… let’s set that for a target. Let’s save a couple of tables for the lads!

“It’s the same before every Six Nations, as a Scot we say: ‘Well…’. There’s this sort of euphoria that comes in, that it could be this year – but, really, I think it is going to be a tough year this year.”