Iwan Tukalo fears Scotland’s 1990 Grand Slam dinner is off the table this year

Disappointment for organiser who believes 2021 is the more likely date for postponed event
Iwan Tukalo in action during Scotland’s 13-10 win against Ireland at Lansdowne Road in the 1990 Grand Slam-winning campaign. Picture: TSPLIwan Tukalo in action during Scotland’s 13-10 win against Ireland at Lansdowne Road in the 1990 Grand Slam-winning campaign. Picture: TSPL
Iwan Tukalo in action during Scotland’s 13-10 win against Ireland at Lansdowne Road in the 1990 Grand Slam-winning campaign. Picture: TSPL

Grand Slam hero Iwan Tukalo has expressed disappointment that the dinner he had worked so hard on organising for the Scotland squads of 1984 and 1990 is now unlikely to take place this year.

The former left wing said that, given the current difficulties of the Covid-19 pandemic, it was just something that had to be accepted.

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The dinner was scheduled for Friday 8 May at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre, with money to be raised for the Hearts + Balls charity, which supports rugby players who have suffered serious injuries.

Tukalo said: “We have been in contact with the EICC and been given a provisional re-arranged date of Saturday 28 November, although, with the way things are looking currently, I think we need to be realistic and think that is probably unlikely, with mass gatherings likely to be off the cards for the rest of this year.”

The winger was part of the famous team who won Scotland’s third Grand Slam to follow those of 1925 and 1984 on 17 March 1990. There has been plenty of nostalgia pieces on the fabled 13-7 win over Will Carling’s hot-favourite England side at Murrayfield when Tony Stanger scored the winning try.

A couple of months ago Tukalo was joined at the national stadium by his 1990 team-mate, Finlay Calder, and his brother, Jim Calder, who captained the winning 1984 side.

Many a great memory was shared that morning and Tukalo admitted it was a blow that the dinner, which was to be hosted by broadcaster Dougie Donnelly and attended by every member of the 1984 and 1990 squads, has been put on hold.

“It is, but we just have to accept there are more important things going on right now,” said the 58-year-old, who scored a famous try in the home win over France in that 1990 campaign.

“The EICC have come up with this new date in November but I’m not sure there will be the possibility, or the appetite for it happening then.

“Once we do get through this, maybe sometime next year people will be in the mood to, perhaps not celebrate, but let their hair down and we can do it then. Peoples’ health is the most important things right now.”

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Back on that in early February, Tukalo reflected on his memories of that famous day in March 1990.

“It was the team talk [at the Braid Hills Hotel before heading to the stadium],” he recalled.

“Normally it was a little bit like being back at school, with the teachers – the coaches – at the front and then our chairs set out in rows. But this time all the seats were in a circle, and on the front of each chair was a jersey, but you couldn’t see the numbers, just the thistle.

“So when we walked in it was ‘oh, wait a minute…’ They said, ‘Come in, just sit anywhere’. So Geech [Ian McGeechan] gets into the circle and started to talk to us about tactics, basically replaying all the things we do when we’re in certain parts of the field.

“Then he stepped out of the circle and Creamy [Jim Telfer] stepped in. He started on this whole thing about not just playing for the jersey, but r yourselves, your friends and families, saying ‘if you win this game, it is life-changing for you’.

“At the end he said ‘there is a jersey on the front of your chair’...” It is at this moment Tukalo becomes choked with emotion, but is briefly able to continue. “‘Pick that jersey up and give it to the person it belongs to and make a commitment to them’. I had JJ’s [John Jeffrey’s]. I just said ‘JJ, there’s your jersey, I won’t let you down’. So for me, after that nobody was going to beat us that day.”

A statement from charity partners Hearts + Balls said of the postponed dinner: “Following the Scottish Government’s advice on gatherings of more than 500 people and amid concerns over the escalating Coronavirus outbreak, the Hearts + Balls board has taken the decision to postpone the Grand Slam Celebration Dinner, which was scheduled for Friday 8 May at the EICC in Edinburgh.

“While this is hugely disappointing for the charity, our partners and members of both Grand Slam-winning teams, it was considered the only reasonable course of action to ensure the health and wellbeing of our guests.

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“We are currently working with our event partners, the EICC, to reschedule the event for later this year. All tickets will be honoured and ticketholders will be contacted directly in the coming days.”

Those wishing to continue to support the charity can do so at its website heartsandballs.org.uk

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