Jim Hamilton: Glasgow '˜proper contenders' for Euro crown

'Do you know, the funny thing is I'm the most Scottish out of all of them,' says Jim Hamilton in his broad English Midlands accent with a hearty laugh.

Jim Hamilton poses in a kilt during the Heineken Presents Take the Hit with School of Hard Knocks event at Richmond Park, London. The Coventry-raised lock, who credits rugby with making him a better human being, is relishing Saracens cup quarter-final with Glasgow on Sunday.

The Swindon-born, Coventry-raised, 63-times capped former Scotland lock is referring to the tartan trio at Saracens, which also includes flanker Kelly Brown and Kiwi-born wing Sean Maitland, who will be aiming to stop Glasgow’s historic European Champions Cup run in its tracks when the two clubs meet in a mouth-watering quarter-final in London on Sunday.

“Kelly Brown is a bit of a fraud,” adds Hamilton, warming to his theme. “His dad’s Irish and his mum’s English. He’s got no Scottish blood whatsoever. I direct those boys on the true Scotland passion. I just don’t have the accent.”

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Hamilton, the son of a Glaswegian father, is relishing this weekend’s occasion, which is the first time he will have faced a Scottish club outside of his time with Edinburgh, 
as his career continues its Indian summer at the English and European champions he joined in 2014.

“It is going to be a huge game,” he said. “We have got a very good team, obviously we’re the holders of the tournament. We’ve played in a lot of quarter-finals and big games like this, we’re experienced in them. But Glasgow are a fantastic team. Anyone that can go to Welford Road and put almost 50 unanswered points on Leicester will make people sit up and take notice. They are proper contenders in this 
competition.”

Hamilton, Maitland and Brown are all in line to play a part on Sunday and the lock took a break from ribbing the “Anglo-Irish” Borderer and said: “Yeah, seriously, this will be a massive game for Kelly. It’s his old club and he spent years at Glasgow.

“Gregor Townsend actually texted at the end of last season to congratulate us on our success and said he would really love to play Saracens, and here we are. It’s going to be a huge occasion with some emotion, but at the end of the day it’s just a game of rugby.”

Rugby’s a game that has provided Hamilton with so much and he was speaking to promote the Heineken-backed “Take the Hit for School of Hard Knocks”, a social inclusion charity which helps people gain the skills and support they need to get back into work. Hamilton will perform the coin toss to decide which former England star, Ugo Monye or Nick Easter, will perform a bungee jump at BT Murrayfield ahead of the Champions Cup final in May. The more money raised, the higher the crane will be.

Hamilton said: “It’s a charity I can relate to with my background and experiences growing up in Coventry on a council estate. I was then lucky enough to have the opportunity to play rugby, which not just gave me the foundations to kick on and be a professional athlete, but the more poignant thing for me is how it made me a better human being.”

Hamilton feels he has matured as a rugby player and, at 34, feels he is no longer the occasionally hot-headed competitor he once was. “I’ve changed my style of play quite a lot and tried to take a lot of emotion out of how I play, which got me in a bit of trouble sometimes,” he said. “I just enjoy it now. I’m too old now to pinch myself and feel overwhelmed by occasions. I played ten years of international rugby. I’ve kind of been there and done it. But for me, personally, to still be involved with a successful team, winning games and trophies at what is, let’s be honest, coming to the end of my career is something I’m very proud of. “

Hamilton faced Glasgow a number of times while at Edinburgh and recalled warmly some ding-dong 1872 Cup 
battles with the now retired Al Kellock, pictured left.

“Yeah, I filled him in a couple of times,” he said with a chuckle. “Of course he’s a bit older than me and I was in my prime in those days! The game was a little bit different back then, you could get away with a little bit more on a muddy grass pitch.”

l Jim Hamilton challenges Nick Easter and Ugo Monye to ‘Take the Hit’ for social inclusion charity, School of Hard Knocks, supported by Heineken. Visit facebook.com/sohkcharity