The launch of a rugby hall of fame is the perfect excuse to pick our greatest team. Let the debate begin

FEW things are guaranteed to get a barstool ruckus up and running quicker than selecting your all-time greatest team.

The Scottish Rugby Union's recent decision to launch a Hall of Fame has been framed in a less straightforward fashion than simply choosing the Greatest Scotland XV Of All Time, but we at Scotland on Sunday are simple souls, so we've distilled the debate down to selecting our favourite 15 players to have pulled on the thistle since 1871.

A couple of years ago I wrote a small book called the Scotland Rugby Miscellany, which involved scouring history books and talking to anyone with a long-term perspective on Scottish rugby, the older the better.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The sheer breadth of characters and achievements was absolutely remarkable, which is perhaps why there was virtually no unanimity.

However, I eventually boiled the list down to 15 legends, with the proviso that current players are ineligible.

I have also reserved the right to move players to positions they only played in sporadically if it suits the aim of producing a team capable of playing the fast, mobile game traditionally played by Scotland.

The team would be coached by Jim Telfer.

Loosehead prop: Ian McLauchlan

1969-1979; 43 caps; Jordanhill

Just 5ft 10in and 13st 10lbs, the Ayrshire loosehead dubbed Mighty Mouse was a formidable scrummager. Teak-tough and a ferocious competitor (he played the 1973 Calcutta Cup two weeks after breaking his leg), his self-assured, gallus personality made him a natural leader. Under McLauchlan, who captained his country 19 times, Scotland only lost once at Fortress Murrayfield. He was also a great Lion in the greatest of Lions teams in 1971 and 1974. He gets in ahead of Tom Smith, David Sole and Hugh McLeod.

Stand-off: John Rutherford

1979-87; 42 caps; Selkirk

The 1984 Grand Slam stand-off was a blueblood among fly-halves, a languid player with a beautiful economy of movement and the ability to absolutely dominate the hurly-burly of international rugby. A beautiful runner, he turned himself into a fantastic kicker and a tenacious cover-tackler. In tandem with scrum-half Roy Laidlaw, he was also remarkably effective: the two played together a record 35 times, and on the eight occasions between 1980 and 1987 when they didn't play together, Scotland lost seven. Gets the gig ahead of Wilson Shaw and Gregor Townsend.

Wing: Ian Smith

1924-33; 32 caps; Oxford University, Edinburgh University, London Scottish

The 1925 Grand Slam was won on the back of the prolific try-scoring record of The Flying Scotsman, a speed merchant who scored at the phenomenal rate of over two tries per three matches. In the Grand Slam year he scored eight tries in the first two matches against France and Wales and was so heavily marked against England (against whom he scored nine tries in eight matches) that he left space for others. In his international debut he scored a hat-trick against Wales. A good captain, he was an exuberant character famous for his carousing. The back-up would be the great Arthur Smith.

Centre: Gregor Townsend

1993-2003; 82 caps; Gala, Warringah, Northampton, Brive, Castres, Borders, Montpellier, Natal Sharks

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

As with Andy Irvine, Townsend had many detractors (who dubbed him "Clownsend"), but on his day he was a sublime footballer capable of breaching any defences, as he proved with the 1987 Lions. His best moments in a Scotland shirt are life-affirming ones, such as the Toony Flip that gave Scotland a first win in Paris for 27 years, or becoming the first Scot since 1925 to score in every Championship game as Scotland won the 1999 Five Nations. He gets in ahead of Jim Renwick, George Aitken and Ian McGeechan.

Centre: GPS Macpherson

1922-32; 26 caps: Oxford University, Edinburgh Academicals

Hall of Fame panellist Norman Mair reckons that GPS was the best player ever to play for Scotland, and he was certainly a player of rare quality. A jinking, side-stepping centre with an eye for the line, he was the most outrageously attacking centre of his or possibly any other generation. He would edge out Scott Hastings, Ninian Finlay and Alan Tait.

Wing: Andy Irvine

1972-82; 51 caps; Heriot's FP

When the SRU ran a poll for the best attacking player ever to have played for Scotland, the swashbuckling Herioter won by a mile. A thrilling counter-attacker, he had pace, verve and daring by the bucketload, which more than made up for his defensive frailties. Over 11 years and 51 Tests, he scored ten tries for Scotland, 261 points and captained his country 15 times. He was also one of the great Lions, touring with distinction as a free-scoring wing, where he started his Scotland career, in 1974. He beats Johnny Wallace to the spot.

Fullback: Gavin Hastings

1986-1997; 61 caps; Cambridge University, Watsonians, London Scottish

With a career that spanned 12 seasons, Grand Slam winner Hastings is arguably the most complete player ever to have played for Scotland. He was also an inspirational leader who captained the first Scotland Schools side to win in England, captained the first Scotland side to win at the Parc des Princes, and led the Lions in New Zealand. An accomplished place-kicker and prolific try-scorer, he held just about every record possible as a Scotland and Lions player. Beats Andy Irvine, Ken Scotland and Dan Drysdale to the selection.

Tighthead prop: Hugh McLeod

1954-62; 40 caps; Hawick

Predominantly a loosehead opposite Dave Rollo, but technically flawless and often filled in at tighthead. Just 5ft 9in and less than 14 stone, he was nevertheless a famously impressive scrummager, once taking five heels against the head playing NZ Universities on one of his two Lions tours. A teetotal fitness fanatic who was quick enough to be a noted sevens exponent, he loved the physical confrontation of rugby but was also a dedicated scholar of the game. He edges out Iain Milne and Sandy Carmichael.

Second row: Gordon Brown

1969-1976; 30 caps; West of Scotland

The 6ft 5in younger brother of Peter 'PC' Brown made his debut in the 6-3 defeat of South Africa on 6 December 1969 at Murrayfield and never looked back. Big, extraordinarily aggressive and unusually athletic, the only downside to Broon fae Troon was a passionate dislike of training, which is why he was at his best with the Lions, with whom he toured three times. Part of the storied Mean Machine front five, which included boiler-room partner Al McHarg, Ian McLauchlan and Sandy Carmichael, he gets in ahead of Scott Murray and John Bannerman.

Second row: Charles Reid

1881-1888; 21 caps; Edinburgh Academicals

When "Hippo" Reid made his debut as a barely turned 17-year-old Edinburgh Academy schoolboy, he was already 6ft 3in tall and weighed in at almost 17 stones, a vast bulk in those days. Yet he was known primarily for his skill, courage and dedication, plus his good hands, formidable dribbling and savage tackling. He captained Scotland to 17 wins in 21 games and skippered them to their first championship, during which he scored four tries. He gets the nod ahead of Alistair McHarg and Allan Tomes.

Blindside: Darkie Bedell-Sivright

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

1900-1908; 22 caps; Cambridge University, Fettesian-Lorretonian, West of Scotland, Edinburgh University

Rated by many as the hardest man ever to pull on a Scotland jersey, accounts of his play are sprinkled with words like "ferocious" and "robust". Famed for his intensity and the relish with which he sought physical confrontation, he was an enormous character who lived life to the limit. He skippered Scotland and the Lions, and is the only Scot to have won three Triple Crowns. A deceptively intelligent man, he died in the Dardanelles during World War One. Gets the nod ahead of Jim Calder and John Jeffrey.

Openside: Finlay Calder

1986-91; 34 caps; Stewart's-Melville FP

A converted No.8, Calder came to international rugby aged 28, so late that he never played with his brother Jim, who won the Grand Slam in 1984 and toured with the 1983 Lions. Finlay Calder packed an incredible amount into a five-year career, playing in a World Cup semi-final, winning a Grand Slam and captaining the Lions to their first series win for 15 years. Tough and uncompromising, Calder made up for a lack of pace with an astute game sense and utter conviction. He is selected ahead of David Leslie, largely because of his leadership qualities.

No.8: Mark Morrison

1896-1904; 23 caps, 15 as captain;

Royal HSFP

A "roughhouse" gentleman farmer who was the first genuine superstar of the game north of the Border, Morrison combined pace, strength and a prodigious workrate with a hard-nosed attitude and almost manic physicality. Capped while still a schoolboy, he was captain of Scotland by 21 and also skippered the 1903 Lions to South Africa. He captained Scotland to two Triple Crowns and three championships in five years, and remains the only man to lead Scotland to three Calcutta Cup wins. Morrison gets the nod ahead of Doug Elliot, Bill MacLagan and Jim Telfer.

Scrum-half: Gary Armstrong

1988-99; 51 caps; JedForest, Newcastle Falcons, Borders

Jonny Wilkinson's nickname for Armstrong was "scrapdog, because I've never known anyone as tough as him", while he was Jim Telfer's favourite player, which pretty much says it all. Armstrong wasn't particularly quick and his pass wasn't the best, but his indomitable spirit more than made up. A fantastic cover defender with a flanker's eye for the ball at the breakdown, he was central to the 1990 Grand Slam triumph. He gets in ahead of Roy Laidlaw and Dougie Morgan.

Hooker: Colin Deans

1978-87; 52 caps; Hawick

A small but incredibly mobile player whose first coach at school in Hawick was Bill McLaren, Deans was tough, durable and incredibly focused. Technically perfect, he played more like a flanker in the loose, using his blistering pace to good effect. The Grand Slam-winning hooker captained Scotland 15 times, including into the 1987 World Cup. He edges out Norman Bruce.