Grand Slam hero Iwan Tukalo believes Scotland’s tour to North America and Argentina should be deemed a success after it ended with a thumping 44-15 over an admittedly poor Pumas side on Saturday.
The six-try rout in Resistencia got the youthful squad’s trans-Atlantic trip back on track after the shock loss to the United States in Houston the previous Saturday.
Tukalo, who won 37 caps between 1985 and 1992 and played in all four matches during Scotland’s 1990 Five Nations Grand Slam triumph, reckons the Scots should be given credit for bouncing back in thrilling style to record their biggest ever win over a top-tier nation.
“I thought it was excellent and another example of the really exciting brand of rugby [coach] Gregor Townsend has got us playing heading to the World Cup and the performances of some of the youngsters were really encouraging,” said the 57-year-old.
“It does have to be said, though, that Argentina were extremely poor, a shadow of the side they have been in recent years. But, a bit like with England v Panama at the football, you play what is in front of you and credit to Scotland for going out there, scoring some excellent tries and putting them to the sword.”
Tukalo scored an impressive 15 tries in his 37 international appearances, including a famous hat-trick against Ireland in 1989 and a score against France a year later when he literally hauled himself over the line at Murrayfield during that gilded Five Nations campaign.
The team he was part of was capable of some thrilling rugby but the former winger admits the total rugby being pioneered by Townsend is a whole different ball game.
“Aw man, I would have loved it, imagine all that ball I would get,” he said, before adding with a chuckle, “but remember I would still have had Scott Hastings inside me and we butchered a few chances in our time!”
The mention of Hastings brings up the topic of Adam Hastings, son of former full-back and captain Gavin and nephew of Scott, who put in an eye-catching display at stand-off against Argentina in Resistencia.
“I thought he was superb and Finn Russell might well be looking over his shoulder in the next couple of years,” said Tukalo. “He’s certainly got more pace than his dad and is carving out his own niche, he’s his own player in a different position. I’m really looking forward to watching his development.”
Tukalo made his final Scotland appearance on the summer tour of 1992 to Australia and revealed that it was only earlier this year that he had got another taste of the international environment. “I was one of the guys Gregor invited along to the Captain’s Run before the England game in the Six Nations,” he explained. “It was the first time I have really been around the Scotland set-up in the professional era and it was a real eye opener. I was hugely impressed by the levels of preparation, Gregor’s coaching style and the way all the players have bought in to it.”
Amid the excitement of that delirious Calcutta Cup weekend, when Scotland went on to dismantle England for a first win in the fixture for a decade, there was a moment of poignancy for Tukalo, too, as he was reunited with former team-mate Doddie Weir for the first time since the devastating revelation of his battle with motor neurone disease.
“I was at the Auld Enemy Dinner the night before the game and Doddie was compering. He was his usual self, cracking jokes left, right and centre,” said Tukalo.
“I must confess when I had heard the news about Doddie I hadn’t been able to pick up the phone, I just didn’t know what to say. When I saw him that night I went over to him and was explaining why I hadn’t been in touch and he just put those big paws of his around me and said ‘don’t worry about it’. That’s Doddie.”
Weir’s plight has inspired Tukalo, along with fellow former internationalists Roger Baird and Rob Wainwright to lead a 24-hour cycle “spinathon” at the David Lloyd Centre in Cortstorphine on Saturday 7- and Sunday 8 July.
Starting at 10am on the Saturday, 31 exercise bikes, with some still available for volunteers, will be used for a variety of spinning shifts up to the full 24 hours.
“We wanted to do something which involved a bit more than just pulling out our wallets,” said Tukalo. “There will be a bit of discomfort involved but nothing compared to what Doddie is going through.”
Tukalo’s involvement with rugby these days doesn’t stretch much further than going down to Goldenacre to watch his son Todd, a centre/wing, play for Heriot’s 2nd XV. He hasn’t got himself too involved with the debate about the future of club rugby and the advent of the new part-time professional Super 6 league, of which Heriot’s will be part, in 2019-20. “It’s a bit like Brexit, we just don’t know how things are going to go until it happens. There seems to be more questions than answers at the moment,” he said.
“Clearly there will be concerns from the clubs below the Super 6 that they will effectively be feeder clubs and players with the ambition to play at a higher level will move. But that has always happened. I stayed with my club Royal High for as long as I felt I could before I took the opportunity to move down to Selkirk.
“That allowed me to gain from the wisdom of John Rutherford and was a vital step in my career. I just got my petrol money, and that was good enough for me.”
l Doddie’5 24hr Spinathon takes place on 7-8 July, 10am start, in aid of the My Name’5 Doddie foundation. To register: Email firstname.lastname@example.org for a spinning time slot. Commit to raising £100 for every hour you intend to spin. Make your donations to www.justgiving.com/fundraising/iwan-tukalo