The Scotland Rugby Team

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Scotland is more than the setting of Braveheart. It’s more than the land across the northern wall. It’s home to men wearing kilts and throwing telephone poles as well as a fairly successful rugby team.

Scotland has a long history of rugby and was involved in the first internationally recognized test match against England. At the time, they defeated England in the archaic scoring system in 1871. The match was set up after a group of Scotland players issued a challenge to an England side and within a year or so, the match took place between the two nations, which has been a competitive rivalry ever since.

Scotland plays England annually for the rights to the Calcutta Cup, which is part of the Six Nations tournament and over 100 matches have taken place between these two nations in the name of the cup.

Scotland enjoyed some success before World War 1 as they won the Triple Crown in 1907 but would be denied any trophy for a further 18 years. By the year 1925, Scotland had put together some good victories over France, Ireland and Wales and had England in their sights. They went on to win the grand slam after defeating England in a close match. Scotland were also the first team to defeat England at Twickenham in 1926. Scotland had entered their first golden age with strong victories over their old rivals.

World War 2 halted Scotland’s momentum and even though they defeated a touring All Blacks side in 1946, they couldn’t match their previous achievements from before. They went down to record defeats and lost 17 consecutive games between 1951 to 1955. By the 1960s though, they had changed the tide and began to put some victories together to claim the Calcutta Cup in 1964 and draw with the All Blacks as well as sharing the Five Nations title with Wales.

Scotland appointed their first coach in 1971 after some resistance to stay as an amateur sport, but Bill Dickinson took the role and had the title “advisor to the captain.” Later, Jim Telfer was appointed coach in 1980 with some success over Australia while the Scots were on tour and a draw against the All Blacks.

The first World Cup in 1987 saw Scotland lose to New Zealand in the quarter-finals with their best result in the competition coming in 1991, finishing fourth after losing the third-place play off against New Zealand. Scotland have never been a huge threat in the World Cups with either pool or quarter-final exits.

Scotland won the last Five Nations tournament in 1999, but with the introduction of Italy to make it the Six Nations tournament, they haven’t won the trophy. So technically, they are defending Five Nations champions.

Recently, the form of Scotland hasn’t been good as they struggle to compete against the powerhouses of England, Ireland and Wales. They appointed their current coach, Vern Cotter in 2014 and there has been a mental change in the team. Even though they had a disappointing Six Nations campaign in 2015, they have changed their mental attitude and have the belief that they can compete and defeat other nations.

Even though form hasn’t been good, the pride that players feel when pulling over the jersey is unmeasurable. The strip of Scotland is a navy blue jersey with white shorts and the current alternate strip is red with blue trimming. Scotland play with the thistle emblem embroidered on the chest. The thistle being the national flower and part of folklore in Scotland.

Some great players have worn the navy jersey and those of whom that have been inducted into the hall of fame include Gordon Brown, Andy Irvine, Ian McGeechan, Bill Maclagan and David Bedell-Sivright. More recent players that have made their name are, Ross Ford, Euan Murray, Greig Laidlaw and Stuart Hogg. But the one player that almost all rugby followers and lovers will know, that wore the Scottish Navy Blue jersey is Gavin Hastings. He too has been inducted into the hall of fame and is famous for being a solid rock at the back of the Scotland team. He may have only earned 61 caps for Scotland but he was considered the best full back of his time. In the years that he played, between 1986 – 1995, he was selected 6 times as a British and Irish Lions player and captained them on their tour to New Zealand. He had an accurate place kicking boot, amassing 667 points in his international career with a further 66 points with the Lions. Many people spoke highly of him and at 1.80m or 6’2, he was an immense talent as full back. He has long since retired from rugby and now is chairman of the Edinburgh Rugby Club.

Scotland have never had a big forward pack or a scorching back line, but they have always tried to play a balanced game. In the last two season, Coach Cotter has tried to play an attacking game set up by big runners, but this style needs to be polished to be effective.

With the World Cup in their neighbor’s backyard, Scotland will be hoping to make the playoff rounds but they play against South Africa, Samoa, Japan and America in their pool. If they continue their form, they hope to finish second and enter into the play offs. After that, I cannot be too sure where they’ll finish.