This week our columnist has high praise for the England rugby team and ponders of a professional expansion north...
ALL BLACK AND BLUE: The first semi-final produced some exciting rugby and even the most biased and blinkered supporter of other nations had to admit that the England defensive performance against the All Blacks was one of the best displays seen for a long, long time. At the end of the game, the world champions looked beaten, baffled and bewildered.
CROSSROADS AHEAD?: There are aspects of professional rugby union that seem to be getting closer to rugby league in terms of the defensive line-ups and the relentless striving to gain a few metres. Only the sixth tackle stands out as a major difference, apart from the obvious line-outs. Are we approaching a time when there might be a parting of the ways and the pro and amateur games go their separate ways?
PIONEERS: Much has been made of people who introduced a sport seemingly against all the odds. Back in the early 60s two guys started up a rugby club at ICI Grangemouth- Bill McMillan and Lynn Jones. They successfully brought the game to a whole new group of people, including a few football “converts”. In 1972 the assets were transferred to Falkirk RFC and their subsequent rise through the ranks of Scottish rugby was spectacular.
PROFESSIONALISM: Alan Massie of The Scotsman suggested that Scotland might consider introducing another professional side to address the current shortfall in producing international-class players. Aberdeen/Dundee or Inverness was suggested as a possible base. Something needs to be done and the idea is worth pursuing.
DECLINE AND FALL?: The introduction of professionalism and the focus on league rugby has had a detrimental effect on what might be called social rugby. Not long ago clubs fielded second, third and social sides. Now call-offs and cancellations are frequent and the numbers of merged or combined teams might well increase.
RUGBY MEMORIES: Rugby Memories groups are open to all and can be found at Stirling and Linlithgow, and on Tuesday former Scotland scrum-half Alan Lawson was due to be the speaker at Bridgehaugh. Linlithgow meet on Mondays and had Joe Clark of Heriots and EROS as their guest.
ANSWERS: The mystery player in our first column was none other than Ken Scotland, the former Scotland and Lions full-back. Ken is still a regular attender at Heriots games and looks as though he could still play.
QUIZ: Answer: The first prop to win 50 caps was Sandy Carmichael, who is the ambassador for the Rugby Memories project.
Question: Who were Scotland playing at Murrayfield in 1963 when there were 113 line-outs, mainly as a result of the opposing scrum-half kicking for touch on every possible occasion?