1984 and 1990 Grand Slam teams come together for unique dinner – but which was the better team?

The Calder twins agree - one of them rather reluctantly - but who gets your vote?

Fin Calder, Iwan Tukalo and Jim Calder help promote the Hearts + Balls charity dinner on 8th May. Image: Fotosport/David Gibson
Fin Calder, Iwan Tukalo and Jim Calder help promote the Hearts + Balls charity dinner on 8th May. Image: Fotosport/David Gibson

THE passing years may have rounded those granite-hard shoulders, the furious stare has mellowed into a more gentle smile and they perhaps don’t move with quite the same level of vigorous intent as they did in their pomp – but you still wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of them.

The Calder twins were at Murrayfield yesterday to help promote a unique fund-raising dinner which will officially bring together 1984 and 1990 Grand Slam squads for the first time to help raise funds and awareness for the ‘Hearts + Balls’ charity.

The event, which will be held at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre on Friday 8th May, has been organised by their old friend and team-mate Iwan Tukalo, and will help support rugby players in Scotland who have suffered life-changing injuries.


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Jim and Finlay Calders’ international careers spanned a full decade from the former’s Scotland debut against France in Paris on 17th January 1981 to the latter’s final appearance against New Zealand in Cardiff on 30th October 1991 – but they never played together, with Jim’s 28 cap career coming to an end after the 1985 Five Nations, just before Finlay took his bow at the ripe old age of 28 the following spring.

During that period they took in two Lions tours (Jim was part of the All Blacks whitewash in 1983, while Finlay led the victorious raid of Australia in 1989) and two Grand Slams in 1984 and 1990 (which have undoubtedly been the twin highlights of Scottish rugby during the post-war era).

But the big questions is, which one of those Grand Slam teams would have come out on top if they faced off against each other in a one-off match?

“Well, they’re older than us, so we would probably still have the edge,” quips Finlay, looking to duck the question.

“It’s a tough question,” he then concedes before giving two key reasons why he would back the opposition.

John Rutherford [stand-off in the 1984 team] was the best player I ever saw in my life – for any country – he was magic – and he was in his prime in ‘84.  So, while Craig Chalmers [stand-off in the 1990 team] was a fine rugby player, your 10 controls your game, and Rudd was something else.

“Plus, they also had the Bear [tight-head prop Iain Milne] in ’84. So, as much as it chokes me to say it, I think they would have the edge. They were an exceptional side.”

Jim isn’t inclined to disagree with that analyses in terms of personnel, but he thinks the manner of the 1990 team’s win means that their legacy will reverberate louder through the years.

“In our [1984] team, we had eight Lions, Peter Dods became a Lion and David Leslie should have been a Lion,” he says. “And Rutherford was simply the best stand-off in the world. Jim Aitken didn’t touch the ball very much as a player. But he was a great captain.

“But 1990 was a special team – and they beat a special team. It sits in the memory that wee bit more, when you beat England.”

Which team would you back?


Full squads from both 1984 and 1990 will be in attendance at the event which will be hosted by Dougie Donnelly, who was an integral part of the TV coverage in both 1984 and 1990, and features music from 1984 Grand Slam winner John Beattie and his band.

Since Hearts + Balls was founded in 1999, it has provided more than £650,000 to rugby players who have suffered serious injuries. The support has ranged from property conversions to counselling.

The charity’s chairman Kenny Hamilton said: “This event and the generosity of Scotland’s rugby community will help  Hearts + Balls continue to make a real and lasting difference to those who need it most, and to help support initiatives to make the game we all love as safe as possible.”

Hearts + Balls is currently collaborating with Scottish Rugby on a major injury prevention strategy and is working to support the growth of wheelchair rugby.

Tickets are available from heartsandballs.org.uk .


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David Barnes
About David Barnes 1712 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Herald/Sunday Herald, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.

1 Comment

  1. I have framed copies of the Ronnie Browne prints celebrating both grand slams. Basically run out of room. Any use as a decoration/auction lot/raffle prize for the charity dinner?

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