THEY can cost as little as £25, but, to the recipient, they are priceless. If you are chosen to represent Scotland at Rugby Union, whether you play 99 games, or the estimated 99 seconds the late Gordon Macdonald of London Scottish spent on the pitch, as an injury replacement for Chris Rea, in the Irish international in February 1969, you only ever get the one. The item in question is an international cap.
After November’s Murrayfield match against Tonga, the eight Scottish players who had made their debut during the game all received their caps. Some may go on to make many further appearances for Scotland. Indeed, one or two may eventually make 100 international appearances – the benchmark at which a second cap is presented, but, most, if not all, will have to be content with that one keepsake from a great day.
Only the most-churlish would wish to rain on the octet’s parade, but, truth be told, one or two were the fortunate beneficiaries of happenstance. Had the game not been outside the agreed Autumn International Window, they might not have been in the Scotland squad. Dame Fortune smiled on them.
But, what of that small band who have been selected for ‘A Scotland XV’, played, but never got a cap. Should the SRU not perhaps belatedly recognise them? Here is a list of 23 players who proudly wore the navy blue shirt with the white thistle in ‘non-cap’ internationals. There may be more. We now ask, isn’t it time they too were capped?
Scotland’s tour to Argentina in 1969 was a brutal affair. The injury which Ian Murchie suffered in the first ‘Test’ was all but career-ending and one big reason why this excellent centre never received a full cap. Arthur Orr of London Scottish played in both games, with Bruce Laidlaw of Royal High School FP playing in the second ‘Test’. They, like Murchie, never got a full cap.
When Japan came to Murrayfield in 1976, full caps were not awarded, so two members of the victorious Scotland XV, Ayr winger David Ashton and Jordanhill’s ex-Old Grammarians lock Jim Carswell never got the cap a match against the Brave Blossoms would carry today.
A year later, in the return fixture in Tokyo, West of Scotland’s Colin Mair was the starting full-back, while Melrose’s Rob Moffat came off the bench, neither received a cap for their bother.
Scotland played France in a non-cap international, at Netherdale, in September, 1987. It may have been decreed a non-cap game, but, there were enough big names on show to garner sympathy for Melrose’s Ian Ramsey – who kicked five penalties – and Moseley’s Tim Exeter, who played but didn’t get a cap as a lasting memory of their side’s win.
Scotland went to Zimbabwe in the summer of 1988, playing two non-cap ‘Tests’, with Gloucester centre Ruari Maclean, Herioter Stewart McAslan, who replaced him, Harlequins’ prop David Butcher, Heriot’s flanker Kevin Rafferty and Kilmarnock and Wigtownshire No 8 Hugh Parker joining the ranks of those who played in non-cap games, but never in capped ones. Parker, in fact, is widely held in Ayrshire and the South-West to have been desperately unlucky never to have got that full cap, in spite of several tour games for his country.
In Japan in 1989, Boroughmuir prop Grant Wilson added his name to the list of those who played in non-cap games, a list further extended by the inclusion of Gala’s Mark Moncrieff and Jed-Forest’s Ronnie Kirkpatrick in the non-cap internationals against the USA and Canada in 1991.
Two years later, in 1993, Scotland jetted off to tour the Pacific Islands, with Nick Grecian of London Scottish, Ally Donaldson of Currie, Gala’s Gary Isaac, Steve Ferguson of Peebles and Robb Scott of London Scottish facing Fijian team who, at the time, the SRU high heid yins didn’t think worthy of being capped against.
From Fiji, the tourists moved on to Tonga, where Melrose’s Craig Redpath played at full-back, but, wasn’t capped for the feat.
So, come on SRU, were these appearances not as-worthy of a cap as those made against Tonga recently?