Is it time for the SRU to recognise Scotland’s uncapped international heroes?

Matt Vallance lists 23 players he believes should be retrospectively awarded full caps after appearing in non-cap internationals

Craig Redpath, who now coaches Marr, sat on the bench for Scotland during the Grand Slam season and played a non-cap 'Test' against Samoa in 1993. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Craig Redpath, who now coaches Marr, sat on the bench for Scotland during the Grand Slam season and played a non-cap 'Test' against Samoa in 1993. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

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.


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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?


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About Matt Vallance 36 Articles
Matt is a former member of Cumnock Rugby Club's 'Mean Machine' - motto: "Well, we won the fight". He has written about some 60 sports in a long career, mainly spent freelancing for, amongst others: The Herald, The Scotsman, The Sunday Times, Scotland on Sunday, the late-lamented Sunday Standard and just about every national paper. He survived a spell at the Paisley Daily Express, covering St Mirren and the Paisley Pirates every week. He now writes a lot of sporting obituaries, since he saw many of his subjects play. Opinionated, passionate and, as one Bill McMurtire once said: "The only Cumnock member (other than Mark Bennett) who can be let out without an escort". In his 70th year, Matt, known to many as: 'Snuff', still has a few noses to get up. Unfulfilled ambition - to live long enough to see Scotland beat the All Blacks.

29 Comments

  1. Your case is well made Matt, pointing up the inadequacies of the past.
    So let us recognise the error and award caps to the 23.
    The fact that so many have responded to your impassioned plea, is proof of the extent of feeling out there. I also feel sorry for those who were overlooked by the selectors, and there were many,, but that’s another story for another day. National

  2. Jim Hunter suggested in his comment that this is somewhat of a perennial issue. It is and one that is no less difficult than any discussion in the past especially considering the comment from ‘Left field’ who made an excellent point regarding ‘Bench’ players gaining a Cap.
    Question: is a bench player who doesn’t get a cap other than off the bench as worthy of the full Cap that is gained by the first choice player?
    Playing Devil’s advocate, again, some consider the proliferation of fixtures distort and offers up the argument, is a player with say sixteen or so caps over a couple of seasons Autumn Tests, Six Nations WC qualifiers more worthy on the merit table of Caps gained than a player from the old 5 nation days who only achieved 12, especially if some or all the modern day professional wins were off the bench or: well you see the point I attempt to make, hopefully, perhaps Alasdair made it more succinctly.
    That’s what makes the retrospective difficult, is the ‘Presidential Cap’ award a bit of a token?
    Another argument that could arise is the ‘value’ of the Cap as a reward for the achievement of gaining the recognition, is a retrospective ‘Presidents’ cap against Tonga decades ago the equal of a Cap against New Zealand in the professional era if you lost, or against England if you ‘sent them home again’ tail between their legs?
    Is a Cap a Cap for all that?
    Would the recipients want a retrospective ‘full’ cap rather than the token of a Presidents cap that some may see as a lesser honor? It’s a bit of a minefield and this is a topic that in some respects can be argued by one individual from both sides with equal passion and after all the above, I still am not sure one-way or the other.
    If only I wasn’t exiled in Europe and had the opportunity to be down the Pub/Club bar churning this one over with the lads along with a few pints to fuel the debate.

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  3. In the early nineties I recall going with a well-connected friend to a “Scotland IV” Murrayfield match against one of the Pacific Island sides. They had played a full cap international in Cardiff the previous week. We wondered if caps were being awarded for this match. My friend spotted an SRU committee type and asked the question. “We’re not bloody Wales” came the sanctimonious and very self-satisfied response. No indeed, we certainly proved not to be Wales over most of the following 25 years or so.
    I agree with the Milne strategy… you can’t just add the notional one cap to people who don’t have one without adding notional caps to all players who took part in those non-cap matches. Otherwise it would be possible for someone who played two or three non-cap matches to overtake existing full cap international players! Stick ’em all on the list. If you played for your country against another country (not against a club or district side), that’s an international match and worthy of a cap. Good stuff.

  4. I’m sure the SRU will do the right thing here. People complain about Mark Dodson but there’s probably been predecessors of his who have far exceeded him in PR disasters and general incompetence.

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    • It has nothing to do with Mark Dodson. This is a matter for the SRU which means it’s under the auspices of the Rugby Council

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      • Thanks for clarifying Dom, I’m not as up to speed with the intricacies of these things, so thanks for keeping me right.

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      • I think he starts off by saying I’m sure the SRU will do the right thing. Every time something good is remotely associated to Marc I see the DW fingers rattling the keyboard. 😂. HNY 🐻

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      • Just a friendly warning Iain B some people have been found posting total lies. The latest seems to be using your nickname. Shocking isn’t it?

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      • “Every time something good is remotely associated to Marc I see the DW fingers rattling the keyboard”

        A silly comment that demeans the poster.

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  5. I believe we also refused to award caps for the first ever Scotland-NZ international (and have been paying for that insult ever since).

  6. An old issue. Scotland played internationals at end of Second World War but caps were not awarded. They should have been. The player I knew who played in these games was Jack Anderson of Hawick.
    Hopefully justice can be done for ALL of the players concerned
    Well done Matt for pursuing this, good luck

  7. 100% agree that all players who played or benched for Scotland should be awarded a cap.
    Odd how a game against eg Tonga wasn’t worthy of a cap back in the day but is now. Ditto a few other games
    We have moved on from the times when an SRU in the past and so often stuck in the past behaved as if we/they were innately superior to others. We should always and should have shown respect for an opponent. That is done by capping players to show we took the fixture seriously. And by showing our players they were not second class citizens. They were proud to pull on that jersey, we should be proud of them – by awarding caps.

  8. Players who play for Scotland but no cap awarded should be recognised in some way but not with the same cap as full internationalists. Possibly same style cap but purple instead of navy for example.

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  9. Great proposal Matt and it is something that Ian Barr is looking at. Hopefully it comes to pass.

    Some great players in there. Hugh Parker and Steve Ferguson being just two who merit recognition

  10. I’m not against the idea though I think the work that goes into making a cap is more than £25 😄. You would also need to look at the whole cap situation where players have been lucky enough to have received a full cap maybe entitled to more caps ( we only physically receive one cap) and total caps gained would increase. Funnily at our family Christmas the subject was raised and Kenny and I were very much against the idea as David’s total could increase from 1, disproportionately a larger increase than either Kenny and I would get and the family jokes would just not be the same 😂.
    Seriously where a Scotland team played, regardless of opposition a cap should be awarded. Merry Christmas and a happy new year to all when it arrives. 🐻

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    • Iain – I actually like the notion from rugby, that you only, barring playing 100 internaitonals, ever receive the one cap.

      The SFA have had various protocols, and I remember being involved in The Scotsman’s successful efforts to get otehrwise uncapped players to actually get one. For instance, Eddie Turnbull of HIbs, played nine times for Scotland, but, it took our efforts at The Scotsman to actually get him a cap – since, when he was playing, you only actually got one if you played in the Home Internaitonals, which Eddie never did.

      The SRU could take a leaf from the SFA’s play-book, to answer Iain’s concerns: a silver medal for 25 caps, a gold one for 50, and the special cap for 100.

      I think too, the Milnes have misunderstood the interntion here. David already, like you and Kenny, has an actual cap – it’s getting one for the guys who haven’t that is the name of this game.

      • Matt, firstly “ The Milne’s” we’re discussing this actual point and going through players who played for “ Scotland” but didn’t get caps, before I read your article. We then went on to discus getting caps for matches we had played for Scotland but at that time the matches didn’t warrant caps. Obviously it’s more important for those who didn’t get full caps, what your article is about but in the same place you’d need to award players who played in these games caps, even though caps weren’t awarded. To me it makes no sense in some players getting caps in a game and other not. Not a big issue just fairness.

      • A great initiative especially when you think back to the days
        of no substitutes v 8 on the bench today , any of whom can
        be new caps .
        Well suggested Matt … a victory for common sense WHEN the SRU support it

  11. It’s always an interesting subject this. I think it would be great to see these guys finally capped.
    Interesting though that Mark Moncrieff who I think played 5 times for a Scotland XV without getting capped has a slightly different approach to this. Here was his response when we asked him about it earlier this year which you may find interesting. It would be good to hear from some of the others too on their thoughts.
    https://youtu.be/Gyg_2EfytKo

    • Mark should have been capped off the bench v Zimbabwe in World Cup 1991, but Scotland unnecessarily put Craig Chalmers on the bench instead and he came on as Scotland’s slowest ever (apart from Bruce Hay, maybe) wing. Did ok too!

  12. To be fair, I have had communications from several Council members, who are sympathetic to the idea of retrospective capping.

    I know the subject has been raised within Murrayfield, I am hopeful of a positive outcome on this.

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  13. Matt I absolutely find it totally astonishing that these players who represented their country were never capped
    It is time for the Scottish rugby union to do the honourable thing and bestow them there cap they richly deserve.

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