Jim Telfer: Scotland’s class of 2023 can replicate 1990 Grand Slam success

Jim Telfer is one of several key figures from Scotland's iconic victory over England in 1990 to feature in BT Sport's 'The Grudge' documentary

Jim Telfer is one of several key characters in Scotland's 1990 Grand slam success to contribute to 'The Grudge' documentary, showing on BT Sport this Friday night at 10.15pm.
Jim Telfer is one of several key characters in Scotland's 1990 Grand slam success to contribute to 'The Grudge' documentary, showing on BT Sport this Friday night at 10.15pm.

JIM TELFER took a trip down memory lane recently after being invited to contribute to ‘The Grudge’, a BT Sport documentary looking back at Scotland’s famous Grand Slam success in 1990, when he was assistant coach of the national team.

As a full-time teacher, family man, and coach to the Melrose club team as well as Scotland at the time, Telfer recognises that he perhaps didn’t get an opportunity to sit back and smell the roses in the immediate aftermath of that iconic day when David Sole marched the Scotland team out the Murrayfield tunnel and into the history books.

So, it has been good fun looking back, and he does so with justified pride in what he helped the team accomplish. But he’s not a greedy man and would like to see the current generation of players and coaches enjoy the same sense of achievement.

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And if Gregor Townsend and the class of 2023 do manage to win Scotland’s first Grand Slam in 33-years – which Telfer firmly believes is possible – then he reckons that would eclipse the success of 1990.

“I do believe Scotland can do it this year, but I’ll tell you one thing, Gregor has a much more difficult job now than Ian McGeechan and I had,” said Telfer, who was head coach when Scotland won their first Grand Slam in 59 years (and only their second Grand Slam ever) in 1984, before being in charge of the team’s formidable forward pack as assistant to McGeechan for that third and most recent Grand Slam back in 1990.

“Don’t dismiss Italy, but England, Wales, Ireland and France are very, very competitive, because they’ve got very good professional set-ups,” he continued. “Wales sometimes have problems with their regions, and they have had a bit of turmoil with a change of coach, but their national side can always rise to the occasion.

“So, I don’t envy the job that Gregor and his coaches face now in trying to compete at the world level – because there is so many things against us in terms of size, resources and so on. But we do still produce very good players and very good performances, and I would think that this year will be no different.

“We have Stuart Hogg, Finn Russell, Hamish Watson, Jamie Ritchie along with a few others, who are all world class in my opinion, but it’s the ones below that level who have to reach up and get as close as they can to the standard set by the world class guys.

“It would take a very good and consistent five games to win a Grand Slam – but we have the opportunity to do it and a lot depends on circumstances on the day.”

Ian McGeechan also stars in ‘The Grudge’, which Premieres on BT Sport 1 at 10.15pm tomorrow night.

“When we won the Grand Slams in 1984 and 1990, we had England and France at home, and beating Ireland and Wales away was not too difficult – I’m not saying it was easy, but it wasn’t too difficult,” Telfer continued. “However, this year we are playing England down at Twickenham, which is a hostile atmosphere, and France, who are last year’s Grand Slam champions, in Paris.

“So, where the games are doesn’t historically help us, but I still have confidence in the players we’ve got at the moment, and the coaches who I think are doing a very good job.”

Despite his belief in the team, Telfer stressed that getting some good luck will also be an important factor.

“The game has changed in the sense that the result can hang on a decision by the referee, with a yellow-carding or a sending off,” he explained. “I’m not saying players shouldn’t be sent off, but circumstances like that, which happen in the blink of an eye, can change the whole story of the game,“so with Scotland I just hope we get a good rub of the green.

“Certainly, we’ve got as many good players in the team now as we had in 1990 and 1984, and we had a big number in the last Lions squad which helps with experience.”

Telfer is one of several central characters in Scotland’s 1990 Grand Slam success who have contributed to a new documentary which relives the team’s dramatic 13-7 win over England on the final day of that championship.

The Grudge, the latest in the BT Sport Films series, premieres on BT Sport 1 at 10.15pm on 20th January.

The ancient Scotland versus England rivalry had some extra spice in 1990.

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About David Barnes 3991 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.


  1. As much as I admire Telfer and his achievements…which are many. With due respect, I think this is ‘biscuit-tin fantasy’.

    We are nowhere near the mark required to achieve such a feat. We have neither the consistency nor the depth of quality required to mount a Grand Slam campaign. The effort and momentum involved would be beyond us currently based upon the last few of years.

    For that to happen with the current squad that’s been named we would need more than a ‘rub of the green’.

    As much as I would want and will it to be true, for us to realise that lofty goal, I can’t see it. If we did I would be the first person to eat humble pie and gladly be wrong.

  2. Very much miss Telfer’s plain speaking. Often wonder if he would have retained better control and managed the characters in this undoubtedly gifted squad more effectively to help them reach their potential. Which has not been the case so far. The squad is certainly more talented than the guys of yesteryear, but then like he says so is the opposition – as you would expect in a modern, professional age when the gap between the haves and have nots widens. As for the Grand Slam, nice of him to make us dream again but a win away in Paris would be – dare I say it – our Everest. And yet it’s been climbed before. I was at the match in ’84 and would love to see us do it again. And before 59 years – and my own time – are up. It would be heart-breaking to think otherwise and the auld fella must be feeling it like the rest of us. Strangely there is comfort in that.


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