THIS was really tough! I have picked from players I know, a lot of what I’ve heard, and remembering that in my lifetime, it has been easier to get capped than ever before meaning a lot of players I wanted to pick have played for Scotland through World Cups, tours, appearances off the bench etc.
I have shown undoubted bias in my selection but I have resisted the temptation to pick myself, as I haven’t ever retired from international rugby, so it still might happen!
When I was a lad, Fridays in February and March saw the U21s and A Teams play at the same venue before the main event at Murrayfield the day after. Thousands packed into club grounds watching quality players playing a quality standard and I loved it. I saw heaps of great players who wanted to be at the ‘Big Dance’. I loved the district games and remember fondly the South v All Blacks at Netherdale in 1993. Some of them make this XV.
Also in the series:
15. Craig Redpath (Melrose): I thought he was a giant, so strong and looked like he could run through brick walls. He played in an amazing Melrose team that was stacked with internationals. I had a Scotland squad poster on my wall, and he was in it. Playing at a time where Gavin Hastings commanded the 15 shirt made it pretty tough.
14. Chris Dalglish (Gala/Melrose): Dalgy loved to score tries. He was a Rolls Royce! Not sure why it never happened, plenty of action for the ‘A’ team. He was in the 1st XV at school when I was a 1st year, he was class then.
13. David Officer (Currie/Harlequins): I could never work out why he didn’t get capped. He played for Harlequins when they were very, very good and were stacked with top quality players. He won an ‘A’ team Grand Slam, scored in every game and still never got capped. Could play 12 or 13, ran hard and great rugby brain.
12. Andy Garry (Watsonians): I loved playing with Andy. He was laid back, saw the game in slow motion and made others around him better. He played in a Watsonians team rammed with quality players, internationals current and in the future. He could play 10, centre or 15 and played against Australia for a Combined District XV. PE teacher who coached as he played.
11. Gary Parker (Melrose/Gala): Gary was confident! He was one of the most talented players I have ever seen, played with or be coached by. He had unbelievable enthusiasm and although small, he backed himself. Sometimes he would appear at 9, his skills were top drawer. He even kicked goals for the Claymores.
10. Scott Welsh (Hawick): Class. He was a class 10, gutsy and had that edge that the best from Hawick have and others wish for. I thought he would make it and the town of Hawick wished for it.
9. Fraser Stott (West of Scotland): Tough little bugger. Ran the forward pack and then could mix it when needed. Scotland has produced some world class nines and Fraser had to compete with a few of them at his peak. He was the kind of player you loved having in your team and hated playing against. Smart operator who has helped others become better players.
1: Brian Hislop (Langholm): Forgotten more about propping that many have every learnt, me especially. Hard. One of the Muckle Toun’s favourite sons. Going to Langholm is tough enough without facing him at prop.
2. Phil Fitzgerald (Boroughmuir/Toulon): Played for Toulon! They worship him in the town and that doesn’t come easy for a front-rower! Played for all sorts of Scotland teams but never quite got there for a full cap.
3. Danny Herrington (Hillfoots/Dundee/Kirkcaldy): Part of a scary Hillfoots front-row [‘The “Tillicoultry Troglodytes”] that all left the Ochil shadows and went out to terrorise the world, Hard, tough and would surely had been needed for Scotland in the pro era with injuries and rotations and replacement props playing 20 minutes. Tom Smith credits him with being a great teacher, high praise indeed!
4. Jonny Gray (Gala): I never saw Jonny play. He is an absolute gent; he has done so much for rugby in the town of Gala and his son Richie is changing the rugby world as we know it. Why have I picked him? Because growing up, whenever I heard his name mentioned, it would be followed by ‘best player never to have played for Scotland.’ So, he makes my team!
5. Robbie Brown (Melrose): Hard. Horrible. A leader of men. Played in a Melrose team where most them got caps, and if Robbie had told any of them he wanted six sugars in his tea, they would have kept shovelling. A funeral director and when I see him at those unfortunate events he still makes me feel a little bit scared.
6. Bill McLaren (Hawick): He never got the cap he so dearly wanted more than anything. I want to be the one to give it to him. He would be captain of this team.
7. Roddy Grant (Gala/Edinburgh): Did everything else! Played 7s, played for the ‘A’ team, more than 100 games for Edinburgh … but didn’t get a cap. Put his body where no sane person should ever put their body and loved it all. Horrible to play against.
8. Ronnie Kirkpatrick (Jed-Forest): Unreal player who had the edge. Played for the Reivers when I was a lad and I thought he was a class act. Seemed huge, but fast! Carried an air of ‘I got this’.
Bench (with an unconventional 4-4 split) –
16. Neil McIlroy (Jed-Forest): A leader. A hard, intelligent and respected player who represented his beloved Jed and the South/Borders. I loved watching Border derbies and district games packed with players like Neil.
17. Steve Ferguson (Peebles): I just remember him being a giant. He played for the ‘A’ team and in non-cap games in Argentina.
18. Darren Burns (Biggar/Boroughmuir/Watsonians): ‘Fly’ could run all day, and sometimes does. A lock that played for Scotland at 7s and could be thrown up miles in the air at line-out time. A bit like Doddie.
19: Stevie Wands (Boroughmuir): ‘Magic’ was, and still is, class. Fit as a fiddler’s elbow and covered every blade of grass a couple of times while putting his body in places he should really have thought more about. Scotland has had plentiful back-rowers to choose from and Stevie was probably easy to leave out when he left town and went south, was too wee etc. But a top man.
20. Kevin Reid (Hawick): Class. Hard. Had skill and that Hawick steel that made him very tough to play against.
21. Ally Donaldson (Currie): A class act and part of an ‘A; team I loved watching. He ran the game and kicked with ease. A coach on the pitch.
22. Malcolm Clapperton (Boroughmuir): Could play anywhere but at 13 was his best in his pomp. A glider. Intelligent attacker and tough defender in equal measure. If Georgie Best had played rugby …
23. Fraser Harkness (Selkirk): A one man riot. A player who could play anywhere and in this 23 also covers hooke! More than just a 7s player. ‘Harky’ is unique but his rugby is undisputed – he’d be in every team I’d ever pick, and I was delighted when he got a run for the Barbarians. Now I’m giving him a cap.