THE one qualification I make is, had they continued to play rugby after school, Mike Denness and Ian Ure would have walked into the Scotland team.
I played alongside Ian McLauchlan in the pack of the first ever Glasgow Schools team to beat Edinburgh Schools, and Denness was our stand-off. He was like Barry John but had to stop playing rugby because he had already been identified in his sixth year as an exceptional cricketer – and he went on to have a fantastic career in his chosen sport. He remains the only Scottish-born player to have captained England.
Ure was also the most fantastic rugby player at stand-off or centre but signed from school to play professional football, initially for Dundee and later moving to England to play for Arsenal and Manchester United.
Rugby’s loss was cricket and football’s gain – but even without that pair, I think this is a pretty useful team of uncapped Scotland players.
Also in the series:
15. George Fairbairn (Kelso): This was the outstanding first pick. Very fast and combative. A direct runner who was also safe under high ball. Secure in tackle and good tactical kicker. The full package.
14. Bill Dunlop (Glasgow High): A Scotland trialist. A very fast runner and, unusually for a winger of that era, had very good handling skills and tactical awareness. Later day producer of a very important SRU Report!
13. George Turnbull (Jed-Forest): Small but very stocky. Powerful with ball in hand and very elusive. Held Jed backs together but too many outstanding centres in the South at that time ahead of him.
12. Ian Murchie (West of Scotland): Was in the frame for a cap before he got injured. He was just your complete centre, very tough with excellent defence, which we would need because I always go for a non-tackling stand-off who can kick goals.
11. Gordon Tweedie (Melrose): The winger who scored the points when the South drew 3-3 with the Springboks in 1969. Never ever wasted a ball. Never tackled into touch so it was always worth busting your gut to get up there and support him.
10. Colin Gass (Hawick): As skilful and tactically aware as Barry John, wonderful hand-eye coordination and a great goal kicker.
9. Hugh McHardy (Kilmarnock/Harlequins): A great leader at scrum-half. Demanded good first and second phase possession from forwards, could break and pass well off either hand.
1. Evan Young (West of Scotland): In the 1960s, the Scottish scrum got shoved all over the shop and there I was playing left second-row behind Evan Young at West, who was built like your modern-day loose-head. He would just stand there and nobody could move him. Sprung Sandy Carmichael’s rib cartilage in a West trial with the ferocity of his scrummaging.
2. Rodney Balfour (Glasgow High): Very good in the loose and the most demanding of hookers in the scrummage, meaning this team would be absolutely guaranteed the ball on our own put-in. On the opposition put in, he had this unbelievable ability to snake his way across to take it against the head.
3. Jimmy Stewart. (Watsonians): Another great scrummager. Could play left or right. I have to say that the hardest man I played against who wasn’t capped was Jock Craig of Ayr, and it was a toss-up between him and Jimmy – and Jimmy just edged it.
4. Stewart Hamilton (Stirling County): A great man to have in the boiler house of the scrum: absolutely solid, a bit like my brother Gordon. Take on the opposition and Stewart will be at your elbow. Excellent scrummager. Never known to take a step backwards.
5. John B Brown (Marr): Didn’t take up senior rugby until he was 26 because he was asthmatic and it didn’t settle until later in life. He was the one who had my father’s hand-eye co-ordination and drive, and he was as hard as nails. An outstanding badminton player and snooker player, he always took the mick out of Gordon because he had the ability. Formed the Marr second-row with Bill Cuthbertson before Bill went to Kilmarnock.
6. Derek Brown (Melrose): All these years they brought folk up from London Scottish to be one-cap-wonders, and there was Derek sitting under their noses at Melrose being overlooked again and again. Anyone who played against him will vouch that he was the most combative guy, non-stop energy and just a terrific all-round player.
7. Wat Davies (Hawick): Actually picked by Scotland then unable to take up the selection. Whenever Gala played against Hawick, he was a thorn in our side. At every breakdown, that bugger was there first.
8. Sir Ian Wood (Gordonians): Played second-row and No 8. A very good line-out player, a terrific tackler and exceptionally fit.
The bench –
16, Ronnie Grieve (Hawick)
17. Jock Craig (Ayr)
18. Nat Carson (Gala)
19. Harry Whitaker (Hawick)
20: Robin Lind (Melrose)
21. Irving Davidson (Langholm)
- Tomorrow: Bruce Aitchison selects his best uncapped Scotland team.