Scotland have produced some of the finest rugby union players to have represented the British Lions. The British Lions team is a side picked from the international sides of England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland. Scotland has a limited number of players to pick from as it is a small nation and the great majority of Scotsman prefer playing football to playing rugby. This has affected the effectiveness of the national teams over the years but it has not stopped the nation from producing some of the world’s best players.
Every year the side competes in the Six Nations Championship and prior to Italy joining in 2000 it was known as the Five Nations Championship. Scotland has won the championship on 14 occasions and winning a share of it another 8 times. The last time they won it was in 1999 so they have never won the championship with six teams being involved. Scotland were at their most successful at the start of the 20th century when France were not involved and the four home nations played for the Triple Crown. Scotland won the trophy in 1901, 1903 and 1907.
In 1925 the Scottish RFU purchased some land and built Murrayfield Stadium which is still now their home stadium. With France now admitted into the competition Scotland beat England that same year in front of 70,000 spectators to win their first ever grand slam. Another famous victory for the Scots came at Murrayfield in 1990. With both sides unbeaten this final game of the season was really the decider for the Grand Slam. Despite England being the favorites the Scottish side captained by David Sole and also containing the Hasting brothers and also outstanding back row forward, John Jeffrey overcame the odds to win the game 13-7.
This match was only the second game when the anthem “Flower of Scotland” was sung before the game. From this match it has been sung before every international game. It provides a real sense of occasion and produces emotions that carry both the side and the crowd into the game. The contribution of the Scottish nation to international rugby was best highlighted in the 1997 British Lions Tour to South Africa. Up against the 1995 world champions the Lions were seen as the under dogs but the side were coached by Ian McGeechan and his assistant Jim Telfer. Both former Scottish internationals, the series was seen as a triumph for the pair who masterminded the campaign victory.
Three Scottish players during that tour made significant contributions towards the team’s success. Tom Smith at prop, Alan Tait on the wing and Gregor Townsend started in the two test match victories that saw the triumph complete. Townsend is currently the Scotland Head Coach, and the side has recently displayed enormous potential which culminated in the 54-24 demolition of Australian in the November 2017 fixture. They now proceed into the 2018 Six Nations Championship with as much hope as they have carried in the last 20 years.
Whether Scotland will have the depth of players to carry them through the series of five matches over the seven week period is yet to be seen. It is however encouraging to see the Scotland side return to a time when they are once again regularly competing for the Championship with a realistic chance of achieving success.