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England Vs Scotland - The History, The Love, The Scars

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My first England win was against Scotland, having lost in my first game to the French in Paris and then Jonathan Davies and his Welsh mates at Twickenham, so after my first game at Murrayfield; I thought it was a great place! Little did I know.

It was after this game, this first win, that the Calcutta Cup became the Calcutta plate for a short while, after Dean Richards and John Jeffrey took it for a tour of the bars and train station of Edinburgh. I do vaguely recall seeing them enter the bar I was in with some University mates, as I was still a student, but thought they were hitting people on the head with an ice bucket!

However the one Scotland game that everyone still seems to want to talk about - that Grand Slam decider in 1990. What a day! Scarred me for life!

If a script could have been written, to caricature all the supposed traits of the English and the Scots in a rugby encounter, then someone wrote it superbly. We had played well in the three previous games, our forwards were superb and Geraldine Guscott was on fire. The Scots had been less emphatic, but still impressive, which was a point sadly lost on us.

Most people forget that there was still a huge undercurrent from the successful Lions tour in 1989, and that undercurrent was to define the game. I had missed the tour with a fractured shin, and hence missed the nuances and the relationships that it had created. Not an excuse, just a fact. The Lions had lost the first Test and when the pack became mainly English for the second, success was achieved but strong feelings were born.

So in the peaceful build up at Peebles Hotel, Brian Moore was reminding us that their forwards were sh*te, they had been sh*te on the Lions tour, and they would be sh*te on Saturday. To be fair it was not just Brian, we all lapsed into the belief that we were a stronger, more skilful side who were on form. The training sessions were sharp, no issue there, it was our minds that were wrong. We were the arrogant English. I honestly think we thought that we will turn up and win, we were better for God's sake, and at no time in our preparation did we consider what they might do to disrupt our rhythm, our game plan. We strutted around Pebbles, chests out, a confidence and swagger about us, we were good, and we knew it.

So we trundled into Murrayfield on our bus, dreaming of Grand Slam celebrations, and encountered one of the great ambushes - arse kickings - from a bloody good Scottish team. We got what we deserved. And I can tell you it hurt, really hurt, and I mean really really hurt!

I do remember hearing Jim Telfer that evening say to someone, "I hope we don't live to regret this". And it was the only crumb of comfort that I could take away, the hope that they would. I would never underestimate them again.

I had to get up unbelievably early the next morning to fly to Birmingham to co-commentate on a ladies' international, for expenses only of course, but as I walked through a near-deserted Edinburgh airport, one worker there decided to tell me exactly what he thought of me! And tell me he did.

I think I would be correct in remembering the words arrogant, smug, soft, useless, pompous and sh*te, alongside quite a few that I should not mention. And I remember opening my mouth to answer him back, and realising that I couldn't really argue with most of what he said.

I never did lose to Scotland again. We came bloody close in 1994 when that skilful little git Townsend dropped a superb goal to put them ahead with two minutes to go. My stomach was all over the place, until Callard won the game with the last kick of the match. I was lying on the changing room floor next to Dean Richards, players strewn around, very little being said, apart from the odd 'sh*t !' as we knew how lucky we had been and how badly we had played.

The silence persisted, for at least another four or five minutes, with no one in the mood to break it, until one of the crew walked back in and said "bloody hell Gavin Hastings has just broken down in tears on TV". Still no one spoke. I slowly turned my head to Deano, who slowly turned his head to me, a very slight smile and then we both leant forward and opened a beer - the changing room came alive!

My scars from 1990 were still evident when we had another Grand Slam decider in 1995 but this time it was at Twickenham. I clearly recall the team meeting the night before, as always it was a players-only meeting and everything was running well, until I got a sense that a few of the younger players were just too relaxed!

I stood up, eyeballing Mike Catt at first, and launched into a tirade about the following day and what they/ we would have to live with if we lost to those *******s from up there. I ranted on about 1990, the devastation, the arrogance we had shown, the shock, the pain and I was in full flow! But even as my eyes bulged and the spit flew, I noticed a completely bemused look on Mike Catt's face, so a took a deep breath and stopped.

"What the **** is that look for?' I demanded.

To be fair, he just replied "1990?"

"1990?" I bellowed "1990? What the hell do you mean 1990?!"

"Well I was at school, sorry Will, just I have no idea what you are going on about."

Safe to say I was speechless! But at the same time, in the murky depths of my mind, it did register that I need to let go of 1990!

We did manage to win a free flowing extravaganza of a match.

England vs Scotland is the oldest rugby international. It oozes history, stories, experiences and emotion and that is why I love it. It is special - very, very special. And the history between England and Scotland does play a huge part in that, a vital part in that, and when I say history, I mean History!

I remember sitting in the lovely Balmoral Hotel on Princess Street reading a Scottish broadsheet the morning of the match and I was being compared to Edward Longshanks - and yes it was a serious article. But underpinning my view on the 'relationship' between us and them, has always been humour. I love the baiting, I love the insults - although I prefer dishing them out for some reason - and I love the intensity. But above all I love the underlying humour and friendships that I have (Mr David Sole will be receiving no end of abuse from me this week!)

But when I am being really honest, that passion the Scots have for their country, that fire, has always made me slightly jealous. I would love England to be like that, I would love us to be as passionate, as fiery and hysterical about our country and shirt. I listen to the Scots anthem, and I love it, it has emotion, it has edge, it is amazing when Murrayfield hits you with it, full volume. When we played Scotland, we just didn't play the team, we played the country and we played hundreds of years of history. And it was tough!

So I hope, I really hope that England are not sitting comfortably in Pennyhill Park thinking that Scotland are sending down some sacrificial lambs on Saturday. I hope that we have not lost the tiniest part of the edge that was there against New Zealand, because we will need it. There is nothing more that the Scots love than being written off by those arrogant, pompous English and producing the performance of their lives. Trust me I should know! And now I really do need to get back to counselling to rid myself of 1990.

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