England's Scot and bull story


Last updated at 21:43 06 March 2008

David Sole forked out £14,000 the other day on an Aberdeen Angus bull, a fact which will heighten English suspicions about the crafty Scot laying another trap at Murrayfield on Saturday.

The Red Rose hordes

crossing Hadrian's Wall will be wary

lest the architect of the famous

slow walk is up to his tricks



Life and Sole: Scots prop David Sole savours the Grand Slam victory in 1990

Eighteen years on from

presiding over the

Bannockburn of Grand Slam deciders,

he sounds exactly what the

browbeaten Scots need if they

are to avoid a second

successive wooden spoon.

'The power these animals

possess is extraordinary,' said

Sole. 'Despite their reputation,

they can be very good natured

beasts but you would never

entirely trust a bull.'

The animal will be out of

harm's way on the family's

Highlands cattle farm, which

leaves Scotland to find an

alternative means of tripping

up the neighbours. But history

has long taught England that

the fixture has an awkward

habit of bringing out the best

in the Scots and worst in them.

That Sole fears the worst will

only increase their wariness,

evoking memories of the day

Will Carling's team swept into

Edinburgh on such a flood of

tries that the Slam was

considered little more than a

formality, an attitude summed up by

one of the English WAGs.

'May the best team win,' a

Scottish WAG said before the

kick-off. 'Don't worry,' came the

reply from her cross-Border

acquaintance. 'We will.'

The Scots felt rightly

insulted, as if everyone had

overlooked that they, too, were

competing for the big prize.

'For more than a week

everyone talked about how England

were going to pick up their first

Grand Slam for 10 years,' said

Sole. 'I was sitting in the bath

wondering what we could do

that would be a bit different.

That was when the idea hit me

about the slow walk.

'Back then the tunnel under

the old West Stand had a gentle

slope from the dressing-room to

the pitch so the temptation was

to jog or run out. We had to

discipline ourselves to walk,

slowly and deliberately, but we

had no idea how the crowd

would react. There was the

usual big cheer and as that

subsided, the crowd could sense we

were making a statement.

'We were saying to England:

“If you want the Grand Slam,

you've got to get past 15

determined, bloody-minded blokes

and we're going to do things on

our terms, not yours”. The

longer we kept walking, the

more the crowd lifted the roof

off the stand.'

At the same place 10 years

later, another English Grand

Slam went down in the Arctic

squalls of a freezing April

Sunday. At the time, Sir Clive

Woodward's team made an annual

event of losing the big prize, first

to Wales, then Scotland and

finally, Ireland.

Since his abrupt

exit, England have lost all five

away matches against the Celtic

trio since winning at

Murrayfield four years ago.

Sole, an ambassador for

tournament sponsors RBS, does

not expect the sequence to

stretch to six. 'If England's

confidence is still a little fragile

and Scotland get among them,

then odd things could happen.

But England have the

potential to make it a very difficult

afternoon for the Scots.'

He is not the only old

Scottish prop fearful of another

Calcutta Cup bashing. Norrie

Rowan saw bits of the most

celebrated one — the Dean

Richards-John Jeffrey double

act 20 years ago after what

turned out to be Rowan's last


'I saw it being

chucked about in a nightclub

and people kept dropping it,'

said Rowan. 'I remember the

doorman trying to straighten it

out with a broom handle

through one of the lugs.'

He sees the match as offering

hope, however remote, of a

temporary escape from the

depressed state of the Scottish

game. 'They're killing the club

game,' said Rowan, a benefactor

of Boroughmuir. 'Look at the

crowds we used to get for club

matches and you wonder where

the spectators have gone.

'This is the big one, the one

match which will interest the

whole of Scotland. All the

football fans will have an eye on it

and if we lose, it will be more

doom and gloom.'

They have lost 16 of their 18

matches against their southern

neighbours since the 10-yearly

Grand Slam ambushes and it is

hard to detect the bullish

attitude surrounding those

occasions, apart from Sole's

new Aberdeen Angus.

Even so, England will have to

take care they don't end up as

they did two years ago, looking

like a load of old bullocks.

When Scotland sent the

Auld Enemy home 'tae

think again' two years ago,

their win set in motion a chain

of defeats which cost Andy

Robinson his job as England


A thumping English win

on their Murrayfield return

on Saturday could result in

Frank Hadden losing his. In that

event, who would be top of the

in-house list to take over? Why,

Andy Robinson, already on the

SRU payroll in charge of

Edinburgh. Now that's why

they call it a funny old game . . .

The day before the match in Paris a fortnight ago, a

conversation between England centre Jamie 'Mystic Meg'

Noon and physio Mike Snelling went along the following lines.

Snelling: 'Are you going to make some big tackles tomorrow

night?' Noon: 'I tell you what, I'm going to get Cedric Heymans,

the ball will go loose, someone will hack it through and Paul

Sackey will get all the plaudits for the try.'

Five minutes into the match, it happened exactly as Noon said it

would. 'Surreal, absolutely surreal,' he reflected. 'Ever since,

Mike's been saying to me: “We need to do some more imagery

before the next game”.'

Crowning glories and Welsh woes

For Wales, Triple

Crown prospecting in

Ireland has been a saga

of triumph, trouble and

tragedy. Saturday's

will be their 11th

post-war attempt to win the

mythical trophy there

and if the majority of

the previous 10 — five

wins, five defeats — are

anything to go by,


extraordinary is liable

to happen.

The last Welsh triumph

was 20 years ago when

Bleddyn Bowen's team

left it until the fourth

minute of injury time for

Paul Thorburn to nail

the winning penalty.

Those who witnessed it

still talk about JPR

Williams' notorious

obstruction of Mike

Gibson at Lansdowne

Road 30 years ago

without which Phil

Bennett's team of all

talents would probably

never have held out at

20-16 to achieve the first triple Triple Crown.

Trouble came in the

form of a shocking

defeat under Gareth

Edwards' captaincy in

1970, when the late Ken

Goodall scored the epic

try which led to the

Ulsterman being

spirited away on an

ill-fated career in rugby


Two years later, with

the Troubles at their

height, Wales pulled out

of another Dublin

decider after several

players had received

'death threats'.

The tragedy happened

the day after John

Gwilliam led Wales to

their first post-war

Crown, in Belfast this

very weekend in 1950.

The next day, a plane

carrying fans home

crashed into a field near

Llandow airport in the

Vale of Glamorgan,

killing 80 of the 83 on

board — then the world's

worst air disaster.

Nobody will ever know what Lord Bledisloe

would have made of it but the gigantic old

trophy bearing his name is to be fought for on new

battlegrounds in Asia.

Not content with booking

Hong Kong for a Bledisloe Test on November 1,

Australia and New Zealand are now planning

another in Tokyo 12 months later.

At least the Wallabies are not hiding the fact that

money is the real name of the game. 'We're taking

the jewel in the crown into an incredibly valuable

market,' says chief executive John O'Neill.

He concedes that not everyone is thrilled at the

Asian dimension, but says: 'The IRB have been very

supportive. They are desperate to grow rugby in

these markets.'

If they are that desperate, how come the same IRB

went out of their way to ensure Japan did not host

the 2011 World Cup and that New Zealand did?

Thirst-class lads

There was a time,

back in the good old,

bad old days, when an

England player would

be in trouble for not

warming up, pre-match,

in a nightclub or bar. As

amateurs, they drank

pretty much as they

pleased in Test week.

Coventry hooker Steve

Brain, who played for

England in the mid-Eighties, considered his

four pints on Friday

night as an essential

part of his build-up, so

much so that he once

refused the chairman of

selectors' advice to

leave the bar at the team's Richmond hotel

until he had his fill.

Bobby Windsor once

told how he and other

non-playing members of

the Lions had an

all-night session during a

tour of New Zealand

only for the old Wales

hooker to be woken

after two hours' sleep

with the news that, due

to an emergency, he had

to play that afternoon.

Andy Dalton, his

opposite number who

went on to captain the

All Blacks, likened the

experience to

'scrummaging in a


No comments have so far been submitted. Why not be the first to send us your thoughts, or debate this issue live on our message boards.

We are no longer accepting comments on this article.

Who is this week's top commenter? Find out now