Tuesday, March 2, 2010

1990 Grand Slam match 'only a game'

RUGBY legend David Sole has criticised claims Scotland's 1990 Grand Slam victory over England was more than just a game.

In a letter in today's Scotsman, the man who captained Scotland to that historic 13-7 victory says it was not a question of "settling scores, of getting 'one over' on the English or of putting political wrongs right".

It was, he said, just a great sporting moment.

Earlier this year, former England rugby hooker, Brian Moore, belittled Scotland's victory, claiming anti-English bigotry and hatred of the poll tax were behind the historic success.

In his autobiography Beware the Dog, Moore claimed the Scottish victory in the winner-takes-all Five Nations decider was fuelled not by superior skills and tactics, but by hatred over the imposition of the poll tax by Margaret Thatcher's government, as well as anti-English fervour.

Moore's view that the match was more than just the clash of two rival sides is echoed in Scotland of Sunday chief sports writer Tom English's new book The Grudge: Scotland vs England, 1990, in which Moore repeats his belief that Scotland saw the England side as "Thatcher's team".

The book also includes comments by the then England captain, Will Carling, who said that in the run up to the game he had been branded by the media as "Thatcher's captain".

However, Sole dismisses claims of a political or anti-English dimension in the Scottish team's phenomenal performance on the day. He said there was already a bond of friendship between both teams that had been formed during a tough British Lions tour of Australia the year before.

"Friendships were forged that remain to this day but above all, a mutual respect grew amongst the squad of players – respect that carried over from 1989 to the Five Nations Championship of 1990," he said. "It was not a question of settling scores, of getting 'one over' on the English or of putting political wrongs right. It was simply a game of rugby – the only difference was that there was a Grand Slam at stake.

"It is a shame that the victory has been interpreted by some as something more than that, but if that is the belief that they hold, then that is their right, but to do so diminishes what the game represented for many others.

"To continue to hold such xenophobic beliefs is not healthy for Scotland as a nation. We should continue to be fierce rivals of England, but in my view that rivalry should be no different to any other nation that we compete against. Let us be proud of our achievements – and I shall be extremely proud of the Grand Slam of 1990 – but let us view them for what they are – great moments in sport, no more, no less."

Over the years, alternative explanations have been given for the Scottish team's fervour on the pitch. They include tales of commemorative "England Grand Slam 1990" T-shirts and ties being on sale in Edinburgh before the game.

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