The Scottish team pose for a photograph before the Five Nations Championship match against England...

You always sensed that Scottish rugby was the most true-blue amateur of all, and this weighty book of nearly 500 pages does nothing to disaffirm that view. The authors interview dozens of Scotland players from every post-war decade, and the mild surprise of crazy selections and slowness to develop on-field ‘moves’ gives way to amazement when Peter Brown reveals that on the eve of one 1960s Test in Wales, the selectors returned drunk from a dinner and tipped the players out of their beds at 2.30am!

The tale of Peter Stagg’s attempt to claim a copy of Playboy on expenses is one of many that will raise a chuckle, but the book’s two undoubted funnymen are Ian Barnes – one of whose tales is told in The Last Word overleaf – and Jim Renwick, who was merciless to struggling team-mates. For example, when Doug Morgan missed a sitter that would have beaten England in 1975, Renwick quipped: “Hell, Dougie, I could have back-heeled a chest of drawers over from there.”

What gives this exhaustive account of 60-odd years of Scottish rugby a sharper edge are the more serious reflections. The brutality of touring in Argentina, and the grinding poverty in Romania, where a hungry waitress licked a discarded chocolate wrapper, is sobering stuff; John Beattie admits he lost concentration at times in Test matches because he couldn’t quite believe where he was; while Donnie Macfadyen’s plea for support structures for former pros is a reminder that pro rugby is in its infancy. Great read, if loosely subbed.

RW RATING 4/5

BUY IT AT:  birlinn.co.uk RRP:  £20   PUBLISHED BY:  Birlinn

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This article appeared in the February 2011 issue of Rugby World Magazine

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