Major teams: West of Scotland
Test span: 1967-78
Test caps: 50 (49 starts)
Test points: 3 (1T)
Sandy Carmichael was the personification of stern-faced resistance to the established southern hemisphere stronghold of world rugby in the early 1970s, when British and Irish forward play reached its high-water mark.
Although missing out on Lions Test selection, the Scottish tighthead was the common denominator of their back-to-back Seventies triumphs in New Zealand and South Africa, as well as the Baa-Baas’ memorable demolition of the All Blacks at Cardiff in 1973.
Sporting talent was in Carmichael’s DNA. His grandfather played soccer for Scotland and, from his early years at Loretto School, Sandy displayed all-round sporting prowess. He was a skilful hockey player, possessed the strength and stamina to be a gifted athlete and transferred his games skills most effectively to the rugby field.
Carmichael had the formative experience of playing on the loosehead in 1967-68 during his first full season in the Scottish front row. He equipped himself with such a deep understanding of body positions that he made scrummaging extremely difficult for his opponents when he switched to tighthead the following season.
In addition, he was mobile in the loose – making two try-saving tackles in the 1969 win over France – and in club rugby had a penchant for pinching tries from the front of the lineout, a champion snapper-up of trifles.
Ever-present for Scotland between 1967 and 1977, the plant-hire boss went on to become the first Scot to win 50 caps and enjoyed his finest hour in 1973 when his disruption of the Welsh front row earned his country a victory that led to a share of the Five Nations title.
He took success and disappointment in his stride. Regarded by many as a shoo-in for the Test tighthead spot with the 1971 Lions in New Zealand, a vicious attack in the last big provincial match before the series began, against Canterbury, left him with multiple cheekbone fractures that ended his tour. It was entirely in character that he took the unprovoked assault without any utterance of recrimination, and the Glaswegian – who has had six hip operations – remains equally tight-lipped today.
Scotland has rarely had a forward of such integrity, ability and sheer guts.
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