Gregor Townsend meets relatives of first Scotland team

Gregor Townsend meets relatives of first Scotland team

Ahead of the 150th anniversary of international rugby on Saturday, Scottish Rugby organised for some relatives of the 1871 team to meet Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend on a video call.

The first game of international rugby was between Scotland and England at Raeburn Place in Edinburgh on 27 March 1871.

On the call were John Arthur’s great grand-daughter, Seonaid Brown from Helensburgh, and great-grandson Rod Arthur from Worcestershire, alongside paediatric anaesthetist Michael Moncreiff from Yorkshire, the great-great-grandson of Scotland’s first captain; and Shona Bowman and her son Ellis. Shona, whose family home is on Orkney, is the great-great-grand-daughter of Angus Buchanan, the first Scotland try scorer.

Seonaid Brown reads an extract from John Arthur’s diary

In his diary, John Arthur, who played half-back, recalled match day: “This proved to be a glorious spring day, Edinburgh looked at its best and we were proud, proud lads when we turned out at Raeburn Place, the ground of the Edinburgh Academicals, to play the first real International match.

“Prouder still were we when we marched off the field victors with a goal and a try to a try. I had the honour of placing the ball for Willie Cross who kicked the first International goal for Scotland.”

Shona Bowman and her son Ellis talking to Gregor Townsend ahead of the anniversary

From the Scotland pack, Robert Irvine, Blair Atholl born, better known by his evocative nickname, Bulldog, spoke of the trepidation going into the fixture, again a recurring phenomenon over the years.

He wrote: “Many of us entered the match with a sort of vague fear that some entirely new kind of play would be shown by our opponents and that they would outmanoeuvre us entirely.

“The day of the match soon settled that uncertainty. The English 20 were big and heavy – probably bigger and heavier than ours, but not overpoweringly so.

“Before we had played ten minutes, we were on good terms with each other. Each side had made a discovery; we, that our opponents were flesh and blood like ourselves and could be mauled back and tackled and knocked about just like other men.

“They, that in this far north land, rugby players existed who could maul, tackle and play up with the best of them.”

Michael Moncreiff chatting to Gregor Townsend about his great-great-grandfather - the first Scotland captain, Francis Moncreiff

The Scotland team from 1871, who were this week inducted into the Scottish Rugby Hall of Fame:

Backs: Tom Chalmers (Glasgow Accies), William Brown (Glasgow Accies), Alfred Clunies-Ross (St Andrews University).

Half-backs: Thomas Marshall (Edinburgh Accies), John Arthur (Glasgow Accies), Willie Cross (Merchistonians).

Forwards: Francis Moncreiff CAPTAIN, Jim Finlay, Bulldog Irvine, James Mein (all Edinburgh Accies), Daniel Drew (Glasgow Accies), William Lyall (Edinburgh Accies), Andrew Colville (Merchistonians), John Thomson (Glasgow Accies), George Ritchie (Merchistonians), William Forsyth (Edinburgh).

"After the England game, we got together for just for an hour before dinner and it was a relaxed event." Gregor Townsend

Gregor Townsend chatting to relatives of the 1871 Scotland team

Much of the chat on the call between Gregor Townsend and the relatives of the 1871 team centred around this year’s historic Scotland Calcutta Cup success at Twickenham, where Scotland won for the first time at English HQ for the first time in 38 years.

The relatives were interested in motivation and discovered the Scotland players earned themselves a treat after that 11-6 win last month.

Gregor Townsend explained: “Well when we don’t concede any tries everyone gets a doughnut! After the England game, we got together for just for an hour before dinner and it was a relaxed event.

“We had John Rutherford and Jim Renwick on a Zoom call and we played darts against each other, a bit of music and that’s when we got the doughnuts out because we had not conceded a try against England.

“The management thought there would be some left over for them, but they were disappearing fast!”

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