Congratulations Doctor James

Congratulations Doctor James

Ask people what the city of Hartford, Connecticut in the good old US of A means to them and they might tell you it was where the Colt 45 pistol was first fashioned. For me, it has a much more personal resonance.

Back in 1991, ahead of the sport’s second World Cup that autumn, Scotland toured North America with largely a development squad that included the likes of Andy Nicol and Rowen Shepherd in the backs and Doddie Weir and Kenny Milne in the forwards.

Bill Hogg, the late SRU secretary, was on the tour and delighted in performing his bus song as a deep baritone: “One, two, three, four, tell the people what she wore.

“It was an Itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny yellow polka dot bikini that she wore for the first time today.”

Happy memories of simpler times.

That tour was the first time I met James Robson on international duty. I have been privileged to count on him as a friend ever since.

This is not hyperbole: I would trust James with my life.

I had already come across him as a medic with Dundee High and with the North and Midlands district team but working in tandem with another of Scottish Rugby’s loyal doctors, the late Jimmy Hay, James was making his debut as Scotland physio. It was an astonishing 30 years ago!

I don’t remember anything much about the game – other than Scotland won 41-12 with two tries each from Tony Stanger and Stuart Reid – but I remember the setting vividly because it was the start of James’ journey as a rugby medic without peer.

Since that first bow on the international stage, Scotland have welcomed some 246 players to the ranks of those proud to wear the thistle for the first time. James has been the constant.

He had spells as physio and/or doctor with Scotland A and Scotland 7s too between 1996 and 2002 and it was no surprise that on the first proper “fly on the wall” TV documentary that chronicled the triumphant 1997 Lions tour of South Africa, James was every bit as much a star as those players who performed in the heat of the action.

James completed an incredible six Lions tours – New Zealand in 1993 and 2005; Australia in 2001 and 2013; and South Africa in 1997 and 2009. He became Scotland team doctor in 2002.

He saved the life of Will Greenwood when the young centre was injured on that 1997 Lions tour.

In 2010 in Cardiff, he cared for Chris Paterson who sustained a serious kidney injury on the occasion of his 100th cap.

It that was not hard enough to maintain professional/clinical detachment from, later in that first-half he saved Thom Evans from the risk of paralysis when the winger suffered a neck injury. He got on and did his job.

Later that Saturday night – 13 February 2010 – James and I shed tears as we discussed the events of a traumatic day, before James resumed dialogue with the hospital and the players’ families and I went back to fielding press inquiries.

Rightly, James has received honours from the Royal College of Surgeons both in Edinburgh and beyond. He was made an MBE for services to rugby and inducted into Scottish Rugby’s Hall of Fame.

His day job, as Scottish Rugby’s Chief Medical Officer, means he is at the heart of driving initiatives to make rugby as safe as possible.

This weekend, as Italy arrive at BT Murrayfield, is his 250th international match, the biggest tribute to his devotion, care and dedication.

It’s a journey that has been shared with his wife Christine, daughters Eleanor and Emma and a host of incredibly lucky rugby people.

Here’s to you James. Our sport has been blessed to have you at its heart.

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