In conversation with... Ian McLauchlan
This week Ian McLauchlan OBE ended his Scottish Rugby Board tenure after almost a decade. To mark the occasion, he spoke to us about his life in rugby, on and off the pitch.
Scotland fans are still talking about their team’s second-half comeback at Twickenham and for one viewer, the game had particular significance.
Ian McLauchlan made his Scotland debut in March 1969 at Twickenham, and almost exactly 50 years later, he was as captivated as everyone else by what was unfolding in front of his eyes.
“I wasn’t able to travel to Twickenham so I watched it on television and it was very entertaining - a truly remarkable game,” he said.
“It says a lot for the boys who are that fit, that committed, to come back from 31-0, it really does say a lot for them.”
McLauchlan says that the 50-year anniversary wasn’t at the forefront of his thoughts during the game. Nor were any similarities between Stuart McInally’s charge down and his own one and only try in international rugby, which spearheaded the British & Irish Lions’ 9-3 win over New Zealand in 1971.
“I never think about things like that,” he said. “But McInally’s try I think was try of the season."
“First of all he charged it down and secondly he went 50 yards. The fastest guy on the field, Jonny May, wasn’t able to make any ground on him.”
Having earned 43 caps for his country and made eight appearances in a British & Irish Lions jersey, McLauchlan’s enthusiasm for the game is undiminished. The former loosehead prop captained Scotland on 19 occasions and won plaudits for his scrummaging ability and uncompromising play in the loose.
“I never wanted to give up,” he said. “I played every minute I could play.”
“I used to go down to Wales mid-week and play. I’d go to Ireland at the weekends and play on the Sunday. At that time Scottish Rugby had a ban on Sunday rugby but it didn’t seem to matter too much in Ireland.
“It was quite good; you’d play in Glasgow and get the six o’clock plane to Dublin and come back on the Sunday night.”
McLauchlan says he has seen changes over the years, but perhaps not as many as you might imagine.
“The facilities are better, the medical treatment is better, and generally the boys are better looked after than we were,” he said. “It was a case of ‘man mind thyself’ when we played.”
“But in general, it doesn’t change. The game is still the game. The boys still have fun playing it.”
Having witnessed several decades’ worth of Scotland performances with all the highs and lows that entails, McLauchlan is complimentary about current set-up.
“The improvement in Scottish rugby in the last ten years has been amazing,” he said. “Dave Rennie and Richard Cockerill have been tremendous investments; they know the game inside out."
“And Gregor Townsend is a fantastic coach. He’s a very hard-working guy.”
He points to the transformation in Glasgow, where the club has built up a huge fan-base, saying he sat beside a Glasgow councillor one evening who said “if you’d told me ten years ago that I’d be sitting here on a Friday night in the rain along with 10,000 other folk watching a game of rugby and actually enjoying it I’d have told you you were off your head.”
He also highlights the community activity that both Glasgow and Edinburgh do, saying:
“Both teams get the players going out into the community and kids meeting players really encourages them.
“When you see a wee boy standing beside Jonny Gray looking up at him it’s amazing.”
With the countdown the Rugby World Cup 2019 well and truly on, McLauchlan has his own thoughts on what might transpire.
“I honestly believe we’ll beat Ireland and if we beat Ireland in the first game it will do two things,” he said. “First it’ll boost our confidence and it’ll completely and utterly shatter theirs.”
“I think Wales are a difficult side to play. Then of course Australia are always up for the World Cup, as are New Zealand and South Africa.
“And I think maybe in Japan, because of the heat, other teams will come into it.”
Having served his time in a Scotland jersey, McLauchlan returned to Murrayfield in 2010 when he was voted in as Scottish Rugby President. He continued on the Board as an independent non-executive director from 2012 until this week. So what motivated him to make the move into the boardroom?
“I’ve always been involved in rugby in one way or another,” he said. “I suppose it kind of appealed to my sense of humour, the thought of being on the Board.”
Joking aside, there was a serious side to his reasons for wanting to get involved. McLauchlan says that having people with a diverse range of experience on the Board is important, particularly given the commercial concerns of modern-day rugby.
As someone who had played the game at the highest level and was still in regular contact with players and coaches, he felt he had something to offer. And there was also a desire to give something back to the game.
“It’s like everything else, I just wanted to do something to help rugby,” he said. “It’s a plain, simple fact: if you don’t do anything you don’t get much from it but if you try to do something you get a great deal of self-satisfaction and reward comes from effort.”
That sense of duty has also been evident in his charity activities where he spent time as a trustee and chairman of the Murrayfield Injured Players Foundation and as a director of Hearts & Balls.
“It’s very, very important because the hardest bit in life is when you get injured,” he said. “I was very lucky because I hardly ever got injured."
“To do anything to help them, that’s a great thing.”
As for his future plans, McLauchlan says he’ll be looking for another job to keep him busy, saying “I just fancy working, I don’t like being useless. There’s bound to be something.”
And while he has nothing rugby-specific lined up, you can be pretty sure he won’t be too far away from the touchline. His passion for the game is clear and it’s something he knows he’s not alone in feeling:
“I think it’s a great thing that rugby in Scotland, which is a very small nation, can fill a stadium of 67,000 time and time again for a game of rugby."