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Friday, 31 March, 2000, 16:04 GMT 17:04 UK
The fat lady is not singing yet

Fine bloke: Andy Nichol puts Scotland through their paces
Former Scotland international John Beattie looks ahead to the clash with Grand Slam-chasing England with some trepidation - but urges caution in the eligibility row.

So England come to Scotland looking for a Grand Slam.

It is too much to bear. But let me be diverted for a second.

Here we are in Scotland, being trodden upon by everyone in the world as far as the eligibility of David Hilton is concerned. The International Board are thinking of maybe fining Scotland, there is talk of reversing results.

What a load of baloney. The only results that should be reversed are the games we have played this year, so that Scotland can take on England undefeated.



So polite: England train at Edinburgh's Heriot Watt University
Like most Scots I believe that Hilton was accepted in good faith, in fact he said at the time that his grandfather was born in Scotland and his grandfather thought he was born in Scotland.

If the international rugby folk want to reverse results for deliberately breaking laws then let them take the 1995 World Cup away from South Africa - they were paying players back then - and strip New Zealand of the 1987 World Cup, as not all of their players were amateur.

And then let us take away wins from countries whose players wear illegal shoulder pads. The list goes on.



Scottish confidence will be low, but playing England has never posed motivational problems.

John Beattie
I think Scotland's mistake was a genuine one, and we should not be singled out, and neither should the Welsh. There are far worse law-breakers than our two countries.

Ah, but that is the atmosphere of this game. The Scots, methinks, have had enough.

There has been enough negativity around to make a man want to count backwards. England are way-out favourites, playing sublime rugby, and they have a very, very good side.

They have household names, even in Scottish households that hold Rangers or Celtic fans.



No matter what they say, 1990 still hurts England
Scotland have brought in two new caps to fight bulk with bulk in Richard Metcalfe, who is seven feet tall, and Jason White who is just a little bloke at six feet five.

John Leslie misses the game having failed to recover from his ankle, so it is a new centre pairing.

But, do not misunderstand, Scotland are so backs-to-the-wall that they are in danger of pushing the thing over.

Andy Nicol, the captain, is a fine bloke, but the worry in Scotland is whether the Scots can fight England's sheer fire-power.

I interviewed the English earlier in the week and they look good. They are so polite. They pretend they have all forgotten that Scotland won a Grand Slam in 1990, but it still burns, it still hurts them.

Scotland may kick the ball more than before, but modern rugby tactics are bluff and double bluff as England may play a more direct game than before.



England coach Clive Woodward is aiming for a glorious win
Whatever, England have superb players in Matt Dawson and Lawrence Dallaglio who have won for the Lions but need success for England.

We in Scotland know, as Nicol has said, that the Scottish side have played well at times but failed to score.

There is talent in Tom Smith, Scott Murray, and Gregor Townsend, but it hasn't performed to last year's heights.

Scottish confidence will be low, but playing England has never posed motivational problems. It just happens that way when you are the little neighbour of the big country.

Frankly, genuinely, it is going to be such a hard game to watch this one, for both camps, as the two countries compete for the Calcutta Cup, the symbol of the oldest rugby fixture in the world.

If recent form is distressing in that we haven't beaten England for ten years, then we might take solace in the fact that we won the first fixture in 1871.

And back then, the English team was probably full of New Zealanders.

Only joking, only joking.

Remember, the golden rule of rugby is to never, ever predict results.

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See also:

31 Mar 00 | Six Nations
History weighs heavy at Murrayfield
29 Mar 00 | Six Nations
Vickery back for Six Nations finale
27 Mar 00 | Scotland
Hilton ruled ineligible by IRB
Links to other Six Nations stories are at the foot of the page.