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Friday, September 17, 1999 Published at 15:24 GMT 16:24 UK

Telfer the Terrible

David Sole on Jim Telfer: "We were scared of him"

It takes a lot to strike fear into the heart of rugby's hard men, but Scotland coach Jim Telfer has made a career of doing exactly that.

Nonetheless, a succession of Scottish and British Lions sides have been inspired to unlikely victories under his fierce tutelage, earning him the admiration of players and fellow coaches alike.

Heady achievements

"That Scotland be acknowledged as the leading rugby nation in the world," runs the Scottish Rugby Union's "mission statement" - an expression of Telfer's coaching ambition and the self-belief he has instilled in his team.

[ image: The 1997 Lions: One of Telfer's greatest triumphs]
The 1997 Lions: One of Telfer's greatest triumphs
The pugnacious Scot hopes to cap his illustrious coaching career with a World Cup, before finally stepping down to resume his back room roll as the SRU's director of rugby.

But even if he falls short, the former headmaster will have a lifetime of heady achievements to look back on.

He won his first cap in the back row for Scotland against France in 1964, where he made up for his lack of natural pace with outstanding fitness and ability. His contribution soon told as Scotland went on to defeat England in the Five Nations for the first time in 14 years.

He was subsequently selected for the notoriously brutal 1966 British Lions tour to New Zealand, where he first experienced the power and pace of the All Blacks - something he sought to replicate in the sides he coached in later years.

Telfer toured with the Lions again in 1968, although by then the knee injury that was to end his career two years later was already well advanced.

Grand Slam years

By 1983 he was coaching the Lions - against New Zealand again. The tourists suffered a series defeat, but Telfer took the lessons away to conjure up a 25-25 draw when the All Blacks met his unfancied Scotland team at Murrayfield later that year.

[ image: Ian McGeechan: Will replace Telfer in Scotland job]
Ian McGeechan: Will replace Telfer in Scotland job
The following season, he led Scotland to their first Five Nations Grand Slam for almost 60 years, thumping France 21-12 in the last match.

He limited himself to coaching just the forwards when Scotland did it again by beating England 13-7 at Murrayfield in 1990. His frequent partner in crime, Ian McGeechan, was at the helm on that occasion and will replace Telfer when he steps down after the World Cup.

Perhaps his greatest triumph was again in tandem with McGeechan on the Lions tour to South Africa in 1997.

The tourists were considered a poor test for the reigning world champions, with many newspaper column inches in both South Africa and the UK dedicated to predictions of doom.

Living with the Lion

But Telfer has always enjoyed the underdog tag and, once again, he produced a side that surprised everyone.

Through training sessions of legendary intensity, the Scottish pair forged a side that proved more than a match for the Springboks, as the Lions came away with a famous 2-1 series victory.

[ image: Telfer in playful mood]
Telfer in playful mood
Most recently, Telfer converted Scotland from serious wooden spoon contenders to 1999 Five Nations champions in the space of a season, as they played the brand of fast, furious, super-confident rugby that has become his trademark.

Former Scotland captain David Sole described the experience of being coached by Telfer.

"We were scared of him. He used his experience as a headmaster and brought it with him every time he put on his tracksuit," he told the Daily Telegraph.

"He treated us like kids...but I have an immense respect for him."

It is with that same mixture of fear and respect that Telfer will be hoping to cook up a Scottish win at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium on 6 November.

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