From colonial scrap metal to the edgiest rivalry

Sat, 24 Feb 2018 04:08
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THE CALCUTTA CUP: There are many great rivalries in the world of rugby union. As with most things in life, opinions vary from place to place when selecting the greatest of all rivalries.

Is it between the traditional foes New Zealand versus South Africa where there have been some epic encounters. Some would say the provincial clash between Queensland and New South Wales is as intense as it gets, or maybe the all Ireland clash between Leinster and Munster, which takes some beating for pure passion.

All the contests above are legendary in their own right but it must be said that the Calcutta Cup game is as big as they come. The annual contest between England and Scotland gets the blood stirring all the way from Land’s End to John O’Groats. There is a genuine edge between these two teams and encounters at Twickenham and Murrayfield have been brutal and not an inch is given in this historic clash.

Why the name Calcutta Cup?

In the 1870’s the game of rugby was introduced to the Indian sub-continent by a group of men from England who formed the Calcutta Rugby Football Club.

After five years in 1878, the club was forced to close due to the departure of the British army regiment from the area, as well as a lack of new members in the club.

On closure, the club chose to use their remaining money (270 Rupee coins) and melt down these funds to create a silver trophy, which is now known as the Calcutta Cup.

The trophy was presented as a gift to the Rugby Football Union to use as they pleased. It was originally suggested to use the trophy for a knockout competition in English club rugby, however, the RFU did not want to create a new competition or a knockout competition fearing that it may lead them down the path to professionalism.

Instead, the RFU looked to use the trophy for international purposes. During this period only England, Scotland and Ireland had international teams and Ireland was particularly weak during this time – during the 1870’s they didn’t score a single point in eight international matches.

It was therefore decided that the victors of the annual England v Scotland game would be awarded the Calcutta Cup and was first played for in 1879, the game ended in a 3-3 draw.

The original trophy is kept at the Museum of Rugby in Twickenham. After years of use and a certain amount of mishandling, it was decided that a replica would be used during presentations. One famous story refers to England No 8 Dean Richards and the hard-as-nails Scotland flanker John Jeffrey on Princes Street in Edinburgh using the trophy as a ball in a drunken kick about.

Three Classic Calcutta Cup Clashes

Scotland 13-7 England (Murrayfield), 17 March 1990

A classic test match in every sense of the word. In a winner takes all encounter, the Five Nations, Grand Slam, Triple Crown and Calcutta Cup were all up for grabs in this final game of the Championship.

Scotland was well and truly the underdogs against an England side that would make the World Cup final the following year.

Bill McLaren the great Scottish commentator described the scene as “A unique atmosphere at Murrayfield in a quite unique occasion”.

From the get-go when Scotland captain David Sole led his team out onto the park with a now-famous walk, there was a sense that something special from a Scotland point of view was about to take place.

The passion of the crowd got the home side firing and Craig Chalmers kicked two early penalties for a 6-0 lead. Jeremy Guscott scored a try to pull the score back to
6-4, in the days when a try was worth 4 points.

It was a windy day and the consistent Simon Hodgkinson was unwilling to trust his boot in extremely tough kicking conditions.

A kick through by Scotland full-back Gavin Hastings allowed a chasing Tony Stanger to burst over for the try and increased the lead to 13-4 early in the second half. A penalty by Hodgkinson brought the score back to 13-7 but Scotland was not to be denied their first Grand Slam since 1984.

England captain Will Carling stated, “That was the most amazing atmosphere I’ve ever played in. As an Englishman, it took me time to understand the passion and depth of emotion the Scots have when they play England. Part of our learning process was understanding, learning and respecting that, then making sure we felt exactly the same way about playing for England.”

England 40-9 Scotland (Twickenham), 22 March 2003

England’s World Cup winning side was a sight to behold when in full flow during the 2003 season. They had an extremely strong pack containing the likes of Johnson, Dallaglio and Hill. The back division were no slouches either with Dawson and Wilkinson directing play from the halfback positions.

After France won the Grand Slam in 2002 sweeping all before them, and England not winning a Grand Slam since 1995, Woodward’s charges demanded of themselves going into a World Cup year.

A brace of tries by Jason Robinson, added to one apiece from Josh Lewsey and Ben Cohen proved to be decisive in a productive day for England’s back three.

England’s defence was resolute throughout this game and the only shining light points-wise for Scotland was three Chris Paterson penalties.

Jonny Wilkinson had a perfect day with the boot, kicking all his goals and adding 18 points to his side’s tally.

It was a physical game and man-of-the-match Richard Hill worked tirelessly for the home side. After the game Woodward stated, “Well done to Scotland, they got stuck in and proved it was a true Six Nations Championship.”

Scotland coach Ian McGeechan didn’t feel the scoreline was a fair reflection “We made mistakes at crucial times and England are a good enough side with good enough strike players to really do damage, and Jonny Wilkinson doesn’t miss too many kicks. But I thought there were a lot of good things about our performance and England have had to work very hard for their win.”

England booked their Six Nations Grand Slam decider against Ireland, which they went on to win in emphatic style, 42-6 in Dublin.

Scotland 19-13 England (Murrayfield), 2 April 2000

This was the year where Italy was added to the Five Nations Championship to create the inaugural Six Nations.

Scotland had lost all four games in the tournament including a 34-20 defeat to newcomers Italy in Rome.

England came into the final match of the tournament unbeaten. Apart from a close victory over France, they were dominant against the other three nations.

Scotland had not beaten England since the 1990 Grand Slam winning victory and conditions on the day were treacherous, this was not a day for champagne rugby. The collisions were raw and physical, similar to that of two heavyweight boxers slugging it out.

A 19-point haul by Scotland No 10 Duncan Hodge including a try, conversion and four penalties was underpinned by a great 15-man effort from the home side to deny Clive Woodward’s side a Grand Slam.

A converted Lawrence Dallaglio try and another two penalties by Jonny Wilkinson were not enough, England eventually going down 19-13.

The Scotland team came out for a lap of honour and they were mobbed by thousands of ecstatic supporters on the waterlogged pitch after this famous victory.
Ian McGeechan was thrilled with the outcome and performance of his charges and said, “We knew if we could just hang on we could do it. The guys were magnificent. They stood up and were counted.”

By Graeme Peacock, RugbyPass

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