Bruce Hay

Rugby player and coach


Bruce Hamilton Hay, rugby player: born Edinburgh 23 May 1950; married (one daughter); died Edinburgh 1 October 2007.

Scotland's rugby selectors were presented with a difficult problem in the mid-1970s when their gleaming star Andy Irvine found himself under threat from the barnstorming Bruce Hay. Irvine was the darling of the crowd, a player who could conjure something out of nothing with his dancing feet and electric pace. Hay, however, preferred the more direct route to the line, and woe betide anyone who got in his way. Both he and Irvine were as effective as the other in the Scottish side and, having started as rivals, they became inseparable team mates for their country and for the British and Irish Lions.

Where Irvine led, Hay followed. Plucked from the relative obscurity of the junior club Liberton to deputise for Irvine in the Edinburgh side in the Inter Districts Championship tie-breaker against Glasgow in 1972, Hay made a major impact, despite his inexperience. Edinburgh won the title, nobody missed Irvine and a star was born.

Hay next moved to Boroughmuir, and then into the Scottish side in 1975. He made his début on the 1975 tour to New Zealand. The selectors moved Irvine to the wing after 14 appearances at full-back and slotted Hay in at number 15. The Scots won four of their seven matches, and Hay forced his way into contention with his powerful displays. The Test in Auckland was lost 24-0 on a saturated pitch and Hay played much of the game with a broken arm.

That was the launch of a 23-cap career that saw him switch between full-back and wing over a seven-year period. No longer was it a case of which one to pick; both had to be accommodated in the Scottish back division.

Irvine had seen his stock rise by being part of the unbeaten 1974 Lions team in South Africa and he was joined on the 1977 and 1980 tours to New Zealand and South Africa by Hay. All of a sudden there was no senior or junior partner; the two men were on a par.

Hay played in 11 games in the 1977 tour and figured in three of the four Tests three years later. More than that, he won the respect of his team mates. "Bruce was a rock of a man, someone you would want playing behind you every day of the week," said Phil Bennett, the 1977 Lions skipper.

Andy Irvine was a footballing genius, but Bruce was the man he knew he could rely on to do the hard graft. Bruce was Mr Dependable, a delight to tour with and a man who revelled in the honour and privilege of playing for his country and the Lions. He never moaned or complained and always displayed the heart of a lion.

Hay was born in Edinburgh in 1950. He joined Liberton FP after leaving Liberton High School and captained the club at 18. He worked as a mining engineer before becoming a sales representative. He joined Boroughmuir in 1972 and helped them to win the last unofficial Scottish League title in 1973 and the Melrose Sevens crown in 1976. After retiring from playing in 1986, he became the club's coach for eight years and then director of rugby, steering them to the Scottish title again in 1990. Latterly Hay managed the Scotland under-19 squad. "If he'd been playing today he'd have won 50 or 60 caps," Irvine said. "For seven years he was involved in every game, playing or on the bench."

Rob Cole

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