Great rivalries: Ten of the best toe-to-toe classics

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The Independent Online

With the set-to between Scotland and England at the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand this morning and football's Merseyside and north London derbies, it's a big weekend for sporting rivalries. Here we examine 10 legendary clashes.

Scotland v England

Football, rugby, caber tossing, dwarf throwing, anything. This has history (the Calcutta Cup began in 1879, seven years after they first faced each other in football), animosity (although not as prevalent as it once was) plus a legend longer than Hadrian's Wall – is there a Glasgow garden without a sod of Wembley turf?

Ali v Frazier

From the Fight of the Century to the Thriller in Manila, this is the ring's greatest rivalry. It began in 1971 at Madison Square Garden when Joe Frazier kept his heavyweight title after 15 gruelling rounds. Three years later Muhammad Ali won on points and in 1975 he brilliantly won again. "He's the greatest," said Ali. "Next to me."

Borg v McEnroe

Nadal and Federer may be modern-day greats, but their rivalry lacks the big character contrast, and Big Mac flame-grilling. The clashes at Wimbledon are iconic. In 1980 McEnroe won a fourth set tiebreak 18-16 only to lose the decider. He came back a year later to end Borg's run of five successive Wimbledon titles.

Holland v Germany

This stems from the Second World War. For the Dutch, the 1974 World Cup defeat of their great side was partly compensated by victory at Euro 88. Ronald Koeman celebrated defeating the hosts en route by using a German shirt to simulate wiping ... you can guess the rest.

Prost v Senna

After Senna's fatal crash in 1994, Prost said a "part of him died, too". From 1988 when the pair became team-mates at McLaren they became bitter rivals. A year later they collided in Suzuka as both refused to give way in pursuit of the title and their duel became a feature of every season they were on the track.

The Ashes

It began in 1877 with the Ashes arriving five years later. India and Pakistan have a fiercer rivalry but should still take second place to England v Australia because it lacks the longevity, and they simply don't play each other very often. England's 2005 series win stands as one of the great sporting contests of modern times.

Celtic v Rangers

As the song goes "If you know your history" ... that's a large part of the reason for the Old Firm's inclusion, and because their duopoly of Scottish football means they rarely contest a meaningless fixture. The sectarian baggage adds weight for the wrong reasons, but it's what the rivalry is.

Coe v Ovett

They first raced as schoolboys at a cross-country meet and ended up with the whole world watching their duel at the Moscow Olympics in 1980. The rivalry is supposed to have split Britain down the middle. Ovett won the 800m, for which Coe was favourite, but Coe turned the tables in the 1500m.

Red Sox v Yankees

The Americans label this one as "the Greatest Rivalry in Sports" – which it is, in the same way the pair compete in the "World" Series. Boston and New York are old city rivals and and it spread to sport when their two baseball teams started clashing at the start of the 20th century. They have now met 2,000-plus times.

El Salvador v Honduras

Any sporting fixture listed as a cause of war demands inclusion. The two Central American countries met in a World Cup qualifier in 1969 amid escalating tensions. Rioting and violence surrounded the matches and played its part in the outbreak of what became known as the Football War. It lasted four days.