Morgan on verge of a giant step

FIVE NATIONS FOCUS: The resolute coach who knows all about keeping Scotland on their toes talks to Tim Glover
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Douglas Morgan is, as far as he knows, unique. "I don't know of any other chiropodist in rugby," he says. If the women of Edinburgh are walking around with a spring in their step it is down to Morgan's clippers and his bottle of peach blossom fragrance talc.

Scotland's coach can be found tucked away in a tiny room, next to carpets and furnishings, on the fourth floor of Jenners in Princes Street, an old-fashioned department store for the city's well-heeled. For five days a week Morgan, who is self-employed, works at the foot of a black leather chair. Most of the suitable cases for Morgan's treatment are women who "abuse their feet in one way or another". He has an average of 15 customers a day (£13.50 gets you the de luxe package) and, in a good year, 4,000 pairs of feet will pass through his hands.

Doesn't he get bored with all those corns, carbuncles and unsightly nails? "No," he said. "All feet are different." In any case the practice of tending tootsies runs in the family. His wife Doreen is also a chiropodist (she works part-time at the rival John Lewis store) and will fill in for her husband at Jenners while he is on World Cup duty in South Africa this summer. Morgan - his 74-year-old father, George, was company secretary at Jenners for 39 years - cannot be accused of nepotism, otherwise the centre Graham Shiel would be playing against England at Twickenham on Saturday instead of sitting on the bench. In July Shiel marries Mandy, the eldest of Morgan's two daughters.

Morgan and his golf partner, Gavin Hastings, have become extremely close in the last few seasons, not least because both were pilloried from pillar to post following a run of nine defeats. "Some of the criticism was unbelievable," Morgan said. "It affects the families more than the individual. I can cope with it although I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel the pressure."

He thought the headline "Taxi for Morgan" in a Scottish paper was a bit excessive, but what he and Hastings really resented was how a queue of former captains lined up to put the boot in. "They jumped on the bandwagon and that's the easiest thing in the world to do. They knew exactly what the score was and yet they decided to join the masses. Gavin took a real hammering. I've played with him, against him and I've coached him and I knew how he would respond in the Five Nations. He's just a big man in every respect."

When Hastings won his record 53rd cap prior to the defeat of Ireland, Morgan laid out all the Scottish jerseys in the dressing room bar one. He personally presented the No 15 shirt to the captain and full-back and made a little speech. "I told him what an outstanding career he'd had, and was having, and that no person deserved the record more than him. It was quite an emotional moment." Morgan had tears in his eyes and he reckons Big Gavin was also close to opening the waterworks.

There was considerable cause for further celebration when, in one of the great moments in the history of Scottish rugby, Hastings scored a try under the posts in the dying minutes at Parc des Princes to seal their first win in France for 26 years. Morgan was first on to the pitch, embracing Hastings in a bear hug. "It was just a great day and for it to finish the way it did, no scriptwriter could have done better. A fair drop of champagne was drunk that night. The SRU [Scottish Rugby Union] pushed the boat out."

It will seem like a drop in the ocean if Scotland pull off the Grand Slam, a feat they have managed at Murrayfield but never at Twickenham. "It's anybody's game," Morgan insisted. "England are overwhelming favourites, because they are a very good side with very few weaknesses. They are better organised and better prepared than when we beat them in 1990. Then they were basically telling the world how good they were. They won't fall into that trap again.

"Yes, they've got a lot of big men but that's always been the case and we've coped with it in the past. We are not afraid to attack and a lot will depend on the referee. When England played in Cardiff the line-outs were a shambles."

Then, of course, there is Hastings's right foot and nobody knows more about its effectiveness than Morgan, who was also a specialist kicker. After every training session he stands behind the posts and supervises the full-back's routine. "He's never kicked as consistently well as this before."

Morgan's fondest memory of Twickenham was Stewart's Melville winning the Middlesex Sevens in 1982. He kicked 11 conversions out of 12. The odd one out hit a post.

Morgan, who succeeded Ian McGeechan in 1993, hardly knows Jack Rowell, his England counterpart, but he knows plenty about the man's methods and about English rugby. He has two Bath players in his pack, Eric Peters and Dave Hilton, and is also in regular contact with McGeechan who, through his Northampton post, could tell him all he needed to know about Tim Rodber and Martin Bayfield.

Hilton is the latest Anglo-Scot to get kitted out with a kilt (the SRU gets a discount from the Edinburgh kilt-maker Geoffrey Taylor) and the clanning of the team has become an important source of pride for the Scots. "It used to be dinner jackets but now everybody wears a kilt," said Morgan, who favours the hunting stewart of the McKay clan.

Whatever happens on Saturday, or in the World Cup, Morgan, who is 47, will stand down. "Straight from school I've spent 30 years in senior rugby and I'd like a break. There is a natural progression and I don't see any coach doing two World Cups." As a scrum-half for Stewart's Melville - he was always told to change his club if he wanted to play for Scotland - he won 23 caps between 1973 and 1979 and scored 98 points for the Lions in 1977. The difference in intensity is that by the World Cup Scotland will have played 21 internationals in 18 months.

None of them will be bigger than the game against the auld enemy in two days' time. France made the mistake of allowing the Lothian and Borders Police Pipe Band to give a stirring rendition of "Flower of Scotland" at Parc des Princes. The Edinburgh Council, which paid for the trip, wanted them to give another pipe-opener at Twickenham, but England rejected the request. The Rugby Football Union pointed out that the musical duties would be performed by the Band of the Royal Marines.

It is only a minor setback for Morgan, who on Saturday afternoon will quietly remind his players that such glorious opportunities do not present themselves very often. The Slam, the Calcutta Cup... and a pedicured footnote in history.