Scotland, with only two professional outfits to their name, need all the help they can get, and they may get it a few years down the line from an unlikely source. London Scottish may be more Territorial Army than tartan, but they are certainly on the rise.
Shortly after the game went professional, Scottish and Richmond, who have shared the Athletic Ground for more than 130 years, crunched shoulders with England's finest, but were then sold down the Thames as their benefactors cut their losses.
The Rugby Football Union – Machiavelli could have been taught a lesson or two here in political infighting – demoted both clubs, not one level from the top tier but nine. The Scots had been sharing The Stoop with Harlequins, star-studded Richmond the Madejski Stad-ium with Reading FC. In one fell swoop their dive was so deep they could have suffered from the bends, or worse, simply drowned. But both clubs have shown extraordinary resilience.
"There was utter desolation," said Rod Lynch, the president, chairman and chief executive of London Scottish. "We were a goner." From the depths of Herts and Middlesex One they have had five promotions, and a few more will see them in the new-fangled Championship, one below the Guinness Premiership. They may even end up as the first club from England to join the Magners League.
"The Scottish are not so much a club as an institution and a fixture of London life," Lynch said. "Their record in producing international players and Lions captains is remarkable."
Lynch, a Scotsman from Perth, used to be on the executive board of the BBC and was a high flier with British Airways before throwing his weight behind the Exiles, who have formed a new company whose board members include Kenny Logan and Chris Rea. "London," said Lynch, "is the third biggest Scottish city after Edinburgh and Glasgow, and those two have a lot of interest in soccer. Here there is tremendous energy being put into rugby."
London Scottish, who are members of the SRU and the RFU (they have a hotline to Murrayfield), are unbeaten this season, which is not so surprising considering they have the sponsorship of, among others, a major Saudi company, Saudex, and have recruited seven former Premiership players. One of them, James Brown from Worcester, is understudied at No 10 by Scott Hadden, the son of the Scotland coach Frank.
The Exiles also enticed Brett Taylor, who had taken Richmond to promotion, to move his office all of 100 yards to the Scottish desk last October, the week after the co-tenants had played against each other. "It was a no-brainer," Taylor said. "The Scottish have investment, potential and ambition.
"I wouldn't have moved if I hadn't been inspired. This is a great opportunity to develop Scottish players and anybody else who comes along. A lot of clubs focus on their top 30 players. Not us. We go from the under-sevens to two development sides to the first team. We're looking at the long term."
Taylor, born in Malaysia of an Army family – his grandfather was a surgeon born in Glasgow – is Scottish, even if he went to school in Devon before arriving at Northampton, where he had the misfortune to bump into Matt Dawson. Taylor has not had much luck in this department. After Nottingham University – yes, Brian Moore was there at the time – he moved to the Saints at Franklin's Gardens as a scrum-half.
He actually shared a house with Dawson, who went on to be the England scrum-half, for five years. "Matt joined the club as a teenager and he ended up being the best man at my wedding. We learnt a lot." Taylor joined the Northampton academy, where he not only oversaw the futures of Ben Cohen and Steve Thompson but came under the influence of Ian McGeechan and, later, the New Zealander Wayne Smith.
Taylor, fired by the example of the Scotsman and the Kiwi, became an assistant coach with the US Eagles for the 2003 World Cup before joining Richmond. Now 40, he is going places and so are the Scottish, who are a few years older.