Hilton ineligible for Scotland after 41 caps

Two more caught in qualification trap but SRU stand by their 'honourable' veteran prop
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The Scottish Rugby Union is set to join Wales in the dock at the International Rugby Board's annual general meeting next week after it was discovered that the 41-times capped Dave Hilton was a "phoney" Scot yesterday.

The Bristol-born prop, who came on as a replacement in last weekend's Six Nations international in Cardiff and was expected to be named in the squad to face England, which is announced today, first played for Scotland in January 1995 after claiming he had a Scottish grandfather.

But after checks were made on the credentials of the late Walter Hilton this week it was established he hailed from Bristol and that Scotland had been caught out in the same way as Wales were over Shane Howarth and Brett Sinkinson.

In addition to Hilton, the Scots' were yesterday left red faced after it was discovered they had "cheated" in an A international this season by including another Glasgow Caledonian player, Jon Stuart, against Ireland when he had no qualification to play.

Yet despite the astonishing revelations, the SRU denied that they or Hilton had knowingly broken the rules and they pledged to support his impending battle with the IRB to keep on playing for them.

Doubts over Hilton's "Scottishness" had emerged before the weekend defeat by Wales when the SRU administrative secretary, Gregor Nicholson, admitted that he had no documentary evidence of the player's pedigree. A seemingly puzzled Hilton immediately vowed to track down the birth certificate of his grandfather.

"Both myself and my father had always believed that my grandfather Walter was born in Edinburgh," Hilton said last night.

"I was absolutely devastated when my family completed their research to discover that was, in fact, not the case.

"He was actually born in Bristol and it was the first that any of us in the family knew of this. I regard myself as Scottish and I am immensely proud to have won 41 caps for Scotland.

"Last year, I was delighted to sign a three-year contract for Glasgow Caley and make my family home in Scotland. I very much want to see out my contract with the Reds."

After discovering the news, Hilton immediately informed the Scotland team manager, Dougie Morgan, and SRU officials at Murrayfield.

Bill Watson, the SRU chief executive, stated: "We have advised the IRB of the situation. David Hilton is an honourable man and has served Scottish rugby with distinction.

"His immediate family have signed an affidavit confirming that all understood David's grandfather was born in Edinburgh. That affidavit is also being submitted to the IRB.

"David was a product of the Scottish Exiles system and first won selection for Scotland when eligibility was taken on trust and the game was amateur.

"His commitment to Scotland is beyond reproach. We are informing the IRB that, under all the circumstances, we consider he continues to remain available for selection for Scotland."

The case of the 24-year-old Stuart is even more embarrassing for the SRU because of his comparatively recent involvement. He gave his commitment to the country after rejecting approaches to play for England at Student and Under-21 levels.

"Given that Jon Stuart's involvement has been wholly in the professional era, the SRU cannot continue to select him at this stage," Watson said.

"All players wishing to play for Scotland are now being subjected to the same rigorous checks we have had in place for players coming to Scotland from overseas, or players who did not come through the Scottish Exiles system.

"At the start of the week the SRU fully expected this to be a formality in regard to any existing Scotland players.

"Having spoken to both David and Jon we honestly believe that both players were 100 per cent genuine in their own belief that they were eligible.

"In our submission to the IRB we are suggesting that the point at which the game became open in August 1995 should be the cut-off as far as stringent adherence to the eligibility regulations is concerned.

"Any players who committed themselves to a Union's cause as amateurs prior to that date who can demonstrate that they did not deliberately flout eligibility rules, should be permitted to continue to represent their country."