New roots and sweet Williams

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To Matt Williams, Sydneysider that he happens to be, the Scottish past is indeed a foreign country. They do things differently there, as Leslie Poles Hartley once observed - like score Tony Stanger tries and Duncan Hodge 19-pointers and play Jim Baxter keepie-uppies, Scotland's coach of three months implied in the phoney war before the Calcutta Cup battle last night.

To an Aussie like Williams, history is like Ronseal. It is what it says on the tin: it's history, finished - "totally irrelevant", the Scottish Rugby Union new man insisted. Such pragmatism is precisely what Scottish rugby needs most of all in the here and now reality of the present. And the benefits were clear to see in the Murrayfield floodlights last night.

In implementing his Fortress Scotland plan with a view to a brighter future, though, Williams has switched the national squad's training base from Murrayfield to Stirling, the spiritual home of William "Braveheart" Wallace. And in their endeavours to drag Scottish rugby into the 21st century the gentlemen of the SRU have investigated, albeit fleetingly, the possibility of moving the site of the national stadium from Murrayfield to Bannockburn, where Robert the Bruce's boys subjected the English to their most painful gubbing, as they say north of the border.

Given Scotland's less than glorious showing in the heat of battle at the World Cup and in their Six Nations opener in Cardiff, Culloden seemed a more suitable option. The visit of Sir Clive of Twickenham with his World Cup winners prompted fears of the biggest slaughter on Caledonian soil since the Duke of Cumberland's butchers set about Bonnie Prince Charlie's Jacobite rebels in 1746.

Instead of spilling blood, though, Williams' Young Pretenders pumped vast reserves of the stuff into a greatly heartening performance. England had never scored more than 29 points at Murrayfield and by half-time they had 20 on the board, 14 of them fortuitously so.

In 1967, when Scotland's footballers scored their famous 3-2 victory against England's World Cup winners at Wembley, they had William Wallace in their No 7 shirt - or Willie Wallace, as he was known. Last night Scotland's rugby players did his great patriot namesake proud.

On England's last trip to Murrayfield, two years ago, the Scots were finished off before they had even started, with two Jason Robinson tries in the first 15 minutes. He of the dancing feet and the Scottish mother was largely shackled this time. It was his chipping right boot, though, which gave England their opening try, against the highly spirited, highly-disciplined blue-shirted tide of play. It was a gift, too, Ben Cohen applying the formality of the scoring touch courtesy of a woeful swipe at the ball in the in-goal area by Ben Hinshelwood.

Having played at right-back for the English World Cup winners beaten by Scotland at Wembley 37 years ago, Cohen's uncle George would have savoured the moment. It might have been different thereafter had another England old boy, Simon Danielli, once a Red Rose schoolboy, not spilled the ball a tantalising two metres from the line.

Danielli's later score was the very least that Scotland deserved. Sitting in a foreign country, their Australian coach saw his team do things very, very differently indeed. The new Caledonians were unrecognisable from those beaten in Cardiff a week ago. Scottish rugby might not yet be history after all.

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