Scots turn nerves into steel

James Rampton at Murrayfield reports on the rise of the Scottish new guard
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THE Scots were worried yesterday and their skipper, Rob Wainwright, did not mind admitting it. "All the boys were very nervous before the game," he said. "I was exceptionally nervous and I don't usually get like that." But he had nothing to fear. Every ounce of angst was converted into searing, relentless effort, typified by the prop David Hilton, who came out beating his chest as the anthems were played. It was as if he was serving the French with notice to quit.

"I do not like to pick any one individual out," Wainwright added. "If you go through the whole team then they all played like heroes. But we got this incredible feeling as the Murrayfield roar was heard. I was really worried whether we would be able to keep going right to the end. But the feeling I got when the final whistle came was very sweet."

The Scotland coach, Jim Telfer, had only one criticism of his team's win - that they did not make it more emphatic: "I am delighted with this victory, but I honestly feel we could have gone further ahead when we were 16-8 up. I thought we let them off the hook a little."

His French counterpart, Jean-Claude Skrela, was disappointed by defeat and the manner in which it came, but, he said, "the Scottish victory was a beautiful victory." His side, he said, "had not matched the enthusiasm and will of the Scots".

"We had moments when we got back into the game and imposed ourselves," he added, "but there was a lack of constancy, intensity and rhythm. From the start they caught us at the first line of defence. It was the Scottish side that played the French rugby and we must improve."

Scotland made their intentions plain from the first ruck, flinging the ball out to the wing, quickly recycling for the stand-off, Gregor Townsend, to make a break. The Scots ran the ball from everywhere - sometimes to the point of recklessness - and were constantly looking for quick throw-ins and tapped penalties.

The two most thrilling risk- takers were two men with big boots to fill. Neither Rowen Shepherd nor Townsend looked overawed wearing the shirts previously occupied by Gavin Hastings and Craig Chalmers.

At the end, "Flower of Scotland" echoed around Murrayfield and two Scots in kilts jigged on the halfway line. The only nervous men in Edinburgh now were the publicans.