Stirring Stirling

Rugby diary
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The Independent Online
SUCCESS on a level with Stirling County's is hard to match. When the seven Scottish divisions were founded 19 years ago, Stirling County started in the seventh. Last Saturday, after a 13-9 win over Boroughmuir, they became champions of the First Division. As the celebrations, which will run until the end of the season, began, there rose the chant: "No one likes us, we don't care." For Stirling County, read Wimbledon FC.

"With Stirling County being such a new club, we're seen as outsiders," Ian Jardine, the team's injured international, said. "Other clubs haven't accepted us, their coaches haven't rated us and the media have criticised our style of play." So how long will it take to settle in? "We'd need to win the league eight years in a row," Muff Scobie, their assistant coach, says.

But in Stirling no one is surprised. "The victory was won 20 years ago," says Bill Gibson, the president, referring to the days when Ian Nelson, an ex-army club stalwart, formed the foundations of Stirling's success by installing Scotland's first mini- and midi-rugby system. "Nelson just watched it grow," Gibson said, "and he was down there on Saturday with a tear in his eye."

Over half of Saturday's team came through the junior system, proof that the initiative works, and Nelson's blueprint for success has been copied by most of Stirling's rivals. Jardine and his team-mates, however, pay tribute to the club seniors who put them within reach of the title in the first place. Scobie is one of the cherished few who charged through six promotions, skipping from the Seventh to Third Division in successive seasons, before being detained for seven frustrating years in the Second.

Nevertheless, success still took them by surprise when it arrived. No one expected Watsonians, who were in second place, to lose to West of Scotland last weekend and settle the title. From Stirling's final whistle, it took 15 minutes for news to filter through from Watsonians - but in no time at all, the familiar chant had been struck up: "No one likes us, we don't care."

SCOTLAND and Ireland, who had threatened not to comply with the Home Unions' bid to stage the 1999 World Cup and so ruin its chances of success, are thought to be a lot happier after a day of talks at Heathrow last Thursday. Sources claim that concessions from Wales and England mean that Scotland and Ireland will each now stand to stage an entire pool - rather than merely their home matches - and either a semi-final or the third- place play-off. This would put them on a level footing with England while Wales, who head the bid, will stage a pool, the opening match and finish off with the final in Cardiff.

TWO former Lions, Peter Winterbottom and David Sole, are soon to embark on separate international fund-raising escapades. While Winterbottom is leading a sponsored overland expedition to Cape Town in South Africa (to raise money for the Richard Langhorn Memorial Trust), Sole will fly overhead in his bid to break the world record for circumnavigating the globe (in aid of The Gordon Highlanders Museum Campaign). The record in Sole's sights is held by a monk and stands at 67 hours; he intends to shave off two hours. His main worry is the possibility of being delayed by fog while trying to land in New Zealand though he says that hijacking by terrorists may also prove to be a problem.

THE Cambridge side to face Oxford in today's women's Varsity match go equipped with advice from Martin Bayfield, who recently attended a training session. Bayfield was hugely impressed with the enthusiasm he found, though he says: "You've got to be careful. You have to think where you put your hands."