When Finn Russell and Dan Biggar commence an ineluctable remonstrating dogfight during Saturday’s game, observers would do well to flash back how far the game has come.
This weekend’s Six Nations match marks the 60th anniversary of a game that holds a firm place in rugby ignominy.
The Murrayfield slugfest in 1963 is regarded as one of the melancholy matches ever played- and it changed the way the game was played ever.
And one man was responsible for the’ spectacle’- Clive Rowlands.
The Big snap of 1963 was among the harshest layoffs on record.
Sporting institutions across the country were cancelled, still the recently installed undersoil heating at Murrayfield and an army of levies with snow shovels assured the February game between Scotland and Wales went ahead.
Still, numerous of the,000 who brazened the bitter cold wave may have wished they had not.
Wales won 6- 0. Although at the time such a scoreline was commonplace, the aspect that had sticklers crying into their beer were the tactics employed that day by the callers tactics that yielded an astonishing 111 line- outs. The normal for transnational rugby moment is infrequently further than 20.
As Denis Busher of the Daily Herald wrote at the time” transnational rugby is in its death fray as a onlooker sport. Wales won carrying’ ultramodern’ power rugby to its logical conclusion.”
Wales’ trainer Warren Gatland will be familiar with the notice, but 60 times ago it was the sly Rowlands who decided for muscle over smarts.
The Wales scrum- half and captain spotted an occasion with some bedtime reading the night before the match.
According to the matchday programme, the rival sets of forwards were unevenly matched in terms of size. Rowlands, still, suspected else.
After checking with a many of his forwards, who admitted to being a many pounds heavier than the functionary records, and given the conditions, Rowlands decided Wales would try to beat Scotland at their own game up front.
At a time when there was no penalty for remonstrating the ball straight into touch, indeed outside the 25- yard line- now the 22m line- Rowlands set about overriding the ball up field time, and time. and time again.
The power of the Wales pack and the implacable shower of kicks projected Scotland back for all but the final moments of a game that also included further than 35 scrums.
The Wales tails may have boasted speed and craftiness, but were reduced to observers. It’s said their supremely blessed outside- half David Watkins entered just two passes from Rowlands all game.
Wales centre Brian Davies, who was dropped for the coming match, said” I touched the ball doubly and could hardly feel my hands in the cold wave.”
Wales won at Murrayfield for the first time in 10 times, thanks to a penalty from full- reverse Grahame Hodgson and a stunning drop thing from Rowlands the only transnational points he scored.
Rowlands was carried from the pitch on the shoulders of travelling suckers and was unashamed about his tactics.
” It wasn’t seductive and I felt sorry for the tails,” he said after the match.” But we were all out to win and we played to win. The pack did a great job.
” I was noway at any time tempted to open the game up and let my tails make the handling. That is what Scotland were soliciting we would do.”
No palm for rugby’
sympathizers may have been triumphant, but there were serious misgivings over where the game was heading.
In the Daily Express, Pat Marshall concluded” This was power- rugby, severely bludgeoned up and down the touchlines by two animalistic packs with remonstrating scrum- halves yapping at their heels.
” It has no part in the pattern of British rugby, where swiftness of wit and speediness of bottom still counts for further than muscle supported by an educated charge. Rowlands won a politic palm, but it was no palm for rugby.”
Others followed suit and steadily the authorities were moved to borrow the’ Australian division’ and ban direct remonstrating to touch from outside the 25- yard line some times latterly.
The irony is that the platoon that advantaged the most from the law changes was the great Wales platoon of the early 1970s- counseled of course by Rowlands.