IT’S more than a quarter of a century since I first witnessed the Princess Royal belt out the words of Flower of Scotland with true gusto at a Murrayfield rugby showdown, writes GERRY GREEN.
The Scottish Rugby Union’s shameless Patron will join her beloved Tartan army again this weekend in yelling for England’s downfall at the 2016 Six Nations opener in Edinburgh.
Princess Anne has been a permanent fixture at Scotland games ever since the historic day that David Sole’s unlikely lads won their last Grand Slam after taking the field in a slow march which ”psyched out’ Will Carling’s white-hot favourites in 1990.
In those days I was rugby union correspondent of the Glasgow-based Scottish Sun– and the Queen’s daughter was already as much a fixture at the big games as any star player.
The orchestrated pre-match schedule would see HRH tootle enthusiastically along the massed ranks of playersand officials before kick-off being introduced to all and sundry.The only clue to her partisanship came in the form of animated individual conversations with each and every member of the Scotland squad…and one-syllable greeting to enemy troops.
The loyal McPrincess would then lead the crowd in a Party Political Chorus of ‘Flower of Scotland’, the anti-English words to the Scottish anthem delivered with the sheer passion of the leader of the Bonnie Wee Lassie Slay the Sassenachs Royalty Group.
To this day, I cannot understand why a leading member of the British Royal Family would wish to participate in a song which encourages separatism and friction between two great nations steeped in a gloriously bloody history on the battlefield and now floundering like stranded fish unable to survive independently of each other (a Salmond and a Sturgeon come to mind).
The Calcutta Cup has been an inextricable part of Scotland v England rugby fixtures since 1879 and this weekend’s Six Nations opener promises to be a real humdinger as England’s new look regime look to avenge the humiliation of Stuart Lancaster’s men in the World Cup.
Incoming head coach Eddie Jones brings with him a colourful CV. The half-Japanese Aussie said sayonara to Tokyo after leading the Land of the Rising Scrum to the greatest World Cup triumph ever – victory over the mighty South Africans in last autumn’s World Cup.
He won’t underestimate the Scots, written off before the finals but then robbed of true glory by an appalling refereeing error which cost them a deserved place in the semi-final.
If the Scots raise their game to the same level this weekend, new skipper Dylan Hartley and his boys could be in for a major shock. But I’m taking the Sweet Chariot to swing high again – and Wales, back at full strength after their World Cup injury crisis, to beat reigning Six Nations champs Ireland in Dublin.
That would set the scene for the showdown every Englishman wants – a chance to avenge the humiliation by the Taffs at Twickenham which saw them become the first World Cup hosts ever to be KO’d before the knockout stages.