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(Parts of this article in Italics first appeared in Rugby Today in 2014.)
It’s time to reminisce about my first test match, the time I saw Scotland v. England play in the Calcutta Cup of 1963 at Twickenham. I spotted rugby posters advertising the game in the London Underground, trained to the stadium on Saturday, and paid four-shillings ($.56) for a standing ticket.
Noticing a blue flag unknown to me, I asked what it represented. A nearby standee responded, “Scotland.” My naïve question revealed that I was an American who had only ever seen England’s Cross of St. George on Crusaders' shields and banners. Familiar also was the multi-colored Union Jack flag. (Remember, this was decades before national flags appeared on the World Rugby website.)
In the second half, with Scotland leading 8-5, England’s fly-half sold three dummies for a 40-yard score that became known as “Sharp’s Wonder Try.” I saw none of it, the run of play heading to the far try line and out of my sight. England was victorious 10-8. A few years ago, I wrote Richard Sharp, who responded:
“Orthodox attacking moves were difficult if not impossible following set scrums. One of the best strategies was to carry out a dummy scissor with one of the centers.”
I found online www/britishpathe.com, a repository of newsreels from the beginning of film in the U.K. I discovered that 1963 Calcutta Cup and witnessed the miraculous run. If a fan is interested in viewing old footage of Six Nations' rugby games, access this site for a nostalgic trip back in time. The key search word is “Richard Sharp” for this film, and his other test matches in 1962 and 1963.
I retain two other memories from having seen that Calcutta Cup; the people around me were intrigued about the growth of rugby in America (About 25 teams in the Eastern Rugby Union in 1963.) Secondly, I was informed later that the England selectors planned to drop Sharp if he failed to score. The film clearly reveals an overlap with two open English backs in support on his outside.
This Saturday’s clash will represent the 135th game between these ancient rivals, who met in the first ever match between nations in 1871 when rugby featured twenty-players a side. England hold a significant advantage with a 74-42-18 record over the Scots. The Cup is silver and made in India. It is adorned with cobras and an elephant.
Scotland have not won at Twickenham since 1983, and last won the Calcutta Cup in 2008.
On March 11, can the Scots halt England’s seventeen game consecutive win streak?