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Gary Armstrong

Gary Armstrong

BornEdinburgh, April 30 1966
PositionScrum Half
Internationals51 caps between 1988 and 1999
InductedEngland v Scotland (March 21, 2009)

Twickenham is a special place. That is the long and the short of it, as far as Gary Armstrong is concerned.

Sadly Armstrong never tasted victory on the ground, although under his captaincy in 1999 Scotland got dangerously close to a win, and in his first appearance there the Scots forced a 12-12 draw.

“In general my memories of Twickenham are of us leaving the ground with tail between legs,” said a rueful Armstrong. “But there was always a great atmosphere at the ground, even before the redevelopment. And you have the car parks filled with posh cars and the boots of those cars filled with champagne, as opposed to cans of beer. A Twickenham match is just a great occasion.”

In particular before the redevelopment took place, many visiting players found themselves at times uncomfortably close to the spectators and the noise was deafening. As Armstrong said: “It was always nice to try to silence the crowd, although that was a bit difficult at times.”

Perhaps it was difficult because not only were the Scots playing away, but Calcutta Cup matches always seem to have an edge over other fixtures. “When Scotland meet England, form goes out of the window,” said Armstrong.

There is a weight of history, he felt, one that transcends the boundaries of sport and ventures into the many bloody battles that have been fought between the two countries over the centuries. “I think when Scotland play England, no matter what the sport, there is something else added to it. It is always a big thing and it goes back a long way,” he concluded.

At least in retrospect these two legends of Scottish rugby can look back on their Twickenham experiences with fondness, all trace of traditional cross-border enmity buried.

“I always looked forward to getting into the baths afterwards,” smiled Armstrong. “You didn’t get anything like those baths anywhere else. They had four or five individual baths and showers and it was good. And the pitch was always well looked after.”

Armstrong confessed to feeling hugely honoured at his induction to the Wall of Fame, although he could not resist a gentle quip. “It is not often you get such recognition from the English. All I had ever had out of the English at Twickenham was that draw.”

Article by Dai Llewellyn


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