QBE Behind Enemy Lines Part 1: The Ghost of 6 Nations Past

TTT recently had the pleasure of attending an exclusive Q&A event with some true rugby greats. Five international legends, boasting over 250 caps between them were on fine form at an event hosted by QBE.

In a no-holds-barred evening of insight, banter and some amazing old-school rugby stories, the panel of Martin Bayfield, Scott Quinnell, Serge Betsen, Conor O’Shea and Kenny Logan waxed lyrical about their memories of playing in the tournament and their thoughts on their respective nations today. In the first of a series of three blogs, the guys looked back at some of the highlights of their own 6 (and Five) Nations memories…

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Martin Bayfield: Let’s have a bit of a trip down memory lane. Serge what’s your moment from the 6 Nations that stands out for you?

Serge Betsen: I have to say I had a tricky moment against England in 2000. I should add my first cap was in 1997 against Italy and we lost but three years later in the first 6 Nations game in Paris, Bernard Laporte put me on the bench. I was so excited to play my first game in the 6 Nations that 1min and 30 secs after coming on I was sent off with a yellow card! And that’s how I found out that 1min and 30 secs is too short a time to achieve your dream and enjoy it! So the following year I did a lot of work to control myself and be focused and then in 2002 we had an incredible tournament and we won the 6 Nations. 2002 was the best year ever.

MB: Kenny what about you?

Kenny Logan: For me it was 1999. Scottish Rugby was very strong in the 90s. We’d won a Grand Slam [in 1990], then I got my first cap in 1992. Ireland hadn’t beaten us for a decade – the closest they’d come was a draw [in 1994] – and in 1999 we won the Five Nations and to win a trophy with your country is great. In 1999 we played France in Paris and then Neil Jenkins had a kick to beat England at Wembley. We beat France quite well, scored five tries – in fact we looked like the French – it was brilliant.

I was the goal kicker for Scotland at the time and I had a situation where I’ve kicked everything from all over the pitch – from the touchline, the halfway – and then Alan Tait goes in under the posts. I used to hate the kicks from in front of the posts, so I put the ball down and do my usual stuff. What I normally did was draw a line straight between the posts – you never kicked to the posts, you kicked beyond, through the posts. And as I looked up there’s a massive screen and I’m on it. And I think to myself, ‘This is brilliant!’ So I wink. And I chuckle to myself. And I hit the post!

Afterwards Jim Telfer was fuming and Gary Armstrong, who was the captain at the time, asked, “What were you thinking?”! These were the days when we played on the Saturday and we had to wait for the England-Wales result on the Sunday but Neil Jenkins hit his kick and we won the Five Nations, so that for me was amazing.

MB: And Scott for you?

Scott Quinnell: I suppose it has to be my first ever game as a 20year-old. In those days you used to have photos taken before the game. Everyone’s serious but I couldn’t believe it; there I am standing next to all these guys, like Phil Davies, and I was so proud. As I look at the photographer a lady behind him in a Sottish jersey pulls her top up and she had the biggest breasts you’ve ever seen! And that was the happiest photo I’ve ever had taken. I thought to myself, ‘If this is international rugby, I love it!” I’ve got that photo on the wall at home and every time I walk past it I chuckle to myself.

MB: And Conor?

Conor O’Shea: I think Kenny touched upon the fact the 90s weren’t great times for Irish rugby. I played Scotland six times, drew once and lost five times. So beating England 12-13 in 1994 at Twickenham was quite enjoyable!

I was the young guy then but I’d got a few caps whereas Maurice Field was a young centre making his international debut, so he needed to relax the night before. So he went out with the subs – the whole subs bench went out and had five or six pints. He woke up the next morning and felt really good; very relaxed. He won his first International and never looked back. Nowadays of course that wouldn’t happen and in one respect it’s a great story but half a terrible story because the culture wasn’t quite right. There’s always been that passion but gradually as professionalism came they got the fitness levels and focus right. Importantly what has been retained is the ability to have a beer and a laugh with the opposition rather than having your celebration the night before.

The rugby legends were speaking exclusively at an event hosted by QBE, official insurance partner of England Rugby. For more great rugby videos and interviews, go to: www.qberugby.com and follow @QBErugby on Twitter.

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