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17 October 2014

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First Scottish Grand Slam

Murrayfield in 1993
The 1924-1925 season proved to be a memorable one for Scottish Rugby Union. The start of the season saw a significant name change for the sport's governing body, which went from the Scottish Football Union (SFU) to the Scottish Rugby Union (SRU).

Scottish rugby also saw the beginning of a new era in another sense, with the final game of the season, the home game against England, being played at the new Murrayfield ground. The SRU's move to the new ground would live long of the memory of fans, culminating in Scotland's first ever Grand Slam win.

Yet a Grand Slam success was probably a very distant dream for the home supporters who made up the vast majority of the 20,000-strong crowd who saw the first fixture of that international season, a home game against France which was played at Inverleith.

On the other hand, the previous season had seen Scotland winning both their home games, against Wales and Ireland, whilst losing both away games, to France and England, so perhaps there would have been some confidence around about a home game against the French, who were no great travellers in those days.

Indeed perhaps the omens for the sensational season which lay ahead may have been there to be seen by those who studied the cosmos, as this particular game was "marked by a partial eclipse of the sun which reached its maximum during the second half without interrupting play."*

One other feature about that first fixture which may have presented some sort of omen to point towards possible Scottish success was that that opening fixture took place on 25 January 1925, on the anniversary of Robert Burns' birthday. With the bard's spirit behind them, surely the Scottish team could not fail!

The stars of the Scottish team in this Grand Slam season were mainly amongst their back division, who showed a combination of pace, style and superb tackling, operating behind a workmanlike and solid pack, which all in all was to prove to be a recipe for real success which was unrivalled for any Scotland team beforehand, or indeed for another 59 years later.

It may be wrong to pick out particular heroes from a team that gained such merit as a unit, but perhaps if such a choice must be made, it would not be wrong to select centre George MacPherson and wingers Johnny Wallace and Ian Smith as worthy of special honour.

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