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17 October 2014

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The 1938 Triple Crown

Wilson Shaw


As had occurred in the 1925 Grand Slam season, once again it was their backs who stole the headlines for Scotland during the 1938 Triple Crown success. One name was elevated amongst the rest for the brilliance of his performances, that of the captain, the remarkable Robert Wilson Shaw. Shaw, known throughout his career simply as Wilson, was a genius without equal on his day; he had all the tools that were required of a world-class rugby back. He was lightning fast, he had great running ability and could change direction so quickly and effortlessly as to leave even the finest defender flailing in his wake, he could pass and dummy with equal effectiveness.

He did have weaknesses to his game, in that he was not a strong kicker of a rugby ball and his tackling was far from the strongest part of his game. The biggest problem with Shaw's game however was his inconsistency. Shaw was an enigma, on the wrong day his play could prove wayward and he was as capable of benefiting the opposition as his own side.

Older Scottish rugby fans, who remember Shaw's playing days, have compared Wilson Shaw with Scottish record cap holder Gregor Townsend, another flawed genius who delivered outstanding performances with rank bad ones in almost equal measure. Like Townsend the selectors could hardly ever agree on Wilson Shaw's best position for the international side; he played at wing, fly half and in the centre (Shaw occasionally also played at full-back for his club side Glasgow HSFP). Fly-half was arguably his best position and it was in this position that Shaw shone during the 1938 Triple Crown campaign.

With France not competing during the 30's, Scotland would face only three fixtures in 1938; the first of these was a Murrayfield game against Wales. This game took place in Edinburgh on 5th February 1938 and was an extremely tense affair, decided by a late penalty kick from Crawford, to give Scotland a narrow 8-6 victory, although the Welsh, who scored two tries to one, might have won had they taken their kicking opportunities.

Wilson Shaw had an outstanding game, in a game otherwise dominated by defences. Though he did not personally make the scoresheet, his outstanding running and incisive breaks kept the Welsh on their toes throughout and he was instrumental in creating space for Crawford's try. Indeed Crawford scored all of Scotland's points on the day.

Ireland came to Murrayfield for the second fixture of the season, three weeks later, on 26th February 1938. This proved to be a far more expansive and open game of rugby than the Wales game, with both sides scoring four tries apiece in a highly entertaining game of running rugby, where once again Shaw was the star of the show, doing just about everything else apart from putting his own name on the scoresheet. Forrest (2), Macrae and Drummond scored Scotland's tries, whilst O'Loughlin, Moran, Cromey and Morgan did likewise for the visiting Irish side.

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