England 6-11 Scotland: Scottish Rugby backs players who did not kneel

Scottish Rugby says it supports those players who did not take a knee before Saturday's historic Calcutta Cup win over England.

All but four of the Scotland team stayed standing, as did some England players and the match officials.

There was no directive from World Rugby or the Six Nations other than that there would be a minute's silence to demonstrate opposition to racism.

Scottish Rugby says it is up to each individual player how they mark it.

The union add that it "fully supports" efforts to end discrimination and confirmed that similar tributes will be paid before Saturday's Six Nations meeting with Wales at Murrayfield.

A silence was held at each of Scotland's Autumn Nations Cup matches late last year and no players kneeled during those.

Similarly, none of the players did so before Sunday's Six Nations game between Wales and Ireland.

"Our players are free to demonstrate their support for this important issue in the way they see fit," read a Scottish Rugby statement.

Coach Gregor Townsend told BBC Scotland he "100%" backs his players and said it had not been discussed as a squad beforehand.

Of the England side, Billy Vunipola and Ben Earl have previously spoken about why they do not kneel. Similarly, the Exeter Chiefs players among the team have chosen not to in previous matches.

Scotland won the match 11-6 for their first victory over England at Twickenham since 1983.

Townsend backs Scotland players amid kneeling controversy


BBC Scotland's chief sports writer Tom English

The acclamation of Scotland's victory at Twickenham was interrupted, in part, by a gathering furore over 'kneegate', the incident that saw all bar a couple of England players kneel to highlight racial inequality and fight discrimination, while only four of the Scots did the same.

Gregor Townsend spoke about it on BBC Radio Scotland on Sunday morning, and Scottish Rugby issued a statement later on, stressing the commitment of all at Murrayfield to eliminating the scourge of racism while pointing out that how players express their views on such matters is a personal choice. That did little, or nothing, to bring clarity to what happened, though. Or to quell the rising tide of objection.

The players who did not kneel, 19 of Scotland's 23-man squad, have come in for some heavy criticism. The game of rugby union itself was hauled over the coals by some who argued that had footballers not taken the knee in a similar way then there would have been a national outcry and vitriolic response from the public and politicians alike.

It turns out that there is a more straightforward explanation to all of this. It was not so much players making a personal choice about whether to take the knee or not, and more about a vaguely comedic moment in the preamble to one of Scotland's greatest rugby days of the past 40 years.

In all Test matches since, and including, the November series, no country has taken the knee before kick-off, the understanding being that their opposition to racism would be articulated by way of an in-stadium announcement about the evils of bigotry.

In the build-up to the Calcutta Cup, there was no talk of either side taking the knee. In the huge organisational processes surrounding these games it was not ever discussed.

The presumption, on Scotland's part, was that the procedures of November would apply to the Six Nations. In the game that preceded England v Scotland on Saturday - Italy v France in Rome - there was no taking the knee. On Sunday, when Wales hosted Ireland, the same applied.

When the England players took the knee, some of their Scottish counterparts saw them doing it and were taken aback. None of them were expecting it. It might have been the one time all day that England took them by surprise.

Chris Harris and Ali Price appeared to be the first to spot it. Immediately, they took the knee. Cameron Redpath was standing next to Harris - Redpath took the knee. Jonny Gray was standing next to Price - Gray took the knee. Most of the other Scottish players had no idea any of this was going on. From their vantage point in the team line, they could not see who was doing what.

Not taking the knee was not a political statement or a snub to the Black Lives Matter movement or even, as Scottish Rugby suggested, a reflection of the players expressing a personal choice of how to illustrate their opposition to racism. It was a piece of slapstick before one of the greatest, and in many cases, the greatest day of their rugby lives.

The storm over 'kneegate' has bemused every one of them.

Banner Image Reading Around the BBC - BlueFooter - Blue