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'Billy keeps walking past saying, Beyonce, what's wrong with you?'

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

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Double Heineken Champions Cup winner Jim Hamilton has amusingly recalled the incredible 24 hours he had when Saracens won the 2017 tournament. The retiring lock got to play 40-odd seconds of the final in what was his last outing as a professional player and he went on to enjoy a raucous night of celebration that he wound up paying a heavy price for the following day when the club took the train back to London from Edinburgh. 

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The former Scotland lock had decided to finish his career at the age of 35 and after previously being the sort of player to lurk in the background when it came to trophy presentations, Hamilton was front and centre at Murrayfield for the trophy presentation after Saracens had beaten Clermont in the final of a tournament in which he played some part in seven of his club’s nine matches.  

What followed was a memorable night’s high jinks but Hamilton was roughed up the following day, his body suffering the after-effects of the celebrations and he missed out on Saracens selection for the following weekend’s Premiership semi-final at Exeter. 

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Asked on the latest edition of The Rugby Pod, the show he co-hosts with Andy Goode, if he ensured he was out in front by design when it came to the European trophy lift pictures, Hamilton agreed he did it to ensure he would ‘stay current’ the following year in his first season of retirement. “You’re right it was – what a stroke of genius,” he enthused. 

“That is what it was, I knew I was retiring and there is a funny answer and a serious answer. I’m a humble man and in years gone by I was just in the back of pictures, it wasn’t about me. But this one I thought, ‘I’m going out on a high here’. I’d been to the well all season for Saracens, played in nearly every game…

“We got to the final and I remember being stood on the sideline against Clermont in Edinburgh and I was, ‘I’m going to be absolutely devastated if I don’t get on’. Luckily there was a knock-on or something and I looked up and there were 42 seconds to go. The difference between being on the bench to being on the pitch, well you saw the celebrations were like I had just won the World Cup. We hadn’t, we had just won Europe but the celebrations were remarkably different. 

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“I remembered this was my final moment to be front and centre so behind me is Brad Barritt, the captain, even though he is lifting the trophy up. Maro (Itoje) and Owen (Farrell), you can’t even see them. And me and Petrus du Plessis, who was on par with me in terms of stealing a living, we are literally jumping up and down in front in the picture and that went viral because that was the intro to all the games of the European Cup for the year after – so rightly deserved is what I should say. 

“That was my final moment as a rugby player. What you saw in that picture was me, the man who felt he deserved that moment, and that was it, that was the last time I stepped on a rugby field. I was absolutely bolloxed having played 40 seconds and that was it, the final hurrah.”

Show co-host Goode wanted to hear more about the five-year-old triumph and he got Hamilton to make fun of himself by recalling the aftermath of that Saracens trophy win, the celebrations that night on the town in Edinburgh followed by him crashing to earth on the following day’s difficult train journey back to London.

“You’d want to speak to Billy Vunipola because he used to call be the Beyonce of Edinburgh – when you go out and get absolutely mobbed so you had to hide. You could imagine the night out, we’re in The Jam House, me and Kelly Brown are on stage. Genuinely I felt like I was a Red Hot Chilli Pepper, I was flying… I’m living the dream. Get back to the hotel about three or four in the morning and I couldn’t get out of bed the next day,” recounted Hamilton.

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“Thought I had food poisoning. Thought I had alcohol poisoning and that was the start of the illness and the retirement that came off the back of that. I remember getting the train back the next day because we had Exeter in the semi-final the Saturday after and I am on the train and I’m lying by the toilet. 

“You talk about rock and roll, I am lying on my back by the toilet, Billy keeps walking past saying, ‘Beyonce, what’s wrong with you?’ Someone’s poisoned me, something has happened and my last memory of that weekend – and everyone’s memory because they have all got videos and pictures – is me in the back of my Mondeo, Kelly’s missus is driving me to stay at their house because I was that ill and my head’s hanging out the window and everyone’s shouting ‘Beyonce’s going home’.”  

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