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Cotter snub left me wanting Scotland to lose – Jim Hamilton

By Tim Groves

Former Scotland second row Jim Hamilton has revealed that Vern Cotter spoke to him “like a dog” and misled him when dropping him from the 2015 World Cup squad and it left him wanting his own country to lose.

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Hamilton, who won 63 caps for Scotland between 2006 and 2015, played in two of the three warm-up matches before being discarded to make way for Tim Swinson, who had been on honeymoon and not taken part in the pre-tournament training camp.

And, to add insult to injury, he says he was told by Cotter, who is now the head coach of Montpellier, that only three second rows were being included in the final squad when four were actually chosen.

“I got dropped from the 2015 World Cup squad and I was surprised I didn’t get in but the way that I was mishandled by the coach was the worst thing that ever happened in my career,” he revealed on The Rugby Pod.

“I ended up getting a phone call on a Saturday to tell me that I wasn’t in the squad as they were only taking three second rows, Richie Gray, Jonny Gray and Grant Gilchrist. I told him [Cotter] I was disappointed but that I appreciated his honesty and would be at home waiting.

“Greig Laidlaw then rang me on the Saturday night, asked if I’d seen the squad and said he was gutted I hadn’t made it but he mentioned that Tim Swinson was in the squad.

“I thought it was a mistake. Swinson had been on his honeymoon for six weeks and then got called up to the World Cup squad, having not done a day’s training.

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“I flew up to Scotland after he told me, had a few beers on my own and went into the office at 6am the next day. I went in, shook Vern’s hand and said, ‘That’s the end of the road for me.’

“He told me there might be injuries but he had four second rows. He didn’t even have the decency or respect to tell me that he was taking four second rows and he told me that he was only taking three.

“I was in that team for 10 years, played 63 times for that country and gave everything and he didn’t even have the decency to tell me that straight. I think that is disgusting.”

Jim Hamilton winning the Champions Cup with Saracens
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Hamilton, who went on to win back-to-back European Cups with Saracens after retiring from international rugby, says he was in the best shape of his life in the build-up to the 2015 World Cup and that the perceived absence of a handshake might even have contributed to his omission.

“I was the fittest I’d ever been when I turned up to the pre-World Cup training camp. I got 19.2 in the Yo-Yo test, which was the highest score I’d ever got, and I beat all the other front five forwards. That meant that I had to train with all the back rows when we got to France and were training at altitude, while the other front five forwards were doing strongman sessions,” he said.

“I was a hundred metres behind the next person and Vern was shouting, ‘Show me how much you want to be here’.

“My eyes were in the back of my head but I was just trying to keep my head down and keep going.

“I played in two of the three warm-up matches and we won both of them against Ireland and Italy away. I actually started in the Italy game. I wasn’t meant to but Grant Gilchrist was ill on the day of the game. We won the game in horrible conditions and the next morning we had to be down for team breakfast at 5am before heading home.

“Vern had this rule that everyone had to shake each other’s hands in the morning, which I didn’t agree with. Nobody was shaking hands that morning because it was so early, everyone was rushing and some guys were ill but Vern smashed his hand on the table, stood up and called me out.

“He said, ‘You should know better. Get outside now. You should be shaking people’s hands!’

“He was speaking to me like a dog.”

Hamilton also revealed that Cotter didn’t like the fact that his “enforcer” image on the pitch didn’t match his more relaxed personality off it and says the whole episode meant he couldn’t even watch Scotland’s games at the World Cup and he even ended up wanting them to lose.

“Honestly, it got to the point where I didn’t want Scotland to win. There was a part of me that did because my mates were there but deep down I didn’t want them to win,” he said.

“I could sit here and say that I wanted to Scotland to win the World Cup but I was raging. I couldn’t even watch their games. Someone told me Scotland were beating Australia and I was devastated.

“The competitive edge inside you does say that if you’re not playing, you don’t want them to do well.

“It took me about a year to get over that and want Scotland to do well again.”

Click here to listen to the latest episode of The Rugby Pod…

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