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The Townsend verdict on call to ditch Flower of Scotland anthem

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Craig Williamson/SNS Group via Getty Images)

Gregor Townsend has explained why he doesn’t back a call from former Scotland coach Jim Telfer for Flower of Scotland to be ditched as the team’s national anthem. It was 1990 when the song was first used for rugby, firing up the Scots before they beat England in the famed winner-takes-all Grand Slam showdown at Twickenham.


That 13-7 win was secured against a backdrop of unrest in Scotland over the early introduction of the poll tax north of the border and members of the beaten English team have since claimed they were the victims of xenophobia that day.

The story of that rumbustious match has been now been retold at length in The Grduge, the 80-minute documentary that premiered last week on BT Sport ahead of the February 4 Twickenham showdown between the two countries in the 2023 Guinness Six Nations.

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In the meantime, Telfer, who first spoke about wanting to bin Flower of Scotland a decade ago, recently reiterated his wish for the rugby team’s anthem – which recounts Scotland’s victory over ‘proud Edward’s’ army at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314 – to be shelved as he believes it is inappropriate in these modern times.

“Flower of Scotland is a great song in a way and it does get the hairs on your neck straightening and standing up, but because it’s against another country, I still don’t think it’s the ideal anthem,” he said in a Times interview.

“People sing that song, sing about the English, and it’s just in the moment. After the anthem has passed, we just get on with the game or whatever it is we’re doing. They use it at the Commonwealth Games and so on but I still don’t think it should be the national anthem. That’s still how I see it.”


Asked for his thoughts on the playing of Flower of Scotland just prior to his team kicking off in their Test rugby matches, current boss Townsend said: “I love it. It’s one of the unique occasions in sport, maybe more so at Murrayfield when the second verse is played without the accompaniment of music.

“Whenever I played a few places outside of Scotland and they always wanted to play Flower of Scotland, whether it was Australia or France, they loved the anthem so it means a lot to our supporters. They also seem to want to continue.”

New Scotland skipper Jamie Ritchie added: “What else would we sing? I don’t know. For me, there is something really special about singing it at home. When the music cuts out the crowd feels it as well. I couldn’t think of going without it.”


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