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Hamilton swears it's time to return to his basic instincts

Jim Hamilton used a rude word on Saturday evening.

And not just any old rude word, but the rudest of the lot. Now if you know your Chaucer you'll know it actually has some literary merit behind it. But we're still not going to print it.

It was about an hour after the game. The crowd had long since dispersed towards the howffs of the capital to celebrate Scotland's win over Italy. Hamilton was sitting in a Murrayfield hospitality suite reflecting on a much-needed victory – and on the changes he had made to help it happen.

"I took a long, hard look at myself last week," he said firmly. "I realised I had been trying to play a game that just isn't natural to me. So I thought, 'right, what got me into being an international player in the first place?' I stripped it back. I'm there to get stuck in. I'm there to be a nasty . . . "

Which is where we hit the watershed. The moment of expletive deletion. Even Hamilton looked a touch sheepish, which is some achievement when you're a 6ft 8in, almost 20st bloke with a heavy beard and even heavier tattoos. "Eh, I'm not sure how you'll want to word that," he muttered.

Neither was I at that point, but we pressed on. Because even if his turn of phrase would have had Jim Telfer swooning like Graham Norton, Hamilton's personal redemption on Saturday had both a heartwarming subtext and a motif for Scotland's wider recovery. Just as the team seemed to be on a precipice in the build-up to the Italy game, it was an open secret that the Gloucester lock's own international future was on the line.

It is not so long since Hamilton was shaping up to be the heartbeat of the Scotland pack. He was becoming our Martin Johnson, the player he modelled himself on when he joined Leicester a dozen years ago. But then things started to go wrong. The caps kept coming, but his influence waned. "Over the past two years, especially with Andy [Robinson], I had been trying to improve my game. I'd been trying to see where I can influence the game, do more, play an offloading game, charge down conversions and all that kind of thing. I'd been trying to get myself into a game that just wasn't natural to me.

"Against England last week I knew I hadn't played as well as I had in the past. I got pelters for it, a lot of criticism. I analysed the game and, although I didn't think I had that bad a game, I just wasn't a force.

"I decided to go back to what I'm really about as a rugby player – to what I do. If that means I'm knackered during a game and I can't run then so be it.

"But I had to go back to basics: hitting rucks, disrupting mauls, scrummaging, lineout. That's what I'm good at doing and that's what's going to get me picked."

Of that he can be sure. Hamilton had looked vulnerable to the challenges offered by Al Kellock and the fast-improving Grant Gilchrist, but he cemented himself back into the side to face Ireland in just under two weeks' time.

He knows he is not Richie Gray or Joe Launchbury or any of the other Action Man locks on the scene today. But he also knows that the Scotland forwards coach, Dean Ryan, is happy for him just to be Jim Hamilton, which is as good a vote of confidence as any player can get. Ryan had left Gloucester by the time Hamilton arrived there just over two years ago. But they had worked together back in the days when Ryan was manager of the England under-21 team, so they knew each other's ways. After the loss to England nine days ago they had a little chat.

"His approach is definitely refreshing," Hamilton said. "He is my kind of coach. He sat down and said to me, 'Jim, I want you to go out there and get stuck in. I know you don't need to think about that. Just do it. You scrum, you maul, you get stuck in'."

It was music to his ears. "I looked him in the eye and I said 'Dean, I can do that with my eyes closed. I can give you that'."

Hamilton was not the star of Scotland's show on Saturday. He was an old-fashioned boilerhouse bruiser who did what old-fashioned boilerhouse bruisers do. He scrummaged hard. He did his bit in the lineout. He roughed up Italy in every way he could. He got stuck in. He was a nasty . . .

No, not that nasty. Hamilton has admitted in the past that rugby kept him on the right side of the tracks, that he has been a bit of a rough diamond in his time, but there is also a gentleness, even humility, about him. There is also a finer rugby mind in there than many would suspect.

"We need to look at what we are," he said at one point. "We're not England. We're not New Zealand. We're Scotland and we've got to look at what we can do to win games."

Job done on that front. As he walked from the pitch on Saturday, Hamilton put an arm round Martin Castrogiovanni, the mighty Italian prop and a former team-mate at Leicester. "He's a great guy," said Hamilton. "A good rugby man."

"You were good," said Castrogiovanni.

"Mate," Hamilton replied, "we weren't going to lose that one. There was no way we were going to lose."

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