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'Lo and behold, it was the same old England . . .'

The Scots who famously won the 1984 grand slam were a pragmatic bunch, disinclined to indulge in hyperbole or hysteria.

Having disposed of the Welsh at Cardiff, their next assignment was against England at Murrayfield in the 100th meeting between the Auld Enemies, and the visitors - who had sat out the first weekend of the Five Nations - were confident, in the prelude to their journey to Edinburgh. They had defeated the All Blacks in the autumn internationals and seemed to believe it guaranteed them fresh success in the Calcutta Cup, which they had relinquished at Twickenham the previous year.

Yet there was one fundamental problem with that analysis: it boiled down to the fact they weren't very good. John Rutherford, a pivotal influence in his country's success summed it up succinctly: "When you are up against a country which has 10 or 20 times more players than you, there is never any room to be complacent. But we just thought we were better than them that season. It was nothing to do with the baggage which traditionally surrounded that particular match, but more the fact we knew all about their players and the [1983] Lions tour had shown us that we were every bit as good as them. You never take anything for granted, but we felt pretty optimistic."

Jim Telfer, the Scotland coach, had noted that the English were one-dimensional; that their full-back, Dusty Hare, was vulnerable under the high ball and in his kicking duties; and that the scrummaging would be key to the outcome, given the miserable weather on the Saturday of the contest. In every respect, he was vindicated, as his charges surged to a comfortable 18-6 victory in a match where their pack was once again outstanding.

An Iain Paxton hack upfield allowed David Johnston to seize the first try and David Leslie and Alan Tomes were instrumental in setting up the second for Euan Kennedy. England, so cocky and chipper in the build-up, were simply overwhelmed.

The Scottish captain, Jim Aitken, was withering in his assessment of their opponents' display. "To be honest, England were useless. After playing them at Twickenham, I knew they would be exactly the same kind of side a year on," said the captain. "They just could not change their game and, lo and behold, it was the same old England and we won pretty easily."

Suddenly, as the Irish beckoned in Dublin, the realisation began to sink in that this could be a special campaign for Telfer's troops, not least because they left the speculation about Triple Crowns and grand slams to the media and the supporters.

Yet, as Roy Laidlaw admitted: "The majority of the Scotland squad had been together since 1981 and we kept going close and producing the occasional good performance, but we knew we were capable of more than just one or two victories every season. Rudd [Rutherford] was missing from three of the 1983 matches, and Jim [Telfer] wasn't there either, and yet we came really close in every game. So there was definitely a sense of frustration building up and, as we travelled to Dublin, we told ourselves: "Let's make it count this time."

Nobody, though, could have guessed how swiftly and emphatically the Scots would make their presence felt in the Emerald Isle. On a windy afternoon, one where the home captain, Willie Duggan won the toss but elected to kick against the gale in the first half, the visitors soared out of the blocks and the Rutherford-Laidlaw axis worked like the sweetest of dreams.

The nimble little scrum-half scored a brace of tries in the same corner of Lansdowne Road and duly made that part of the ground his own little piece of turf for posterity. In the midst of a swarming, all-pervasive attacking declaration of intent from Scotland, the referee, Fred Howard awarded them a penalty try. Almost miraculously, given the Scots' normal anxieties on the road, they led 22-0 at the interval.

There was no way back for the hosts and the Triple Crown was wrapped up with the minimum of discomfort as Telfer's personnel eventually ran out 32-9 winners. It was a spellbinding display, and Aitken was understandably proud of the mixture of power and panache which they had produced.

"We just played bloody good rugby against Ireland. Some people underestimate that. I hear a lot of stuff about the 1990 side, but we were pretty good as well," said Aitken. "We scored good tries off planned moves and it was our best game [of the season] by a mile, because everything just seemed to work for us."

Behind the scenes, Telfer, the wily old Borderer - one of many from the fastnesses of Melrose, Galashiels, Selkirk, Jedburgh and elsewhere in that memorable squad - had pulled off another masterstroke. On the day before the match, he had shown his personnel a video, not of Rocky or Chariots of Fire, but rather an X-rated rugby exhibition of the South being trounced by the All Blacks the previous autumn.

This featured ten of the Scots who would tackle their Celtic opponents the following afternoon. As Rutherford recalled: "We knew that New Zealand were a tougher proposition than the Irish, but that was an extremely effective wake-up call by the coach. Looking back, it was typical Jim: he always wanted us to learn from our mistakes and the only way we could really do that was to confront them head-on."

Now, it was everything to play for; a battle with the French who were also unbeaten and a precious opportunity for the Scots to book their places in the history books.

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