Rugby balls

GOOD luck to Scotland in the Six Nations today. Many of you might agree with the rugby fan in the Glasgow west end pub watching a Six Nations game, who was wearing a T-shirt with the printed message: "Football is 90 mins of pretending you're hurt. Rugby is 80 mins of pretending you're not.”

The old gag, of course, is the one about the rugby player claiming he had come out of a rough scrum with bruised testicles, before adding: "I've no idea who they belonged to."

Just mince

LOOKING back at Diary stories on rugby we once mentioned a forward, arriving in the pub one Saturday evening after a match, where his face had obviously come off worst in the shenanigans that go on in the scrum. One of the pub's worthies looked at him and came out with the memorable line: 'My goad, son – you've got a face like a butcher's flair'."

Sleep on it

TODAY's match is, of course, at Murrayfield. A Helensburgh reader once told us that he and his pal in Edinburgh for the rugby thought they would get the train from Waverley to Haymarket for the game rather than walk there. It is the shortest rail journey you can take from Waverley. When they asked for two tickets to Haymarket the ticket clerk, who had never sold a ticket to Haymarket before, asked: "Dae yiz want tae book a sleeper?'"

La la land

WE also recall the 30 French rugby fans in Scotland for the Six Nations who booked in for a wine-tasting evening the night before at Glasgow restaurant La Bonne Auberge. One of them phoned beforehand to ask which Scottish wines they would be sampling. The manager said he was keeping the best to last – a peaty little thing called La Gavulin.

Seeing red

AMERICAN comic and actor Steve Martin has been a frequent visitor to Scotland and once recalled: "The first time I came to Scotland I was 21. When I got off the train the streets were full of people laughing, drinking and puking. I thought this place was incredible ... and it's only Thursday.

"I assumed this was something that went on all the time. Then I learned these people were there for a rugby game between Scotland and Wales.”

Suck it and see

WE can't let a column on rugby go by without mentioning the late great commentator Bill McLaren. Former internationalist Kenny Logan once recalled Bill giving him a famous Hawick Ball sweet before an international game and telling him it would make him run faster. Kenny joked with him that he had given Hawick Balls to so many players that he wouldn't be any faster than the rest of them.

"Aye," replied Bill, "but I never gave any to the English.”

Roll up

RUGBY is not just about the game, of course, as many folk use their membership of a rugby club to let off a little bit of steam. We once wrote about a boisterous rugby club annual dinner where the guest speaker was droning on interminably. One unruly guest could stand it no longer, and threw a bread roll at the speaker, but hit the chairman of the event, who was sitting next to him, squarely on the head. The chairman merely stood up and announced: "Hit me again – I can still hear him.”

Cap it

TALKING of rugby club dinners, a reader at a Dollar Academy dinner was much taken with guest speaker Iain Milne, the former international rugby player, explaining that he was capped 44 times for Scotland. His brother Kenny was capped 39 times for his country. Their brother David managed only one cap for Scotland.

"Or as he likes to tell people," explained Iain, "he's one of the three Milne brothers who between them have played 84 times for Scotland."