It’s been claimed that rules are for the obedience of fools and guidance of wise men.
And, while structures are essential, that line allows me flexibility when considering how Scottish you have to be to represent our sports teams.
From mid-2012 a Dutchman, Tim Visser, will be eligible to represent Scotland’s rugby team under a three-year residency qualification.
Some, like Visser, pictured below, seem to blend naturally into our sporting landscape through plying his trade at Edinburgh and enjoying Capital living.
As he continues fulfilling his qualification, not only does Visser keep on learning, but the man who has topped the Magners (now Rabo Direct) League try charts for the past two seasons has much to pass on.
This is an approach contrasting with others who, around the Millennium, became known as the ‘Parachute Regiment’ when, through no fault of their own other than having suitable ancestry, were courted by a Murrayfield Establishment offering caps as a form of inducement and parachuted in ahead of loyal servants. At its worst the regime would even arrange a game to qualify a player.
Equally discomforting is the increasingly prevalent practice elsewhere of trawling through birth certificates so that somebody tenuously qualified but who had never previously considered wearing dark blue might play. Representing Scotland must always be an affair of the heart and worst of all is any argument based on ‘everybody else doing it.’
Rules may be rules but there is another phrases that springs to mind, namely the ‘the law is an ass’ and at some point, surely, principles come into play?
The McVisser case is straightforward, helped by some of his rugby-minded countrymen acknowledging that a high profile Dutch role model appearing in the Six Nations is the best advert of all for growing the sport in the land of the tulip.
Best of all is Visser’s remark: “I can’t consider myself Scottish – I do feel really at home here, and the Scots are a great bunch of people, but I don’t know that I could ever say I feel Scottish.”
Principles cut both ways and Honest Tim’s integrity may mean he is already more of a true Scot at heart than he thinks.
Far better somebody who wants to play but takes time to weigh up the pros and cons than any fly by night!
My five favourite adopted rugby Scots are:
Sean Lineen: Came from New Zealand with no ambitions to represent Scotland but his innovative skills and can-do attitude continue to win friends.
Glen Metcalfe: Ditto the Lineen type arrival; no mean player and so polite he opened doors for commissionaires.
John Allan: More controversial as he returned to represent South Africa but the competition he provided helped make rival Kenny Milne a Lions hooker in ’93.
Dave Hilton: Genuinely shocked to find his grandfather’s birth certificate was unproven. Immediately re-qualified and always wore a smile.
Micky Grant: Capped out of Harlequins in the ’50s and allegedly led out a Murrayfield Trial team out with the words ‘let’s get into these Scottish b******s. Honest to a fault!
Travails of the coach . .
“Who’d be a coach?” asks Gregor Townsend this week in referring to the dismissals of Jacques Delmas at Perpignan and Graham Dawe at Plymouth Albion.
As a player Gregor could pick defences like no other, as seen with a try in each game of Scotland’s 1999 Five Nations triumph, a feat that perhaps contributed to a well deserved MBE.
He maybe needs to pick his words a bit more carefully, though, at a time when England boss Martin Johnson has just exited stage left having entered the upper reaches also without having taken charge of a club side.
The recent records of both Dawe and Delmas are five wins from 12 outings; Gregor has a six from 12 ratio as Scottish attack coach leaving a bit of leeway in comparison to that pair. But only just.
And in answer to the question posed on Gregor’s Twitter page Craig Chalmers (Melrose) Ally Donaldson (Currie) are both clubmen with proven records who are on the ascendancy and who might just throw their hats into the ring at national level – if it ever gets too much for current incumbents.