With Scotland set to start off their Rugby World Cup campaign against Japan in Gloucester a week today, the memories are already flooding back for former Heriot’s front-row David Milne.
In their opening game of the second World Cup back in 1991, the Scots were pitted against Japan at Murrayfield. In the run-up to the tournament, uncapped prop Milne had been struggling with a back injury, but he made the final squad for the showpiece event.
It meant that he would be involved on the big stage with his brother Kenny, although their other brother Iain – the third member of ‘the Three Bears’ as they became known – missed out through a neck problem.
David, who played most of his club rugby at Goldenacre and also had a stint down south, was named amongst the replacements for the Japan encounter and, as he remembers, was very excited.
“To be named in a match-day squad at a Rugby World Cup was very special at the time,” recalled David, now 56. “In those days, the replacements used to sit high up in the stand behind the Royal Box at Murrayfield and, at the start of the game my brother Kenny, who was also on the bench, joked that the only thing stopping me from getting a cap now was if I tripped and fell going onto the pitch,” .
“As the hour mark came around David Sole was struggling with an injury and I was called down to the touchline. In those days you had to head down the stairs, out the back of the stand and then come through the tunnel.
“Well, as I was heading down the stairs I felt my groin pop and I thought ‘oh no’, but the adrenalin got me through and I got on for what was to be my one and only Scotland appearance for around 20 minutes.”
Scotland won the Pool B match comfortably 47-9 – Scott and Gavin Hastings amongst the try scorers – but in the days leading up to the next encounter with Zimbabwe, David was struggling with his fitness.
He recalls: “With David Sole injured, the coaches were keen for me to play against Zimbabwe, but I knew that I would only be able to give them 20 minutes or half an hour.
“Given that it would have been my first start for Scotland some people may have kept quiet, but a few days before the match I told them that I didn’t think I could play eighty minutes.
“I stayed with the squad, but was not involved and Alan Watt came into the team. David Sole then got fit again and the rest is history. We went on to finish in fourth place overall, Scotland’s best ever World Cup result, and although I only got one cap I was proud to be a part of it.”
Fast forward 24 years and David – who still has a keen interest in the sport and whose son is now playing in the southern hemisphere – is looking forward to seeing how Scotland get on this time around.
He said: “I think the squad have started to come together well during the summer and Vern Cotter seems to be a man who knows what he wants.
“I see absolutely no reason why Scotland should not get out of their pool and then once you are into the knock-out stages anything can really happen.
“Momentum is a great thing for any group of players so the opener against Japan in Gloucester is very important to set the tone.
“In terms of the front-row, well I think Scotland have fairly good resources at the minute and the all-Edinburgh trio of Al Dickinson, Ross Ford and WP Nel are as good as anything out there at the minute and should help get the team on the front foot.”