Finlay Calder was a powerful open-side flanker whose rampaging performances inspired Scotland’s legendary Grand Slam success in 1990.
Born in Haddington, East Lothian, young Finlay’s talent was soon recognised – along with that of twin brother Jim – and he played his club rugby at Stewart’s Melville FP and Heriot’s in Edinburgh.
Hard as granite but famously humble, he made his debut for Scotland against France in the 1986 Five Nations, starring in a tense 18-17 win in front of 60,000 fans at Murrayfield.
In 1989, he became the first Scot to captain the British and Irish Lions since Michael Campbell-Lamerton in 1966. In Australia, he became the first winning Lions captain since Willie John McBride in 1974, leading from the front as the tourists claimed a famous 2-1 series victory.
The following year saw possibly his greatest triumph, when England travelled north to Murrayfield for the Five Nations decider. Scotland were underdogs despite enjoying home advantage, but thanks partly to the back-rower’s never-say-die attitude, they achieved an improbable 13-7 victory to seal the whitewash. Finlay was awarded an OBE in the 1990 Honours List.
One sports journalist later wrote: “Calder's ability to use his drive, determination and innate knowledge of the game to overcome his undoubted shortcomings…helped him become one of the most effective back-row operators of the modern era.”
Finlay won 34 Scotland caps – including seven as captain – before retiring from the international game after the third-place play-off in the 1991 Rugby World Cup.
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