Our history

Edinburgh Rugby: 140 years of history

Edinburgh, under a wealth of names and guises, has been fielding a rugby side featuring the cream of district talent for over 140 years.

From the legendary Edinburgh and Glasgow intercity fixtures to a long record of matches with top touring Test teams and from Celtic League to Heineken Cup, a rich history of celebrated names to have worn the Edinburgh jersey.

In the beginning...

Kicking off as a trial for the international side, Edinburgh first faced Glasgow on 23 November 1872 at Burnbank (then home of Glasgow Accies) in the world’s oldest interdistrict match. Aristocrat and rugby pioneer the Hon Francis Moncrieff (aged 23) captained Edinburgh in the 20-a-side match which was divided into four periods of 20 minutes.

Edinburgh, wearing dark blue jerseys, white trousers and brown stockings fielded a side drawn from the then fledgling clubs including Edinburgh Academicals and Edinburgh University (both founded 1857), Royal High School FP and Edinburgh Wanderers (both 1868).

This first non-international involving representative teams was duly won by a drop goal to nil, the score coming from Accies man Tom Marshall, to give Edinburgh victory.

Thirty years later, the ‘intercity’ was still popular as both a talent finder and a crowd draw. In December 1903, the 35th meeting – won 25-0 by Edinburgh, reportedly due to the ‘mastery of the forwards’ – attracted the largest crowd on record to Hamilton Crescent.

Edinburgh Rugby and Glasgow Warriors unite

Rivalries were put aside, however, in 14 October 1935 when, for the first time, a joint Edinburgh and Glasgow side faced a touring team. The visitors, New Zealand, narrowly won 9-8 with the new combination reportedly unlucky to lose by giving away penalties. Some 25 years later a combined cities team, playing in white, took on the touring South Africans at Hughenden. Just three weeks later at the same location, on 3 December 1960, any joint camaraderie was forgotten, however, as Edinburgh again faced Glasgow in the intercity!

As Edinburgh increased their district matches, it was reported at the 1962 AGM that the games,

have proved to be attractive fixtures and the Edinburgh District have become almost like a good club side, in so far as they have had the nucleus of the same team throughout the season"

Edinburgh’s fixtures regularly extended beyond the central belt with district matches against teams representing the Midlands and the South of Scotland and a long-standing annual encounter with Northumberland. Expenditure incurred for the latter annual ‘tour’ in 1948 came to a princely £25 (over £600 in today’s money). There were also plenty of one-off fixtures including, to celebrate the opening of their then new clubhouse at Stoneyhill in September 1951, an Edinburgh side v Musselburgh RFC – "a fine display of open rugby".

Over the years Edinburgh’s home games were played in various locations throughout the city from Goldenacre and Myreside to Raeburn Place and Jock’s Lodge, as well as Murrayfield and Meadowbank, the latter able – according to excited reports – to host a floodlit Edinburgh v Anglo Scots game in 1971.

Greats of the game...

Former Edinburgh, Scotland and British Lions back Andy IrvineEdinburgh’s list of playing legends is immense. En route to Scotland and the British Lions, Andy Irvine [pictured right] first played for Edinburgh against the South in December 1970 – ‘It was always regarded as a great honour and privilege to play for your district and the inter-district championship was fiercely contested.’

The late, great Bruce Hay was a stalwart of Edinburgh & District during the 70s and 80s, captaining the side and progressing to play for Scotland, the Barbarians and the British Lions. A team including Bruce took on Fiji in their first-ever visit to Scotland, at Myreside on 15 September 1982. Another regular of the side at the time, winger Peter Hewitt, remembers:

"Fiji was one of my first games and from what I recall it was a blistering hot September afternoon. There were loads from Heriot’s in the team, Bill Gammell was the other wing, Alan Lawson (Rory’s dad), Iain Milne and quite a few others. Jim Calder played and David Johnston was in the centre.

"I don’t think Andy Irvine played as he might have been injured so Bruce Hay played at full back. I am pretty sure we won fairly comfortably (Edinburgh beat Fiji 47-12) and I may well have been taking the goal kicks so I probably scored a few points!

Maybe four or five tries to one feels about right with Edinburgh coming through strongly in the second half. Individually the Fijians were a handful as they were so big and strong so you knew all about it when you made a tackle but collectively, especially in the scrums and lineouts, they couldn’t handle us."

Edinburgh’s international fixtures also included Romania (on their first ever visit to Scotland in September 1981), frequent touring parties from New Zealand and Australia, Western Samoa in 1995 and Japan in 1986, in addition to other home union districts such as Kent (at Inverleith in 1986) and Leinster (at Meggetland in 1990).

'Recent' history...

In 1996 the Edinburgh District team was repackaged as Edinburgh Rugby – one of four Scottish district sides – in order to compete in the European Cup (now Heineken Cup). First contracted by Scottish Rugby in September of that year, the side started as semi pro players still playing for their clubs moving on to become a fully professional squad of 25 players in a club with a budget of £1m and a full time Chief Executive and coach. Playing in navy and red, matches included a fixture at Goldenacre in November 1997 against Tonga, featuring Duncan Hodge and one Tammas McVie (captain of SHE Cup winning side, Heriot’s).

After two seasons, Edinburgh merged with the Border Reivers to form Edinburgh Reivers. In 1998/9 the side played in the European Cup, Tri-Series and WRU Challenge Trophy. For the 1999 and 2000 seasons the Scottish Rugby Union and Welsh Rugby Union joined forces, with Edinburgh Reivers (and Glasgow Caledonians) playing in the Welsh-Scottish League. Edinburgh sides of the era featured the likes of Nathan Hines and Simon Taylor.

However further change was imminent and in 2001 the unions of Ireland, Scotland and Wales created a new competition, the Celtic League. In that inaugural season Edinburgh achieved the highest finish by a Scottish side in the competition, finishing sixth – and the first try hat-trick of the League was scored by Edinburgh’s Roland Reid, away to Pontypridd on 31 August 2001.

Following the reduction of Scotland's professional structure to two sides, Edinburgh Reivers were renamed Edinburgh Rugby. The team found some success as they reached the inaugural Celtic Cup final on 20 December 2003 though were beaten by Ulster (27-12); the Edinburgh side included recent regulars Simon Cross, Mike Blair and Chris Paterson.

Todd Blackadder.For the 2005/06 season Edinburgh required a new coach, following the departure of Frank Hadden to coach Scotland. Former All Black Todd Blackadder [pictured left], who had joined Edinburgh as player in 2001 and went on to captain the side, acquired the position for the season after a spell as interim coach. During that season the team nickname was incorporated into the official title, creating the Edinburgh Gunners. In September 2006, however, the team reverted to being known as Edinburgh Rugby.

Under the new coaching direction of Andy Robinson OBE, Edinburgh’s fourth place finish in 2007/08 was the best final position for a Scottish team (in the Magners League) and the following season saw Edinburgh reach their highest position, finishing in second place to Munster. With the intercity derby enjoying something of a renaissance, the 1872 Cup saw Edinburgh set a then new attendence record of 12,534 at Murrayfield for the home leg of the event, against Glasgow Warriors on 26 December 2008.

The following season heralded an opportunity to write a fresh chapter in Edinburgh’s history. With the departure of head coach Andy Robinson, again, like Hadden, to be Scotland national coach, his deputy Rob Moffat was appointed to the post, with Tom Smith and Nick Scrivener as assistant coaches for the 09/10 season however poor results saw the Borderer replaced by Irishman Michael Bradley for the following term.

Domestically, in the RaboDirect PRO12, Bradley's side struggled for results however the 2011/12 Heineken Cup campaign proved to be the most successful in the club's history, and will live long in the memory of the club's fans, when the club topped Pool 2 with five our of six wins.

Ross Ford celebratesA remarkable home victory against Racing Métro (48-47), a dramatic last-second drop-goal win over the Frenchmen in Paris and a bonus-point win over London Irish set up a quarter final-against French rugby giants Toulouse, which was played before a new club record crowd of 38,887.

History was made that day in April when the club held out for a 19-14 win thanks to an early try from Mike Blair and penalties from captain Greig Laidlaw, to set up a semi-final in Dublin against Ulster (the first in history for a Scottish club). Sadly the dream ended there when the club went down 22-19 at the Aviva Stadium.

The following season the domestic results did not improve and, with no Heineken Cup heroics to live up to the previous year, the coaching team was replaced by an interim group, and the club welcomed the return of former players Stevie Scott and Duncan Hodge to take the helm for the remainder of the 2012/13 season.

The big story to come out of Edinburgh Rugby that summer was the appointment of experienced South African, Alan Solomons, to take the reins of the capital club.

The former South Africa Assistant Coach – and assistant coach to this summer’s World XV – had steered the Barbarians to wins over five top tier nations (England, Scotland, Wales, South Africa and New Zealand) and led clubs to silverware in both the northern and southern hemisphere.

All season the club worked hard to build on the foundations put in place by an exhaustive early season regime, and deliver incremental improvements, evidenced by equaling the club’s highest since the Celtic competition expanded to a PRO12 in 2010/11, on top of three Heineken Cup pools (something achieved only on two previous occasions in the last ten years).

After finishing season 2013/14 eighth in the PRO12 and third in their Heineken Cup pool, much activity saw a new-look squad emerge this season. In addition to welcoming a raft of youngsters, including then 17-year-old back row Jamie Ritchie, a number of the club’s BT Sport Scottish Rugby Academy players – including lock Ben Toolis – were promoted into the senior squad.

The business end of the season kicked off against Munster at Thomond Park where a determined Edinburgh secured a 14-13 win. Academy prop Rory Sutherland made his debut off the bench and went on to earn a two-year pro contract. After a home defeat to Connacht and away loss to Ospreys, Edinburgh fought back to draw against Scarlets and win over Dragons before kicking off their European Rugby Challenge Cup campaign in France in October.

A tenacious 15-13 victory over Bordeaux-Bègles was backed by a win over Lyon at BT Murrayfield. However victory came at a price, with five players injured in the opening 20 minutes.

Defeat away to Leinster saw the league debuts of Academy player Magnus Bradbury, Jamie Ritchie, George Turner and Heriot’s FP back row Jack Turley. A win at home against Cardiff and defeat away to Zebre in the league preceded a double-header win in Europe over London Welsh to put Edinburgh top of their pool.

A 48-0 PRO12 victory over Treviso heralded the 1872 Cup derby with Glasgow Warriors. Though Edinburgh were defeated 16-6 away at Scotstoun the deciding leg, in front of a record 15,810 crowd at BT Murrayfield, saw the home side battle to win the match, take the league points and secure the trophy.

Then on a gale-strewn Galway night, Edinburgh upset the odds, saw off Connacht 16-13 and secured seventh place in the League.

Back in European action, Edinburgh couldn’t maintain that form as a late drop goal from Lyon saw them defeated however booked their passage into the quarter-finals with a bonus-point victory over Bordeaux- Bègles, a man-of-the-match performance from Hidalgo-Clyne who scored 28 points – a record for the club in European competition – in the 38-20 win.

To league business in February and a 24-16 win over Ospreys at Myreside was followed by Ulster and then Cardiff edging victory. A bonus point defeat of Treviso and a blistering away victory over Scarlets had Edinburgh’s quest for a top-six league finish back on track and on Easter Sunday, they continued their European journey with an away quarter-final win over London Irish. Defeat to Munster in the league preceded a thrilling European Cup semi final victory over Dragons, backed with a bonus point league win over Zebre.

Onward to Twickenham Stoop with Edinburgh the first Scottish team to reach a European Cup Final and despite coming back in the second half, the dream of silverware ended in a 19-13 defeat.

Losses to Dragons and Leinster in May saw Edinburgh remain in the Challenge Cup for season 2015/16.

Head coach Alan Solomons committed to the club for another season along with the news that former Edinburgh and Scotland international, Duncan Hodge, would also be joining the coaching team.

End of season silverware came when Sam Hidlago-Clyne was voted PRO12 Young Player of the Year, with WP Nel securing a place in the Dream Team.

The 2015/16 season kicked off with new signings Michael Allen (from Ulster), Will Helu (Wasps) and 2015 Super Rugby Cup winning captain Nasi Manu bolstering the squad alongside Blair Kinghorn and Jack Cosgrove, who made the move up from Scotland age grade international teams. At the culmination of Rugby World Cup 2015, the roster was bolstered by the addition of new Scotland cap, John Hardie, who joined his former Highlanders team-mates Manu and Phil Burleigh.

Edinburgh's European opposition, for the Challenge Cup pool rounds which kicked off in November, are London Welsh, Agen and Grenoble while another Guinness PRO12 league season began in September.

Edinburgh’s record against international touring teams

November 24, 1962: Edinburgh 22 Canada 3 at Murrayfield
November 19, 1975: Edinburgh 10 Australia 19 at Myreside
October 31, 1979: Edinburgh 4 New Zealand 16 at Myreside
September 19, 1981: Edinburgh 13 Romania 18 at Myreside
September 15 1982: Edinburgh 47 Fiji 12 at Myreside
October 26 1983: Edinburgh 6 New Zealand 22 at Myreside
September 23, 1986: Edinburgh 26 Japan 14 at Myreside
September 23 1987: Edinburgh 9 France 22 at Goldenacre
November 9 1988: Edinburgh 19 Australia 25 at Myreside
November 8 1995: Edinburgh 22 Western Samoa 35 at Inverleith
August 24 2007, Edinburgh 14 Tonga 26 at Myreside