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Lions Hero: Jim Telfer on Jeremy Guscott

Lions Hero: Jim Telfer on Jeremy Guscott

Jerry Guscott had a level of quality I had never seen before, he was so quick and so intelligent and such a good player.

"Whenever Jerry spoke, people would listen"

Jerry Guscott had a level of quality I had never seen before, he was so quick and so intelligent and such a good player.

I had coached teams to play against him, most notably in 1990 in the Grand Slam game when Scotland beat England, and he was always the player that really stood out for me.

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I found him an outstanding player, but not only that, he was also an outstanding bloke.

It was his third Lions Tour in 1997 when I crossed paths with him – he was the star centre who had been to Australia in 1989 and won there, he had been to New Zealand in 1993. I went on that 1997 Tour as the forwards coach.

Although I wasn’t coaching him directly, I got on very well with him. The way he conducted himself was very professional and his ability was just something new that no-one else in the team had. It is a bit like Brian O’Driscoll – it is difficult to describe. He was so talented.

He was in a very crucial position and, with Scott Gibbs inside him shouting and balling at the South Africans in front of him, Jerry was able to control the outside centre position.

He had this added pace, ability and agility in attack and he suited the high-tempo game that Sir Ian McGeechan wanted to play.

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When you consider the competition on that Tour in the centres, Will Greenwood was there, as was Allan Bateman. So it’s clear Ian had a very high regard for Jerry – after all he had taken him on his two other Tours as well.

Ian looked on Jerry as a senior member of the squad and one of the leaders. Whenever Jerry spoke, people would listen.

The contrast between Gibbs and Guscott was good. Defensively Scott was outstanding, he brought that rugby league edge to the defence, which was absolutely vital.

Once the gaps were made, or players were knocked down, Jerry could work off broken play and that made them an ideal combination. They were complete opposites, but both had their own distinctive role.

Jerry could have played other positions, he could have played inside centre as well – he was a good kicker and a good reader of the game, but he played outside centre because of his pace and outside break.

It was only the start of professional rugby and they didn’t know each other that well with only a short time to get acclimatised with each other.

But they were being pushed by people like Bateman and Greenwood and they got on famously and moulded so well together. 

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The Springboks had won the World Cup in 1995 and were at the height of their powers, so we had to try and beat them by going at the outside shoulders, hitting spaces and not taking them on full-frontal.  

Neil Back came on in the second half of the second Test and was instrumental in turning the ball over for the drop-goal – but it was Jerry who had the composure and experience to knock it over.    
 
 

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