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My Life in Rugby: Dave Hilton – former Scotland, Bristol, Bath and Glasgow prop

Dave HiltonThe day I was banned for playing for Scotland after five years in the team was one of the hardest of my life for me and my family.

The IRB ruled I was no longer eligible because we couldn’t trace anything from my grandfather’s birth certificate about where he was born – we still can’t in fact.

We’d always thought he was born in Edinburgh but he was registered in Bristol and his birth date and date of registration were 16 weeks apart and a lot could have happened in that time.

The reason I got banned was because we couldn’t prove that he was born in Scotland but in the same breath no one could prove that he wasn’t.

It wasn’t just the shock of the news that made it so hard but also the pressure from the press – I’ve never known anything like it.

A lot of journalists came down to Bristol to research my family and I’d never have dreamt people would want to do all that, there was even something on TV where they traced my great grandfather back to Glasgow.

That all unfurled in 2000 when I was with Glasgow so I had already got one year under my belt to help me re-qualify under the three-year residency rule.

I had a lot of friends in the game, even journalists, who knew I was honest and hard working on the pitch and that encouraged me to try to get another cap.

It was a natural, too, because I felt Scottish. I’d got two England U21 caps but it was just like playing for any other team and I thought ‘this is not for me.’

It took to 2002 until I was cleared to play for Scotland again and I won my 42nd cap against South Africa at Murrayfield.

After trying for two and a half years to get this goal it was given to me through an unfortunate  injury to Mattie Stewart. I was not at my best but it was great that Scotland didn’t turn their back on me and I was very determined to prove I should be there.

I played 15 minutes off the bench and the crowd reaction was brilliant.

It was one of my favourite games for Scotland and the pride I had at helping us beat South Africa 21-6 for the first time in 33 years was unbelievable. I didn’t win any more caps after that but it was all worth it.

That match was a huge success in my international career but being at Bath in the Nineties meant I knew what it was like to win big games.

I won both the league and the cup as well as the Heineken in 1998 so it was a pretty majestic time. If I knew what made Bath successful in that time I’d bottle and sell it.

There was obviously Jeremy Guscott and John Callard but it was Stuart Barnes at 10 who ran the show and I didn’t even know there was a game plan when he was playing.

Before going to Bath in 1992 I was at Bristol so it was nice to go back there in 2003 and to help them get back into the Premiership in 2005.

They have a lot of history, like Bath, and some of the young guys didn’t realise what these clubs have given to the history and making of what rugby is, so I always liked to remind them of that.

It is the same at Moseley, where I’m forwards coach. I tell the youngsters they have a tremendous opportunity  – I just hope they listen to me!

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