FOR SO many years, ahead of so many Calcutta Cups clashes, speaking to Duncan Hodge about how best Scotland could replicate the glory of 2000 has been a far too common occurrence.
Too often they simply could not. Back then, the former Leeds Tykes fly-half contributed all their points in a heroic 19-13 win at Murrayfield, Scotland’s first such victory in a decade.
In the next 18 years, though, they would triumph just twice more in the historic fixture.
It is only fitting then, and in the interests of fair play, that after Scotland did at last beat England again on Saturday, Hodge should be approached for his thoughts once more.
He was a proud onlooker as they stunned Eddie Jones’s previously rampant side 25-13 in Edinburgh on Saturday, inflicting only a second defeat on the Red Rose in 26 Tests since the Australian coach took over at the end of 2015.
Scotland were superb with mercurial fly-half Finn Russell causing the visitors all sorts of problems and piercing centre Huw Jones enjoying similar success with two fine tries and a series of breaks, splintering this England side like never before.
For Hodge, Edinburgh’s attack coach who earned 26 caps between 1997 and 2002, it was certainly pleasing to see.
He told The Yorkshire Post: “Scotland played really well, dominated most aspects of the game and that scoreline was a fair reflection.
“It looked like England didn’t expect what was coming; all the talk was that they didn’t underestimate Scotland, but the body language suggested a wee bit maybe they did.
“I think they did get a bit rattled by Scotland’s first try and you could argue that was a cheap score. But I’m sure England will bounce back – they have a lot of good players, are well-coached and are the second best team in the world so I think Saturday was just a blip for them.
“Still, it’s like anything; you can pick holes in their display and look at errors, but they were put under real pressure by Scotland.
“I don’t think many sides have been able to put them under pressure like that.”
While the inquest continues for England, buoyed Scotland can look forward to a fascinating tussle with unbeaten Ireland in Dublin on March 10 knowing, despite a sobering 34-7 loss in Wales, they can still make a surprise bid for a first championship title since 1999 – the last Five Nations.
Hodge was part of that victorious squad 19 years ago although only briefly, his tournament cruelly ended when breaking his leg in the opener against Wales.
Ironically, the man then switched from centre to replace him was Gregor Townsend, now Scotland’s vibrant head coach who is helping continue the current transformation initially started by Vern Cotter.
Hodge, 43, admitted: “The key now for Scotland is to gain consistency against the best teams and to win more away from Murrayfield.
“But people forget just how hard it is – whoever you are – to win away from home in the Six Nations.
“They have a huge game against Ireland next who are clearly a good side and both have a lot to play for.
“Scotland have really progressed over the last four or five years, though. They have some good players who are still young like Stuart Hogg and Finn.
“Glasgow have been going well and Edinburgh have, too, this season. I think there’s more depth here than I can ever remember in the last 20 years.
“The two first-choice tightheads weren’t fit against England, but still the scrum was good and there’s some real quality in the squad like Jonny Gray and Stuart McNally who’s been outstanding at hooker.
“There’s four or five guys who would really challenge to get in any Test side in the world and the subs made a good impact as well.
“Richie Gray didn’t play at all, but wasn’t missed, and there’s lots of positives, the big one being that strength in depth.”
Finn had been criticised for his poor display against Wales, but shone versus England with some sublime creative play.
As a fellow outside-half, Hodge – who scored three tries in 18 games for Leeds between 2003 and 2005 – said: “He’s one of those characters who splits opinion.
“He’d taken a bit of flak, but he’s his own man and has a great skill-set. England has a world-class defence, but he found so much space against them and he exposed them, too, with his pass selection.
“He had some tempo in the game and England couldn’t bring the physicality they wanted.
“Scotland got some quick ball and, on the flip side, their own defence was very good. They were great at the breakdown, too, even though some people questioned the ref, and it meant England couldn’t get going.”
The hope now for all of Scottish rugby is that – unlike with Hodge – journalists are not still ringing Finn in 20 years for evocative reminisces of a rare Calcutta Cup win. Instead, such glories have to become the norm.