Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


1000th Scottish Cap ‘Big Jim’ Says Goodbye

Jim Hamilton - pic © Al Ross
Jim Hamilton - pic © Al Ross

It was with some sadness that big Jim Hamilton announced his retirement from international rugby, after being left out of Vern Cotter’s 31 man world cup squad.

At 32, he still has a bit of rugby left in him yet, but he decided that this will be played out at club level only. The Scotland team management had encouraged him to keep himself available should they need to draft someone in to the squad to cover an injury, but the Saracens lock stuck to his guns, and called it a day.

Hamilton was brought up in a 2 bedroom flat on a rough estate in Coventry and it was England that he first represented at under 19 and under 21 level. However he qualified to play for Scotland through his Glasgow born father.

As a 23 year old, he made his debut as a replacement for Scotland against Romania in 2006, becoming the 1000th capped player. He made an immediate impact and went on to play in all the 6 Nations games later that season.

He travelled to the 2007 and 2011 world cups and became only the third Scot to win 50 caps at lock forward, the other two being Scott Murray and Stuart Grimes. His one international try came against Argentina in Scotland’s 13-9 win in Mar del Plata in 2010.

Over 9 years, he went on to gain 63 caps for his country, with his final game being against Italy in the narrow victory in Torino last month.

At club level, Hamilton’s big break came when he joined Leicester Tigers’ Academy in 1999 and broke into the first team in 2003. He went on to enjoy time at Edinburgh Rugby in 2008, Gloucester in 2010 where he was club captain in the 2012/13 season, Montpellier and Saracens. Last season, Hamilton was part of the Saracens Premiership winning squad.

Big Jim often split opinion among Scottish rugby supporters. Many felt that he was guilty of giving away too many penalties and that he didn’t have the dynamic impact of some other modern day lock forwards. However, he had a loyal band of followers who appreciated his ability to disrupt the game and get under the skin of the opposition. He was the kind of guy who never took a backward step.

He will be remembered as an incredibly tough and uncompromising player who gave teams a physical presence, particularly in the scrum and maul. At 6ft 8” and over 19 stone he was an imposing figure. With socks around his ankles and tattoos on display he always looked ready for a scrap with whoever dared cross him.

He signed off by saying,

“Scottish rugby has not only given me an opportunity to play rugby at the highest level but has given me a platform to be a better man. I wish everyone involved with Scottish rugby all the best and I know consistent success is around the corner #63andout”.

13 Responses

  1. A man apart in terms of the modern athletic lock, but given the right conditions (filthy rain and mud,the great leveller) an asset.

  2. What can I say? I guess he was and still is a nice guy and a reasonable player at club level but he was never great on the international stage and, at best, his performances can be descibed as being average. He tended to do the bear minimum that was expected of him for Scotland. What always surprised me is that he never really applied his obvious strenghth and weight to his full advantage. A guy of that size should be able to dominate almost any opponent and have a major impact in lose rucks, scrums and lineouts but that was never really the case.He seemed unable to intimidate opponents. Was it a mental block? Did he lack grit iron determination? Was he simply content to be one of the also rans? I guess we will never know. When he came onto the scene I was very excited as Scotland have tended to lack big guys in the forward pack but he never rreally lived up to my expectations and we tended to play better when we fielded lighter, but more dynamic and talented forwards.
    I can only think of one game when he made a serious impact and that was against USA in Houston in 2014. He made a difference to the scrum and rucks and we struggeld a bit when he left the field of play. Otherwise, I felt he was a bit of a dissapointment at international level and I can understand why big VC dropped him. Plent of opportunities to show his strenghth, courage and determination but he rarely took them.

    In spite of that he is a gentleman in our great sprt and I wish him well in the remainder of his career at club level.

    1. I’m guessing you don’t watch much rugby. Doesn’t describe the player I have watched.
      I do like your line about him doing the bear minimum. Quite apt. And a lot better than the bare minimum.

    2. So I will say something nice then. He is a nice guy and a better than average forward at club level. I wish him all the best in his remaining career in rugby union.

      Come to think of it, these comments were also made in my previous message- a fact you would have realised if you had bothered to read it.

  3. Well said and a very heartfelt sign off Jim. Rugby does provide you with many life skills and gave him , like many others, a firm place to stand. We often forget, just what this game does for you as a person. Thanks for that Jim you will be remembered for those words.

    I suspect we will see more of big Jim and feel sure he will be a menace at club level for many years to come.

  4. Good luck to you, Big Jim. Thanks for all your effort and commitment to Scotland rugby. All the best in your future career, which I’m sure has many miles left in the tank at top club level. I always used to say you were our Simon Shaw. As a compliment!

  5. You don’t get to 63 caps by accident. We have some talented young locks now and it is their time. I hope Big Jim can stick around to help with their education in the darker arts of 2nd row play but I’m sure Hines and Kellock will be mentoring these guys too.

  6. Well done Jim thanks for your work. I wish you well both on and off the pitch from here on. Great servant to Scottish rugby

  7. One thing about Jim Hamilton was that he always wore his heart on his sleeve, and genuinely wore the thistle with pride. Yeah he was prone to giving away penalties, but he would always be the first to back a team mate and always gave 100%. My favourite memory of Big Jim will always be from a few years back in Cardiff, when Jamie Roberts ran at him full pelt and promptly bounced off him and onto his a@*e. Summed Jim up for me, not everyone’s cup of tea but uncompromising in a Scotland shirt, and proud to wear the jersey. Thanks for your service big man.

  8. Bitter sweet like most of the best things in life, he’s provided some great memories. One such was the 2013 summer tour when he terrorised the Springboks lineout (a game that also saw a burgeoning new potent midfield partnership of 12 Scott and 13 Dunbar, which seemed to surprise SA somewhat) and was later unfairly sent off by the SA 4th official. He is full of passion and intent and deserves our respect. Aw the best Big Jim!

  9. I have been thinking about this retiral and felt it would be worth pointing out that we are often critical in these blogs of internationalists who are not scots born and bred. We have learned a lot from Big Jim the man in his retirement. He was proud to represent Scotland and very respectful to the scottish rugby community.

    There is a point I would like to make. In retiring he has elected not to hang around longer and collect a fee for being on the books without having to rock up for match day. The post was clear the SRU would have preferred him to stay. Yes, I suppose he may have prioritised family life first, however, many would have stayed a while and taken the fee. All in all , decent thing to do and a great leveller for those who would prefer to see born n bred scots pnly in the jersey. Those morals will take you far Jim.

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Scottish Rugby News and Opinion