Bill McLaren Rugby Quotes (With Explanations)

Bill McLaren was a legendary commentator on rugby matches. He was renowned for his turns of phrase. Many of his quips and quotes live on in the fond memories of rugby supporters.

You’ll find some lists of McLaren quotes that don’t clarify who he’s talking about. The proud scot also liked to use Scottish phrasing which sometimes needs interpretation for the rest of us.

This article gives you the quotes., who he’s referring to, and an explanation.

A Summary Of McLaren Quotes

Here’s a list of great McLaren quotes without any commentary. If you want to know more about who he’s talking about and what he actually means, read through the later sections of this article.

Who It’s AboutBill McLaren Quote
Gavin HastingsHe hoists his breeks, does a little shammy shammy
Peter BrownIt’s similar to a coo kicking over a milk pail
Doddie WeirHe’s like a run-away giraffe
Doddie Weir & Mark AndrewsThey both go up like two pieces of white bread in a pop-up toaster
Jim RenwickI think he’s muttering a few naughty Hawick words
Finlay CalderHe has hands like dinner plates.
Not SureHe’s as quick as a trout up a burn
Phil BennettThey say down at Stradey that if ever you catch him you get to make a wish
Gerald DaviesHis sidestep was marvelous, like a shaft of lightning
Scott GibbsWhen he hits you, you think the roof has just fallen in.
Wade DooleyThe big Blackpool policeman standing like a lighthouse at the back of the lineout
Victor UbogoA splendid rear-view there!
Bill BeaumontAnd there’s Beaumont in that English scrum looking like a man who enjoys his food
SpringboksWhen they get going, it’s like watching cattle stampede, huge fellows who thunder about the paddock like mad rhinos
All BlacksThe All Blacks that day looked like great prophets of doom.
Jonah LomuIt’s like trying to tackle a snooker table.
Jonah LomuI’m no hod carrier but I would be laying bricks if he was running at me.
Grant BattyHe plays like a runaway bullet.
Colin MeadsI look at Colin Meads and see a great big sheep farmer who carried the ball in his hands as though it was an orange pip.
Simon GeogheganHe’s like Bambi on speed.

Bill McLaren Quotes On Scottish Rugby

Here’s a quote that probably needs a translation for a non-Scottish audience:

He hoists his breeks, does a little shammy shammy.

This refers to Scottish fullback Gavin Hastings. The legendary fullback was capped 61 times between 1986 and 1995.

He was particularly renowned for his place kicking which won plenty of games for his country.

The quote comes from McLaren watching Hasting’s preparation before a place kick.

What are breeks?

“Breeks” are breeches. In other words, the first part refers to Hasting pulling up his shorts.

What on earth is a shammy shammy?

The place-kicking routines of some modern fly halves may seem to be increasingly odd and elaborate. Welsh fly half Dan Biggar has a lengthy pre-kick ritual of repeatedly twitching and touching his hair as he stares at the ball on the tee.

However, this is nothing new. My proof is McLaren’s commentary – his “shimmy shammy” is a perfect description of those twitches.

Not a compliment

Here’s a comment about a different placekicker. McLaren is describing the kicker action.

It’s similar to a coo kicking over a milk pail.

No, “coo” isn’t a typo. This is how it sounds when McLaren says “cow”.

In this case, the kicker is Peter Brown, who played 27 times for Scotland between 1964 and ’73.

Brown also captained Scotland ten times, including three victories over England.

Brown was a forward who took the place kicks. This is unusual (Australia’s John Eales is the only other one I can think of).

You can probably tell that McLaren wasn’t too impressed with Brown’s kicking style!

When locks make a break

Here is McLaren watching a lock forward making a break up the field.

He’s like a run-away giraffe.

This refers to the rather large and burly Doddie Weir, an outstanding Scottish lock. He was capped 61 times from 1990 to 2000.

Despite his size, Doddie could be a dynamic player.

On the very few occasions that he got the ball without a defender in sight, he would charge up the field with knees lifted high. Hence the description of the run-away giraffe.

In the modern defensive game, locks are less likely to make breaks. But this quote always comes back to me when a tall and ungainly youngster breaks free.

Leaping in the lineout

Here is McLaren watching two locks leaping to take the ball in a lineout.

They both go up like two pieces of white bread in a pop-up toaster.

This refers to Springbok Mark Andrews and Scotland’s Doddie Weir competing for the ball in the lineout.

I’ve already described Doddie Weir in the previous quote.

Mark Andrews played 77 tests at lock for South Africa from 1994 to 2002. His career included winning the 1995 World Cup.

I don’t know which big man won the ball. I don’t care! I just love this quote.

Censored words

Here is McLaren watching a kicker for Hawick Harlequins who is furious with himself for missing a penalty kick.

I think he’s muttering a few naughty Hawick words.

This refers to Jim Renwick, a Scottish center who was capped 52 times for Scotland (from 1972 to 84). His club was the Hawick Harlequins, Hawick being a town in Scotland.

Renwick was also a placekicker, although not the usual first-choice kicker for his country.

However, there was a time when he lined up a kick as McLaren was commentating on a Scottish test.

Renwick sent the ball sailing wide. With the cameras trained on his face, the Scotsman yelled out his frustration.

There was no audio, but you didn’t need to speak Scots to lip-read that he was saying something that rhymed with “rucking hell”.

Some commentators will quickly blabber something innocuous to draw attention away from the incident.

But McLaren was delighted and provided his listening audience with helpful commentary as to what was going on.

Would you say this to Finlay Calder’s face?

Here is McLaren watching a flanker dropping the ball.

He has hands like dinner plates.

This refers to Finlay Calder, who won 34 caps for Scotland between 1986 and 1991. Calder also captained the Lions on tour to Australia in 1989.

Calder was an openside flanker who was known for his abrasive play. He hit opposition players and rucks with equal aggression.

But McLaren isn’t too impressed with the flanker’s ball-handling skills! Dinner plates can’t clasp a ball.

Here’s another interesting fact about Finlay. He had a twin brother Jim who also played for Scotland and toured with the Lions (New Zealand in 1983).

But the twins never played on the same Scotland team! The twins and two more brothers did all play together for their club.

Rapidly up rapids!

He’s as quick as a trout up a burn.

I almost didn’t include this one because I don’t know which player it’s about.

I’ve put the quote in the Scottish section because of the “burn” reference. A burn is a stream i.e. think of a trout leaping up a stream.

Bill Mclaren Quotes On Welsh Rugby

If you’re not familiar with Celtic culture – there’s a notion that if you catch a tiny magical creature, it will grant you a wish. (This usually doesn’t end up well for the catcher!)

This is what McLaren had to say about Phil Bennett, the great Welsh flyhalf.

They say down at Stradey that if ever you catch him you get to make a wish.

Phil Bennet was a renowned Welsh flyhalf from the 1970s. He was known for sidestepping opponents to leave them floundering in his wake.

He didn’t always get his place on the Welsh team but he toured twice with the British and Irish Lions and captained the 1977 tour to New Zealand.

Bennett had also played against New Zealand for the Barbarians in 1973. It was Bennett who ran out of his own 22, side-stepping a string of All Blacks and starting the move that led to a try at the other end of the pitch.

This is considered one of the greatest tries in the history of the sport.

Where was Stradey?

And what about Stradey? Phill Bennett’s club was Llanelli (part of which would morph into the Scarlets in the professional era).

Stradey is a location in the middle of the town of Llanelli. Stradey Park was the home ground for Llanelli RFC.

Bennet’s got his first cap for Wales when he came on as a substitute for an injured teammate. That teammate was winger Gerald Davies. Which brings us to the next quote.

The feared Welsh sidestep

This is McLaren on Gerald Davies.

His sidestep was marvelous, like a shaft of lightning.

Gerald Davies was capped for Wales as a centre in 1966. He moved out to the wing a few years later, where he played for his country through much of the 1970s.

That feared Welsh team of the seventies won three Grand Slams, with Davies tearing up the wing in each of them.

Davies scored twenty tries in 46 tests, an impressive feat both then and now.

He was selected for the British and Irish Lions in 1967, 1971, and 1974.

lions badge

He went on the first two of those tours. He declined the third to South Africa on principled objections to Apartheid.

The Quinnell brothers

Here is McLaren on two sturdy brothers who were giants of Welsh rugby in more ways than one.

There’s the Quinnell brothers, two well-nourished individuals.

The Quinnell name is famous in Welsh rugby. Derek Quinnell played for Wales but this quote refers to two of his sons.

Craig Quinnell was a giant (and I mean giant) lock. He stood 6’6’’ and carried a huge frame.

His smaller brother Scott was three inches shorter but with a similar frame.

Scott played at centre and was bigger than most players at that level. Scott had a longer career at the top end of international rugby.

Craig in particular used to laugh to himself as opposition crowds (usually English) yelled down to him that he was fat. He loved it when he got abuse from the terraces. He knew it meant that the opposition feared him.

Bill Mclaren would never be so uncouth. He merely points out that the two brothers were well-fed!

Tackling like a car crash

Here is McLaren on Scott Gibbs, a burly Welsh center who switched successfully between rugby league and rugby union.

When he hits you, you think the roof has just fallen in.

In his early union career, he toured with the British and Irish Lions to New Zealand aged only 22. He was so effective that he displaced Will Carling from the test team.

After that tour, he switched to playing league but then returned to union. He toured with the Lions in 1977 to South Africa. He famously ran down the field and barged through giant Springbok prop Os Du Randt.

His charging runs may be what Maclaren is referring to in the quote.

However, Gibbs was also renowned as a hard-tackling machine. His nickname was “Car Crash” for his effect on the opposition ball carrier!

Perhaps Gibb’s most famous try for his country was the one that secured a Grand Slam against England in 1999.

England was leading with minutes to go, and Gibbs took a pass from his teammate and cut back inside to get over the line.

That teammate was Scott Quinnell. We showed earlier that McLaren had a ready quip about him and his brother.

McLaren On England

Here is McLaren on a tall lock from the amateur era who also happened to be a copper.

The big Blackpool policeman standing like a lighthouse at the back of the lineout.

This refers to Wade Dooley who was a policeman who walked the beat in the seaside town of  Blackpool. He was capped for England 57 times between 1985 and 1993.

Dooley towered over the opposition at 6’8’’. He’s not a man you could hide in a lineout!

What is seen can’t be unseen

Victor Ubogo who was capped for England 24 times between 1992 and 1999.

Ubogo was a burly prop who could shift around the field. There was an incident in a match where Ubogo’s shorts were ripped down the side.

The physio came on with spare shorts. The prop blithely stepped out of his “breeks” and bent over to put on the pristine pair. The camera chose to focus on his rear at this moment.

Let’s just say that like all the best props, Ubugo had a substantial posterior.

This was McLaren’s comment:

A splendid rear-view there!

Another man of stature

 Bill Beaumont played in the second row for England 34 times between 1975 and 1982. Beaumont also captained England 21 times.

You may also know him as a top blazer in World Rugby.

Here is McLaren watching a young Beaumont packing down:

And there’s Beaumont in that English scrum looking like a man who enjoys his food.

I don’t remember Beaumont as being particularly large. But McLaren was clearly of the opinion that the lock was well-nourished!

McLaren on South Africa

Our previous quotes have generally referred to a single individual. In this case, McLaren is referring to the entire Springbok pack.

When they get going, it’s like watching cattle stampede, huge fellows who thunder about the paddock like mad rhinos.

If your national team has been on the end of a pasting by the Boks, you probably know exactly what McLaren is talking about!

McLaren On The All Blacks

This quote aptly describes most days when I watch the All Blacks take on my national team.

The All Blacks that day looked like great prophets of doom.

McLaren on Lomu

Here is McLaren watching defenders bouncing off legendary All Black winger Jonah Lomu.

It’s like trying to tackle a snooker table.

Here is where I disagree with the great commentator.

I think it might be easier to tackle a snooker table than Lomu. At least the table doesn’t bend and lean forward to crash through you.

Here’s another quote about Lomu:

I’m no hod-carrier but I would be laying bricks if he was running at me.

A hod carrier is someone who works on a building site and carries a pile of bricks on something that looks like a shovel.

I’m a little unsure on how to unpack this quote. I think McLaren is saying that he’d quickly lay bricks to build a wall as a defense.

There is another more coarse use of the term “laying bricks” which could also apply at the sight of Lomu charging towards you.

But McLaren was never a coarse man! So I think the wall is the correct interpretation.

McLaren on Batty

From giant winger to tiny winger…Grant Batty was only 5’5’’. He was capped 15 times for the All Blacks between 1972 and 1977.

Here is McLaren’s view of the diminutive winger:

He plays like a runaway bullet.

Despite Batty’s stature, he was known for being hard as nails. He was also very fast. Hence, the “runaway bullet” description.

McLaren on Meads

Colin Meads was capped 55 times for the All Blacks from 1957 to 1971. He played in the second row and captained New Zealand eleven times.

At 6’3’’, Meads wasn’t particularly tall. But he was broad-shouldered and had a big physical presence. His nickname was Pine Tree.

Meads grew up on a sheep farm and raised his own family on a farm.

Here is McLaren on one of the greatest players in the history of the sport:

I look at Colin Meads and see a great big sheep farmer who carried the ball in his hands as though it was an orange pip.

McLaren On Ireland

Winger Simon Geoghegan who was capped 37 times for Ireland between 1991 and 1996.

Geoghegan was one of the best wingers of his generation but had to retire early due to a foot injury.

He was renowned for his jerky sidestep that he executed at high speed. He almost jumped to his left and right without changing speed.

His running action could look a little ungainly. Here is McLaren’s summary:

He’s like Bambi on speed.

I’m sure you’re familiar with Bambi, the baby deer with gangly legs.

Now think of those gangly steps when under the influence of a particular illegal substance!

Geoghegan was one of my favorite players in the early nineties, and I think McLaren describes him fairly well!

Rugby Quotes Quiz!

Think you know your rugby?

Let's see if you can match the quote to the player or coach!

Here are seven quotes. How well will you do?