John Jeffrey

John Jeffrey (born 25 March 1959 in Kelso in the Scottish Borders) is a Scottish former international rugby union player. His nicknames were "The Great White Shark" and "JJ", the former widely thought to be because of his blonde hair, though in a 1990 book called 'The Grudge' by Tom English, it is a nickname that was given to him because of his very white skin.[1]

John Jeffrey
Date of birth (1959-03-25) 25 March 1959
Place of birthKelso, Scottish Borders
Rugby union career
Position(s) Flanker
National team(s)
Years Team Apps (Points)
1984–1991  Scotland 40 (44)

Journalist, Richard Bath, described him as "one of the most galvanising sights in Five Nations rugby throughout the 1980s and early 1990s."[1]

Jeffrey was educated at St. Mary's School, Melrose and Merchiston Castle School.[2] He won forty caps for Scotland between 1984 and 1991, making him, at the time, Scotland's most capped flanker. He was also a British and Irish Lion with Scotland team mate Finlay Calder in 1989.

Jeffrey's "day job" was his Borders farm, of which he had only one regret: "If I stand on a hill I can see England."[1]


Often known to be first to the breakdown point, first with the tackle, or first with an inspired counter, Jeffrey had the ability to score important tries, of which he scored 11, another Scottish record at the time, shared with back-row colleague Derek White. He was also a member of the British Lions (known as British and Irish Lions since 2001) on the tour to Australia in 1989.

In 1988, after playing football with the Calcutta Cup along Princes Street in Edinburgh with England's Dean Richards, Jeffrey received a six-month ban from the Scottish Rugby Union.[3] Richards received a one match sentence from the English Rugby Football Union.[1] The trophy was severely dented, and cost hundreds of pounds to repair. Jeffrey later admitted to having been drunk at the time of the incident: "There was no doubt it was us. It was a mix of alcohol and high jinks. I think I had sobered up a bit by the time I got back to the hotel. I remember looking at the cup and thinking, ‘hmmm, we could be in a spot of bother here’."[4]

During the 1990 Hong Kong Sevens, Jeffrey played for the Scottish side, but when they were knocked out, he went on to play for Wales as they were suffering from too many injuries.

Scottish Grand Slam (1990)

He was an outstanding performer in the Grand Slam season of 1990, Jeffrey had been a British Lion on the 1989 Tour of Australia, ironically being kept out of the Test side by his national team-mates Finlay Calder and Derek White, and Englishmen Mike Teague who would be on the losing side against Jeffrey in the Calcutta Cup match the following year.

Coach and commentator

Recently he has been involved in coaching the Scotland youth teams and commentating at rugby games on BBC Radio Scotland's Sportsound programme.


He has been a member of the International Rugby Board (Now called World Rugby) Council and head of referees since 2010.


  1. Bath, p141
  2. "John Jeffrey handed Moredun honorary fellowship". The Courier (Dundee). 16 September 2014. Retrieved 22 January 2016.
  3. McMurtrie, Bill. "Ban on Jeffrey over Calcutta Cup affair". The Glasgow Herald. p. 1. Retrieved 5 February 2017.
  4. "Six Nations 2013: The drunken night when Dean Richards and John Jeffrey trashed the Calcutta Cup". 31 January 2013. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 29 September 2019.


  • Bath, Richard (ed.) The Complete Book of Rugby (Seven Oaks Ltd, 1997 ISBN 1-86200-013-1)
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