Blair quits international rugby

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iol spt jan7 Mike Blair AFP Scotland's most-capped scrum-half Mike Blair has announced he has retired from international rugby at the age of 31. PHOTO BY: PETER MUHLY

Scotland's most-capped scrum-half Mike Blair has announced he has retired from international rugby at the age of 31.

Blair was capped 85 times for his country and was captain of the side on 14 occasions.

His decision came six weeks after the resignation of Scotland coach Andy Robinson, who quit after the defeat by Tonga in Aberdeen.

Australian coach Scott Johnson has been put in charge of Scotland for the upcoming Six Nations tournament.

In a statement released Monday by the Scottish Rugby Union, Blair said: “I'm in the very fortunate position of being able to decide myself when my international career ends. For me, that time is now.”

Blair explained that his decision was partly based on his family circumstances and also to give the Scotland team the chance to plan ahead for the next World Cup in England in 2015.

The former British and Irish Lions player, who left Edinburgh for French side Brive in pre-season, said: “There's no doubt that moving our family to France has played a part in my decision.

“Our son Rory is now at school here and we have an 11-week-old daughter, Lucy, who was born in Brive.

“However, it's a combination of reasons that's led to my standing down from international rugby, not just one factor.

“For me a place in the squad at the Rugby World Cup in 2015 is not a realistic personal target and, with that in mind, it's right for Scottish rugby and the Scotland team, that other players gain experience in a pivotal position.”

Blair was a regular starter for Scotland last year and captained the team for the final time in June in the victory over Samoa.

He added: “The fact that I still feel attuned to playing at international level has made the decision harder but it's not been reached lightly and I'm very confident that it's the right decision.”

Blair, who made a try-scoring debut for Scotland against Canada in 2002, said it would be a wrench to quit Test rugby.

“I have enjoyed immensely representing my country for more than 10 years and will miss that exhilarating feeling of running out to a capacity crowd with the whole country behind you.

“The noise when leading the team out for the first time as captain at Murrayfield against England in 2008, when we won 15-9, still makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up when I think about it.”

Interim head coach Johnson paid tribute to Blair by saying: “I really enjoyed working with Mike during the summer (June) tour and the more recent (November) autumn Tests.

“There's no doubt he's a quality international rugby player and a quality bloke. I respect and understand his decision to retire from the international game now and, on behalf of all Scotland fans, thank him for his years of dedication to the national team.”

For much of his career, Blair found himself competing for the Scotland No 9 shirt with Chris Cusiter and, latterly, Rory Lawson.

Cusiter has been sidelined with a shoulder injury since September with a shoulder injury but his Glasgow team-mate Henry Pyrgos made a try-scoring debut in the 51-22 home defeat by New Zealand in November after replacing Blair. – AFP


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