Parks takes his leave as Morgan gets ready for starring role with England


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The Independent Online

Dan Parks will not wear a Scotland shirt again. The 33-year-old fly-half said yesterday that he had considered retiring from internationals after last autumn's World Cup, but declared himself available for Six Nations duty because England were the first opponents and there was "unfinished business" following Scotland's defeat by them in New Zealand. However, his performance in Edinburgh four days ago was well below par and it seemed he had been given a chance to bow out while the choice was still his to make.

This suspicion was reinforced by Andy Robinson. "It's never an easy decision to make, but I think Dan has made the right one," said the coach. Ruaridh Jackson, Greig Laidlaw and Duncan Weir are the front-runners to take over as Scotland's No 10.

Parks, who scored 266 points in 67 Tests over eight years and dropped more goals than anyone in the Scottish annals, brought a pinpoint tactical kicking game to the table.

"We all had the same reaction when Dan announced his retirement: stunned silence and emotion," said the scrum-half and former captain Mike Blair.

Yesterday was a very different day for the 22-year-old Scarlets and England No 8 Ben Morgan, who has an even-money chance of replacing Phil Dowson for Saturday's match in Rome. It was Stuart Lancaster, now caretaker coach of the national side, who first approached Morgan with a view to sticking a white shirt on his back. It happened eight months ago, ahead of a Churchill Cup in which Lancaster was running the Saxons.

"That was an awkward time for me because I'd just started on a development contract in Wales, and while it blew me away it also came completely out of the blue," said Morgan, who knocked back the invitation. "As soon as everyone shut up and let me think for myself, it was really clear. It was about wanting to play for my country. It didn't matter about Wales, because I'm not Welsh."

England trained yesterday at the London Soccerdome, near the O2 Arena. Charlie Hodgson was not in a position to test his dodgy shoulder but the Saracens fly-half is expected to retain the No 10 shirt. Another crocked individual, the Northampton scrum-half Lee Dickson, was able to train despite a fractured bone in his left hand.

Lancaster released eight players back to their clubs, including Toby Flood, but retained Wasps' Joe Simpson in case of further problems with Dickson.