Ruagby Union: Redpath steps up for Scots: Armstrong's injury may signal end of international career

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GARY ARMSTRONG is the last man the Scots would choose to do without but the scrum-half's dislocated thumb brought justice of a kind for Bryan Redpath yesterday when he was selected to fill his fellow-Borderer's boots against France at Murrayfield on Saturday week.

Some players have sat on the bench dozens of times without winning a cap whereas Redpath, 22, has done it four times and gone on twice. This is not as it seems, since the Melrose man's participations each lasted all of two minutes while Andy Nicol (against New Zealand) and Armstrong (against England) were having treatment for injuries.

Since the All Black trouncing Redpath has overtaken Armstrong in the Scottish scrum-half pecking-order and would probably have been in the starting line-up during the championship but for Armstrong's reluctant emergence from semi-retirement.

Indeed, Armstrong's injury means we may well once again have seen the last of him as an international at the ripe age of 27 - unless the selectors get down on their knees to him a second time. Otherwise Scotland are unchanged from the side who picked up their first Five Nations point by drawing 6-6 with Ireland last Saturday, Nicol resuming as a replacement instead of Redpath.

Wales's progress towards a Grand Slam has been accomplished without their Lions centre, Scott Gibbs, who was expected to have a critical influence after his exceptional tour of New Zealand. But while Gibbs will again be missing because of his ankle injury from the final game against England at Twickenham, further steps have been taken to keep him not only in rugby union but also Welsh rugby union.

Gibbs is joining a Swansea computer company, the third time rugby's authorities have helped land him a job, which sends a signal to others that the Welsh Rugby Union is taking steps to keep its leading players away from rugby league.

As a corollary, Gibbs's appointment rules out a work-linked move to Harlequins which he and Ieuan Evans had been considering. 'Positive steps are being taken by the Welsh Rugby Union to help their leading players,' Gibbs said.

To reinforce the point, the Union said on Tuesday that 'a considerable part' of the pounds 1.5m it hoped to generate from a Welsh rugby lottery would go into a players' trust fund. Thus the 'amateur code' no longer even makes a pretence of amateurism.

SCOTLAND (v France, Murrayfield, 19 March): G Hastings (Watsonians, capt); A Stanger (Hawick), S Hastings (Watsonians), D Wyllie (Stewart's Melville FP), K Logan (Stirling Co); G Townsend (Gala), B Redpath (Melrose); A Sharp (Bristol), K Milne (Heriot's FP), P Burnell (Ldn Scottish), S Munro (Glasgow High/Kelvinside), A Reed (Bath), P Walton (Northampton), G Weir (Melrose), I Smith (Gloucester). Replacements: M Dods (Gala), C Chalmers (Melrose), A Nicol (Dundee HSFP), P Wright (Boroughmuir), K McKenzie (Stirling Co).