Rugby Union: Armstrong ready and willing for Scotland

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The Independent Online
Jed-Forest. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .33

Gala. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .10

ARRANGEMENTS are in hand for Scottish rugby's second coming. The big event is set for 5 February and how the Scottish Rugby Union must regret having set ticket prices some time ago. Gary Armstrong, now officially the Messiah of Murrayfield, was named yesterday to fill the vacancy left at scrum-half in Scotland's team to face England.

Not that anyone need be surprised. In leaving the door ajar for a player who had opted out of the international scene to spend more time with his family, the selectors did everything except indicate the scrum- half was AN Other (Jed-Forest) when declaring their hand last week.

Well aware of the hidings Scotland have taken in his absence, Armstrong reversed his decision, saying: 'I've told the SRU that I would try and help them out, but one man doesn't make a team.' Then, in a remark which may stun those who were expecting kit manufacturers to run up a jersey on which the No 9 was replaced by the letter S, Armstrong insisted: 'I'm not Superman - I just hope that folks aren't building up their hopes too much.'

As if they would? But it is as well that he has a reputation for not knowing the meaning of pressure. On only his fourth full appearance at scrum-half since renouncing a decision to play centre, Armstrong - injured playing for the Barbarians against the All Blacks - capped a solid display with the try which sealed two valuable points for relegation-threatened Jed-Forest and ended Gala's title challenge.

Having gone to the trouble to arrange with the employers of the player and Jed's fitness coach that both men could could be given time off work every afternoon next week, a recall was guaranteed the moment Armstrong - unlike his scheduled half-back partner Gregor Townsend, who retired with a hip knock - stepped off the pitch unscathed.

Townsend will recover to learn first hand why so many have been down on their knees to a player who added: 'I just knew the phone was going to ring on the Monday after Cardiff.' But the questions raised by Armstrong's decision last summer to walk away from fame and a sizeable remuneration are nothing to those now being asked.

How fit is Armstrong? Is it fair to usurp those scrum-halves who have continued to make themselves available for Scotland (Bryan Redpath of Melrose will be on the bench against England) in his absence? How do the special arrangements square with amateurism, not to mention team spirit?

Jed-Forest: Tries Douglas, Hogg, Kirkpatrick 2, Armstrong; Conversion Richards; Penalties Richards 2. Gala: Try Amos; Conversion M Dods; Penalty M Dods.

Jed-Forest: C Richards (N Kerr, 70); K Amos, H Hogg, A Douglas, M Yule; G Scott, G Armstrong; N McIlroy (capt), K Barrie, R Johnstone, R Murrow, C Hynd, K Munro, R Kirkpatrick, K Liddle.

Gala: M Dods; G Waddell, J Turnbull, B Swan, C Dalgleish; G Townsend (C Campbell, 40), D Paterson; G Isaac, G Crosbie, H Hunter (capt), G Paxton, G Shepherd, N Crooks, T Weir, J Amos.

Referee: W Calder (Selkirk).