Rugby Union: Exile sharpens mean streak

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The Independent Online
It Is doubtful whether England's coach Clive Woodward would be prepared to listen to advice from a Scotsman, particularly to one whose land is overlooked by the monument to William Wallace; but were Woodward to pay any heed then he would hear Kenny Logan extolling the virtues of Lawrence Dallaglio as the NEC (Next England Captain).

During his 30 international appearances Logan has played under some of the best, Gavin Hastings, David Sole and Rob Wainwright, but the Wasps wing has no doubt about his club captain's qualities, or his potential to be one of the game's great leaders. "Lawrence is up there with the best," said Logan, speaking from his farm near Stirling, prior to attending a midweek Scotland squad training session before building up to today's European Cup game against Glasgow at Loftus Road. "He is probably one of the best captains I have played under. He is younger than me, but he is very focused and he leads by example. I would be very surprised if they don't pick him as captain; he is the best man for the job."

Logan's directness is an integral part of the man. For example, when he talked about his decision to leave Stirling County, his club of 17 years, for the bright lights of London, he began: "It was a wrench. One of the hardest decisons I have ever had to make," before interrupting himself to confess, "well, actually turning down the contract with the Scottish Rugby Union was possibly almost as hard. After all I was turning down pounds 50,000." But he did it. There's many a person would be hard-pushed to emulate that. And his reasons were straight-forward enough. "I wanted to play higher quality rugby. There were four or five English clubs chasing me."

Stirling's attitude to losing the player who had played a big part in their Scottish championship success in 1995 was, well, sterling. And in the end Wasps won his signature, for which he paid them handsomely, scoring 11 tries in eight games as they won the Courage League championship.

Another tough decision, admittedly helped by injury, was to make himself unavailable for Scotland's summer tour to South Africa. "It represented short-term gain, but long-term pain," the 25-year-old said. "I had a back injury and although it was tempting to say yes - after all the Lions were there and there was always the chance of a call-up if any of them got injured - I had to say no. It was a professional decision. Had I gone I could have ended up aggravating the injury and maybe missing half the Five Nations, not to mention Wasps League and European Cup programme."

Logan has few regrets about moving south. "My game has come on tremendously since I arrived at Wasps," he said. "I'm fitter now than I have ever been. I am also stronger, I must have put on at least half a stone, I now weigh around 15st. The Scots crowd all reckon I am a lot sharper as well and I must admit I am pretty quick over 30 or 40 metres."

He also enjoys the influence of the coach Rob Smith and the director of rugby Nigel Melville. "They complement each other. And generally, with the back-room staff, there are no egos in any department, everyone just gets on with the job while finding room for a few good laughs on the way."

At Wasps Logan does not have things all his own way. For a start, he has stern competition for his place from England Under-21 flier Paul Sampson. "I respond well to that sort of thing," he insisted. "I would rather be pushed and be under pressure to hold on to my place than not."

That attitude comes from the period he spent farming full-time and fitting in playing and training as well, which meant he would frequently be on the go for 16 hours a day. Even when he first joined Wasps he was spending time on the farm, commuting south on a Thursday and returning on the Sunday.

This season all that has changed. Apart from the regular jaunts north for the international get-togethers, Logan concentrates on the professional life down south, leaving a manager to cope with the arable aspects of his life. "We train for at least three hours a day," he said, "and I actually look forward to it. I regard that as my work. That is what I am paid for. When it comes to playing a match, well, I cannot regard that as work. It is just what it says, playing. I can't wait for the match to come around."

In his native country Logan had become something of a celebrity and frequent appearances on television and radio or lifestyle features in glossy magazines are the norm. Yet he is a private man so his exile south of the border is a blessing in a way, enabling him to enjoy London in anonymity. "London is a young person's city. There is so much to do. You can never be bored in London," he said.

Not that he is likely to forget his roots. If 17 years with one club from the age of seven say nothing else, then they at least spell out loyalty. "I will definitely play for Stirling again once my professional days are over," he said. "I do not forget where I am from." As if he could with the William Wallace monument towering over 300 acres of his own Scottish soil.