Rugby Union: Scotland gripped by fear

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The Independent Online
GARY ARMSTRONG yesterday lightened what must be an unprecedented sense of melancholy surrounding an imminent Scottish rugby season.

It is commonly feared that league reconstruction plans will mean negative, safety-first play and a national side made to rue the long-term absence of key individuals such as Armstrong, Gregor Townsend and Andy Nicol. But Armstrong, speaking for the first time since being grievously injured a fortnight ago, insisted that he hopes to play again.

Capped 30 times at scrum- half Armstrong is awaiting an operation to rebuild a left knee shattered in a training mishap, but has already been told that he cannot take full contact for at least a year.

Armstrong is refusing to accept suggestions that his career may be over. 'A surgeon has told me I won't be 100 pthe er cent. There are other things I could do to stay involved like coach. But I'd like to play again if I can.'

Armstrong will accompany his father, Lawrence, the Jed- Forest club president for the match with Watsonians which will see the start of a bid to finish in the top eight and claim a place in next year's Premier League.

Six teams will be relegated as Scottish rugby prepares to switch from seven divisions of 14 clubs playing once to four premier leagues of eight meeting home and away. Backing up the new system will be seven national divisions of 10.

In an attempt to further concentrate Scotland's limited resources players are being allowed to switch clubs until 31 October without becoming league-tied provided they do not represent two teams in the same division.

The champions, Melrose, are odds-on to land their fifth title in six years with a squad fresh from winning all four matches on tour in South

Africa.

Gala, runners-up last year, will be without Gregor Townsend, who has broken a wrist, until November while Dundee High are resigned to the fact that Andy Nicol is off to Bath as soon as he recovers from knee ligament damage.

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