Rugby Union: Scots to face another farewell

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The Independent Online
IT MAY not be only Ian McGeechan to whom the Scots will bid farewell when they go for the Triple Crown against England at Twickenham on Saturday week. If we are to believe the man himself, this could also be Gary Armstrong's final match in the Five Nations' Championship.

McGeechan, the Scotland coach, will take charge of the Lions in New Zealand in the summer and then hang up his track-suit - though lately he has been equivocating about his future, mooting the possibility of returning in good time for the 1995 World Cup after a season's break.

Now Armstrong, too, has put his future in doubt - though never in any doubt was that the Scots selectors would keep intact the side who beat Wales and nearly beat France. Armstrong is the front-running scrum-half contending for the Lions tour, but once the third Test is played in Auckland in July that may be the last we see of him, either internationally or in that position.

A period playing out of position for his club, Jed-Forest, appeals. 'I'm not interested in going on and on playing for Scotland and I fancy playing for Jed for a couple of seasons in a different position, perhaps at stand-off or centre,' he told Scottish Rugby magazine, which took this to mean the end of Armstrong's Test career may be imminent.

At least the Scots have grown used to being without him. Armstrong missed all of last season's championship after suffering a serious knee injury in a club match. But although Andy Nicol impressively took the chance this afforded, his displacement was certain once Armstrong returned to fitness during the autumn.

Armstrong, a 26-year-old lorry-driver, is not the first to wonder at the demands made on his family life and time by the preparation required for international rugby. 'There is far more training involved nowadays but it's still supposed to be an amateur game,' he said in the same interview. 'The time will come when they'll have to do something about it.' (In fact, the Scotland players' fund will be up to pounds 30,000 by July - about pounds 1,500 a man).

Victory at Twickenham would give Scotland not just the Triple Crown for only the third time since the war but also leave them certain of at least sharing the championship. Having lost to Wales, England need to win this match and the one that follows against Ireland in Dublin to ensure their share.

SCOTLAND (v England, Twickenham, 6 March): G Hastings (Watsonians, capt); A Stanger (Hawick), S Hastings (Watsonians), G Shiel (Melrose), D Stark (Boroughmuir); C Chalmers (Melrose), G Armstrong (Jed-Forest); P Wright (Boroughmuir), K Milne (Heriot's FP), P Burnell (London Scottish), D Cronin (London Scottish), A Reed (Bath), D Turnbull (Hawick), G Weir (Melrose), I Morrison (London Scottish). Replacements: K Logan (Stirling County), G Townsend (Gala), A Nicol (Dundee HSFP), C Hogg (Melrose), G Isaac, (Gala), I Corcoran (Gala).