Rugby Union: Stark's pace supplies crucial ingredient: Bill Leith on the Scottish winger who, after a thrilling debut in international rugby, hopes to be part of history against France

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DEREK STARK made an immediate impression in international rugby union by becoming the first Scot to score a try on his debut since Graham Shiel, also against Ireland, in the 1991 World Cup. And Stark, a qualified chef, has, he hopes, the necessary ingredients to assist a first away victory over France since 1969 on Saturday.

Barely nine minutes had elapsed in the match against Ireland when Kenny Milne spotted the Irish defence slow to regroup at a free-kick. And though Milne had to suppress a shout to Gary Armstrong for fear of alerting Ireland that their back door was not only wide open but hanging on its hinges, there was still time to exploit an elementary lack of cover.

Milne set off into the wide open prairie and, after Derek Turnbull and Andy Reed had handled Stark, the new Scotland winger, went over to score at the corner. Stark remembers the Irish match in vivid detail, saying: 'It is often claimed that players remember their international debut only as a blur.'

Indeed, the Scotland coach, Ian McGeechan, recalled his debut before the Irish match with an immortal remark: 'I remember my first cap, but I don't remember anything about the game. In fact, that's what I remember most about the occasion.'

Stark begs to differ. 'I remember the second half clearly because of having so little to do,' he said. 'I was twiddling my thumbs and asking Scott Hastings how long there was to go because I'm a great believer that it isn't over until the fat lady sings and all that.

'I wanted the victory nailed down and in the record books as soon as possible.'

Back in the dressing-room Turnbull was to tell Stark to 'spare a thought' for Roger Baird, who played the equivalent of 36 hours on the Scottish left wing between 1981 and 1989 without scoring a try. There is an extraordinary paradox in that Baird was the leading try scorer for the 1983 British Lions in New Zealand and remains the South district's record-holder.

But the irony of Stark scoring within 10 minutes was not lost on Baird, who later commented, tongue in cheek: 'Since I'm paying pounds 20 for a ticket nowadays, I'm entitled to see Scotland wingers score tries.'

What gave Stark, who travels cross-country from Ayrshire to play his club rugby with the Edinburgh club, Boroughmuir, particular satisfaction was the fact that he had been able to score by cutting inside Simon Geoghegan, whereas he had made his mark for Scotland A against Italy in December by setting up two tries on the outside break.

But the lasting memory of the Irish match, Stark feels, will be the try scored by his fellow winger, Tony Stanger, during which he played a creative role.

'I suspect television will continue to show Tony's try long after mine is forgotten,' Stark said. 'Some people have wondered if my floated pass which put Tony clear was blown fractionally forward, but we'll not worry about that. The try was awarded and I was delighted to have been involved.'

Stark, who ran 10.6sec for the 100 metres during a brief athletics career, studied as a teenager at a catering college in Woking. 'I was one of three boys in a college of 96 girls. It was a tough course,' he said. Stark still managed to find time to play some rugby with Guildford and Godalming as well as Chobham RFC, the trainee chef noting - with no pun intended - that even in those days the clubs were regarded as feeder outfits for the likes of Harlequins and Richmond.

Having tasted it once, Stark is now desperately keen for a second helping of international success in Paris and hopes that Scotland can expand on their first outing. 'It's very, very important that I build on the performance against Ireland,' he said.

'I'm very aware that people will be looking even more closely, and hopefully they'll be saying afterwards 'oh, he is that good'.

'The 15-3 winning margin against Ireland was not as wide as it might have been,' he said, before adding a pointed warning to the French. 'But at least we came nowhere near using our full repertoire of back moves.'

(Photograph omitted)

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