Armstrong the 'bravest Scot' joins Tait in retirement

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The Independent Online

Gary Armstrong, who embodied Scottish pugnacity for over a decade, announced his retirement from international rugby after his team's defeat by New Zealand.

Gary Armstrong, who embodied Scottish pugnacity for over a decade, announced his retirement from international rugby after his team's defeat by New Zealand.

The Scotland scrum-half and captain produced a lion-hearted performance for 80 minutes before declaring that he had played his last game for his country. "I could not have asked for anything more from the boys," he said. "They gave their all. There were a lot of sad moments out there as a few players, including myself, had played for Scotland for the last time."

The Scotland coach, Jim Telfer, who will now stand down for Ian McGeechan to return, paid tribute to his captain after his 51st and last cap. "He's the bravest man I have ever seen play for Scotland," he said of the 33-year-old. "He should have been a flanker, but he was not big enough."

Armstrong, who led Scotland to victory in this year's Five Nations' Championship, would have appeared for Scotland more often had he not been persistently hampered by injury. "Gary is an icon for Scottish rugby," said Telfer. "He epitomises the best in the Scottish character."

The centre Alan Tait also played his last international yesterday. The 35-year-old, who was the most prolific scorer in the Scotland squad with 17 tries from 27 caps, played for Scotland in the inaugural World Cup. After a nine-year hiatus in rugby league, he returned to the 15-man game in 1997 and scored five tries in this year's Five Nations.

Telfer added: "It was quite emotional for me but for Gary and Alan Tait it was a tremendous occasion."

Another Scotland player, the veteran prop Paul Burnell, had said before the tournament that he would retire after the World Cup.

John Hart, the New Zealand coach, said the injury sustained by the All Black stand-off, Andrew Mehrtens, did not seem too serious. "He received a bang on the knee," Hart said of his influential No 10, who limped off at half-time and was replaced by Tony Brown. "We don't think there is any serious damage but we will not know for sure until he undergoes a scan tomorrow," he added.

New Zealand play France in the semi-finals at Twickenham this Sunday.

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