Chris Paterson praises 'gifted' Mike Blair

Blair announced his international retirement yesterday

Chris Paterson hailed Mike Blair as a Scotland great after the former national team captain retired from the international stage.

Blair called time on his career at the age of 31 after amassing 85 caps, a record for a Scotland scrum-half.

The former Edinburgh captain revealed his decision was based mainly on family reasons and a desire to see Scotland introduce new scrum-half talent before the 2015 World Cup.

And his former club and country team-mate Paterson paid tribute to his friend's 10-year contribution to Scotland.

Paterson, Scotland's record points scorer and cap holder, said: "Mike was one of the most gifted and naturally skilful players I ever played alongside.

"His ability to read a game and make the correct decision was brilliant.

"He was razor-sharp in attack and his defence, especially when chasing back and cover tackling, showed how tough a player he was.

"I think he was involved in every match-day Scotland squad, when available for selection, for a decade, which is a real reflection of how good a player Mike was - a great Scottish internationalist."

Blair, who left Edinburgh for Brive last summer, revealed he felt the time was right to step down ahead of the RBS 6 Nations under interim head coach Scott Johnson.

Blair said: "There's no doubt that moving our family to France has played a part in my decision.

"Our son Rory is now at school here and we have an 11-week-old daughter, Lucy, who was born in Brive.

"However, it's a combination of reasons that's led to my standing down from international rugby, not just one factor.

"For me, a place in the squad at the Rugby World Cup in 2015 is not a realistic personal target and, with that in mind, it's right for Scottish rugby and the Scotland team that other players gain experience in a pivotal position."

PA

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