Parks quits before being pushed

Scotland search for new No 10 while a glittering England future opens up for Ben Morgan

Just as England's latest contender for a long and productive run in the red-rose back row was revelling in his first taste of international rugby – "Something I'll remember and treasure for the rest of my life," said a star-struck Ben Morgan yesterday, reminiscing about the dozen minutes or so he spent on the pitch at Murrayfield last weekend – one of the Scots who started that game was putting his Test career firmly behind him. Dan Parks, never the most popular outside-half north of the border but occasionally the most effective, will not wear the blue shirt again.

The 31-year-old exiled Australian said in a prepared statement that he had considered retiring from the international game following last autumn's World Cup, but decided to declare himself available for Six Nations duty because England were the opening-round opponents and he felt there was an element of "unfinished business" following Scotland's bitterly frustrating defeat by the ancient enemy during the global gathering in New Zealand. However, his performance in Edinburgh four days ago was well below par and it seemed yesterday that he had been given an opportunity to bow out while the choice was still his to make.

This suspicion was reinforced by Andy Robinson's remarks on the subject. "It's never an easy decision to make, but I think Dan has made the right one," said the coach, who did not include Parks in his early squads but finally responded to the player's "determination, hard work, skill and competitive spirit". Robinson will now turn to a younger generation of No 10s charged with the task of stamping some authority on Scotland's most obvious problem position. Ruaridh Jackson, Greig Laidlaw and Duncan Weir are the front-runners in the immediate term.

Parks, who scored 266 points in 67 international appearances over eight years and dropped more goals than anyone in the Scottish annals, was not obviously cut from Wallaby cloth: no one ever mistook him for Mark Ella, Michael Lynagh or Stephen Larkham. Yet on a good day, he brought a pinpoint tactical kicking game to the table: indeed, more than one England coach considered him a serious threat to the nation's Calcutta Cup ambitions. Certainly, the man from Sydney's upper north shore area was valued by his colleagues.

"We all had the same reaction when Dan announced his retirement: stunned silence and emotion," said the scrum-half and former captain Mike Blair. "In 2010 he came back from the wilderness to win man-of-the-match awards against Wales, Italy, Ireland, South Africa and Argentina. That showed his resilience and competitiveness."

Yesterday was a very different day for the 22-year-old Morgan, who can see a whole new world unfolding before him. Fast-tracked into Stuart Lancaster's new-look Six Nations squad after declaring his international allegiance to England rather than Wales – born in Gloucestershire, he was given his professional break by the Llanelli-based Scarlets – he has an even-money chance of replacing Phil Dowson in the middle of the back row for this weekend's arm-wrestle with Italy in Rome.

It was Lancaster, the caretaker coach of the national side, who first approached Morgan with a view to sticking a white shirt on his back. It happened eight months ago, ahead of a Churchill Cup tournament in which Lancaster was running the second-string Saxons. "That was an awkward time for me because I'd just started on a development contract in Wales, and while it blew me away it also came completely out of the blue," admitted Morgan, who knocked back the invitation.

"I had so many people telling me what I should and shouldn't be doing that I couldn't think for myself. The easiest thing for me was to say I needed more time. As soon as everyone shut up and let me think for myself, it was really clear. It was about wanting to play for my country. It didn't matter about Wales, because I'm not Welsh."

When Morgan first landed with a considerable splat on hallowed Llanelli turf, following spells with such glamorous clubs as Dursley, Cinderford and Merthyr Tydfil, he was the best part of 21 stone and had a reputation for self-inflicted pratfalls. "I once missed a county trial for Gloucestershire because I fell off a microscooter on the morning of the match and chipped a bone in my hip," he recalled. "It took two years of hard effort at Scarlets to get myself fit because I was really quite big, but they were wonderful in taking a chance on me. I'd been working on a building site and eating whatever I wanted, so I had no idea what was good for me. That was when I found myself dragging a sledge around the stadium and wearing a snorkel on the running machine. In the end, it's about not giving up."

England, very much aware of the physical threat posed by the Azzurri this weekend, trained hard yesterday in the unfamiliar surroundings of the London Soccerdome, near the O2 Arena in the capital's docklands. Charlie Hodgson, who scored the decisive try on his return to national colours last weekend, was not in a position to test his dodgy shoulder joint in full contact, but the Saracens outside-half is expected to retain the No 10 shirt in Rome. Another crocked individual, the Northampton scrum-half Lee Dickson, was able to participate, despite a fractured bone in his left hand.

Lancaster released eight players back to their clubs for this weekend's round of Premiership matches, including Toby Flood, fresh back in the England training party after injury. The coach has, however, retained the Wasps half-back Joe Simpson in case of further problems with Dickson.

Suggested Topics
New Articles
tvDownton Abbey Christmas special
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
art
News
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashion
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all