Rory Lamont: 'I've got to stay at the top of my game. As soon as I have a bad game I'll be dropped'

Full-back Rory Lamont has excelled for Scotland recently but takes nothing for granted, he tells Simon Turnbull
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The Independent Online

Parking his posterior on a chair in the boardroom of the Dalmahoy Hotel and Country Club, Rory Lamont shifts with marked unease when it is suggested that he is starting to sit rather pretty in the Scottish rugby scheme of things. Having delivered the first two scores in his country's Pool C opener against Portugal in St-Etienne nine days ago and been the form player in Scotland's two warm-up matches and their one World Cup contest to date, the former wing is looking like a real find of a full-back in the navy blue No 15 jersey.

"I can't take anything for granted," says the younger Lamont brother, tackling the notion head-on. "I've learnt in my three years in professional rugby that things can change very fast. Hugo Southwell is a very good player. He has held the 15 slot solidly for a few years now and Chris Paterson is always an option there too. So I know I have to stay at the top of my game to keep that position. I know the chances are, as soon as I have a bad game, that I'll be dropped. So I don't view it as my position. But I've been happy with the way things have been going and I'd like to keep that progression going."

Frank Hadden, Scotland's head coach, would also like to see that progression maintained, starting in the first of his team's two pool matches on home ground, against Romania at Murrayfield tonight. After collecting five caps as a first-choice wing under Matt Williams in 2005 and three as a replacement wing under Hadden during this year's Six Nations Championship, Lamont will be starting his fourth successive match at full-back for Scotland. He will also be lining up, it would be fair to say, as the new bill-topping Lamont brother.

Sean was already a veteran of 10 caps when Rory made his Scotland debut as a fellow wing against Wales at Murrayfield in March 2005. Only now, at 24 – his brother's junior by two years – has Rory emerged from the shadow of Sean, the two-try hero of Scotland's 2006 Six Nations win against France and Stade Français calendar pin-up boy, as a potential international star in his own right.

Even as recently as six months ago, when Rory stepped off the replacements' bench in the Stade de France and was guilty of blatantly obstructing David Marty, it was Sean who got the recognition, in the form of a yellow card from the match referee, Craig Joubert. And that was when Sean's hair was bleached blond and Rory's was a fully natural brown.

Now Sean's remains predominantly peroxided while Rory's is highlighted. Still, there is more than a passing resemblance between the Lamonts. Both are 6ft 2in and blessed with a nifty turn of speed and a natural attacking instinct.

"It kept me going when Sean came up to Scotland and started doing so well," Rory says, reflecting on rugby life with a big star of a big brother. "I would have given up on rugby if it hadn't been for Sean. I don't know what I would have done instead, but I'd suffered with injuries for years at Northampton and then I didn't get a contract there. I had a year off with a shoulder injury and finished my degree – it's in sports science and human biology, from the University of Northampton.

"I knew if I could stay fit and healthy that I had the potential to make it as a professional and seeing Sean come up to Glasgow and do so well in his first year made me decide to give rugby one last go before moving into the real world. I came up here to join Glasgow Hawks and, luckily, it paid off.

"Seeing Sean develop in the last couple of years, and seeing his status grow, has helped too. It's inspired me and kept me going. I knew if Sean could do it then I could do the same."

Since making his initial breakthrough two years ago, joining his brother in the Scotland team after just 10 games for Glasgow and scoring on his debut, Rory has been obliged to show his mettle further.

He suffered another series of injury problems (medial ligament damage, shin splints, fractured cheekbone, hernia) before re-emerging at international level via a run of form at full-back for Glasgow last season that earned him a summer move to Sale.

"Full-back is the position I've always preferred," he says. "I played there when I was 15 and when I joined the [Northampton] Saints Academy. I just didn't get much game time there, because of injuries mainly. It wasn't until last season that I got a run of games there, but I always felt my best games were when I was playing full-back. I felt I had the attributes needed to be a good full-back. I could get into the game a lot more."

Born and raised in Perthshire until the age of nine, Lamont actually started his rugby life as an outside-half with the Melton Mowbray club in Leicestershire. "Growing up, watching Scotland, I was always a fan of Craig Chalmers at 10 and Gavin Hastings at 15," he says. "As a young child, it was very inspiring to see a player like Gavin Hastings, someone in a Scotland shirt, being one of the best players in the world. I've never actually spoken to him but, obviously, I'd love to at some point. He was one of my heroes."

With 10 World Cup points on the board, Lamont has another 217 to go to match the record tally amassed by his boyhood hero. He is, though, following in his footsteps in the Scotland No 15 shirt.

And he also happens to have a brother playing in front of him. Gavin and Scott Hastings were the 16th set of brothers to play together for Scotland. Rory and Sean are the 19th.

The Lamonts have another family connection in Scotland's World Cup camp. They are related to the head coach Hadden. "Frank is my aunt's brother-in-law," Rory says. "My dad's brother married Frank's wife's sister. So he's a distant relative. I don't remember meeting him until I was 13 or 14, and that was the only time I can recall. So I didn't know him well at all."

No nepotism on the team selection front, then? "Well, I was a starting winger before Frank came in, and Frank came in and dropped me," Rory recounts. "He kept me out of the team for two years. So there's certainly no favouritism in that respect."

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