Rory's rugby story has a familiar ring

Like grandfather, like father, like son as Scot aims for Melbourne sevens heaven
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The Independent Online

It would have been even harder to resist the temptation of plumping instead for the Telstra Dome in Melbourne on 16 and 17 March. After all, Rory Lawson, one of McLaren's five grandchildren, will be playing there for Scotland in the rugby sevens at the Commonwealth Games.

Then again, it might have been a struggle for Bill to restrain his emotions, as it was for him at Murrayfield in February 1976, when Alan Lawson - already married to his elder daughter, Linda - plundered a brace of tries in a famous 22-12 Scottish win against England.

The first of those scores features on Bill's Best Bits, the compilation of McLaren's most memorable moments from 50 years in the BBC commentary box. "I've watched it a hundred times," Rory confessed. "They've got the photo in the house of dad diving over under the posts. It's something he's remembered for, and obviously it was a big moment for mum and grandad."

It will be a big thing for the Lawsons and the McLarens that Rory - a scrum-half, like his 15-times-capped father - will be wearing a Scotland shirt in Melbourne. Indeed, his parents will be making the 24,000-mile round-trip from their home in the Perthshire town of Dollar to support him. "That's an extra incentive for me," the 24-year-old Edinburgh Gunner said. "My folks have given me so much support throughout my rugby. I'm sure it'll be a very proud moment for them.

"Dad's obviously been great to have around throughout my career. As a former scrum-half, he's switched on to exactly what I need to do. To be fair, mum's probably the driving force behind the whole thing. My grandad being who he is, she's been brought up in rugby and she's just absolutely crazy about it. She and my dad followed me to New Zealand when I played Under-18s and they followed my brother, Gregor, to South Africa when he played for Scotland Schools. They've both been an enormous influence on me."

Grandad Bill, 82 now and four years into his well-earned retirement, has been a big influence, too. "Yeah, it's great to be the grandson of Bill McLaren," Rory reflected. "I mean, he's such a great man - 50 years broadcasting for the BBC. That's amazing. It's something that I'm very proud of."

It was in the commentary box that Bill McLaren made his name, but on the rugby field he was a more than useful flank forward with Hawick. Indeed, Walter Thomson, the rugby correspondent of the Sunday Post for half a century, described him as "the greatest player never to have been capped by Scotland". McLaren was preparing for the Scottish trial match of 1947 when he contracted pulmonary tuberculosis. His playing career was over at the age of 23.

His grandson has been part of the Scotland sevens team all season, and has captained the Edinburgh Gunners in their last two Celtic League matches, but the path to Frank Hadden's 15-man national side has no chink of light at present for Lawson Jnr, with Mike Blair and Chris Cusiter both standing in his way. "It can be frustrating at times," Rory said, "but Chris and Mike have raised the bar in the last season or two. When these guys are playing so well, I've got to take every opportunity that's put in front of me. I know I'm not a million miles away. It's a great challenge, and one that I relish."

As he prepares to head out to Melbourne, at least Lawson can see a stepping stone ahead. The Scotland sevens team at the last Commonwealth Games, in Man-chester four years ago, included Blair, Sean Lamont, Simon Taylor and Marcus Di Rollo. They won the consolation Bowl but finished seventh overall, the position in which the 2006 Scottish team have been seeded for a competition that will feature the likes of Doug Howlett, Matt Giteau, Lote Tuqiri, Chris Latham and Mathew Tait.

"It's these kind of challenges, these kind of experiences, that you play rugby for," Lawson maintained. "It's just exciting to be in a Scotland team going out to the Commonwealth Games. I remember when the Games were here in Edinburgh in 1986 jumping on a train where we lived across the Forth Bridge in Limekilns, to come to Meadowbank. I was just a five-year-old but I remember watching Daley Thompson. That's my first memory of the Commonwealth Games. It's a big thrill to be involved in one now."