Scotland end patient Tait's wait

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The Independent Online
Alan Tait's quiet re-emergence as a rugby union centre of serious quality was given fresh momentum yesterday when the Scottish selectors followed the example of their Lions counterparts and drafted him into the senior squad. The Newcastle centre was one of three players promoted from the A team for the match what could well be a Five Nations wooden spoon encounter with Ireland at Murrayfield on Saturday week.

At 32, Tait is hardly a rookie. He won the first of his eight caps a full decade ago - he came on as a replacement in the 28-22 defeat by France at the Parc des Princes - and the last of them against England in Edinburgh the following season. But before throwing in his lot with rugby league at the end of 1988, he had proved himself a strong, capable midfield linchpin. And if his display for Scotland A in the 50-point victory over the Welsh second-string last month was anything to go by, he remains every bit as effective.

Tait was a firm favourite to face England just over a fortnight ago, but Richie Dixon, the Scottish coach, felt a rushed return to full international rugby would be asking too much. England's record victory forced a re- think.

Given that the Lions selectors have also registered an interest it has been quite a week for the honorary Geordie - Tait was one of seven centres included in this week's preliminary squad. He is 99 per cent certain to face the Irish; his midfield partner will be either Tony Stanger, who impressed against England, or Gregor Townsend, who may be moved outside to make room for the more orthodox Craig Chalmers at outside-half.

There are two other changes in the Scottish 21. Duncan Hodge, the Watsonians stand-off, is included - a move that suggests Chalmers has every chance of a recall - as is Cameron Glasgow, the Heriot's wing who went to South Africa with the World Cup squad in 1995 but remains uncapped. Two centres, Ronnie Eriksson and Scott Hastings, and the right wing, Derek Stark, drop out to accommodate the newcomers.

SCOTLAND SQUAD (v Ireland, Murrayfield, 29 February): Backs: G Armstrong (Newcastle), C Chalmers (Melrose), C Glasgow (Heriot's FP), D Hodge (Watsonians), K Logan (Stirling County), B Redpath (Melrose), R Shepherd (Melrose), A Stanger (Hawick), A Tait (Newcastle), G Townsend (Northampton). Forwards: S Brotherstone (Melrose), J Ellis (Currie), D Hilton (Bath), S Munro (GHK), A Reed (Wasps), I Smith (Gloucester), T Smith (Watsonians), M Stewart (Northampton), R Wainwright (Watsonians, capt), P Walton (Newcastle), G Weir (Newcastle).

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