Teapot Charlie keeps his eye on the cup

FIVE NATIONS Alex Spink hears how Peter Wright has beaten ridicule to prop Scotland's ambition
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The Independent Online
SOMETHING strange has happened to Peter Wright. After years being the butt of countless jokes he is ready to have the last laugh. At Murrayfield on Saturday Scotland can scoop the Five Nations' jackpot: championship title, Grand Slam, Triple Crown and Calcutta Cup all in one. And Wright, or "Teapot Charlie" to his detractors, has a crucial role to play.

No so long ago, the 27-year-old blacksmith who plays for Boroughmuir was considered good for nothing - a liability with little constructive to offer. Dean Richards nurtured the "Teapot" tag during the British Lions tour of New Zealand in 1993 because whenever he clapped eyes on the pear- shaped prop he seemed to be standing hand on hips, blowing hard.

To the surprise of many, presumably Richards included, Wright recovered from his Lions mauling to rebuild his international career. He gone on to amass 19 caps and if he is still not universally respected, perhaps he should be. He is now perceived as an asset rather than an embarrassment and Wright himself recognises the reason why.

"Frankly, I used to be a dirty player," he said. "At the time I did not think I was, but I did get involved in the stupid stuff - a couple of stampings, that sort of thing. That's all behind me. I know there is no place in rugby for foul play. I've still got an abrasive edge but I'm older now and a father to six-month-old Eilidh. She has settled me down."

On three occasions Wright has received his marching orders in club rugby. Admittedly, the most recent sending off was earlier this season against Gala, but it was at least only for raising his voice in anger. His dismissal immediately before that came nigh on a decade ago.

"I believe I am a more mature person now, certainly a much better player than when I toured with the Lions," Wright said. "But you must remember that I only had six caps to my name when I was selected to tour and I was suddenly asked to play, eat and socialise with players who, up until that moment, had been gods to me.

"The other thing to be remembered was that in the course of those six caps I had probably only touched the ball once. I was far from being a complete footballer. On a Lions tour everyone wants the ball and to do their own thing, so of course it was a difficult time."

A lesser character would have suffered from such a harrowing experience, yet it proved to be the making of Wright. He now knows what he wants, what his limitations are and what Scotland's limitations are. He has no time for "bullshit".

"Let's be honest," he said. "When you play for a country like Scotland with as small a playing base as ours, you have to believe in yourself if you are going to be successful. You have to conquer the fear of losing and of embarrassing yourself. Privately, it is that fear which drives us on to greater things.

"We are probably the lightest pack in the Five Nations but we are very fit and playing to our strength, which means keeping the ball alive. England present one hell of a challenge and if we underestimate them they could cane us. But we must not give them undue respect either. We must keep a perspective.

"We are all loving playing for Scotland at the moment," he added. "I said when I was banned the last time that I would play rugby only for enjoying, even if that meant forfeiting my international career." Fortunately, that has not been necessary.