Wainwright prepared for muck and bullets

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The Independent Online
When Gavin Hastings bowed out fol- lowing a last- minute defeat against France in the quarter- finals of the World Cup last summer, Scotland did not have to take the high road or the low to find a new captain. Rob Wainwright, another Cambridge University man, was the natural successor.

"In all honesty," Wainwright said, "the only bit of advice Gavin's given me was to disconnect my answerphone." Not quite in the Agincourt class of stirring addresses on how to beat the French but sensible none the less. Capt Wainwright, a doctor in the Royal Army Medical Corps, is, metaphorically speaking, up to his neck in muck and bullets.

He has just moved from Catterick to Edinburgh and is settling into a new house with his wife Romayne, Douglas (18 months), Natasha (five months) and Zala, a Hungarian hunting dog. A conversation with Wainwright is frequently interrupted as he barks out orders to his household company. However, another member of the family, Inga, has gone Awol.

One of Wainwright's hobbies is falconry and he named his bird, Inga the winger, after Wigan's Va'aiga Tuigamala. He was working Inga in Richmond, Yorkshire, when she disappear- ed. "She went to catch something and I couldn't find her. I haven't seen her since although a friend has spotted her. She'll be completely wild by now."

In assuming the captaincy on the field in addition to being a captain off it, Wainwright, clearly a frustrated Rob Roy, is att- empting to combine two professional roles. "I didn't work towards the captaincy but there were not that many candidates. I don't want to sound cocky but I have the experience, seniority and a guaranteed place in the side. I couldn't ask for a better position to be in. I can't try to emulate Gavin. I've got to establish my own style. Off the field it's hard work. I don't have a typical working day."

Wainwright works at an Army medical centre and then has a stint in Civvy Street at a local GP's practice. "We haven't got access to enough patients in the Army," he said. "It's a healthy population and most of the injuries I treat are of the sporting type. Working in a doctor's surgery gives me more experience and helps to reduce their workload."

After treating soldiers and civilians he works out at a health club or on the tartan track at Murrayfield and in the evening trains with his new club, Watsonians, for whom he will make his debut in a cup match later this month. He was thinking of rejoining Edinburgh Academicals from West Hartlepool but the Accies were relegated and Hastings directed him towards his own club.

Wainwright did not get the response he expected when Scotland drew with Western Samoa at Murrayfield and were beaten in Italy, but everything was turned around in Dublin, where a smart victory over Ireland has set up a key match against France in Edinburgh on Saturday.

"Tackling has always been one of our strengths, and we lost it against Italy because of poor concentration," Wainwright said. "You've got to want to put the man backwards, you've got to be hyped up, you've got to show aggression. For the Five Nations the players were up and prepared. No team assumes anything in the championship. Our fitness was higher, our commitment higher."

At half-time at Lansdowne Road Scotland led 16-10, and afterwards Wainwright said he didn't realise the lead was down to six points, nor did he realise that no points were scored in the second half. "I'm not one who says, gosh look we're 12 points up, maybe we're going to win. I avoid looking at the scoreboard. I want to crack on. When the brain gets a bit fuddled others help with the tactical decisions."

By others he means the half-backs, Bryan Redpath and Gregor Townsend. "It's impossible for one man to call all the moves. If I've been running hard for five minutes and I'm knackered and out of breath it's hard to think. Others will see things that I can't see. A lot of calls will be made by Bryan at the base of the scrum."

Wainwright was educated at Glenalmond, the alma mater of his father, Jim, who taught at the school. Wainwright, after occupying various positions, has settled at No 6 - his father played blind-side flanker, winning a Cambridge Blue in 1956. Rob, sponsored by the Army, spent six years at Cambridge studying medicine and played in three Varsity matches from '86.

He would probably have played in more but for injury. It gave him the chance to win a Blue at boxing - heavyweight division, naturally. "I was lucky enough to win but there wasn't an awful lot of competition. It was good fun and I was quite happy to do it for a short time." Wainwright is a medic more out of Dr Finlay's Casebook than ER (emergency room, not the Elizabeth Regina for whom he works). Modern doctors don't box. "There were only three two-minute rounds and you were so tired after one minute that the blows were not that hard. There is a lot of boxing in the Army and everyone has to do it, although some civilian doctors refuse on principle. There is no doubt that a professional fighter is taking a huge risk."

Like father, like son: Glenalmond, Cambridge, casualty ward. Jim returns this week from Kenya, where he lives in retirement, to watch the rest of the championship; he gave up rugby at 23 because of a knee injury. Rob has often been in the wars - a fractured cheekbone against England two seasons ago was one of the more bizarre, he and Doddie Weir (broken nose) collided with fellow Scot Peter Walton as the three of them pounced on Kyran Bracken - but never a war zone. But for rugby he would probably have spent most of his time in Northern Ireland and Bosnia.

"I wouldn't be where I was if I didn't have the flexibility that the Army gives me," Wainwright said. "I don't like hospitals... artificial light, artificial air. I'd far prefer to be in a small surgery." He'd far prefer to be stalking the Highlands with Zala and Inga, but that will have to wait.

In one respect Wainwright, who was born in Perth and who will be 31 next month, does follow the doctor's casebook. He likes whisky. "I'm a collector to a certain extent but I'm not a malt snob. The trouble is I don't get much chance to drink it." Six bottles of Famous Grouse, a Christmas gift from one of the SRU's sponsors, lie untouched. He didn't even get a few drams inside him on Burns' night last week. Instead he was in Munich, receiving treatment to his back from a German doctor.

So, just how good is Wainwright? We tested him with The Edradour, a 10- year-old single Highland malt. "The smallest distillery in Scotland," he said. Very good.