Blair hangs up the Blades
Mike Blair has announced a concussion-related retirement from playing rugby this week and will assume an assistant coaching role with Glasgow. As anoyone who reads his columns will know he is an astute observer of the game and should fit right in to Gregor Townsend’s setup at the Warriors.
Blair was first capped in 2002 and unfortunately played during large chunks of an era when Scotland’s attacking skills were far behind those of Blair himself. The early years of this blog were spent watching Mike burst through a gap with no-one (apart from maybe Ally Hogg) on his shoulder to support him; if he were in his prime today he would find national and pro teams far more attuned to his sensibilities.
It was also a period of riches for Scotland at scrum half – he spent the early years battling with Bryan Redpath for the 9 shirt and the later period competing with Chris Cusiter and Rory Lawson. Blair, a nominee for IRB player of the year in 2008, was a British and Irish Lion in 2009 on the agonising tour of South Africa but had a strangely subdued tour where he was far from his best.
Speaking of his best, the less said about his (post Calcutta Cup win) naked underpant dancing being broadcast live on the BBC from a victorious Scotland changing room, the better.
Mike played his club rugby for Edinburgh, Brive, Newcastle and finally Glasgow and retired from international rugby in 2013 with 85 caps. We wish him all the best for the future.
Carmichael joins Edinburgh
Continuing the aim of integrating young Scottish players into the professional set-up, Edinburgh Rugby confirmed the signing of Edinburgh-born, former North Berwick HS pupil and lock Lewis Carmichael on a two-year deal. He represented the city of his birth at under-17 and under-18 levels before being drafted into the Scotland under-18 squad, making his debut against England in March 2013. Edinburgh are also rumoured to be interested in Samoan centre Sasa Tofilau who has been playing for Kirkcaldy but appeared in Edinburgh colours at the Melrose Sevens (which they won).
Scottish Rugby Academy players Patrick Kelly (Glasgow Hawks and former Scotland under-20) and Ross McCann (Stewart’s Melville RFC and Scotland under-19) have been awarded the coveted 2016 John Macphail Rugby Scholarship and will spend 15 weeks immersed in the nation’s renowned rugby culture and high-performance training.
Kelly and McCann departed for Canterbury at the start of the month (9 April) where they will join the Crusaders High Performance unit, and team up with local club sides to assist with their development.
Centre Kelly, a product of Highland RFC, captained Merchiston Castle School to the Brewin Dolphin Scottish Schools Cup final in 2012. He occupied the starting inside-centre berth in all of Scotland under-20’s five games of the 2015 Six Nations Championship, playing a key role in side’s victories over Wales, Italy and Ireland. He was then selected for the World Rugby Under-20 Championship in Italy, and made starting appearances in four of the five games, before joining Scottish Rugby’s new Academy programme.
Prolific wing McCann scored four tries in his three appearances for Scotland under-16, and replicated his try scoring form for the Edinburgh age-grade side, crossing the whitewash twice in his four appearances. The former Royal High School pupil captained his school to Brewin Dolphin Plate success in 2014 and made his international under-18 debut as he came off the bench in the 21-13 defeat of Ireland Schools at Mayfield, Dundee.
Previous recipients include a host of current Scotland internationalists, including John Barclay (2005), Kevin Bryce (2007), Grant Gilchrist (2011), Jonny Gray (2012), Finn Russell (2013) and Adam Ashe (2014).