Rugby-Scotland scrumhalf Blair retires from internationals

LONDON, Jan 7 (Reuters) - Mike Blair, former Scotland captain and the country's most-capped scrumhalf, has retired from international rugby, the 31-year-old now playing for French club Brive announced on Monday.

Blair won 85 caps - 36 of them off the bench - captained Scotland 14 times and is the only Scottish player to be nominated for the International Rugby Board World Player of the Year title (in 2008).

"I'm in the very fortunate position of being able to decide myself when my international career ends. For me, that time is now," Blair said in a statement.

"I have enjoyed immensely representing my country for more than 10 years and will miss that exhilarating feeling of running out to a capacity crowd with the whole country behind you.

"The noise when leading the team out for the first time as captain at Murrayfield against England in 2008, when we won 15-9, still makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up when I think about it."

After 10 years playing for Edinburgh, Blair moved to Brive at the start of this season and said: "There's no doubt that moving our family to France has played a part in my decision. Our son Rory is now at school here and we have an 11-week-old daughter, Lucy, who was born in Brive.

"However, it's a combination of reasons that's led to my standing down from international rugby, not just one factor.

"For me a place in the squad at the Rugby World Cup in 2015 is not a realistic personal target and, with that in mind, it's right for Scottish rugby and the Scotland team, that other players gain experience in a pivotal position."

Former team mate and Scotland's most-capped player Chris Paterson said: "Mike was one of the most gifted and naturally skilful players I ever played alongside.

"His ability to read a game and make the correct decision was brilliant. He was razor-sharp in attack and his defence, especially when chasing back and cover tackling, showed how tough a player he was." (Editing by Mark Meadows)

MOST POPULAR IN SPORTS