Mike Blair announces international retirement
January 7, 2013
Mike Blair lifts the Calcutta Cup following Scotland's victory over England in 2008 © Getty Images
Scotland scrum-half Mike Blair has announced his retirement from international rugby.
The 31-year-old former Scotland captain, his country's most-capped No.9, has decided to bring the curtain down on a 10-year international career in order to open the selection door for other players as he does not believe the 2015 Rugby World Cup is a "realistic personal target".
Blair made his international bow against Canada in 2002 and would go on to earn a total of 85 Test caps, skipper Scotland on 14 occasions, tour with the British & Irish Lions in 2009 and become the only Scottish player thus far to be nominated for IRB Player of the Year award in 2008.
The second most-capped Scottish back of all time, said: "I'm in the very fortunate position of being able to decide myself when my international career ends. For me, that time is now.
"I have enjoyed immensely representing my country for more than ten 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.
"I want to thank everyone - my family, the Scotland management teams past and present, my team mates and our supporters - for their enormous contribution to my international career. I have been very fortunate to have these people around me."
Blair also enjoyed ten years with Edinburgh before embarking on a new chapter in his career by signing for French club Brive at the start of this season.
Blair continued: "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."
Blair's most recent appearance came against South Africa in November and such has been his form that he has been a regular starter in the past 18 months despite the formidable competition at No. 9 in Scotland.
"The fact that I still feel attuned to playing at international level has made the decision harder but it's not been reached lightly and I'm very confident that it's the right decision," he added.
Scotland's interim head coach Scott Johnson said: "I really enjoyed working with Mike during the summer tour and the more recent autumn Tests. There's no doubt he's a quality international rugby player and a quality bloke. I respect and understand his decision to retire from the international game now and, on behalf of all Scotland fans, thank him for his years of dedication to the national team."
Blair has competed for the scrum-half position with 31-year-old Rory Lawson and 30-year-old Chris Cusiter, who have also both captained Scotland. Cusiter has been out since September with a shoulder injury but his Glasgow team-mate Henry Pyrgos made a try-scoring debut in the November defeat by New Zealand after replacing Blair.
Blair will continue to play club rugby with Brive and is currently considering his options for next year. His former Edinburgh and Scotland team-mate, Scotland's cap and points' record-holder Chris Paterson, led the tributes today.
He 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.
"I think he was involved in every match-day Scotland squad, when available for selection, for a decade which is a real reflection of how good a player Mike was - a great Scottish internationalist."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
The controversial tackling technique will be in full swing in Dublin on Sunday, writes Conor O'Shea, and could be a decisive factor for Ireland
"This team deserves to be recognised as the greatest of all time." Huw Richards looks at Gareth Edwards' final match for Wales
The two leading contenders for the best modern open-side flanker go head to head in Paris on Saturday. John Taylor assesses the tale of the tape