Scottish old guard bow out
October 25, 1999
Tears flowed freely at Murrayfield last night as four of Scotland's old guard bowed out of the international scene after their defeat by New Zealand in the World Cup quarter-final.
Veteran centre Alan Tait broke down as his international swansong ended in defeat _ then quickly looked forward to his next challenge.
After a momentous career spanning 12 years and both rugby codes, Tait finally quit after Scotland's gallant 30-18 loss at Murrayfield last night.
The 35-year-old centre is in good company, following coach Jim Telfer, skipper Gary Armstrong and prop Paul Burnell onto the sidelines.
Tait will complete the season with Edinburgh Reivers before assessing his
options, which could involve a coaching role with the Scottish Rugby Union.
Ian McGeechan officially took over from Telfer this morning, although he has
been part of the Scottish coaching team throughout the competition.
And the new man has already enquired about Tait's availability.
``Geech is looking to change a few things and bring in some new faces,'' said Tait, who finished his Scotland career with a remarkable 17 tries in 27
``There might be an opportunity to work on the defensive side of things, much
as Phil Larder has done with England.
``It would go right through from the club game to the international side, so
once my commitment to the Reivers is finished, we will see what happens.''
Tait was accompanied onto the pitch by son Michael as he took his final bow in
front of 60,000 appreciative fans.
With the cudgels laid down for the final time, Tait, the consummate
professional, let his guard slip _ and he wasn't alone.
``I wasn't too bad until Gary Armstrong tried to make a speech in the dressing
room after the game,'' he said.
``He was too choked to get his words out and once I got onto the pitch at the end I just started sobbing.
``Michael has never seen me like that before and he wondered what was going
It was a proud way for the retiring quartet to bow out.
Even though the odds were stacked against them from the start and defeat was inevitable once Tana Umaga and Jeff Wilson had crossed within two minutes of each other in the opening quarter, Scotland never gave up.
The flowing rugby they produced against the most formidable nation on earth
was a perfect epitaph for Telfer's reign as coach.
Budge Pountney and Cammie Murray both breached the Kiwi barricades in the
final quarter to huge cheers from the home support, who belatedly turned out to back their team.
Only a victory could have topped the day off in more appropriate fashion but
Scotland are not alone in finding that task beyond them.
``We did everything we could,'' admitted Burnell, who will take up a two-year contract with Montferrand later this week.
``There were a few knock-ons but the conditions were poor and New Zealand made some errors as well.
``New Zealand weren't much better than us but they took their opportunities
and we didn't.
``I have mixed emotions about never being able to play at Murrayfield again
but we all have to finish sometime and it is time to bring on some of the
As usual, Telfer deflected his own feelings on the occasion, preferring
instead to pay tribute to the men who have served him so valiantly over the
He described Armstrong as ``an icon, probably the bravest man I have ever seen play for Scotland.''
It was praise the skipper himself had no need to be embarrassed about. To the
last he led his troops from the front.
``I have not heard a crowd get behind us so much since we won the Grand Slam
in 1990,'' he said.
``It is something I will remember for the rest of my days.''