DAN Parks will leave Glasgow this year confident he is helping to play his part in bringing on the next generation of Scotland stand-offs, but also hopeful his own international career is not over.
• Despite winning 47 caps, Dan Parks accepts he found it difficult to step up to the international stage. Picture: Jane Barlow
The 31-year-old yesterday spoke openly about his troubles in transferring his form with Glasgow on to the international stage and admitted his decision to sign a new deal last year was about ensuring his time in Scotland did not end in bitter disappointment.
He faced the challenge of recovering from the shame of a drink-driving offence and being dropped from the international picture by the new head coach, Andy Robinson, and, no matter what some critics think of him, he has undoubtedly gone some way in recent months to restoring his reputation.
Parks accepts his Scotland career may be over, but revealed he told Cardiff, whom he will join at the end of this season, he still wants to be available for international duty if Robinson were to bring him back into the fold.
Scotland cannot afford to ignore a player of 47 caps experience, still only 31, who is winning Magners League matches, at least not while international rugby remains a results-based business.
However, Parks has struggled to make the No10 jersey his own with inconsistent displays at the top level.
Setting aside the difficulties every player faces in stepping up a level, Parks believes he has worked out a particular reason for his failure to transfer club form to the Test stage.
"Part of playing for Scotland is about putting extra pressure on yourself to perform well, of course, but where I've made mistakes I think is by putting pressure on myself to impress other people, not just my team-mates and coaches, but the media and fans – and going out with that in my head," he said.
"It's a trap you can fall into with the amount of attention there is. Of course, it shouldn't be about pleasing the supporters and media; it's about doing what's right for your team-mates and coaches, getting the little things right because they lead to the success that the media and fans ultimately want to see.
"The 2007 World Cup experience was a great highlight for me for example (he ended up as Scotland's player of the tournament]. I think the biggest factor was that the World Cup was a great celebration of rugby, with fans supporting the game and enjoying being part of the party, and in that environment I was able to relax a bit more and enjoy it.
"Going right back to my first tour, to Australia, in 2004, those were highlights and I felt relaxed then, playing the Tests in Melbourne and Sydney, but I also enjoyed Murrayfield at times when we beat France and England in 2006 and won the Calcutta Cup again in 2008. Those were great highlights. But that's where I've got into strife playing for Scotland I think – trying to please people outside my control. So I've tried to change that this season and focus on only getting things right with my own team and my own game."
Parks has been booed by Scotland supporters at Murrayfield and, like every stand-off, taken a heavy share of blame for Scottish failings in the past decade of more toil than triumph. This season was about Parks' steely desire to prove himself, again, and having gone some way to doing that he feels he can leave for Cardiff happy.
"I'm happy with the move because I feel it's the right time, for me and Glasgow. I have had a great time in seven years with Glasgow and really enjoyed myself playing in Scottish rugby. But everyone needs a change at some point, and with the quality coming through at Glasgow now, and the desire for younger stand-offs to get their chance in Scotland, the time was right. I see the stand-off situation too. We do need young players like Ruaridh (Jackson] coming through and he needs chances to play, and my move will help that.
"Personally, though, the way last season ended was not nice and I didn't want to finish in Scottish rugby on that note. I knew I had to prove myself again, to myself and the Glasgow fans, and prove that I could provide something still for Glasgow. I feel I've done that this season and I want that to continue.
"Of course, if the Scotland door opened again because of it I'd be delighted, but it's not my focus. Andy Robinson told me last year I wasn't in his thoughts in the immediate future, and if Andy thinks I'm good enough to play for Scotland now then it would be great – I'd love to play for Scotland again – but playing well for Glasgow is the big thing in my life right now."
He added: "I said earlier in the week that I saw Cardiff as being a club capable of winning trophies and I didn't mean Glasgow weren't. It was more that Cardiff have been in big finals, and proven themselves, whereas Glasgow are at the other end, starting to show we have the potential to get there. But there has been no better opportunity than this season for us to achieve something special and I want to help create that before I leave Glasgow."