Allan ‘Chunk’ Jacobsen has called time on his Scotland career and says his main focus now is his wife and daughter.
THE retirement of Allan Jacobsen from international rugby deprives Scotland of a player with more than a decade of invaluable experience in the Test arena. Perhaps of equal importance, it also removes from the dressing room a voice which has been one of the most valuably self-critical of recent years.
Although Jacobsen will continue to play for Edinburgh, yesterday’s announcement that he will not seek to add to his 65 caps inevitably felt like a chapter of Scottish rugby had come to a close. Having first played for Edinburgh back in 1997, the prop was the last remaining link on the playing field to the early seasons of the professional game.
Many of Scotland’s worst reverses of the past 15 years took place before Jacobsen made his international debut in 2002, but he was still around for some heavy defeats, both at international level and in Edinburgh’s colours. If at times there were team-mates who felt inclined to self-pity and to ascribe such defeats to bad luck, Jacobsen was never less than scrupulously honest in his assessments, His anger, however, was invariably directed at himself, not his colleagues. He always expected – and gave – complete commitment to the cause.
When, a few months ago, he began to feel that his enthusiasm for representing Scotland was not as great as it had been, there was always only going to be one outcome. As he explained his decision yesterday at Murrayfield, his tone was apologetic at times, but equally, he sounded sure he had taken the right option.
His life has changed, and so, inevitably, have his priorities. He began his international career as a single man. Ten years on, he and his wife Gayle have a young daughter, Maisie.
“The last little while – three months or so – it has been in my head that my commitment and the hunger probably isn’t what it was, or needs to be, or deserves,” Jacobsen said. “Being in camp for the New Zealand game, I kind of realised that it wasn’t there any more.
“I feel like I’ve always been totally committed to the cause. It’s dropped off in my mind, and I didn’t want to let that drag on and keep playing.
“So I just decided that was it. Time to call it.
“Being in camp, and being away from my family. . . I don’t want to say that I never minded it, but it’s different now. Maisie’s getting a bit older, she’s two-and-a-half, and it’s seeming like more of a chore to be away from her.
“I’m missing her growing up more and more. I don’t know if people realise how long you spend away in hotels or in camp on Scotland duty – it’s maybe 20 weeks a year in.
“My priorities have changed. That’s basically it.”
When Scotland coach Andy Robinson announced his squad to play South Africa last week, he mentioned the omission of Jacobsen, saying the player had been left out for his own personal reasons. With no further explanation forthcoming either before Saturday’s game or in its immediate aftermath, rumours began about what those reasons might be. Jacobsen heard them himself, from friends anxious to be told the real story, but he opted to keep silent until the time was right to explain himself.
“There’s nothing else in it at all,” he continued. “This is completely a decision I’ve made and I’m happy with it.
“Andy Robinson was great. I explained the situation to him and he was really good.
“When I’ve been thinking about all this it’s never crossed my mind that I want to totally stop playing, or I’m not committed to Edinburgh. It’s the extra on top of that. I don’t want to be the sort of guy who just hangs on for an extra couple of years, and then my performances drop off.
“I’m fairly happy with the way I’ve played for Scotland over the years, and proud of how I’ve played for the most part. I don’t want to look back and think I maybe went on a bit too far when I didn’t really want it.”
While Jacobsen is under contract with Edinburgh for the rest of the season and at present has every intention of carrying on for longer, yesterday was inevitably a time for looking back over his career. Asked what the best moment had been in a Scotland jersey, he began to talk of his first home international, but settled instead for a match a few years later.
“I think beating England in the Calcutta Cup in 2008 was the moment that brought me most happiness. It was such a big thing from when I was young – I was here at the Grand Slam game in 1990, and that set me on my path.
“I never won a Grand Slam obviously, but to beat England in a Calcutta Cup game was very special.”
The low point had come far earlier, and even then it was a bittersweet occasion rather than one of unmitigated gloom. “On my first cap we got beat by Canada – the only time we’ve been beaten by them.
“It was such a good feeling to be capped that day, but the fact we lost to that for the first time on my first cap always plays on my mind. But I try not to think about the bad stuff.”