TYPIFYING the kind of character that Scottish rugby has relied upon, it was no surprise to hear Rory Lawson announce his retirement with the comment that he had no regrets as he looked back on 31 caps and a rare run of success for a Scotland captain.
“I just look back and feel so, so lucky at the career I have enjoyed,” he said.
“It is really difficult now to accept that it’s over, especially when I was getting myself ready for a big season with Newcastle back in the Premiership and was really excited about that.
“But ultimately, when a medical consultant says to you that you should stop playing, you have to think about what you’re doing to your body, and think about the future.
“I don’t know what lies ahead, but I know already that I can look back on this part of my life with no regrets and a lot of great memories. The biggest probably was captaining Scotland to victory over South Africa [in 2010].
“It was not my most enjoyable game at the time because it was my first game back after breaking my hand and it was still not fully working at that time, but it was my first game as captain, it was at Murrayfield, leading my country, a boyhood dream, and to get the win was amazing.
“I will miss the involvement with Scotland massively – I have over the past year – but I feel so, so lucky to have done what I’ve done for the last decade or so.
“A lot of people would have given their right arm for a cap and I’ve got a few, so I walk away a very happy man.”
Despite representing Scotland from under-18s to 7s and ‘A’ levels, the product of Dollar Academy had to wait until he was 22 to win a contract with Edinburgh, after league and cup successes with Heriot’s. But he struggled for game-time behind Mike Blair.
The son of Scotland scrum-half Alan and grandson of the late journalist Bill McLaren, Lawson was always a polite, respectful individual, but he showed his inner steel by quitting Edinburgh and heading to Gloucester in 2006.
Bryan Redpath, the former Scotland scrum-half and captain, saw something of himself in Lawson’s defiant spirit, and offered him an apprentice salary with the promise that it would be doubled if he could impress head coach Dean Ryan in his first season.
Gloucester already had Peter Richards, being touted as England’s top scrum-half, but Lawson’s diligent approach to improvement earned the Scot 29 appearances in 33 games that season.
Richards departed and Lawson was handed an improved deal — he would remain at Kingsholm for six years, playing 149 games and becoming one of the most popular characters with players and supporters.
Blair and Chris Cusiter dominated the Scotland jersey and then Greig Laidlaw appeared on the scene and Lawson’s battle for international recognition stiffened further.
Still, he earned 31 caps and skippered Scotland to victories over South Africa, Samoa, Ireland and Georgia. It wasn’t the longest run of captaincy, but typical of Lawson’s career. When asked to step up, he invariably did it with gusto, surprising many as a result of unstinting, unheralded work off the field.
“It takes a lot of work but it’s worth it,” he added.
“Who knows what the future holds now? Commentating on rugby? You never know...”