SIMON Webster is considered one of the quickest and most dangerous talents in the Scotland side, and he owes that to an Italian.
He is hopeful for a change tomorrow in his status as the only Scot to score a try in the current RBS Six Nations Championship, as part of a back-line that has notched 50 Test tries between them.
But there is an irony in the fact that Webster may never have worn a Scotland jersey had it not been for an Italian with a nose for speed. Born in Hartlepool, Webster was playing rugby at Yarm School on Teesside, and struggling to keep up with the pace-setters in the squads.
"I was about 16, playing inside centre for Yarm and I found I was making a lot of breaks, but I wasn't finishing many of them off because I was getting caught – which was really frustrating," says Webster. "So, through a family friend, I got in touch with a guy called Sergio Peretti, and went with him to the Clairville Stadium in Middlesbrough. We did some speed work and he provided a real insight into what I was doing wrong.
"In the first session we did he said to me: 'There's 50 metres – I want you to do it at 95 per cent. Let's see how you run.' So I took off down the track and at the end I thought that I had been pretty quick and was expecting him to be really impressed. But he told me that I ran like an ape and that it was going to take quite a lot of time. But my speed improved massively from then."
Webster, capped 32 times, added: "I hope we are talking about tries beating Italy. That might not please Sergio, but he wants an Italian shirt – if we win I'll maybe get him one."