He may not have touched the ball in his ten minutes on the pitch but Sean Lamont joined the many thousands in these parts who consider St James’ Park to be hallowed turf after he won his 100th cap at the Newcastle stadium in Saturday’s 36-33 win over Samoa which booked a Rugby World Cup quarter-final place.
“I got longer against South Africa [for cap No 99] and didn’t touch the ball either. That’s rugby, these things happen, but I’m still happy,” said the veteran wing after joining Chris Paterson and women’s stalwart Donna Kennedy as the only Scottish rugby players to make a century of international appearances. Lamont added: “There was a big deal made of it. A lot of love from the boys which is greatly appreciated. It is 11 years in the making. The boys are stoked for me and it’s a great squad. I love being here and this squad’s one of the best I’ve been around. I’ve said that before and I stand by that. One of the best, not just for playing ability but for spirit within the squad. I consider myself to be 100 not out, I’m not finished yet. I’ll keep plugging away.”
Coincidentally, the 34-year-old from Perth’s first, 50th and 100th caps all came against Samoa. A physical cap is presented for all three of those milestones, as well as World Cups, so Lamont now has six in his millinery collection.
“How have I changed from that guy who won his first cap?” he reflected after Saturday’s match. “Well, I’ve got older for one. I’ve changed my focus. When you start out you want to make a name for yourself and it’s about you as a player but now it’s not me. If I’d sat on the bench all day today and not got on, it wouldn’t have bothered me as long as we won. My focus is the team doing well and the players who represent the team showing themselves well. That’s what we did today. At the moment, the other five caps are all in a drawer. I’ve got an office in my house and I’ll put them up there when I’m done. At the moment, I’m still making new memories, so I’ll deal with that when the day comes.
“The SRU president [Ed Crozier] gave me the cap. The family were all there, [brother] Rory was there, wife, kids, mum and dad all in the changing room after the game. Which was very nice.”
There was another landmark to celebrate as Richie Gray won his 50th cap and led the team out on to the pitch.
“Was it that obvious?” asked the modest lock when it was put to him that he looked slightly awkward in the moment. During the build-up last week, the 6ft 10in second-row said he might have to be pushed out on to the pitch by his team-mates to take his moment in a spotlight he usually prefers to avoid.
“I am very honoured but Scotland are through to the quarter-finals, Sean Lamont got 100 caps and that is the bigger picture,” added Gray.
The Castres forward insisted the drama of the game was “hell” for the players as much as it was for the supporters but was glad to get the job done and look forward to a quarter-final. He said: “The reality of it is if we got knocked out we were on the bus home. We are still in the biggest rugby tournament in the world and have a crack at the last eight.”