Bernardo Stortoni set to ride off into sunset after Firhill swansong

BERNARDO Stortoni will experience the sandy plain of Firhill for the last time tonight, before the popular internationalist signs off from Glasgow and a professional rugby career to become a gaucho back on the pampas of his native Argentina.

Stortoni's mother Grace and father Mario have flown into Glasgow to watch him make his farewell appearance in front of a home support that has made up banners with messages of thanks in Spanish and bought Argentina flags to wave in tribute to the 34-year-old.

Stortoni admitted that his seven-year-old son Mateo is the most upset in the family at his decision to leave Scotland and return home, after nearly a decade in Europe for the full-back, but he is now comfortable with the move.

He said: "It is the right time for me to go home. I have had eight great years in European rugby and great times here at Glasgow, building my family with kids born here, and I want to be nearer my family, friends and the better weather also!

"I want to work on the farm with my father, enjoy the outside weather, but also keep playing with my local amateur club (Sociedad Sportiva] and do something in rugby, with all the things I have learned from here.

"I ride and I am going to be like the 'gaucho', you know; I'm going to be one of them, putting the cows altogether, the barbecues … you're all welcome too! Mateo is the most sad in the family, because he has a lot of friends at his school and playing rugby.

"He speaks 'Glasgow' now, which is so funny. My wife Tere and I have Trini and Esperanza, which means 'hope' in English, was born in Glasgow a year ago, and we want them to grow now in Argentina.

"We have loved Glasgow, such nice people here. When I was coming here (Francisco] Leonelli (Edinburgh's former Puma] told me 'bring an umbrella', but yes it's wet but it's nice too.

"It is an emotional time for me and my family. I told my family this will probably be my last professional game and my mother came last week. I called my dad and said 'C'mon dad, you can leave the farm. A cow can look after itself for one week, eh?' So he's come and got here yesterday." Glasgow coach Sean Lineen paid tribute to the inspirational figure who has played more games over the past four seasons at the club than any player, and worked hard off the field to pass on his knowledge and skills with coaching sessions around Glasgow and also further afield across Scotland.

"I can't speak highly enough of the guy," said Lineen, "his ability as a player from when he turned up with his socks round his ankles to his commitment to the team and his attitude, which has been brilliant."He's been a great player to work with and is up there with the best signings I've made in my time with Glasgow.

"The benefit he's brought to the youngsters at the club has been huge and it shows the value of having a good foreign signing. We would like another player like him, but it is important to get the right player, a player who can fit in. Bernie will be very hard to replace, in many ways."

Stortoni was candid in admitting that life will be tough for Glasgow next season with the struggles the Scottish game has financially and the fact that they will spend the first three months without the international core away at the World Cup. But he is hopeful that his departure will create opportunity for young players such as Peter Horne, Peter Murchie and Stuart Hogg to come through and show their ability in the first team.

"There is good talent here and I'd love to stay and develop them more, but they need opportunity and now it is time for them to test their skills in the Magners League and Heineken Cup.

"I am so happy to have played for Glasgow for the last four years, a lot of games and I don't think I can ask for more from my body at 34. Glasgow opened the door for me and I gave everything, and have great friends from here who I will keep in touch with. I am not sad, just happy to have been in Glasgow, and now I want to finish well.

"This is a big game for me, but for the team and the supporters as well and we all want to finish well to give the supporters a thank-you for supporting us in a season where we haven't done so well."

Glasgow confirmed yesterday that this will also be a send-off for James Eddie, the flanker who has battled back from serious injury more than once, but has not been offered a new contract. He joins Max Evans, Kevin Tkachuk, Richie Vernon and Stortoni in waving goodbye to Firhill tonight, albeit with a final league match to come at Leinster in a fortnight.

However, with Chris Cusiter and Graeme Morrison back from injury now, and even with Al Kellock, Richie Gray and Evans rested, this is one of the strongest sides Glasgow have fielded at Firhill.Lineen added: "It was tough to pick the side knowing some guys were leaving, but they have all earned their starts this week with what they have done for this club and what I've said to them all is 'go out and give one hell of a performance' to sign off with."