STEWART Campbell, one of Scotland’s 1995 heroes of Paris, yesterday announced his retirement from professional rugby to concentrate on a new career blending his love of music and architecture.
The 31-year-old lock forward, who started out at Strathendrick and played for West of Scotland, Dundee HSFP, Caledonia Reds, Melrose, Glasgow Caledonians and Treviso in Italy, finished his career yesterday at Leeds, the Zurich Premiership side beaten by Edinburgh on Sunday.
A veteran of 17 Scotland caps between 1995 and 1998, he explained to The Scotsman yesterday: "I just felt now was the right time to go and turn my attention to other areas of my life that I enjoy.
"My contract ran until the end of this season at Leeds, and I have had a very happy time here and met some great people since I arrived from Treviso two years ago, but there are some great young players coming through in the second row at Leeds and my chances of playing at a high level have reduced quite a bit so the coach and chief executive have been very good and agreed to let me finish today.
"I have an architecture degree from Dundee University and have been working on my music in the background, while I’ve been playing rugby, and I’m now looking at launching a new business this year where I make video, audio and CD animation for building firms to promote themselves. This allows me to indulge my passions for music and architecture and I’m really looking forward to getting my teeth into it."
A product of Balfron High School, Campbell was as popular off the field as on with Scotland squads from under-18 to full Test level, as he was an accomplished musician with the violin, trombone, guitar, digeridoo and banjo among his range of skilfully mastered instruments. He came to prominence in the West of Scotland youth set-up, going on to represent Scotland at U-18, U-19 and U-21 levels before stepping up to the Test arena against Canada in 1995.
The man who recorded CDs with Scottish producer Jesse Rae under the pseudonym ‘Axeman Campbell’ also played 16 times for Scotland A, and captained the side when not featuring in the full Test squad. He wore the Scotland jersey for the last time in the midweek games of the 2000 New Zealand tour.
Campbell’s varied club career also included a stint in Brisbane and a period at Premiership champions Leicester on loan during the recent World Cup, as cover for England locks Martin Johnson and Ben Kay, but it will come as no surprise that Scotland’s famous win over France in Paris in 1995 - his incredible debut year also featured his only World Cup games - is the highlight of his career.
"That season and that Paris game is obviously a great highlight to have," he added. "It was a great game, a great day and I just felt so proud to part of it, but I can look back with a lot of fondness on the teams I’ve played with at club level and with Scotland, and the players I’ve trained and played alongside, in Scotland, Italy and England. It has been a very enjoyable career and you can’t complain about being paid to play rugby, can you?
"Now, it’s time for something new, but I’m also quite pleased to see Edinburgh really moving Scottish rugby forward, as I saw at the weekend. I enjoyed being part of the start of professional rugby in Scotland and, hopefully, it will now build on what Edinburgh is achieving."
Edinburgh jumped to sixth in the European rankings after beating Leeds on Sunday. Only Wasps, Bath, Leinster, Toulouse and Ulster sit above them.