While many past players add a little extra around the middle when they stop playing, Mike Blair still looks whippet-thin, smaller than he was in his playing days, gaunt even. But then again what happened to this Scotland squad in Cardiff can do that to a man.
All eyes are on another Scotland scrum-half. Greig Laidlaw divides opinion: half the fans are screaming at him on TV to move the flipping ball faster while the other half are marvelling out loud at the Jed man’s canny game management, when to up the tempo, when to slow it down.
Given Scotland’s stated ambition to play ‘the fastest rugby in the world’ it is perhaps surprising that Laidlaw got the nod over the nippy Ali Price but not if you listen to Blair.
“They are different players,” says the Scotland assistant coach, “but I think they’re also capable of doing the things that maybe they’re not known for. Especially with Greig. On the Lions tour a couple of times he came on off the bench and I thought had a real zip about him. So he’s got to keep pushing that, he’s capable of doing that.”
It wasn’t just in the Lions’ red shirt that Laidlaw showed some “zip”. In the 2015 Calcutta Cup match at Twickenham it was Laidlaw’s injection of pace, twice in one move, that helped create a try for Mark Bennett in the right hand corner of the old cabbage patch.
Admittedly, his mind moves faster than those little legs these days, but that can be just as effective as Laidlaw’s quick thinking against Argentina at Murrayfield in 2014, when his sniping at the base of the breakdown cleared the way for Stuart Hogg to do the needful.
France won’t view him as a threat which may mean space opens up for him.
Scotland cried out for Laidlaw’s experience last weekend and it is no surprise that they scored their only try after he entered the fray and the visitors finally built pressure through 19 phases, but if anyone is expecting a tactical U-turn from the Scottish coaches they will be sorely disappointed.
“We lacked a little bit of composure at times,” Blair concedes the obvious, “I don’t believe that what we’re trying to do is wrong. I’m aware there’s talk of whether we had a Plan B or how we react to it, and I don’t believe in that a huge amount.
“I believe that what we were trying to do was right but we just weren’t accurate enough with it.”