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And a very happy birthday ahead of Friday to Scotlands greatest rugby player. Such titles are inherently subjective and arbitrary, but it was the one conferred last year on Gary Armstrong, who turns 50 on September 30, by the Herald, a paper with a long record of sane and serious coverage of the Scottish game.Armstrong, who won 51 caps at scrum-half between 1988 and 1999, squeezed ahead of Gordon Brown and Andy Irvine at the top of the Glasgow-based papers list of Scotlands all-time greatest 50. ESPNs own John Griffiths in 2003 rated him number 6 in his top 50, with Irvine at No.1, ahead of Gavin Hastings and post-war flanker Doug Elliott.Certainly few players have been more warmly regarded by a greater range of compatriots, not all of them natural rugby fans. Gregor Townsend has recalled his experience as a student of walking into an Edinburgh biker bar whose walls were decorated with news cuttings about Armstrong.It also helps to have been associated with some of the happiest moments in Scotlands rugby history. Armstrong and prop Paul Burnell were the common factors in both the Grand Slam of 1990 and the Five Nations title in 1999. His deft pass was perhaps the key moment in the creation of Tony Stangers decisive try in the 1990 Grand Slam decider against England.Those 51 caps spread across a dozen years might not look so impressive to modern eyes. But there was less international rugby in the era either side of the shift to professional in 1995, and Armstrong was unlucky enough with serious injuries to devote an entire chapter of his autobiography to his medical mishaps. Scotland played 89 matches in all between his debut against Australia in October 1988 and his final appearance against the All Blacks 11 years later.He was also an unlucky Lion. He made the party to Australia in 1989, but was kept out of the tests by Robert Jones -- a rivalry which, to the credit of both, generated friendship and mutual respect -- on Armstrongs own reckoning at that time probably the best scrum-half in the world. Forced to settle on that tour for membership of a memorably happy and effective midweek squad, Donals Doughnuts, led by Irish lock Donal Lenihan, he was slated for a bigger role on the 1993 trip to New Zealand. Coach Ian McGeechan reckoned him likely to be the first name on the team-sheet, but he was ruled out of the tour by a serious groin injury.His home town of Jedburgh ranks a little behind Hawick or Galashiels as a Border hotbed, the Jed-Forest club a periodic rather than a consistent contender for honours. But it provided Scotland with world-class scrum-halves for two decades. Armstrong emerged in succession to Roy Laidlaw, Scotlands scrum-half of the 1980s -- the two facing each other in one final Scottish trial before Laidlaw retired at the end of the 1988 Five Nations.Some commentators were incredulous that the same small club could provide Scotland with consecutive number nines -- in the process squeezing out heir apparent Greig Oliver -- but as Armstrong pointed out he did not just appear out of the blue, having played at youth, under-18, under-21 and B levels before winning his first senior cap.He was, he recalled in his memoirs always a scrum-half. I must have looked like a scrum-half from day one and that was where I was put. Usually identified as the extra loose forward type of scrum-half, he always offered rather more than that.He was fearsomely committed, a quality which made him a favourite of notoriously demanding Scotland coach Jim Telfer. David Sole, the abrasive leader of the 1990 Grand Slam team, said that if you were picking one guy to go over the top you would pick Gary Armstrong. He would put his body on the line for the cause -- a phenomenal player with incredible courage. Jonny Wilkinson, a team mate at Newcastle in the later 1990s, thought of him as the junk-yard dog.But he was much more than a rugged auxiliary to the fine back rows Scotland could field in the 1990s. His aim was to keep opponents guessing, never sure whether he would pass, break or kick. The golden rule was never, ever to give his half-back partner bad ball, a priority he kept to the extent that legendary Scottish commentator Bill McLaren, writing at a time when Armstrong had already amassed 30 caps, could not recall an occasion on which he passed on rubbish ball to his partner.And he had a wider range of skills than is often remembered. Like every other team-mate, Townsend admired his toughness and commitment, but for me, his kicking game and ability to break tackles were just as impressive. Taking a therapeutic career break from the pressures of playing scrum-half in 1993, he had sufficient all-round ball-playing skills to appear at outside-half, full-back and centre for Jed-Forest before the needs of both club and country compelled a return to the number nine shirt.And he got smarter as he got older, using the opportunity to dedicate himself full-time after the switch to professionalism post-1995 to develop his game -- Townsend noting that playing and training as a professional for Newcastle had made him a more rounded player. He no longer played like a ninth forward and his first option was to quickly get the ball in my hands.His Scotland career might have ended much sooner than it did. There were the injuries, that sabbatical in the 1993-4 season and numerous offers to move to rugby league. His autobiography details how close he came to signing for the Carlisle club before a background check revealed the league teams financial instability.A lorry driver in the pre-professional eras, he was a significant beneficiary of the transformation post 1995. He was not only paid his considerable worth by the original big-money club, with whom he won an English championship in 1998, but extended his career by several seasons.His 1995 autobiography made it clear that the prospect of after-dinner speaking was enough to put him off becoming captain -- although he was a keen participant in the less formal aspects of post-match banquets -- but he wound up leading his country, captaining Scotland to the final Five Nations championship before ending with the 1999 World Cup match against the All Blacks.Scotland has hardly been ill-served since at scrum-half. Bryan Redpath and Andy Nicol were the immediate competitors to succeed him, while Mike Blair, Chris Cusiter and Greig Laidlaw have ensured that, whatever their limitations elsewhere, Scotland have fielded consistent quality in the number nine shirt.But where Armstrong left Scotland as champions they have not won, or come near to winning, a title in the 17 seasons since. Coincidence? One rather suspects not. Jose Reyes Jersey.Y. -- Jayna Hefford scored the winning goal Friday as Canada survived a scare with a 4-3 win over Sweden at the Four Nations womens hockey tournament. Jorge De La Rosa Rockies Jersey.ca! Kerry, Two nights after the Scott-Eriksson incident in Buffalo, the Bruins returned home to play San Jose. In that game, Zdeno Chara put a check on Tommy Wingels that clearly targeted his head. http://www.baseballrockiesproshop.com/ian-desmond-rockies-jersey/. Most important, perhaps, it went off without a hitch. Organizers poked a little fun at the now-infamous opening ceremony gaffe that saw only four out of five snowflakes open up into rings, leaving the Olympics logo one ring short. Colorado Rockies T-shirts. Note: The Calgary Flames announced Tuesday that Sean Monahan would not be made available to Canadas World Junior team. DJ LeMahieu Rockies Jersey. Vancouver Whitecaps and Toronto FC failed to make the postseason while Montreal Impact fell at the first hurdle losing heavily to Houston Dynamo in the Eastern Conference Knockout Round. BOSTON -- Based on his performance this season, Boston Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel admitted he was a little surprised to be selected to pitch in the All-Star Game.Now, it appears he wont be able to.Kimbrel was unavailable Friday night in the ninth inning of a 6-5 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays at Fenway Park after tweaking his left knee during pregame warmups, according to Red Sox manager John Farrell.Kimbrel underwent an MRI exam, the results of which will be available to the team on Saturday.Everything that we did early, he was fine, Farrell said after Koji Uehara allowed a solo home run but still picked up the save in Kimbrels absence. But then he felt something while the running was taking place, unfortunately, during [batting practice] while he was shagging.Kimbrel, who has a 3.55 ERA and 17 saves in 34 appearances, was among six Red Sox players named to the American League All-Star team. Asked if Kimbrel would still be able to pitch Tuesday night in San Diego, Farrell said, I would venture to say hes not going to be available for that.In addition to Kimbrel, reliiever Junichi Tazawa was unavailable Friday night due to discomfort in his right shoulder.dddddddddddd Tazawa hasnt pitched since last Sunday against the Los Angeles Angels, although Farrell said the Red Sox have not yet felt the need to order an MRI exam.Also, left fielder Brock Holt left Friday nights game with a Grade 1 sprain of his left ankle after sliding awkwardly into second base in the fourth inning. Holt was in a walking boot after the game, a precautionary measure, according to Farrell, and will be reevaluated Saturday. With the Red Sox facing a left-hander (Tampa Bays Matt Moore), it was likely Bryce Brentz would have gotten the start in left field anyway.And to complete the Red Soxs injury list, first baseman Hanley Ramirez departed in the ninth inning after fouling a pitch off his left shin. Ramirez said he doesnt expect to miss any time.The way I feel, hell no, he said. Just come in early and see how it feels and go from there. Wholesale Jerseys  Cheap NFL Jerseys Wholesale Jerseys Authentic Jerseys From China Wholesale Jerseys Wholesale NFL Jerseys ' ' '


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