sport

Scott pays tribute to Blair

Edinburgh's Matt Scott insists retired Scotland scrum-half Mike Blair will go down as one of the nation's greatest rugby players.

Record-breaking number nine Blair retired from the international game yesterday after amassing 85 caps for his country - more than any other Scotland scrum-half.

The 31-year-old made his decision following his summer switch from Edinburgh to Brive, claiming the stress that would come from travelling from France to play in the forthcoming RBS 6 Nations would be too much for his young family.

However, former Murrayfield team-mate Scott is confident that Blair's legacy is already set in stone.

He said: "Mike will go down as one of Scotland's all-time greats.

"He has 85 caps - more than any other Scotland scrum-half - and captained his country too.

"He was also nominated for the World Player of the Year a few years back and I don't think any other Scotsman can say they've done the same, so there's no doubt that he will probably be remembered as the best scrum-half we've ever had.

"It's a shame he has decided to step down from the international game but travelling from France to play in the Six Nations is a big ask for him and his family and I can understand his reasons.

"I text him to say all the best because he's a guy I admire and a really nice person too. However, there's no doubt he'll be a big loss to Scotland."

Blair's departure from the capital has coincided with a massive downturn in Edinburgh's fortunes.

Michael Bradley's side stormed to the semi-finals of last season's Heineken Cup before losing to Ulster but this term has been a complete nightmare.

They sit bottom of Group 1 without a single point and lost their first two games against Saracens and Munster by a combined score of 78-0.

Things have hardly improved since then and they are currently enduring a five-game losing streak - which included the morale-crushing double defeat to rivals Glasgow over the festive period.

With Munster in town on Sunday for their Heineken Cup return, 22-year-old Scott admits Blair's departure at the end of last season hardly helped their cause.

The Dunfermline-born back, who has added seven Scotland caps to his name since making his bow in last year's Six Nations, said: "Mike was such a big influence both on and off the pitch. I wouldn't say him leaving is why we are in our current position but it didn't help.

"I suppose you never notice how good a player is until they leave and we have found that with Mike.

"But there are other factors involved in our poor run. We lost the game to Saracens by 45-0 and that really put a huge dent in our confidence and we have struggled to recover.

"We also lost those two games to Glasgow and that really hurt a lot of the guys because their is so much emotion involved in those games.

"But if we can get a good result against Munster on Sunday, it could really pick up our spirits and help us recover some pride."