Atthe captain’s table
Rob Wainwright’s ascendancy to the Scotland captaincy has come at a time when the game is undergoing a revolution at club and international level. Philip Dorward hears from a man who’s looking forward to change.
In many ways. life is about moving forward. Whether it'sjust a question of titne. or in the literal sense of moving the physical being. life is always about advancement. lf this theory holds true. then Rob Wainwright is caught in a whirlwind whipping him forward. At present. the 30-year-old is spending his last tw o weeks in Catterick before he heads back up north with his family to live in Penicuik and continue his career as a GP. Before all that begins. he will have led out the Scotland national rugby union squad against Western Samoa. It's a one-game trial as captain. to see if he has what it takes to follow in the much revered stud marks of the previous captain. Gavin Hastings.
Besides the personal aspect of a new captain and new international caps. this is also an exciting period in the history of rugby union. The game is now caught in the throes of professionalism. as it moves from its previous amateur statth to a position where top players are payed to represent club and country. Talk of multi-million super-deals for television rights is commonplace.
As the world whizzes around Wainwright. he has to fight hard to keep his feet onto touch. That may not be too difficult because he has a background that oozes sensibility — his comfortable upbringing in Glenalmond and his successful transition to study medicine at Cambridge University. where he also picked up blues in boxing and rugby.
Wainwright has always been at home with progression. whether in his career as an army doctor or on the rugby field for West Hartlepool and Scotland — making his international debut in 1992. becoming a regular over the last couple of years. then taking on the captaincy. He is gradually coming to terms with the change this will have on his lifestyle: would his help in saving a man who collapsed of a heart attack at a match earlier this month have attracted so much media attention if he were not Scotland captain”?
‘lt‘s also strange being in the public eye because you've got to cope with being recognised. which has not been a problem living down here because I'm one ofthe lesser well known Scottish players.‘ muses the back-row forward. ‘lt‘s very easy being in the public eye before a game because that's what you
expect. but when you're getting on with your daily routine of life. I guess you've just got to be careful where you pick your nose.
'The two most important things for a captain are that you play well and that you have the respect of your teammates. That just doesn’t happen because you're picked as captain, you've got to cam it. Every captain offers different strengths. and Gavin and l are
‘Every captain offers different strengths, and Gavin and I are different people. What would be his strengths are my
relative weaknesses and vice versa. He always made people feel at ease, and
that’s an area I have to work on because I’m not naturally a chatty person. I’ve
really got to become more of a blether.’
different people. What would be his strengths are my relative weaknesses and vice versa. Gavin had a wide variety of skills. but I think that one ofhis greatest gifts was his ability to talk tojust about anyone. He always made people feel at ease. and that's an area I have to work on because I'm not naturally a chatty person; l‘m quite quiet. I've really got to become more of a blether.‘
Wainwright is a strong figure with views to match. He is built of the stock that go huntin‘. shootin‘ and ﬁshin'. and is ofthe view that it's important for
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‘lt’s important for players to be seen as professionals who train and work hard as athletes'
players to be seen as professionals who train and work hard as athletes. Similarly. he refutes the allegation that rugby is dominated by the middle and upper classes. Instead. thanks to the World Cup and the possible prospect of money. rugby union is expanding down the classes and across the country. He is. however. wary of it becoming like boxing and football. just another escape route for youngsters out of unemployment. There will be money to progress. but often that is likely to be tied up in youth development or to offer packages to keep Scotland’s best players up here. Overshadowing all that is the
potential for the man who controls the purse strings to control the game. Rugby union, Wainwright
thinks. has to keep its eye on the future and not get carried away on a wave of hype.
‘So far. there haven't been huge changes and the same old problems are still there.‘ he says. ‘Once you‘re finished as a professional rugby player or get injured. where do you go from that? I think that people should be wary of throwing away their careers fora short term goal. However. if it's someone's ambition to play for Scotland. then go for it.’
In the meantime. Rob Wainwright has ambitions to take forward one movement: his young squad of players are trying to continue their healthy form of the Five Nations and World Cup. Once he's completed the Western Samoa game. then he'll move on again. l’enicuik or bust. huh.
Scotland play Western Samoa a! Murrayﬁeld Stadium in [Edinburgh on Saturday [8 November.
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