Sunday 19 November 2017

Scotland's Dan Parks announces international retirement with immediate effect

SCOTLAND fly-half Dan Parks has announced his retirement from international rugby with immediate effect, five days before the Six Nations clash with Wales.

The 33-year-old Cardiff Blues back won 67 caps, scoring 266 points, including a Scottish record 17 drop-goals, and regularly turned tight matches in Scotland's favour during his eight-year Test career.

However, Parks was also much-maligned and his error in Saturday's Calcutta Cup loss to England - a charged-down kick which resulted in Charlie Hodgson's decisive score - will be part of his legacy.

After one of five rounds of the Six Nations, the timing of the decision could be brought into question, but Parks recognises with Ruaridh Jackson, Greig Laidlaw and Duncan Weir emerging, it is time to hand over the No 10 jersey for good.

Edinburgh half-back Laidlaw is now set to start in Cardiff on Sunday, with head coach Andy Robinson set to name his team tomorrow.

Parks had been contemplating retiring after the World Cup, when he was second choice behind Jackson, but the lure of the opening Six Nations clash with England was too strong.

He said: "I was thinking about it but the first game of the Six Nations was against England, the auld enemy, Jacko was injured and being able to play against England was huge for me as there was a sense of unfinished business.

"On reflection after the game, after talking it over with my family, girlfriend and close friends I've come to the decision that now is the right time to retire from the international game.

"There are some really talented guys coming through - Jacko, Greig and Duncan - and although I'm sad to be finishing my international career I have some fantastic memories of playing for Scotland and what that has meant to me.

"I've no regrets at what has been an amazing career for me."

Parks becomes the third senior Scotland squad member to retire post-World Cup, following Nathan Hines and Chris Paterson.

Robinson did not select Parks in his first squad as head coach in 2009, but the Australia-born playmaker proved his credentials and steered Scotland to a number of successes since returning.

However, he fell down the pecking order as Robinson fostered a more expansive game plan and now his Test career is over - a decision the head coach backed.

Robinson said: "I have really enjoyed working with Dan. He wasn't in my first Scotland squads but through his own determination, hard work, skill and competitive spirit he forced his way back into selection.

"It's never an easy decision to make but I feel Dan has made the right decision and thank him for his contribution over the years."

Scotland travel to Cardiff this weekend in desperate need of victory after suffering defeat on the opening Six Nations weekend for the 12th time in 13 attempts.

Parks was man of the match the last time Scotland played at the Millennium Stadium and was a leading performer in the 2010 tournament after returning from international exile.

He helped Scotland avoid the 2010 wooden spoon with a virtuoso performance in the win over Ireland - one of his personal career highlights.

Others included the wins over England at Murrayfield in 2006 and 2008, the Argentina series success in June 2010 and the win over then world champions South Africa in November 2010.

Parks, who made his Test debut against Wales in 2004, added: "It's been a rocky road for me at times but at the end I've always given 100% to play at my best and succeed for Scotland.

"I was proud of myself in the way I came back from trouble off the pitch in order to regain my position firstly within the Glasgow team and then the Scotland team.

"(But) this is not the end of me as a rugby player. My international career is over but I want to keep playing club rugby."

Edinburgh scrum-half Mike Blair spoke on behalf of the squad.

He said: "The reaction of all the guys when Parksy announced his retirement said it all - stunned silence and emotion.

"His contribution to some of Scotland's most famous victories cannot be underestimated - 2010 sticks in my mind the most, Dan coming back from the wilderness to win man of the match against Wales, Italy, Ireland, South Africa and Argentina in that year just showed how resilient and competitive he is."

Parks' retirement and the unavailability of tighthead Euan Murray, who does not play on Sundays for religious reasons, means there will be at least two changes to the Scotland team for the Wales Test.

Edinburgh captain Laidlaw is set to take Parks' place, with Geoff Cross poised to come in for Murray.

The impact of Scotland A's 35-0 win over England Saxons last Friday could also be seen, with Weir and his fellow uncapped Glasgow Warrior Stuart Hogg in contention for call-ups.

Weir scored 20 points at Galashiels and is set to be among the replacements in Cardiff.

Blair could replace Chris Cusiter at scrum-half, in part due to his understanding with Laidlaw.

Cross' inclusion is set to be the only change in the scrum, where hooker and captain Ross Ford, loosehead Allan Jacobson, second rows Richie Gray and Jim Hamilton and the back-row of Alasdair Strokosch, Ross Rennie and David Denton are set to continue.

The centre combination of Sean Lamont and Nick De Luca, plus wings Max Evans and Lee Jones, who made his debut against England, are likely to be retained, but Hogg is in contention to start at full-back in place of Rory Lamont.

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