Former Lion Irvine laments lack of players’ loyalty

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SCOTTISH rugby legend Andy Irvine, gave an inspired speech to an audience of 150 members and guests at Selkirk Rugby Club’s Sports Dinner & Auction, held in the Philiphaugh Suite last Friday night.

The former Heriot’s FP and Scotland full-back, who will manage the British & Irish Lions for their 2013 tour of Australia, illustrated how things have changed in top tier rugby since he made his first appearance for the Lions almost 40 years ago, and also at the domestic level.

“I’m always surprised by lack of loyalty shown by some modern players,” he said.

“In my day, players would stay with their original clubs for 10 or even 20 seasons, while nowadays some guys swap clubs every two to three years.”

Irvine himself first played at Philiphaugh as a guest for Melrose Colts.

Lining up against him in the Selkirk team that day was the current coach of Selkirk’s 1st XV, Brian Cassidy, along with selector Nick Bihel and former club captain David Bell.

He added that he was saddened that at the end of their senior careers, very few modern players go down and play at 2nd XV or 3rd XV levels.

He recalled playing for Heriot’s third team when fellow Scotland internationalist Jim Renwick lined up against him for Hawick Harlequins.

The former SRU president ended his address with a plea to the rugby authorities not to neglect the club game, and urged them to encourage more children to take up rugby at school.

The British & Irish Lions manager was followed by fellow Heriot’s FP player and Scotland internationalist Andy Macdonald.

The ex-Barbarian has strong local connections, being married to Selkirk lass Judith Russell.

He also spoke at Selkirk’s first Sports Dinner in 2003, and his humorous speech was lapped up by an appreciative audience.

Earlier guests had been addressed by Kate Ball, a Scottish advocate for Live Life Then Give Life (LLTGL), a charity working to raise awareness of the need for more organ donors. A portion of the funds raised at Friday’s dinner will be donated to LLTGL.

The evening finished with an extremely successful auction, conducted by Andy Macdonald, where the most eagerly-anticipated item was a framed limited edition copy of Bill McLaren’s match sheet for the 1982 international between Wales and Scotland.

In the Scotland team that day were Selkirk players Iain Paxton and John Rutherford, who had signed photos of themselves which featured in the montage.

After some hotly-contested bidding – including an emailed offer from Australia – the unique match sheet was sold to a keen rugby supporter for £2,500.

“It was an incredible sum to realise for one item,” said dinner chairman John Rutherford, “and half the proceeds will go to the Bill McLaren Foundation, who kindly donated the match sheet.

“This is the club’s third Sports Dinner, and it has proved a tremendous success.

“I would like to thank everyone who contributed to the evening in any way, and especially to those people who bought items in the auction. The Selkirk club and the Live Life Then Give Life charity are very grateful for their kind generosity.”

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