Gary Armstrong (rugby)

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Gary Armstrong
Date of birth (1966-09-30) 30 September 1966 (age 52)
Place of birthJedburgh, Scotland
Rugby union career
Position(s) Scrum-half
Amateur team(s)
Years Team Apps (Points)
1987–1995 Jed-Forest RFC ()
Senior career
Years Team Apps (Points)
2002–2004
1995–2002
Borders
Newcastle Falcons
()
National team(s)
Years Team Apps (Points)
1988–1999
1989
Scotland
British and Irish Lions
51
0
(21)
(0)

Gary Armstrong OBE (born 30 September 1966 in Edinburgh) is a former Scottish rugby union internationalist who played scrum-half. He played for Jed-Forest RFC, Newcastle Falcons, The Borders and represented Scotland and the British Lions.[1] His nickname is the Border Terrier.[2]

In a 2015 series of articles in The Herald titled "The 50 Greatest Scottish Rugby Players", Armstrong was ranked as Scotland's greatest.[1] Armstrong was known for intuitive awareness and was as much an auxiliary flanker and had uncanny talent to break around the fringes. As well as providing quick service as the connection between forwards and backs he was known for his toughness and tackling well above his weight. His fearlessness on the pitch led to two serious knee injuries keeping him out the game for lengthy spells.[2][1]

Armstrong captained Scotland to victory in the 1999 Five Nations and to a quarter final place in the same year's rugby world cup. He was scrum half in Scotland's 1990 Grand Slam win and his country's run to the 1991 rugby world cup semi final. He played 51 times for Scotland. He was an ever-present in Newcastle Falcons 1998 premiership win.[1]

Scotland's most capped male scrum half[edit]

Gary Armstrong had succeeded a fellow Lion and Scotland cap, Roy Laidlaw, as scrum half at Jed-Forest. Armstrong was helped in his development as a youngster by Jedforest moving Laidlaw to stand off with Armstrong playing scrum half.[1]

Armstrong made his international debut in 1988, in a game against Australia building to their 1991 world cup victory. Armstrong displaced Laidlaw as the incumbent scrum half. Scotland lost 31–13 against one of Australia's best ever sides.[1][2]

Richard Bath writes of him:

"...despite his apparently painful shyness, Armstrong has proved throughout his career to be obsessively focussed once out on the pitch. A relatively small man, Armstrong tackles way over his weight and combines this with quick service to his backs and an uncanny ability to break around the fringes just as easily from the first-phase as from ruck or maul. Although Armstrong failed to shine on the victorious 1989 Lions tour of Australia, his gritty nature stood him in good stead when the chips were down in 1990, that famous year for Scotland... he perhaps more than any other player was the on-field catalyst for Scotland's 13–7 win in the Grand Slam decider against the Auld Enemy England at Murrayfield."[2]

It was Armstrong's dart to the blind side that provided the spark opening the opportunity leading to Tony Stanger's try.[1]

In 1998 he captained the Scotland team again.[3]

Armstrong equalled Roy Laidlaw’s then record as Scotland’s most capped scrum-half when he won his 47th cap against Romania in August 1999. He then joined the 50-cap club when he led Scotland to victory in the World Cup play-off match against Samoa that October.

Gary Armstrong captained Scotland to the 1999 Five Nations Championship, playing his eighth Test as captain as Scotland grasped pole position with their stunning 36–22 victory against France.

He was skipper throughout the previous two Five Nations Championships and was also captain on Scotland’s 1999 visit to South Africa, when he played in all four matches and scored the opening try of the tour in the victory over Border.

He retired from international rugby after Scotland’s 18–30 defeat by New Zealand in the 1999 Rugby World Cup quarter-final.

Injuries[edit]

Armstrong's fearless commitment led to serious knee injuries in 1992 and 1994 that impacted the representative caps he collected.[1] It spoke volumes for his tenacity and courage that he returned to the top flight.[2]

British Lions[edit]

Gary Armstrong then went on to emulate Laidlaw by playing for both Scotland and the Lions, touring with the latter in Australia in 1989.

Newcastle[edit]

He joined Newcastle Falcons in 1995/96,[2] and his appetite for the fray was seen to best advantage when the club won England’s Allied Dunbar Premiership title in 1998, featuring in all 22 matches of the season.[4] He also started the victorious 2001 Anglo-Welsh Cup final.[5] Many supporters believe Armstrong to be the best player in the club's history. In Jonny Wilkinson's book How to Play Rugby My Way Armstrong is given the nickname–"the scrap-yard dog"– because Wilkinson said that he had never met anyone as "tough as him".

The Borders[edit]

Armstrong finished his career by returning home to play for the newly created professional team, The Borders. He retired in 2004 at about the same time as Doddie Weir.

Awards and honours[edit]

He was appointed Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2000 New Year Honours.

Career statistics[edit]

International career: 51 caps. 1988 - A. 1989 - W E I F Fj R. 1990 - I F W E NZ1 NZ2 Arg. 1991 - F W E I R (WC) J I WS E NZ. 1993 - I F W E. 1994 - E I. 1996 - NZ1 NZ2 A. 1997 - W SA (rep). 1998 - It I F W E SA (rep). 1999 - W E I F Arg R WC (SA U Sam NZ).

Points: 21 (5 tries)

(Rewritten from the SRU website - used with permission)

References[edit]

  • Bath, Richard (ed.) The Complete Book of Rugby (Seven Oaks Ltd, 1997 ISBN 1-86200-013-1)
  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "The 50 Greatest Scottish Rugby Players Part VI 3 - 1". The Herald. 12 September 2015. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Bath, p123-4
  3. ^ "Lion loses Scottish captaincy". BBC News. 4 February 1998. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  4. ^ "Allied Dunbar Premiership, 1997/98 / Newcastle Falcons / Player records". espnscrum.com. Archived from the original on 7 September 2014. Retrieved 7 September 2014.
  5. ^ "Newcastle snatch Cup glory". BBC. 24 February 2001. Retrieved 26 December 2009.

External links[edit]