A FORCE TO BE RECKONED WITH; Having Had to Wait So Long for His Chance, Captain Kellock's Intense Pride Will Inspire All around Him

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), January 30, 2011 | Go to article overview
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A FORCE TO BE RECKONED WITH; Having Had to Wait So Long for His Chance, Captain Kellock's Intense Pride Will Inspire All around Him


Byline: David Barnes

ALASTAIR KELLOCK might be Scottish rugby's man of the moment, but he knows from experience that moment could be all too fleeting.

Even after last week's announcement that he will captain Andy Robinson's side when their Six Nations campaign kicks off against France next Saturday, the affable second-row forward stresses that there is absolutely no guarantee that he will even be in the team when the second game of the Championship against Wales rolls around.

Kellock's caution is entirely understandable. His rise to the top of the heap has been a long, hard scramble -- and has ensured that any satisfaction he has taken from his achievements will always be tempered by an acute appreciation of how precarious his current position is.

At 29 years of age, Kellock is hardly a veteran -- but he has served an arduous apprenticeship as a fringe player in the Scotland squad since making his debut as a replacement against Australia in 2004.

His first 17 caps were spread over a five-year period and 10 of those appearances were off the bench. During that time, he played in only a third of the cap internationals up for grabs.

He was left out of the 2007 World Cup squad and, on the injury-hit summer tour to Argentina in 2008, he found himself behind journeyman Kiwi-convert Matt Mustchin when it came to Test selection.

But, perhaps the most frustrating experience of those long years on the periphery was when he was drafted into the starting XV for Scotland's 2006 Six Nations clash against England, and then rewarded for his contribution to that famous victory by being summarily dropped out of the team for their next match against Ireland -- and being the only unused substitute in that game.

For a long time, it looked as if the towering lock was destined to be acclaimed as an inspirational captain at club level with Glasgow, while simultaneously being deemed not quite good enough to make it on the international stage.

So, where did it eventually all go right? 'When you are not in the team you have two choices, and I chose to go away and work harder,' says Kellock. 'The best thing about the last two years is that I have taken a lot on board and managed to get a bit more consistency into my performances.' The appointment of Robinson as head coach has clearly drawn a line in the sand. Kellock has started every game he has been fit for since the Englishman took over the reins, and has quickly matured into a role as the heartbeat and conscience of the Scottish pack.

There is a mutual respect between player and coach that neither man tries to disguise.

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