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Is eagle eye misses nothing. His power and speed are awesome. His steely talons are sharpened for the kill.

Yes, Rob Wainwright is looking forward to Saturday's crunch Grand Slam game against the auld enemy.

And the Scotland rugby captain has been getting in some instruction in how eagles dare before the game against England.

He has been learning first hand from Khan, a magnificent golden eagle.

Outdoorsman Rob's favourite pursuit is falconry, and whenever he can snatch the time, he heads for some hunting in the hills.

Khan, a four-year-old bird imported from a Russian zoo, lives at Lands of Finderlie, a falconry estate near Kinross.

And it's there that Rob relaxes - and sharpens his instinctive predatory skills - between rugby games.

With the eagle perched atop his 6ft 4 1/2ins frame, Captain Wainwright looks like some great Scottish warlord.

Fierce, merciless, about to swoop for the kill.

"I find it fascinating working with such magnificent birds," says the tough, quietly spoken Scot.

"Plus, I love the team work involved in successful falconry."

The Army doctor who stepped into Gavin Hasting's boots at the beginning of the season loves country activities. He's a great fisherman and lover of the outdoors, and he and his wife Romayne's long-term plan is to buy a small estate in Perthshire.

It was there that Rob's love affair with the country flourished as a child. He grew up at Glenalmond School, where his father was a teacher.

It was - and still is - a sporty family. Jim, Rob's father, was a Cambridge blue in rugby. His mother Jean took up marathon running at 50 and is now, according to Rob, "a fitness junkie".

His sisters are all sporty types. Holly was a Cambridge rowing blue, Sasha was a Cambridge cricket half-blue, Alison is in the Scottish aerobic team and Jo is a physical training instructor in the Army.

The family's back garden was the Sma' Glen, and Rob spent time as a boy working as a grouse beater on the moors.

"It was a fantastic place to be brought up in," he said. "I went to Cambridge to study medicine and I was a long time away. But in fact it was a very good thing.

"If you live in Scotland you don't truly appreciate what an incredible place it is, and what it means to you. Toward the end of my time away, I was so keen to get back up here."

Rob's a captain in two walks of life. Apart from the Scotland rugby team, he's also a captain in the Army. After several years as a medical officer, he's training for civilian GP qualifications.

"The Army has been a very flexible, understanding employer," he said. "The NHS with its tight budgets would never have been able to give me time off to play rugby, especially at this time of year when you're training full-time."

And now that rugby players are professionals, Rob is also busy doing promotional, money-spinning rugby-related activities.

His life is a whirlwind. The family's compact Army house in Penicuik, Midlothian, is exploding with toys, children, ringing phones and an exceedingly lively Hungarian Vizsla hunting dog.

On the day we met, Rob was suffering from lack of sleep.

His wife Romayne had fallen down stairs and hurt her ankle, and he'd had to get up five times in the night to look after Douglas, 18 months, and Natasha, five months.

"Normally when the children wake you lie there and pretend to be asleep and hope the other person will get up," said Rob. "But last night I knew it had to be me every time!"

Despite having a doctor in the house, Romayne had to bandage her own ankle. "He did examine it to make sure it wasn't broken!" she said.

Romayne, whose parents are farmers south of Glasgow, added: "I don't quite know how I'm going to cope over the next few days with being immobile.

"Dougie is lovely but a bit manic. He just never stops.

"We don't have a single chair in the kitchen, to stop him climbing up and getting at the microwave. Now he takes chairs from the dining room."

Romayne and Rob met as teenagers, when she was invited to a party at Glenalmond. They went out for three months.

Over the years they remained friends, and the romance started up again at New Year five years ago.

"When I first met Rob we were at school. And at university he had been injured for a year.

"I had no idea he was even playing rugby.

"It's a bit strange to think he's captain of Scotland. I think when it happened everyone else was more excited than we were.

"But it has grown on us. It suddenly makes you a very public person. On the whole, we aren't public people. We're quite anti-social, to be honest. That side of it is becoming harder.

"Rob is away at least two nights, sometimes four, every week.

"That's actually brilliant ... for It gives us some space. We see so much of each other because he comes home for lunch every day."

Romayne is looking forward to the game on Saturday, when her husband leads out Scotland at Murrayfield with the Grand Slam and the Calcutta Cup at stake.

Rob says he's not worried by the weight of Scotland's expectations on his shoulders.

"It's not a burden, it's an honour. The team has jelled. I'm the lucky chap who leads a winning side."

Let's hope, come Saturday, that Rob Wainwright's boys are fierce, merciless and inspired... And soar to the heights of Khan, the golden eagle.
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1996 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Reid, Melanie
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Feb 25, 1996
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