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Why We Love Gary Armstrong: Forget Nigel, Tarquin and Dewi - Gaz was people's rugby guy.

Byline: BY NEIL CAMERON

A MATE of mine universally known as Evil Dave is an unlikely fan of rugby.

He pointed out it was the only time you ever got to see public schoolboys and would-be Tory MPs getting 10 bells kicked out of them.

For me rugby is a game played mainly by doctors, farmers and accountants. And the professionals earn far too much money for kicking a ball over a bar and off the park from just 10 yards.

Hold on a minute, that's Gary Neville. The English team were always easy to hate. Will, Jeff, Tim, Rory, Dewi. What kind of a name is Dewi? Wasn't he one of Donald Duck's nephews?

Toffee-nosed, chinless wonders who thought wearing a jumper draped over their shoulders was actually cool and lighting one's own farts the height of humour. B'loons.

All except Gary Armstrong. The wee man was absolutely brilliant - easily the greatest-ever Scot.

He would run three miles just to throw himself into tackles against boys three times his size and dump them firmly on their backsides.

And unlike most rugby players who either kick the ball dead high in the air, oh that's tricky, or just disappear into a ruck of other players in which the ball disappears altogether (not great for the spectator) Gary would try to run past folk - normally doing so with great success.

He was an integral member of the 1990 Grand Slam side, played for the British Lions and starred in a couple of World Cups. At one time he could genuinely claim to be the best player in the world.

But that's not why we love him. Gary wasn't posh. Daddy didn't own half of Gloucester, he wasn't friends with the Royal Family and he didn't say things like, 'Gosh, that was a jolly good game.'

I once interviewed a Scottish player, with an English accent of course, who said the word gosh five times in 15 minutes.

For a split second I thought I was in a Famous Five novel with Dick, Aunt Fanny and George the cross-dresser.

No, Gary was a farmer from the Borders who worked all the hours in a day, then went training. The only time off he got was when he was away with the Scotland team. A real man.

None of this Clive Woodward nonsense about spending hours in some science lab to calculate the percentage of body fat required to win a bloody game against Tonga.

I refuse to call that slaphead Sir when neither Denis Law nor Jerry Sadowitz has been knighted.

Gary just got right tore right in. He was an ankle biter on the field and an annoying wee bugger but he was brilliant - and brave.

Gary managed to come back from more injuries than anyone else in sport, including Phil O'Donnell.

He dislocated his shoulder, did his knee ligaments several times and was beheaded at the Hong Kong Sevens.

Okay, I may have made that last bit up, but even then he'd have stuck it back on his neck and got right back into a maul, whatever that is.

It didn't matter how many times he was carried off, the wee man was always back for more.

You could also tell that he liked a pint and a curry. Jonny Wilkinson boasts he's never been inside a take-away place in his life. What an interesting guy!

Nobody plays rugby in Scotland any more, except for private schoolboys - about 0.0006 per cent of the population.

And chances are we'll finish bottom of the Six Nations this year.

But at least there was once a genuine hero, albeit with a bad tache, who played in that dark blue jersey.

CAPTION(S):

MIND YER TACKLE: Even lunges like this didn't faze Gaz, the ankle biter of rugger
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jan 26, 2005
Words:635
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