World Cup-bound Scotland squad fuelled by ‘inspirational’ send-off

THE SCOTLAND World Cup squad depart for Australia this afternoon with players likely still to have some ringing in the ears after savouring what skipper Al Kellock described as an “inspirational send-off” in Glasgow.

The squad will arrive in their training base on the Gold Coast south of Brisbane on Monday and stay for ten days before flying to Invercargill in New Zealand to prepare for their opening match with Romania on Saturday, 10 September.

The entire squad, management and backroom staff enjoyed a World Cup Send-Off Dinner organised by the charity Hearts and Balls and backed by the Murrayfield Centenary Fund and Bill McLaren Foundation. There were nearly 500 guests at the Radisson Blu in Glasgow with Ian McLauchlan, the former Scotland prop and current SRU President, and Kellock the event MCs, and speeches and entertainment provided by Scots/New Zealander Cameron Mather, Edinburgh lawyer and raconteur Wilson Hunter, Scotland coaches Andy Robinson and Gregor Townsend, and a host of players, before the Lismore Ceilidh Band took centre stage.

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The squad were accompanied by their wives and partners, and after recovering with their families yesterday the players headed to Scotstoun for a final public training session watched by over 800 youngsters and their families.

Kellock said: “It has been an amazing couple of days and the players have all been commenting on how much it underlines the support that there is out there for the squad. For us, what we are heading to can’t possibly mean any more, but what came through at the dinner was how much this means to so many people who won’t be in New Zealand. The dinner was really busy, with lots of genuine rugby people and my wife and all the players and their partners were delighted to have been part of it. One player said to me it was the most relaxed dinner he had been to.

“A highlight for me was the ‘valedictory speech’ by Wilson Hunter which was just perfect – humorous but with the right underlying message that all the boys will have got. And then to go to Scotstoun and see so many kids has been great. People should not underestimate how much that means to the players as we turn the focus very firmly now to the World Cup and trying to make everyone here proud with what we do on the field in New Zealand.”

The dinner, organised by Harry Richmond, Jim Littlefair, McLauchlan and Jim Taylor of Hearts and Balls, with support from Nathan Bombrys, Kirsty Mackay and Dougie Potter of Scottish Rugby, raised over £40,000 for the Christchurch Earthquake Appeal. With SRU Chairman Sir Moir Lockhead and Jock Millican, the acting SRU Chief Executive, in attendance, the SRU pledged to take the total up to £50,000 and a cheque will be presented by Robinson and McLauchlan to Bob Parker, the mayor of Christchurch, next month.

Littlefair commented: “Our idea from the start was to do something to help the people of Christchurch and Cammy Mather’s speech outlined exactly how deeply that earthquake tragedy has affected a wonderful rugby city.

“The generosity of the SRU, all the sponsors who took tables, the Radisson and everyone who bought tickets and bid in the auctions was tremendous and £50,000 – around 100,000 New Zealand dollars – will be a significant boost to the appeal.

“This was a great rugby event that shows the strength and generosity of the rugby community in Scotland and we are also hoping of course that it helps the Scotland team become the second-best supported team in the Rugby World Cup.”