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Blair calls time on Scotland career

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Sportal.co.nz     08 Jan 2013     Getty Images

The 31-year-old announced his retirement from the world stage in order to focus on his new life in France while allowing Scotland to blood new halfback talent before the 2015 World Cup.

Blair captained his country for the 14th and final time just six months ago, in a mid-year tour victory over Samoa, but the Brive player decided to leave the international arena despite being a regular pick.

In a statement released by the Scottish Rugby Union, Blair said: "I'm in the very fortunate position of being able to decide myself when my international career ends. For me, that time is now. "

Blair, who left Edinburgh last year, added: "There's no doubt that moving our family to France has played a part in my decision.

"Our son Rory is now at school here and we have an 11-week-old daughter, Lucy, who was born in Brive.

"However, it's a combination of reasons that's led to my standing down from international rugby, not just one factor.

"For me, a place in the squad at the Rugby World Cup in 2015 is not a realistic personal target and, with that in mind, it's right for Scottish rugby and the Scotland team that other players gain experience in a pivotal position.

"The fact that I still feel attuned to playing at international level has made the decision harder, but it's not been reached lightly and I'm very confident that it's the right decision."

Scotland's most-capped No.9, Blair represented his country on 85 occasions and was also selected for the British and Irish Lions.

He made a try-scoring debut for Scotland against Canada in 2002 after representing his country at schools, under-19, under-21, sevens and A levels.

He added: "I have enjoyed immensely representing my country for more than 10 years and will miss that exhilarating feeling of running out to a capacity crowd with the whole country behind you.

"The noise when leading the team out for the first time as captain at Murrayfield against England in 2008, when we won 15-9, still makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up when I think about it.

"I want to thank everyone - my family, the Scotland management teams past and present, my team-mates and our supporters - for their enormous contribution to my international career. I have been very fortunate to have these people around me."

Blair has competed for the halfback position with 31-year-old Rory Lawson and 30-year-old Chris Cusiter, who have also both captained Scotland.

Cusiter has been out since September with a shoulder injury but his Glasgow team-mate Henry Pyrgos made a try-scoring debut in the November defeat by the All Blacks after replacing Blair.

Edinburgh captain Greig Laidlaw has also played at halfback, but has more recently started as a first five-eighth for Scotland.

Scotland's interim head coach Scott Johnson, who will guide the team through the RBS 6 Nations, said: "I really enjoyed working with Mike during the summer tour and the more recent autumn Tests.

"There's no doubt he's a quality international rugby player and a quality bloke.

"I respect and understand his decision to retire from the international game now and, on behalf of all Scotland fans, thank him for his years of dedication to the national team."