Rugby: ‘King Gordon’ not ruling out a return to the international fold

Gordon Ross salutes fans after London Welsh's defeat of Exeter Chiefs

Gordon Ross salutes fans after London Welsh's defeat of Exeter Chiefs

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At 34 years old, Gordon Ross is enjoying an Indian summer to his rugby career.

The former Heriot’s, Edinburgh, Leeds, Saracens and Castres stand-off, who gained 25 Scotland caps between 2001 and 2006, is piloting Aviva English Premiership newcomers London Welsh to a place of respectability in their first top-flight season after a controversial but deserved promotion earned through the law courts.

This weekend, Welsh, who overturned claims that their facilities at Oxford United FC were unsuitable by rivals apparently driven by self-interest, attempt to complete a hat-trick of wins by adding the scalp of Gloucester to those of Exeter Chiefs and Sale Sharks. Were they to succeed, with Ross continuing his points-grabbing ways, then murmurings that suggest a revived Test career might not be out of the question would grow louder.

Scotland coach Andy Robinson is not over-endowed with quality stand-offs playing at high level. For example, barring mishaps, Greig Laidlaw will start the Autumn Series just as he has the last seven matches – but who does Robinson go to for cover against the world champion All Blacks at Murrayfield on Sunday, November 11?

Duncan Weir has two caps from off the bench but is still just 21 and his Glasgow colleague, Ruaridh Jackson is out of favour to the extent of being released to club rugby.

Add in the fact that Dan Parks has retired, Phil Godman has moved to the English second tier with London Scottish and David Blair, the last player to pilot Scotland A from stand-off before Weir, has opted for a teaching career and any Robinson dilemma becomes clearer.

Of course, bringing back a player six years and five months after his previous cap would be seen as a gamble although hardly unheard of.

England, after all, capped prop Kevin Yates in 2007 some nine years and 353 days after his previous outing.

With trademark good humour Ross is playing down any aspirations. Asked about chances of a representative call-up he takes the question to mean a visit to the annual Old Crocks classic in Bermuda each November.

“One of my friends has just texted me about going to the Classics and I’ve still to pick my moment to run the idea past the London Welsh coach, Lynn Jones,” says Ross.

But, seriously, would he rule returning to his country’s cause if the call came?

“At 34 I am still improving and picking up bits and pieces that can help me in the game,” says Ross while putting emphasis on club matters – but in a way that hardly slams the door.

“I’m absolutely loving my time with London Welsh. I know how tough it is physically and mentally in the Premiership, but you gradually adjust and it comes back to you a little.

“The kids seem to get younger and I get older, but I push myself in pre-season so I am not a complete embarrassment in fitness testing. I try to look after myself and, the older you get, the fitness conditioners look after you a bit as well.”

London Welsh fans are singing his praises, particularly after Ross went head-to-head at the weekend with a one-time England golden boy as Sale were sunk. Wrote one blogger: “Ross v Cipriani? No contest. Goggsy tops.” Another added: “19 points from the boot of King Gordon see the Sharks swamped in their own backyard. Not good for Sale, great for Goggsy – long may he reign!” And from nearer home a local Twitter feed this week stated: “Just watching Gordon Ross on Premier rugby highlights. In the mix for a Scotland team call-up?”

As a golfer, Ross represented Scottish Schools against an England line-up that included Justin Rose. Appropriately, then, he uses a golf analogy to explain London Welsh’s current form. “Gary Player said the harder you practise the luckier you get and there is a lot of hard work being put in,” he said.

“We know we are far from the finished article, but those last two wins have helped improve morale and of the four games we have played I’m pleased to have had two full 80-minute shifts while being replaced after 71 minutes twice.”

London Welsh are already in the record books as producing more British and Irish Lions than any other club.

Might another notch be added to their illustrious history by Ross, who – proud of his roots – returned to Edinburgh this summer to watch brother David star for Heriot’s as they defeated Carlton to reach the 
final of a Scottish cricket cup they eventually won.

Whatever happens ahead 
of those Autumn Tests, we haven’t heard the last of a player whose 25 points against Tonga in 2001 remain a record for a Scottish debutant and who says of his rugby future: “I’m doing a bit of coaching at the club and also at schools here and there. I’ve got a couple of coaching badges with plans to upgrade. I definitely want to stay in the game.”