Former Edinburgh Rugby scrum-half, Mike Blair - Scotland's most-capped scrum-half - is to retire from international rugby, he announced today.
Blair, 31, is bringing down the curtain on a glittering ten-year international career during which he won 85 caps, skippered Scotland on 14 occasions, toured with the British and Irish Lions in 2009 and became the only Scottish player thus far to be nominated for IRB World Player of the Year (2008).
Blair, the second most-capped Scottish back of all time, 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.
"I have enjoyed immensely representing my country for more than ten 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."
A product of The Edinburgh Academy, Edinburgh Accies and Boroughmuir RFC, Blair also enjoyed ten years_ with Edinburgh Rugby (which he shared with his brothers David and Alex) before embarking on a new chapter in his career by signing for French club Brive at the start of this season.
In ten seasons Blair has made 157 competitive appearances for the club, his 50th in the Heineken Cup coming in the club's quarter-final win over Toulouse in 2012.
Blair made a try-scoring debut for Scotland against Canada on the 2002 North American tour, having already won honours at Schools, under-19, under-21, Sevens and A levels by the time he won his first cap, aged 21.
Blair continued: '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."
As recently as Scotland's win over Samoa in Apia in June, Blair's quick-witted, up-tempo, intelligent approach steered the national team to a Test match victory. Such has been his form that he has been a regular starter in the past 18 months despite the formidable competition at 9 in Scotland.
'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," he added.
Scotland's interim head coach Scott Johnson 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."
Blair will continue to play club rugby with Brive and is currently considering his options for next year.
Blair's former Edinburgh Rugby and Scotland team-mate, Scotland's cap and points" record-holder Chris Paterson, led the tributes today.
Paterson said: "Mike was one of the most gifted and naturally skilful players I ever played alongside. His ability to read a game and make the correct decision was brilliant. He was razor-sharp in attack and his defence, especially when chasing back and cover tackling, showed how tough a player he was.
"I think he was involved in every match-day Scotland squad, when available for selection, for a decade which is a real reflection of how good a player Mike is - a great Scottish internationalist."Michael Robert Leighton BlairInternational record
: 85 caps. 2002 " Can USA. 2003 " F(r) W(r) SA2(r) It2 I2 RWC " [USA] 2004 " W(r) E(r) It(r) F(r) I(r) Sam(r) A1(r) A2(r) J(r) A3(r) SA(r). 2005 " I(r) It(r) W(r) E R Arg Sam(r) NZ(r). 2006 " F W E I It(r) SA1 SA2 R PI(r) A. 2007 " I2 SA RWC " [Por R It Arg]. 2008 " F W I E It Arg1 Arg2 NZ SA Can. 2009 " W F It I E Fj(r). 2010 " W(r) It (r) I (r) Arg1 (r) Arg2 (r) NZ Sam (r). 2011 " F (r) W (r) I E (r) It (r) It2. RWC "[R Arg(r) E]. 2012 " E(r) W(r) F I It. A Fj Sam(r) NZ SA.Points
: 7 tries.