Metcalfe still coming to terms with Scotland call
Richard Metcalfe links up with his new international team-mates at Murrayfield on Tuesday still dazed at an unexpected call-up.
The giant Northampton lock was the surprise inclusion when Ian McGeechan announced his squad for Sunday's Calcutta Cup clash with England last week. And with the `grannygate' scandal still dominating Scottish Rugby Union business, Metcalfe's selection has almost gone unnoticed.
But at 7ft tall and weighing 19st 10lb, the Leeds-born player will be spotted quite quickly. "I still can't quite believe it," said the 26-year-old. "I fractured my ankle five weeks ago and the A team game against Wales on March 17 was my first game back. There was nothing else on my mind other than trying to get a place on the summer tour to South Africa. When Ian McGeechan telephoned to tell me the good news, it was completely unexpected. It is like a dream but I can't wait to get involved."
Educated at Roddillian School in Leeds, Metcalfe did not take up the sport until he was 17, persuaded to give rugby union a try by some friends connected with West Yorkshire outfit Sandal. "I knew hardly anything about the game and nothing about how to play it," he admitted. "It was a bit of fun at first but
after a few matches, I started to take it seriously and somehow it took off from there."
Metcalfe joined Newcastle in 1992 and stayed with the Kingston Park club through their meteoric rise under Rob Andrew, although he spent most of the 1998 title-winning campaign on the bench. However, although he had already toured Australia and Fiji with England A, it was in the north-east that he was `tapped-up' by Scottish duo Alan Tait and Doddie Weir.
"They kept asking whether I had any Scottish blood (his grandmother is from Paisley) and pestered me to play for them. I had a long, hard think about it and decided to follow that option. Two years ago I moved to Northampton to try and get regular first-team rugby and Ian McGeechan gave me a chance. It's amazing how things have now gone full circle."
Having double and tripled-checked his eligibility, Metcalfe will this week walk into the home dressing room as a fully fledged Scot. In an ironic twist, Weir is the man Metcalfe replaces in the Scotland squad.
"I suppose with my size I offer more of a physical presence. I like to think I am a fairly decent ball handler and, although I am not the quickest around the park, I can clear the ruck areas quite well. But I have to admit that Doddie, Stuart Grimes and Scott Murray are three world-class second-rows and it is difficult to believe I have forced my way in."