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Hall just grateful still to be involved

The finishing line is in sight and Dougie Hall is still not sure how to deal with it.

Dougie Hall, the veteran 33-year-old hooker who is the oldest player in the Glasgow squad, is still enjoying his rugby despite operating from the bench for much of the time. Picture: Craig Watson/SNS
Dougie Hall, the veteran 33-year-old hooker who is the oldest player in the Glasgow squad, is still enjoying his rugby despite operating from the bench for much of the time. Picture: Craig Watson/SNS

There are days when the 33-year-old relishes the thought of life without the relentless grind of training and preparation, but there are still more when he dreads the thought of turning away from rugby for the last time.

In the modern game, Hall is not exactly in his dotage - Toulon won the Heineken Cup final in Dublin last season with a pack made up entirely of thirty-somethings - but he is still the oldest player on Glasgow's books. Indeed, across the two professional sides in Scotland, only 35-year-old Edinburgh hooker Aleki Lutui is a more senior citizen than Hall right now.

Always one of the game's more thoughtful and articulate players, Hall weighs up his dilemma quite neatly. "It depends on the mood you catch me in," he laughs. "There are some times when training is particularly tough, or I am sore after a game, when I think I can't wait to finish. But then, for most of the time I am still just really enjoying it. I'm grateful that I've got to this stage of my career and I'm still loving it."

Which is all very well but, as he also acknowledges, these decisions are not always a player's to take. At the end of the season, his contract with the Warriors will be up, and as yet there is no firm agreement that it will be extended.

"I am in discussions with Glasgow at the moment, so we'll see what we can get sorted out," he explains. "It would be great to stay at Glasgow. It would be lovely to finish my career here, but it is a two-way street."

Hall came into rugby after studying accountancy at university, and his inclination at the moment is to develop a career in the finance sector when the rugby curtain does finally drop. However, for the past dozen years he has lived in the bubble of being a professional player, and like many before him it has only been at this stage of life that they have begun to appreciate how little they know of the wider working world.

Not that he is complaining. "We get great life experiences as well," he says firmly. "What we do might seem unusual, but teamwork, working under pressure and communication skills are all part of the package. A lot of people my age are already settled into a career that will last for the rest of their days, but I actually find it quite exciting to think I will soon be getting a chance to hopefully become good at something else.

"You have to think about these things. As you get older it crosses your mind a lot more. The bills don't go away even when the rugby contracts do."

The indications from Glasgow are that the team they will put out against Exeter in their Heineken Cup tie at Sandy Park tomorrow will be made up mostly of the players who would have started against Edinburgh at Scotstoun last week had the game not been called off due to a waterlogged pitch barely an hour before the scheduled kick-off.

As Hall is often on bench duty these days, being denied his start in that game was doubly frustrating. But with age and experience he has gained a deeper appreciation that you can only fret about the things you can control, and you just have to shrug off all the other petty travails the game throws up.

He says: "It is difficult, but it's just one of those things you have to deal with. You have to be disciplined and cope with anything that comes your way. We didn't get that release, but the beauty of rugby is that there is always another game to play.

"Once we knew it wasn't going to be played we were very frustrated, but it was a great opportunity to prepare well for Exeter."

Mathematically, Glasgow still have a chance of reaching the Amlin Cup's knockout stage; realistically, their European season is over. So, too, is Exeter's, a factor that explains why no television cameras will be at the compact Devon ground tomorrow. All of which suggests that neither side will be taking the occasion too seriously - at least it does to the outsider.

Hall sees things differently. "I can understand the argument, but if you are playing at this level you pretty much hate losing," he explains.

"We feel we haven't reached the levels we are capable of in either the Rabo or the Heineken this season, and we are constantly striving to try and prove that we a lot better than we have shown. We want to show that we deserve to be there, not just making up the numbers but actually challenging.

"We were delighted with the victory over [Exeter] at Scotstoun a while ago, but they certainly gave us a hell of a tough game. Some of the rugby they have played in Europe shows they are side that can really put a lot of points on you."

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