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Long-haul driver Lamont targets century of caps

By rights, he should probably be lining up the pipe and slippers and checking out some local bowls clubs, but with 86 caps under his belt Sean Lamont seems determined to retain his status as the Peter Pan of Scottish rugby for some time yet.

Far from winding down his playing days, 34-year-old Sean Lamont has no intention of retiring, 'ever'. Picture: Craig Watson/SNS/SRU
Far from winding down his playing days, 34-year-old Sean Lamont has no intention of retiring, 'ever'. Picture: Craig Watson/SNS/SRU

It had been assumed that the winger would slip quietly into his dotage at the conclusion of next year's World Cup, by which time he will be well past his 34th birthday. But his levels of energy and enthusiasm are as high now as when he first pitched up at Glasgow more than a decade ago, and coach Gregor Townsend was happy to add a year to his contract the other day, an allowance that will keep Lamont at Scotstoun until 2016 - at least.

That qualification is necessary as the player has no intention of slipping quietly into the backdrop even then. "I don't plan on retiring ever," he said emphatically. "The body will just give up or I will become surplus to requirements. I am not saying I'm going to see out my days at Glasgow. No way do I see this as my final contract."

In truth, it is hard to imagine that many other clubs will be queuing up to secure the services of a 36-year-old winger at that point, but there is no question that Lamont is as effective and as hungry now as he ever was. He speaks proudly of the fact that he still has a base of raw pace, and more proudly still of the fact he can still set personal bests in the gym.

Lamont has a particular ambition to follow in the footsteps of Chris Paterson and become the second Scot to reach a century of caps. Even after the injury that kept him out of the final match of this year's Six Nations, he is on track to meet that target at the 2015 World Cup, and the setback may even turn out to be a blessing in disguise. In the final week of the club season he feels as fresh as ever.

And just as well, too, with a RaboDirect PRO12 final clash with Leinster looming. Lamont doesn't say as much, but he is clearly itching to be in the starting line-up when Glasgow take the field at the RDS on Saturday evening. It is the biggest game in the club's history.

Two semi-final losses on the same ground, and against the same opponents, have only added to the determination of the Glasgow squad as a whole. "Leinster again, eh?" Lamont mused. "Three years in a row. Yes, they have been in a final before and we haven't, but we have played them so many times we know exactly what they are going to do.

"Our defence is the best in the league and we have conceded the least tries so if we stick to our systems we can do it.

"It has been so close in the past couple of years. We need a bit of calmness at the right times. Last year penalties cost us. That has to be a big focus. We have been on the high side of penalties, that is just the way we play, especially at the breakdown."

With players such as Mark Bennett and Finn Russell around, the Warriors have the material they need should Townsend decide to give his backline a callow look. But against the vast experience of Leinster players like Rob Kearney, Gordon D'Arcy and Brian O'Driscoll - riding a Dublin tide of emotion in his last-ever game - the value of a greybeard guy like Lamont becomes clear. He might feel like a young pup, but the reality is that he is very much an old dog these days.

So what's the difference? "The older you get the harder you have to work," Lamont replied. "That is basically how it is. But as long as the drive is there, which it is, that is a big factor for me. I am pushing myself, always have and always will.

"As soon as you get complacent and you take the foot off the gas that is when it goes all downhill. Once you stop caring then that's it. You don't make your fitness targets. You are not driving yourself to be selected in the team. In two more years I will probably be trying to pick up every game I can.

"When you are young and sprightly you are haring around trying to do everything. Now you know if you pick a line you might get a chance. It is time served. It is like anything. You can feel the ebbs and flows of the game more than maybe you do when you are young and excited about everything."

A few months ago, Lamont expressed his sadness that he had never actually won anything in a Scotland shirt. You can sense his appreciation that he may never have a better chance than now to do something with Glasgow.

He said: "I've been trying for long enough to get some silverware, Gregor really wants it as well, so the desire is there. We've got a great team, a great squad, and we can do it, but it's just about having the right level of readiness. Not being over the top and too exciting, just being clinical and doing your job with absolute pinpoint accuracy.

"We've got a lot of experienced guys. We've got a lot of guys who have been capped internationally, and this is basically a Test match. It is Test match level - there is nowhere after this. It's all or nothing, winner takes all, and there is no comeback. Now it is either bridesmaid or bride."

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