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Last Updated: Friday, 28 January, 2005, 13:36 GMT
Shooting Stars: Chris Cusiter (Scotland)
Mathew Tait Dimitri Yachvili Marcus Horan Sergio Parisse Chris Cusiter Gavin Henson Chris Cusiter

By Jim Byers

Scotland have produced a string of world-class scrum-halves in recent years.

Rugby aficionados all over the world are familiar with the names of Roy Laidlaw, Gary Armstrong and Bryan Redpath.

There now looks to be a new addition to the list of illustrious half-backs from north of the border - Chris Cusiter.

The 22-year-old's rise to prominence has been startling.

After developing his skills at school in Aberdeen, and later in Edinburgh with club sides Watsonians and Boroughmuir, Cusiter's professional rugby career only began in June 2003 when he joined Celtic League strugglers The Borders.

CHRIS CUSITER
Chris Cusiter in action
Born: 13 June 1982
Aberdeen, Scotland
Position: Scrum-half
Caps: 12
Points: 5 (one try)
Six Nations appearances: 5
Older brother Calum has played age-grade rugby for Scotland at scrum-half
His first cap for Scotland followed soon after and yet already this prodigiously talented newcomer is being talked of as a future Scotland captain - and a genuine Lions contender.

For now, one thing is for sure - Cusiter is a shoo-in for Scotland's RBS Six Nations campaign.

In November, he was one of only a few Scottish players - along with flankers Ally Hogg and Donnie Macfadyen - to emerge with credit from Scotland's disappointing autumn Test series.

A couple of eye-catching breaks in the dismal defeat to South Africa and a man of the match display in the second Test against Australia have ensured he is now one of the first names on the Scotland teamsheet.

His quick delivery, tenacious tackling and explosive pace off the mark won Cusiter his Scotland debut against Wales in the opening match of last year's Six Nations.

Although Scotland lost, Cusiter played well enough to hold onto his place for the rest of the tournament and went on to be one of the few positives in an otherwise miserable competition for the Wooden Spoon winners.

He was a star performer on the subsequent summer tour down under, playing in all three Tests against Australia and Samoa, and earning praise from opposite number George Gregan after scoring a try in the second Test against the Wallabies.

I think he's a serious contender for the Lions
Former Scotland captain Andy Nicol
The youngster has since racked up 12 caps and was recently backed by Scotland legend Scott Hastings as a candidate to lead his side in the Six Nations.

Cusiter could be one of the stars of this year's tournament and it will be intriguing to see how he fares against the other scrum-half contenders for the Lions trip to New Zealand.

While his talent is undoubted, the only thing Cusiter lacks is experience at the very highest level.

But former Scotland scrum-half Andy Nicol believes Cusiter has got what it takes.

"If he gets a platform like he might do in the summer, he could be a revelation," Nicol told BBC Sport.

"Anyone who is holding down an international spot is in the frame and with the qualities he has shown in the autumn and last summer, I think he's a serious contender for the Lions."

Cusiter however, remains modest about his prospects: "I've heard things about the Lions tour but I don't think it's very helpful to look that far down the line.

"I just want to get selected for Scotland first and let everything else take care of itself."




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