After a career which has brought more than a century of appearances for Newcastle Falcons and 47 international caps for Scotland, hooker Scott Lawson will retire from professional rugby at the end of the current season.
The 36-year-old has been a mainstay of the Falcons forward pack during his five seasons on Tyneside and will remain so during their ongoing Aviva Premiership title challenge, but following the conclusion of the 2017-18 campaign he will take up a new position as director of rugby at the University of St Andrews.
Lawson’s rugby career began at his local club, Biggar RFC, and went on to see him excel in the professional ranks for Glasgow Warriors, Sale Sharks, Gloucester and London Irish before joining the Falcons in the summer of 2013.
Running out 109 times so far in Newcastle colours, a remarkable 2017-18 campaign for club and country saw him ending a wait of more than three years for a Scotland recall during this year’s Six Nations, scoring two tries in the European Challenge Cup semi-final and playing in 16 of the Falcons’ 22 Aviva Premiership games during their best league finish in 20 years.
Announcing the news, Lawson said: “I’ve played professional rugby for a long, long time, and I don’t want to play for too long. Now feels like the right time, I’ve been giving it a lot of thought and I’ve been given an outstanding opportunity at the University of St Andrews.
“With the season we’ve had it feels like now is the moment to call it a day, and I’d like to thank Dean Richards and the Falcons as a club for being so understanding throughout the whole process. This also means my role as head coach of Tynedale RFC will come to an end, and I’d like to put on record my thanks to everybody at Tynedale who has made my time there so enjoyable and rewarding.”
Looking back on his five years at Kingston Park, Lawson said: “Having come here with my family and with my youngest daughter being born here, I’ll always have a big connection with the region. We’ve made so many friends here, I’ve been part of an incredible journey with the Falcons and the vision that Dean sold me five years ago has come to fruition. He spoke to me in detail about where he saw the club going, he has been as good as his word and I feel privileged to have been part of the rise.
“It’s culminating for me in a Premiership semi-final and hopefully a final, and the club is in great hands. When I arrived we’d only just been promoted from the Championship, we’ve shown great progress and from a personal point of view I’ve also managed to extend my Scotland career during my time in Newcastle. I feel proud of my contribution to a club which has always been very good to me, the environment here has pushed me on to new heights even at the age of 36 and I’ll take nothing but fond memories from my time here.
“Getting to 100 appearances for Newcastle earlier this season was a special moment, as was running out with my children, Fran, Orla, Quinlan and Ada for my last home game against Wasps. My wife Ella has been a huge support throughout my whole career, and it’s great with my new job that I’ll be able to work in rugby but still have more of a chance to spend time with my family. As a professional sportsman you do sacrifice a lot of that family time, but I’m still able to stay in the sport now and maintain a bit more of a balance.”
Newcastle Falcons director of rugby Dean Richards said: “Scott has been a central pillar in this club’s resurgence over the past five seasons having joined us straight after our promotion from the Championship.
“He has performed to a consistently high standard right throughout that time, been an outstanding influence on and off the field, and it is no surprise to me that he has been successful in his transition to coaching after spending the past couple of years as head coach of Tynedale RFC. He will now take the next step along that path at the University of St Andrews, and I am sure he will excel there.
“Of course he still has a big part to play for the Falcons with an Aviva Premiership semi-final and hopefully a final to come over the next two weeks, and at the culmination of that campaign I am sure our supporters will join me in thanking him and wishing him all the best for the next chapter of his life.”
Speaking about his impending move back to Scotland, Lawson said: “I’m delighted to have been appointed as director of rugby at such a prestigious University. The traditions of the past along with the current world class facilities and vision for the future for all sport at St Andrews add to my excitement in leading what is an already successful rugby programme. I can’t wait to get started.”