Scotland scrum-half Mike Blair has claimed his decision to continue playing his rugby with Edinburgh had a lot to do with former Lions coach Andy Robinson.
Robinson, a Lions tourist as a player in 1989 and a coach in both 2001 and 2005, took the reigns at the Scottish side last year at a time when Blair was considering moving abroad.
Now, having decided to remain the nation’s capital until 2010, the 27-year-old is one of the favourites to fill the No9 berth on next year’s Lions tour to South Africa.
“When Andy Robinson came on board I was really pleased to sign a contract extension because of the impact he made on me and the team,” said Blair, who now has 50 international caps to his name having established himself ahead of 2005 Lion Chris Cusiter in the Scottish pecking order.
"Andy was a huge part of the reason why I didn’t leave. He didn’t talk to me too much about it; it was more what my impressions of him were.
“I certainly wasn’t persuaded to stay by what he said; it was more by his actions, his coaching and the feel of the squad, and that’s why I stayed and signed the contract extension. Ultimately, I was keen to stay at Edinburgh and Andy was keen for me to stay."
Last summer was a difficult one for Edinburgh, with a breakdown in the relationship between the Bob Carruthers consortium, Edinburgh’s owners, and the Scottish Rugby Union being well documented.
Blair is delighted he opted to stay with his home-town club, however, and he believes the side will continue to improve in what could be a huge season for him individually.
"I could have left," said Blair. "I spoke to clubs and visited some clubs – I think it would have been silly not to have.
"I am an Edinburgh guy and have lived in Edinburgh pretty much all my life and I didn’t want to be in a situation where, with some guys having left, I’d be the stick that broke the camel’s back.
"I was really pleased with how the season went for me personally and the team last year. To have so many young guys just breaking into professional rugby and the season like we did was very pleasing, but we really need to build on that now.
"Guys like Ben Cairns, Nick de Luca, Ross Rennie and Alan McDonald were great and did well. Jim Hamilton is a really good signing for us as well because he’ll bring a fair bit of weight and grunt to our pack, and with Mossy (Chris Paterson], it’s like he hasn’t been away – he has slipped straight back in. The young guys who didn’t know him have been impressed by his work ethic and attitude, so he’s bringing more to the squad again."