Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 16 September 2014

Cross relishing competition for place

Geoff Cross, pictured, takes tighthead prop Euan Murray's place for Scotland against Ireland

Scotland prop Geoff Cross bears no grudge towards front-row rival Euan Murray - insisting the two forwards are committed to working together to boost the Dark Blues' RBS 6 Nations hopes.

Cross takes tighthead prop Murray's place in the team that will face Ireland at Murrayfield this weekend, as the committed Christian continues to make himself unavailable for selection on Sundays. Only Ireland's Cian Healy and Mike McCarthy have made more tackles than the 25 managed by the Worcester man in the Scots' opening two games against England and Italy.

But interim head coach Scott Johnson has already informed Cross that a positive performance against the Irish could result in Murray surrendering his place for longer than just one game, and Cross said: "Do I feel unlucky to have someone like Euan in front of me? No. I enjoy the contest."

He added: "The competition can be frustrating when you come second in the selection contest. But it's a driver to improve, and that sort of pressure forces you to improve."

The Edinburgh player, though, does not feel threatened by his team-mate's possible return, and claims they are both working for a common cause.

The 30-year-old told Press Association Sport: "You don't want to be in a comfort zone when you are looking to perform at an elite level, which we are. Is Euan a rival? Yeah, but it's a constructive rivalry - through the competition that tighthead props have in squad, we'll challenge each other to be better.

"It won't always be comfortable, it won't always be nice, but we are all in to do the same thing, which is to be better and get picked."

Cross also acknowledged that he could be back on the bench himself if he does not match those first two displays by Scotland's top defensive performer.

He said: "It's important personally to get a chance to show your coaches why they should pick me. There's also a risk that I provide them reasons to see why not to pick me. It's important that I give them plenty of the former, none of the later."

Scotland team to face Ireland: Stuart Hogg, Sean Maitland, Sean Lamont, Matt Scott, Tim Visser, Ruaridh Jackson, Greig Laidlaw, Ryan Grant, Ross Ford, Geoff Cross, Richie Gray, Jim Hamilton, Robert Harley, Kelly Brown (capt), Johnnie Beattie. Replacements: Dougie Hall, Jon Welsh, Moray Low, Alastair Kellock, David Denton, Henry Pyrgos, Duncan Weir, Max Evans.

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