Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 31 August 2014

Gray cleared for All Blacks clash

Richie Gray, Scotland

Scotland second row Richie Gray is "raring to go" for Sunday's EMC Test with New Zealand after proving his fitness.

Gray has not played since Sale Sharks' Heineken Cup clash with Cardiff Blues on October 14 due to an ankle injury, but passed a fitness test after being named in head coach Andy Robinson's starting XV.

Robinson said on Tuesday: "Richie has trained fully with us this afternoon and is in good spirits. He is raring to go for Sunday's match."

Scotland have been hit by a host of injuries, with Gray's the most troublesome.

Robinson added: "The key for this game for us is that we need everybody at 100% so they can go toe-to-toe with New Zealand."

Robinson has made five changes to the side which won in Apia, on June 23, with Gray partnered in the second row by Jim Hamilton, who was banned for the summer tour for an indiscretion while playing for Gloucester and replaces Alastair Kellock.

Saracens back-row Kelly Brown returns from injury to win his 50th cap and first as captain, replacing number eight Richie Vernon, who was not selected in the initial squad, to line up in the back-row alongside Ross Rennie and Alasdair Strokosch.

Centre Nick De Luca and scrum-half Mike Blair replace injured duo Joe Ansbro and Chris Cusiter, respectively, while Geoff Cross starts at tighthead prop in place of Euan Murray, who is not available as the match falls on a Sunday.

Tim Visser, Scotland's flying Dutchman, will make his home debut. The Holland-born Edinburgh wing qualified through residency in June, scoring two tries on his debut in Fiji, and is hoping to continue his rapid rise.

Visser said: "In terms of challenges they don't come any bigger. I feel like my career has been steadily building up to this point and I'm now well prepared to go into something like this."

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