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Scotland face front row crisis

Scotland are facing a front row crisis only days before they face South Africa and their renowned scrummaging power.

Tighthead prop Geoff Cross became the second front row player, following hooker Pat MacArthur, to be ruled out of the tour through injury, leaving the squad with the bare minimum they need to provide a complete match-day complement of front row players.

Worse still, there is still an injury doubt over Euan Murray, the other tighthead in the squad, who came off during last Saturday's defeat to Samoa with a hamstring problem. However, the fact that the team management did not immediately send for a replacement for Cross suggests they are reasonably confident he will make it.

With only two fit hookers and four fit props on tour, Scotland are gambling on everybody coming through the rest of the week's training unscathed and they have left themselves without much leeway when it comes to selecting the side. As a reflection of the injuries, they have had to put naming the team back from Tuesday to Thursday.

"We came out with the big intention of broadening our base and will now have to broaden it sooner than we thought," said Jonathan Humphreys, the forwards coach. "We are going to know a lot more about their fitness levels tomorrow. We had a recovery day today, then we will have assessments tomorrow morning and will pick the side according to who is left."

Cross is heading home with a shoulder injury suffered during the game after he replaced Murray early in the second half. Humphreys revealed that despite having almost dislocated his shoulder, Cross had played on through the pain.

The only piece of good fortune is that Scotland have a ready-made replacement already in South Africa. Jon Welsh had been flown out as a replacement for Ryan Grant, who is now with the British and Irish Lions, and though he can play on both sides of the scrum, nowadays he sees himself more as a specialist tighthead.

He should have been starting pre-season training in Glasgow on Monday, but instead was getting ready to win his second Scotland cap after a season ruined by his own shoulder trouble.

"I've been keeping myself ticking over," he said. "I was just counting down the days to pre-season starting and so mentally I'm up for playing. When an opportunity like this arises you just want to go out and give it your all, and hopefully that happens this weekend. It would be a massive opportunity.

"It's great to be called out to a place like South Africa to represent your country. South Africa being one of the best scrummaging teams in the world means it will be a tough test but something I would relish."


From Belfast Telegraph