Geoff Cross ready to shoulder the burden at Murrayfield

Geoff Cross is another out-of-contract Edinburgh player. Pic: Ian Rutherford
Geoff Cross is another out-of-contract Edinburgh player. Pic: Ian Rutherford
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Geoff Cross will be playing for his professional rugby future when earning a 27th Scotland cap against France at Murrayfield on Saturday.

The 31-year-old tight-head prop gets his first international start of the season, which is only one less than he has been handed by Edinburgh during 2013-14 as his place goes there to South African import, Willem Nel.

And rarely have the stakes been higher for Cross, who has revealed he has not yet been offered a renewal of his Capital contract which expires soon.

“Contract? I am up at the end of the season,” replied Cross when asked by the Evening News following the team announcement about his immediate rugby prospects.

He added: “I haven’t arranged a contract with Edinburgh and I haven’t arranged a contract with anyone else.

“Those are the facts. Watch this space.”

It is almost inconceivable that a player figuring in the current Six Nations does not have options at this stage and undoubtedly Cross will be a wanted man, especially after his performance in coming off the Scotland bench last time out to shore up the scrum in a winning cause.

A repeat on Saturday will make him hot property at a time when Edinburgh continue to bring in players from overseas for the front row – Nel and Wiccus Blaauw this season with Alan Dell and Simon Berghan from the beginning of next.

While that might continue to seem bizarre at an outfit established specifically with the remit of providing Scots with an opportunity to play professional rugby in Scotland and under an agreement with SRU stakeholders, Cross’s focus is solely on the task in hand.

“I like playing games of rugby so I am pleased to be involved,” said the qualified doctor. “When I’ve played I think I have played well. My job is to keep providing reasons to get picked. As ever, it is important that I work on the things I am brought in for which is scrummaging. There are also things outside that if I do well I will be able to challenge for a more regular place. When you are not playing regularly, as I haven’t been, the training you do becomes very much more important.

“Clearly, you work with coaches to provide them with what they want to the standard that gets you selected and that has been my job this season.

“Actually it never changes, it’s just that sometimes you are more successful at that than at other times.

“The important thing is to focus on what selectors want and keep working at doing that and asking them how you are doing.

“So long as they are feeding back to you and you are feeding back to them, that remains a functional working relationship. They have been saying ‘we are very happy with your set-piece work and would like you to improve defence after tackle’.

“It is not enough to tackle and lie about congratulating yourself on tackling somebody. You have to get up and do your next job. I enjoy playing. You are, however, a tool for selectors to use. If they choose not to that is the position you are in and you have to keep working.

“I have a chance to prepare for a really exciting game against France this weekend. That is what I am thinking about, but the important thing is to remain working on the stuff your selectors want you to do and get better at it. That is how to get selected. Kicking cats, feeling sorry, stopping ... they don’t get you picked. At least I don’t think they do!”

Meanwhile, fresh from undertaking arguably the biggest Scottish u-turn since Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Jacobite army turned round at Derby in 1745 by recalling Kelly Brown as captain two games after dropping him from the entire squad, interim coach Scott Johnson provided Cross with a vote of confidence.

“We discussed bringing Euan (Murray) back but he has not played for a long time,” said Johnson. “Moray (Low) started in the Autumn ahead of Euan and I want competition. I don’t want divine right. Geoff deserves the first chance.

“It’s not perfect (missing out with Edinburgh) but he seems to find a way to do things. He has to find a way to do it because I can’t control the others.”

Except that, as Scotland coach in an organisation with an SRU-owned team, last weekend Johnson was able to “request” game time for Cross in the Pro 12, as Edinburgh coach Alan Solomons admitted.