Geoff Cross has confirmed his availability for Scotland’s summer tour of South Africa and the Americas, but admits his contract situation could still be in limbo.
The worst-case scenario would be for Cross to head off on tour not knowing his rugby future at a time when Edinburgh Rugby, by their deeds, have made it clear he is not part of future plans.
Cross, a tight head prop, has found himself in the bizarre situation of being almost discarded by his club, but, because if his specialist role, required by his country. He has only had two starts with Edinburgh this season, but, at the weekend, the 31-year-old’s 27th Scotland cap coincided with his first 80-minute run at Test level in a dozen caps since the All Blacks visited in 2012.
That he stayed the course admirably despite those two starts all season – and one of those at the “request” of the interim national coach to SRU-owned Edinburgh who prefer a South African in his position – speaks volumes for his fitness and application. Never one to complain, publicly at least, Cross is as phlegmatic about his next contract as he was about one highly contentious refereeing decision during the 17-19 loss to France on Saturday when he was penalised despite an opposite number clearly boring in at an angle when the scrum ought to have been straight.
“I believe I am available to tour and, yes, I’d hope to have something sorted out, but we really have to watch this space. When I know everyone else will too,” said Cross. As to the way the front row plays unfolded, he said: “That’s the beauty of the game. There are interpretations and applications of laws. One man’s word is law and that is fine. That is the way it is. He (the ref) saw it as he called it and we will move on.”
Others are not so diplomatic and former Grand Slam and Lions prop Iain Milne rages at the treatment of Cross, just 18 months out from a World Cup.
“We should be looking after Geoff better as a rugby country and the way he has been treated is a disgrace,” said Milne. “Any time Geoff has come into the Scotland side, say for Euan Murray, who has been unavailable on a Sunday, he has done well. There have been times, too, when Geoff has come off the bench and the scrum has actually improved.
“Why Edinburgh are thinking of letting Geoff go I can’t get my mind around. What makes things absolute madness is that Glasgow will shortly lose another Scotland prop, Moray Low, to Exeter. It would be absolute craziness if both left when something could be done about it by moving Geoff into the vacancy created by Moray.”
Another former Scotland tight head prop, Norrie Rowan, echoes many of his ex-rival Milne’s comments. “At the heart of this is Edinburgh’s pre-occupation with South Africans.
“Why are 90 per cent of resources being spent in that direction? Is that really value for money? There is no question Geoff Cross could be an asset in the English Premiership – Moray Low’s off there and he was dropped for the Edinburgh player against France last weekend! Geoff needs be starting every week and the sooner that happens the better for Scottish rugby.”
It is understood that earlier in his career Cross turned down offers from London Irish out of loyalty to a previous Edinburgh regime which had given him a break in the professional era.
It may not count in his favour in some corners of English club rugby today, though, that Cross is a highly intelligent individual, a qualified doctor.
In such circumstances it is unlikely he would identify with one prominent English coach and ex-Test prop forward who described in graphic detail at an inquest into the scrum collapse that rendered England Under-20 cap Matt Hampson, of Leicester, a quadriplegic, the way in which front rows were expected to attempt to inflict physical injury on opposite numbers.
Were that a general view Cross would be well out of the Premiership scene and an even greater shame that he appears a prophet without honour in a country he continues to service with distinction.