Rugby: Murray’s old tennis pal has his own grand slam dream

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Sunday, January 29, 2012. Could it be a red-letter day for Scottish sport and in particular two former class-mates one of whom has just signed a two-year contract extension at Edinburgh Rugby?

On one side of the world Andy Murray is towelling down after making his grand slam breakthrough in the final of the Australian Open tennis championship, and what a start to a week that could end with, back home, his former hitting partner, Steve Turnbull, preparing to make a Six Nations debut for Scotland against England at Murrayfield.

Not so much a pipe-dream as a possibility and strengthening the odds, surely, is the fact that both sportsmen from a shared background are currently on a roll. Murray has won his last three tournaments while giant second-row forward Turnbull couldn’t be happier at putting pen to paper ensuring he will be with the Capital team until 2014, at least.

Might they even be fighting it out to see who is Dunblane’s annual sports personality this time next year?

More relevantly who might be first to achieve their holy grail – slam or cap?

Turnbull told the Evening News: “Andy Murray and I occasionally knocked up together at Dunblane tennis club where we were both coached for a spell by Brian Melville and we were in the same class at secondary for a year before he left quite sharply to go to Barcelona for his tennis.

“I know Andy has been doing well and trying to gain a cap is certainly in my plans.”

What Turnbull is especially clear about is the desire to reward Edinburgh coach Michael Bradley for the vote of confidence his contract extension brings, starting with Friday’s home clash with European champions Leinster, if selected.

“It’s a big season for me now kicking on and wanting to prove to the coaches I’m worth the investment,” added Turnbull. “I can’t wait to help Edinburgh out in a good young team who can be really successful. I’m absolutely delighted to be staying at Edinburgh for another two seasons after this. I love the city. I love playing at Murrayfield.”

Referring to earlier injury woes which occurred after a debut back in season 2006-07 he said: “I’ve gone through a tough couple of years but feel well clear of that now with a couple of seasons under my belt playing more rugby.”

In fact, after making five appearances (two off the bench) in a 2006-07 debut campaign, a broken ankle meant just one substitute outing in the next two seasons, but he now has a total of 39 Edinburgh games to draw upon.

Don’t tell Turnbull either that competition has reduced with the departure over the summer of Fraser McKenzie, Craig Hamilton and Scott Macleod, all of whom have filled second row slots last season.

“Some boys have left but there’s still a lot of competition in second row with Grant (Gilchrist) playing well, Esteban (Lozada) and Sean (Cox). There’s four of us fighting hard to get a place in the team,” says the 6ft 7in and 18st 10lb ace who has turned out in four of the six games so far.

As for facing Leinster, that won’t be a new experience having faced them previously including when Edinburgh scored four tries when losing 28-37 in Dublin in 2010.

“Whoever they put out, they’ve such a big squad, we are confident we can put up a good fight and beat anybody on our day. It’s good playing against the best players in the world, a challenge we relish.”

The Pro 12 League comes out of cold storage after a break of three weeks and Turnbull is upbeat for prospects including the opening of their European Cup campaign against London Irish in Reading next month in a pool that also includes Cardiff and Racing Metro.

“We’ve looked at our first batch of fixtures where we had hoped for a few more wins. But it’s not all doom and gloom. There were a lot of positive signs. Things are about to pick up a level with Leinster followed by a trip to Treviso then a Heineken European Cup pool where we not only see ourselves competing but getting through.”