Geoff CROSS has labelled a 2015 World Cup draw that pairs Scotland with South Africa, Samoa and two qualifiers as “one we can do business in”.
The Edinburgh prop forward said the section for the tournament, which will be played in England and Wales, provided an incentive for the international team to get back to winning ways following a disastrous Autumn Test campaign which saw them lose all three Tests.
“These are teams I believe we should be excited about playing and it is an opportunity to show how we can play rugby that will flourish under pressure,” said Cross, speaking at the launch of a scheme to encourage supporters to donate gifts to be distributed to the Sick Kids Friends Foundation at Christmas.
“It’s a section we can do business in, but only if we are very accurate about how we hold on to the ball.”
Cross, capped 17 times for Scotland, experienced the highs and lows of Test rugby during the recent Autumn series, which concluded with Andy Robinson departing following a humiliating 21-15 defeat by Tonga in Aberdeen.
From scoring his maiden international try against New Zealand to being a substitute when Scotland lost to Tonga for the first time, it was a roller-coaster three weeks for the one-time Gala and Heriot’s club star. Cross, however, said there are lessons to be learned which he has taken back to Edinburgh to work on, starting with Saturday’s trip to Racing Metro in Paris when the Heineken European Cup resumes.
“The Autumn series showed me that if we are not accurate at the tackle contest, then we will be punished by competent teams.
“We have to perform consistently at a standard that we didn’t achieve in the Autumn.
“It is something I believe we can fix back at our clubs in training.
“The important point I am going to work on is tackling low and making a nuisance of myself so far as the opposition are concerned.
“If we do that, it will be easier for us to win collisions.”
That, said Cross, was necessary to enable Scotland to play the off-loading game out of the tackle that some felt was missing and proved their undoing in the Autumn schedule, which also included South Africa and world champions New Zealand.
Cross’ response to criticism, particularly from one ex-captain that losing didn’t not appear to hurt enough was terse. “We don’t like losing,” he said.
However, on the subject of becoming one of an elite group who have scored tries for Scotland against the All Blacks his demeanour was sunnier if tempered by the overall result – a 51-22 defeat.
“The try gave me a lot of pleasure. What was particularly pleasing was the collective effort of the whole pack to score against a team that is world class at challenging you in the tackle contest and pinching ball.
“We kept hold of the ball to exert pressure by recycling the ball leading to points and the fact that I was the one who touched down the try was a lovely moment I’ll put away in my back pocket.
“Next up is Racing Metro [for Edinburgh] and I wouldn’t expect the game to unfold in anything like the way it did when we beat them 48-47 at Murrayfield in last season’s Heineken Cup [in a thriller that included 11 tries]. Anything is possible, of course, but looking at the way Racing are playing this year, it is a more structured game-plan.
“When you have that control and big men like they have I believe that stacks the game into a less open, less flowing one. That’s what they will be trying to impose on us.
“What we will be trying to do is impose on them and it is great to be coming off the back of a couple of league victories.”
Cross will be looking for an early birthday present being due to turn 30 next Tuesday.
n Fans are asked to drop presents, unwrapped, off at a collection point on the East stand concourse before or at half-time when Racing Metro visit Murrayfield on Friday week. For further information contact firstname.lastname@example.org