Geoff Cross is thankful for a ‘brutal’ Vern assessment

Geoff Cross aims to take his chance against Tonga
Geoff Cross aims to take his chance against Tonga
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Scotland prop Geoff Cross insists he will learn from Vern Cotter’s “brutal” assessment of his recent displays and mend his ways.

The London Irish forward will be given his chance to impress the Dark Blues new coach today when he starts the final autumn Test with Tonga at Rugby Park in Kilmarnock.

The 31-year-old was only used off the bench in the opening two internationals with Argentina and New Zealand as Euan Murray claimed the tighthead starting slot.

The likelihood is that had Murray not suffered a thigh injury in last weekend’s narrow defeat to the All Blacks, Cross would have found himself back on the bench this weekend.

But after a frank discussion with Cotter on what he must do to wrestle the No.3 jersey back from his Glasgow rival, former Edinburgh player Cross insists he is ready to grasp his opportunity.

The erudite Borderer – a fully-qualified doctor currently sporting the most noticeable beard in Scottish rugby – said: “When Vern talked to me earlier this week, he asked: ‘How do you want me to talk to you Geoff? Do you want me to be nice or do you want me to be brutal?’ “I said: ‘Vern, be brutal’. And he is definitely good at brutal and honest. But that means you know what you have got to work on.

“That’s nice and simple. I like simple instruction.

“Is Vern nice? He is simple and direct. Nice can also mean scrupulously precise, and I would say that fits with Vern.”

Cross added: “This Tonga Test is a chance for me to show what I can do and that’s something I would like to show the coaches. Thus far I haven’t done that but this is my opportunity.

“They have been very clear with me about what they would like me to do when I am playing and I think I have been doing that in training this week. I haven’t had to change my style to suit Vern’s new methods but he has asked me to do what I do a bit better, a bit quicker and a bit more often.

“If I do that, it will stand me in very good stead. If not, then there is pressure from selection coming through and I’m sure selection will solve the issue.”

As well as coping with the plastic pitch that will be used for the first time in a major international, Cross and his colleagues will have to deal with a side that left them with red faces when they won 21-15 at Pittodrie two years ago.

But Cross cannot wait to square up to the Pacific Islanders. He said: “They will be very physical and very direct. We learned that the last time we played them. In order to meet that, we need to get our kicking game right and we have to pressure them both in attack and defence.

“If we do those things I think we can go well against them – but they are a better team than they were in the past.

“They won the last time we played them so we have a big challenge ahead of us.

“I enjoy a physical challenge. I expect they will be coming into the areas of the field where I am and that will be good fun.”