Ross relishes Murrayfield return with London Welsh

Gordon Ross. Picture: Getty
Gordon Ross. Picture: Getty
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Gordon Ross is aiming to give the daddy of all performances against his former Edinburgh Rugby team if called upon by London Welsh for the upcoming European Challenge Cup double-header.

Former Scotland stand-off Ross has been pressed into service as a player/coach at the English Premiership outfit in recent weeks and meetings with his hometown club stood out from the moment the draw was announced – although not only for rugby reasons.

“My wife is due our first child on the day before the return in Oxford on Sunday week, but I’ll be keeping one eye on my phone before this Sunday’s match at BT Murrayfield as well,” said the 25-times capped Herioter.

The mere mention of Ross and Murrayfield in the same sentence should act as a warning to Edinburgh.

“It will be good to be back and, if required to play, it will be my first appearance there since helping beat England in 2006!” he recalled.

Not just that, but Ross’s record on the famous turf is impressive; nine wins from 13 starts and against a range of foes – England, France, Wales, South Africa, Romania, Fiji, Italy (twice) and a Tongan team against whom he struck 23 points which is still a record for a Scottish debutant.

And while London Welsh are currently struggling in England’s Aviva Premiership, Ross insists they are showing signs of improvement.

“Last weekend we went down to the champions, Northampton, but there were positives,” he said.

“We had lots of possession but weren’t very clinical. In the end, we lost our discipline a bit but it showed up a need to be smarter and that is a lesson we are taking on board.”

When London Welsh gained promotion, it was Ross’s intention to immerse himself in coaching. But the 36-year-old has proved indispensable out on the field.

“We had injuries including to [England cap] Olly Barkley who is coming back soon and also tried to give game-time to a younger player who is getting better and better (21-year-old Will Robinson) but lacked experience. Experience is one thing I have got!”

Ross’s outings have included against Northampton, Leicester and, in the Euro Challenge Cup, Bordeaux Begles.

He said: “It wasn’t the intention, but as we have adapted to life in the Premiership, it has been good to get a feel of what the boys are going through, to get an insight.

“What I’ve found are some encouraging signs and soon we will have [All Black World Cup winner] Piri Weepu back from injury to strengthen the squad and lend experience.

“Fielding someone like me at my advanced stage might not be one of those encouraging signs, I admit, but we are trying to give the players as much responsibility as possible and the attitude has been tremendous including all our build-up sessions.”

Given London Welsh’s travails back in the top flight where they have still to win a match in nine outings and lost both to Lyon and Boredeux-Begles in Europe, it is reasonable to expect they will be targeting opponents in the bottom half of the Pro 12 as a means of igniting their season.

Ross is circumspect, remarking: “We are prioritising the Premiership and having had a tough schedule of games including against Leicester, Wasps and Northampton, we will be resting a couple of players.

“Against that, a couple will be coming back from injury and there will be opportunities for some who have done well in second-team fixtures to go out and grab their opportunities.

“Regardless we will be fielding a very strong team as needs to be the case.

“We’ve watched Edinburgh and know they are seeking to defend an unbeaten start in the European Challenge Cup.

“We are also aware of the South African influence [of coach Alan Solomons] in expecting Edinburgh to try to dominate possession and play for territory.

“Whatever happens we will be ready and hopefully our players will get a lift from playing in the magnificent Murrayfield Stadium.”

If anyone knows about that it is, surely, Gordon Ross, a one-time Hearts youth footballer, but the ultimate rugby evergreen!