Prop Euan Murray has joined up with the Scotland squad ahead of Saturday’s visit of France after missing the opening three RBS Six Nations matches after injuring his thumb in an unpleasant accident.
The 33-year-old had been in danger of missing the whole tournament after cutting his thumb while chopping wood at a barbecue with his Worcester team-mates.
The experienced tighthead was still battling back from a leg problem picked up in November, during which he won his 58th cap against Australia.
Kelly Brown, named Scott Johnson’s captain at the start of the Six Nations, is in back in the training squad to face France, while the man who replaced him as skipper against England and Italy, Greig Laidlaw, was the subject of fresh speculation yesterday linking him with a summer move away from Edinburgh to Gloucester.
Gloucester stand-off Freddie Burns is on the verge of a move to Aviva Premiership rivals Leicester and Gloucester indicated yesterday that they have a signing of some stature lined up to replace him. While Laidlaw has become a regular at scrum-half for Scotland, he is also comfortable at stand-off and is being viewed as the ideal replacement for the highly-rated Burns. “We will be announcing an outside-half signing but I will not say who,” said Gloucester’s director of rugby Nigel Davies.
Laidlaw has been a mainstay for Edinburgh for seven years, but the ambitious 28-year-old is likely to be tempted by a lucrative opportunity to play in England’s top-flight.
Laidaw’s Edinburgh team-mates, half-backs Sean Kennedy and Harry Leonard, also trained with the Scotland squad during their session at Heriot-Watt University in Riccarton yesterday. Kennedy returned to the Edinburgh side just before the hour mark of their victory over Ospreys on Friday night. The scrum-half had spent the previous month on loan at London Irish, who called him in as emergency cover, with Edinburgh using the deal to help the 22-year-old complete his return to full fitness and match sharpness following a knee injury. Stand-off Leonard, who is 21, has made 36 appearances for Edinburgh and is a former Scotland Under-20 international.
Meanwhile, the SRU have been confirmed as one of a dozen unions competing to host the Rugby World Cup Sevens in four years’ time.
Murrayfield chiefs have also registered their interest in continuing to host a round of the Sevens World Series from season 2015-16, with another 24 countries competing for a leg of the showcase event.
While the deadline to tender to the International Rugby Board (IRB) for the 2018 World Cup is not until 5 December this year, with a decision expected in May next year, Friday marked the closing date for interest to be expressed in the Sevens World Series. A formal application must be made by 27 June, with the successful nations being selected in October.
Scotland face competition from Six Nations rivals England and Wales, as well as the likes of Fiji, Hong Kong, New Zealand and South Africa, for the World Cup Sevens in 2018. Scotland has hosted a round of the Sevens World Series since 2007, with this year’s event scheduled to take place at Scotstoun in Glasgow on 3 and 4 May, while Ibrox will host the Commonwealth Games Sevens tournament on 26 and 27 July.
Murrayfield also played host to the inaugural Rugby World Cup Sevens in 1993, with the sport’s integration into the Olympics in 2016 pushing the next event out to 2018 before continuing its usual four-year cycle.
New Zealand are the current holders of the title after winning the last event in Russia last year.
Forwards: Johnnie Beattie (Montpellier), Kelly Brown (Saracens), Geoff Cross, David Denton, Alasdair Dickinson, Ross Ford (all Edinburgh Rugby), Chris Fusaro (Glasgow), Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh Rugby), Ryan Grant, Jonny Gray (both Glasgow), Richie Gray (Castres), Jim Hamilton (Montpellier), Scott Lawson (Newcastle Falcons), Moray Low, Pat MacArthur (both Glasgow), Euan Murray (Worcester Warriors), Alasdair Strokosch (Perpignan), Tim Swinson and Ryan Wilson (both Glasgow).
Backs: Chris Cusiter (Glasgow), Jack Cuthbert, Nick De Luca (both Edinburgh), Alex Dunbar (Glasgow), Max Evans (Castres), Dougie Fife (Edinburgh Rugby), Stuart Hogg, Ruaridh Jackson (both Glasgow, Greig Laidlaw (Edinburgh Rugby), Sean Lamont (Glasgow), Matt Scott (Edinburgh), Tommy Seymour (Glasgow, Duncan Taylor (Saracens) and Duncan Weir (Glasgow.)