EUAN Murray’s battle to return to Scotland colours this spring has suffered a second setback courtesy of a bizarre barbecue accident, but he has not yet been ruled out of the RBS Six Nations Championship.
Murray is reported to have sliced into his thumb while chopping wood at a “team-building” barbecue with Worcester team-mates. The SRU confirmed that the tighthead prop, who has won 58 caps for Scotland, had suffered an injury but could not provide any details. There is also no further update on his estimated time of return, but The Scotsman understands that, contrary to speculation yesterday, he does not require a skin graft and remains hopeful of recovering fully before the end of February and so being in contention for a return in the final championship games in March at home to France and away to Wales.
At 33, Murray is a player who has become used to performing without much match fitness, having moved between Northampton, Newcastle, Agen and Worcester in recent years in an effort to gain more regular action. This season, however, he has made just seven appearances for Worcester so much may depend on whether Moray Low and Geoff Cross can grasp the opportunity to supplant Murray in the opening Six Nations games.
Murray was already ruled out of Scotland’s opening game away to Ireland as it falls on a Sunday, and the prop, a born-again Christian, does not take part in sport on the Sabbath. But the 33-year-old has not played for Worcester since injuring an Achilles in Scotland’s autumn Test match against Australia and the club’s director of rugby Dean Ryan stated a fortnight ago that he did not expect Murray to recover from that for another four weeks at least. That effectively also ruled him out of Scotland’s second match against England at Murrayfield on Saturday, 8 February.
Scotland’s interim head coach Scott Johnson travelled to Worcester to meet Murray a fortnight ago and returned insisting that there was no point in even inviting the prop to join this week’s training camp as it was unclear when he would be available for Scotland.
The championship takes a break after the initial two rounds and Scotland resume away to Italy, before another week off, and the finale of back-to-back games in March.
Scotland will at least be playing in front of capacity crowds at Murrayfield again, after an autumn Test series that failed to attract full houses. The SRU announced yesterday that the Calcutta Cup match at Murrayfield is sold out at its 67,144 capacity, with the last remaining tickets for Scotland’s other home match against France on Saturday, 8 March expected to be sold by the end of this week.
Supporters who have not yet got tickets are being urged to keep an eye on the SRU website – www.scottishrugby.org – with the possibility of returns from prior rights holders.
SRU director of commercial operations, communications and public affairs Dominic McKay said: “We know there’s always fierce demand for our matches against England but to be down to the last few hundred tickets for our match with France some 46 days before that fixture just underlines the special place Murrayfield holds in the hearts of so many Scots.
“Scott Johnson, our head coach, has stressed the need for Scotland to be competitive in every match and that clearly strikes a chord with our supporters. They also know you can’t surpass the atmosphere of Murrayfield on an international match-day with our exciting and extensive programme of pre-match entertainment.
“Last season some 500,000 supporters attended representative rugby fixtures in Scotland and we are heartened by the take-up of tickets for our home internationals in the 2014 RBS Six Nations Championship.”