EUAN Murray could be poised to answer Scotland’s front-row SOS by making a surprise Six Nations Championship comeback against France.
The veteran Lions prop’s short-term chances of adding to his cap tally of 58 were thwarted when he suffered a serious hand injury when a team-building exercise went wrong back in January.
Murray almost severed his thumb while chopping wood for a barbecue as his Worcester club-mates looked on in horror.
But the former Glasgow player has shaken off the effects of the damage much earlier than expected, and he returned to English Aviva Premiership action against Sale Sharks at the weekend.
Murray, who has also got rid of a hamstring problem, is in line to start in Worcester’s tussle with title-chasing Harlequins at the Twickenham Stoop on Saturday.
If he emerges unscathed, he could figure in Scotland interim head coach Scott Johnson’s plans for the Six Nations clash with the French at Murrayfield seven days later.
Worcester director Dean Ryan – who coached the Scotland pack in last season’s championship – said: “The news about Euan is positive. The healing time for his injury was pretty good.
“He obviously suffered a significant cut and there had been some doubts about the ability of his body to grow back the skin.
“We were without Euan for more than three months and our lack of tighthead cover made things difficult for us.”
Scotland also had worries in the No 3 berth during the first half of last Saturday’s dramatic triumph over Italy in Rome.
Glasgow’s Moray Low was substituted after only 36 minutes by Johnson following a spate of scrummage penalties awarded against him by Australian referee Steve Walsh. Even with a shortage of game-time, Johnson could be tempted to throw Murray straight into the action against France. Or he could be deployed as an impact sub in the final quarter.
Johnson is due to reveal his line-up for the sold-out match against France on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, England announced late on Monday that their No 8, Billy Vunipola, has been ruled out of the remainder of Six Nations with an ankle injury.
Vunipola limped off in the second half of Saturday’s 13-10 victory over Ireland and will now miss the final two games against Wales and Italy. “It’s a blow as Billy has had a good Six Nations but he is young and will be back,” head coach Stuart Lancaster said.
Vunipola sprained his right ankle at Twickenham and a scan on Monday afternoon revealed the extent of the ligament damage.
It is not known how much more of the season the Saracens back row will miss.
Ben Morgan replaced Vunipola against Ireland and will be promoted to the starting line-up for the visit of Wales on Sunday week.
Either Tom Johnson or Matt Kvesic will take Morgan’s place on the bench.
“The encouraging thing is that we have Ben Morgan and other back rows such as Matt Kvesic and Tom Johnson who are all competing hard for places,” Lancaster said.