Muscleman Euan Murray signs up to continue conflict
England's forwards never perform cartwheels of joy when they see Euan Murray's name on a Scotland team sheet in Six Nations week: indeed, they would not object to all Calcutta Cup games being played on a Sunday – a development that would remove the threat of the devout Christian, who refuses to play on the Sabbath for reasons of conscience.
Unfortunately for the red-rose pack, they must now reconcile themselves to seeing rather more of Murray than they might have hoped. Not only will the 32-year-old prop, generally rated among the half-dozen strongest scrummagers in European rugby, be anchoring the Scottish set piece at Twickenham on Saturday, but he has also signed up for a lengthy tour of duty in the Premiership.
The much-travelled front-rower has agreed a long-term contract extension at Worcester that will probably keep him at Sixways until retirement. "Euan has made a very good impression in the short space of time he's had here," said the Midlanders' head coach, Richard Hill, who signed Murray from Newcastle earlier in the campaign.
"It's not easy for someone coming in mid-season, but he's settled in remarkably well. He gives us strength in depth in the front row – the kind of depth teams like Leicester and Northampton have always had. You can't get away from the fact that you need a very powerful scrum to be successful in the Premiership."
Murray, born in Glasgow, initially moved to Worcester to safeguard his international ambitions after Newcastle were relegated from the Premiership last spring. He first hit the high spots with Northampton, whom he joined from Glasgow Hawks, and was one of only two Scots selected in the original Lions party for the 2009 tour of South Africa. He has also played club rugby in France, with Agen.
Meanwhile, the France coach Philippe Saint-André sprang something of a surprise last night when he jettisoned the Toulouse flanker Yannick Nyanga from his squad for this weekend's Six Nations opener against Italy in Rome. Nyanga had been expected to feature in the back row on Sunday after a resurgence in form over the past few months.
Saint-André has yet to name his starting line-up, but there are now only four loose forwards vying for places: the former captain Thierry Dusautoir and the fast-developing No 8 Louis Picamoles, both of whom play alongside Nyanga at club level; the Clermont Auvergne forward Damien Chouly and the Montpellier flanker Fulgence Ouedraogo.
"It was heartbreaking to tell Yannick he had to leave," said the coach, who made the call once Picamoles was declared fully fit after a week-long struggle with thigh trouble.
Most French observers had expected Nyanga to be selected ahead of his clubmate Dusautoir, but the World Cup captain's recent performances, not least in the dramatic Heineken Cup game with Leicester 11 days ago, have underlined his value to Les Bleus.
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