Robinson hopes Cross can cure Scots' losing streak

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The Independent Online

If last Sunday's Calcutta Cup match showed anything it was that Scotland are not suffering from a bad side. Still, as he bids to cure his team of their lingering losing habit, Andy Robinson has called upon the services of a qualified doctor for their wooden spoon decider against Italy at Murrayfield on Saturday. Geoff Cross, who put his medical career on hold to pursue a professional life at the rugby union coal face, comes into the Caledonian starting XV as the one change to the team that proved more than a match for England before ultimately suffering the Scots' fourth Six Nations defeat out of four, 22-16.

Robinson has chosen to go with Cross at tight-head prop, even though Euan Murray is available after missing the Sabbath encounters with Ireland and England because of his religious convictions. It is by no means an unexpected call. Cross, with just four caps and one previous start, made a significant impact as a replacement for Moray Low at Twickenham, shoring up the creaking Scotland scrum.

Low drops out of the match-day 22 altogether and Murray has to be content with a place on the bench – the 2009 British and Irish Lion paying the price for the stop-start effect that his Sabbath-free playing policy has had on his form this season. "Geoff did really well coming off the bench on Sunday and deserved to start this game," Robinson said. "Euan has gone well for Newcastle in the last couple of games and having his experience off the bench will be important for us against a very experienced Italian front row."

Kelly Brown has been passed fit to continue at No 8, having been taken off on a stretcher suffering from concussion after his face got in the way of Matt Banahan's shoulder on Sunday. Scotland need to win to avoid both a whitewash and a wooden spoon, and they will face a much-changed Italian team. Despite his side's stunning 22-21 success against France in Rome last Saturday, head coach Nick Mallett has made six alterations.

The Leicester tight-head prop Martin Castrogiovanni is the only front-rower to survive, looose head Andrea Lo Cicero and Carlo Festuccia making way for Leonardo Ghiraldini and Salvatore Perugini. Quintin Geldenhuys comes in at lock and Paul Derbyshire at openside flanker, while Kris Burton replaces Luciano Orquera at fly-half and Alberto Sgarbi starts at inside centre.

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