Saint Murray could prove Scots' saviour against Italy

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The Independent Online

Euan Murray already happens to be a Saint: a professional with the Northampton Saints. The tighthead prop shifted more than a little uneasily in his seat at Murrayfield yesterday, though, when it was put to him that he was some kind of saviour of the underachieving Scottish rugby union team.

There is no doubt that Scotland have sorely missed Murray's influential presence in their opening two Six Nations matches, which ended in defeat against Wales and France. After being named in the No 3 shirt for the home match against Italy this Saturday, though, the decidedly different front rower – devoutly religious, accomplished piano player, qualified vet – winced at the suggestion that he was "being looked upon as the man who is going to change everything single-handedly". "I wouldn't say that at all," he retorted. "In the pack it's eight guys working together. If any individuals think they're better than they are, then pride comes before a fall. We've got to work hard together and try to put things right. It's a team game."

Still, it would be fair to say that Scotland have a better chance of putting things right against Italy with Murray bolstering a pack that has been prone to crumble without him. On his last appearance at Murrayfield the 28-year-old Glaswegian had the Springbok loosehead Tendai "Beast" Mtawarira on the backfoot all afternoon. It was only last Sunday that Murray returned to action, for the Saints against Wasps in the Guinness Premiership, after three weeks out with a popped rib. "I wouldn't like to put a percentage on my fitness but I wouldn't be playing if I didn't feel ready," he said.

However, coach Frank Hadden warned about expecting too much too soon from Murray. "It's a tough ask for him coming in out of the blue. It's not going to be that easy for him to make the sort of impression that everyone would like him to make," Hadden said.

"There's no doubt he's a top-quality player and he brings bulk and experience to that row. But it's going to be an interesting challenge.

"As you're aware, when you bring guys into club teams to play for the first team, they're familiar with what the club are doing. When you bring guys in at international level, it's not as straightforward as that."

Glasgow captain Alastair Kellock also comes into the Scotland starting XV, replacing the injured Jim Hamilton in the second row.

Scotland (v Italy, RBS Six Nations Championship, Murrayfield, Saturday, 3pm): H Southwell (Edinburgh); S Danielli (Ulster), M Evans (Glasgow), G Morrison (Glasgow), T Evans (Glasgow); P Godman (Edinburgh), M Blair (Edinburgh, capt); A Jacobsen (Edinburgh), R Ford (Edinburgh), E Murray (Northampton), J White (Sale), A Kellock (Glasgow), A Strockosch (Gloucester), J Barclay (Glasgow), S Taylor (Stade Français). Replacements: D Hall (Glasgow), A Dickinson (Gloucester), K Brown (Glasgow), S Gray (Northampton), C Cusiter (Perpignan), C Paterson (Edinburgh), N De Luca (Edinburgh).