Perhaps it shouldn't happen to a vet, but then having chosen to pursue a professional life grinding away at the rugby union coal face rather than with his mitts stuck up a cow's backside, Euan Murray could only expect the kind of collateral damage that will keep him out of Scotland's Six Nations opener against Wales at Murrayfield on Sunday. The stand-out player for his country in the autumn, the Northampton Saint and fully qualified veterinarian has been sidelined by a popped rib. His place at tighthead prop will be taken by an international debutant who just happens to be a qualified doctor.
"I don't think the Welsh front row will be calling me doctor," Geoff Cross mused at Murrayfield yesterday, following his selection to face the Grand Slammers of last season. "I don't think they'll be speaking to me, to be honest. They'll probably say, 'Who is this?'"
For the benefit of Gethin Jenkins, Matthew Rees and Adam Jones, Cross is a 26-year-old from Galashiels who studied medicine at Edinburgh University before setting his stethoscope and clipboard to one side to play professional rugby, initially with the Borders and latterly with Andy Robinson's Edinburgh. He is the ninth of 10 children – his six sisters have all pursued careers in medicine – and, like the devoutly religious Murray, he could be described as a cerebral member of the front row union. The Borderer has been memorably described by Iain Morrison, the Scotland flanker-turned-wordsmith, as: "Two parts Brian Blessed to one part Raffles, the gentleman thug from Viz magazine; the sort of man to quote the Marquis of Queensberry's rules before knocking you senseless."
Now minus the Blessed beard, Cross will become Scotland player number 1,012 when he crosses the whitewash on Sunday – in a starting XV shorn of the most capped Caledonian of all, Chris Paterson. Despite 90 caps and his record as the championship's number one place kicker for the past three seasons (landing 15 out of 15 last time round), Paterson has been detailed to bench duty – as cover for Hugo Southwell, whose recent form for Edinburgh has won him the nod for the full-back jersey, and also for outside-half Phil Godman, who assumes the goal-kicking duties. Jason White replaces the injured Nathan Hines in the second row, while Simon Webster has been picked on the right wing ahead of Glasgow's prolific try-scoring speed merchant, Thom Evans.