Murray earns White's sympathy

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Julian White is not obviously the kind of player who would feel overwhelming sympathy for a rival, and there was precious little sign of his eyes filling with tears yesterday on the vexed subject of Scott Murray's enforced absence from this weekend's Calcutta Cup game in Edinburgh.

Yet the oft-suspended and much-maligned English prop did register a degree of solidarity with the Scottish lock, whose sending-off for landing a flailing boot smack in the face of Wales' Ian Gough at the Millennium Stadium 11 days ago resulted in a three-week ban.

"If you go by the book," said White yesterday, 24 hours after confirmation of his recall to the world champions' front row in place of the injured Matt Stevens, "then yes, Scott should have got a ban. But there has to be a certain amount of discretion as well.

"Losing someone like him for something that was accidental is a huge blow, so perhaps the powers could use a bit of common sense now and again. Who am I to say this? I haven't got the greatest record, and am probably the last person to be telling members of disciplinary panels how to do their job. We are professionals, there are young people looking up to us and we should be setting an example. I totally accept all that. But there has to be a degree of rationality as well."

Murray, the only member of Scotland's current tight-forward unit likely to find the words "world" and "class" situated close to his name during the course of this Six Nations, was dismissed by one of the game's more ostentatious officials, New Zealand's Steve Walsh, for reacting to a tackle so late it bordered on the posthumous by flicking out his leg and catching Gough, around the cheekbone. The Scots will miss him badly this weekend, not least because the English second-row pairing of Danny Grewcock and Steve Borthwick are operating somewhere near the summits of their respective games.

Ironically, White himself was suspended for part of the current campaign after being sent off for a descent into the crimson mist during a Premiership game between Leicester and Newcastle at Welford Road in October. "It wasn't the first time," he conceded, "but there's no point in saying 'I'll never do it again'. Ideally, I won't."