Murray made captain as Scotland hope for reversal of fortunes

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The Independent Online

Scott Murray, one of the most productive line-out forwards in world rugby when he is not under-achieving with a vengeance, will captain Scotland on their six-match, three-Test tour of the Antipodes this summer. Matt Williams, the national coach, clearly hopes the responsibility will have a positive effect on the Lions lock - more positive, certainly, than it had on Murray's predecessor, Chris Paterson, who led the Scots through an unprecedentedly miserable Six Nations campaign and saw his personal form implode in the process.

Scott Murray, one of the most productive line-out forwards in world rugby when he is not under-achieving with a vengeance, will captain Scotland on their six-match, three-Test tour of the Antipodes this summer. Matt Williams, the national coach, clearly hopes the responsibility will have a positive effect on the Lions lock - more positive, certainly, than it had on Murray's predecessor, Chris Paterson, who led the Scots through an unprecedentedly miserable Six Nations campaign and saw his personal form implode in the process.

Williams defended Paterson yesterday - "This should not be interpreted as a slight on Chris, who did a very good job under difficult circumstances when we were losing games," he said - but the fact remains that the multi-tasking Edinburgh back finds himself among a quartet of vice-captains, rather than in overall control. "I think Chris will be a much better leader for the experience and may well captain the country again," Williams added, not entirely convincingly.

Murray will lead a 40-strong squad, the largest tour party ever to leave Scotland. It might have been even bigger had not eight players - Brendan Laney, Gavin Kerr, Nathan Hines, Andrew Mower and Simon Taylor among them - not pulled out through injury. There are a dozen uncapped freshmen in the party, including the Newcastle second row Craig Hamilton and a new "kilted Kiwi" in the shape of Robbie Kydd, an Auckland-born full-back earning his corn in the English Premiership with Saracens.

The Scots will have an opportunity to end a losing streak of serious proportions early next month when they play Samoa, not in Apia or Moamoa, but in Wellington, New Zealand. If they fail there, the portents will be less than good. The other Test matches are against the Wallabies, in Melbourne and Sydney.

There were significant moves on the coaching fronts in both England and Wales yesterday. Philippe Saint-André, the new director of rugby at Sale, appointed Kingsley Jones, the Wales flanker with whom he worked at Gloucester a couple of years ago, as his forwards coach, while Ross Nesdale, an outstanding hooker during his Premiership playing days, was confirmed in a similar capacity at Newcastle, his old club. Across the Severn Bridge, the former Munster coach, Declan Kidney, was unveiled as Mike Ruddock's successor at Newport-Gwent Dragons.

Saint-André's move for Jones effectively completes the back-room restructuring at Sale, which has caused a considerable amount of tension and seen a number of front-line players leave. Jones is not one of life's shrinking violets - quite the opposite, in fact - and the Cheshire club will be a very different place next season. "Kingsley is a highly-regarded technical coach with an unquenchable work ethic and determination to win," Saint-André said.

Kidney's move to Newport from Ireland, where he was about to find himself marginalised within the national set-up, is of the ground-breaking variety. When the five regional sides were introduced last summer, the senior coaches were all Welsh. Indeed, it was commonly said that Wales had more international-class coaches than international-class players.

If Wales for the Welsh was an official policy then, it is not any longer. "I had no qualms about going outside Wales for a coach," said Tony Brown, the principal benefactor of Dragons rugby. "Declan has a huge pedigree, and we have the man to move things forward here."

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