SCOTLAND's hopes of building on their morale-boosting victory over Italy in Rome were raised yesterday with the addition of the British and Irish Lions prop Euan Murray to their squad for the RBS 6 Nations match against France at Murrayfield on Saturday.
The 33-year-old Worcester forward had been in danger of missing the whole tournament after cutting a thumb while chopping wood at a barbecue with his team-mates. The experienced tighthead was still recovering from a leg problem picked up in November, during which he won his 58th cap against Australia.
The Edinburgh half-backs Sean Kennedy and Harry Leonard also trained with the squad yesterday. Kennedy returned to the Edinburgh side just before the hour mark of their victory over Ospreys on Friday night. The scrum-half had spent the previous month on loan at London Irish, who called him in as emergency cover, with Edinburgh using the deal to help the 22-year-old complete his return to full fitness and match sharpness following a knee injury.
Leonard, a 21-year-old stand-off, has made 36 appearances for Edinburgh and is a former Scotland Under-20 internationalist.
Should Murray find his way into Scotland's team on Saturday, he will be facing a French front row featuring their third-choice hooker. The visiting coach, Phillipe Saint-Andre, has lost both his No.1, Clermont's Ben Kayser, and also the veteran Dimitri Szarewski, who has been ruled out with an ankle injury sustained while playing for Racing Metro at the weekend.
Coming in is Perpignan's 27-year-old hooker Guilhem Guirado, who won the last of his 18 caps in June against New Zealand in Aucklanf.
France had already called up the Castres wing Marc Andreu after the Clermont half-back Morgan Parra was given a two-match suspension. Parra had been recalled by coach Philippe Saint-Andre and was expected to play a major part at Murrayfield despite failing to make an appearance in the Six Nations so far this year.
The Clermont centre Wesley Fofana was also ruled out after fracturing a rib during France's defeat by Wales, as was Louis Picamoles, who was dropped for mocking the referee during the defeat by Wales in Cardiff.
The SRU, meanwhile, have been confirmed as one of a dozen unions competing to host the Rugby World Cup Sevens in four years' time.
The governing body also registered their interest in continuing to host a round of the Sevens World Series from season 2015-16, with another 24 countries competing for a leg of the showcase event.
While the deadline to tender to the International Rugby Board (IRB) for the 2018 World Cup is not until December 5 this year, with a decision expected in May next year, Friday marked the closing date for interest to be expressed in the Sevens World Series.
A formal application must be made by June 27, with the successful nations being selected in October. Scotland faces competition from England and Wales as well as the likes of Fiji, Hong Kong, New Zealand and South Africa, for the World Cup Sevens in 2018.
The IRB yesterday revealed those unions are joined by countries such as Argentina, Brazil, China, Japan, Portugal, Russia and the United Arab Emirates in challenging for a round of the Sevens World Series in two seasons' time. The IRB chairman Bernard Lapasset commented: "This unprecedented response truly reflects the enormous prestige and appeal of rugby sevens in the global sporting market place ahead of our Rio 2016 Olympic Games debut. We look forward to collaborating with each interested party as we look ahead to the next phase of the process."
Scotland has hosted a round of the Sevens World Series since 2007, with this year's event scheduled to take place at Scotstoun in Glasgow on May 3 and 4.
Murrayfield also played host to the inaugural Rugby World Cup Sevens in 1993, with the sport's integration into the Olympics in 2016 pushing the next event out to 2018 before continuing its usual four-year cycle.
New Zealand are the current holders of the title after winning the last event in Russia last year.