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Gray in Scotland side to face All Blacks

EDINBURGH (AFP) –

Scotland lock Richie Gray, pictured in 2011

Scotland lock Richie Gray, pictured in 2011, booked his place Tuesday in the starting XV to face world champions New Zealand at Murrayfield on Sunday, after passing a fitness test on an ankle injury.

Scotland lock Richie Gray booked his place Tuesday in the starting XV to face world champions New Zealand at Murrayfield on Sunday, after passing a fitness test on an ankle injury.

Andy Robinson, the Scotland coach, named his team before Gray was put through his paces at training.

But afterwards Robinson declared Gray, one of Scotland’s leading players, “raring to go” against the All Blacks.

“Richie has trained fully with us this afternoon and is in good spirits,” said Robinson in a statement issued by the Scottish Rugby Union.

“I’d like to thank our medical team headed by Dr James Robson and our physiotherapists Paul McGinley and Stephen Mutch for the care they have taken of Richie since he sustained an ankle injury with his club Sale Sharks last month. He is raring to go for Sunday’s match.”

Scotland were the most successful of all the ‘Home Nations’ during their respective southern hemisphere tours earlier this year, upsetting the odds to beat Australia before defeating Fiji and then scraping a win over Samoa.

Robinson made five changes to the starting XV for the 17-16 victory over Samoa in Apia in June.

Jim Hamilton, who missed the tour because of disciplinary problems incurred while playing for Gloucester, returned to partner star lock Gray in the second row while fit-again back-row forward Kelly Brown was recalled for his 50th cap and first as Scotland captain.

In the backs, centre Nick de Luca and scrum-half Mike Blair replace the injured pair of Joe Ansbro and Chris Cusiter respectively while Geoff Cross came in for tighthead prop Euan Murray, unavailable because his religious beliefs prevent him playing on a Sunday.

Dutch-born wing Tim Visser, who scored two tries on his debut against Fiji, is now set to make his first Scotland home appearance at Murrayfield after qualifying for his adopted country on residency grounds.

The only uncapped player in the matchday 23 is Glasgow’s Henry Pyrgos, who provides cover for Blair from the substitutes’ bench.

A sell-out crowd of 67,144 is expected to see Scotland make their latest bid for a first victory over New Zealand and Robinson urged his side to follow the example of Australia, who ended the All Blacks’ run of 16 straight Test wins with an 18-18 draw in Brisbane last month.

“For our first game of the season we will really need to start well and keep the game simple,” said Robinson.

“New Zealand are the world champions and they perform the basic skills, well, under the highest pressure,” the former England flanker and coach added.

“We need to step up from the (European) summer tour and be ready to go toe to toe in a physical contest, just as Australia did most recently against New Zealand in Brisbane.”

New Zealand are due to name their team on Friday.

Scotland have never beaten the All Blacks in 28 Tests spread across 107 years, with their best results coming in the contrasting Murrayfield draws of 1964 (0-0) and 1983 (25-25).

Scotland (15-1)

Stuart Hogg; Sean Lamont, Nick de Luca, Matt Scott, Tim Visser; Greig Laidlaw, Mike Blair; Kelly Brown (capt), Ross Rennie, Alasdair Strokosch; Jim Hamilton, Richie Gray; Geoff Cross, Ross Ford, Ryan Grant

Replacements: Scott Lawson, Allan Jacobsen, Kyle Traynor, Alastair Kellock, David Denton, Henry Pyrgos, Ruaridh Jackson, Max Evans

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