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Edinburgh Rugby Prop Idol

Guinness PRO12 Editor

18 Jan 2012

Edinburgh Rugby are delighted to announce that Scotland internationalist Geoff Cross is one of three front-row specialists to extend their contracts at the club for at least two years.

Cross, who played in the 2011 Rugby World Cup and is back with the national squad for the 2012 RBS 6 Nations, is joined by 23-year-old Lewis Niven and 19-year-old Robin Hislop with the trio’s commitment a huge boost just four days out from the club’s bid for the quarter-finals of the Heineken Cup.

The club are joint top of Pool 2 with Cardiff Blues on 17 points. The head-to-head, however, goes in the Blues’ favour with Edinburgh needing to fair better in round six than the Welshmen to guarantee a place in the last eight, though a win could be enough to go through as one of the two best runner-ups.

Student and U18 tickets are just £5, adult tickets £15 (£20 on the day) and senior citizen tickets cost £10 – available at www.edinburghrugby.org/tickets, by calling 0131 346 5180 and at the Murrayfield ticket centre. Tickets are available on the day from the ticket centre and north stand cash/credit card turnstiles.

Edinburgh Rugby head coach, Michael Bradley said: “It’s fantastic for the club to be able to announce the contract extensions of three very talented and technical athletes at such an exciting time for the club.

“It’s testimony to Edinburgh Rugby’s ambition that, at a time when everyone’s caught up in the Heineken Cup hysteria of today, there’s a lot of hard work going on behind the scenes to ensure we’re back here tomorrow.”

Geoff Cross, a qualified doctor, has thrived under the guidance of the club’s forwards’ coach and former Scotland and British Lions prop, Tom Smith. Cross was first rewarded for his hard graft at the coalface with an international debut against Wales in the opening match of the 2009 RBS 6 Nations.

Since then he has become a regular for Scotland, packing down in the unprecedented 2-0 series win over the Pumas in Argentina (2010), before earning a call for the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

“Edinburgh Rugby provide me with an environment in which I can improve and flourish. There’s a good set of guys here and I’m enjoying the challenges that we’ve got ahead of us,” said Cross.

“I’m very confident that we can continue to progress. There’s the right environment to train well, train hard and challenge each other and that’s something I enjoy.

“This coming match is a first for me in European competition because we have a real chance to make the quarter finals, which makes it very important and very exciting.

“London Irish are a fantastic side and have some of the best counter-attacking skills of any team we’ve faced so it’s going to be a fantastic challenge to meet at Murrayfield on Sunday.”

Like Cross, Lewis Niven has signed up until 2014 and himself entering the stage of his career at which Cross first joined the club five years ago.

Born and bred in Edinburgh, the former age-grade internationalist earned his stripes at Accies clubs Leith, Trinity and Edinburgh, before making his professional debut against Cardiff this time last year.

Another to benefit from the prestigious John Macphail Scholarship, Niven has gone on to make 21 appearances for Edinburgh Rugby, enjoying game-time in his preferred position of tight-head.

He said: “When I was younger I used to come and watch Edinburgh. It’s been a real honour to represent the city and the east of Scotland and great that I’ll get to do that for the foreseeable future.

“I’m happy that I’ve started a lot more matches this season, particularly at tight-head, though I’m working hard on making the next step, which is to challenge for the starting spot at the club.

“Strength and power are aspects of my game I always work very hard on because it’s important props have power but I also want to develop my analysis of the match during the game, gauging the strengths and weaknesses of my opposite man in the scrum to get the upper hand.

“With an all-international starting front-row at Edinburgh I believe this is definitely the right place to make those improvements in my game.”

The third element of today’s trio is promising youngster Robin Hislop, who penned an extended deal to 2015.

While his success at a young age is currently earning a second stint in the Scotland under-20 squad, the ambitious Langholm-man has made seven appearances this season, with his sights set on being a regular feature in the black and red.

He said: “I’m very happy to have signed a new contract. It’s been a goal of mine since I was a wee boy to be a professional rugby player and I’m delighted that Michael [Bradley] has given me the opportunity to pursue that at Edinburgh Rugby.

“The games I’ve played in have been a massive step up but I’ve really enjoyed it and is something I want to do a lot more.

“I played a full half in Italy against Aironi in the baking heat and played my part at Thomond Park against Munster, both were tough shifts but I took a lot from those experiences.

“The next objective is to push for a start and continue to learn from players like Allan Jacobsen, Ross Ford and Geoff Cross, Scotland’s front-row, and pick up all I can from them in training.”

The trio are the latest players to commit their future to Edinburgh Rugby following on from the contract extensions of scrum-half and captain, Greig Laidlaw, young stand-offs Harry Leonard and Gregor Hunter, centre Matt Scott and forwards David Denton, Stuart McInally, Sean Cox and Steven Turnbull.