Richie Gray rules himself out of Scotland’s World Cup squad

Toulouse lock tells Townsend that family comes first

Richie Gray playing for Toulouse against Clermont in the Top 14 final in June. Image: © Craig Watson.

SCOTLAND assistant coach Danny Wilson has revealed that Richie Gray has ruled himself out of the World Cup because of family commitments. 

The continued omission of the Toulouse lock from the national squad has provoked speculation for some time – speculation that increased today with the announcement that Tim Swinson has been drafted in as cover for the injured Sam Skinner. Head coach Gregor Townsend has been blamed in some quarters for the apparent oversight, but, speaking at a lunchtime press conference, Wilson explained that, as far as he had been told, it was the player’s own decision.

“Well, Gregor has been in constant conversation with Richie, but due to family reasons and due to perhaps returning from injury he decided that he couldn’t commit to the World Cup,” the forwards coach said.  “As I understand it from Gregor. Gregor’s been in conversation with him for a long time, if I’m honest, and then I think recently he made the decision that he couldn’t commit to the World Cup – as I said, based on family reasons, and obviously he’s returned from a long time out with injury and getting himself back to fitness and so on. So yeah, that was Richie’s decision.”

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Wilson admitted that such a decision was disappointing, but suggested it need not be the end of the line for the 30-year-old’s Scotland career. “From my end, I really admire the player. I think he’s been a great player for Scotland over the years, and he’s a quality rugby player. Timing does come into these things at times, and that’s the situation, that’s a personal choice which we understand from Richie.

“I’ve never actually worked with him physically, he’s not been in the squad since my time with Scotland, but I’m sure . . .  hopefully that will happen in the future, but we’ll see.”

Swinson sneaks up on the rails

Glasgow lock Swinson has only officially been called up as training cover rather than as a full member of the 40-man squad. But he is the next best thing to Skinner when it comes to being a second-row who can also slot in on the blindside, and Wilson was careful not to rule out entirely his chance of making it to Japan. “Obviously Swinno has been part of the squad recently as well. He picked up an injury at the end of the season, but prior to that he was playing really well for Glasgow. 

“So he comes back in to train with us – that’s all it is at this stage, just to come back into training. We’ve obviously got a few decisions to make around that second-row-cum-back-row sort of situation that perhaps Sam offered you that little bit of flexibility. So we’ve got to look at that. But those are the reasons.

“I think there’s definitely an open opportunity for boys to perform in these games and then get picked, but first of all he’ll have to get picked for the game, and as I said right at this minute it’s just a training situation, where he’s coming in to train, and we’ll see how that goes over the next few days. Obviously, we’ve got two games left before we jump on the plane.”

Wilson also suggested that Skinner might yet have a second chance to get into the squad – but only if there are injuries during the World Cup itself, provided he has made a full recovery from his leg injury. “We’re still at the early stages of trying to get that diagnosis of the  timeframe, but right this minute now it does prevent him for the next four weeks as a minimum from being able to do anything, which obviously gives us a big headache in terms of getting on the plane with fit players, a fit squad.

“But hopefully, with Sam being as professional as I know he’ll be, he’ll return as quickly as possible for us. Depending on whether there were injuries, there’s hopefully a fit body in four, six, eight weeks, but it’s not for me to make that time call, that’s going to come from the physios when we get the opportunity.”

Tommy Seymour and Blade Thomson were the other two players to be injured in the win against France last Saturday, and, while they will not be involved against Georgia this weekend, they are progressing well from the concussions they sustained then.   “We’re in a good place now,” Wilson added. “The protocol has been met so far but it is a stage-by-stage protocol and takes six days to fulfil. Right now, the early stages have been good.”

The Scotland squad will be announced next Tuesday, 3 September, in a public event at Linlithgow Palace.

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About Stuart Bathgate 1014 Articles
Stuart has been the rugby correspondent for both The Scotsman and The Herald, and was also The Scotsman’s chief sports writer for 14 years from 2000.