Injuries picked up in Saturday’s redemptive 17-14 win over France at BT Murrayfield has reopened the prospect that veteran lock Richie Gray may yet be called upon to play in his third World Cup.
Scotland's victory over the French, following a 32-3 mauling in Nice the previous weekend, was marred by injuries to Sam Skinner, Blade Thomson and Tommy Seymour.
Skinner was identified as the most series, with news on the Exeter lock/back-row’s hamstring injury expected this week. Such injuries usually come with a minimum six-week lay-off and Townsend’s initial assessment after the game was downbeat.
The non-selection of 30-year-old Toulouse lock Gray from Townsend’s initial 44-man training squad, which now stands at 40, has been a major talking point among Scotland supporters, many of whom have been mystified by the absence of a player who has won 65 caps for his country plus one for the British and Irish Lions and recently helped his club win the French Top 14 title.
Scarlets flanker Thomson had his Scotland debut cut short by a concussion after missing much of last season with a similar injury and Glasgow wing Seymour also picked up a head knock.
If Skinner is ruled out of the World Cup, Townsend still has specialist lock options in Grant Glichrist, Ben Toolis, Scott Cummings and Richie’s brother Jonny, who has a minor hamstring injury of his own which may prevent him travelling to Tbilisi this week for Scotland's match against Georgia.
Townsend said he will not risk any players carrying knocks for their historic jaunt to the emerging east European nation.
“If we have any injury doubts, that’s obviously something we take into consideration – particularly with the travel and the quick turnaround,” said Townsend of the first Test-match visit of a tier-one nation to Tbilisi, which will be followed by announcement of the final 31-man squad for Japan a week on Tuesday and then a home return match against Georgia a week on Friday.
“We need to have a team out there that is fully fit,” added the coach. “So there are a couple of players, who weren’t involved [on Saturday], who we will have to be sure of by Monday if they’re going to be involved in Georgia.
“But we’re going there with a strong team.”
Townsend has maintained that he wants to stick as close as possible to the group he has been working with over a long summer of training but any more injuries in the engine-room department would require a call-up, with Gray, who played in the World Cup tournaments of 2011 and 2015 in New Zealand and England, surely the obvious contender.