The selection of his four lock forwards for the World Cup squad in Japan may have been one of Gregor Townsend’s more straightforward decisions but, within that quartet, there is a fierce battle for Test starting spots.
In the Glasgow corner, Jonny Gray and Scott Cummings, the Edinburgh corner Grant Gilchrist and Ben Toolis.
None of the four did his chances any harm at Scotstoun on Saturday in the opening round of the 1872 Cup and the youngest, Cummings, was asked if the brewing rivalry ahead of the Six Nations added an extra edge to these inter-city contests, with round two at BT Murrayfield on Saturday afternoon.
“Yes and no,” said the 23-year-old. “Obviously, we go into it having our process regardless of who we are playing, but when you’re carrying up the ball, and you’re up against one of them, then you are going to put that little bit more into it – and I’m sure they would say the same – that’s just natural.
“We’re all obviously fighting for Scotland places but that’s at the back of your mind. First and foremost, we’re there to do a job for Glasgow.”
The former Kelvinside Academy pupil and Glasgow Hawks player has only local pride on his mind this week after that 20-16 win at Scotstoun opened the door to the possibility of regaining the 1872 Cup for the first time in three seasons if the Warriors can deliver another victory in the capital on Saturday and settle the three-match series with a game to spare.
“Glasgow means so much to us, especially for someone like me, who has grown up in the city,” he said. “I don’t go out there to play for Scotland, I go out there to play for Glasgow – and whatever comes from that is a separate thing.”
Following older brother Richie’s Test exile, 55-times capped Jonny Gray would normally be the first name on the Scotland teamsheet at second row but Edinburgh’s tight five have become a formidable force under coach Richard Cockerill.
Cummings nudged ahead of Toolis at the World Cup, though, featuring in all four games, including one start against Russia.
“Edinburgh always want us to get into that arm-wrestle sort of battle that probably suits their game a wee bit more whereas we want to play that good, free-flowing rugby,” said Cummings. “So we don’t want to get caught up in those wee fights off the ball and things like that – we want to rile them up as much as we can, but also stick to our processes and gameplan and back the way we play.”
Cummings admitted that it niggled slightly that Glasgow are viewed as a primarily backs-driven outfit.
“Glasgow are always being told that the backs are amazing, and the forwards need to step up,” he said. “And for us, as a forward pack, we always know that we have the ability to dominate teams, and I think we’ve shown in the last couple of weeks that we can play different ways, and actually win battles up front. So, as a forward pack, we were really focusing on that, and I think we came out quite strongly in that area [against Edinburgh].
“I think we [forwards] have scored three tries in the last three weeks, so we know that’s an area we are going to find tougher because the opposition are going to start pouring numbers in there to try and stop us, but that then that creates opportunities out the back.”
Glasgow head coach Dave Rennie, pictured, may be leaving at the end of the season but a new coaching team is evolving into place at Scotstoun, with new attack coach Jonny Bell announced on Monday. Cummings has worked with incoming Warriors boss Danny Wilson in the Scotland set-up and also praised the work of John Dalziel, who took over as Glasgow forwards coach earlier this year.
“John has done a lot of work with us to be more dominant as a pack,” said Cummings. “We know there are still areas we can improve, but we’re happy that we are starting to get some results there.
“A lot of people come here and think that Glasgow aren’t that tough a team. We feel that some of the English and Irish teams think they can come here and bully us, so we always have that mantra that ‘we don’t get bullied at Scotstoun’.”
It will be a case of “not being bullied at Murrayfield” this Saturday and Cummings played down suggestions that it would be a comfortable environment for the Glasgow players so used to being there with Scotland.
“Not at all. It is still an away game,” he said. “I’m pretty sure it is going to be a pretty good crowd at Murrayfield.
“Obviously, it sometimes feels a bit different playing at Murrayfield, because a lot of players who have played a lot of games there before – but Edinburgh are going to be the same as us: they’re not going to want to lose at home.”