Experienced lock forward Richie Gray has told coach Gregor Townsend that he would be keen to resume his international career once he has recovered from a head injury.
The 30-year-old Toulouse second-row’s Test days, during which he won 65 caps for Scotland and one for the British and Irish Lions, appeared to be over when he declined to be considered for the World Cup – a decision Townsend described last summer as “dis-appointing”.
However, the coach revealed yesterday that, while currently out with a head injury, the former Glasgow, Sale and Castres player, who is the older brother of Scotland lock Jonny, would like to represent his country again.
Gray’s last cap for Scotland came against Rome in Italy at the end of the 2018 Six Nations and he then missed the first half of the next season with back and hip injuries. He returned to help Toulouse win the French title but knocked back the chance to go to Japan.
“The Top 14 season was still going on when we were coming into our [World Cup] camp [last June]. He had just come back from injuries and felt it was too much of a commitment. He did not think he would be able to play or train at his best once he came back from injury. I know it would have been a difficult decision.
“I had a couple of phone calls and I could tell he was eager to be part of the squad but, on reflection, it was not right for him but next season would be a different story.
“He started the season well with Toulouse. They brought him back for a European game and he came on at half-time against Gloucester away. He played the following week but he has had a head knock. Richie is only 30, so, if he can get good luck with injuries, then, of course, he will be back in the mix.”
Like Gray, Scarlets back-row/lock Blade Thomson is also out with a head injury.
Yesterday’s squad announcement came too soon for Sam Skinner, the Exeter forward whose untimely hamstring injury denied him a place on the plane to Japan.
“Sam is back training but hasn’t played a game,” explained Townsend. “We’re hoping he plays for Exeter A on Monday.”
Another absentee is Saracens’ Duncan Taylor and Townsend reported: “Duncan is in a position [centre] where there is a lot of competition. He’s playing well. He obviously missed the whole [of last] season. We rate Duncan very highly and he worked really hard in the World cup camp fighting against a couple of injury niggles, and obviously hadn’t played for a season.
“In the games [at the World Cup] he played but wasn’t back yet up to top form and top speed – he has shown that for Saracens over the last few weeks.
“But, unfortunately for Duncan, Saracens play Sunday-Sunday next week, which to me is ridiculous – that the Premiership have got a game six days before we play Ireland.”