‘No malicious intent’ - Scotland will contest Richie Gray charge at hearing on Wednesday

Richie Gray’s international rebirth has been one of the success stories of Scotland’s autumn and the national side should find out on Wednesday if the lock forward is available for the final match of the series against Argentina.

Richie Gray will face a disciplinary hearing on Wednesday. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)
Richie Gray will face a disciplinary hearing on Wednesday. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

Gray was cited for a possible act of foul play during the 31-23 defeat by New Zealand on Sunday, with the charge relating to a dangerous clear-out at a ruck in which he is alleged to have come into contact with the head of an opponent. Scotland are adamant that there was no malicious intent and will contest the charge. The case will be heard via video link before an independent judicial committee chaired by Shao-ing Wang of Singapore. “We will appeal the charge,” said Pieter de Villiers, the Scotland scrum coach. “It’s then up to the judges and jury to decide. There was certainly no malicious intent there.”

De Villiers is hopeful Gray’s good character will count in his favour. “Obviously it’s not in our hands. But Richie has always been a brilliant example in terms of discipline,” said the coach. “The incident was deemed on the field to be not dangerous play, and hopefully that also plays in his favour. The citing commissioner has chosen to cite him and we now have to follow the process and see what happens.”

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Gray’s return to the international fold after a long absence has bolstered Scotland’s options in the second row. The game against Fiji earlier this month was his first start for Scotland for over five years and he retained his place for the All Blacks, keeping younger brother Jonny on the bench. “Richie’s experience and leadership have been massive,” said de Villiers. “He’s brought a lot to the table for us. It’s great to see him in this kind of form.”

Callum Hunter-Hill, the Saracens lock, has been drafted in to provide second-row cover for Scotland. The uncapped Hunter-Hill is a former under-20 captain and was called up for the A international against England in summer 2021 only for it to be cancelled due to a Covid outbreak in the squad. “He’s had a brilliant season up till now playing for the team leading the Prem,” said de Villiers. “Great lineout man, great caller of the lineouts, art of set pieces has been good as well. And he’s been with us before, so it’s great to have him back in and he’ll be ready to slot in if needed.”

Scotland desperately want to end the autumn series on a high after allowing a winning position to slip from their grasp against New Zealand. They held a nine-point lead going into the final quarter but paid for not making more of their first-half dominance. It was the third time in four matches that they have led in the second half but lost. “I don’t think there’s any mental block,” said de Villiers. “We’ve been working on a lot of things recently in terms of finishing things off, and I do think that those points are coming. Some of these tighter games against the big teams have not always got us on the right side of the dice, but I think we are progressing, the team is growing in confidence and I’m sure those results will happen soon.”

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