Richie Gray: Gregor Townsend explains forward’s absence from Scotland squad as he juggles his second-row options

Scotland will field a new pairing in the second row when they open their Autumn Nations Series campaign against Tonga at BT Murrayfield on Saturday.

Richie Gray has been an ever-present for Glasgow Warriors this season. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)

Edinburgh’s Jamie Hodgson will win his first cap alongside the experienced Rob Harley, who will make his first start for Scotland since he faced Georgia in Kilmarnock in November 2016.

Injuries have conspired to leave Gregor Townsend short of locks and the coach has opted to omit Grant Gilchrist from his squad to face Tonga.

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Townsend has one eye on the matches to come against Australia, South Africa and Japan and is also mindful that Gilchrist became a dad again recently and is coming off the back of a run of consecutive games.

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With Jonny Gray (shoulder) and Scott Cummings (hand) both undergoing surgery, and Ben Toolis, Alex Craig, Glen Young and Cameron Henderson also injured, the coach has been forced to look to younger players such as Hodgson and there is also a place on the bench for his Edinburgh team-mate, the uncapped Marshall Sykes.

Townsend also revealed that Richie Gray had made himself unavailable for the Tonga game and it is unclear whether the 67-times capped Glasgow lock will come into consideration for the other autumn Tests.

“Richie feels that he has had a lot of rugby – seven games in a row – and he didn't feel he was in the right condition to be available for this game,” said Townsend.

“Whether that continues over the next few weeks we will see. He was certainly someone I spoke to about coming into camp.”

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