Six Nations: Scott Cummings ready to take lineout responsibility for Scotland in Jonny Gray’s absence

One man’s disappointment opens the door to another’s opportunity. It is a well-worn truth about sport and, after Jonny Gray’s hand injury ruled him out of this year’s Six Nations, 23-year-old Scott Cummings finds himself thrust into just that position of responsibility.

Scotland lock Scott Cummings will be calling the lineouts against Italy. Picture: Paul Devlin / SNS
Scotland lock Scott Cummings will be calling the lineouts against Italy. Picture: Paul Devlin / SNS

The Glasgow lock only made his Scotland debut last summer, in the World Cup warm-up defeat by France in Nice, but has played in every Test since, including all four pool games in Japan and starting the first two Six Nations matches this year. Clearly a young man who Scotland coach Gregor Townsend regards highly, the second row knows he will have a lot on his shoulders in Rome this weekend in the must-win match against Italy.

As he came to speak to the media at the Scotland training base this week, there was slight concern as he seemed to be hobbling but Cummings re-assured: “No, everyone’s limping after a hard day’s training.”

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In Gray’s absence Cummings will partner Edinburgh’s Ben Toolis in the Scotland engine room tomorrow and will be calling the lineouts, something he has done a good deal of in a career that is still young.

Scott Cummings wins lineout ball against Ireland. Picture: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

“I’ve done it at Glasgow for a few years,” said the ten-times capped former Kelvinside Academy pupil. “I think I actually called [the lineouts] in my first pro game at Glasgow on my debut, so for me that’s part of my game I’ve always enjoyed.”

Cummings made his debut for Glasgow Warriors as an academy prospect in a pre-season friendly against Clermont Auvergne. He went on to make his competitive debut against the Scarlets in September, 2015, and signed a professional contract at Scotstoun the following year.

Set-piece-wise, Scotland’s last outing was a mixed bag as the scrum held up in the storm-ravaged 13-6 loss to England at BT Murrayfield but the lineout misfired.

“It was a tough game, not our best day at the office by any means,” reflected Cummings. “We’ve worked a lot this week on our processes and are just looking to being better this weekend.

“The weather did come into it against England, but as a team we knew we could have prepped that bit better. We knew the weather was coming in and that was something we could have done more on, a couple more wet weather options.”

The weather will certainly be better in Rome and Cummings is relishing the chance to put that Calcutta Cup in miserable conditions behind him.

“It’s been stripping it back, adding a bit more pace in the lineout. Just backing yourselves and trusting that your processes are going to be 
better than the opposition’s,” he said.

Italy have always presented a physical threat up front but Cummings is aware that the Azzurri gameplan has widened under new coach 
Franco Smith.

Cummings added: “You saw how Italy played against France. They play a new brand of rugby now, love chucking the ball around and have 
a new identity under their 
new coach.”

Ten caps into a Test career which is still only six months old, Cummings does feel more of an established figure heading into the pivotal third match of this year’s championship campaign.

“Going into the World Cup I did feel a bit like I was the new guy,” he said. “But now I feel like I’m more embedded in the squad. The mood in the camp is great and the environment is really good. We’ve learned a lot from the World Cup and in the past few weeks, and I think we’re on the right track to make improvements.

“I loved every minute of the World Cup apart from a couple of results. You learn from it, and coming into the Six Nations feel more confident.

“I’m just looking to push on as much as I can with Jonny being injured.”

Assessing tomorrow’s opposition, Cummings said: “They have good second rows and Abraham Steyn in the back row who is a lineout threat. A big physical pack and it’s going to be a tough old game for the forwards.

“I’ve played against these guys in Pro14. That was one of the things going into the Ireland game. It was obviously a massive game but you realise you’ve played all these guys before in club games. It’s similar guys but just in a different jersey.

“I’m excited. It’s going to be a massive game but we’re confident. We’re a team who want to play a fast brand and we started well against Ireland in good weather that first ten minutes. We’ll be looking to do that in Rome.”

While acknowledging that the loss of the injured Gray, who has 57 caps to his name, is a big miss, Townsend said: “Scott came through at the last World Cup and he’s had 
a very good start to the 
championship.

“Ben is playing well for Edinburgh. Grant Gilchrist is an experienced player on the bench and [Exeter Chiefs’] Sam Skinner is back in our wider squad and someone who’s played well for us.”

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