GREGOR Townsend admitted he fears for Sam Skinner’s World Cup chances after the Scotland lock forward had to be helped off the pitch during yesterday’s 17-14 victory against the French at BT Murrayfield. The 24-year-old Exeter Chiefs player, who provides cover in the back row, appeared set to be a key player for Scotland in Japan but his hopes of reaching the global showpiece are hanging by a thread last night after he sustained a hamstring injury at the base of a ruck.

He is one of no fewer than three likely squad members who Townsend was sweating over last night as he ponders his line-up for the third of four warm-up matches against Georgia in Tbilisi on Saturday, with debutant Blade Thomson and wing Tommy Seymour both failing head injury assessments after punishing hits from their French opponents.

With Thomson having a history of head knocks, and the precautionary nature of second guessing how long a player will take to pass concussion protocols, the whole affair is an additional complication as Townsend prepares to name his final 31-man squad next Tuesday at Linlithgow Palace. All three are almost certainly out of next Saturday’s match against the emerging Georgians.

“It is always disappointing when you see someone getting injured and it may mean they miss the World Cup,” said Townsend. “Sam Skinner out the three looks to be more of a serious injury. It was a hamstring, he’ll get scanned tonight so fingers crossed for all three players.”

With Scotland showing improved performance in defence yesterday, all three men had been in excellent form prior to leaving the fray. “He [Thomson] played very well,” said Townsend. “He was aggressive in defence. He carried well, made the right decisions – when to set up a ruck and when to try and get in behind the defence – so he was excellent. So, I just hope that the HIA that he failed means that he doesn’t have to miss any more than the minimum time out the game.

“You look at his history - he obviously had one serious head injury in November, and it took him a long time for him to come back before playing two games at the end of the season. Since that one kept him out for such a long time it will be taken into account.

“Tommy failed an HIA, too,” the coach added. “He got a couple of hits and the second one when was when he started to get symptoms, so he went off the field and failed his HIA. On a wider issue, this [concussions] will be a real challenge for teams to deal with at a World Cup. Normally when you get a calf injury, a rib injury or a dead leg, you know the timeline for coming back, but with head injuries you don’t. I would think the two head injuries won’t be involved next week because of the risk of not getting through protocols and getting ready in time when we’ve got a six-hour flight on Wednesday. And I can confidently say I don’t think Sam Skinner will turn it around in two days.”