RICHIE GRAY turned down the chance to fight his way into the Rugby World Cup squad not just once but twice, head coach Gregor Townsend has revealed.

Speaking in Tbilisi ahead of tomorrow’s historic Test against Georgia, Townsend said he had first been rebuffed by the Toulouse lock in May before the original squad was announced and then he reaffirmed the decision last weekend when a vacancy arose after Sam Skinner got injured.

In May, Gray was only just back from the latest of a string of injuries that had kept him out of the game for most of the previous two years and his wife was expecting their first child, so Townsend did not sound as though he had been too surprised at the player’s decision. To have turned down a chance to make a late run for a spot, was different – not least because the commitment was not nearly as intense.

“It is disappointing for us, disappointing for his brother [Jonny, who is in the squad] I’d imagine, but that’s his decision and we need to move on from it,” Townsend said.

“I did speak to him about being in the squad back then [before the original 44-man training party was announced] and he declined that opportunity. That was understandable with the season he had and the commitment that players in France have to give – it was more understandable, let’s say.

“When I chatted to him after Sam’s [Skinner’s] injury I did get the feeling this would be different because we’d done the six weeks of training, he’s not had to be over in Portugal and Scotland and all the other places away from his new family. He also felt better physically than he did at the end of the season.

“After reflection, when he got back to me, his decision was the same. It is a big commitment and we need people who are 100 per cent committed to the training, to playing well, to going to Japan if selected and being out there for a number of weeks.”

He emphasised that 30-year-old Gray still has chance to play for Scotland again if he is playing well enough for his club, though he will now have to take on a lot more competition for his spot.

“We’ll see [about the future]. I would hope so,” was Townsend’s reaction to Gray’s chances of adding to his 65 caps. “If he’s playing really well, and merits getting called up into our squad, whether it’s Six Nations or summer tour next year, he’d be in consideration.”

Even if Gray had made a different decision, there is no guarantee he would have played his way into the 31-man World Cup party. After all, Tim Swinson, who answered the nations’s call after Skinner pulled a hamstring, is not in the 23 for tomorrow’s match against Georgia, the last chance for players to cement their places before the World Cup squad is announced on Tuesday in Linlithgow Palace.

Swinson is with the squad in Georgia, so could take over if there are any late niggles, but as things stand, he will not get a chance to play his way in.

Most of the players who are selected are pretty much guaranteed their spots in the World Cup party, barring injury, but there are exceptions, particularly in midfield.

It is likely that inside centre Sam Johnson has only to prove that he is back and firing on all cylinders after missing a good chunk of the summer training with an ankle injury, but it is much more of a chance for Rory Hutchison, the Northampton centre who could yet make a late charge on to the plane. He is one of the tiny group who have been involved in every match so far, coming off the bench in both the games against France, and generally impressing in both.

Now he is getting his first Test start and the chance to make it through one of the most intensely competitive areas in the squad.

“Sam [Johnson] has never played with Rory, Rory [Hutchison] has never started with Finn [Russell, the fly-half],” Townsend said of yet another new midfield.

“It’s a midfield that can all step up and play first receiver, but at the weekend it might have to be a midfield that has to front up defensively and carry ball, be an extra forward. If the weather does come down the way it has been threatening, we’ll have to play a different way.”

The game is a moment of history for Georgian rugby as they welcome a Tier One side for the first time

and Townsend knows that means they will he taking on a fervent support as well as the team, but he is more anxious to get Scotland their first away win since they beat Argentina in Resistencia more than a year ago.